Apple’s “Crush” Ad, Rentierism, and the End of Capitalism?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Typically, Apple — market cap $2.63 trillion, the second largest company in the world — avoids advertising debacles (see the famous 1984 ad, or this ad to introduce the MacBook Air). The “Crush” ad, however, was a rare exception[1]. Associated Press:

A newly released ad promoting Apple’s new iPad Pro has struck quite a nerve online.

The ad, which was released by the tech giant Tuesday, shows a hydraulic press crushing just about every creative instrument artists and consumers have used over the years — from a piano and record player, to piles of paint, books, cameras and relics of arcade games. Resulting from the destruction? A pristine new iPad Pro.

“The most powerful iPad ever is also the thinnest,” a narrator says at the end of the commercial.

We can leave Apple’s weirdly anorexic design philosophy for another time. For now, please watch the ad (I would turn the sound down to get the full impact):

Or in prose:

In a dank, cold warehouse, devoid of all life and humanity, an industrial crusher comes to life, and slowly starts destroying a collection of musical, philosophical, and artistic devices and instruments.

For no apparent reason, everything starts getting smashed: first, a trumpet, then an arcade video game, then cans of paint, a piano, a globe, a metronome, a guitar… on and on it goes, obliterating everything in sight into a colorful, gooey, explosive mess.

Books, camera lenses, lamps, a guitar, a sculpture, and a typewriter—all tools of the liberal arts—get mangled into a garbage heap as Sonny & Cher cheerfully sing, “All I ever need is you.”

In the penultimate moment, a goofy yellow smiley emoji becomes a bug-eyed scary-clown freak as it, too, is crushed to death.

Worse, if you enable closed captions like I do by default, the video says: “[POPPING] [SPLAT]” right as its eyeballs pop out of its head when Cher sings, “Give me a reason to build my world around you.”

(“Crush” was also tweeted by Apple CEO Tim Cook.) On “[POPPING] [SPLAT],” yes, I checked. Classy! Apple quickly issued a statement disavowing the ad. From Variety:

“Creativity is in our DNA at Apple, and it’s incredibly important to us to design products that empower creatives all over the world,” Tor Myhren, Apple VP of marketing communications, said in a statement. “Our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad. We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry.”

In fact, the video didn’t “miss the mark” at all. In one way (the hydraulic press) we were the marks, and Apple didn’t miss at all. In another way (the crushed instruments of art) the ad hit the mark all too well. I will discuss each in turn.

The Hydraulic Press and Finance Capital

The press is an iconic industrial artifact (“just look at that thing“):

The above is a forging press from our Cold War Heavy Press Program, and there are various press technologies, including hydraulic presses, but industrial and iconic they all are. From ADH Machine Tool:

Hydraulic press machines are widely used in industrial fields to efficiently perform heavy processing tasks.

With the application of a small force, the closed liquid in the hydraulic cylinder generates a large compression force.

The hydraulic press machine was invented by Joseph Bramah in 1795….

These machines can be used to process a variety of materials including metal, plastic, wood, rubber, and others.

From Hydraulic Press Manufacturers:

Examples of extremely common hydraulic press applications are: automotive parts fabrication, microwave part fabrication, refrigerator component fabrication, dishwasher part fabrication and beverage can fabrication. Hydraulic presses are used for applications in many applications, though. These include: aerospace engineering, appliance, automotive manufacturing, ceramics, food and beverage processing, marine manufacturing, military and defense and pulp and paper. The hydraulic press is a vital element of industries where pressing and deep drawing operations are performed.

Nice work if you can still get it:

Operating a hydraulic press requires proper training and strict adherence to safety guidelines. Before use, individuals should undergo training covering hydraulic press principles, safety procedures, and control system operation. A pre-operation inspection is then vital to check for damages, leaks, and functional safety features. Proper material positioning and alignment ensure even force distribution during pressing. Additionally, operators must wear appropriate PPE during operations. Engaging the press involves activating the pump to build hydraulic pressure, with careful control of pressure and speed. Likewise, vigilant monitoring during pressing and gradual pressure release after the operation enhance safety. Finally, regular cleaning, maintenance, and adherence to manufacturer recommendations are essential for a safe and efficient hydraulic press operation.

Given America’s deindustrialization starting in the 1970s, it’s unsurprising that we are only fourth in the world in machine tool consumption (China being first). Of deindustrialization, Tim Cook himself said:

“Let me be clear,” Cook said. “China put an enormous focus on manufacturing, in what you and I would call vocational kind of skills. The US over time began to stop having as many vocational kind of skills. I mean you could take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in the room that we’re currently sitting in. In China you would have to have multiple football fields.”

Another way of saying this: A hydraulic press is absolutely the last kind of capital investment that Apple would make. Here let me turn to the Bearded One, as he describes the classes into which owners fall in industrializing, Victorian England in Capital Volume 3, Chapter 52. I have made a friendly amendment to the text, thus:

The owners merely of labour-power [the working class], owners of capital, and land-owners rentiers, whose respective sources of income are wages, profit and ground-rent, in other words, wage-labourers, capitalists and land-owners rentiers, constitute then three big classes of modern society based upon the capitalist mode of production.

(In fact, industrial and financial capital are at war in the capitalist class. Michael Hudson describes the reasons for this amendment rigorously in “Finance Capitalism versus Industrial Capitalism: The Rentier Resurgence and Takeover.”)

It couldn’t be more clear that Apple’s owners fall into the rentier bucket, not the industrial bucket. They charge users rent for access to their intellectual property, for subscriptions, at the Robber Baron-like Apple Store, for data gathered from users, for their “premium” products, and so on and on[2]. From Jathan Sadowski, “Landlord 2.0: Tech’s New Rentier Capitalism“:

Apple is doing more than just responding to competitive pressures — it is following the shift in how technology is being used to change notions of property ownership and profit accumulation. Facebook, Uber, and Netflix build platforms and provide services, inserting themselves into social relationships, economic transactions, and personal consumption. They mediate the everyday activities of our lives and collect valuable data about our behaviors and interests. And, crucially, they charge for access — not for ownership, which increasingly seems outdated.

Rather than representing some disruptive new “subscription” paradigm, however, what all these companies are doing — including Apple — is revitalizing of an old form of rentier capitalism that we long associated with landlords and feudalism.

Whether we call it platform capitalism, surveillance capitalism, or just next-gen rentier capitalism, this model for how capital operates uses mediation and enclosure to achieve extraction and control over its subjects. “Rentier” refers to a relationship where an asset owner charges others to access that asset, just as a landlord charges tenants to rent a home the landlord owns.

Therefore, when Apple presents the brutal, crushing force in “Crush” as industrial, they’re directing us away from their nature as rentiers, and from their real power over us (to which I shall shortly turn). That is why “Crush” “hits the mark”: “the mark” being us.

Crushed Media and the Artist’s Labor

For the sort of work whose piano, guitar, paint, or other media was crushed in “Crush,” I’m going to use the word “artist,” as opposed to Apple’s neologism “creative,” which applies more to somebody working in a marketing department, not that there’s anything wrong with that, than to, say Manet or Mozart, and as most definitely opposed to the vile “creator,” which means a worker who pays rent to a rentier for the use of their platform (like a YouTube influencer).

