A reader writes:
I agree with your reader that “the relationships among Apple, our culture and technology” aren’t unqualified goods. However, as a musician, I can tell you that the iPod is good for more than just “facilitating our personal mirth.” (For now, I’ll decline to dispute the notion that people only listen to music in pursuit of “mirth”.) The ability to put songs on my iPod and listen to them on the way to a gig or recording session has been a huge boon. The iPod’s huge capacity and elegant interface allow me to study an artist’s entire output in any setting, without the need to constantly dig up multiple CDs and shuffle them in and out of a CD player. My iPod is an invaluable tool, not a frivolous diversion.
The rebuttal to your reader's point that the iPhone is no cotton gin was posted on the Dish over a year ago. Patrick's post "The Exobrain Grows More Powerful" highlighted Scott Adams' obvious point that smart phones literally change how we think and store information.
How useful is a smart phone? Let me put it this way. Combine a cellular high-speed data network, a mobile internet browser, and Wikipedia and what do you have? The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's first edition, that's what. Could it be that our inventions have become so powerful that the options they are putting in front of us are so bountiful and terrifying that we don't even know where to begin, so we simply navel gaze?
While I understand what the reader was trying to say, I think he or she would have been better off leaving "cotton gins" out of their list of the "many positive externalities".