iPhone 6 Hyper-Anticipation: It Doesn't Mean What You Think it Means [GUEST ESSAY]

iPhone 6 Hyper-Anticipation: It Doesn't Mean What You Think it Means [GUEST ESSAY] - AkihabaraNews.com

[The following is very unique opinion essay from a very non-traditional Contributor: AkihabaraNews editor Reno J. Tibke. Before joining the AkihabaraNews team, Reno produced a very special kind of, in his words, “Oddly punctuated, expository technosnark with both a superiority complex and a heart.” Normally limited to his personal site, Anthrobotic.com, it's the kind of long-form writing we don't often publish here. But given tomorrow's big reveal, we decided to take a chance and share some of Reno's personal musings on technology.]

• • • 

By any objective assessment, the buildup to the iPhone 6, iOS 8, and maybe an iWatchy-whatever announcement has successfully buried all of 2014's most exciting technology stories. Barring like, a fusion energy breakthrough or aliens or some shit, it's pretty much forgone that this will last through the end of the year.

And it's a year that's seen scores of robotics and non-biological intelligence advancements, 3D printing is going bananas, solar energy is moving rapidly toward large-scale feasibility, there's like some E. coli bacteria that's been engineered to eat plastic grocery bags and crap out kerosene or something, and of course there was the two-year anniversary of the Mars-based Nuclear-Powered Science Robot Dune Buggy with Lasers. And a lot more. But none of that fills the sad hole in our technology hearts. Lust for a new smartphone, the iPhone want-a-thon, has already won. And that's what this BlahBlahBlah is all about.

With this article's heavily American POV, it might prompt some "Oh, poor you and your First-World problems" reactions. Well, the technological advances birthed in developed countries, very much including the mobile telecoms topic at hand, are exactly what keeps the developing world from collapsing into pre-industrial scarcity and faith-based barbarism. So shut it.

• • •

The Great Smartphone Want and its Diminishing Returns
A year-ish ago, Apple offered up the sexiest smartphone ever made: the iPhone 5S, and millions sold, of course. And now the cycle's come back around, and we're waiting for that Tuesday Christmas morning in September. Sky-high expectations will, as per usual, be squished down a bit by the reality. But, nevertheless - hours away from the announcement - a feverish excitement blankets the tech world. At least, that's what the tech world thinks is happening.

To be fair, following every iPhone iteration since the 4s dropped in 2011 (when many of us expected a 5 rather than the 'S' appendage), each year's seen slightly less fanfare and a steady increase in accurate, anticipation-sapping leaks. Some argue that it's due to Apple's inability to adapt their marketing strategy beyond simple hype-creating secrecy, and what with the leaks, that's probably correct. Although we are collectively still on the edge of our dorky seats, what used to be unbridled excitement is steadily degrading into a slow clap among friends & family. As it should. Because Apple's not wowing us anymore, and in our arrogance, we think it's them, not us.

Nevertheless, there remains a large number who go all Pavlovian doggy at Cupertino's traditional Tuesday morning jingle, and Apple's sales prove that the growing lack of gee-whizardry innovation hasn't exactly stopped us from adding to cart.

And 'Phone' is Now a Misnomer
Some of us of have been smartphoney longer than others, but even for civilians, a phone hasn't been just a phone for coming on 5, 6, even 7 years now. Really, most under 40 hardly use the telephone part of the device at all - and that's part of the disconnect in analyzing this whole socioeconomic phenomenon: what began as a brick became a flip, then became a slide, then got a keyboard, then they got smart - and all the while our terminology and conceptual framework for the devices has remained practically unchanged: we all still say "Look what my new phone can do!" But as we know, the devices are sooo far beyond that. 
The term 'Personal Digital Assistant' is finally accurate.

And we now are symbiotes with these highly personalized digital information prosthetics. They connect us to all of human history, grant access to the ever-widening stream of our present, and enable near-instant multimedia authorship for any user. In the softest technological assimilation ever, mobile comm devices elegantly penetrated our everyday lives and became indispensable across effectively all social strata, e.g., while perhaps longing for roads and electricity, a surprising number of citizens in developing countries do have mobile data plans.

Bringing it back around, the iPhone 6 is yet another exciting addition to the range of available devices, and as per usual, Apple's latest hardware and software features will probably influence the sector on a global scale. Having long ago painted themselves into an iPhone-shaped corner, that's what Apple does now; it's how they make most of their huge pile of cash.

But it's Only a Thing
It's just an iteration, it's not really THAT big of a deal. The true value of the iPhone 6 is as a vector: what matters is the information it delivers, and Tuesday, September 9, 2014 will see not a single change in our general pattern of information consumption and creation.

So...why the hell do we care so much about this new device?

• • •

Troubling Telecommunication Technolust
Is it merely for the sake of WANT, that a new shiny is being dangled before us? How are all these strings being pulled? How can so many otherwise reasonable adults be so rabid for the iPhone 6? Even if one's not an iPhone user and has no plans to convert, chances are one is at least curious about what Apple's got lined up. Even those with only a very general interest in technology will be paying attention to the announcement. And if it happens that you're not actively following the story, you'll hear about it passively - it will be everywhere for a few days or a week, a month - maybe longer.

For now and for better or worse, the United States is where a plurality of the world's techiest technology, financial liquidity, productive creativity, and iPhone 6 media coverage and consumers are located, and American consumerism has become a major psychological export. But, counterintuitively, at an essential level, all the iPhone 6 excitement and speculation and hyperbole and link bait actually has relatively little to do with shallow, mindless American-flavored consumerism. Okay so...what then?

