The Emperor Is Naked and We’re All Idiots

An old fable keeps running through my mind about the scam artist who convinced an emperor that he had created clothing only smart people could see. Everyone says they see the clothing because they don't want to look stupid. Walking around in clothing stupid people can't see doesn't sound enticing anyway, but lately it has seemed clear to me that the folks reporting the news think we are idiots.

An old fable keeps running over and over in my mind about the scam artist who convinced an emperor that he had created clothing only smart people could see. Everyone says they see the clothing because they don’t want to look stupid.

Granted, I’m thinking that walking around in clothing stupid people can’t see doesn’t sound that enticing, but that was clearly a different time. In the end, one child finally bursts out that the top guy in the state is a naked idiot. (Well, naked anyway — the idiot part is implied). Recently, it seems clear to me that the folks reporting the news think we are idiots.

Given how we eat up these stories, I’m concerned they may be right. When you consider some of the big tech stories of the last few months, and the parts we didn’t seem to care about, it raises the question, are we all idiots? Let’s be clear, I’m part of the same audience, so what I’m saying about this reflects as much on me as on anyone else.

I’ll close with my product of the week: an amazingly affordable 2-in-1 Notebook from Nextbook.

Edward Snowden Is Unique

This has been bothering me for some time. We continue to get the sense that Edward Snowden pretty much took from the NSA every piece of embarrassing intelligence that has ever existed. Last week’s disclosure was that an Israeli strike team killed a Syrian general — well, assassinated him — at a dinner party at his seaside villa. (I particularly liked that the ad next to this piece was for a Passover vacation at a seaside resort. Imagine an announcer’s voice: “Hey, we killed the general. Now YOU can benefit from what we did, and take your family for a discounted fun day at the ocean near his villa!” Got to love ad placement.)

Everyone acts as if this was a single isolated event. Why? If someone ran into a vault full of money, which basically had been left open for decades, and then ran around screaming about the money they stole and throwing it in the air, might you not wonder if there weren’t, say, several hundred others that didn’t feel the need to announce their theft?

The unusual part of the Snowden theft wasn’t the theft — apparently, that was really easy. It was that he announced it. People who steal things generally don’t run around sending lists of what they stole to major media publications. Have we considered that there may be several others who likely stole as much or more and didn’t take it to the media?

What do you think the odds are that much of what is being released wasn’t actually stolen by Snowden but by the Russians, and they are using Snowden as a front to embarrass the U.S. and not expose their source in the NSA? Given how much Snowden took, he might not even know the difference.

Trump Can’t Win the US Election

Don’t get me wrong. The odds are long for Trump to win the presidency, but remember — we in the U.S. have a tendency not to go to the polls if we don’t like the candidates. The folks who don’t like Clinton are legion (more would vote against her than for her), and Trump currently is at the top of the Republican polls after saying stupid stuff.

Oh — and remember, we elected a bubba, George Bush Jr., over someone who actually had some experience, Al Gore (though I’ll grant you he defined dull, well until the following election).

Trump can motivate people to vote, and I can see a demographic completely torqued off at Congress wanting to vote for the guy just to give heartburn to a bunch of politicians who aren’t doing their jobs. Seriously, if folks got the idea that the only value in voting for Trump would be that he’d annoy the crap out of Congress — which has been annoying the crap out of us — that might get both Republicans and Democrats to vote for the guy. One thing we mostly all agree on is that Congress sucks.

Trump is the richest guy who has ever run for office. He has name recognition as strong as Hillary Clinton, and by every measure knows how to fight a fight. Oh, and he seems to get that the truth really doesn’t matter much, because folks who vote don’t like to do research.

I’m from California, and our contribution to the presidency was an actor who is still remembered as one of the best presidents we ever had. I can remember at the time (yes I’m THAT old) that folks said there was no way in hell an actor could be president — period. Look how that worked out.

I’m not saying Trump will be elected, but maybe it would be wise to start taking him a bit more seriously. From where I’m sitting, with just a little adjustment, he could get elected.

What if he proposed to have something like Celebrity Apprentice but popped up members of Congress and allowed us to virtually fire them? The guy knows media…

Electric Cars Are Green

Electric cars are not really, and they may not ever be relatively green. There are two problems with electric cars that we really don’t think through fully. The big problem is the batteries. They aren’t very efficient, and it’s very dirty to mine them. Manufacturing and shipping them also is problematic, though Tesla’s Gigafactory will address a little of this. Another challenge is disposing of them safely.

A lot of our electrical plants run on oil or coal, and often are not particularly clean. Oh, and on top of that, there may not be enough raw material to make batteries for cars in significantly larger volumes.

