Note about this article: I traditionally despise “rants” that are simply essays that complain about everything, but offer no solutions. Such works strike me as… unsavory. That said, every once in a while you need to vent… so here’s me venting.
As some of you may have guessed from reading this site, I am a professional computer geek. And, as someone in the computer sciences field, I feel I have to say this for everyone.
Technology Professionals are dicks.
It’s a funny thing, because I love technology… and I just realized how easily I can say that as opposed to admitting I love a family member or friend. Obvious emotional issues aside, I’m posting this a scant few days after the release of the Raspberry Pi Mk. 3, a device that, let’s not mince words here, I find sexy as hell. For the unfamiliar, it’s a fully functioning computer with a gig of RAM that fits in the palm of your hand and costs less than a pair of Jacksons. I want to… do things to it. Lewd things. Things that may or may not involve Ninja Turtles. I am anxiously awaiting my new Pi, because it can do things I can do with any other computer, but, oh man, it could fit in my mouth! Pi is delicious!
And, yes, as you’ve guessed, the bulk of this site is only possible thanks to an amazing number of daisy chained HDMI and AV cables that would make your average gamer’s head spin. No, I don’t care too much about resolution or pixel scaling, but I am confident that I can play and record three decades worth of consoles and their games with a few button presses. If I want to play and record some Xenosaga, I barely have to get off the couch. I’m basically living a dream that I first envisioned years ago when I got my dad to crawl behind the entertainment center and juggle wires until I could record Mario Paint to VHS. The Future is a wonderful place.
But all is not well in the 21st Century, and the chief source of this chagrin is what I privately refer to as the Apple Mentality.
Now, I want to be clear before we go any further: I’m not an Apple “hater”. Full disclosure, I have used Microsoft Operating Systems most of my life, and this post is being written in good ol’ Microsoft Word. I’ve also owned Apple computers, initially because I bought into the “the only computer for video/image editing” mentality of the late 20th Century, and then later because, as a tech geek, I wanted to see how the other half “works”. I was neither impressed nor annoyed by the world of Mac. I continue to use Windows primarily not because I prefer it, but because I grow more familiar with its various bugs and glitches every day, and it’s literally my job to know what to do when, say, a user profile service fails to load.
But the smart devices are about where things became… strained.
The iPhone is an amazing device, and it would be no exaggeration to claim that it changed the whole of how the world works within the last decade. Remember when you emailed someone, and you thought it could take 24 hours to reach the recipient? What’s considered the appropriate turnaround time on an email now? Ten minutes? Twenty? If you haven’t heard back from someone within a half hour, do you assume they’re dead? Ignoring you? And, geez, maybe my friends are just klutzes, but how many times have you seen your least popular buddy advertising on Facebook that they damaged their phone, so please contact me at any of these seventeen other services? Remember house phone lines? And horse drawn carriages? I’m still disappointed modern cars don’t poop all over the road.
Though the iPhone is a revolutionary piece of kit, it also has the issue of being locked down like crazy. This is, of course, by design. From a business standpoint, Apple wants to have a platform where only Apple can deliver new content, so new vendors or “app designers” must seek approval from Apple (which, incidentally gets cash from the app vending, and the designer signing up to be a developer in the first place). I don’t fault Apple for this process, because, frankly, it’s a genius way to make money off of practically every step in the process of something being sold on one of their devices. So, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, the App Store itself likely prints more cash than the Mint.
But there’s another reason the App Store, and the iPhone, are built like that. A more protected environment, like one where apps must be approved by Apple, is a safer environment for users. There are not “iPhone viruses” like you encounter on Windows PCs, mostly because that kind of proliferation on the iPhone is practically impossible. This is good! This is a good thing, no question, and makes your ol’ granny surfing the net on her iPad a much less scary proposition than it could be.
But it’s also a giant problem.
Somewhere in there (and maybe this was always the case, but it seems to have gotten more pronounced in recent years) the technology industry got very… paternalistic. No, you can’t do that with your iPhone, it would be dangerous. No, you can’t use your iPad for that, it could hurt somebody. Yes, you want this U2 album, now enjoy it, and eat your potatoes, they’re good for you. It was always under the guise of “we know what’s best”, which, fair enough, you guys are making the technology, but, gawrsh, you don’t think a multi-billion dollar company could ever have an ulterior motive for doing business a certain way, do you? Apple cares about you and your family/data, and isn’t just making decisions so it can finally have enough money to buy its own island and hunt people for sport.
