I found it quite a stretch to call manufacturing exactly identical iPhones "truly one of our civilization’s greatest accomplishments". An impressive feat, to be sure, but pretty far down there on my "greatest accomplishments of civilization" list, after democracy, basic medicine, space exploration, etc.
The general point is a good one though! It's true that simplicity is often invoked as an excuse for laziness, and authentic simplicity can be very difficult to achieve. I think that developers/designers sometimes confuse simplicity of their process with simplicity of the end result. The latter is really all that matters.
Hi, I'm the author. Thanks for your thoughts. Think about it less literally. Remember the part where the machine choses from one of 725 variations on a part? Think about all that goes behind that. It's the accumulation of decades of hard work that has led to technological advances in manufacturing processes and hardware designs to lead to this moment. No other civilization in history could have dreamt of manufacturing something so refined on this scale, so (relatively) cheaply. And think about the historical macro-scale of the iPhone and Mobile in general. The Massai warrior in Kenya has more information in his phone than Nixon did in the White house. That is a civilization-scale accomplishment.
If you want to point to general manufacturing processes and advancements as one of "civilization's greatest accomplishments", that's one thing, but you appear to be specifically talking about the iPhone as if that product itself is anywhere near a greatest accomplishment of civilization.
I didn't read it as such, but can understand how it could have come off that way. The author seemed to be speaking with enough generality that each example was just a pit stop along the much broader thread of the post.
I think you are not fully realizing the changes the world has undergone in the last twelve years. The convergence of Moore's law, nearly ubiquitous internet connectivity, Google, interaction design, machine intelligence, solid state storage, cheap, precise manufacturing, and hardware/software efficiency that produced something like the iPhone is a monumental human achievement. Think about how it has changed the way you work, the way you travel, the way you learn, the way you communicate, and the way you entertain yourself. Don't know something? Let's google it. I'll pull my microcomputer out of my pocket, connect to this vast
storage of data that comprises nearly every fact that has ever been discovered, query it by keyword, download and render it to a screen that I can manipulate with my fingers as if the things on it were tangible, read/view/watch it, and share it with hundreds or thousands of people instantly.
It was science fiction when I graduated high school at the millennium. Now, people consider it as common as newsprint.
"This newfound state of No Future is, in my opinion, a very good thing. It indicates a kind of maturity, an understanding that every future is someone else’s past, every present someone else’s future. Upon arriving in the capital-F Future, we discover it, invariably, to be the lower-case now."