Vanity Fair ran a cover story last week about the new Apple Vision Pro:
I suppose Tim Cook could have looked a little happier in this picture, but the aesthetics of the Vision Pro are not why you buy it. These things are going to look cringe for a while until we all get used to people wearing tech-laced ski goggles on their faces in public.
What matters is the functionality once you’re inside this new world.
Based on all of the tech bro reviews the technology sounds amazing. Vanity Fair had some heavyweight Hollywood directors weigh in as well:
“I would say my experience was religious,” the director James Cameron told me when I asked him about his first encounter with the Apple Vision Pro. “I was skeptical at first. I don’t bow down before the great god of Apple, but I was really, really blown away.” Another prominent filmmaker, Jon Favreau, offered a similar sentiment, telling me he was “blown away” by the technology and what it will do to storytelling. (Favreau created content for Apple specifically to showcase the device’s 3D capabilities, where a dinosaur climbs out of a screen and looks like it wants to eat you.) “I’m excited by what kind of story I can tell now that I couldn’t tell before now,” he said.
I don’t doubt these proclamations. Apple is the king of tech hardware.
I personally have a Mac desktop (and have used a Mac laptop in the past), an iPhone, a few sets of Airpods and an Apple Watch. Oh yeah, I also have subscriptions to Apple Music and Apple TV Plus.1
Apple products are a huge part of my everyday experience.
However, I will not be purchasing an Apple Vision Pro and it’s not just the $3,500 price tag.2
I cringe when I see the pictures of people wearing these headsets in public.
Even Brad Pitt wouldn’t look cool wearing one of these things!
The cringe factor will wear off eventually. And Apple will get better at making this technology less intrusive. It will probably go from ski goggles to sunglasses to implants directly into your corneas (I’m only half kidding).
I’m certain this new spatial technology is going to be huge for Apple.
It’s going to make movies better. It might make airplanes more enjoyable. It’s going to allow NBA fans to feel like they’re sitting courtside while watching the games. It’s going to allow multitasking at a breathtaking scale. Video gaming will be transformed. There will be more stuff I’m not even considering right now.
I’m no good at making predictions about the impact of technological innovation but the early reviews of the Vision Pro make me bullish on the future of Apple.
It also makes me bearish on society at large.
I shudder to think of a world in which mass amounts of people are walking around with goggles on their faces all day. It’s depressing.
Apparently, The Simpsons were all over this one:
We already have enough screens in our lives. Why do we need them drilled directly into our eyeballs like this?
Movies are meant to be watched with other people. Sporting events are meant to be watched with other people. Most work is collaborative by nature.
You shouldn’t need screens and updates everywhere you go.
But Ben we’re already glued to our phone screens — how is this any different?
It’s true smartphones have taken over our lives. We all check them constantly. You can’t just sit there and wait for something anymore. You have to fill the time by quickly scanning your phone for something, anything to keep you occupied.
But a headset is a bridge too far. It’s going to lead to more isolation and loneliness at a time when our young people are already feeling more isolated and lonely than ever before.
A study called State of American Men 2023 paints a bleak picture:
Too many men – especially younger men – are socially disconnected, pessimistic about the future, and turning to online anger. Younger men represented a distinct group in several areas of analysis and are facing higher rates of depressive symptoms, suicidal thoughts, and a sense of isolation, as seen in the agreement of 65 percent that “no one really knows me well.”
Teenage girls are also suffering from historic levels of anxiety and sadness.
Young people don’t go out as much anymore, preferring to stay home. They drink less than prior generations (good for their health but not great for socializing). Young people are now less likely to approach someone in public because they’re more comfortable communicating on the Internet. They’re not having as much sex either.
A record share of 40-year-olds in the U.S. are unmarried.
This obviously isn’t all Apple’s fault. Sure, Steve Jobs helped usher in the smartphone era, but there are too many culprits to name here when it comes to the reasons for these trends.
I just think the creation of the most isolating technology imaginable is going to have a net negative impact on our young people.
The Vision Pro is going to make us more isolated from one another. People are going to prefer interacting through their goggles as opposed to the real world.
Feel free to call me out if you think I’m being too negative here.
Maybe The Simpsons has me pegged too:
Maybe I’m just an out-of-touch middle-aged guy.
I know there’s no stopping the freight train of technological progress.
I’m a generally optimistic person, not some Luddite who wants things to remain the same. Technological innovation has played an enormous role in shaping my career path.
I’m sure this technology is going to have many benefits. It will likely change how we communicate, work, socialize and consume entertainment.
But this is the kind of technological progress that makes me bearish on the implications for society at large.
Count me out on the Apple ski goggles.
The Unintended Consequences of Innovation
1I’m working my way through Slow Horses right now. What a fantastic show.
2I’m sure my kids are going to have one of these someday. They’ll probably enjoy it.