Once upon a time we put a man on the moon. Now we pee our pants over retina displays. WTF happened to us?

I remember being a kid and having the nuns pull us all out of class and cram us into a tiny room where we would sit on the floor and watch NASA launches on a black-and-white TV. These weren’t all moon landings, and I know we didn’t see the first moon landing at school, because that took place in the summer. But every time they launched an Apollo mission, we watched. I remember all of us sitting there and being amazed by what we were seeing, and even now, all these years later, it’s still amazing what those people did.

But today I spent two hours watching Apple announce a new MacBook Pro with a retina display, a new version of OS X and a new version of iOS that has … gasp … Facebook support integrated into it. All around the world, people were sitting at their screens, watching live blog coverage of this event, hanging on every page refresh.

Forgive me, but this makes me sad. So many great minds, devoted to such trivial bullshit.

49 Responses to “Once upon a time we put a man on the moon. Now we pee our pants over retina displays. WTF happened to us?”

  1. Matt

    I’m currently building an app called Nostalgia. You can record all the feel-good moments of your life and read about them anytime you want. Check it out in the coming weeks!

  2. Joe Crawford

    Innovation Starvation by Neal Stephenson also identifies the problem.

    Many have identified the problem. So how do we fix it? It seems it’s not merely Apple to blame. We’re all complicit in this failure. At every level of the culture, government, business, academia, journalism – we are not trying for big things.

    TED Talks are inspiring, but I think everyone’s just trying to get their own shit done. No time for the big picture and the long term. It is sad.

  3. SteelToad

    You remember the moon launches because they were different, but you may not have known the enormous number of people watching the “trivial bullshit” of the $64000 question every week.

    A few weeks ago a good part of the country was watching SpaceX connect with the space station, granted it wasn’t an Apollo mission, after-all spaceships dock with the ISS all the time, but this one was different. Being honest, by the end of the Apollo missions, people weren’t really watching them either, it wasn’t new anymore.

    I wont argue with you that the Apple stuff is hype, but ask your self “Why was I anticipating it, Why was I watching it”

  4. Dan Lyons

    Joe, yes, and it’s a story I’ve written, over and over again, in different forms, for the past few years. I keep running into people in the scientific community who are depressed about the lack of funding, the lack of ambition. Peter Thiel talks about it, Steve Blank talks about it. (http://huff.to/KsouZn).

  5. Rich Miller

    To be sure, we’re not as much about the decade-long mission and more about fast-to-fail and gamification. This is as sad as the fuss made over Facebook’s IPO, or Groupon. But this is, to be fair, what comes of the adoption of advanced tech into our everyday, commercial lives.

    I continue to hold up as wondrous — and on the order of putting a man on the moon — projects like the Large Hadron Collider. The internet itself is a modern (and commercially viable) miracle.

    This may not be so much about what we’ve done, or what’s happened to us, as much as to what we’re paying attention as having value. It’s a bit too much about ‘me’ and not enough about ‘us.”

  6. James Watters

    These are two different categories of fascination, one the achievements of a state, and the other is the unfolding digital tools people are using to shape their lives. I’d argue that the iPhone has changed peoples’ lives far more directly than a trip to the moon.

  7. Kevin Kunreuther

    People do get excited about watching different things – millions watched the Wisconsin re-election as a pre-cursor to Romney-Obama match up – what gets me is that millions of people were watching a product launch from a multi-billion dollar company that practically employs sweatshop labor – and most people are indifferent or even OK with it, as long they get those sexy hot products – the web comic Least I Could Do hit the nail on the head today.

  8. jim forbes

    I can hardly wait for the iPhone5 announcement and the call to Tim Cook on a stage somewhere. “Hello, Hello?”
    Silence from beyond.
    Anon on the Ashram

  9. Big Text

    I found an app called “Big Text Free” where you can display a big Bull Shlt and show it to someone.

  10. Dan

    I agree. Fascination with the moon landings was passive; it might have kindled people’s imaginations but what tangible benefit did it bring to their everyday lives? Apple’s retina display and deeper Facebook integration make the banal more interesting, and the isolated more social.

  11. Rob

    Dan, I completely agree. I think as technology evolved and we continued to be wow’d by FMCG products we lost a vision for something much greater!

    Apple bears the brunt of this because of their unashamed marketing campaigns, but to be honest most large firms are standing still.

    If I had £100B cash, I would build something greater than a screen with lots of pixels (the term “retina display” is just the marketing hype!).

  12. Hendo

    I think Matt Weiner is going to want royalties on that idea…..check yo self Don Draper.

  13. x

    The higher resolution displays are a new way of viewing the 50 year old pictures of the moon landings.

  14. nik

    well Dan, umm, what have you done lately?

    aside from WATCHING them announce the new retina display?

  15. Karl A

    You are so full of yourself. The world does not revolve around geeks and their toys. Look around you. Did your neighbor take the day off to monitor live blogs?

    Geeks like us are less than 1 percent of consumers. We do not count for much of anything. Housewives will decide who wins.

  16. Toffe

    The Apollo missions were a huge technological success, but maybe even more so an enormous PR success. Lots of energy released in a few seconds makes for a great show. There are bigger and more human life altering things happening each day even today. Try reading nature.com or even scientificamerican.com rather than 15 moronic Apple rumour blogs. There is some amazing things being done by some of the brightest minds. What would the world look like if all of Wall Street great minds would be devoted to science rather than “making” money. It used to be able being the best and the brightest. Now its only about being the richest.

  17. dontcare

    I dont care for the moon landing. so you get to the moon. so what? and what it bring to people? nothing. only a cold war ambition to get somewhere before soviet union. wow. what a great great human achievement. hubble telescope is far more bigger achievement than such bull-crap. that moon landing was also only a hype and ambition. and you are comparing two different things. why you are not sad, that there is far more people interested in justin bieber than in the moon landing? why you compare apple with this? it is uncomparable. one thing is science and another thing is technology and gadgets. in my mind, what apple did with phones and computers are far more important than your moon landing. there is thousands of things more important than moon landing. you bitch about sad world powered by hype, nevertheless moon landing is the perfect symbol of hype.

  18. Andrew

    For decades, millions of people have been flying to Paris to gawk at a decent painting of a smiling woman under several layers of thick glass. lots of pants peeing goes into that.

    Me, I’d rather spend $600 on having a beautiful screen at home.

    Screw your overromanticized view of history. You remember the good but none of the bad. The revolutions today are just as amazing. What about pulling hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China and India over the past two decades? Just because white males (see photo in your posting) have not recently successfully completed an awesome trillion dollar project does not mean the world is not a far better place than it was forty years ago.


  19. JM

    Really? What are you talking about? We didn’t “simply” send a few guys to the Moon and back, as though we just had to book some reservations. We had to invent things and figure out all kinds of stuff (to use the technical term). The space program has done tons for technology development, among other benefits. Check out NASA Spinoffs http://spinoff.nasa.gov/ when you have some time to learn what it has brought to people.

  20. Chris

    “what tangible benefit did [moon landings] bring to their everyday lives?”

    That is bullshit. Watch “Why We Stopped Dreaming” with Neil deGrasse Tyson and you will understand why.




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