Apple employs an in-house philosopher; won’t let him talk to the press

“In its bid to create the very best technology, Apple decided, in 2014, to employ a full-time philosopher,” Olivia Goldhill writes for Quartz. “The company hired Joshua Cohen, formerly a political philosophy professor at Stanford University to work at Apple University, an institution created by Steve Jobs in 2008 to offer employees the kind of training typically available at university programs.”

“Here’s what we know: Apple University is led by Joel Podolny, formerly the dean of Yale University’s School of Management. Its employees include Richard Tedlow, previously a historian of business at Harvard University, and Morten Hansen, a former professor of management at the University of California-Berkeley,” Goldhill writes. “The institution is highly secretive; a few employees spoke to the New York Times in 2014 on the condition of anonymity, and described learning how Apple products were comparable to Picasso’s artwork in their ‘elegant simplicity.'”

“Initially, Cohen expressed willingness to speak with Quartz about his work at Apple, to explain his daily routine and the research he conducts. But, he said, he would first have to get permission from Apple’s press department,” Goldhill writes. “He asked for approval twice, once in October 2018 and once in April 2019, but was denied both times. Quartz also asked Apple’s press office for permission to speak with Cohen, but was denied.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Ironically, as we wait for over half a decade for Apple to finally update their flagship Mac, the most prolific painter of all time was Pablo Picasso.

As for not talking to the press, why would Apple want to give their secret sauce away to competitors for free via Quartz or any other outlet?

Picasso and Steve Jobs’ Apple University: Inside Apple’s employee indoctrination program – August 11, 2014
Why Apple University matters more than ever – February 13, 2014
Steve Jobs to live on, virtually, in Apple University – October 6, 2011
Apple University teaches Apple employees how to think like Steve Jobs – July 19, 2011
Apple Hires Yale’s Business School Dean for Apple University – October 22, 2008


    1. Neil Peart dammit!
      By far the most Apple appr in private philosopher ever!

      All this machinery
      Making modern music
      Can still be open-hearted
      Not so coldly charted
      It’s really just a question
      Of your honesty, yeah your honesty

      One likes to believe
      In the freedom of music
      But glittering prizes
      And endless compromises
      Shatter the illusion
      Of integrity, yeah

      And so much more…

  1. In the military, a political commissar or political officer (or politruk, a portmanteau from Russian: политический руководитель, “political leader”, “political official”), is a supervisory officer responsible for the political education (ideology) and organization of the unit they are assigned to, and intended to ensure civilian control of the military.

    The function first appeared as commissaire politique (political commissioner) or représentant en mission (representative on mission) in the French Revolutionary Army during the Revolution (1789–99).[1] It also existed, with interruptions, in the Soviet Red Army from 1918 to 1942, as well as in the armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1943 to 1945. The function remains in use in China’s People’s Liberation Army.

    1. Interesting bit of history, but what does it have to do with the article? Philosophy is about teaching people how to think, not about teaching them what to think. That is generally considered a good thing except in places that have political commissars. Despite all of the accusations in comments on this site, I have seen no evidence that Apple is interested in doing the sort of thing that commissars do.

      They are interested in helping their employees to view problems from outside a purely STEM-centric perspective, which is why they have always promoted ties between their mission and the liberal arts (as they are called without reference to politics). That is probably why management thinks that exposing Apple University students to philosophy is valuable.

  2. Quartz practices the lowest form of pseudo-journalism. Apple would be crazy to let any employees be used by Quartz as clickbait fodder. Sadly, Quartz is fully capable of puking out its daily anti-Apple diatribes regardless.

  3. If that isn’t a sure sign that Apple has lost the plot beyond retrieving, I don’t know what is. I will apply this to 21st century Silicon Valley in general. Thanks, millennials. Glad your anxiety-riddled and weak souls are being massaged. And don’t you dare imply that others haven’t studied before you blessed the earth with your magnificence. Meanwhile: your products suck.

  4. The three main branches of the study of philosophy of the seven are ethics, epistemology and metaphysics. It’s also aesthetics something dear to Jobs. Employees steeped in vocational/mechanical skills such as at Apple can learn non-mechanical thinking by studying the works of philosophers such as from Thales to Bertrand Russell.

    However, there’s a downside: Its study opened up the mind of top employees to create and discard, like a capricious God that’s toying with humanity, a bewildering number of ports and adapters. At the same time, Apple got stuck in “To be or not to be?” question and applied it to the MacPro: “To MacPro or not to MacPro?” This stumped Apple so that it froze at that point. The MacPro is neither fully alive nor is it totally killed off either.

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