The perfect robot without a brain

29 October 2016, 04:54

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It’s over, folks. Apple’s done. Will the last person to leave unplug the dongles and turn off the lights? (Hey Siri, turn off the lights — Here’s what I found searching the web for “turn off the lights”.)

I know some people reading this are stunningly literal and will assume I’m suggesting Apple will today board up its windows, before hammering a “Condemned” sign into the lawn out front.

Apple’s got many more years of business left in it. Many years of profitable business, in all likelihood. What recent (Apple) events have shown are finished are the golden years – the “it just worked” years, the “one more thing” years, the synergy years, the ingenious years, the envelope-pushing years.

The history years.

Despite its vintage Apple operated like a startup for the last few decades, although one with the neat collateral of a fantastic pre-history that gave it pitch-perfect branding. But like many tech startups – most of ‘em, in fact – it has run the course.

Apple is crammed full of extraordinary design and engineering talent. Truly the best people in the world show up at 9am every work day (weekends too, often – you either have a significant other, or work at a company like Apple, but not both).

Taken as a whole, the organisation is a robot that lacks a brain. It can create superb, desirable, shiny things. Yet in the absence of actual intelligence, it can only iterate on what it knows. It has some programming, left over from S**** J*** (See? I didn’t mention his name directly!). It recycles and reuses this, looking at it from all sides now, like a demented yet weirdly confident Joni Mitchell.

“Tech should be personal. Disruption is an ideal. We’ve cracked TV – it’s about apps! Tech should be anorexic – always getting thinner!”

(Somewhere in Apple’s labs there’s a sign attached to a door saying, “No fat chicks allowed!”, with chicks crossed out and “technology” written in its place.)

These things are etched onto the silicon at the core of the robot’s soul. It ponders them in a dark lab without windows and with a single door that it believes is locked – but actually isn’t.

I reckon Jony Ive will be the McCartney of the band – the first to go. He’s already running a kind of independent design studio within Apple, taking suggestions from engineers and then sending them back for manufacturing. If he sets up his own agency he can do other things that aren’t merely computing-related. Things like vehicles, maybe. (Even Jony can’t be immune to the electro-magnetic pull of Tesla.)

What Apple might be grateful for is that there’s nobody out there doing it better (perhaps because it’s so damned hard to work out what Apple actually does so well). Yeah, Google challenges Apple in various departments but Google Android, as one example, is just not in the same league. But the time is ripe for the master disruptor to be itself disrupted. This is how tech works, after all.

If you’re an investor then, don’t worry. Apple’s too big to go away. It’s destined to be the IBM of its time – the curse of all large tech firms is existence through irrelevancy. Apple’s no different.

Yet the long-condemned Microsoft is currently pulling off one of the most audacious tech pivots since, well, S**** J*** returned to Apple. Maybe Apple can do the same…

What they need is to put a brain in the robot. Although I doubt they’re going to find one by rifling through Google’s staff phone book. Just ask Yahoo.


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So true. Apple is just doing incremental enhancement. It is not even evolving. Disruptive innovation is a far cry. Apple will be so sorry to have missed on a converged OS.

Not that they can’t do it. But cruising in this comfortable zone might make them more of a zombie company.

Windows is becoming more reliable everyday. Can’t say the same for Apple though. Their lasted release of mac OS for example replaced a working functionality of “move to previous location” in mail context menu with a disabled option of “move to predicted location” . Wow! Never remember Microsoft making that kind of blunder in a productivity app.

— Aviral Bansal · Oct 29, 06:29 PM · #

 
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