Friday, July 19, 2013

Technology As Religion: An Annotated Quotation Of The Day

I frequently bore folk by making the relatively unoriginal observation that Apple, Google, and Microsoft are the technological equivalent of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy.  Edward Mendelson makes the point far more poetically:
. . . as everyone knows, the world-religion of the educated and prosperous in the twenty-first century is Apple, with its Vatican in Cupertino and its cathedrals in the light-filled Apple Stores that draw pilgrims gripping iPhones and iPads like rosaries. Apple’s flock is secured against heresy by censors who rule the online App Store; only applications with Apple’s imprimatur are allowed on an iPhone. Programmers risk excommunication—with all their works condemned to being listed in an Index of Prohibited Software—if they violate canon law by bypassing Apple’s banking system or ignoring its infallible doctrine. Rebellious heretics can “jailbreak” an iPhone and induce it to accept software anathematized by Apple, but a heretic’s phone is refused communion when presented for repair at the Apple Store.
The closed world of the iPhone and iPad is, however, only one branch of Apple’s empire, the branch that values centralized doctrine, visible works, and universal rituals. This same branch rules over most—but not all—of the world of Apple’s desktop and laptop computers, its MacBooks, iMacs, and other varieties of Macintosh. Though the OS X operating system that drives these machines is very different from the iOS system that drives iPhones and iPads, it performs many of the same functions, such as sending mail and navigating the Internet, and it incorporates the most important rules and protections that keep iOS secure against heretics and intruders.
Given the NSA revelations, it might be better to be a technological atheist, but in the 21st Century, that choice is becoming increasingly impossible. Maybe Bob Dylan will update his underrated "Gotta Serve Somebody."


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