A shitwave of new technology is laying waste to taste

If you've ever felt frustrated about the self-satisfied smugness permeating the tech industries, you'll identify with Can't Understand New Technology, the tongue-in-cheek rag by creatives waxing lyrical on what they really think of tech.

Starting off as a heavily inebriated bid for attention fuelled by martinis, red wine and a bigger thirst for making a mark in an otherwise ego-saturated, populist-soiled industry, Can't Understand New Technology pokes fun at some of the more ridiculous side-effects of Silicon Roundabout with contributions from the oft-frustrated Shoreditch crowd. The mag is run by editor Camilla Grey, strategist at Wolff Olins, and Steve Price, creative director of Plan B Studio, who takes charge of design.

Now The Drum has joined forces with Can't Understand New Technology to publish the next edition alongside The Drum's print edition this Spring. And to whet your appetite, in this blog we will publish one article a week – previously only available in the hard copy publication – to give a flavour of what it's all about. To join the conversation, tweet @TheDrum using the hashtag #cantunderstandnewtechnology.

A matter of taste

In the latest extract from Can't Understand New Technology, the satirical rag which we're distributing with this week's edition of The Drum, Michael Wallis considers how new technology is rendering his tastes redundant.

I like to think I have good taste. Most of us do. It stings us when people don’t like what we like. Taste is something we use as ammunition or bait; it’s how we organise our social groups.

But a shitwave (crapnami?) of new technology – namely 3D printing, wearable technology and the Internet of Things – is about to render what little I know useless, turn me into a liar and make me live in fear that my ‘tastes’ are misunderstood. Taste will soon be, at best, entirely redundant and, at worst, offensive and dangerous.

I know a wine fact. I deploy it at dinner parties to look clever and stuff – the Primitivo grape, if grown in California, is called Zinfandel. Boom. Wet or hard yet? Thought so. But the Internet of Things will snatch my opportunity to look all winey away from me. The IOT will make objects very clever – bestowing them with immense geo-locational, socially networked, time sensitive smarts. The cleverest, most interesting wine person at the table will be the bottle. It will tell you what it’s good with, where it’s from, who nearby likes it or sells it, rendering me and my nugget obsolete. We’ll all sit there conversing with the bottle. Shoot me.

I like Scandinavian furniture. Arne Jacobsen is a bit of a god in my book. I’ve got solid taste in chairs. Now 3D printing means we can download, customise or design and print our own chairs. Desktop publishing was bad enough – everyone became a graphic designer – now it’ll be furniture. It will go like this.

“You’re a designer – what do you think of my chair? It’s based on a classic”, they’ll say. “I just changed the legs a bit and made the back taller.” So it’s not a classic anymore then, I’ll think. “Aren’t you clever, it’s really smart,” I’ll say, using the same face as the one I use when I pretend to like a crappy Christmas present. But they’ll know I’m lying and a friendship will be broken.

Wearable technology frightens me most of all.

My iWatch will beam up my above average heart rate to the cloud and geo-location will point out that I am in a school playground. The Met will be watching, I’m sure. The pervert alarm will go off. “But I’m just picking up my kids and I just like three espessos for breakfast, officer.” I have a taste for coffee, not kids. I won’t be charged but my card will be marked.

New technology will mean we won’t need taste anymore – things will tell us if they are tasteful or not. And who needs it anyway? It will only be used against us by people who don’t have any. Or it might be misinterpreted. Annoying? Dystopian? Here now.

Michael Wallis is co-founder of CorkeWallis. You can get your copy of Can't Understand New Technology with the 16 March edition of The Drum or buying purchasing a single issue here.

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