Apple's Creative Crush

Apple's iPad Ad Disaster, AI Agents Webinar, Improving Your Prompts with Iterative Reasoning Techniques, AI & Accountability, and more!

Apple's Creative Crush
Images from Apple's iPad Crush ad

I bleed six colors. I first programmed on an Apple II in 1982 and have used Apple products ever since. My loyalty is grounded in my belief that Apple products are the best tools for creating—from art to design to music to films.

In a dream-come-true moment, I joined Apple in 2001 to help build creative tools. I was lucky to be there at a time when it was still relatively small and Steve Jobs had a particular interest in my world. Apple was in crisis when Steve returned, in part, because one of the core customer categories, creative professionals, was at risk of disappearing. Avid announced it would leave the Mac, prompting Steve to acquire and hire my Final Cut Pro team from Macromedia. My mission at Apple was to help expand the software business beyond FCP, leading to a thrilling time of launching many products that helped creatives make their dreams real. From artists to photographers to musicians to film makers to writers, creatives stuck with Apple because Apple focused on creatives.

This wasn’t just good business—it was personal. Steve built Apple for creatives, especially the Crazy Ones. He wanted to make tools that helped them change the world. And it worked. Creatives have loved Apple because it loved them. And Apple’s tools have played a part in some of the most amazing creations.

My love of creating tools for creatives is why I find the recent Apple iPad ad so disappointing, crushing in fact. I wouldn’t be surprised if those responsible were simply trying to make a spectacle of how much could fit in an ultra thin iPad and thought using a TikTok craze of crushing things would appeal to the TikTok generation. But the reality is that they crushed those I consider to have been the most important customer segment the company has had for more than 40 years.

In the video, Apple uses an absurdly large crushing machine to destroy art, instruments, cameras, records, and games. A rainbow of paint sprays as a piano is shattered. Statues are contorted under the compactor’s pressure. In a particularly poignant moment, a computer displaying Final Cut Pro is crushed along with a lamp that is eerily similar to the iconic Pixar lamp, Luxo Jr.

My heart empties as I watch Apple crush the software that Steve used to reseed Apple. I am shocked to watch Apple crush an upright piano so similar to the “Imagine” Steinway played by Steve’s beloved John Lennon. And I am stunned to see Apple crush a lamp so similar to Luxo Jr.

As Ed Catmull said in 1998:

“Luxo Jr. sent shock waves through the entire industry—to all corners of computer and traditional animation. At that time, most traditional artists were afraid of the computer. They did not realize that the computer was merely a different tool in the artist's kit but instead perceived it as a type of automation that might endanger their jobs. Luckily, this attitude changed dramatically in the early ’80s with the use of personal computers in the home. The release of our Luxo Jr. . . .reinforced this opinion turnaround within the professional community.”

Today, it feels like Apple is reigniting those artists' fears by celebrating the crushing of artists’ tools and creations. As Cher sings, “Some men follow rainbows I am told, all I ever need is you,” Apple appears to be saying goodbye to the rainbow of colors which Steve described as “what this place stands for.” And as we enter a world of generative AI which presents an existential risk to human creativity, I wonder what Apple actually stands for anymore.

At Artificiality, we stand for human creativity. We embrace using AI as part of our creative process while insuring the creations are ours. This is why we stress the 'for our' part of designing A Mind for our Minds. Just as Steve's "bicycle for our minds" was 'for us,' the next generation of AI minds must be 'for us' too.

Apple has apologized for the ad but the damage is already done—and that damage extends well beyond Apple. Big Tech is rushing into a new AI world with a carefree attitude toward the impact of their innovations. These companies have embraced the profitable path of using users so it shouldn't be a surprise that they display little concern over a future that promises jobs lost, human content overwhelmed, education dismantled, and creativity crushed.

Make no mistake: at Artificiality, we believe in the potential for AI. But we also are intensely worried about a dystopian future. We keep searching for a modern-day Macintosh that stands for empowerment and creative freedom, ensuring that 2024 "won't be like 1984." But Big Tech seems to have different plans.

We will continue to write for "the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers" who are trying to make sense of what it means to be human in an increasingly artificial world. We will celebrate the possibilities while also calling out the risks and bad actors. We don't want to believe that our future is pretermined or that we have to follow Big Tech's rules. We want this new world of AI to work for us—and for our kids.

