This week’s most recent issue of TIME magazine features a cover story about Apple’s latest attempt to resurrect a dead industry: the smart watch. As I’m sure is no surprise to you, last week Apple announced the Apple Watch, which has been the talk of the tech world for a week now. TIME’s article, by Lev Grossman and Matt Vella, was a wonderfully insightful look at Apple’s new venture into the “wearables” industry, and what mass consumption of this product may mean for us in terms of our privacy, our humanity, and our ability to disconnect from the digital world. I want to share with you a few particularly insightful parts from that article.
First, the article has a great article describing what it is that Apple does so well:
“Apple isn’t in the business of inventing things, or at least not primarily. It practices a grislier trade: resurrection … When it finds a likely candidate, Apple dissects it and studies the various causes of death. Then it builds something so completely thought through, so seductively designed, so snugly embedded in webs of content and services and communications, that it not only lives again, it thrives to the point of annihilating memories of anything that came before. Apple creates demand for things that there previously was no demand for. It takes products we never wanted and convinces us we can’t live without them. It does this better than any company in the world“(42, emphasis mine).
Regarding the Apple watch and the new industry it’s attempted to push into the mass-market:
“It has to be good, because Apple isn’t just reviving an old category, it’s moving a boundary. It’s attempting to put technology somewhere where it’s never been particularly welcome before: on our bodies … Like a pushy date, the Apple Watch wants to get intimate with us in a way we’re not entirely used to and may not be prepared for. This isn’t just a new product; this is technology attempting to colonize our bodies” (42).
This next paragraph was the most convicting paragraph to me of the whole article. I think that we all need to pay attention to what’s being said here and evaluate our own use of technology and its effect on our life. It’s lengthy, but worth it.
“When technologies get adopted as fast as we tend to adopt Apple’s products, there are always unintended consequences. When the iPhone came out it was praised as a design and engineering marvel, because it is one, but no one understood what it would be like to have it in our lives. Nobody anticipated the way iPhones exert a constant gravitational tug on our attention. Do I have email? What’s happening on Twitter? Could I get away with playing Tiny Wings at this meeting? When you’re carrying a smartphone, your attention is never entirely undivided.
The reality of living with an iPhone, or any smart, connected mobile device, is that it makes reality feel just a little bit less real. One gets over connected, to the point where one is apt to pay attention to the thoughts and opinions of distant anonymous strangers over those of loved ones who are in the same room. One forgets how to be alone and undistracted. Ironically enough, experiences don’t feel fully real till you’ve used your phone to make them virtual — tweeted them or tumbled them or Instagrammed them or YouTubed them — and the world has congratulated you for doing so” (44, emphasis mine).
Finally, the article concludes with this:
“Once you’re O.K. with wearing technology, the only way forward is inward: the next product launch after the Apple Watch would logically be the iMplant. If Apple succeeds in legitimizing wearables as a category, it will have established the founding node in a network that could spread throughout our bodies, with Apple setting the standards. Then we’ll really have to decide how much control we want — and what we’re prepared to give us for it” (47).
What do you think about the article’s assessment of the Apple Watch and the dangers of the “wearables” category. Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts. At the end of the day, I think that it at least gives us all some very good things to think about, and perhaps will even spark some investigation into our current use of technology as it relates to our families and personal lives.