Ladies and gentlemen, members of the media, fellow attendees.
During the course of this show, and in my meetings with various vendors and through my observation of all manner of products and services, I see a purity of vision that is, alas, blind to the truth of the erratic quality of human behavior.
To be clear: I am not here to criticize your work — indeed, I want to take this moment to praise you for your efforts — because, through your persistence in the face of the merciless tyranny of experiment, and by acknowledging the cold logic of results rather than indulging the false comfort of unproven theories, I stand before the glory of your success.
I see your success, in the high-definition colors of the flat screens and handsets that are the tangible examples of your labor; I can touch, tap and swipe my finger across these razor-thin but iron strong veneers of glass and steel; I can see virtual worlds of fun and adventure; I can absorb the passing sights of roadside attractions, thanks to the reality of driverless cars, and I can envision the medical care of tomorrow by looking at the watch strapped to my wrist, today, with its pulsating rhythms and subtle vibrations, backlit with the beats per second of an animated heart and the peaks and valleys of my diastolic pressure; I do not have to imagine the possibilities of technology, in a multitude of manifestations, for consumers everywhere, courtesy of what I have seen — and plan to see — right here.
In a word: Congratulations.
Allow me, then, to caution you about the person most notably absent from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show — the consumer, that most inspiring and confounding combination of reason and emotion; that inexplicably stubborn, and unexpectedly passionate, tribune of the marketplace; that ultimate judge of the success or failure of everything on display within this vast arena of convention halls and exhibitions, of acres of carpeted walkways and flags, banners and bunting on behalf of the Party of Progress.
For, in answering the question, “Can we do it?” it appears that no one bothered to ask, “Should we do it?”
That is, for all the wonders associated with driverless cars, to reference the most notable example of a surplus of services from this show, there is no algorithm for human nature: There is no ghost in the machine that intuits the need to accelerate or break the speed limit because of its location within a gang infested section of some Midwestern city, where the pop-pop sounds of drive-by shootings are the twilight Muzak of this obscene acceptance of abandonment by the state and surrender to the forces of crime and lawlessness.
There is no queue of consumers ready to entrust their safety to what they (and no one else) cannot see: A driver!
There is no waiting list for — there will never be a single call about the availability of — a driverless Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Bentley or Bugatti.
The lesson is that what seems exciting, in this space, can also be frightening or boring beyond the confines of this place.
Remember that, while the features may be novel and the functions may operate flawlessly, the technology may fail spectacularly among that enormous constituency of consumers.