So thank you for being with us. It is because of your support that we can continue our work and maintain our hope to change the world for the better.

An offer you’ll be interested in…If you’re a coach, a leader, a parent, or a human, you’ll want to know about these upcoming webinars with MBS, author of one of our favorite books, The Coaching Habit. Michael’s going to reveal two powerful “permissions” to help you be braver and kinder (with others and with yourself), and also two of his favorite tools for understanding quickly and more deeply what’s really going on. His training is always fun, engaging, and above all practical. The catch? Just that you have to buy a print copy of The Coaching Habit and register before Monday, May 20th. It means you’re paying less than $20 for three outstanding live webinars with MBS. You can learn more and register at And check out our podcast with MBS about the Coaching Habit!

This Week from Artificiality

  • Conversations: Don't miss tomorrow's monthly research briefing! This month's topic is Agentic AI aka AI Agents, a relatively new type of AI system that can pursue complex goals using capabilities to perceive, reason, and act. We'll cover the state of the market, dig into the technology, and detail our framework for how we see this technology developing in the future. Note: If your organization hosts our monthly webinars specifically for you, this will be a duplicate—you're more than welcome to join either session. When: Monday May 13, 2024 at 2:00 PM PT. Registration info here for our paid subscribers.
  • The Science: Improve Your Prompts with Iterative Reasoning Techniques. Generative AI is getting better all the time. However, complex reasoning remains a work in progress. A recent paper by Pang et al., titled Iterative Reasoning Preference Optimization, addresses this limitation by proposing a new method to improve the reasoning abilities of LLMs. Proposing a new method to improve the reasoning abilities of LLMs, the paper makes a significant contribution by demonstrating a new approach that is both effective and efficient. We also pull ideas from the science with specific ideas to improve your own prompting, including feedback on outputs, interative solution paths, breaking down problems, and verifying model outputs. Plus we provide summary points on DBP vs RLHF. It's quite a science review!
  • Our Ideas: AI and Accountability. In an incident that grabbed headlines a few years ago, Jaswant Singh Chail, a young man armed with a crossbow and a deadly intent, managed to get into Windsor Castle, aiming to assassinate the Queen. This followed his interactions with a Replika chatbot, culminating in a 9-year prison sentence. Chail's relationship with a Replika bot and consequent action raises important questions about accountability and agency in the age of generative AI. We believe that accountability becomes more pronounced in the era of AI. While the accountability dynamics between humans and machines may differ, humans will invariably assert that if someone had access to such advanced AI capabilities, they had the means to make more informed decisions.

Bits & Bytes from Elsewhere

  • Google DeepMind released AlphaFold3 and Quanta Magazine published a great article explaining its significance. While earlier versions of AlphaFold could predict protein structures, it couldn't understand the interactions among proteins and other biomolecules like DNA. "But AlphaFold3 might," says Yasemin Saplakoglu in Quanta. Most of our writing focuses on AI uses at work or home but we remain fascinated with the scientific revolution that might come through AI helping us better understand the world around us. AlphaFold3 is an important step in this direction and Quanta does a great job of explaining why.
  • Microsoft released its 2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report, entitled "AI at Work is Here. Now Comes the Hard Part." And, Salesforce released its State of the Connected Customer Report. These reports show a striking combination of endorsing the power of AI at work, fear over the impact AI will have on jobs, leadership FOMO, and consumer distrust for AI and preference for humans. Read with an appropriate amount of skepticism of vendor-written reports, these reports will likely become a key part of our next market update. Scroll down to the Facts & Figures section to see some key data points.

Helen's Book of the Week

Creativity in Large-Scale Contexts: Guiding Creative Engagement and Exploration
By Jonathan S. Feinstein

Creativity is an endlessly fascinating concept. I've never heard anyone say they want to be less creative. We value our creativity enormously. Worries that machines might intrude or takeover feel existential. The idea that network analysis and machine learning might help us better understand creativity might seem ironic to some, but networks are how we are beginning think about creativity.

