on anti-features

you might not have heard of the term "anti-feature" before,1 but with how technology has been developing lately, i think everyone ought to know about them.

an anti-feature is any feature in a product which makes the whole product worse by it being there. a perfect fictional example is the Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf; a fictional toaster which would talk to you, but only about toast. despite being a fully functional toaster, the device was made useless by how annoying it was to listen to.

perhaps the first anti-feature was the advertisement. dating back over a century, modern advertising first emerged to promote tobacco, before those techniques were adapted to sell all manner of other products. of course, nobody actually likes to look at ads, but generally, people are willing to put up with them to a degree; since otherwise, they'd have to pay more out of pocket for whatever the ads are attached to.

with new technologies, ads evolved to reach more people in whatever way was cheapest and fastest. radio spread faster than print, and television was more engaging. but with the rise of the internet, advertising could really get personal. the first online ads were simply based off the website itself, but soon, advertisers started tracking the behavior of specific users across the web. while few publishers truly enjoyed it, most were willing to sell out their users, as they got a healthy cut of the ever-growing paycheck.

of course, ads and trackers are not the only kind of anti-feature; some are simply crap nobody asked for. this type can be found any time a product reaches market saturation, as one loses the ability to differentiate between competitors. when useful features cannot differentiate a product, one has to market on gimmicks alone. for example, look at when Amazon slapped voice control into a microwave back in 2018. it's obviously a stupid idea, because you have to be touching the microwave already to put the food in. but they made it anyways, because it's a fucking microwave, and nobody gives a shit about microwaves.

the latest evolution in useless crap, of course, is AI.2 ever since ChatGPT convinced a bunch of morons to think it was sapient, corporations have been chomping at the bit to implement anything they can call "AI" into their products. from rice cookers to computers, everything must have AI. who cares if all your memories are fake and everything you do is monitored? AI is the future, just like blockchain and the metaverse!

it should be no surprise to anyone then why these anti-features exist. companies care more about making money than making good products, so they'll happily make a product worse if they think it will be profitable to do so. and with computers having become so cheap and plentiful, it only makes sense that corporations will continue to add more and more bullshit to try and differentiate them.

maybe one day, they'll learn that less is more.

1. to be honest; if you're the kind of person who reads this blog, you probably have.

2. yes, it's not really general artificial intelligence. however, marketers call it AI, so i am calling it AI too.

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