Apple Foundation

7 thoughts
last posted Nov. 2, 2013, 2:54 a.m.
get stream as: markdown or atom

I first had this idea two years ago:

It's only a matter of time before someone writes a recapitulation of the Foundation Trilogy, with Steve Jobs in place of Hari Seldon.

Well, here it is two years later and no one else has done it, so I guess I'm going to get started.



The reason I didn't get started the day I thought of it was that I felt it should be written by an Apple "insider" -- an Apple employee, or at least a long-time tech pundit or Mac user who could fill it with all the little references to Apple personalities, internal politics and company lore that such a project is just begging for.

That said, maybe this thoughtstream can attract some quality suggestions, or grow into some collaboration with such a worthy person. I wouldn't even mind handing it off completely to the right person.

If you want to participate, the ideal way would be for you to form a Thoughtstream of your own with the same name. You could then add your thoughts to the combined Apple Foundation stream, and/or repost specific cards to your stream and add comment. (The combined stream also has an RSS feed to which I am subscribed.)


The plot of Foundation

A genius (Hari Seldon) develops a scientific method to predict the future, and in so doing foresees the fall of the then-dominant Empire and an ensuing Dark Age. Before his death, Seldon uses these new methods to develop an ultra long-range plan to shorten the Dark Age to a mere 10,000 years, beginning with the establishment of a scientific colony (the Foundation) at the edge of the galaxy.

Soon after Seldon's death, the Foundation project begins to evolve in response to a series of crises that Seldon has foreseen.

(See the Wikipedia page for a more detailed overview )


Broad Parallels with Apple

Apple and sci-fi go together like pork and beans. But an Apple send-up of Foundation in particular is a great fit simply because both feature geniuses who were visionaries and made long-range plans before they died -- and the outcome of whose plans were/are under constant speculation and skepticism even as they play out.


The decay of civilization is also a major theme in Foundation. As the Empire goes down, it brings both social order and technology know-how down with it.

This aspect of it might be a tougher fit. While an argument could be made for casting Wintel or Dell or RIM as the decaying Empire, Apple's rise to prominence comes too close on the heels of their decline for there to be a "dark age" corresponding to the one in Foundation.

Another approach might prove more savvy: instead of casting a particular company or set of companies as the Empire, focus instead on the decline of computer literacy itself. I don't know exactly what I mean by that: but I suppose it could be the decline of "hacking"; the decline of the home-grown programmer; the PC market's overall failure to encourage programming-literate creatives; its tendency to incubate monopolies of poor-quality software and hardware.


Now stay with me, because I'm about to make a bit of a stretch here.

Home-grown programmers depend on open tools and easy control of their computers in order to flourish, and "open" is clearly not a mantra for Apple. iOS, for example, is completely closed. You can't distribute a program for iOS without Apple's approval (or without circumventing their controls). Apple might even be seen to be the enemy of hacking, with their increasingly closed and un-repairable hardware.

I'm not going to debate that one way or the other. What I'm suggesting is that this could actually play rather well into a Foundation storyline.

In Foundation, a large part of the initial evolution of Seldon's colony involves concentrating technological know-how into the hands of an elite few, a class of initiates who form a priestly caste that eventually controls most of the technology upon which the neighbouring civilizations depend. All of this is one phase of part of a larger plan to ensure a re-flowering and re-expansion of scientific knowledge and civilization in the far future.

It's much too fanciful to suggest that closing off development and hardware hackability is actually part of a Jobsian plan to make a civilization of computer geniuses. But the Foundation storyline gives it a context that makes it plausible as fiction.


Misc low-hanging fruit

  • Seldon makes holographic recordings of himself that he sets to play at certain dates decades and centuries after his death. In these recordings he appears and explains to whoever happens to be watching the likelihood and significance of events which he has predicted, and which at the time the recording "airs" will have only just occurred. These replays take place in the city's Time Vault, which makes for an obvious play on Apple's Time Capsule backup software. Steve Jobs could appear in an advanced version of an Apple Time Capsule.
  • Power struggles within the Foundation form a big part of its narrative. Something related could be made of the ousting of Scott Forstall, the subsequent rise of Jony Ive and the end of skeuomorphism.