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Sci-Tech: Apple walks off the edge of the cliff — who’s next?

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One of the underlying themes of UD is that we need to be aware of how big, powerful institutions and organisations can go wrong. A typical rhetorical response to that, is to dismiss such concerns as mere ill-founded, empty conspiracist theorising.

So, it is appropriate to point out a striking case that shows how easily institutions and organisations can lock in a group think mentality and march right over the cliff:

Of Lemmings, marches of folly and cliffs of self-falsifying absurdity . . .

Before reading the Business Insider clip below, ask yourself, do you think that no-one in Apple ever paused and asked whether this was a sound idea? Then, ponder why the firm marched in lockstep right over a cliff like this:

>>Apple confirmed a longtime conspiracy theory — and gave regular customers a big reason to distrust it

  • Apple on Wednesday admitted it had been secretly throttling the performance of older iPhones.
  • The admission outraged even some of the company’s biggest fans.
  • Customers have good reason to be distrustful of the company and to suspect its motives.

[ . . . ]

Apple has long inspired an almost religious devotion among customers and tech aficionados — but it just seriously undermined its fans’ faith and loyalty.

The company on Wednesday acknowledged what some people have long suspected: that it has been secretly stifling the performance of older iPhones.

Critics have accused the company in the past, based on anecdotal evidence, of purposely slowing phones to compel users to upgrade to the latest model. While Apple admitted to the practice on Wednesday, it sought to underscore that it had done so for a purely altruistic reason: to prevent older phones from shutting down unexpectedly.

The justification hasn’t mollified Apple’s outraged fans. If anything, the company’s statement has stoked the conspiracy theories, and for good reason . . . . If Apple didn’t acknowledge that it was throttling older phones until one year after it started doing so, what else is the company not telling customers? Why should iPhone users believe the company’s explanation for why it’s throttling phones? And why should they believe that it only started doing that a year ago?

Such questions might sound like the ravings of conspiracy theorists. But in this case, the conspiracymongers were proved right: Apple was slowing down its phones. And there are rational reasons to think the company may not be offering a full explanation why . . . >>

Does this pattern sound familiar?

What do you think will happen once the sort of domineering behaviour and ideological censorship too often found in institutions of science and science education as well as the media and government become common knowledge?

Will modern civilisation recover from falling off that cliff?

Food for thought. END

PS: Let me add an analysis of how marches of folly go over the cliff’s edge:

26 Replies to “Sci-Tech: Apple walks off the edge of the cliff — who’s next?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Apple makes a gobsmackingly obvious blunder, demonstrating the problem of lockstep marches over the edge of a cliff — the much derided conspiracy theorists were right. So, what about other cases? Who’s next?

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    Planned obsolescence is a very old marketing technique. Every business uses it in one way or another.

    The scary part is that the tech-tyrants have perfect and constant control of everything in your house. Before the “smart” era, you could choose to resist obsolescence. You could keep your old unfashionable Chevy or Frigidaire until it got crashed or rusted beyond repair. Now you can’t choose to be unfashionable. The manufacturer can turn the device off permanently if you are slow to comply.

    Comrade O’Brien has achieved total victory.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Polistra, this cements my now longstanding decision to turn away from and steer clear of Apple products. I also have questions about Google (including Android) and Microsoft (cf. Windows). I am hearing that Linux can run some useful emulators or near-/non- emulators — I see Virtual Box, VM Ware and WINE in a day and age of cheap high capacity RAM and multicore processors — that would allow one to use a solid open source OS and run what one wishes. But the bigger issue is the monopolistic mentality that here does what can reasonably be seen as exploiting and misleading the consumer. If the system had done something like, notifying that your battery is showing itself weak and we are in limp-home mode to prevent a sudden lock-off, that would be different. And that surfaces the next thing, making it very hard to fix things. Built in junk it mentality, where electronics on the production side all the way back to mining and refining, can in many parts be among the dirtiest of industries. That had to cross someone’s mind, but it was suppressed, now we have an explosion and likely alienated customers and potential customers. The implications for other powerful organisations and institutions are there to be read, too. KF

  4. 4
    Dionisio says:

    What else is new?

    It’s been dubbed the “diesel dupe”. In September[2015], the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many VW cars being sold in America had a “defeat device” – or software – in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results. The German car giant has since admitted cheating emissions tests in the US.

    Volkswagen: The scandal explained
    By Russell Hotten
    Business reporter, BBC News
    10 December 2015
    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772

    Same old, same old.

    Emphasis added.

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. Luke 16:14

    Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 1 Timothy 3:2-3

    For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:10

    For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, […] 2 Timothy 3:2

    Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

  6. 6
    Molson Bleu says:

    When I think of conspiracy theories I don’t think of things like this. This is just big business doing something ethically questionable and then trying to spin it as something that benefits the customer. Companies have been doing this forever.

    When I think of “conspiracy theories” I think of things like Area 51, UFO abductions, the US government being complicit in 9/11, Pizzagate, the grassy knoll, faking the moon landing and things like that. “Conspiracy Theories” tend to be held strongly by people on the fringe of society and quickly fall apart upon a minimum of investigation.

    Apple’s explanation of why they did this almost makes sense. But where their explanation falls apart is the fact that they didn’t market this as an advantage to iPhone users in advance.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, we didn’t label this a conspiracy theory, it has been circulating for years and we are here dealing with the flagship product of what was at one time the single most capitalised company in the world. The dynamics at work are identical to those in other institutions and communities running out of control, and the scoffing dismissiveness is the same. So, this serves as a wake up call before dismissing too readily when there is some significant evidence, even when what is being said is not the conventional wisdom. It also points to the way to resolve such issues: go to the facts that ground or cut off grounds for the concerns being raised. Where, we need to be very aware that message dominance by the powerful can readily suppress inconvenient facts and evidence, even leading to unjust convictions and incarceration or worse, much worse. Where, too, it is little oddities in the story being pushed by the powerful that are the only clue that an ordinary person gets that something is not right here. In this case, no good explanation for a pattern of performance loss that was increasingly evident. And now that a partial acknowledgement is there, it still does not add up. Sometimes, it is the despised fringes who have the better of the case, so it is to the merits we must go. KF

    PS: As thread owner, I will not be entertaining running off on all sorts of side-tracks on various theories or issues.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    Q: What is it that energises and carries a march of folly over the edge of a cliff, especially in a situation with significant democratic elements? {Hint: cf discussion here, also, here.]

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Added to the OP, an infographic on the challenge of change before things break and send one over the cliff’s edge.

  10. 10
    Seversky says:

    The reason why the notoriously secretive Apple was forced to explain why their older models of iPhones were being throttled back is because researchers had produced good evidence that it was happening. That’s a far cry from claims that Hilary Clinton and her cronies were running a nationwide pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza restaurant.

    If anything is a measure of the decline of Western civilization it is the alarmingly large number of people who apparently believe in the mos-t outrageous conspiracy theories. That and the election of a US president who fulfills Mencken’s prophecy.

  11. 11
    critical rationalist says:

    People have claimed Apple has been blanket throttling older devices for several years. Those people were only imagining it as this change was only recently deployed within in the last year. Nor did Apple globally throttle those specific devices in such a way designed to motivate purchasing a new phone. Rather it specifically targeted situations where depleted batteries under peak load would shut down the device due to excessive voltage drops.

    “Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6S and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.”

    That release was specifically indicated to solve a problem where, you guessed it, devices were shutting down. And it added a indication that the device’s battery needed servicing.

    Apple is apparently adding a feature in the latest beta that would allow the auto-restart of the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 models. Apple will also add a message that reads “your battery needs service” inside the Settings app of iOS 10.2.1 over the next few days.

    And what happened when a replacement battery was installed? Performance returned under peak load.

    If Apple was trying to get users to upgrade, why not throttle all older phones including the iPhone 5 and 5s? Why not throttle them all the time, instead of during peak load?

  12. 12
    JSmith says:

    S

    That’s a far cry from claims that Hilary Clinton and her cronies were running a nationwide pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza restaurant.

    Especially when the pizza restaurant doesn’t have a basement. 🙂

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev and JS, I suggest you return to focus; I only note that there is in fact evidence of a global rollup on sexual abuse including paedophilia. WJM’s remarks early this year are being borne out by facts, bit by bit. Where the latest chapter seems to be high-level employees at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft in Seattle being involved with prostitutes. Lolita Air comes to mind. And, I am satisfied that Pizza and Hotdogs have been used as pederasty code words to refer to underage girls and boys respectively (for fairly obvious reasons); which was the primary reference. As for Apple, its admission has been telling and this confirms me in my 1990’s decision to move away from their products. KF

  14. 14
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF,

    So what should Apple have done differently?