Artists, then, had an extremely negative reaction to Apple’s “Crush” ad (see Apple Insider, Unseen Japan, Tom’s Guide, TechCrunch (twice), among many others). Axios sums it all up:

People saw beloved objects being flattened by a faceless, unstoppable machine. When Tim Cook posted the ad to X, he received thousands of outraged complaints.

“I’m definitely the target audience for the new iPad Pro but this ad is tone-deaf and insulting to artists of every kind,” wrote cartoonist James Kochalka. “We think of our tools with reverence and respect, and enjoy a healthy dialogue with them. Our tools are like trusted companions on the journey of art.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single commercial offend and turn off a core customer base as much as this iPad spot,” Michael Miraflor wrote on X. “Achieves the opposite of their legendary 1984 spot. It’s not even that it’s boring or banal. It makes me feel… bad? Bummed out?”

Apple hasn’t been a feisty upstart for decades — it’s now among the wealthiest and most powerful entities on the planet.

Missteps like this further drain the reservoir of goodwill the company once filled with its product innovations and usability.

(“Good will” meaning customer willingness to pay a higher rent.)

Making art is, of course, work; labor (and in our current system, the sale of labor power, although artists below the Taylor Swift level tend to fall into the “middle and intermediate strata,” the “the infinite fragmentation of interest and rank” also described in Chapter 52). Hence, with your indulgence, I will turn to two persona of the Bearded One: The early and the late, labor being one of his fields of expertise.

First, from the early Marx in “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844”:

[L]abor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his intrinsic nature; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind.

As the old joke goes: Nobody on their deathbed says “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labor is shunned like the plague. External labor, labor in which man alienates himself, is a labor of self-sacrifice, of mortification.

At its best, I would urge, art is labor that is not coerced; it is not “external”; it is labor done for the doing alone (I was about to say “the joy of doing” until I remembered this quotation from Gene Fowler: “Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead”). Joyful or not, when making art, the maker, the artist, is not estranged. Hence, the destruction of all the artists’ tools — the books, camera lenses, lamps, guitar, sculpture, paint, typewriter — can only represent “mortification of the body” and “ruination of the mind” as the tools whose mastery makes the artist free are destroyed.

Second, the later Marx in Chapter 10 of Capital, “The Working Day“[3]. Marx goes through how the working day is organized under various modes of production:

We started with the supposition that labour-power is bought and sold at its value. Its value, like that of all other commodities, is determined by the working-time necessary to its production. If the production of the average daily means of subsistence of the labourer takes up 6 hours, he must work, on the average, 6 hours every day, to produce his daily labour-power, or to reproduce the value received as the result of its sale.

The labor theory of value, axiomatic for Marx, but controversial for many. But taking it as read, Marx works through the implications:

The working-day is thus not a constant, but a variable quantity. One of its parts, certainly, is determined by the working-time required for the reproduction of the labour-power of the labourer himself. But its total amount varies with the duration of the surplus-labour. The working-day is, therefore, determinable, but is, per se, indeterminate…. We see then, that, apart from extremely elastic bounds, the nature of the exchange of commodities itself imposes no limit to the working-day, no limit to surplus-labour. The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible, and to make, whenever possible, two working-days out of one.

Indeterminate, that is, a power relation. A Starbucks worker knows this in their bones, because the difference between the wage they take home to reproduce their labor power (i.e., to live to work again the next day) and the profit collected by the firm is printed out on every receipt, and repeated many times throughout the day. More:

Capital has not invented surplus-labour. Wherever a part of society possesses the monopoly of the means of production, the labourer, free or not free, must add to the working-time necessary for his own maintenance an extra working-time in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owners of the means of production, whether this proprietor be the

Now, how would the power relationship expressed by “Crush” affect the working day of the artist, if carried to the extreme in which the iPad was used to create all art? Very simple: With the rentier’s snout under the tent, rent would be extracted from the artist through the intermediate platform — in this case, the iPad — through which the artist would be coerced to work. Not brushes bought at an artist’s store, but digital brushes rented to them by Apple. Rent that was not extracted before, meaning either that the artist’s working day will be longer, or the artist’s art will be sacrificed, or both. As even Salon understands, in “Pay us forever: Apple wants you to rent your life from them“:

In the past ten years, the tech industry has been the main promoter of the transition towards a world in which we never own anything, but merely rent our lives from capitalists — from cars to hotels, contract gigs to music to movies to games. The still-dominant big tech companies founded in the 1980s — companies like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Dell and HP, known for software and hardware primarily — mostly avoided the rentier society game until the past decade, when they realized how much more lucrative it is to rent rather than sell. That’s why it’s near-impossible to buy Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite these days — you’ll have to settle to rent them from Microsoft and Adobe, respectively. The business reasoning is simple: If I buy Microsoft Office once, Microsoft only gets my money once; but if I have to pay $10 a month for it for the rest of my life, Microsoft has me hooked. The drug dealers had it right.

The biggest fear of rentier world, though, comes if the tech industry continues to consolidate — if there becomes no alternative to rentier society, and a few trillion-dollar companies control our lives. Then, existence would become extremely pricey. Imagine if clothes, cars, bikes, scooters, entertainment, news, utilities, homes, communication access, video games, beds, furniture, even our access to job boards (hello, Linkedin Premium) were rented. Maybe that company will be Apple. Maybe we’ll get billed for our lives on our new Apple credit cards, and we will run up debts to the company that we can’t pay once the next metaphorical Dust Bowl wipes us out. What Steinbeck wrote of the banks applies to Apple, too: When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can’t stay one size. It needs more money.

As Michael Hudson concluded:

One must conclude that America has chosen no longer to industrialize but to finance its economy by economic rent—monopoly rent from information technology, banking, and speculation—and leave industry, research, and development to other countries. Even if China and other Asian countries did not exist, there is no way that America can regain its export markets or even its internal market with its current overhead debt and its privatized and financialized education, health care, transportation, and other basic infrastructure.

The underlying problem is not competition from China but neoliberal financialization. Finance capitalism is not industrial capitalism. It is a lapse back into debt peonage and rentier neo-feudalism.

The “lapse back into debt peonage” (“if there becomes no alternative to rentier society”) is where “Crush” does indeed “hit the mark.” That is the power relation that the ad represents.

Conclusion

Some would urge that the triumph of finance capital presages the end of capitalism itself. From New Left Review, “The Euphoria of the Rentier?“:

There is a third debate lurking beneath the surface, one that has not yet begun in earnest but that is drawing increasing attention: the question of whether we are witnessing a transition out of capitalism. Immanuel Wallerstein saw financialization as the twilight of the capitalist worldsystem, with the Great Recession signalling its irreversible demise. At the time, he prophesied that ‘we can be certain that we will not be living in the capitalist world-system in 30 years’—‘the new social system that will come out of this crisis will be substantially different’. What it might be, however, was ‘a political question and thus open-ended’.

