CES: The three most stunning surprises

Walking around the conference center, sometimes you can come across information that truly makes you stop and reconsider the world. Here are just three of those pieces of data.

LAS VEGAS--It is Saturday. Though some have sped off to the airport nursing contracts and hangovers, many still pour into the Las Vegas Conference Center seeking edification.

As someone from slightly outside the technological world, I pondered over dinner last what were the three most stunning surprises that made me reassess my own view of life, not merely of technology.

1. OTHER THAN AMERICA, THERE ARE ONLY FOUR COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. I made it my business to wander over to the International Zone. I expected to find clever people from all around the world showing off their flying laptops, or perhaps invisible cars.

I expected to see the flags of Great Britain, France, Australia, and, fancifully, Bhutan flying high and proud. Instead, all I could see was China, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

Perhaps there were corners I didn't explore. Perhaps the Dutch were housed in some very large clog-shaped display that somehow failed to meet my gaze. Or perhaps the organizers simply felt the need to put exhibitors from these four countries together, just to make them feel more at home.

But how odd it was to have one's worldview so scrupulously narrowed in the area of future-thinking.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

2.THE MASTERPAD IS THE WORLD'S HOTTEST TABLET PC. What had I been missing? I had naively thought that, you know, the iPad was somehow doing rather well in the marketplace.

I had heard that many others were trying to catch up with Android-based devices that tried to look like the iPad, but not too much like the iPad. You know, they're darker.

And then I espied this remarkably empty booth, with just a couple of seats and a dearth of action, that sported this delightful claim: MasterPad by Cyber 1. World (sic) HOTTEST Tablet PC.

MasterPad is from Israel (no, this wasn't in the International Zone), and some say it might be wonderful. But if you're going to claim something so extraordinary, surely you might make your booth seem slightly exceptional too.

Still, I have, quite naturally, canceled any thoughts of getting an iPad 2.

3. TREASURE HUNTING IS THE WORLD'S FASTEST-GROWING HOBBY. I bet you thought it was mixed martial arts. Or some other extreme endeavor, like divorce lawyering.

But, no. For there it was, emblazoned over the booth of Teknetics, a company that makes those gold-searching machines that men in strange shorts often navigate around nudist beaches.

The world's fastest-growing hobby is, allegedly, treasure hunting. I am not aware whether all of the employees of Goldman Sachs ticked the box on this one. There seemed no justification I could find for this remarkably hearty assertion. But I now see the world in an entirely different way. Taking a long black object for a walk on a nudist beach is regarded as a hobby.

This weekend, may your hobbies keep you away from considering the world's future. For between you and that future lies a gold mine--or a minefield--of uncertainty.

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