How tech is like Vegas

A Labor Day weekend trip to Vegas reveals that Sin City shares some of its most beloved principles with the tech industry.

VisitLasVegas/YouTube Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I thought I'd get away from it all this Labor Day weekend. Where better to find a little quiet time than Vegas?

Well, I have an excuse.

Some techie friends of mine were coming here to party and I've always been fascinated by their definition of the word "party."

It seems to involve offering themselves to bachelorette parties as male strippers, paying $1,000 for a bottle of vodka so that they can attract the attentions of 21-year-old (I hope) girls from Skokie, Ill., and generally working up an enormous sweat for precious little gain.

Being in Vegas, though, it's inevitable that the subject of tech always reached my frontal lobe at some point. This is the home of CES. This is a place where you can lose yourself, your sense of dignity and your shirt and claim to have had a wonderful time.

Tech always claims a deep sophistication for itself, while Vegas has often been associated with words such as "sordid," "sleaze," and "sin."

And yet, as I discussed the finer points of married bliss with an Afghan lady from Orange County last night, I wondered whether, in fact, tech and Vegas have a lot in common.

Each first tries to draw you in with a veneer of energy, excitement and shininess. Enter this world and you will become a more interesting, complete person, they seem to say.

Once you have veneer disease, tech and Vegas really want you to stick around. Each tech brand -- just like each Vegas brand -- wants you to enjoy its ecosystem, and not anyone else's.

What the app store is to Apple, the Bellagio retail complex is to the Bellagio.

Here you can have iTunes, there you can have Prada. Here you can have Microsoft Word, there you can have the Race and Sports Book. Here you have video games, there you have the Insanity Ride.

Please, please, just don't leave. We have everything here that you need in order to fulfill your every desire. We know what your desires are. We follow you around the Web. Well, the Web that is Vegas.

Yes, of course there's social networking too.

There is surely nothing more charming than wandering into, say, one of the Cosmopolitan Hotel's 35 bars (oh, it seems like 35) and watching strangers attempt the Saturday night live version of openness and connectedness.

Someone pokes the person next to them. Or they say something loud enough for at least three ladies to hear -- yes, this is the live version of the tweet or the status update. If just takes one little response, one little retweet, for the social networking to begin.

Everyone wants to update, you see. Actually, in Vegas, everyone wants to up-date.

Just as in the tech world, these people are looking for something a little better, a little more exciting. One more button to push. One new function that they hadn't imagined. One more sparkling, twirling, strobing light.

Meanwhile, in the ground floor casinos, there's a new technological pace.

The out-of-towners, satiated by cocktails and cockatoo-au-vin, don't pull handles on slot machines. They push buttons, fast and faster. They have 50 credits, so the wheels on the slot machines must spin ever more ferociously to keep up with the need to push the buttons ever faster. Our fortune must come quick. We only have a small window of opportunity.

Have you ever seen a 4-year-old with an iPad? It's a lot like this.

Of course, there's also the show. You come to Vegas to see Celine Dion, Carrot Top and a Kiss tribute band. Just as you come to Apple for the stage show, the music and the jokes about Samsung.

If there wasn't a show, there wouldn't be as many bright lights. It all wouldn't feel quite so important.

Vegas is a place where the screens get bigger as the screams get louder. It's where they'll give you something for free, if you just don't leave the building. It's a place where you come, as Nicolas Cage put it, to drink yourself to death.

Tech, of course, thinks itself more sophisticated. It wants you to believe that it can make you think yourself to death.

But in tech -- as in Vegas -- the principle is just the same: Stay, just a little bit longer. What can we do now to make you stick around?

 

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