…For classical political economists, capitalism was defined by a pattern of self-sustaining growth driven by market competition. Competition compels producers to maximise the cost-efficiency of their operations, typically with labour-saving means, resulting in a systematic expansion of output that cheapens the price of commodities—this is what Marxists have long called ‘the law of value’. If such a dynamic is what distinguishes capitalism from other modes of production, then we need to confront the fact that the capitalist world economy appears to be transforming into the mirror image of this. With growth slowing down to a trickle and productivity stagnating, it appears that accumulation is now less about making anything and more about simply owning something. Profit-making is increasingly about cornering scarce assets in order to drive up their price—a practice that the classics called ‘rent’ and which they identified not with capitalists, but with landlords. As rentierism takes over, it appears that capitalism’s distinct forms of surplus extraction, organized around the impersonal pressures of the world market, are giving way to juridico-political forms of exploitation—fees, leases, politically-sustained capital gains. From the late David Graeber to Robert Brenner, authoritative theorists of capitalism with opposing ideas of its origins and development are now converging on the view that contemporary patterns of class domination [“crush”] look, increasingly, noncapitalist. For McKenzie Wark, this warrants the provocative question: is it something worse?

If so, “Crush” is a very appropriate metaphor that, once more, hits the mark. Then again, maybe Bidenomics will reverse the trendMR SUBLIMINAL Hollow laughter.

NOTES

[1] “Crush” is also, to put it politely, homage to an ad from LG for a phone back in 2008.

[2] I grant that Apple’s rentierism is not as vile as, say, private equity’s. But rentierism it is. Despite Silicon Valley’s self-proclaimed drive to “innovate,” the essential functioning of the personal computer has not changed since 1968.

[3] I had not realized that Chapter Ten was written after the American Civil War, and incorporates some of the perspectives gained by Marx from his coverage of it, as a journalist.

APPENDIX An Alternative Version

Just run the ad backward:

If only matters were that simple….

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This entry was posted in Free markets and their discontents, Globalization, Guest Post, Income disparity, Politics, The destruction of the middle class, The dismal science on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

107 comments

  1. Judith

    New Alastair Crooke.

    https://strategic-culture.su/news/2024/05/13/who-tried-to-pull-the-rug-on-netanyahu-and-why/

    “Then these explosive words – cessation of military operations and complete Israeli withdrawal – burst forth in the final text as agreed by the mediators in Cairo; and subsequently in Doha, on Monday, taking Israel by complete surprise. CIA Chief Bill Burns had represented the U.S. in both sessions, but Israel had chosen not to send a negotiations team.

    Multiple Israeli sources confirm that the Americans gave no ‘heads up’ of what was coming: Hamas announced the bombshell agreement; Gaza erupted in victory celebrations, and huge protests besieged the government in Jerusalem, demanding acceptance of the Hamas terms. It was tense. There was a whiff of civil war to the huge protests.”

    Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Because I am recovering from surgery and not thinking clearly. Please delete.

          Dear me! I’m leaving this here, then, so that other can wish for your recovery!

          Reply
        2. Lena

          Wishing you the very best during your recovery, Judith. Making comments when not feeling well can be difficult. I often struggle with it so I understand.

          Reply
  2. Pat

    I have a fondness for curmudgeon Hugh Grant, and I liked his response : “The destruction of human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

    One of the things I find amusing about all of this is that Cook will never admit that he has been overseeing the destruction of much that made Macs and IPhones both useful and worth the higher price. They could easily have put some of their own equipment in there that have been wrongly determined to be useless by the company. Personally, I find that every update of OS and hardware adds something flashy and eliminates something or many somethings that were quality, sensible, etc. They are less reliable and shorter lived, and yes, not as intuitive.

    Reply
    1. SD

      Cook is said to have once quipped ‘inventory is evil,’ or something like that–“evil” was definitely part of it. That’s stuck with me because it seemed such a bizarre use of the word evil. (It was, in hindsight, also unwise when global supply chains came apart in 2020.) I’ve realized since I first read that that it wasn’t bizarre at all in the sense that Cook earnestly believes that and wasn’t just being hyperbolic in front of some obsequious business reporter–much like Apple’s “Crush” spot is such a disturbing window on the ethos of that company as Lambert beautifully lays out here. Cook very much meant this as a motto or an organizing principle for Apple. Not to put too fine a point on it, but my sense is that Cook would not view wretched working conditions, planned obsolescence, or rigging the Silicon Valley labor market, etc., as “evil.” N.B. I’m still using my 2013 Macbook Pro–which seems to have been manufactured early enough in Cook’s tenure that he hadn’t yet had time to ruin Apple’s laptops–and I plan to keep doing so for as long as it still boots up.

      P.S. It was ‘inventory is fundamentally evil,’ if this material at the Motley Fool is to be believed: https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/03/23/apple-lesson-of-the-day-inventory-is-evil.aspx

      Reply
  3. JBird4049

    The United States (and I guess Europe as well) still has a large puddle or very small pond of talent, skills, education, and even a bit of real, not finance, wealth. It is difficult to eliminate all of two centuries of deliberate, concentrated efforts to create the ocean that once existed. However, it is to the immediate benefit of much of our short sighted elites to stop the use of this puddle; these ignorant buffoons also denigrate the work of fifteen or more generations of Americans who created the tools needed for the fools to become wealthy.

    The puddle of talent could be our starter yeast as after all the country started as a backwater with no industry at all. The United States as industrial, economic, educational, and scientific Goliath was a deliberate creation just as its rapid loss of all this was. But I think that they rather finish draining it if it would get them the last bit of loot all the while patting themselves on the back for being so farsighted.

    This denigration of work especially with one’s hands and their belief in their superiority over the past fifteen or more generations of Americans is why we have such an add. Even the several generations of people who created the ideas, languages, and programs that were needed for computers to work are being denigrated.

    Twenty generations to build and three to destroy; seven lifetimes of work and one of arson. Happy, happy. Joy, joy.

    Reply
    1. lambert strether

      > denigration of work especially with one’s hands

      Cook’s “what you and I would call vocational kind of skills” is very telling.

      Reply
    2. ambrit

      I’ll counter that America entered the Industrial Revolution alongside Europe, not after Europe. Today, America and Europe have thrown away their industrial patrimony while “Furriners” picked up the pieces and incorporated those pieces into a slightly different expression of the process. Thus, it is appropriate to add throwing away the Western Enlightenment to the throwing away of the Industrial Revolution and all its works.
      Whatever the Eastern Enlightenment may be, it will soon become the dominant world philosophy due to the strength that the recently acquired Industrial Evolution gives it.
      The next “century” will belong to the East.

      Reply
      1. Sergey P

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Europe try to preserve the manufacturing prowess? German factories are closing just now, when they are pushed out of the market by overpriced key input, energy. But it is rather US hostile action, than deindustrializing on their own. And I would assume Italy too could be in a much better shape, if it wasn’t for outsourcing to Asian sweatshops, which was again more of a US initiative.

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          The deindustrialization of Europe can only be seen as of benefit to the financial powers in London, New York, Frankfort, etc. The potential rival to Western hegemony, Russia allied with China, et. al., had to be “curbed,” and the economic sanctions were the result. That the sanctions backfired and did more damage to the West is just one of those delicious ironies associated with the career of Nemesis. The Hubris that this Nemesis pursued was the creature of the Western financial markets.
          So, I view the Western power dynamics as multi-faceted. Old Guard Industrialism in competition with New Guard Financialization. New Industrialism struggling to find a foothold in the arena.
          I find it useful here to adopt one of the themes of the New World Order clique and refer to the power players of the West as Globalists. Thus, the fear and fury with which nationalism in all its forms is viewed by these elites. “Because Markets” implies no constraining national boundaries to hamper the “free and unfettered flow of international capital.”
          The contradictions are built in, a part of the system.

