Tech is a sector that’s full of hype, and of utopian promises. Social media will revive democracy! AI will cure cancer and solve the climate crisis! Some of these promises will come true, some won’t. So far, so normal. But there’s one particular aspect to new technologies that I think is worth considering:
The Budget Airline Deployment (B.A.D.)
Imagine new technologies being implemented in just slightly shitty versions. I refer to this as the Budget Airline Deployment (B.A.D.). Let me set this up just briefly. Take flying. Other than its environmental impact, flying should be pretty much a magical experience. You get from point A to a far-distant point B in very little time, through the air! However, most of us instead get the budget airline experience where you sit in cramped chairs, eating overpriced bad food, and being upsold at every turn. It does, technically, do what it says on the box but it’s the shittiest version of that service. It’s not a good experience. And the bad experience trickles up the pricing ladder right up to business, where there’s a switch and suddenly it’s really nice.
The same often happens with new technologies. Many of today’s business models and the VC funding that powers them inherently point in that direction. We don’t get Enlightened Social Media, we get tracking-ad-powered, engagement-optimized Troll Social Media. We don’t get More Secure Crypto, we get Financial-Speculation-NFT-Crypto. We might not get decent AI, either, and instead end up with yet more engagement-optimized Tracking-Ad-Chatbots instead.
So whenever we explore possible futures with new technologies, I urge you to consider what it would be like to get the slightly shitty version of that tech — the Budget Airline Deployment version — and then see how that would be. Then we know much better what we should plan for or against.
Image: Sketch for American Airlines 747 Coach Class Interior, Designers Henry Dreyfuss and Dorothy Wright Liebes, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum