Apple’s Attitude Towards the TV Industry Is Well-Founded

| Columns & Opinions

Page 2 – The Tech News Debris for the Week of July 25th

Are you a robot and don’t know it yet?

Look around. People are walking around, staring at their iPhones, mesmerized by messages from friends, reading entertainer gossip, glued to YouTube videos or immersed in Pokémon GO. Is this robotic behavior slowly replacing typical human behavior? This next article title is intriguing: “Instead of asking, ‘are robots becoming more human?’ we need to ask ‘are humans becoming more robotic?’

But Brett Frischmann, professor at Cardozo law school, and Evan Selinger, philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, argue that we need an inverse Turing Test to determine to what extent humans are becoming indistinguishable from machines. Frischmann, who has published a paper on the subject, says that changes in technology and our environment are slowly, but surely, making humans more machine-like.

Lt Cmdr Data

Star Trek’s Lt Cmdr Data

An interesting question to ask oneself is: “Does the behavior I just now exhibited identify me as a human being or as an emerging robot?” A great example is when some people see another helpless person being assaulted and they stand around gawking, taking videos with a smartphone.

Another aspect of this is the very design of the smartphone. It’s a digital device with a display that can be touched and manipulated in specific ways.  That places inherent constraints on how we think and act when using the device. It ropes us in, so to speak, to its own way of doing things. As a computer tends to do. Are we becoming Borged?

Could there someday be a reversal?  That is, could some artificial beings, like the fictional Lt. Commander Data of Star Trek fame end up acting more human, by intentional programming, than some humans who are under the influence of external technology?

After all, we tend to think of “being human” as being superior to any machine. What if the essence of being the superior being is slowly lost, by our own devising, while artificial beings gain the advantages that made us what we used to be? Could that be a thing in 20 years?  How would humans, in concert with advancing technology, stop that reversal from happening?  Is it even possible? Would we even have access to the tools we need as corporations seek to exploit us, turning us into automatons, for their own advantage?

Humans could end up being helpless to stop the reversal.

I’ll leave all this for you to ponder.


Jean-Louis Gassée, in one of his typically brilliant Monday Notes, recounts the path to success for ARM: “ARM: The $32B Pivot and Revolution.” It’s great background and explains why:

“Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank wants to acquire ARM Holdings for $32B, a valuation that is a testament to ARM’s rise to the pinnacle of the microprocessor world.”

This article also rekindles speculation about Apple, someday, moving the Mac from Intel to ARM. It would be a massive, challenging endeavor. But Apple did it before, moving from Motorola to PowerPC, then PowerPC to Intel. Apple could do it again.

There’s a close relationship between the technology that Apple delivers and science. While Apple’s technical development leans more towards applied R&D and many scientific developments are derived from pure research, there is always some blurring of the line.

A notable example of how the consumer marketplace can go astray in its technical understanding of what Apple achieves is the recent Apple vs. FBI kerfuffle. Namely, a naive meme emerged that Apple was inappropriately blocking the progress of law enforcement. Social media fans these flames of misunderstanding.

While not strictly focused on technology discourse, this article explains, in parallel, how scientific information is equally distorted. One method is the over-simplification of science (or technology) amplified and permeated by social media.

We see these aspects often in the analysis of Apple and the technology we use daily. And so I present: “How social media can distort and misinform when communicating science.

Most of us have lived through the migration from analog cell phones to 2G, then 3G then 4G and LTE. Now, 5G is coming. What will it be like? Very different it seems. Mark Lowenstein at tech.pinions explains it all in this splendid introduction: “5G Reality Check.

Finally, is there something intrinsically satisfying about a book made of paper? Is it fundamentally satisfying to congregate in a bookstore and leaf through a prospective book? Has a saturation and satisfaction level been reached with eBooks? Has the book industry reacted to seeing their industry being crushed by Amazon and the remaining chains? Can indie stores still thrive? These questions are posed and a fascinating discussion ensues in this excellent essay by Glenn Fleishman “Technology killed bookstore chains. Can technology save indie bookstores?

But after years of shrinking sales and locations, indie stores have seen a slightly accelerating tick upwards since 2009 in new businesses, more stores, a bigger slice of the retailing pie, and a growth in overall revenue.

I make a conscious decision about which books I want to have on Kindle and which ones I want on paper. How I do that, I haven’t yet figured out. Perhaps others have reached a similar kind of equilibrium as well. The above article offers some insights.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.

5 Comments Add a comment

  1. Brutno

    John, Thanks for the article, as always. I do think you underestimated the amount of time advertising comprises on TV. Here in flyover country it’s easily 22% or greater for prime time major network programming.

  2. Jamie

    For me the choice between paper books and electronic ones is based on what I need them for – it just makes sense to have some things on my devices for easy perusal anywhere and others to luxuriate over in my free time, particularly heavily image oriented books that definitely lose something in the translation to a screen. I do a lot for reading for research and educational purposes, and it’s very handy to have those on a phone or an iPad.

    And yes, people are definitely becoming more robotic, even binary, I would say. Unfortunately everything else about us seems to currently be following suit. I think it’ll balance out eventually, that we are in the midst of less of a shift and more a learning period. Hopefully the ramifications of it all won’t be too severe on our way to a return to equanimity.

  3. CudaBoy

    I remember when cable was $12.99 a month and it included ESPN and what later was a “tier” that cost more. Over the years the source material didn’t change – only the bill went up. Oh yeah, and then they took on COMMERCIALS defeating why they were hip to begin with!! Homey don’t do commercials. After the bill went over $60 I fired Time Warner and never looked back. I get HD broadcast free via rabbit ears (about 60 channels), I use foreign servers for sports; been streaming music since way before Apple even thought about streaming music…that’s it. Cherry picking is the future. I don’t see Big Pharm’s lust for capital waning hence cable and broadcast TV will NEVER cut that money chain and homey here simply won’t buy into that commercial game ever again. Free is the right price. If for some odd reason life sucks so much I must see a movie – I have Redbox walking distance at $1.60 a pop – but again hollywood junk – ick.

  4. wab95


    While you’ve provided much to choose from, the topic that resonates most with me, shockingly, is that of ‘social media and science’.

    This is an issue that I have dealt with, both personally and professionally. I will use vaccines as an example, but the phenomenon can be applied to other topics as well.

    A while back in advance of one of my peer-reviewed publications, in which we found epidemiological and clinical evidence to support a specific vaccine trial in a population hitherto untested, Nature Magazine featured that upcoming publication. Members of the anti-vaccine lobby objected to our ‘subjecting’ innocent, vulnerable populations to the biological onslaught of vaccines, both online and in response to the story. One person in particular continued to stalk my further work on social media and rail against the supposed harm that vaccines cause to child development, in their opinion.

    For the record, there is no difference of opinion of the value of vaccines amongst any professional medical organisation or experts in the field.

    For those who may not know, the anti-vaccine movement has derived its justification from the now discredited and fraudulent work of Andrew Wakefield, often referred to as the father of the anti-vaccine movement, in which he manipulated data to establish a causal relationship between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism. Importantly, no other credible scientist or body of data could reproduce or support his findings (colleagues of mine published their findings in rebuttal). Still, the anti-vaccine movement has continued to thrive and maintains an active online presence to misinform the public, frighten parents and discredit authoritative, evidence-based rebuttal. This has led some parents to avoid vaccination out of fear of harming their children, only to result in these children contracting easily preventable illness and serious complications (including death), and resulting in outbreaks, like the measles outbreak in California, and the resurgence of pertussis (whooping cough), which had been eliminated from many countries.

    This is perhaps one of the more extreme examples that persuasion in social media is not simply a question of unfiltered misinformation, but can result in real public harm. Its effect is not solely due to what is said, but to the tone in which it is said, specifically that of an organised onslaught towards the medical community or any other opposing voice. It also underscores a conundrum that many other science and social disciplines face; namely that merely engaging this ideology on social or other media creates a false moral or even scientific equivalence between those for and against vaccines (or any other opposing viewpoints), suggesting that both sides have an equal amount of supportive evidence for their positions.

    That said, there are important lessons here that should inform social media etiquette more broadly, at least if the objective is to provide a welcoming forum for exchange of information and ideas.

    Tone: Avoid belittling or humiliating those with an opposing point of view. The issue is the viewpoint, not the person. Indeed, attacking the person may in fact draw sympathy to an otherwise indefensible point of view.

    Respect: Beyond simply respecting the humanity of others, taking the time to acknowledge another’s salient points, even if one disagrees that person’s position or conclusions.

    Provide evidence or at least a reasoned opinion: It is a question of intellectual honesty and integrity to distinguish between evidence-based facts vs opinions, whether they are one’s own or cited from another source.

    Willingness to listen: This is a cardinal principal in risk and crisis communication, but good etiquette in all communication. When people hold passionate ideas and opinions, it is important that they know that these have been heard and understood. If one can not only show that they understand another’s passionately held opinion, but articulate it prior to addressing it in rebuttal, true communication can begin.

    Engage the ideas, and not the person with ad hominem attack: This is similar to the issue of tone, but addresses the rationale and benefit of restraint and civility. We all grow in understanding and maturity through the exchange and even conflict of different opinions. The opportunity to engage and debate should be enthusiastically engaged as an opportunity for mutual growth, even if neither side moves. Vanity prompts us to protest when our ideas are not taken on board, whilst failed arguments and ideas prompt us toward personal attack.

    Being willing to change: If one sees the other’s point of view, and is persuaded thereby, acknowledgement of the same builds bridges, understanding and collegiality, not to mention being good for the soul.

    Enough said.

Add a Comment

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter, Facebook) or Register for a TMO Account