Is This A Cry For Help, Apple? | Vol. 4 / No. 3.3

You know in action-thriller films — in hostage situations — where, in order to let the heroes know the situation, the hostages will do weird things? You know, say things that don’t make sense? You know, “oh, no, I think the volcanic glow they heat McDonald’s apple ‘pie’ filling to is a totally appropriate temperature for human food,” or “Taco Bell has the best beef.” “Let’s go eat Arby’s.” Well, I’m starting to wonder whether Apple isn’t going through something similar. Is this a coded message, Apple? Do you need assistance? Blink once for yes.

At first I thought it was a little odd that they’ve started to deliver products missing essential ingredients — phones without headphone jacks, laptops without function keys or an escape key, streaming aggregation without Netflix or Amazon. Those were odd enough things, but then I thought, nah, this is just Apple being AppleThey’ve always been a little weird and adversarial after all.

But now I’m really starting to wonder. This week Apple launched a three hundred dollar coffee table book (two hundred if you only want the “small” version) filled with nothing but 450  screenshots from its website product catalogue photos that “illustrate Apple’s design process as well as its finished products” taken “in a deliberately spare style.” No I’m not kidding.

No text. Just photos. Of Apple products.

It’s a “design book.” According to Jony Ive:

While this is a design book, it is not about the design team, the creative process, or product development. It is an objective representation of our work that, ironically, describes who we are. It describes how we work, our values, our preoccupations, and our goals. We have always hoped to be defined by what we do rather than by what we say.

We strive, with varying degrees of success, to define objects that appear effortless. Objects that appear so simple, coherent, and inevitable that there could be no rational alternative.

And this is what you get:

It's photos of your last phone. | Photo: Apple.
Photo: Apple.

It’s photos of your last iPhone, your first iPod, and maybe that “blueberry” iMac you had back in college. It’s a very expensive book of photos of very expensive, now-obsolete things. It’s a three hundred dollar book of pictures of one company’s appliances. It’s so patently absurd that it’s either (A) a work of pure, crystalline narcissism, so unabashed in its self-obsession and self-congratulation that it doesn’t care that it’s going to serve as a cautionary tale to others in the future, or (B) it’s a cry for help and someone on the inside wants out.

So, because I care, I’m asking you again: do you need help Apple?

Blink once for yes.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.