I’m having an identity crisis. The new iPhone X is out and my feeling is ‘meh’. Sure, it looks beautiful and my good friend Avinash tweeted about how great the screen is. Then he showed me the device. I got it, the form factor is phenomenal. It is every bit as beautiful as he claimed. Apple have done a wonderful job, but still, my feeling is ‘meh’.
Don't get me wrong, I am an Apple fan. I am typing this on a 15” 2013 Macbook Pro, bought when my even older MacBook Pro finally bit the dust. I have an iPhone 6, like my laptop, it too is about three years old, I got it when my last phone (a 5s) was pick-pocketed in Barcelona. Like all Apple devices, it’s served me well. My only regret regarding my current phone, is that I inflicted IOS 11 on the thing. Since that fateful day it has become a tiny bit more sluggish, huffing and puffing as it tries to open the new TV App (new to Canada at least). A technical reminiscence of the geriatric dog we had in my youth. I remember Sweep, a Black Lab, Border Collie cross, struggling up the stairs; always wagging his tail defiantly, but definitely slower and a little breathless. The cliché about old dogs and new tricks is a cliché for a reason. My phone is a little like that, the spirit is willing, but... Well, we didn’t put Sweep to sleep at that point, and that is how I feel about my faithful digital companion too.
Did anyone ask for the iPhone X, or the iPhone 8 or the 7… the new versions of Windows 10? Do we feel a mass sense of ennui by the non-arrival of the iPad 5 Mini? Were there Occupy! style demonstrations demanding Cortana, or an improved Siri, or multiple desktops or a return of the Windows Start Button… actually wait, that last one did probably provoke a demo or two.
The technology industry, like so much of our current economic model, relies on an almost constant frenzy of new consumption. The need for sharks to keep swimming is the tired metaphor that comes to mind. That consumption is spurred by little tweaks and minor mods. And, like all consumption (such a friendlier word than exploitation), can have real human suffering behind it. The recent Los Angeles Times article on the analysis of the iPhone is fascinating reading. Fascinating, but not necessarily disturbing, for two reasons: One, Apple appears to be a responsible company and is doing a lot to make sure its raw materials are produced from ethical sources in compliance with governmental asks. And two, well, deep in our hearts, we know.
We know that what our consumption in the west can and does have major impacts across the planet from a resource exploitation perspective, and a subsequent effect on geo-politics. A friend of mine tweeted about the rise of the middle class in China, it’s on a lot of people’s minds. Rising prosperity is great for all of us. The movement of people out of poverty, wonderful. I want to see more of it, much more. Let poverty wilt across China, India, the countries of Asia, Africa, South and Central America and at home too. Only, let it wilt in a way that vastly reduces the impact on our collective home. We only have one planet and the resources we are exploiting are mostly finite (including air and water).
A rising middle class across the world will demand greater consumption. I think a correct response in the west is not to deny that consumption or attempt to lessen it, but to be more mindful of what we use in Europe and North America, Australia and New Zealand. How we all exploit the resources of the planet. That is what I am trying to do. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I do try and take my personal consumption into consideration. This year, like the last one, I will be manfully resisting all Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that are currently bombarding my inbox. I will not be queuing to get the best or the latest, and yes, until my phone actually breaks, I will say “Thanks, but no thanks” to the iPhone X.
Now, if only someone would invent clean aircraft…