Shackle-Feats: The poisoned Apple

This is a mail I sent as listener comment to Free as in Freedom.

Hi Bradley, Hi Karen,

I am currently listening to your Steve Jobs show (yes, late, but time is scarce these days).

And I side with Karen (though I use KDE): Steve Jobs managed to make a user interface which feels very natural. And that is no problem in itself. Apple solved a problem: User interfaces are hard to use for people who don’t have computer experience and who don’t have time to learn using computers right.

But they then used that solution to lure people into traps they set up to get our money and our freedom.

As analogy: A friend of mine told me, that Photoshop gives her Freedom, because she can do things with it, which she can’t do with anything else. And she’s right on that: She gets a kind of freedom. But she has to give up other freedoms for that, for example the freedom to do freelancing work without paying 3000€ up front.

To make the problem with that kind of freedom visible, let’s use one more analogy: When I get a flying car with which I can visit the Himalaya without having to get a drivers license, then I just got the Freedom to actually visit Himalaya. But sadly that car comes with a rule, that I am not allowed to take friends with me, and it does not allow me to drive into cities ruled by left-wing politicians. It costs so much, that I can’t afford another car1, so now if I want to be able to visit Himalaya, I can never take friends with me even when I don’t want to go to Himalaya right now, just to the next shop, and I can’t visit left-wing friends.

That car would give me a kind of Freedom, but it would take away other freedoms I had before I used it. If all people used it, the effects would be horrible, and not just for left-wings and car owners: You would not be able to get a ride from a neighbor when you needed to get to the doctor fast.

Now imagine what would happen, if people would find ways to make money with that flying car. They would create a society, where you have to give up Freedom if you want to get one of the good jobs.

So creating a new kind of Freedom and coupling it with heavy shackles does not give you more Freedom. It creates a situation where people have a harder time living their life when they want to keep their basic freedom, because those shackle-feats become mandatory.

Apple kinda invented the shackle-feat “use shiny computers without understanding them”.
They managed to make shackles almost mandatory for parts of society by creating a pressure on people that they have to be able to do the feat, so they have to accept the shackles.

Now we have to recreate that feat without the shackles so people are able to keep up without losing their freedom. We have to do additional work, because society is being shaped by those who made the shackles.

Best wishes,
Arne Babenhauserheide

PS: Steve Jobs managed to create really nice interfaces. Sadly he used his abilities to shackle people. He once was a hero to me. Even today there is stuff he did that I admire. But he decided to use his abilities for shackling people.

  1. Or it is so different from other cars, that using it for some time makes it necessary for me to relearn other stuff, so using any other car requires a high relearning effort. And for most people, time is as scarce as money. 

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