          Reply
          1. Bill Malcolm

            James Watt is supposed to have invented the steam engine — but the Frenchman Gugnot’s wheeled steam-powered carriage of 1769 showed far more advanced thinking than Watt’s clanking monstrosity (an early example of which is on display at the Museum of Science and Technology in London). No atmospheric condensing to gain a vacuum, so continuous operation.

            Anyway, when Watt teamed up with Boulton to make steam-powered “engines” for pumping out mines and replacing water mill power, the canny old Scot didn’t sell his wares. Oh no, he devised a scheme whereby the actual savings in operating costs were paid to him on a 50/50 basis (or some other proportion). That was what made Watt rich, paid for manufacturing his wares and leaving a tidy sum over. The customer made out well too.

            So, Watt was an early renter outer.

            The US hardly developed equally in industry with Britain, France and Germany. They imported existing machines and copied them, hiring European millrights familiar with their design and operation to come to America and get things going.

            American locomotive design quickly took off after that importation, and innovations soon appeared. The 1850s saw the rise of Us mass-produced machine-made pocket watches made on custom machinery the Europeans hadn’t really imagined of at all.

            What I’m saying is that there’s nothing much new under the sun, but neither did the US develop in tandem with Europe until the 1870s. Steam hammer, precision lead screws for lathes? Standard measurements? All British, look it up. 1840s, 1850s.

            Reply
            1. JBird4049

              Yes, IIRC the British had the standard in machine tools and related technology during the 19th century. In someways, the United States and the British Empire had a similar dynamic as with China and the United States currently. However, a big difference is that while the British also financialized and destroyed their economy, it was not as fast as with the Americans. Patriotism, generally practicality, fighting the world wars, and the lack of ability to shift money and workers across borders all contributed.

              Do not forget that the United States was internally developing for centuries especially after it got out from the British Empire’s economic policy of mercantilism: resources from the colonies and manufactured goods from Britain. The colonists were not to manufacture so much as a nail. Adding the corruption and mismanagement of the British government just made it worse.

              After Independence, there were the problems of setting up a permanent system of government, and proving that it had the fortitude and ability to deal with enemies such as the Barbary Pirates, the British, and Native Americans as well as maintaining political cohesion; IIRC, during the 1820s, the American System was planned, implemented, and followed until the late 1960s. Really, if one includes the efforts at improvements from just before 1800, that is over 150 years of sustained growth due to a single economic policy. Decades of canals, roads, manufacturing, colleges, electrical expansion, infectious disease control, etc.

              I could make 1972 as the year it was dropped. I also think the Powell Memo, which was typed in 1971, was not just about stopping the Left; it was a suggestion for destroying the then current system by capturing the government and education. This led to the modern system of rentier capitalism and government capture.

              Reply
          2. steppenwolf fetchit

            There are little surviving refugia here and there of what might be called “artisindustrial” production in odd little corners of America. One such little company is Red Pig Tools, which makes garden tools of different sorts.
            https://www.redpigtools.com/

            Unless/until a political movement to ban Forcey FreeTrade can conquer the US government and make it exclusively ours and nobody elses’, finding and patronising these tiny little “artisindustries” to keep these skills alive toward a better future someday will be the best any of us can do.

            Reply
    3. Paul Art

      Also, Cook had the gall and temerity to complain that he could not build the iPhones in the USA because we do not have the “talent” to do so. This is all the more insulting because his rise in Apple was mainly due to his expertise in supply chain logistics (IIRC). He is either completely disingenuous or extremely stupid to have never asked the question, “why can’t we make all these things that go into the iPhone in America?”. This is how arrogant the CEO class has become.

      Reply
      1. steppenwolf fetchit

        Well! . . . once his class of people have mass-exterminated the “talent” to do so in this country by organizing the Great Bonfire of the Jobs and Skills from Sea to Shining Sea, they of course won’t have the “talent” anymore . . . . after they took such pains over the last few decades to exterminate it all, on purpose and with malice aforethought.

        Reply
    4. Ignacio

      I don’t know in the US and other countries in the collective West but in Spain working with your own hands is no longer fashionable amongst the younger generations (starting by, let’s say, 2000s or so). Installers of all kind of stuff, technical services and others are done nowadays by expert but old hands who cannot find replacements other than migrant workers. In a few years it will be difficult (it is already now) to find someone to replace a window, install the AC equipment etc (not to mention repair something). There was a boom in construction workers during the bubble but that’s over too. Now everybody wants to be an influencer or something of the sort.

      Reply
  4. Fred

    I hadn’t seen this ad, until I saw a post complaining about it. It’s just an ad for a product that I don’t buy.

    Reply
    1. lambert strether

      Do consider reading the post. The ad is also a portent of things to come, from the world’s second-largest company.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        “Creation now becomes recreation. The rigour is gone, and with it is also gone the individual mastery of art.”

        Reply
      2. Fred

        A press is used to take raw material and make a usable part. Example is to take sheet metal and make a car fender. So the idea that Apple is trying to say they are destroying creativity, does not jive with what a press does. This ad means no more than the 1984 ad, it’s no arbitrator of the future. It’s something to draw your attention to what they want to sell. Apple makes computers and provides service. They don’t create music, movies or art. It’s just a tool.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > It’s just a tool.

          Again, do consider reading the post.

          The iPad is not “just a tool.” It is a platform for which rent is (increasingly) charged. You don’t have to set up an account to buy a paintbrush, for example. Or a piano.

          Reply
  5. John Wright

    holy sh**. If the head of Apple can state this:

    “I mean you could take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in the room that we’re currently sitting in. In China you would have to have multiple football fields.”

    I know of a number of tool/die makers in the company I contract with. Maybe Cook was in a very big room, but I suspect there are many tool/die makers spread about the USA in smaller companies.

    From https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/machinists-and-tool-and-die-makers.htm

    Per this, in 2022 there were 389,700 employed in the USA, but the jobs outlook is a 0% growth rate, commensurate with the stagnant/de-industrialization of the USA

    I was bothered by the Apple ad, in part, because it crushed many apparently useful items, items that could maintain their usability for years to come.

    Likely many of the crushed products would have been still useful in the future when the ad’s featured Macbook Air is unusable/unrepairable E-Waste.

    Plus, the uncrushed items would probably maintain their market/dollar value far better then the MacBook Air.

    It is a measure of Apple internal management that this ad was approved.

    Probably more than a few had to sign off on it.

    Reply
    1. Big River Bandido

      Actually, the decline in manufacturing competence in the good ol’ USA is shocking and scandalous. There used to be thousands of flour mills and thousands of tool and die makers. Now? Perhaps only dozens. These facilities perform the most fundamental role in any kind of economy beyond subsistence level — a basic food staple on the one hand, the tools that are used to make tools on the other.

      The fact that our Dear Leaders don’t even recognize the national security implications of this is yet another indication of their willful, criminal negligence.