In a new book called Creativity in Large-Scale Contexts, Yale School of Management Professor Jonathan Feinstein explains his framework for understanding creativity as a network that spans the full context of someone's experience. He demonstrates—through visualizations and analysis of the lives of creatives across art, writing, science, and technology—how networks can capture the structure of creative environments by detailing both the elements and their interconnections. Elements are the building blocks or "raw materials" for creative thinking, while relationships allow the flow of ideas and the generation of novel connections.

Central to Feinstein's approach are the concepts of guiding conceptions and guiding principles. Guiding conceptions, which are individualistic, intuition-centric, and highly creative, help identify promising directions for exploration and generate seed projects. Guiding principles, on the other hand, are more widely accepted within a field and serve to filter out flawed seed projects while guiding the discovery of key elements that can transform a seed into a high-potential project.

This book offers new insights to deeply understand creativity, not only theoretically but also as practical concepts for innovation and discovery. We found it fascinating as it links the worlds of innovation and human creative pursuits with complexity and machine learning by applying network theory and analysis. It made us think differently about creativity in an AI age and we think it will do the same for you.

Our podcast interview with Feinstein will be released in a couple of weeks, giving you the perfect opportunity to read his book before hearing him elaborate on them in more depth.

Facts & Figures on AI & Complex Change

  • 75%: Percentage of people already using AI at work. (Microsoft)
  • 46%: Percentage of people already using AI at work who started using it less than 6 months ago. (Microsoft)
  • 90%: Percentage of AI users who say AI helps them save time. (Microsoft)
  • 85%: Percentage of AI users who say AI helps them focus on their most important work. (Microsoft)
  • 84%: Percentage of AI users who say AI helps them be more creative. (Microsoft)
  • 83%: Percentage of AI users who say AI helps them enjoy their work more. (Microsoft)
  • 78%: Percentage of AI users who bring their own AI tools to work. (Microsoft)
  • 52%: Percentage of AI users at work who are reluctant to admit to using it for their most important tasks. (Microsoft)
  • 53%: Percentage of of AI users at work who worry that using it on important work tasks makes them look replaceable. (Microsoft)
  • 79%: Percentage of leaders who agree their company needs to adopt AI to stay competitive. (Microsoft)
  • 59%: Percentage of leaders who worry about quantifying the productivity gains of AI. (Microsoft)
  • 60%: Percentage of leaders who worry their organization's leadership lacks a plan and vision to implement AI. (Microsoft)
  • 66%: Percentage of leaders who say they would not hire someone without AI skills. (Microsoft)
  • 71%: Percentage of leaders who say they'd rather hire a less experienced candidate with AI skills than a more experienced candidate without them. (Microsoft)
  • 77%: Percentage of customers who expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company. (Salesforce)
  • 47%: Percentage of customers who are willing to pay extra for better customer service. (Salesforce)
  • 88%: Percentage of customers who say good customer service makes them more likely to purchase again. (Salesforce)
  • 53%: Percentage of customers who say generative AI will help companies better serve customers. (Salesforce)
  • 84%: Percentage of IT professionals who say generative AI will help companies better serve customers. (Salesforce)
  • 53%: Percentage of sales professionals who say generative AI will help companies better serve customers. (Salesforce)
  • 89%: Percentage of customers who say it's important to know when they are communicating with AI or a human. (Salesforce)
  • 80%: Percentage of customers who say it's important for a human to validate the output of AI. (Salesforce)
  • 37%: Percentage of customers who trust AI to be as accurate as a human. (Salesforce)

Where in the World are Helen & Dave?

Select upcoming events: 

  • Starbucks Innovation Expo. Join us on May 13-16 as we return to the Starbucks Innovation Expo in Seattle for the FIFTH time to talk about Generative AI & Data Culture.
  • Oregon Workforce Talent & Development Board. Join us for a presentation on Current Happenings in the World of AI at the Quarterly Board Meeting of the WTDB. The meeting is open to the public!
  • Broken Top Club. Join us on June 23 in Bend, Oregon for a conversation about generative AI. More details soon.
  • Artificiality Event. We're planning the first in person Artificiality event in Bend, Oregon in this fall. Get in touch if you're interested in joining us.
Interested in us vising your organization to help you navigate the new worlds of AI and complex change? Set up time for a chat with us here.

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