    Not smooth out the peaks when the user’s batter is depleted? That would have resulted in phones continuing to shut down intermittently and, if out of warranty, they would have needed to get a new phone.

    So, it seems to me that Apple’s software throttling at peak load has extended the life of user’s phones, not shortened it.

    Part of the confusion seems to the that Geekbench is a benchmark which is explicitly designed to put a device under peak load. So, of course, thats were you would see a slowdown. But running a benchmark is not normal operating conditions. It’s not a blanket slowdown.

  15. 15
    critical rationalist says:

    Where the latest chapter seems to be high-level employees at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft in Seattle being involved with prostitutes.

    They don’t call it the oldest profession for nothing. This is not anything new. Nor are all sex workers cases of human trafficking. Even one case is one to many, but it’s not always the case.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, if Apple had simply put up a warning window with a statement as to what was happening — say a limp-home mode, why, there would not have been a breakdown of transparency and then of trust. That HAD to have occurred to someone in the organisation, so the fact that it instead went to silent slowdown raises all sorts of questions. Especially given the monopolistic conduct of the firm. KF

    PS: Apparently, there is a predominance of Korean women involved which raises not just human trafficking but espionage and extortion of confidential information.

  17. 17
    critical rationalist says:

    KF: That HAD to have occurred to someone in the organisation, so the fact that it instead went to silent slowdown raises all sorts of questions. Especially given the monopolistic conduct of the firm. KF

    Again, you seem to be confused as these devices do not “go” into a “limp home” mode, which implies it transitions into a mode where the device is constantly throttled at all times. Rather, it only throttles the device when actual load would cause the device to shut down. The benchmark in question continually puts the device in peak load, which isn’t normal operating conditions. And it even happens when the device gets very cold, which mimics the voltage drop that happens with depleted batteries.

    This is addressed in detail, here, when the original update was released and here after the clarification was made about that update.

    Back in February…

    As far as I’m able to understand what happened here, Apple found that sudden spikes of activity to the maximum power draw could cause older batteries, which had some mileage on them, to deliver power in an uneven manner, which would cause an emergency shutdown of the devices. Brand new batteries would not be affected, but as most phone batteries run through charge cycles they get less effective (this is a well-known byproduct of lithium-ion technology and one reason everyone wants to get rid of it as soon as someone figures out something better) and more susceptible to these kinds of triggering spikes.

    Whatever tweaks Apple made to its power management system have enabled them to reduce the shutdowns heavily — but not eliminate them entirely. For those cases where a device still shuts down, folks will be able to restart without having to plug it in on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus devices.

    It’s also my understanding that there is a fix in on the newer beta versions of iOS that should allow the auto-restart in iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 models, as well.

    At some point a battery will be so worn out that it will need to be replaced, as Apple outlines on its site. A new “your battery needs service” message is also coming to the battery info screen inside Settings on iOS 10.2.1 over the next few days. This will only show up for batteries that Apple feels need it — which will add a bit more transparency to people wondering when Apple considers the battery worn down enough to get swapped out. Though the exact metrics by which it decides that a battery has reached end-of-life are still opaque, Apple does give some hints on its own page about maximum charges and lifetime.

    After the clarification from Apple….

    Last year, Apple also added a notification for the user when the battery gets to a really rough state, but it’s pretty conservative about that, so it will likely not trigger until well after iOS feels it should start capping the max power draw from batteries. Just as an FYI.

    Basically, if your phone is cold, has a low battery charge or has an aged battery, it will be unable to supply peak current. Period.

    I think there’s an argument here that many people will never, ever see this happening. It is applied only when maximum power draw is required of the battery, e.g. when you are doing something intense with your iPhone like playing a game or using 3D applications. But clearly some people are seeing a pervasive triggering of this limiter.

    This will not affect the average performance of your device, and it is emphatically not throttling; it’s capping the peak demands and not allowing them to be as high — and spreading that work out over more cycles rather than one.

    However…

    I think one thing that can be argued here is that there is a balance to be struck between giving people too much information and not enough information. If you give a user enough rope they will hang themselves, so to speak, by replacing batteries too early or replacing phones that don’t need replacing.

    But, as a matter of transparency, I think that beyond saying very publicly that they are doing this power management (which they have now done twice), there could be an avenue here to be more aggressive and transparent with the user about when their battery is directly affecting the peak performance of their iPhone.

    “I think users who experience significant slowdowns due to battery wear would want Apple to be more transparent about this issue,” says Poole. “A notification stating that the battery needs service would be a simple way to reduce users’ concerns and help them address this problem.”

    Roughly, the three points for possible improvement I see here are as follows:

    Apple should examine whether the gap is too large between when the algorithm starts smoothing out the peaks of performance and when they’re notified that their performance is taking a hit due to battery age. If a person is noticing (and it seems they are, given the discussion threads and social activity on this) that their phone is running slower, then they need to know why.

    The point at which iOS will tell you that your battery has gone to hell is currently very, very conservative. Perhaps this can be set to be more aggressive. Then, of course, users will complain that Apple is cash-grabbing on battery replacements, but humans will remain humans.

    It’s clear that people just didn’t understand that protecting an iPhone with an older battery was going to directly affect performance. Perhaps this is a failing of Apple messaging or a failure of myself (and other journalists) in not explaining it as clearly as possible.

    This is not malicious behavior. Not is there a complete lack of commutation on Apple’s part.

    To contrast, Samsung and other Android OEMs shipped modified versions of the OS that would detect when it was running a benchmark and give it priority to get better scores. This is similar to how Volkeswagon put code in their ECU’s firmware to reduce horsepower to get better emissions scores when it detected when the EPA was running at test.

    The test results are not fake, but they are “artificial as the device can’t sustain such performance levels without overheating or rapidly draining the battery, which is why it is cheating.”

    Why and how do OEMs cheat on benchmarking?

    The State of Cheating in Android Benchmarks

    AFWK, Apple does not do this.

    Apple is doing the opposite here. They are throttling the device when it detects the voltage of a battery is insufficient to prevent an unexpected shutdown under heavy load, such as while running the Geekbench test.

  18. 18
    JSmith says:

    KF

    PS: Apparently, there is a predominance of Korean women involved which raises not just human trafficking but espionage and extortion of confidential information.

    I know I will regret asking, but what are you talking about?

  19. 19
  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, a little transparency would have gone a long way, which is what I pointed out. Now, they will pay in lost goodwill. KF

  21. 21
    JSmith says:

    KF

    JS, a case. KF

    That still doesn’t answer the question. The only reason I as is that your original comment about Korean women makes you sound like an ignorant racist. If that is the impression you wanted to portray, that is fine with me. But I wanted to give you the chance to explain before readers jumped to that conclusion.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, implying objection to human trafficking of Korean women would make me sound racist? And reference to the SMICE factors? Really now. KF

  23. 23
    JSmith says:

    KF

    JS, implying objection to human trafficking of Korean women would make me sound racist? And reference to the SMICE factors? Really now. KF

    No. Implying that Apple hiring Korean women links them to human trafficking would make you a racist. Which is exactly what your comment, without further explanation, which I requested, implies.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, I have said nothing, absolutely nothing about Apple hiring Korean women. You have made up and set up then knocked over an imaginary strawman, perhaps reflecting your already corrected undue suspicion towards Christians and certainly reflecting a hermeneutic of suspicion. In context, I spoke to a current case involving prostitution and employees of several high-tech companies. In that context there was some mention of asian prostitutes, and that they were {i assume predominantly] Korean. The security issues are obvious, if you have the slightest familiarity with the Profumo affair in the UK. KF

  25. 25
    critical rationalist says:

    CR, a little transparency would have gone a long way, which is what I pointed out. Now, they will pay in lost goodwill. KF

    You mean a little more transparency, as I pointed out there were indications when a devices battery was severely depleted.

    And, as the article indicated, that could have just as well been interpreted as trying to get users to buy new batteries or devices as well.

    Did you actually read the articles? Or are you just bound and determined to remain ignorant on the subject?

  26. 26
    JSmith says:

    KF

    In context, I spoke to a current case involving prostitution and employees of several high-tech companies. In that context there was some mention of asian prostitutes, and that they were {i assume predominantly] Korean.

    KF, I apologize. My comment was based on a response you had to CR. The first part of your comment talked about Apple’s business ethics (as per the OP) and then a PS about Korean women and human trafficking that appeared to come out of the blue. It wasn’t until I looked back to all of CR’s comment that I realized that you were responding to the second part of it.

    Again, I give you my unqualified apology.

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