Apple Think: Characteristics of Working in a Ring with Echoes

December 30, 2022

Have you been reminded to think in 360 degrees. The idea, as I recall, is to look at a problem, opportunity, or action from different angles. Instead of screwing up because a decider verifies a preconceived idea, the 360 method is supposed to avoid overlooking the obvious.

What about those Apple AirTags? Was 360 degree think in operation when the idea of finding a lost phone was hatched? In my opinion, an Apple AirTag is useful for many good news use cases. iPhone users will want several, maybe six, maybe a dozen. Just clip one on a key ring, and in theory one can locate those keys. Find your luggage. Keep an eye on the cat. The trick is to sign up for the assorted Apple services which make the AirTag function.

Many Apple employees work in a circular structure which looks like a hula hoop. Could the building be a concretization of the metaphor for 360 degree thinking? If so, I cannot understand why the AirTag application for stalking was not identified as a use case? What about tracking an expensive auto so a car thief can drive off after the owner leaves the vehicle at the mall? Could an assassin use the AirTag to verify the target was at a location without having to use other means to achieve the kind of future Mr. Putin envisions for Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

Did the Apple professionals doing 360 degree thinking in the circular building consider these applications of the AirTag? My hunch is that Apple does Ring Think. It makes money, but the unforeseen consequences appear to be mere downstream details.

What about iPhone’s ability to detect a user who is in a car crash. The idea is that an accident is detected by the iPhone. Authorities are notified. Help is dispatched. Perfect. Has something been overlooked by Ring Think via the 360 degree analysis.

You decide.

Apple Watch and iPhone Crash Detection Software an Issue for Search and Rescue Crews” reports:

One of the new features on the iPhone and Apple Watch is crash detection. It is designed to detect car crashes and if needed, alert the local authorities.

Perfect. Car crash. Alert authorities. What did the Apple wizards overlook? Here’s a quote from the write up:

“It’s quite sophisticated,” Dwight Yochim, a senior manager with the B.C. Search and Rescue Association told Global News. “It [the crash detection in an iPhone] recognizes a sudden change in speed, sound of crunching metal and glass and even the airbag deploying. But for whatever reason, people in the backcountry and maybe it’s just our B.C. backcountry enthusiasts, they’re just hardcore, and the falling and the kind of crashing through the woods literally is setting it off.”

Apple allegedly has issued software to help address the accidental alert. These unintentional, accidental alerts have consequences. The write up reports that Mr. Yochim said:

“We do 2,000 calls a year now. And we did a report a couple of years ago that showed that we’re probably going to hit 3,000 in about 10 years. So the more of these false calls we have, the more time it takes away from our members,” Yochim said. “They’re putting in 400,000 hours now in training, administration and incidents. And so every one of these calls is four or five hours for a dozen people to respond. Then you find out there’s some puzzled subject at the end going, ‘I didn’t even realize I activated it’.”

I am not all that interested in AirTags and automatic alerts. The issue is that these are two specific examples of functionality that has a number of applications. Some good and some bad.

However, what less visible, more subtle examples of failed 360 analysis and Ring Think are in the Apple ecosystem? What if some of the flubs and ignored applications have far greater consequences. Instead of knowing a human trafficker will target an individual for abduction, the latent use case is invisible and will emerge without warning?

What’s the responsibility of a company which relies on Ring Think to minimize the impact of their innovations?

Here’s a thought for the New Year: There is no remediation. Society has to live with technical activities. Therefore, why should an Apple type of organization leave its spaceship shaped structure and worry about a kidnapped child?

Why bother? Or, it’s not our problem because we are only human. And, my fave, we’re not able to predict the future. But the big reason is look at the good our work does.

Yep, I got it.

Stephen E Arnold, December 30, 2022


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