Apple’s New iPad Pro Ad Boasts Of Replacing The Real With The Digital

Our addictions to personal digital devices are making us lonely, isolated, and miserable. It doesn’t have to be this way…

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f nothing else, Apple’s horrible ad announcing the new iPad Pro has the virtue of being brutally honest. The one-minute clip opens with an old vinyl playing Sonny and Cher’s “All I Ever Need Is You,” and then shows an industrial press slowly crushing an eclectic assortment of old musical instruments, paint and art supplies, and Gen X-era toys and tchotchkes.

In other words, it destroys a bunch of stuff that makes life fun, unique, interesting, and fully human.

After all that old stuff — the quirky objects and sentimental artifacts of the pre-digital era — has been flattened under the inexorable weight of machine technology, the press lifts up to reveal the new iPad Pro. The message is so obvious it hardly needs to be spelled out: This thin digital tablet is supposed to replace — and supersede — all these clunky, analog, obsolete things. All you need, we are made to understand, is this new piece of digital technology, this iPad. The rest, the detritus of the real world, can simply be destroyed.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook posted the ad on X and commented, “Just imagine all the things it’ll be used to create.” (An odd comment, after just showing us all the things it’ll be used to destroy.)

The message was not well received. Hugh Grant, retweeting Cook’s post, succinctly put it on X like this: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.” 

Grant is right. It’s hard to imagine a better visual depiction of the way Big Tech flattens and destroys art and creativity, replacing our very natural, human experience of the physical world with a shiny digital simulacrum of it. And what a contrast the ad is to Apple’s iconic 1984 ad, which promised that technology could liberate us from the crushing tyranny of Big Brother. Instead, Apple is now promising to destroy the physical means of human creativity (musical instruments, arts and crafts supplies, whimsical toys) and replace it with their cold, soulless technology — the fake replacing the real. 

In that sense, Apple is at least telling the truth. The triumph of the digital over the analog in our time is undeniable, and it has undeniably been a disaster. We’ve become disconnected from the world, alienated from the givenness of physical reality, with all its limitations and contingencies — limitations, by the way, that were salutary because they pushed and inspired us to be creative and innovative. Apple of course is hardly alone in this. Every Big Tech firm subscribes to the pernicious ideology exemplified by this new iPad ad, from Mark Zuckerberg’s creepy “Metaverse” to Apple’s ridiculous Vision Pro headset released last summer, heralding an “era of spatial computing … where digital content blends seamlessly with your physical space.” 

But digital content does not and cannot blend seamlessly with physical space. It tends instead to separate you from physical space, alienate you from other people, and destroy authentic community. 

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No wonder then that the emergence of social media and the iPhone about 15 years ago triggered a sustained increase in anxiety, depression, and antisocial behavior, especially among young people. Today, teenagers are increasingly uninterested in the real world or even in real relationships. Instead of going out, they stay in on their devices. The same is true of young Americans who in an earlier era would be coupling up. A growing number of them have had no romantic relationships and do not expect to have any.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The proliferation of digital technology promised to connect people, but it has instead created a populace that’s lonely, depressed, isolated, and addicted to smartphones, porn and social media. It has also diverted us away from the physical world, from hobbies and activities, sports and nature, live music and real community. In place of these concrete goods, we’ve been given a steady stream of low-level dopamine hits, delivered by increasingly powerful (and portable) digital devices like Apple’s iPad Pro. 

But instead of merely mocking Apple for its creepy, tone-deaf ad, we should walk away from these digital slot machines altogether. It might mean adjusting our habits or putting up with a bit more inconvenience, but there’s no good reason we have to be on our devices 24/7. There’s honestly no reason most of us even need these devices. If we all got rid of our iPads and smartphones, if we all deleted our idiotic apps and got offline more often, we’d all be a lot happier.

Remember, companies like Apple want to destroy everything that makes life enjoyable and get us addicted to digital products that simulate reality. We don’t have to let them. ✪

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