And I feel like two things happening right now are a direct result of this of this technological mollycoddling. First is the item that basically inspired this article, the fact that Apple said, “nah” to the FBI and then made an impassioned plea to its customers about how this was the only right thing to do. Seriously, I don’t say this very often, because I feel like, when writing and rewriting an article for this site, there’s always a better, more intellectual way to phrase this, but, to really sum up my feelings on this one…
Fuck you, Apple.
Apple, you can do whatever you want with your business, and it’s perfectly within your rights to dispute a court order. That kind of thing happens all the time, and it’s practically inevitable with government branches and agencies continually making grabs for more and more power. And, as the case currently stands, I agree with Apple, not because of their reasoning, but because of additional data that seems to paint this particular evidence’s necessity as extremely extraneous. But Apple went the extra mile and appealed to its millions of customers about the big bad government and they’re trying to take away our freedoms and oh man won’t someone please think of the children?! Which, I’m sorry, even typing that sentence makes me mad. It’s disingenuous, because, come on, Apple, you’re a freaking business. I’m not going to accuse Apple of anything, but if it thought that degrading its own encryption could make a buck, it would do it, and we already know the reverse is true: Blackberry let its backend get out in the wild, and the ever popular Chinese Hacker Community transformed Blackberry from an industry leader into smooshed jam. Apple knows damn well that its App Store Money Train would be derailed by this backdoor getting out in the world, and, after the security compromise compromised too many people, guess what would happen? No, it would not “undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect,” it would mean that an Apple alternative would smell blood in the water, and within a year or two, everyone would be towing around jPhones (or probably G-Phones), and the iPhone would be hanging out with the cassette tapes, Commodore 64, and Atari Lynx.
But, no, Apple goes out of its way to make a case to the public that they’re doing this for everyone’s best interest. Eat your vegetables, this is what’s best for you.
Which is pretty much why I think Donald Trump has gained so much traction.
I’m not going to say Donald Trump is a raving lunatic, because that man knows himself some libel laws, but I am going to say that, almost from the get-go, people have said that anyone that supports Trump is completely insane. If you agree with Trump, a certain segment of the population will instantly label you a racist, misogynist, and possible oompaloompaphiliac. And I’m not saying there aren’t Trump supporters that fit that criteria, but automatically labeling someone as a dangerous (we disparage racism [and other isms] because of the damage it can do to society and people, ie dangerous) “other” doesn’t help anyone any more than building an impassable wall would help immigration. You have to take a step back and say “What this man is saying is racist, misogynistic, and overtly disturbing. Why is it so effective?” And, to be clear, I don’t mean in the “why do good things happen to orange people?” rhetorical query, I mean, straight up, can we look at what’s being said here and find the why of it? We should discover what is really appealing to the masses, and not just write the whole thing off as, “Boy, there sure are a whole lot of racist people, right,” post yet another meme or video of an “epic takedown”, and call it a job well done.
And, when I think about it, I come back to my technology-focused brethren.
Even if the public doesn’t have a distinct, real way to vocalize this feeling, I believe that people, on an intrinsic level, understand that we are only being more and more babied in our society. According to our most popular entertainment (and their message boards), we want to be Walter White. We want to be Deadpool (we want to have cancer?). We want to be Rick Grimes, boldly tromping around the wastelands, and making life or death decisions about the fate of humanity. But we don’t get to make life or death decisions. We don’t even get to decide on custom icons. Technology is moving faster than ever in human history, and the average man is being treated like a Neanderthal with a chainsaw. Yes, something new and wonderful may be accomplished here, but it’s a lot more likely someone is going to lose an arm. But we’re not Neanderthals! We’re big boys, with millennia of experience of adapting to new things and deciding what’s right for our society. We’ve read the manual, we’re aiming it away from face, we can handle that chainsaw, we can handle having a choice, there’s no need for some faceless corporation to tell us what’s best. We can decide!
But it ain’t gonna happen.
So the next time your phone updates and drops every feature you’ve ever used, or you score a new computer and the Start Menu is only accessible after a trip to Best Buy, remember that a person made that decision for you, and you’re stuck with it. They know what’s best for you, without ever knowing you, and they will continue to make your decisions for you.
And, when you think about it, it’s kind of a dick move.