By Jonathan Stern
Our visit to Apple on Thursday afternoon was wonderful, and I’ll get to that shortly, but the drive over is worth recounting too. We took Interstate 280 to get there, a highway flanked on both sides by spectacular foothills, some imposing and totally covered by California firs, others tamer with sparser tree cover, instead clothed in shaggy brown grass. I’m glad I wasn’t at the wheel, for the beauty was arresting, and it doubtlessly would have had me swerving madly and dangerously about. The drive took about twenty minutes.
Upon entering Apple’s lobby, I grew instantly curious about the cardboard cutout of the Beatles that stood against the front wall. Was it there as a political innuendo promoting the ideals of 1960s counterculture, or less suggestively, was it merely a symbol of delight that after nearly a decade, Apple had finally succeeded in bringing the Beatles to iTunes? The former intrigues me. But if I’m being honest, it’s probably a case of undue suspicion.
We were then led from the lobby into a rather spacious conference room. The wooden table at its center was alive with cookies and SmartWater. I was informed afterwards that SmartWater is actually a variant of traditional H2O. I don’t know why we need variants of water—I don’t have a clue in the world. Even more perplexing, the next day while at a convenience store called Loop, a few kids on the program spied, and decided to drink, a type of “water” that due to one ingredient or another was black. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
Now, back to Apple. Shortly after we took our seats, Eddy Cue entered and took his at the head of the table. His position: Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services—essentially, he runs Apple Music, iTunes Store, App Store, Apple Pay, and more. He has worked at the company for twenty-seven years, purportedly “bleeds Apple,” and when asked about Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs, downright lambasted it.
He left open to questions most of the two hours that he was so generous to afford.
I remarked near the end—perhaps impertinently, though I hope it wasn’t construed as such—that I am not convinced that advancements in technology always bring about “progress.” Jolted by developments in modern evolutionism (which paints nature as indifferent and directionless rather than as progressive) and the bloody wars of the twentieth century, most theorists retreated long ago from the belief that the nature of the world is progressive and that humanity—along with, and on account of this progressive nature of the world—is also moving in an inevitable direction of “progress.” As C. S. Lewis observed in his essay “Our English Syllabus,” “civilization is a rarity, attained with difficulty and easily lost. The normal state of humanity is barbarism.”
Apple’s position as one of the largest companies in the world implies the unique ability to influence the trajectory of humanity. Hence my question to Mr. Cue: in light of the directionless nature of the world, is Apple mindfully taking steps to ensure that this trajectory is not one that ends up being injurious to civilization? His response was a bit meandering, but ultimately I liked it very much. He got to the point of things when he mentioned their environmental initiative aimed at protecting the habitability of the earth from any threats that could be posed, directly or indirectly, by improvements in technology.
A wonderful experience at one of the finest companies in the world.