The federal government dropped its lawsuit to force Apple to break into its iPhone security system, so as to investigate the San Bernadino terrorists. The FBI was able to hack into the phone without Apple’s help. Which was arguably the way it should be! [Read more…]
If you have a smart phone, can you pinch your fingers together while touching the screen to make the images smaller? And move your fingers apart to make the images bigger?
Well, that so-called “pinch to zoom” technology was invented by Apple for its iPhones, even though other cell phone makers are now also including the feature. But this was one of the patents upheld by that recent court ruling in Apple’s suit against Samsung.
Some people are indignant that Apple is able to patent a gesture, saying that pinching the screen to change the image is so “natural” that everyone should be able to do that, complaining further that Apple is harming consumers by limiting their choices, and that sort of thing.
I say that Apple is entitled to their patents and to the fruits of their creativity. Some years ago, Apple lost a patent lawsuit against Microsoft, which copied Apple’s point-and-click device known as a “mouse.” Microsoft also lifted Apple’s graphic interface, that is, the use of icons, which simply have to be clicked by said mouse, as a way of accessing software and all that a computer can do. Apple deserves to win this patent dispute, at least.
All Samsung or other cell phone manufacturers have to do if they want to include this feature is to pay Apple a licensing fee, as they do for other patent holders.
Is there any argument–based on justice and equity–why Apple should give away their intellectual property? Other than someone wanting them to or the desire to have iPhone features without having to pay for an iPhone? But those arguments lack justice and equity.
Mike Daisey has been performing a one-man-show entitled “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” in which he exposes the unsafe working condition in Apple factories in China. NPR picked up the story and interviewed Daisey on “This American Life” about what he found out during a visit to one of these Chinese factories. It turned out that Daisey made up the more dramatic details. When this information came out, NPR retracted the interview.
Consider this defense of Daisey from tech reporter Joshua Topolsky:
Mike Daisey was lying.
No, he didn’t lie about all of it. He did go to southern China and meet with workers from Foxconn. He was there, all right, but he wasn’t honest about what he’d seen. There were no underage workers he’d spoken with, there was no man with a maimed hand. In one passage of his show, Daisey talks about workers who had been poisoned by a gas called n-hexane. That part was true — there had been workers poisoned by this gas at an Apple contractor somewhere in China. But Daisey never spoke to them. Like many of the most upsetting moments in his show, Daisey simply fabricated the encounter.
The lies were so clear and so egregious that after learning the truth, “This American Life” issued a retraction of its report by way of a new show — a show in which host Ira Glass confronted Daisey over the deception.
It’s an uncomfortable listen. As Daisey is called out by Glass, you can hear the hesitation, the panic, and the fear in his voice. He doesn’t offer much in the way of excuses. The main point he drives home is that he felt it was necessary to embellish his story in order to retain the “truth” of the message of his show. He lied to tell the truth, basically.
In some immediate way, this defense rings true. There are many documented cases of worker mistreatment and injuries in Foxconn factories. There have been reports of underage workers. There have been suicides. Some of the most important and honest revelations of these issues have come from Apple itself, which issues a supplier responsibility statement every year detailing both the improvements and problems it’s having with international partners.
But until the radio broadcast Daisey took part in — and many of the follow-up interviews he gave — this problem was never discussed in a such a big, public way. Daisey’s lies inspired honest questions about the gadgets in our pockets. Did he betray the trust of the public and journalists by lying? The answer to this question is easy: Yes. But were the lies necessary?
We have a tendency to tune out the things we don’t like hearing. That is doubly true when money is involved. I’m not suggesting that we didn’t listen when Apple issued its report, and that we didn’t pay attention when the Times published its findings. What I’m saying is that sad songs have a way of sticking with us long after we’ve heard them — and Daisey found a way to tell the sad, human part of this story. To make it catchy enough to stick, even if it was a lie.
So in order to expose abuse of workers he had to make up cases of the abuse of workers. In order to tell the truth, he had to lie. Does this make any sense?
It’s true that fiction can tell the truth–a novel can express truths about the human heart, even though its incidents never happened–but, as Sir Philip Sydney has shown, fiction isn’t a lie because it presents itself as imaginary. A lie, on the other hand, presents itself as truth. Which is what Mike Daisey did.
Steve Jobs, the mind behind Apple computing, is making a stand against pornography, even though that happens to be one of the online world’s biggest business! Comments from Pete at Grace-City:
Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pornography.
When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer.
Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms.
The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:
“Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’ and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.”
The interlocuter replied:
“I don’t want ‘freedom from porn.’ Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”
In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:
“You might care more about porn when you have kids.”
Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.
The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra “The customer is always right.” Business wants the customers’ money.
But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved – and that trumps the dollar.
Google (with their motto “Don’t be evil”) rake in billions through pornography. Ranks of employees spend their time categorising and arranging advertising for pornography. (I know, I spent some time discussing the difficulties posed to a Christian who worked in their UK HQ) Pornography is huge business, yet here is the CEO of Apple telling the pornography businesses to take their dollars elsewhere.
Now Steve Jobs cannot actually stop pornography being accessed on the devices he sells – indeed you can jailbreak a device and run any pirated software on it. Neither can he necessarily set the ethical bar as high as a Christian may want it – but what he is doing is significant and commendable. He is taking responsibility for doing what he can. He is trying to not profit from pornography. Those deeds are important for the sake of his own soul. Matthew 18:7 comes to mind: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”
For the souls of other people, his public statements are valuable in that they permit consumers to identify with and commend his resistance to pornography. Our generation is saturated in pornography; a public statement from Steve Jobs resisting that, encourages others to believe that the secular-liberal-capitalist agenda is not the only show in town. Jobs’ comments are important for the manner in which they shape public cultural discourse.