Three things the iPad tells us, Part 1

At the risk of looking like the resident geek, I want to follow up Glen’s recent post about the Apple tablet or iPad, “Amazon versus Apple: Penthesilea by a nose?”

In the WSJ today there is an entire collection of articles on the iPad, the so called “Mosses Tablet” Apple showed off yesterday. Looking at what the articles said, and didn’t say, and what they were next to, tells me three things that I think are worth considering. Though all three start in tech, I think all three have very wide implications.

The revolution will not happen

First of all, if you read the comments at any tech site, the responce from many to the iPad has so far been “so what?” Numerous people point out that it is simply a larger screen iPod Touch. So who cares?

It is worth noting however that this is the same reaction the iPhone got, in broad strokes: “So what? It is a touch screen phone?” The app store for the iPod and iPhone got similar reactions. “I can install apps on my phone now.” The iPod also got this treatment. “There are already music players.”

In fact that seems to be the general mood to every product Apple has ever released, going all the way back to the Macintosh. “So the computer has pictures and a pointer? We saw that at Xerox already. Who cares?”

The first lesson I take from this is that nothing is revolutionary. Rather all the advancements we see, have seen, and will seen are evolutionary. I think that it may just be possible that every revolutionary change you can list, wether in tech, humanities, politics, thinking or any other area, is in fact an evolutionary change that people simply didn’t see coming. Apple prides itself on the revolutionary WIMP (Windows Icons Mouse Pointer) interface they brought to the world with the Macintosh, and well they should. But those who followed the tech world at the time could see the slow building of concept for years before it became a reality. The metaphor of computer workspace as a desktop was building in science fiction circle for years. The idea that files were objects was in programing languages long before they become icons or your screen. The pointer system was under development in Xerox for years, etc. The interface only seemed revolutionary to those not in the know.

Another way of saying this is that overnight successes don’t happen overnight. Having all of the elements of a “revolutionary” change in place takes time. This is a good lesson in any area. We won’t see a revolution in healthcare if we don’t put the pieces in place first. We can’t rebuild the political system out of nothing. We won’t see a tech jump from Windows to the Minority Report style computing in one week. Real change takes time. It is evolutionary by necessity.

One reason that is so, is simply that people also need time to adapt. Even if the technology had somehow been with us, if the iPhone had been made available right after the original Apple computer, who would have known what to do with it? Whats more, the product is a success because of the ecosystem of products around it that it depends upon. The cellular network, the computers it links to, the email systems already in place, the computing resources it relies on.

In a similar fashion, a green power “revolution”, in order to be successful, needs to be a part of, and dependent on, the system in place. Even if it is to eventually replace that system. Hybrid cars, for example, are at best a stop between the older ICE engines and an entirely new transportation system that will have to be built into the existing infrastructure. But they are still necessary. The all electric car was doomed to failure, in part because of the way people thought about cars at the time. The slower evolution from “self contained transportation” to the idea that the car might have multiple power types, to the idea that a car plugs in, might still evolve further into a version of public transportation, for example the Zipcar concept. Or it may evole in entirely new directions. But the clues already exist if we look for them, because if they didn’t, the changes would be acceptable, and therefore won’t be a success.

Expecting people to suddenly change their lifestyle and thinking, even based on need, is doomed to failure. But leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that leads slowly towards the next step means planning ahead. The “boiling a frog” metaphor works both ways. It can get us into serious trouble without our noticing, but it can also make the world a better place with the enthusiastic cooperation of the public rather than resistance.

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on January 28, 2010 - 11:30 am

    I read somewhere that the iPad bridges the gap between smart phones and laptop computers. I didn’t know there was a gap. Me just clueless.

  2. #2 by shane on January 28, 2010 - 11:52 am

    One thing Apple has been historically good at doing, is creating products people didn’t know they wanted until they saw them in action. I am not sure there is a gap, but Apple feels there is, and historically they are right more than they are wrong.

    Time will tell…

  3. #3 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on January 28, 2010 - 2:28 pm


    Great post. The advancement of society, whether it be through technological, ethical, or intellectual growth, takes time and happens rather naturally. Society is an organic unit, and though it may experience growth spurts, expecting it to change in any relative instance (or trying to force it to) is useless, or even damaging.

