CES to humans: Be happy, but first be very paranoid

Instead of looking at what CES exhibitors are showing, look at what they're saying. It's an interesting picture of humanity's state and what the tech world thinks it should be.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Don't believe the image makers.

They tell you that pictures are all, that a thousand words won't make up for one visual.

Yet what hurts us most? The pictures people take of us? Or the words they say to us?

So while exhibitors at CES try to inflame you with their glamor and their allure it's worth focusing for a moment on what they're actually saying.

What kind of world do they want us to live in? What kind of people do they really think we are?

The folks at Ezio, for example, think we're boring. "Make life interesting," they implore. If we don't buy their sweetly tasteful "Refined TechWear" (Translation: peculiar metal necklaces, watches, and bracelets that are Bluetooth-enabled. Or something.), we're just dull.

Troubled that I might, after all, be inadequate, I was struck by Samsung telling me that I was terrible at relationships. Especially, it seems, the relationship I'm having with my fridge.

"Discover more of the refrigerator you love," were the company's words.

The message seemed simple: "When you're in love, you're a complacent schmuck. Look at the way you've neglected your lover, the fridge. You should be ashamed."

I am. I hadn't been aware that I even loved my fridge. And now I'm being told that not only do I have a deep thing for it, but I've also been neglecting it.

Hit the road. Stay connected. Don't relax.
Talking of neglected lovers, there are companies that decided to criticize my driving.

Kenwood insisted: "Live Connected. Drive Connected."

But once I get into my car, I rather like the idea that I won't be connected. I rather like the idea that no one will pester me and I can relax. Just me, my twisted thoughts, and the road.

Kenwood is telling me I am a retrograde fool for looking at it like that. It's almost as if society will punish me for such thinking.

Audiovox is also questioning my relationship with my car. It's imploring me to "Get On-Board with the Future of Vehicle Management!"

Apparently, I should be thinking about the state of my car all the time. I should have a plug-in that "monitors, manages, and maintains" my vehicle.

But isn't the fact that I put it in for a regular service enough? Apparently not. I am not on board. I ought to be thinking about the state of my car's innards every day. I am uncaring toward my machines.

Worse, my car is apparently antisocial. For here is the Toyota-Lexus continuum telling me: "Does Your Car TALK To Other Cars. We're Envisioning That Future."

But why should my car want to talk to other cars? I know that's probably something the Googlies have put into their heads, but my car has always seemed quite content to pootle around on its own.

My car has never suggested that the world would be better if the car suddenly appeared on some Facebook for cars and offered other cars a status update as it was sitting in traffic.

Still, I was feeling an increasing shame. The gaps in my life -- and even in my car's life -- are vast and require urgent treatment.

You are not good enough
Panasonic wants to sooth me, though. I think. This company is promising to "engineer a better world for me."

But when it says "a better world," it means that it wants to change my business, my TV, my car, and my home. It even wants to affect my community.

Is nothing in my world good enough? Can't Panasonic just start with my TV and we'll see how it goes? Apparently not. This is an all-or-nothing promise to alter my inadequacies.

Which left me quietly grumbling: "How does Panasonic know about my inadequacies?"

Reeling from all this, I see some words from a brand called M-Edge: "We fit you." You do what? Why? I see that one of its products is called "Alter Ego." I walk more quickly.

I go to what seems like safe ground. Audio companies are there merely to offer me an uplifting experience. They just want me to be happy. But there's Diamond telling me to "Hear The Music."

I want this to have the same tone as "Smell The Flowers." Instead, what I'm feeling is that all this time I've been listening to music, I simply haven't been hearing it. I've been, in essence, delusional.

I turn a corner and there's Sony telling me: "Be Moved." I can't decide whether Japan's former great is imploring me or ordering me. Then I look at slightly chilling ads it has plastered all over the Conference Center.

They seem to tell me that in my immediate future I will begin to feel things at the very touch of a button. I will have a choice, for example, between anxiety, relief, tension, and elation. Or between happiness, sorrow, and awe.

The ads tell me I am supposed to choose "elation" and "awe."

What conclusion do I reach? That happiness is not enough. If I don't feel extremes, then I'm not worthy of being a true modern human.

Keep up, you fool. Keep up.
I know you'll tell me that this is just advertising. That's what advertising does. It makes us feel inadequate so that we buy products in order to believe that we will be better people.

And yet all these messages in one place serve to tell me that for all the shininess and glitz, the tech world doesn't think much of humanity's progress. Humanity needs to buck up, or else.

If you don't want to have split screen on your TV and surf the web on it while you're watching baseball, you're not really human any more.

If you don't want to put your child on a potty with an iPad attached , then you really shouldn't be a parent.

And then the words come at me, phrase after phrase after pithy phrase, telling me to move my mind more quickly into the light.

MakerBot, for example, is simply telling me that it is "Leading the Next Industrial Revolution." And you know the strain the last one put on people. Roku is ordering me to make my "TV Streaming Smart." Because currently it's dumb and therefore I am too.

Just as I resolve to try and get with the program -- indeed to get with the reprogramming of my life -- I am back at Kenwood's booth.

There I see a promise that finally drives me out of the Convention Center.

Kenwood insists it will create "Excitement and Peace of Mind."

So I'm supposed to be feeling excited, awed, elated, while at the same time bathing in peace of mind? How do I do that? How does anyone do that?

I cannot cope anymore. I run as fast as I can. I have be at one with my fridge.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
 

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