Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Mimsy Were the Technocrats: As long as we keep talking about it, it’s technology.

Apple’s FiVe Minute Crush

Jerry Stratton, May 15, 2024

Apple’s industrial press: The industrial press in Apple’s Crush! ad after crushing the life out of the arts and artists.; artists; Apple; advertisement

How out-of-touch do you need to be to see this as an uplifting, inspiring end to an ad featuring the destruction of human-like dolls and faces?

I didn’t mean to do two AI-related posts practically back-to-back like this, but Apple’s very dystopian iPad Pro ad brought up some other thoughts partly due to my having almost finished posting my series on Alan Moore’s dystopian V stories.

Now, I’d recommend not reading too much into this “interesting” choice of visuals. Part of the problem with the ad is nothing more than the age-old development of silence culture in any large and entrenched business. Apple is far from the brotherhood of pirates portrayed in Andy Hertzfeld’s Revolution in the Valley. I suspect a lot of people saw how painfully bad the ad was and simply chose not to stick their necks out.

My first encounter with this culture, in a very similar situation, was tangentially, by way of a Radio Shack toy called “Galactic Man”. I could have sworn I’ve mentioned this on the site before but I can’t find it now. When I was a young guitarist in Hollywood, I worked part-time at a Radio Shack near Hollywood and Vine. It was a fascinating view of the Hollywood industry from the borderline: desperate property masters would occasionally come in searching for some thing they suddenly realized they needed, like a giant gold-plated telephone or a boxful of D-cell batteries they’d run out of on set.

The store’s manager kept a box of unsaleable items in the back room. As an employee, you were free to take anything you wanted out of it. That’s where I found Galactic Man. Galactic Man was a transformer knock-off. He was a laser gun that transformed into a robot. It was actually kind of cool, except for one possibly insurmountable problem: where does the laser gun’s trigger go when the toy transforms into a robot?

Galactic Laser Gun: Radio Shack’s Galactic Man, in laser gun form.; firearms; Radio Shack; toys; silence culture

Where most transformers changed from vehicles to robots, Galactic Man changed from a laser.

Galactic Man robot: Radio Shack’s Galactic Man, in robot form.; Radio Shack; toys; robotics; pornography; silence culture

“Oh! You really are a galactic man!”

Radio Shack’s Gold Phone: A gold phone once sold by Radio Shack.; Radio Shack; telephones

I suspect we were the only store in the United States where this was a major seller.

Pull the trigger, and Galactic Man lit up and made a whoop-whoop noise, just like he did in laser form. Frankly, just like any self-respecting robot would when someone fiddles his IO device.

Everyone who saw the robot form of the toy had to have seen where the trigger ended up on the robot. No one wanted to be the one who mentioned it.

I’m sure some people at Apple saw how Apple’s ad would be viewed as a destruction of the arts rather than a culmination of them. It’s hard to miss when the arts are spurting blood all over an industrial press as it crushes them lifeless and pops their eyeballs out.

Those employees chose not to stick their heads out and mention the obvious. But there was still the other culture, the one that thought that making an ad that is literally a visualization of just about every dystopian novel of the past century was a good idea. The culture that thinks destroying the tools of human creativity is the way of the future.

As it turns out, I’m not just posting an Alan Moore V for Vendetta study. I’m also rereading 1984. What’s weird is how incredible this ad could have been. In reverse, this is Apple’s 1984 ad all over again. The way they aired it, it is 1984. It is literally “A boot stamping on a human face forever.”

Or, in this case, an industrial press stamping on the diverse human arts and mashing them into a solid grey square that looks just like every other solid grey square out there. I half expected Charlton Heston to start yelling “iPad Pro is people!”

I’m not sure you could get any more dystopian than this without killing real people, as opposed to the human stand-ins on the arts table, the sculptor’s mannequin and the bouncy heads. That said, I still didn’t expect the backlash when I saw this ad for the first time.

My own reaction was mostly disappointment. Practically every one of those items in the ad are overflowing landfills everywhere. You can’t pay people to take a piano. The used-book market has dropped through the basement and is plummeting toward a flaming demise at the center of the Earth. That’s the heart, I think, of much of the reaction against this ad. We’re living in a world where these kinds of human arts are being destroyed all around us, both metaphorically in the sense that they’re filling landfills and actually, in the censorship of older works.

It’s in autotune stamping real singers and AI illustrations stamping real artists and computer generated content stamping real writers—while in every case keeping the listener, the viewer, the reader, in the dark.

Dying metronome: Apple’s Crush! ad is about to crush a musician’s metronome.; Apple; advertisement; time; metronome

“I have saved you. I have made you safe from time.”

We’re inundated by this darkness every time we search for information. Instead of actual information we get vague crap designed not to answer our questions but to keep us scrolling through one more page of ads. If you’ve tried to search for vintage recipes in the last few years, you’ve seen this: the highest-ranking results don’t show you the actual recipe until you’ve scrolled through what looks like generic, computer-created unspeak for several pages, at which point you can’t really trust the recipe because it’s unlikely a human has ever interpreted it.

AI has literally been programmed to erase and rewrite the past, even, in Google’s case, to the point of erasing the racism of Nazi Germany. And it was programmed to do this by humans who think they know better what the past and what the arts should be.

Just about every other movie or television series today is a remake of some older work, with the heart of that older work stamped and mashed and crushed to the point where if it says anything at all—and usually it’s just incoherent after such bowdlerism—it says the opposite of what it originally said.

Much like Apple and Google, who have each long since given up on “Think Different” and “Don’t Be Evil”.

This ad is awfully close to the world Apple warned us about in 1984. And given Apple’s part in that world, it makes the ad come across as gloating, as the final session in Room 101 before we spend our days drinking Victory Gin in the Chestnut Tree Cafe while plotting chess games that neither begin nor end. Not knowing why two plus two is five, only that the Party says so, and the Party assures us that that’s enough.

In response to Apple’s spinning mirror: exploiting children for dictatorships: Apple has decided on “child porn” as the root password to disable privacy on their phones. But the system they’re using appears to be mostly worthless at detecting the exploitation of children, and very useful for detecting dissent from authoritarian governments.