The smart way to be a millennial

Look around, everything is smart now. From smart TVs to smart watches to Buzzfeed articles about “The smart way to x,” it seems that millennials are pretty insecure about their intelligence.

If something is genuinely smart, it doesn’t need to style itself as smart. Something smart is apparent to anyone who understands it. The marketing indicating that this or that product is “smart” only indicates to me that:

  1. They hired a good designer who works in the minimalist Scandinavian style.
  2. They either have no other benefits or don’t know how to explain them.


If smart is used in a blog post, like “The smart way to run,” I can only assume:

  1. This is, in fact, probably the wrong way to run.
  2. It is in opposition to most experts for the sake of being in opposition.
  3. I will be ‘smarter’ if I don’t read it.


They never really mean ‘smart’ by it’s traditional definition. They mean ‘short-cut’ or the modern meaning of the word ‘hack’ 🤮

Outside of blogging, smart is a way to advertise products that collect and process data. This is a poor use of language, since being smart is obviously a lot more than sensing and processing. Sensing and processing is simply perception. I think “aware watches” and “aware tvs” sounds too creepy for marketing departments, and “perceiving devices”/”perceptual devices” is even worse.

The word ‘smart’ is used as ‘short-cut’ but also because it has a connotation of status. The world used to belong to the rich, the strong, the fighters – and now it belongs to the ‘smart,’ that got bullied in high school. It’s a cultural fantasy and trope.

Me? I don’t want to be smarter. I’m already smart, and it sucks. I live my life surrounded by stupidity. I’m smart enough to even be painfully aware of my own stupidity. I slug along one sigh after another, knowing that most mistakes are not worth correcting and that my own outnumber my awareness. I don’t want my objects to be more aware, either. I don’t want more data, more tracking, or more mechanical insight.

I appreciate machine learning and big data for what it is, and I appreciated it very much when completing my Capstone project at UCLA – but that was research, not product. I don’t want this stuff in my products for several reasons.

I want less data, even at the expense of losing “insights.” I don’t trust these insights, because I know how they are generated, and I know that they are mostly wrong. Don’t mistake “Data Science” for a practice with scientific rigor. Scientific rigor is usually too inefficient to bring to market, and it requires the possibility of bad results, which businesses don’t allow for. Academia generally does, but is still not perfect.

I want less devices, even if these devices expand my abilities as a human beings in terms of information accessibility and knowledge. Yes, I know almost everything at the click of a button, but my internal human insights are stifled in this endless search for (inaccurate) information.

I want to think less, even if that means everyone else races past me at the speed of light in what they succeed and build and sell. My joys in life are simple: books, flora, fauna, laughing, making stuff. I’m glad I knew this young: there is no benefit for me to being ‘smarter.’

I want less smart, because it’s a dishonest synonym for “short cut”, and a misleading one that appeals to the tragic drive of (some) millennials: their need to succeed – a concept most of us cannot define for ourselves.

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