On i


There is little doubt that Apple is not just a company, it’s a zeitgeist. Apple products inspire brand loyalty that rivals Harley-Davidson’s (Exhibit A), with a reputation centered on quality and innovation.

But there’s something more insidious going on, and it has nothing to do with Apple Fanboys: Apple has taken our identities. Not literally of course, but it has taken our own identifier, “I.” For those interested in the philosophical implications of the self and what it means to be conscious and self-aware, “I” holds great importance. 18th century philosopher David Hume famously explored the concept of the self over time, and the book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is a Pulitzer Prize-winning 800-page tome centered around defining the Self as a “strange loop,” and explores this concept through a wide range of analogies and examples. These are just two of hundreds of works based on “I”.

But what of “i”?

Apple’s iPod has relegated the proper noun “I” to the ranks of standard noun, and instead gives Pod the distinction. The Pod is the Thing, not us. The iMac, the iPhone… iWork, iLife… What happens when we start to use the lower-case “i” to refer to ourselves?:

i think, therefore i am not.

i don’t think this was an intentional move by Apple, but simply an unintended consequence. My feeling is that they used “i” because it looks like an upside-down exclamation point—a purely aesthetic choice. But perhaps they are playing with the use of i to represent imaginary numbers in mathematics, and used this to embed the concept of “imagination.” Or maybe “innovation” is the suggestion. But the connection between the imaginary and the self is a dark philosophical notion, one that we are all familiar with after having watched The Matrix.

At the end of the day the concept works brilliantly from a marketing perspective. To get someone to fall in line and do your bidding, you must first break the will. You must destroy your subject’s sense of importance and worth. “I am nothing.” Or, rather:

iThink, therefore iBuy.


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