With driving fatalities rising at levels not seen in 50 years, the growing incidence of distracted driving is getting part of the blame. Now a lawsuit related to that 2013 Texas crash is raising a question: Does Apple — or any cellphone maker or wireless company — have a responsibility to prevent devices from being used by drivers in illegal and dangerous ways?
The product liability lawsuit, filed against Apple by families of the victims, contends that Apple knew its phones would be used for texting and did not prevent Ms. Kubiak from texting dangerously. The suit is unlikely to succeed, legal experts said, and a Texas magistrate in August preliminarily recommended the case’s dismissal on grounds that it was unlikely that lawyers could prove that the use of the iPhone caused the fatal accident. [...]
The product liability case has brought to light a piece of evidence that legal and safety experts say puts Apple in a quandary — one it shares with other wireless companies. In Apple’s case, the evidence shows, the company has a patent for technology designed to prevent texting while driving, but it has not deployed it.
So it’s not so much that the feature is dangerous but that the experience of enabling it on a second Mac is really poorly designed.
By now, Percy’s contempt for this cliché — the traveler so busy with documentation that he misses out on some phantom called the “experience itself” — has itself become a cliché. But we are not much closer to resolving the fundamental paradox of travel, which is just one version of the fundamental paradox of late-capitalist life. On the one hand, we have been encouraged to believe that we are no longer the sum of our products (as we were when we were still an industrial economy) but the sum of our experiences. On the other, we lack the ritual structures that once served to organize, integrate and preserve the stream of these experiences, so they inevitably feel both scattershot and evanescent. We worry that photographs or journal entries keep us at a remove from life, but we also worry that without an inventory of these documents — a collection of snow globes for the mantel — we’ll disintegrate. Furthermore, that inventory has to fulfill two slightly different functions: It must define us as at once part of a tribe (“people who go to Paris”) and independent of it (“people who go to Paris and don’t photograph the Eiffel Tower”).
Now that social media has given us a public forum, both theatrical stage and deposit institution, for this inventory, we have brought to this paradox increasingly elaborate methods of documentary performance. But the underlying strategies are nothing new. The most elementary strategy is the avoidance of the Grand Canyon/Eiffel Tower conundrum entirely, but this works only if you’re confident that you’ve identified a satisfying alternative. (As Paul Fussell put it in his 1979 book “Abroad,” “Avoiding Waikiki brings up the whole question of why one’s gone to Hawaii at all, but that’s exactly the problem.”) Another is to forefront our own inauthenticity as a disclaimer. In his 1987 book “The Songlines,” Bruce Chatwin described his lifelong attempt to write a book about nomads as a repudiation of his earlier involvement with art: “I quit my job in the ‘art world’ and went back to the dry places: alone, travelling light. The names of the tribes I travelled among are unimportant: Rguibat, Quashgai, Taimanni, Turkomen, Bororo, Tuareg — people whose journeys, unlike my own, had neither beginning nor end.” People, that is, who had a motive for travel that went well beyond the vanity of documentation.
Three years after the demise of Google Readers, it seems that a lot of the third-party podcast clients on the App Store are relying only on a centralized server for feed information.
I hope Apple's podcast player doesn't change to that model too.
Thanks for reading.