      Reply
    2. Dessa

      Maybe he was speculating whether all those tool and die makers would fit in that room if compacted by a hydraulic press

      Reply
  6. digi_owl

    The level of “artist” digital vitriol over this ad is really something to behold.

    The tools do not make the craftsman and all that.

    Reply
    1. Pat

      It disrespect a great deal. Including the craftsman who wants to use a real piano, or paint, or …and not a mini computer.

      Not to mention how most fledgling craftsmen learn their craft, which is usually on or with used tools? How many art classes could have used the paint? I realize that much of Silicon Valley doesn’t think people should use actual pencils and paint but how much would we have missed without them. The skills come over time, and those used for digital art need practice on tools.

      Reply
      1. Don

        I have spent the last several days restoring a hundred-year-old pine table, using some of my tools that I brought down here (some of which were previously my dad’s), plus whatever needed tools I could find in this smallish semi-dessert, Mexican town, plus some tools I had to improvise — and I can tell you, I have been, in spite of the heat, in spite of the dust, in spite of the flies trying to get into my eyes, taking a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from it.

        And with all due respect, “The tools do not make the craftsman and all that.” reads like something that someone who would have never dragged the damned table home would write, and seems to be missing the point entirely.

        The iPad is not a tool; it is a technology. I use the technology that this skinny little device represents, but the ad, as a celebration of technology supplanting tools, is a celebration of (crushing) loss.

        Reply
    2. Big River Bandido

      You say “the tools do not make the craftsman”. I would agree, although that statement is too narrow for not recognizing the distinctions between “craft” and “art”.

      Regardless, the “Crush” ad says pretty much the opposite than your formulation. According to the images in the ad, the tool is now more important than the artist or what they make. The ad postulates that “creativity” now resides in the tool itself. We’ve been seeing this for years, as the company places ads with photos created by users, but the credit reads “taken with iPhone __”. This is perfectly in line with the crypto-crazy like fantasy that “human creativity has now been superceded by AI” — crushed into bits, if you will.

      All this is profoundly offensive to those of us who have spent decades learning to sing, paint, play an instrument, compose, write, etc. In other words — Apple’s original base. I’m glad to see that after a decade of enshittification and rentierism, my fellow artists are finally starting to wake up to the horror that Apple has become.

      Reply
    3. steppenwolf fetchit

      The tools do not make the craftsman? Yes they often do.

      Try learning carpentry with digital images of digital wood and digital tools on an Ipad. Or try learning how to graft and train grapevines with digital vines. One can learn carpentry or grapevining up to a point on a carpentry simulator or a grapevining simulator, but eventually you have to work with realworld meatspace wood, tools, grapevines, etc.

      Reply
  7. Jason Boxman

    It also hits the mark in that scandalously, this is what Apple does to the vast majority of working product that it gets back from, for example, you trading in your iPhone for an upgrade to the next version. Apple destroys the working product it receives back, to keep sales high. This is unfathomably evil, given its wastefulness. But from a capitalist point of view, makes sense; create more scarcity!

    Reply
  8. Mikel

    At the root of rentierism and hyperfinancialization is manufactured scarcity.
    So all the supply / demand elements of the equation of the 20th Century no longer really apply.

    Reply
  9. t

    The creatives who created this ad are obviously familiar with the YouTube genre of random things being crushed and a hydraulic press. I suggest they and the Apple Csuite watch the end of the original The Fly for inspiration.

    Reply
    1. barefoot charley

      Nice! It even better captures the sheer smugness of Apple’s brand conceits, that you too can be superior! Just spend more money, you’re creative! Sickened me from the first. There’s more to creativity than selecting fonts.

      Reply
  10. Alice X

    Ok, so how much did Apple pay these geniuses to come up with this atrocity?

    If they had asked me (which they never would, of course) and said the idea was that this new iPad wonder was going to replace artists tools, I would have said:

    Woah! Not replace but maybe help (though I wouldn’t be sure of that). Be gentle and kind, maybe show a galaxy of those tools and then as the viewer moves through the galaxy, s/he sees the iPad thingy coming into full view. I would have worked for pennies on the genius’ dollar.

    But no, these cretins live in a violent galaxy, they couldn’t imagine anything else. hrmmf…

    ps – I related to Anya Major in the 1984 ad, though I didn’t see it until much later as I didn’t have a TV. In 1984 I did have one of those itsy Macs (I bought it cheap from a well off student), today it wouldn’t power even a flip-phone, but I was easily impressed in those days, as so many were.

    Reply
  11. bloodnok

    i’ve a (now elderly) ipad that only rarely gets used. just sits on the desk, always plugged into power cuz even idle its battery drains in a matter of a day or two. a useless gadget imho. your mileage may vary.

    Reply
    1. Alice X

      My basement is full of technorubble™. Some of it still works and I use those for specific purposes which require obsolete interfaces and/or operating systems. I always used the things past the point that anyone would want them, even for free. An industrial policy that required that such be repairable and upgrade-able would go against the basics of capitalism.

      Reply
      1. eg

        I’m the same way, though the utility of the stuff I have accumulated over the years varies. An old Plus4 (a Commodore64 with some built in “business” software that I used in the latter half of my undergrad) sits under the basement stairway. More useful, an otherwise unusable old iPhone of my daughter’s (a 7, I think?) sits permanently connected to its power source and my guitar amp so I can alter its sound profile. Old laptops ranging from a Windows95 Toshiba through Windows10 Dells and Alienwares, including at least one feeble attempt to run Linux. A Blackberry Motion because I had been a Blackberry devotee since at least the 7230 (I didn’t get to keep the series of older handsets because they were provided by work). And of course numberless cords and dongles of all sorts.

        It’s kind of a disease, really.

        Reply
    2. Yves Smith

      I very recently and reluctantly got an iPad to use watching/listening to YouTube videos since so much damned commentary is on it, plus to learn Thai. I am currently in a duplex apt (so keep iPad for use in downstairs when puttering around getting myself fit to see the world) + having longer cab rides when I go out and about, so it enables me to get some productive use out of what otherwise would be down time. Will see how this goes.

      Reply
      1. Paul Art

        Nice :-) When are you going to share some articles and stories etc from your Thailand exploits with us? The other day I was watching this Brian Berletic piece on Burma and heard of how most of the American spooks causing problems there (gumming up China’s BRI) are HQd in Thailand and I remembered you and went- ‘wow! I hope Yves knows how to spot a spook’

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          The expats here strongly advise against any such thing.

          And I don’t get around enough to meet, much the less spot, spooks.

          The only one I am sure of was a straight friend who was so good looking he could have been a male model, who absolutely never paid for anything except by cash (including his rent; even better, his phone and electric bills were in versions of his name so munged you would not connect them to him, and most tellingly, never used the internet at home) had his clients buy his tickets, and was pursuing never-gonna-get-done communications deals in the ‘Stans. I am surprised no one had him killed by virtue of taking retainers and not producing. He claimed the reason for his secrecy fetish was he had pissed someone off in Russia….

          So that was pretty obvious.

