Posted by: Tony Carson | 31 October, 2009

Is Apple anti-intellectual?

With it’s hallmark intuitive interfaces, Apple has been The Masters at demystifying the confusing jumble of hardware that comes from buffered boxes, one confusing piece at a time. First, they made it all plug-and-play before integrating it all together to make their machines operate with extraordinary ease and blissful pleasure, certainly compared to any of its competition.

And, of course, Apple has been extraordinarily innovative, not only in its wonderfully evolving operating system but in its reach into the stoa with its evolving and varying iPods, iPhones, iTouches. Students love the stuff.

But is the company that is known for its glitz and glamour becoming a company of only glitz and glamour?

Sure, the iPod is a marvel that revolutionized the music industry. And ya, by targeting music and not, say, words, Apple has entered the biggest possible market, bested only by those who want multi-dimentional phones, a market it has revolutionized.

But where is Apple’s gravitas, the serious side that is characterized by, say, Google? Apple knows how to stick buds and apps to consumer’s ears but how about thoughts in people’s heads?

This doesn’t seem to be much of a priority at Apple if this paragraph from MacRumors is to be believed:

While the executives were tight-lipped as usual about the company’s plans for the future, one interesting tidbit that came out of the meeting was the executives’ apparent lack of enthusiasm for the “online book/newspaper market” while sharing views that video content would be the next big growth area in media.

So with its accent on music and talk and TV, add videos.

Already half of North America is functionally illiterate. This slide will only continue and accelerate if companies in the vanguard of technological innovation offer more ways to transmit pleasure and thereby avoid the responsibility of actually thinking and learning.

Apple has proven it can entertain. It’s time to find out if the creative colossus can use its powers of technological innovation to teach. We’re in dire need of this. The world needs some smarten up.

So, here’s the question: is that Apple guy in the ads someone you’re more likely see in a mosh pit than a laboratory?


  1. Whilst it is always refreshing to hear a Mac user being sceptical about the house that Jobs built, I think I disagree with you.

    In areas of design and other highly “creative” professions – usually quite intellectual – the Mac seems to be king. This is how it seems from the outset.

    Whilst I would be happy to accuse Apple of many things, not being “smart” isn’t one of them.

  2. Apple likely has no interest in stemming the downhill slide of intellectualism by anything produced in its laboratories. Why would it? To stop the demise of Western Civilization as we know it? While planning at Apple definitely has a proven grasp of time frames for additional innovations. it would be a stretch of credulity to see their planners incorporate quixotic technologies.
    None-the-less the potential to teach has merit. While Apples boffins in the basement could doubtless develop gadgetry aimed at intellectual improvements, the boys in the boardroom aren’t going to forgo the bottom line. To be sure, there must be members of planning boards sufficiently clever to develop sales strategies related to intellectual development. It’s such a bleeding edge idea that it must attract someone there. [e.g. Amazon & Kindle, Barnes & Noble & eBook Reader]
    Your point about the functional illiteracy of over half of North America when twinned with where their customers are likely to see themselves speaks against encouraging the “mosh pit”ted crowds to join the elitist educated. Never happened – never gonna happen. [ this is just a Darwinian Gestalt I’ve discovered]
    I liked that your article encouraged me to think about tricking Apple into socially responsible production. Couldn’t be a bad thing?

  3. Bet no Apple guy in the boardroom, in the lab, in the vision department uses the word ‘whilst.’

  4. Jonathan Ives is English. So I’d take that bet.

  5. Interesting – to question the intellectual orientation of a company based on the content of a rumor blog!
    Now THAT says something.
    (Not sure what!) 🙂

  6. If half of America is functionally illiterate, why blame Apple? It’s Microsoft that has 90% marketshare.

    Don’t Macs include chess as a default game — whereas Windows PCs feature solitaire? So which OS is anti-intellectual again?

    There’s nothing anti-intellectual about music, or podcasts, or video — it’s what content people choose, not the media itself. So blame people, not Apple.

    Sunny Guy

  7. It says that I’m blogging, you know, trying to make something out of nothing and being OK with failing.

    But you’re right, I’m a little out there on this one, but I think I have a point. I always look to Renaissance Florence and the Medici for my inspiration: corporation owe a social duty to the public as much as profit to it shareholders.

    I’ll go down swinging on this one. As I say, bloggers are good with failure.

  8. Sunny You’re a beauty. Thanks for that.

  9. Tony,
    Have you checked out iTunesU? If you haven’t had a look around that part of iTunes, then I think you should. Free podcasts, lectures and other materials from places like MIT, UC Berkeley or Cambridge suggests to me that Apple is certainly not ‘anti-intellectual’. It is an amazing resource that Apple has made easily available to all – *for free*

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