Are We Better Off With or Without Apple?

by dovetailedlife

Since Steve’s passing, the world has honored him at Apple Stores, via social media, via television talk shows, and countless other ways.

The world, even Apple haters, has been kind to honor the work and change he’s made.

But, now, it’s been a few days. And we’ve all had a small chance to grieve. And we’ve all had a small chance to reflect a bit on his direct impact on OUR lives. It is like when Michael died, we all grieved because the world had lost another Mozart; then we began to reflect on what kind of difference was made on our personal lives. For some it was sad to lose Michael, but not for too long. The same has been true of Steve, for some.

He’s been compared quite a bit to Thomas Edison, the famed inventor of the light bulb. I was asked this question the other day, “Edison created the light bulb, how does Steve even begin to compare to that?” My honest first reaction was to automatically assume that the asker simply doesn’t think about what they do day in and day out.

To me, the impact is simple to see: almost everything that consumers do with computers today has so much to do with Steve’s work. He was the driving force behind making the graphical user interface popular (a paradigm we take hugely for granted today…I think my evidence above proves it). He made using computers simple, and I’d argue that that is what brought forth widespread adoption. Because of some of Apple’s poor decisions and Microsoft’s willingness to copy, it happened indirectly…but it was Steve who did it.

This morning, the point was raised to me,

“i[sic] think he was brilliant for sure but are we better off as a people to have the newest toy but as a whole we are going broke to afford them.[sic] i[sic] think these things have made a much more selfish world that are[sic] self centered and spoiled.”

It’s a fair point with a certain amount of validity. There are also many claims going on here:

  • Steve simply made the newest toys
  • We are going broke to afford them
  • These things have made a much more selfish world
  • This selfish world is self centered and spoiled (apparently because of the devices Steve has created)

Again, it’s a fair argument. I know there are families that struggle to feed themselves each night, but give their kids smartphones. I know, and have acknowledged in the past, that texting and driving has become one of the most dangerous parts of our lives.

The main point though, I think, is that Apple’s marketing has encouraged people to want the next big thing all the time. Our emotional draw to the company has forced us to wait in long lines, complain excessively, and stop everything we are doing for product announcements. Yes, it’s true and each any every one of those statements applies directly to me.

I think it would be fair to account that a large objection to the future and progress of technology can be summed up inside of this argument: these things (and the marketing of them) have made us worse people.

I think I’ve recognized the bit of truth to this argument. We text instead of call. We avoid face to face confrontation if at all possible. We have gained a new sense of individualism, and less of a sense of community. I might argue that things like Skype and FaceTime have actually counteracted this argument, but I’ll leave it be for the time being.

The question for me though is, “Who is to blame?”

The Church has discussed this for ages. The questions has always been, “Are we a part of the culture or are we not?” or “Is progress good or bad?” or “Can we have material things, or should we deny ourselves?” or “How is Scripture interpreted for this purpose?”

Throughout time, religion has made use of new mediums. In example, George Whitefield’s popularity in early American Christianity is largely due to the newspaper reports of his preaching. There are tons more examples.

Isn’t it a question now in the Church as well? We’ve got churches who attract more members because of their light shows and moving backgrounds. We’ve also got churches who speak down on these churches and worship in a very liturgical, high church way. Both have dying churches. Both have growing churches.

This argument currently going on in the Church is not separate from the argument made to me this morning.

However, even more high church churches are beginning to figure out how to relate to people. They sometimes break it down by “worship” vs. “outreach”. For example, it’s ok to have a website, because people want to know about you…but no computers in a worship service. But…even that’s becoming less and less true.

I know where your mind is going…”Who is winning?”

STOP

This isn’t about winning. This is about living a Christ-like life. This is about hearing a call from God. This is about Resurrection and Salvation.

I am convinced that these things, these most important things, are still possible with progress.

I actually think that progress helps these things. For instance, because of the advent and popularity of texting, we have been reminded that living, talking, and being in community is important. And now, now that we know this, we are able to use these new fangled inventions and technologies as tools instead of distractions.

Sure, these tools have the ability to distract, and ARE VERY TEMPTING in this sense. But, what if the Church were to look at these tools as better ways to communicate, as better ways to outreach, and as better ways to live as disciples in 2011?

What exactly are we afraid of? That we won’t be creative enough to figure it out? That God won’t show us the way? We’ve got to have more faith than that.

What I like so much about Apple’s approach to technology is that they don’t do things just because others did. They don’t make a bigger screen just because others have bigger screens. They don’t implement a voice recognition piece of software just because Google did. They don’t have an open platform just because other companies did.

No, they approach it from the perspective of use. What good is voice to text software if you still have to hit buttons? What good is a big screen if you have to use two hands to use it and it no longer fits in your pocket? What good is an open platform if its very openness is one if its greatest downfalls as an experience? It’s not even really about being ahead of the game…it’s about taking a technology, a concept, an idea and applying it in a real world situation for a real purpose in a way that helps people communicate. That’s what spurred Steve’s innovation. That’s what defines who Apple is in today’s world.

So has Apple’s marketing asked people to become self centered? Their new iPad ads don’t seem to support that.

No, it doesn’t seem so. No, what has spurred on this idea is our reaction. I can no longer blame the technology companies for my failings as a human. I can no longer blame McDonald’s for the hot coffee I spilled on my lap. I can no longer blame the cigarette companies for my lung cancer (post-revelations that that was actually bad for you). I can no longer blame the city for me not paying attention to that huge stop sign. I can no longer blame the fast food companies for my fatness. I can no longer blame the Church for my lack of faith.

No. Because at some point, I must take up my own cross. At some point, I must learn that it’s not the new things that bother us…it’s the way we use them. It’s not the progress that makes us worse people…it’s our sinful nature. It’s not someone else’s fault that I’m not the disciple I could be, it’s me.

(It’s worth adding that this is mostly true in America, currently. There are places in our world where girls are used in conjunction with the exploitation of men’s sexual desires. This is not the girls’ fault, this is the both the faults of the brainwashers above them, and the men who readily support these ventures.) I, in these cases, think the Church has to speak up for the girls…speak up for those who can’t. It is still worth noting that those reading this in American CAN almost assuredly speak for ourselves.

As soon as the Church realizes that our mission is active and not passive and that we are not controlled by others, but only influenced by the grace of God through Christ, then we will be able to look at our culture with new glasses…in a way that is beneficial to the life of faith and the progress of the Gospel.

We don’t do things just because. We don’t slobber at the feet of our favorite company just because they brainwash us. No, we appreciate what they do because it makes a difference. It changes what we can do. It changes how we do things. It’s up to us to be able to step back and see where we have succeeded and faltered.

Apple made tools. Thankfully, they made good tools.

Let’s use them for good. Please.

-B

PS – Lack of recognition of Steve’s contributions to society is a great example of just how well he succeeded.

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