May 26, 2024 • Louie Mantia

When I look back at what the tech industry has spent its time on in the last 10 years, I am deeply disappointed. The entire industry has become dreadfully distracted.

Business doesn’t really have a finish line, but tech founders approach it like speed-running a video game. These startups aggressively burn through investors’ cash, often without demonstrating successful business models or desirable products that solve any real problems. They scale up quickly, don’t have to worry about turning a profit, and push out any existing businesses that have no way of competing.

After exhausting funds, they’re left bored and tired, with no clear direction, as they were never interested in running a business anyway. If they amassed a large user base that has come to rely on the product being free or cheap—due to investors effectively subsidizing the cost to the user—then they will sell to a bigger company eager to acquire the startup with the sole purpose of exploiting that user base.

Instagram sold for $1 billion in 2012. Slack sold for nearly $28 billion in 2021. I don’t want to say these apps shouldn’t exist, but instead of having 20 similar apps that do these things, we only have room for one now. Even if a startup doesn’t get majority marketshare to sell themselves off, they can give up and move on. They can abandon the space they never cared about—leaving uncounted casualties behind—to pursue the next trend.

The next trend? Blockchains and cryptocurrency. To them, these are no different from apps—just another avenue to exploit wealth. After that? Crypto’s offspring, NFTs, a prime example of an over-before-you-know-it waste of time, money, and energy. And now we’re at large language models and generative images. All the while, providing absolutely nothing of substance.

We are wasting our collective time and talent making things that have no value. That sucks.

This industry used to sell solutions. Now it sells nothing, disguised as possibility.

Maybe you can cash out of that cryptocurrency before others find out it’s worth nothing. Maybe someone will buy your NFT for more than you bought it for. Maybe developers will make apps that make the Apple Vision Pro worth it. Maybe the Humane Ai Pin or Rabbit R1 can get better over time. Maybe Midjourney will improve as it scrapes up more images it isn’t authorized to use. Maybe ChatGPT will stop lying one day. Maybe the Daylight Computer will allow you to be more focused if it can do everything you use your iPhone for, at which point it defeats the purpose. All of these things are nothing at the moment. They are marketed on what they could be, one day, maybe. If they’re a vision of the future, they’re incomplete. They’re half a thought at best.

I didn’t expect the cyberpunk dystopia to look like cutesy, half-hearted, novelty hardware that claims to repair the harm inflicted by the last decade of the industry abusing users’ trust through unhelpful software that intentionally annoys them, while pestering them to subscribe to monthly fees that increase year after year, without notable service improvement. But here we are.

We’ve become distracted. We lost the purpose of it all. It has devolved into spectacle. CEOs are more like celebrities than visionaries. Who needs meaningful advancements when you can add “AI” to everything? This whole train has gone off the rails.

I want the tech industry to regain its focus and purpose. I want products that manifest a complete thought, not ones made of empty promises only made full if they sell enough devices to bother continue working on it. Experiments are for labs, not for the market. Make things that are good to start with or find something else to do. I want products with vision. I want products that work.

I want my future back.

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