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4 questionable things the head of CES said about technology at SXSW

Gary Shapiro may be the guy behind one of the biggest technology exhibitions in the world, but boy has he got a few weird observations about the industry.

At a panel event at SXSW titled “The Top Technology Trends of 2014,” Rackspace tech evangelizer (and notorious taker-of-showers with Google Glass) Robert Scoble and Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association took the stage to talk about the future of technology, but it was mostly to humblebrag about the amazing technology they had a chance to see before everyone else. Scoble. while declaring wearables to be the hottest thing anyone was talking about at SXSW, simply couldn’t fit enough gadgets on himself. At one point he was wearing a Google Glass, some sort of brain sensor, and a $2000 t-shirt that could light up using controls from his phone (and withstand girls throwing water on it, apparently.)

While Scoble for his part had a few smart insights in between espousing the virtues of the products he had brought on stage, Shapiro managed to make a few head-scratching statements that made me check with the guy next to me if he had really said what I thought he did.

1) In a legitimate discussion about the privacy issues surrounding all the cool new gadgets that record human information, Shapiro chose to make his point with a weird analogy. “In order to get a better experience for something you haven’t done before, you give up a bit of your privacy,” said Shapiro. “It’s like when I let my tailor take my measurements when I want slightly better fitting pants.”

This would be a good comparison if Shapiro’s tailor took his measurements without telling him he was going to take them, feel around way more than Shapiro agreed to, and then sold Shapiro’s measurements to advertisers who then bombarded him with offers about more pants, all the while checking back to see if Shapiro had gotten fat.

2) “Wall painters are gonna go out of business because in the future, we’ll all have wall-to-wall TV screens.” No Gary. In the future, everyone’s home is not going to look like the Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room studio. Unless in the future, we are all hugely obnoxious.

3) When asked about what other places had the potential to be the next Silicon Valley, Shapiro mentioned Israel, saying the country was innovating because it had so much conflict, and that people were fearing for their lives. By this standard, Syria should be giving us hot new apps in no time.

4) Shapiro kept mentioning the word “ninja” as if he had just coined the term (as applied to innovation.) Traditionally, the biggest characteristic about ninjas was their stealth. But now it’s been co-opted to mean anything related to doing things well. When asked what “ninja innovation” meant, Shapiro said it meant being flexible, thinking outside the box, and being innovative. Because obviously until now, startups didn’t know they had to do that. Unless they watched a kung-fu movie.

Yes, I know he was trying to promote his book titled “Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of Successful Businesses” but it was a tired, clichéd, all-encompassing definition of the word, which ultimately makes it mean nothing.

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