Culture At Large

Is Apple Designing Your Future?

David Greusel

On the eve of Apple’s rollout of the iPhone 7, in which the earphone port has been replaced with wireless AirPods, a design firm unveiled a spoof product of its own: the Apple Plug, meant to cover the headphone jack on your old iPhone. The parody led Atlantic tech writer Ian Bogost to wonder whether Apple wants to forcibly dictate the future, or simply gently lead us there.

Bogost’s verdict is mixed, but it got me to wondering whether Apple really does control the future, or at least to what degree. The future is of interest to Christians because we view time as linear, leading from Creation to the New Creation described in Revelation (and modeled in Disney World). What’s more, when it comes to the future, God assures his people over and over, in both testaments, to fear not, to trust him, he’s got this.

This is exactly what Apple wants us to think. Trust us. We’ve got this. You don’t need any stinkin’ earphone ports (or floppy drives or optical drives or scroll wheels). Apple knows what you need. Apple provides. Sometimes, as with headphone ports, Apple taketh away, but it’s only because Apple loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

Sound a little creepy? It is. Apple’s version of utopia is exactly that: Apple’s version. This has been true since the walled garden of the Macintosh computer first appeared in 1984, and is no less true today. Apple builds the hardware and the software, writes the rules, patrols the borders, casts out the heretics, and makes the world a better place. If you’ve bought into their program. Yes, Apple does indeed cultivate a cornucopia of developers and apps now, but no app ever makes it to the Apple Store without having first been carefully vetted for compliance not only to Apple’s technical standards, but to the company’s political views as well. The Internet is rife with tales of both developers and apps being booted from the Apple universe for promoting unapproved values.

Apple knows what you need. Apple provides. Sometimes, as with headphone ports, Apple taketh away.

So one of the many ways we pay to live in Apple’s future is by having to squelch opinions that the company disavows. But the real issue is trust.

The reason Jesus often spoke of fear is that God understands that people are fearful, mostly of future unknowns. We fear death, disease, crime, hardship, hunger, and a host of other ills that may lurk around the corner. God encourages us, constantly, to put our trust in him, to know that no future contingency is more powerful than he is, and to rest in that knowledge. Apple, as the Apple Plug spoof points out, promises pretty much the same thing.

When you put it that way, it seems obvious that placing your future in Apple’s hands is a bad bet. This is, after all, a for-profit company that, like all companies, seeks to maximize its return to shareholders. What Apple wants for you is not your future well-being, but a sizeable chunk of your next paycheck. And for you to stop using wired earbuds.

On the other hand, God is interested in manifesting his glory through your flourishing. Even, as Paul pointed out, in the face of hardship, famine, torture, prison, and even death. Though it seems counterintuitive, that’s a promise to hang your hat on. Great Christian thinkers after Paul, such as Augustine (“On Patience”), John Calvin, and C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain) have all dealt with this seeming paradox. Every Christian narrative, from the resurrection to Mother Teresa, who was recently declared a saint, underscores the beauty of a life yielded completely and unreservedly to God’s plan for the future. So if God wants us to get rid of earphone jacks, then by all means, let’s be rid of them. Because I know who holds the future, and it’s not Apple.

Topics: Culture At Large, Business & Economics, Money, Science & Technology, Technology