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I can’t get it out of my head: A honkingly big Caterpillar sign that read, “JOIN US AS WE BUILD A BETTER WORLD.” The digital recruitment billboard at CES 2023 followed promos for an autonomous compactor and excavator, and proceeded another callout: “CHECK OUT OUR BIG AUTONOMOUS TRUCK.”
I did, and boy was it ever.
A “better world” could mean anything in corporate-speak, but in this case, the company is talking specifically about sustainability — and using aspirational language to distance itself from a fossil-fueled role in carving up the earth. Like Caterpillar, many of the exhibitors I saw as I walked the tech-show floor seemed to be rinsing their brands via earthly taglines, stock photos of crops and sunbeams, plastic trees and/or AstroTurf. I find this sort of thing especially distracting now that climate is my main beat, and that’s unfortunate, because there was still lots of intriguing climate (and adjacent) tech on display this year, tucked in among the vague evocations of nature.