Posted Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, at 3:17 PM
I have seen the refrigerator of the future. It's made by LG and it has a "blast chiller" compartment that can cool a room temperature can of soda or beer down in just five minutes. Awesome stuff. It also illustrates a pet point of mine, namely that the unequal distribution of consumption power tends to discourage innovation. LG's highest-end fridges are already beyond the means of most families, costing upwards of $2,500, and it's not as if super-rich people are going to go out and pay three dozen advanced refrigerators. Under the circumstances, the incentive to invest money in developing even better appliances is relatively muted. That doesn't mean we see no progress, of course. But it does mean that we see less progress than we might in a world where appliance-makers were confident that middle class families would have strongly rising disposable incomes and a hunger for cool new features.