Just in case you missed it, our pals at Nike have finally come up with self-tying sneakers à la Back to the Future. Does the world really need this? —Biff Tannen
Four billion people don't have access to clean water, but please, let's focus on the problem of consumers in the $200-sneaker-buying demographic having to waste 12 precious seconds of their day tying their shoes WITH THEIR BARE HANDS, like fucking cavemen.
Related: Nike Debuts Self-Lacing Shoes
Does the world really need this? If by "world" you mean "U.S. economy," then…yeah, maybe.
Here's the deal: Every year, increasing automation means it takes fewer man-hours to build the same amount of crap. Economists call this "rising productivity."
So, to keep everyone busy, we have to build ever more crap. We're continually increasing the crap-to-person ratio, which economists call "the standard of living."
Most of this crap is designed to raise the level of ambient convenience, so the effort of, say, tying your shoes starts to seem like some kind of medieval ordeal that we need yet another product to save us from.
The truth is, at this point probably 20 percent of the working-age population could make enough crap to keep us all at a standard of living that was perfectly acceptable in 1950. But since that's what economists call "mass unemployment," we have to convince ourselves we now need Snuggies and Pokémon Go and Snapchat and Sauna Pants.
Eventually, though, this process will become unsustainable. There will be only one job: turning on the robot that turns on the other robots. Productivity will be infinite! (As will unemployment.)
At this point, there will be two kinds of people: shareholders in Mom's Robot Co., who will live on their dividend checks, and everybody else, who will go back to scrabbling in the dirt for grubs like old times.
Except you'll be scrabbling while somebody walks by with $10,000 augmented-reality glasses that make you invisible and make everything else have the faces of kitty cats or some shit. Enjoy the future!