Love it or hate it, Las Vegas is a quintessential American experience. And as with other quintessential American experiences like "Rock Around The Clock" and McDonald's, it takes me about two-and-a-half minutes to get my fill of it. As we get ready to march into the Neon Babylon next week to cover the International Consumer Electronics Show for the 6th straight year, I can't help thinking that maybe it's time for this orgy of hype and desperation to go bother some other city for a while. Here are four leading candidates.
Pyongyang, North Korea: CES likes to think of itself as a spectacle, and nobody does spectacle like the North Koreans. They also happen to be in dire need of hard currency. Imagine 20,000 gymnasts twirling in praise of Toshiba, or a stadium full of true believers holding up placards to form a gigantic XBOX Kinect logo - all for just pennies per drone! CES Pyongyang would also present a great opportunity for industry insiders to get a firsthand look at the prison camps where the gadgets of tomorrow will probably be built...
Williamsburg, Virginia: How do you position CES as a thrilling look into the future when every year, the hot topic seems to be either "thinner TVs" or "bigger TVs"? By setting it in a facsimile of Colonial America. Nestled among wig-weavers and butter-churn repair shops, even those sad little booths hawking iPod cases will look like emissaries from a brilliant Tomorrowland. (CES INSIDER TIP: 2012 is shaping up to be a "thinner TV" year.)
Mogadishu, Somalia: Speaking of the future, whatever your vision is, you can see it right now in Mogadishu. Techno-utopians will marvel at its booming mobile phone industry, mainly because the infrastructure for landline phones has largely been destroyed by decades of war. If you're more in the Peak Oil/imminent-collapse-of-civilization camp, the Mogadishu of today could be the Atlanta or Phoenix of tomorrow. And what better place is there to examine the urgent issue of piracy? Plus, we all know about the close affinity between tech geeks and libertarian theory. Nowhere in the world is that theory put more fully into practice than in the sun-splashed small-government paradise of Mogadishu. Just make sure you bring enough cash to hire a team of armed bodyguards.
Seattle, Washington: The nerdiest city on Earth is also (perhaps not coincidentally) a major gateway between North America and Asia. Plus, I'd get to sleep in my own bed every night.
Sadly, CES looks set to stay in Vegas for at least a few more years. So that's where we'll be all next week as we bring the magic and tedium of CES to the Woot blog. If you'll be there, find us and say hi. And if not, give our regards to Mogadishu.
Photos (top to bottom), all used under a Creative Commons license: