Flip this: Apple’s iPad offers the promise of a porpoise-driven life

After spending the past week getting to know my new Apple iPad, savoring our time together, taking it for long walks hand-in-hand along the Kew Beach boardwalk, gazing at it longingly across the table in the Cafe des deux Magots (or the actual local equivalent, known as “Coffee Time Donuts”), I can report that the device is the vanguard of a revolutionary new kind of business productivity tool: the kind that makes you measurably less productive.

No surprise, then, that the three demographic groups which have leapt upon this groundbreaking device with the greatest enthusiasm, are — no joke — toddlers (read this Ad Age article), the geriatric (see here), and marine mammals (get your head around that one here.) In other words, those without jobs.

It seems that in this Information Age, it doesn’t take much to distract workers from their vital tasks. A couple of weeks ago, when Google briefly posted a time-wasting version of the Pac-Man arcade game on their search page, the United States economy took a US$125 million hit, via lost productivity, according to estimates. “Can you imagine anyone so bored with their job, so lacking in dedication to their organization’s mission, that they would squander the company’s time in the workplace?”, I ask, as I reach across my desk and prepare to fire up one more rousing game of Air Hockey on my magnificent new iPad.

I was showing it off to someone at a conference last week, and their verdict was, “Half tool and half toy. Everyone will want one.” Quite. Except that the iPad seems to combine the practicality and utility of a winsome plaything (say, Mr. Potato Head), with the entertainment value of a prosaic implement (say, the coathanger you’d attempt to use as a corkscrew, if you happened to be locked up in a hotel room with no other means of accessing your bottle of pinot grigio.) Don’t get me wrong, however. I love the look and feel of the iPad, the crisp display and elegant interface, and I am not yet prepared to consider that it may be Steve Jobs’ ultimate joke on an uncaring planet, part of a diabolical scheme to infantilize the global workforce, and turn once-proud professionals into slate-clutching neonates.

Will it transform the delivery of healthcare? Will it open new vistas in the human experience? Will it save the publishing industry, or perform any of the other miracles predicted daily by infatuated technology journalists? Will it one day prove worthy of the odd sobriquet the device earned in the Apple labs: the ‘Jesus Tablet?’ Couldn’t really tell you, old bean. But, as I mentioned, I like the notion of touch-screen handheld computing well enough, and I see that knock-off gray-market versions are already available from web-based retailers for one-third the price of the official model (buy ’em here.) That suggests to me that the market soon will be flooded with these things, whether we like it or not.

Since we’ll soon be awash in these gizmos, I would encourage that they be widely distributed to bottlenose dolphins, a group that has shown themselves to be early adopters. (Flipper oversaw a transnational multimedia empire years before Oprah and Simon Cowell.)

In recent experiments, bottlenose dolphins have been using their schnozolas, to use the proper anatomical term, to manipulate information on the iPad. Some biologists already see this as the beginning of a new day in inter-species communications.

What a breakthrough that will be. In the words of Rex Harrison as Dr. Dolittle, “What a neat achievement.” “[Click here to listen to ‘Talk to the Animals’ by Toronto’s very own Billy Van Singers]” Now mankind will be able to determine exactly how our fellow earth-creatures feel about the Gulf Coast being despoiled by British Petroleum. I’m guessing that they’ll be much more tolerant of this regrettable and unavoidable blunder than the finger-pointers in the media, especially that snide Anderson Cooper on CNN. Of course, the cetacean dexterity at applying proboscis-to-touch-screen might be the slightest bit impaired by BP’s having coated each of the poor dears in a thick layer of oil and dispersants — but at least there’s no need to worry about getting the iPad screen all gunked up. It stood up to the soy-sauce test at the sushi takeout counter last week, so let’s not wring our hands, or flippers, over a few million gallons of misdirected crude oil. (It is these small occasions, such as eating sushi, that lead me to regret the iPad’s lack of an integrated camera. Thanks to BP, the act of consuming raw fish will soon become a thing of the past, and we’ll wish we had a photographic momento.)

But, assuming that our sea-dwelling mammalian cousins endure the temporary inconvenience of having their homes wrecked, not to mention their bodies, just imagine what the iPad will do to their famously high intelligence. I’d love to eavesdrop while the greatest minds of our generation — Glenn Beck, as one example — explain the contemporary culture and capabilities of surface-Earth to the disbelieving representatives of the cetacean council. “This is Governor Palin,” Beck will describe, using an iPad in place of the customary chalkboard. “Very powerful mammal, possesses excellent vision. Able to see Russia from her house. This is Rush Limbaugh, mighty human communicator, speaks by expelling stored air through his blow-hole.” But the pod of dolphins will have already scrambled in panic at what appeared to be the likeness of their mortal enemy, Orcinus orca, the killer whale.

They will have the right idea. It is not being overly anthropomorphic to think that they may be able to teach us a few things, as well. Perhaps one day, with the aid of our iPads, we humans will be able to translate the seemingly random squeaks and clicks of the cetacean language, and understand that what they are saying is the following: “You paid Apple how much for this plastic piece of shit? Man, did Steve Jobs ever see you coming. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Click. Squeak.”
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3 thoughts on “Flip this: Apple’s iPad offers the promise of a porpoise-driven life

  1. What a world! And what will it be like when this three year old is 65? Truly boggling for my mind. Next week’s meeting of my time travel group is taking place Dec. 31, 2072. Will let you know if Dick Clark is still doing his Time Square gig and how we are viewing it. Incredibly exciting or frightening, depending on one’s outlook. Can hardly wait for that meeting!

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