Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Early Adopters; New Nuke Policy

Well, the complaints about initial glitches with the iPad are already starting to come in. Apparently there are some problems with the Wi-Fi connectivity of the device.
I'm not really pointing this out in order to single out the iPad or to claim that Apple makes inferior products (almost every new gadget has some problems, and I'm sure that Apple will probably get the problems fixed in short order and will eventually be able to make sure that their customer base remains satisfied and happy).
Actually, I'm writing about this just because the whole idea of "early adopters" of new technologies- the kind of people who feel compelled to rush out and buy new pieces of technology just as soon as they come out- is a phenomenon that's really strange and sort of incomprehensible to me.
As I said in yesterday's post, I'll probably eventually end up buying an iPad. But the key word is eventually. With almost every one of these devices that comes out, the initial launch of the product ends up containing unforseen glitches and the price point is higher than where it will ultimately ends up. So, other than the fact that they want to be the cool kids on the cutting edge, I don't really understand people who rush out to buy the initial launch, first versions of new technology products.
To me, the whole deal is almost counterintuitive. Products like the iPad or the iPhone (or heck- even high def TVs or almost any other technology that you can think of) usually are at their highest price points when they're first launched, but this is also the first generation, where the bugs haven't been worked out and the thing doesn't work as well as it ultimately will in the end. (and yes, yes, I know that the price is initially higher because the companies are trying to recoup their R &D costs and whatnot, but I'm just speaking from a consumer's perspective here). It almost seems like their should be a discount for people who are willing to buy the bug and glitch laden first generation models, and then the price should go up a bit as the glitches get worked out.
But people love hype. They devour it like a starving man at a buffet table. With each new product launch (especially for Apple- a company that has truly mastered hype) we see people camping out and waiting in line for hours and hours in order to get newly launched products as soon as they're delivered by the trucks. Others pre-order their products- paying for them ahead of time simply in order to have the reassurance of knowing that they'll have one the moment they become available.
I guess, in the end, I should be happy that these people are out there. They're willing to buy new products at a premium and then report back the problems that need correcting, and in the end, this really helps out the rest of us who wait a little longer and then buy the same products farther down the line.
But I'm never going to be an early adopter. I'm already uncool for so many reasons that I just don't believe that being among the first to own any new product is really ever going to help, and I can usually wait for the chance to play with a new toy until they've come up with one that really works the way that it's supposed to.

What else? Well, in news that's clearly far less important than the release of the iPad, the White House has announced major new restrictions upon America's use of nuclear weapons. Apparently we're now declaring that we won't use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries which have signed onto agreements which prevent the proliferation of nuclear arsenals (this means we're leaving the door open to nuke countries like North Korea and Iran which currently may not have nuclear capabilities, but which have refused to abandond the pursuit of their development). The new nuclear strategy also states that the U.S. will abandon the development of new forms of nuclear weapons (or at least the largest, strategic forms of them).
On NPR yesterday it they were talking about this story, they brought up the fact that this sort of action on the part of the U.S. is actually putting Russia into a sort of bind from a security perspective. Russia is fully able to defend itself with the use of nuclear weapons nowadays, but it's conventional warfare capabilities have diminished to some degree since the decline of the Soviet Union. This means that the Russians can hold their own against the U.S. as long as we're matched up against one another from a nuclear standpoint, but the Russians probably wouldn't fare so well against the U.S. in a conflict that involved conventional arms (the U.S. has been sinking lots of money and resources into the ongoing development of new conventional weapons technologies while Russia has sort of lagged behind in that area).
Annnyway, there are lots of different foreign policy implications for this new nuclear weapons policy, but I guess, in the end, it seems like a pretty good thing. Some conservatives have immediately criticized this new policy, saying (among other things) that it sends mixed messages, appears to weaken U.S. resolve, and takes our nuclear deterrent off the table in the case of a nonnuclear WMD attack (e.g., biological or chemical weapon attack).
Well, as they pointed out on NPR yesterday, America still has one of the biggest, most advanced conventional weapons militaries in the world, and I would think that our conventional military could still provide an awfully powerful deterrent against people who would do us harm. Second of all, most of the countries that we're worried about in terms of launching bilogical weapons or chemical attakcs probably aren't the type of folks who are going to be signing onto a nuclear nonproliferation agreement, anyway. These are the kinds of countries who don't want to answer to anyone (and who won't tolerate transparency rules and inspection teams), so it's unlikely that they'll allow themselves to be reigned in by treaties. This means we can still nuke them if they launch germ warfare in the streets of Manhatten. (and we're still keeping all options on the table in terms of countries that possess nuclear weapons)
As far as the message goes, I think we're sending the right one. We're essentially just trying to show that we can be fair. If other countries are willing to promise not to have nuclear weapons, we'll agree that we're never going to nuke them. If this sort of agreement helps to curb the threat of nuclear weapons from expanding around the globe, I would say it's probably a very good thing.
I just tend to think that as time passes and technology progresses we might be facing more and more problems with countries like North Korea and Iran who want to develop nuclear weapons. One way to discourage this sort of growth is to give other countries some form of incentive that discourages them from developing nuclear weapons. Turning the absence of nuclear weapons into a defense strategy for avoiding nuclear attack (for the countries which agree to forego these weapons) seems like a good strategy for curbing proliferation.
Don't worry too much, conservatives. We can still nuke any country that nukes us. For all the good that will do.

Well, I guess that's it for now. Maybe more later. Peace!

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