          Reply
      2. JayF

        Oh, no – the growing disaster of turning to Youtube for commentary (and instruction) in so many areas!! Even after watching something good commentary-wise I have the realization of how much collateral time was wasted on sorting through the bad options. And with more and more tutorials being in video form on Youtube – because lord knows we can’t just use a paragraph of text where a 20 minute monetized video replete with unnecessary selfie-shots can create “content” – that platform is becoming an increasing bane for me. And the more “independent” “just an interesting person with a background and ideas on a subject” type channels are being crowded out by traditional media groups. Got an idea or just want to ne famous and can talk? Just send us a demo film of you talking about anything and if we like you ….

        Reply
        1. Oh

          YouTube is there to spy on you and sell data about you. People give away their privacy for something “free” like YouTube, Google Maps, Google GPS (for driving directions), Google World and a myriad of snooping applications. Google sells the data to all kinds of corps. and the snoops in govt. The Biden Administration saying that they’re banning Chinese automobiles because the data will go to Beijing is laughable. The Chinese can buy all the data on Americans (and do already). This country is made up of so many greedy fools who want something for free who will willingly put their necks in a noose.

          Reply
  12. upstater

    When I saw the photo of the real press, I thought, must be Wyman-Gordon. I worked for a time in specialty alloys (indeed Special Metals Corporation). We produced vacuum melted superalloy billets used in commercial aircraft engines. After 3 vacuum melts, billets were forged, then shipped to places like Wyman-Gordon. Slicing the billets like bologna, they were heated then beated in that monster press. Let it suffice to say that machine is the size of a house and pounds the bologna slices into disks used in the hot side of jet engines. It was amazing to watch!

    The US does not have a structured industrial policy. However, Boeing aircraft aside, the manufacturing of aircraft engines is a very small, elite club. 35 years later, the skills set of metallurgy, engineering, manufacturing, trades and management remains world class.

    Needless to say, the suppliers for GE, pratt, Rolls and CFM have be subject to episodes of financialization and stripping. Berkshire Hathaway has bought out most of that space. Vertical integration of the supply chain and probably the rentier uses monopolistic pricing.

    Reply
    1. Retired Carpenter

      Upstater,
      You might include UEC-Aviadvigatel in that small club.
      Retired Carpenter
      P.S. I thought “crush” described what Russia, using real tools, is currently applying to the dreams of the rentier class. I would not mind seeing a video in which Apple “Crush” meets and greets a 30.06.

      Reply
  13. Vandemonian

    Not really on-topic, but this from Salon elicited a modest chuckle:

    “That’s why it’s near-impossible to buy Microsoft Office…these days”

    I’ve been using the Libre Office suite as an alternative since I said farewell to full-time work. It’s well worth the purchase price, and I haven’t found many gaps in what I can get it to do.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      LibreOffice is good, but places like the college I go too requires Microsoft to submit homework and use email. I might be able to use Pages instead of Word, but I doubt that it would be trouble free. Fortunately, I can use the Mac version and I am not forced to pay a subscription although like with Apple, Microsoft keeps asking to connect to internet 24/7 and to use their cloud services, which I ignore. Honestly, Microsoft Word and Excel from twenty years ago was better than what I have now.

      The internet and everything connected to it has become the Borg. All your bases belong to it.

      Reply
      1. Don

        God yes, the old Word was great before they turned it into a Swiss Army knife. And Ottawa’s simple and pure Corel Draw, before Adobe bought them out to shut it down.

        Swiss Army knives are handy, and everyone should probably have one, but not to build a house with it.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > the old Word was great

          Microsoft* Word 1.05 on the Mac was peak Word. Downhill all the way from there, especially since their miserably inadequate outliner killed the product category (not that I’m bitter).

          * World’s largest company

          Reply
      2. Polar Socialist

        Not that long time ago, back when LibreOffice was OpenOffice, many an IT support person had is just to be able to convert older Word docs to newer for the generally hapless users. Of just clear some runaway formatting and save hours of work for some office slave.

        Reply
      3. Oh

        I’ve been using Libre Office for several years. It provides for conversion to several versions of Word. If you have complex formatting of a document it may not work as well in saving into Word format. Libre Office has their own spreadsheet (Libre Office Base) and it works quite well. I haven’t use their database program nor their presentation program but the ones I’ve used work well. BTW, I believe Word was copied form Word Star and Excel was copied from Lotus’ spreadsheet which was unfortunately was not copyrighted and it was therefore copied by Microsoft. I wonder how Apple (which copied from Windows) and Microsoft which copied others would feel if their copyrights and all copyrights ceased to exist?

        Reply
    2. Bugs

      One can get a full standalone license to Microsoft Office (and other MSFT products) from hypestkey dot com – it’s an official reseller and one of the few places to get the goods and not pay rents. There are lots of OEM keys for sale on ebay, etc. but those will eventually get caught out and deleted by The Man.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        The (Furnishing) Man = Microsoft/Apple = The Borg

        Honestly, the f*****s want to bring back some form of sharecropping. There’s precious little that is new under the Sun.

        Reply
      2. Rolf

        Bugs thanks for this tip. I had assumed that rent-free, standalone purchases like this were now impossible. What boggles me is the overall decline in software quality over decades, particularly from Microsoft. Bugs are never fixed, or just reintroduced in different forms, utility suffers, UI suffers, everything becomes marketing, monetizing, and a means of invading one’s privacy and monopolizing their time and attention.

        Reply
  14. Henry Moon Pie

    What I find shocking is that the people who actually benefit from this rentier system would fit into Cook’s room easily, and the trend is toward a smaller and smaller crowd. A few hundred families, mostly of inherited wealth, but all beneficiaries of the system they create using the power bestowed by their wealth, wield more power than the pharaohs or emperors of old could dream of.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > What I find shocking is that the people who actually benefit from this rentier system would fit into Cook’s room easily, and the trend is toward a smaller and smaller crowd. A few hundred families, mostly of inherited wealth, but all beneficiaries of the system they create using the power bestowed by their wealth, wield more power than the pharaohs or emperors of old could dream of.

      “There are not very many of the Shing,” –Ursula LeGuin, City of Illusion

      Reply
    2. Lefty Godot

      Last time I looked, the US had something like 850 billionaires and about 7,900 centimillionaires. And for each of those, figure probably another ten top-level servants and puppets who are well compensated and given all the benefits, legal and otherwise. So at most around 99,000 people out of a country of 330,000,000: that’s who we’re all working for, allowing to steal us blind, and supporting by giving our votes to the stooges they put forward in every election (which makes me see why Caitlin Johnstone calls it “the toy steering wheel of voting”).

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > figure probably another ten top-level servants and puppets who are well compensated and given all the benefits, legal and otherwise

        I would say more than ten. A family office can vary in personnel between 2 and 350, but I don’t know the average size.

        Even so, if one hundred, not ten, (990,000/330,000,000) * 100 = 0.3%. Not even “the 1%.” Of course, there are also the various brokers and fixers who aren’t direct hires. Nevertheless.

        I wonder if family offices have a trade journal.

        Reply
  15. Tom Denman

    Seems like big tech and the Davos crowd are determined to destroy everything of any intrinsic value and leave us all in the position of sharecroppers who own nothing and eat bugs.

    The theme of this awful ad, of course, is “creative destruction,” a term attributed to the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter and in this century adopted by neoconservatives to justify the U.S. bombing its way through the Middle East.

