Wednesday 26 March 2014

Fit for a King? Try Princess…

King, the software developer of such globally imperative applications such as Candy Crush (in fact, practically its only product) has just priced its IPO that will see it raise close to $500m, with a valuation of $7bn. That is truly incredible. Not incredible because of the impressive $2bn in revenue it generates each year from just 3% of its client-base using one single product, in-credible (literally beyond belief) for its expression of how truly obsessed and indulgent modern society has become with frivolous, time-wasting and ultimately non-beneficial to the greater good applications. Personal disclosure here - my own mother is dementedly immersed in the “delicious” cravings of Candy Crush level momentum. However, will she, as an expert in Candy Crush, be whisked off to become part of the NSA’s latest code-breaking tech…involving exploding sweets brought together in a line of 5?..hmmm..probably not. Sorry Mimi. 
Bring back the days of tic-tac-toe and classic 80s movies a-la-War-Games please! - you’ve got to be above 35 years old to understand that last reference. 

There are too many instant gratification stimuli out there now, the age of “delete that photo I don’t like it” to “I can’t figure this level out..purchase the next once” - CLICK CLICK CLICK..back in the days of glorious relics like the Amiga 500 and Commodore 64 - incredible machines that required endless hours and hours of patience, skill, a couple of screwdrivers plus some sticky tape to keep the whole thing from “critical failure” and being met with a screen of bewilderingly trance-like colour and lines - those pioneering programmers sure were the exact embodiment of early-day hippie software “engineers”…what’s happened to the beauty and poetry of the new new thing? - back in those days, none of these short-cuts were socially acceptable. You were meant to sit for hours reading a manual and understanding the machinations of each and every transistor, why that 1MB of RAM (bet you don’t even know what RAM stands for now do you?) wasn’t good enough to load up the next level of Secrets of Monkey Island. 

No, now, if it doesn’t turn on the instant you even THINK it, the product is worthless. OK, elegance of software design, progress and impressive dogged human determination to perfect aside, is it right to have what we want when we want it? Philosophers have always questioned the moral aspect of getting exactly what we want..if all the world has to offer is so easily accessible, from whence does happiness derive its emotive response? Even modern day “philosophers” aka behavioural economists, have sought to answer these endless questions. Daniel Kanheman wondered whether sunshine truly makes people happy - the old adage that those blessed to live in more desireably sunny locations were somehow happier than those that didn’t - well guess what?..Kanheman discovered that the happiness levels of those living in eternally sunny California were identical to those living in the US mid-west, where rain, wind, hail and tornadoes are commonplace in a single hour’s worth of weather. Craving sunshine? Better to crave than to have it seems. Just look at London, a few hours of sunshine does wondrous things to the city. Having it every day would diminish the “marginal utility’ as those fun-loving behaioural economists would say. Basically, too much of a good thing ain’t so good.

In fact, this brings us onto another important modern development, the intricate analysis and manipulation of modern society by the advertising world - the art of branding, media and design. As Kanheman’s experiment above, a belief that those living in sunny California would be happier than others was based on the pastiche-like billboards of joyful bikini-clad, smiling surf-riding Pacificers, clearly successful in alluring countless vacuous celebrities and wanna-be celebs alike. Not quite real nor accurate though. Once again, the sculpted (in more ways than one) idea of life on the Sunny Coast outweighs and ultimately fails in the face of adequate reality. The sad truth is that the billboards..nowadays more subtly positioned lifestyles in Tweets and Instangrams, rarely succeed in cultivating the intended for lifestyle and ultimately disappoint.

So what am I going on about?..well..essentially the total breakdown of patience and effort. An intrinsic and totally misplaced belief of self-worth and entitlement, manufactured by an incredible media and marketing machine armed with the greatest valuable information of all - our personal likes and dislikes. This is where it gets we really like what WE like..or rather what we are being manipulated into liking? Are media companies simply providing us with more of what we are being TOLD to like or actually making a social provision for the subjective wants of an entire globe? Witness the swelling cognisance and appreciation of artisan producers – the move away from the branded machinery-masses to the simple yet pleasingly unique, rare joys of hand-craft quality. Back to basics, at premium prices. Clash of the prevailing way exemplified.

There is too much that is too real, so real that it becomes a dichotomous fake. The obvious are the endless parade of (somehow still popular) reality shows..when will these simply die a tragic death? What about the degradation of such mundane and once slightly revered beauty pageant shows? Even the highly acclaimed upcoming Miss Universe pageants have become little-more than gorgeous to look at reality-shows, where lovely young ladies with an aspiration to truly “change the world and make it a better place” hmmm..right..are now replaced by MTV weaned and Kim-Kardashianed wannabes desperate for a chance to make it to the front pages (or higher trending Tweet/Google list results), in an attractively self-indulgent and pseudo-narcissistic manner. Innocence has even lost its innocence. We have taken the intimate and made it TV-Epic, now we are clambering to make the epic intimate.

Nothing is as innocent as it was originally intended to be. The world reacts as one with an increasingly (and worryingly) herd-like mentality - witness the recent outrage to Putin’s annexation of Crimea - within 24hrs the entire social Western-demographic had become judge and jury on the evils of the creeping return of the “Soviet Empire” - polls had previously shown most thought Crimea was somewhere in Texas - go figure. 
A more tragic recent media event was of course the mystery surrounding the disappearance of MH370. Would this have had the same level of scrutiny and endless rumouring of suspect conclusions if we had all been more focused on other more important matters? Too much time, too much information.

So if behavioural economists and pure common sense tells us that there is something sinister afoot in the manipulation of modern society, should we do more to fight against the tide of mind-numbing social-media? A backlash has been in the works for some time, now materialising in the form of an anti-social network - “ Cloak” -  where you can track and totally avoid those on your “friends" lists - brilliant!

The wheels keep turning. Let the Princesses play Candy Crush, us Cloaked Kings are watching Suits and laughing at the inside jokes and references to classic 80s movie lines...Go write that cheque your body can’t cash.