Electricity has a bit of an edge over natural gas or hydrogen, but they are potentially cleaner if we can move to a better battery technology, or more aggressively move to cleaner generating technologies, such as solar and nuclear. [*Correction – July 20, 2015]

This is the simplest way I’ve seen it explained with facts. Where I live in Oregon, the electricity comes from hydroelectric plants. The cars are greener. (Surprisingly, I don’t see many Teslas — but I plan to buy one, because it makes sense here).

In most places, electricity comes from oil or coal — it isn’t green. If you live where there are natural gas fired plants, a hybrid is green and likely far more convenient.

So electric cars may be green, but chances are that where you live, they’re not. I’ll bet you never even checked. (In all fairness, many of the Tesla owners I know have big solar plants on their houses, so they are mostly good).

Wrapping Up

It kind of amazes me that we find ourselves taken down a path of belief where everyone nods their heads and says that something is so. Snowden was a unique event; there’s no way an actor or crazy billionaire can get elected; electric cars are greener than gas.

These are absolute truths — we don’t question them. Maybe we should. I’m a big believer in questioning everything and this week I’m reminding you — and myself — that maybe we all should do this more often.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

We are coming up to the Windows 10 launch, and I’m starting to get in waves of products that suggest this launch will be a good one. A lot of things have changed since Windows 8. The product folks at Microsoft no longer appear a tad out of touch with what the market wants, the hardware folks are in the loop for the launch — not in the dark — and there are some really interesting low-cost offerings coming to market.

One of those products is the Nextbook Flex 2-in-1 11.6″. This is the second version of this product I’ve played with, and while I was impressed with the first version, what really impressed me is that the company fixed all of the things reviewers complained about, and refreshed the product in less than a quarter.

Nextbook Flexx 11 Tablet

Nextbook Flexx 11Tablet

Here is what is impressive about the Nextbook Flex. It has 64 GB of memory, which can be doubled with an SD card (costing around $25).

It has a quad-core 64 bit Intel processor, it has a nice feeling keyboard, it has both PC and tablet modes (critical for the full Windows 10 experience), and reviewers give it 4 out of 5 stars. It has a very thin sexy look, and it has a soft finish making it easy to hold and relatively scratch-resistant. Here is the kicker: It costs US$227. Yep — for half the price of an iPad, you could get a full hybrid 2-in-1 Windows 8.1 notebook with a free upgrade to Windows 10.

Now Nextbook actually has lower-cost products with smaller screens, but I think they give up too much. Twelve inches used to be the minimum for a screen you could work on, and at 11.6 inches, the difference is negligible. However, if you go lower, the screen size can get too painful for adults, which is likely why the smaller products are reviewed more harshly.

In the end, a 2-in-1 for $227, or $250 if you add the recommended 64-GB SD card, is one hell of a deal, and the Nextbook Flexx 11.6″ is my product of the week. I think I just did most of my Christmas shopping. (Don’t tell anyone.)

*ECT News Network editor’s note – July 20, 2015: Our original published version of this column stated that “Electricity has a bit of an edge over solar or hydroelectric power.” What Enderle meant to say was that electricity has an edge over natural gas or hydrogen.

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends. You can connect with him on Google+.


  • Yes, you can bet the Russians are calling the shots now, specifically Putin, with regard to Snowden’s stolen intel. And you can bet that is something a seemingly naive and idealistic Edward Snowden didn’t count on. I wonder if, caught in his Russian cocoon, he is aware that he is being used by the most dangerous man the world has seen since the death of Stalin?

    As for Ronald Reagan… He was a great president – if you were rich. I had a friend who was working in Washington during the Reagan years, and was close to the corridor’s of power. He told me that Ronald Reagan’s administration essentially declared war on the poor, and when I look back at what I remember of those years, I can see that.

    Trickle down Reaganomics was as substantial and true as your naked emperor’s clothes. But you are right, electric cars are only as green as the source of their electricity, and that is something everyone should be thinking about. And unfortunately, at this time, only the rich can afford to be green. That’s the kind of environmentalism that Ronald Reagan would have appreciated…

  • Who remembers Reagan as one of the best presidents we’ve ever had? If ever there was an "Emperor has no clothes" story that was sold to the American electorate, this was it.

  • What a deliciously ironic article. The first half is dedicated to pointing out a few obvious and non obvious facts that we tend to ignore… That Snowden isn’t the only whistle blower, thankfully, that electric cars aren’t actually clean that in fact we’ve been conned into accepting something we desperately want to believe, that people are pretty much mostly stupid and fall for all sorts of con games.

    Then the author proceeds to tell us how wonderful Windows 10 is.

    On the other hand, maybe that’s the bit he was paid to say, and the previous section was to warn us… The Emporer has no clothes.

  • The Bush bashing was totally unnecessary. Bush was an Ivy League (Yale, Harvard Business School) educated person, not an ignorant bubba. When I come to something as totally gratuitous as this, I stop reading. You want people to read your stuff, don’t go off topic, and keep it germane.

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