    The intersection of these two sociopathic ideologies is exemplified by the comments of Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former property developer Jared Kushner. Speaking of Gaza’s now levelled but potentially valuable waterfront property, Kushner said “I would do my best to move the people out and then clean it up.”

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The theme of this awful ad, of course, is “creative destruction,”

      I wouldn’t mind the destruction part quite so much were there were a truly creative part (the awfulness of AI art is not, I think, a coincidence; the training sets somehow set the baseline to college dorm room art, except worse).

      I pay rent to Adobe for InDesign and LightRoom. I’m pleased with both tools and they help me with various literary and photographic endeavors. For desktop publishing, I could write TeX code, but I’d rather not. For my photography workflow, LightRoom is basically a proprietary database for the photos, and skeumorphic tools for the editing. I don’t view either as “creative.” For both, as software, the creative work was done two decades ago, just like Apple coasting on the same GUI since 1968. There are good open source competitors, but now I’ve invested time learning the workflow with each, and I don’t want to spend that time again. Perhaps this is a form of rent as well.

      But in neither case is there a non-coercive reason for me to rent them, as opposed to owning them. (Adobe could easily sell — or even give away — an update pack for lenses and tools.)

      Reply
      1. Rolf

        For me, TeX/LaTeX and friends is the only software I’ve used that is reliable, where I can produce high quality documents and media. For anything involving mathematics I’d find it very frustrating using anything else.

        Reply
  16. ciroc

    Using a press to express thinness is a very innovative and creative idea that only Apple could have come up with, so the ad creator would have been surprised to learn that LG had created a similar ad 16 years earlier.

    Reply
    1. Captain Obvious

      Back in the day The Empire was not collapsing (at least not at this rate), and its citizens were not as easily triggered by everything. Nowdays one can not even make a joke without risking cancellation.

      Reply
  17. Patrick Lynch

    As an artist who still uses paint, brushes, pencils, and other traditional media, I found the “crush” ad to be one of the most depressing things I’d seen since I discovered twelve of my paintings in the LAION-5B database last year. It felt like Apple took particular pleasure in the act of crushing the things and activities that make us human, and to a company that wants us to hand over our humanity to an electronic device its users will be basically forced to replace over and over again subject to its whims and caprices.

    Anything else I could say, Big River Bandido said far better than I.

    Reply
      1. Patrick Lynch

        There is a class action lawsuit by several artists who can show there are AI fakes of their work in their style that others are selling. I tried putting in links previously using the link button which did not appear, I’m going to try a different way and see if it works this time. So far, I’ve not seen any AI work that used my data, but I also found being obscure didn’t stop my work from being scraped.

        https://news.artnet.com/art-world/lawyers-for-artists-suing-ai-companies-file-amended-complaint-after-judge-dismisses-some-claims-2403523

        https://twitter.com/eliana_esq/status/1788223458909839563

        Reply
    1. JayF

      May I ask how you found out that your paintings were used in the LAION-5B? Is it something others can check as well?

      Reply
  18. SocalJimObjects

    The great thing about capitalism in the US is that I get to play pretend and call people like Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook by using their first name. With the end of capitalism though I have to address them using terms like “Your Grace”, “My Lord” and possibly worst of all “Your Majesty”.

    Don’t ask what the hydraulic press is crushing, it’s crushing you.

    Reply
  19. Big River Bandido

    Excellent piece, Lambert. I think Cook said “miss the mark” because he couldn’t admit to speaking the quiet part out loud, which was at least as big a gaffe. Key paragraph for me:

    Joyful or not, when making art, the maker, the artist, is not estranged [emphasis original]. Hence, the destruction of all the artists’ tools — the books, camera lenses, lamps, guitar, sculpture, paint, typewriter — can only represent “mortification of the body” and “ruination of the mind” as the tools whose mastery makes the artist free are destroyed.

    Fully agree with the formulation “is not estranged”, although I wish I could think of a way that expresses that in a “positive maximum” way — it is in those moments of creation that the artist is most in touch and in tune both on the inside, and also with the world and the universe, all at once. When I’m working on something, I feel as though I exist out of normal time, and have to pull myself back into “real time” when I put the work away. And yet, during those moments of work on an artistic endeavor, that’s when I feel most human and most alive.

    I interpret “mortification of the body” and “ruination of the mind” more simply as cruel and wanton destruction not only of “the tools whose mastery makes the artist free”, but of the creative process itself.

    Having seen the ad and read this post, I will now have to review my iCloud account. I’ve had it for years, but use less and less of its functionality…if it doesn’t break my texting capabilities on an AT&T iPhone, I can’t see a better way to express my revulsion and tell them this is punishment.

    Reply
      1. Big River Bandido

        I’ve never used it for “storage” either; as I tell my music students, only a fool would trust placing their work product out of their physical control. I had Adobe LightRoom or whatever they called it, for 30 days. Cancelled it immediately (mainly because the software was so flaccid compared to PhotoShop ca. 2005) and vowed I would never again “subscribe” for software. Felt a bit of schadenfreude a year or so later when Adobe “lost” a huge number of subscriber’s files (yeah, right).

        But I also do use a phone and iPad, and it has been convenient that they all sync when on my network. I would gladly part with that feature if I can still physically connect a cable and actually sync the device manually. Although now that my iPhone 6s is nearing the end of its life I’m not sure what to do, as the new products are too expensive and too crappified. (I refuse to purchase a product that doesn’t let me plug in headphones, for example.)

        There may also be other highly convenient features that I’m using and don’t know about. Hence my need for review and research.

        Reply
        1. Jams O'Donnell

          Sorry to add to the addiction problem, but you can get an adaptor for headphones to iPhone charging socket. I have one.

          Reply
  20. zach

    “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

    They done ol’ Phineas Taylor Barnum proud with that one, fer sure.

    For all the renters of Apple products that aren’t creators/makers/artists, that ad probably looked…

    coooool

    and the finer points raised in this article, possibly maybe lost on the avg techno-serf.

    All praise to Lord Google
    , apparently, with a doctor’s note, you can get an iPad for the little tyke for the price of… on the house!

    At the risk of being nauseatingly cynical, and more than a little insensitive, most of the kids I’ve encountered in the stratospherically wealthy town adjacent to my abode could prolly swing an autism diagnosis, no sweat. I’ve heard it’s a spectrum nowadays.

    Reply
  21. Revenant

    Hi Lambert,

    Some proofing comments:

    In your emendation of Marx, I think there is a word in substitution missing here at ?????:.

    “The owners merely of labour-power [the working class], owners of capital, and land-owners [rentiers], whose respective sources of income are wages, profit and [ground-]rent, in other words, wage-labourers, capitalists and [land-owners] ??????, constitute then three big classes of modern society based upon the capitalist mode of production.

    There is also a stray footnote reference [7] in the quote beginning “Capital has not invented surplus-labour…”.

    Nice essay (once I stopped being distracted by the forging links)! :-)

    When someone tells you who they are, believe then, eh?

    Reply
  22. John

    I saw the ad. What came instantly to mind was a science fiction story I read more than fifty years ago the gist of which was that this marvelous machine could produce exact copies of works of art and do so cheaply. The talent, craft, and sweat of the human artist were unwanted and unnecessary and the general public were unaware that anything was being lost since it had no appreciation of the creative process. That is a crude knockoff of the story, but it has stayed with me all these years.