    No change occurs in a vacuum. As a superficial concept, this is self-evident, but grander applications of the principle (such as systems theory, holon theory, relational dynamics, etc.) reveal that the intrinsic relatedness of ideas, events, and circumstances is so great that the relationship between objects may be of greater import than the nature of the object itself.

    Everything we do has an effect, and everything that is done has an effect on us. If the more romantic derivatives of the Gaia Hypothesis are correct, it is largely because of humans organic relationship with the Earth and its relationship with us. Thanks for spurring me on to read the Onion recently, because I discovered this gem.

    We truly have a vast effect, and the power of the social aggregate is greater still. People should behave as though everyone will behave the same, and be ashamed of themselves equally as they are of their image of the human race. “Saving the world is an inside job.”

    On the same topic, several people have asked me how it is that I consider many ideas, and that I maintain intellectual honesty as well as I do (which honesty is, admittedly, woefully inadequate at times). I told them that I do it through intention. I intend to be a thing and, gradually, I evolve to be that thing. Trying to change overnight to be more introspective, more considerate, or more inquisitive won’t do a lot, but if you bury the intent to be those things deep in your mind, you’ll find yourself evolving.

    I find your analogy inspiring, and it leaves me with this realization: like any organic body, society can evolve by intent as well as by need. We may find it becoming a healthier organism if we design it than if we simply let it drift. Thanks for the good reading.

    Dwight Sheldon Adams

  4. #4 by brewski on January 29, 2010 - 1:30 pm

    What were you doing reading the WSJ? Isn’t that just a print version of Faux News? Did you read the editorial pages too?

  5. #5 by shane on January 29, 2010 - 1:46 pm

    No brewski, the WSJ, while it certainly has a capitalistic slant, and often though not always a rightwing slant, still reports news. The news is colored, yes, slanted yes, at times even heavily biased, especially the editorial section. It is however news.

    Faux is bullshit wrapped in a flag. They don’t even bother to have a slant. They just say what ever pops into their fever dreams and yell at people.

    Comparing Faux to the WSJ is like comparing Glenn to you or I. We have opinions about the facts. Glenn has imaginations about things that have never happened.

    “We were there for the Million Man March” -Neil Cavuto

    Million Man March – Oct. 16, 1995
    Fox News begins operations until Oct. 7, 1996

    Just sayin’.

  6. #6 by Larry Bergan on January 30, 2010 - 1:22 am

    Peoples relationships with their computers are hilarious. Once you’ve layed down the money and are driving home with your new dream, you’re worried that somebody else will be able to do something you won’t, but it’s been an amazing trip since the early 80’s!

  7. #7 by Larry Bergan on January 30, 2010 - 1:24 am

    Faux is bullshit wrapped in a flag.

    Never heard it said better, Shane!

  8. #8 by anonymous on January 30, 2010 - 6:00 am

    Not that knowing this will help you any way. Gauging from your responses towards it, the elites that own all media have their machine finely tuned. There is someone out there wondering upon msnbc and how such left wing whackery can be on TV.

    All part of the dialectic. Thanks for playing.

  9. #9 by cav on January 30, 2010 - 10:35 am

    Hitler responds to the I-pad:

  10. #10 by shane on January 30, 2010 - 11:45 am

    Larry Bergan :
    Peoples relationships with their computers are hilarious. Once you’ve layed down the money and are driving home with your new dream, you’re worried that somebody else will be able to do something you won’t, but it’s been an amazing trip since the early 80’s!

    Tech, more than anything else in the world to date, drives keeping up with the neighbors. It is better at it than almost any other market. I am not sure why that is, but it sure is true.

    For example I have never felt bad about the guy next store having some powertool i don’t, or the lady across the street driving a nicer car, etc etc. Not ever that i can recall in my entire life. Not when I was dirt poor, not when i had more to spend than i had ever dreamed of, not in between, not now, not when i was young….

    But damn I wish i could upgrade my phone. There is no reason to. It does everything I need and much more. But I really want to….

  11. #11 by Alfonso on February 10, 2010 - 9:11 am

    I can only say that my eyes are open wide, i love that kind of technology but apple, must need to know that not only for google device or microsoft device, ther can be another company that make the perfect tablet touch.

  12. #12 by Alfonso on February 10, 2010 - 9:15 am

    I can only say that my eyes are open wide, i love that kind of technology but apple, must need to know that not only for google device or microsoft device, ther can be another company that make the perfect tablet touch


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