Apple's Promo Video has an unquenchable press that appears to be the destroyer of all things creative. (Credit: Apple)

iPad: Forged from the Humane or Destroyer Of It?

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 9:26 PM

Apple created a lot of stir with the advertisement for its new generation iPad Pro. The shocking video shows a huge variety of things we love, including musical instruments and artistic tools, being crushed by a cold, dark metal press. Is Apple admitting its apocalyptic agenda?

My friend and fellow pastor Brad Edwards summed up how many reacted to the ad succinctly in a post on X:

If “the medium is the message,” what story is being told by a company that destroys instruments of human creativity to sell a device for consuming digital media?

Whatever it is, @Apple is only furthering our Digital Disenchantment. This is absolutely “anti-human” (@pauljpastor).

Does this ad, and the technology Apple is now purveying, push for “the anti-human”? Is the company that once put out the anti-Orwellian ad now openly admitting to smashing the essence of human creativity and turning us into mindless zombies?

I have critiqued certain recent directions of Apple on this front. The introduction of the Vision Pro felt “anti-human,” down to the intro video’s dad engulfed in the device’s screen while ostensibly interacting with his young daughter.


If you crush even happy emoji, you have to be clearly evil in intent, right? (Credit: Apple)

Steve Jobs’ Apple prided itself on sitting at the “intersection of technology and the liberal arts,” as he proudly pointed out when introducing the iPad 14 years ago. That’s the Apple I became a fan of with my first Mac long before the iPad.

If the gargantuan Apple of today is defined by the Vision Pro’s dystopian-hued palette, and this commercial is a visual manifesto furthering that, color me worried.

I am not, however, worried. At least not today.

First, the commercial itself. We need to note what was “destroyed” by the gigantic metal press. I already listed the symbols of creativity destroyed, but they were accompanied by an arcade machine, record player, Angry Birds, a TV and other consumption artifacts new and old.


Apple doesn’t just crush creative artifacts, but also games, a sign of how its iOS/iPadOS ecosystem has become such a major player in video gaming. (Credit: Apple)

Rather than a statement rejecting the creative impulse (or the media consumption one), it was a statement of the vision of the iPad as containing those things. Notably when the crushing machine released its grip, there was not the twisted wreckage of the things earlier shown but an iPad. Apple’s thesis is that the iPad is forged from all those beloved things pressed together to form it.

Which brings us to the device behind the commercial. This has been the longtime trajectory of the iPad. Jobs introduced it by sitting in a chair and being able to touch very human things: photos, music and the like. That first iPad could do only a small fraction of what the modern ones can do, but the premise was clear from its very first moments: the capability of a laptop in a profoundly analog, touchable form. “Magical.”

Tablets like the Amazon Fire Tablet are consumption devices hardly good for anything but consuming media. Even their 16:9 ratio displays cry out “I’m a small TV, zone out with me.” But the iPad has the aspect ratio of paper and is a decade and a half story of growing better at creating.


Is the iPad intended to destroy instruments? Not at all: as yesterday’s event, and other Apple events have repeatedly made clear, the company instead aims to make its tablet a music production tool. (Credit: Apple)

I regularly do image and audio editing, writing and long-form reading from my iPad. The average iPad is more powerful than many laptops while giving an experience that feels profoundly less like being enmeshed in a computer. Slicing the audio of a podcast into pieces with a finger and tactilely dropping in soundbites and music before publishing the latest episode of Zippy makes the work of preparing a creative effort more humane and less sterilely digital.

Contrary to the Vision Pro placing us in an illusory “real world” that isn’t, the iPad has always been about allowing digital creativity to come as tangibly near our reality as presently possible.

The commercial was a provocative visualization, yes. But one expressing the height of technology serving the human impulse to create, not the destruction of that yearning. The commercial’s point, in the context of Apple’s nearly 40 minute iPad event that premiered it and the new iPad Pro, is unequivocally this. More than the remoteness of a mouse pointer on a computer and more than the tininess of a phone, the iPad can start to feel like a canvas welcoming one’s paintbrush, typewriter or musical stage.


Steve Jobs was perhaps the technological visionary most keenly aware of how technology could empower the creative rather than replace it. (Credit: Apple)

This is Apple at its best, because they not only painted a shocking visualization of humane technology, but can support it with their unrivaled processors. There is nothing else available that rivals the current M2-based iPad, much less the coming M4-based ones in capability.

The reason tablets often feel like consumption devices is that they are too anemic technologically to do much else. I can attest that the iPad really can be a media creation powerhouse.

Apple’s M4 processor will amplify that, as do the ever-better displays Apple uses that make whatever is on screen feel more physically present and less like something “displayed.” The more quietly tucked-in power Apple piles on, the more we can think of creative pursuits and not the technological limitations that too often become guardrails to those pursuits.

The iPad is not, by any means perfect at staying out of the way as one uses it for creativity. I’ve been frustrated more than once trying to utilize the increasingly powerful iPad line for a demanding creative project and hitting arbitrary walls surmountable only by arcane contortions. But, gradually iPadOS has gotten better at stepping out of its own way and lifting artificial restrictions alongside the improving hardware’s lifting of actual ones.

Thus, I’m optimistic, though the bigger tell won’t be this month’s event, but next month’s. All rumors, and official comments, point to Apple announcing a huge set of AI initiatives at its annual developer conference.


The result of the forging process: not destruction of creativity, but Apple’s thinnest iPad with all of the things being “crushed” placed within it. (Credit: Apple)

We rightly both celebrate the creative potential of AI and fear its possibility of crushing creativity. Apple, as the premier advocate for on-device, private AI technologies can potentially weld the iPad’s significant uptick in power to make it the premier device for machine learning that supports creativity. Creative AI will be best served by powerful devices we control, not huge cloud server farms under the control of others.

Technology can drown out human creativity, but at its best, it can instead be a palette of breathtaking colors for use in the next wave of human artistry. If Apple pushes for healthy use of AI, and pairs it with technology meant to disappear behind the things we make, that will double down on the vision of the iPad as forged from the humane.

Full Disclosure: Tim does own some Apple stock (AAPL).

Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. He also serves as a pastor at Little Hills Church and FaithTree Christian Fellowship.

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