Being baptised into a technological religion

Eating the Apple

I did not expect to convert. I spent my youth as a committed PC user; I understood technology, could build my own computer and was not going to be shackled to Apple’s attitude of 'we know what you need even better than you do.' Yet as I emerged from the strict laptop-less poverty of the Jesuit novitiate and needed to buy a computer, I drank the Kool-Aid: I bought a MacBook, writes Sam Sawyer.

- America

I told myself at the time that I had not completely betrayed my allegiance to real, geek-quality technology. The new MacBooks ran standard Intel processors, so I still had the option of installing Windows. I never did. Two months later I stood up from my desk, shut the laptop, saw the soothing slow pulse of the sleep indicator and realized I was not going back. I had not worried about my computer for weeks.

I knew that when I came back and opened my laptop it would wake up with everything exactly as I had left it, all of it working perfectly. I have not recommended a PC purchase to anyone since that day, and the initial conversion has been repaid with more road-to-Damascus (or Cupertino) moments. My laptop broke in the middle of writing a thesis, and the Apple Store fixed it within an hour. After I showed a friend the four-finger swipe to switch between apps on the iPad, he texted the next day (well, actually, he iMessaged) to say that it had 'changed his life.'

Product Devotion

Arthur C Clarke said, 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' Under the leadership of Steve Jobs, dedicated to making 'insanely great' computers, Apple proved something subtly but importantly different: any sufficiently well-designed technology is indistinguishable from reality—it 'just works.' We might call it magical when we stop to think about it, but we do not often have to stop to think about it. They got it right. Or, as Jobs himself put it: Design is 'not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.' And it does work, over and over again, exactly the way we want it to.

For those who have seen the light (gently glowing within the Apple logo on the back of every MacBook at the local Starbucks), the experience of using Apple products has conditioned us to expect elegance, reliability and even serendipity in the use of our technological devices. If they are going to surprise us, it will not be with crashes and cryptic error messages, but because they work even better than we thought they would. In other words, we have faith in Apple. Yes, “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The next time I buy a new phone it will be an iPhone 5S or 6, not because I will have read the reviews or tested it in the stores, but simply because I trust Apple to get it right.

Comparisons of Apple allegiance (or pejoratively, 'fanboyism') to religious devotion are easy enough to find. One of the many, many Apple fan-blogs is called 'Cult of Mac.' Apple invented and continues to employ people in the role of 'technology evangelist.' In 2012 an anthropologist watching the iPad Mini unveiling commented, 'A stranger observing one of the launches could probably be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a religious revival meeting.' It has even been proven scientifically: a BBC documentary in 2011 confirmed with magnetic resonance imaging tests that Apple products stimulate in fans the same brain centers associated with religious belief.

FULL STORY Eating the Apple: on being baptised into a technological religion

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