    I consider the machine learning dubbed AI and the sensibility underlying the Apple ad as close cousins. “AI” parasitizes the creative work of others. Apple, through Tim Cook’s words, denigrates “vocational kinds of skills.” Each in its way says that people are unnecessary. Two more examples of the “post-human” future. With autonomous machines coining money for the nobility of obscene wealth what need for people except perhaps Huxley’s epsilon semi-morons to push mops.

    Reply
    1. Jams O'Donnell

      If it’s the one I’m thinking of, it was by Brian Aldiss, and it featured a slot style machine which was subtly altering the paintings it produced (arguably for the better, in the story) to the fascination of the technician. Of course that couldn’t be allowed, and the bosses had it trashed.

      Reply
  23. Mark Gisleson

    The obvious ad would have been to have a brass band fold into a jukebox which then folds into a record player which becomes an iPad but I think they made this misstep for a rather obvious reason: animated cartoons.

    How do cartoons “make” things in an industrial setting? With huge hydraulic stamping machines, the kind that the villain (or hero) often gets ‘processed’ by, reappearing squished into product shape with only their face showing.

    I’m sure this is close to the original concept but then the committee kept ‘improving’ on it and the decision-makers all fondly remembered the cartoons which in truth were invariably very violent in clever funny not gruesome ways. It’s ironic that a cartoonist was quoted but stamping machines were an animated staple as it’s hard to humorously show industrial violence in three panels. Still, I did search youtube and found this year-old example of something similar to the Apple ad but imo even worse. With 1.49 million subscribers, I’m guessing hydraulic press cultism may have infiltrated Apple’s marketing dept.

    Reply
    1. steppenwolf fetchit

      (This link is not to the “hydraulic press channel”, if that matters. This link appears to bring us a bunch of AI animations of entirely simulated non-real-world possible encrushment scenarios.)

      Reply
  24. KLG

    This is a home run! A veritable grand slam!

    – Says a Mac user since graduate school, when the lab was full of Mac Classic computers. I think my first in 1995 was a Classic II on which I wrote my first independent papers and grant proposals. My legacy 27-inch iMac is the perfect machine. The later versions, not so much.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > This is a home run! A veritable grand slam!

      Very kind, but I am inclined to regard the post as a base hit because I did a good deal of research that I had to leave on the cutting room floor, and didn’t have time to weave in some other themes.

      1) Most importantly, I had to omit any discussion of “technofeudalism,” so called. From what little I understand of feudalism, its class structure was in fact a dense network of contractual relations, literally contractual in that a serf could bring a case in the manorial court if a Lord didn’t fulfill his obligations (I’m not saying this was easy or frequent, but it was possible). Serfs were, for example, permitted to gather dead wood in the Lord’s forest. I have seen the term “technofeudalism” used, but I have not seen a dense and rigorous article on the topic; though maybe Varoufakis’s book covers it. So far as I can tell, it’s just a fancy word to throw around. But if you take it seriously, that means our mode of production has changed, at least in the West, and that is a very big deal.

      2) Smith, Ricardo, and Marx were all united in the belief that (industrial) capital would do away with the rentiers. (n a way, so was Lenin. If my memory of Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism is correct, Lenin framed imperialism as a creature of finance capital, and “highest” implies the same teleology as Smith, Ricardo, and Marx. But evidently that teleology is false. That again is a very big deal.

      3) Hudson remarked somewhere at NC, and I am paraphrasing, probably in fact butchering, that industrial capital relentless drove prices down — ???, I am bad on price theory, and “price” is not, I think, the term the Bearded One would use — this woud be easy to see with apparel, say. Rentiers, by contrast, drive prices up; our health care system, so called, is a fine example of this. Again, a big deal.

      4) I also didn’t do through what accumulated capital, exactly, is being transferred from the artist to the rentier; economic, I would say, through AI training sets; social, through the destruction of networks within which artists thrive, especially musicians; and symbolic, that being the work of art itself.

      There’s more, but that will do to go on with. It’s a rich topic, a process that probably uncoiled itself and sunk its sucking mandibles into everything after Obama rebooted the financial system after the Crash.

      Reply
  25. Samuel Conner

    > As the old joke goes: Nobody on their deathbed says “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

    I wish that I had begun seriously gardening decades sooner.

    It’s hand work, too.

    I wonder whether it may be that in future, if many people are forced to garden (sort of like the necessity of the “victory gardens” in prior times of hardship) to supplement their food supply, that work, being a necessity for survival, will be as alienating as current wage labor.

    Reply
    1. John9

      Unless the rentiers turn it into an oppressive serf situation, I doubt it will be as alienating. My father grew up on a productive mixed use farm where gardening was integral to putting food on their table. He and his siblings worked the whole farm and went off to college in the 1920’s and 30’s.
      Industrial imperial ag destroyed that way of life.
      Educated farmer citizens was a thing of the Roman republic and for a time in the US.
      Forced to an office job, he loved gardening until the day he died and thankfully passed that on to me.

      Reply
  26. Michael

    “”Apple’s weirdly anorexic design philosophy”” Yes indeed har-har!! The new ipad – thin as your tin foil hat.

    Samuel: when I left the trades/RE biz in 2008, I redirected my time to gardening and cooking. Lots of tools,
    messiness and creativity. Lots of other cool folks doing same.

    Reply
  27. Valdo

    Another interpretation might be the crushing the analog, the real: brushes and paints that create unique, tangible artworks which is stuff you cannot sell infinite copies for a fee, or live music that takes you away from the screen and into a real world Apple doesn’t mediate for a cut. Enemies of the virtual all of those.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Best technical take-down of Apple’s video I’ve seen:

      This is terrific. Of course there’s a Hydraulic Press Channel.

      I didn’t get it to it, but I figured the press was digitally created; I looked for a manufacturers plate and there wasn’t one.

      Reply
      1. Captain Obvious

        No wonder you misunderstood my previous post here. In it there is a link to my post from few days ago, where I try to explain that this Apple ad is a just a high-budget low-effort rip-off of Hydraulic Press Channel, and not some philosophical piece. HPC guy seems to have similar opinion (at 11:00).

        Reply
        1. lambert strether

          Nonsense. You’re saying the ad was a purpose-less, random ripoff with no subtext? GTFO

          Reply
  28. Butch

    In my nearly 50 years of carpentry/ trades I have never heard “the tools do not make the craftsman.” What I have been taught from the beginning is “it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools.”

    Reply
  29. steppenwolf fetchit

    An 8 minute video-ad which seems the spiritual opposite of this Apple ad was created by Alfing-Kessler of Germany to describe what it does to potential buyers and other interested people. This ad valorizes and elevated the “merely vocational” work of “mere vocationals” who “merely make” mere “physical things”. In this case elaborate crankshafts for the worlds biggest type engines. It is in German so I can’t understand it.
    Still, I watch it sometimes for inspiration if-when I want to do some heavy-labor garden work or sometimes for no specific reason at all.

    Here is the link.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pGBHZuq9FY

    ( If you have “metalsexual tendencies” you might find some very good “metalporn” in this video.)

    Reply

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