Listen for the thud...
Here drops a cheesy armchaired macro-societal analysis:
Subconsciously, the rabid anticipation for the iPhone 6 is actually about the intrinsic character and inherent strength of the human animal: it's about hope. But in a contemporary context, more precisely, it's about the corpsification thereof. Even considering the profound tech advances and achievements mentioned above, and countless more, somehow it's the iPhone 6 that gets the most attention and leaves us rapt with anticipation.

Tragically, we have nothing greater to be excited about; at the moment, there is no great hope.

• • •

We of the Uninspiring Slump
"Technology is the fundamental precursor to civilization and is therefore the most powerful social force in the universe, yo. Srsly."

Second only to a strict adherence to technological smartassery, AKA, Technosnark©®™, the above statement represents an irrefutable truth underlying everything said here. Don't think so? Well, go ahead and actually think about it. Just try to refute. You'll see.

Because of the breakneck speed of technological advancement over the past several hundred years, humanity is in the midst of a rapid upswing in nearly all areas of human development. Even though we all see more and more horrible stuff on the news, it's vital to remember that it's not that there's more horrible in the world, it's that we know more about it than ever before. To paraphrase Dolly Parton: The good old days were some bad times. Want some stats and proof? Here.

The largely disingenuous, conflated, and way overly dramatic news that most people see revolves around ambulance chasing and bleeding leads. Worse, mainline media's institutional narratives serve not to inform but to reinforce a particular political team's preconceived notions of why the world is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket. In addition to being mostly negative, it's also speculative, trigger-warned bullshit.

All across the board, by nearly every measure of human development, things are better than they've ever been. Sure, there are huge problems, there are still some crappy little downward notches in the larger upward curve. Nevertheless, the upward curve is giant-stepping over most of them. A majority of readers probably won't believe that, but hey - just look at the numbers.

That being that, however, we're kinda in one of those crappy little downward slumps right now, and have been for a few decades. On top of that, we're largely misinformed about the status of human development. And to cap it all off, we have no great adventure, no great project that unites and inspires.

And that's why iPhone 6 anticipation, and that for the previous 5 and 4 and 3G, that palpable want for a device that will be outdated and cast aside in 12 months time, has become a pathological stop-gap for something we desperately lack.

• • •

The iPhone 6 is Insidiously Alluring in a Vacuum
Okay, here's what the hell is being said here: The iPhone is an incredible device that quite literally represents a truckload of previously impossible mobile communication functionality. Think about it - just 5-6 years ago, most of the whole smartphone ecosystem didn't even exist. So yeah, it's a beautifully designed tool, elegantly powerful in so many ways, surrounded by an economy that sprang forth from vapor.

But, BUT, once again, it's just a thing - a product to be purchased, used, and quickly supplanted. Neither a revolution nor a renaissance, the iPhone 6 is a very precedented technological artifact of late 2014, and historically, ideas trumped artifacts - but at the moment, we're fresh out.

In the U.S., traditional notions of culture are diffuse and diluted. People tend to instead unite around ideas and ideals, and very often those drive and/or are a product of scientific or technological advancement. In many cases, this very American social-psychological phenomenon has informed, inspired, and given hope to the entire human population. The mass production of automobiles and human flight inspired notions of the freedom of movement, TV launched and inspired vast visual creativity, and following the Soviet advances, the Apollo missions united the nation, gave new appreciation for the Pale Blue Dot, produced an ROI in the ten$ of billion$, and inspired the world to continue pushing into the frontier of space. AND, American computer technology, much of it pioneered by Apple, jumpstarted a digital information revolution that will probably prove to be the most impactful paradigm shift in the history of our species.

Point being, it's become natural for the globalized We to see great positivity and opportunity in our technological challenges and achievements, and we want look to the future with hope - we long for new ideas and new developments that create new economies and new possibilities. But, for the time being, that dream is stuck in neutral. We have no meaningful common rallying point. Collectively, the global zeitgeist's most anticipated technological event is Tim Cook, 10:00am, PST.

Holy shit that's sad.

• • •

It Means This:
We desperately want good news, we desperately want a great, unifying undertaking that stabs forward with some awesome goal, and there's just...nothing there. There is no great leader to inspire us, and there is no great undertaking for the betterment of all humankind. Maybe if we were about to launch an international manned mission to Mars, or a Manhattan Project-style energy initiative, or begin building a base on the moon, then maybe the iPhone 6 might just be a little blip - you know, like a new Samsung launch. (ha)

It is this very lack that enables fever pitch iPhone excitement; it's projection, of a sort.

• • •

It's Tuesday night here in Japan.
We're not above the machine - the author and many among us will be awake at 2:00AM JST to watch the live-streamed Apple event. And when it's all said and done, and every news source on the planet spews forth with the details and big pretty photos, even the most jaded among us will get the initial high. The wow factor. Marveling at some new, innovative this or that. The want.

But it won't take long for an empty feeling to set it, and, gradually, we'll realize that all the hype and prep and excitement was and is largely meaningless. We'll realize that we've been manipulated by a fantastically successful marketing campaign orchestrated not by Apple, but by our own emptiness and lack of technologically inspired hope. In the absence thereof, our collective psyche simply found a alternate target. And that's that.

• • •

To wrap, here's to the eventual rebirth of techno-inspiration.
Perhaps this piece won't need to be updated in a year's time.

One can hope.


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