I don't think that thread was too heated, or I would've removed (or at least archived) it.
It was though getting into an area which was not really touching upon the original topic anymore, hence I've locked the thread, disabling further postings.
A whole bunch of questions you ask there. Basically I think that we get more info through various media on new bodies coming up today than in former times. The F100 has received pretty raving critics in most media. Folks buy it maybe due to this. If you spend a lot of money on a body, you might don't like to find out that it contains "more plastic than you thought".
F4's were probably not that hot due to several factors. One being that this was indeed top line, a most expensive body. The F100, is then indeed a cheaper body, bought by more folks due to this and other reasons (one probable reason mentioned in the former paragraph).
When more people are getting into photography, the average on photography education is likely decreasing to some degree.
We do not know what the goal is for each one of these individuals. We can take a wild guess and say "maybe they want to achieve outstanding photographs", but it could as well be "to have fun" or "to be capable of understanding a highly technical product". What I'm saying is: There are many ways (roads) which are the "right" ones. "Right" in the sense of leading to something the individual wants to achieve.
As I cannot speak for others, I can take myself as an example: I don't use manual focus cameras. Why? Because I - on my road - achieve what I want with AF. I bought an expensive camera. Why? Because I thought I would like to use it and I thought it could improve the results I wanted to achieve. Did it work? Yes, for me it worked, it helped me getting closer to what I want to achieve.
I'm not sure if there's blind acceptance in new products. Look at all the questions on products here, and you can see that many people are asking questions about new products before buying them. We shall though not forget that never before has so many people been capable of affording to buy photographic gear, never before have we had such a huge number of products on the market and never before has (whatever kind of) media been as full of product information as of today.
This is one of the reasons why we have review and opinion sites on the net.
I also believe we have indeed different types of customer patterns - the famous 3 base types. These patterns of buying behaviour existed in the 60's and exists today. The product cycles are though shorter today.
On your music/instrument example. I don't think it is that easy anymore to define "single roads to good"; you have "too" many choices to get something "right". I play the piano since I was a kid. Am I good, no. Do I like it? Yes. I also have "Korg Trinity" a "workstation" which is a fairly complex synthesizer (sort of the "F5 of synthesizers"). Does it help me to get what I want to achieve in music? Yes. Is it a piano? No. Does it help me getting better in playing piano? To a small degree. Does it help me being more productive on "my road"? Most definitely - I couldn't do the stuff ("compose") in the same way on a single piano. Is it music that I do? I do think so: Audible frequencies of various amplitude, steaming from my creativity made on my road helping me achieving what I want
This long rambling has nothing to do with that simplicity is the most beautiful thing to achieve. Various tools being utilized though.