A Free U2 Album? Lessons on Ignorance, Compromise and Truncated Opinions

So Apple forcibly gave away a free U2 album, and the internet is pissed. It’s easy to forget that the internet is made up of real people, so it’s easy to dismiss the web’s outrage, something I was 100% ready to do in regards to this topic. But then I didn’t ignore it.

I listened to the “Do You Like Prince Movies?” podcast as I drove home last night. The show is hosted by Alex Pappedemas and Wesley Morris, two—in my opinion, very impressive—writers for Bill Simmons’ website, Grantland. Listening to these guys is infuriatingly great because I nearly always disagree with their worldviews. If the topic holds interest to you, I’d suggest listening, especially as guest Chuck Klosterman, one of my favorites, gives some great counter-intuitive questions that help put the topic in a new light.

But here are a few thoughts that this caused for me:

Our complaints are usually born of our own ignorance. That Apple can simply invade your phone and affect your personal agency should not be upsetting anymore than it is not surprising that no one reads licensing agreements. Did you know that Microsoft owns all information discussed over Skype, proprietary or otherwise? It’s in the licensing agreement (maybe don’t give your social on there).

I doubt it would have changed anyone’s purchasing decision had a sales representative told them, “Look, we don’t really know when, but there’s a good chance that if you buy this phone, the phone’s parent company might give you a free album of one of the most successful bands of all time. They’ll give this you by surprise, and buying this phone gives them permission.” And I’ll bet it wouldn’t have changed anyone’s mind if they’d been asked that before upgrading their iOS or upgrading their iTunes. But it’s there. What people are really upset about, in my opinion, is that they don’t have as much control as they thought they did, and it’s unsettling. But everyone made choices, and that has consequences.

Every decision is a compromise. You can’t have the best of everything in life because no one thing has all the things. This is common sense that’s commonly ignored. Men, think of a woman. Have you ever met one who is the funniest, hottest, smartest, best chef, most sexually fulfilling, and most maternally affectionate while inspirationally holding you and your genetically perfect children accountable for your actions? And even if you have met this woman, she’ll get old. It’s like Senator Cleary said in WeddingCrashers, “All we can do is use the information at hand to make the best decision possible.” In the Internet of Things—which is a real thing that’s coming like Ultron’s vengeance—you will not be able to take advantage of technological conveniences without sacrificing personal agency. Compromise will be made with every purchase. All you can do is try to limit the opportunity cost.

Your opinion only matters in democracy. And most of life is not a democracy. Most of life is a meritocracy with a fluid definition of merit. You don’t earn what you deserve, you earn what you can negotiate. Saying “I don’t like” or “I want” is the easiest way to make people stop caring about what you’re saying. It only works when casting a vote (although political pessimists are probably laughing at that too). If your contribution to a conversation like this U2 bit starts and stops at “I think it’s bullshit,” then don’t even speak. If you have a “why” to that opinion, just lead with that and then maybe wrap with “in summation, I think it’s bullshit” if you can’t help yourself.

Now Apple has taken steps to make it easy for people to delete the album because the storm of popular opinion on the Internet does matter to PR people and stock holders. But my opinion on that?

I think it’s bullshit.

DR

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