Social conversations about difficult and complex topics have arcs – they tend to start scattered, with many threads and potential paths, then resolve over time toward consensus. This consensus differs based on groups within society – Fox News aficionados will cluster one way, NPR devotees another. Regardless of the group, such consensus then becomes presumption – and once a group of people presume, they fail to explore potentially difficult or presumably impossible alternative solutions.
This is often a good thing – an efficient way to get to an answer. But it can also mean we fail to imagine a better solution, because our own biases are obstructing a more elegant path forward.
Apple dropped a bomb at their global developer conference: It’s stepping in to curb phone addiction. This is a big blow to the ad-driven platforms that have hijacked our phones and our attention.
Right before Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software, demonstrated the latest advancements in emojis, including tongue detection, he announced the release of “a comprehensive set of built in features to help you limit distraction.” This is a big deal, because until now, we have been fending for ourselves — and we’re totally outgunned in the war for attention.
Attention is the oxygen of advertising.
There’s a reason why phones are so addictive: ad money. You paid for your phone, but most of the things you do on it are powered by advertising. Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all make their money from advertising.
In bowing to China, Apple forces us to contemplate the true role of business in society
“China is likely to emerge in the next few years as the world’s largest supplier of capital.” — Brookings Institute, Jan. 2017
A clash of fundamentally competing economic philosophies broke into the mainstream news this weekend, with the fate of democratic capitalism hanging in the balance. And while it’s likely too early to call a winner, the trends are certainly not looking good for democracy as we understand it in the west.*
Apple has agreed that the encryption keys for iCloud user accounts for Chinese persons will be stored in China, as Reuters reported today.
If you aren’t familiar with Chinese law and the situation around this, this may seem relatively innocuous: a company is doing business in a country, and complying with that country’s local laws. What’s significant about this is that it represents a major change in how legal process works.
Houston’s tragedy is still unfolding, but its lessons can already be drawn. When an area the size of fifteen Manhattans floods, there’s plenty of blame to throw around. But in the end, it all comes down to money, in particular, the kind of money one can make by encouraging short term thinking.
Many are claiming Hurricane Harvey’s wrath proves climate change is real — and that our current administration’s steadfast ignorance of that fact should be called out. It’s hard to disagree, but also hard to believe anything will change. After all, we already knew Houston had a major weather problem: Journalists and academics had pointed that fact out repeatedly, and repeatedly, society has ignored that fact. Why?
Apple is sitting on an unimaginably huge pile of spare cash —roughly $250 billion. This corporate wealth reserve will only grow if and when the Trump administration makes good on its desire to help tech giants repatriate profits that they have stashed overseas to evade U.S. taxes.
What should Apple do with all that money? There are only so many perfect doorknobs a company can buy, after all. In Quartz, David Mattin proposes a suitably grand goal for the company: Fund a giant pilot-test of a universal basic income scheme.
Apple’s secrecy is a legendary and defining corporate trait. Like the quasi-government the company is increasingly becoming, it has an extensive program to fight leaks. We know that because, well, somebody leaked a recording of an hour-long presentation on Apple’s campaign (William Turton in The Outline). It turns out Apple employs a global team of leak-stoppers that includes former employees of the NSA, the FBI, the Secret Service, and branches of the U.S. military.
The purpose of all this secrecy, Apple execs insist, is “surprise and delight” among customers when they finally learn of some new Apple product or feature at the time of the company’s choosing. That kind of choreographed product launch has long been an Apple trademark, to be sure. But the company’s insistence on secrecy, like the inward-turning design of its gigantic new headquarters, underscores the increasingly insular nature of Apple’s culture.
Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared on CNBC last week to deliver some big news: The Company That Steve Jobs Built is placing $1 billion into a fund, which will then be invested in advanced manufacturing companies in the United States. This will presumably help Apple source more components for its computers and phones here.
“We can be the ripple in the pond,” Cook told Jim Cramer. “Those manufacturing jobs create jobs around them, because you have a service industry that grows around them.”
Yesterday Apple announced a new $1 billion fund to invest in “advanced manufacturing” in the U.S. (CNBC). Though CEO Tim Cook didn’t come out and say it, the move is in line with many other U.S. companies’ efforts to appease President Trump, who has made reviving domestic manufacturing one of his most loudly proclaimed goals. (Vanity Fair: “Apple Just Handed Trump a Billion-Dollar P.R. Win.”)
Trump pines to revive the 1950s golden age of great factory jobs for high-school grads. But that word “advanced” before “manufacturing” is a tip-off that Apple, like everyone else, is going to be looking to hire people with training and skills.