immanuel kant’s utilitarian earbuds

an essay by Jacob Landau, ’22

The lovely sheer of the alloys in her ear overwhelm the natural brightness of her blue eyes popping out of the mysterious shadows in her eyes. Her skin is of a pale rosy color, and yet instead the optic nerve is compelled to observe where the vestibule meets her cochlea and where the devil’s unfortunate return manifests itself in the auditory prowess of mammals.
Sometimes the smallest things are the most welcoming— a warm welcome from a friend, a butterfly struggling to lift herself off the ground or a slight quirk in the existence of any independent thing. It is of a consequent desire to make things smaller— beyond practicality, things continue to shrink: the attention span of a young child that devotes their time to a screen or the temper of a man who lost his wife and children to divorce, struggling to cope as he’s forced to move on.
On rare occasions are these revolutionary evolutions in the sizes of things so widespread beyond convenience. A generation’s inability to donate their attention to their interests beyond a brief five minute youtube video is surely not ideal for the individual or their older counterparts, however those around them in power have chosen to accommodate for this ill will.
The shrinking of a child’s attention span is not of the same as that of the loss of the optic nerve: the young child that berates his mother for her phone is the product of digital revolution and a newfound access to all that is good and holy. To the contrary, the introduction of Apple AirPods is a testimony to impracticality that cares to undermine goodness herself.
It is the desperate mark of the fabricated consumerist society in which we live that AirPods represent nothing but the donation of our pockets to corporations that grant us the ability to believe we pamper ourselves with practical purchases. And yet, as I see an AirPod clad man boasting his bluetooth earbuds I immediately consider how he consciously chose to make such purchase.
In a society in which we praise individuals with opportunity to make such purchases, it seems inevitable that an immediate reaction would be to commend an AirPod clad individual for earning money and subsequently using it to purchase their earbuds. However, the broader population would likely argue the overwhelming harm as a product of this purchase overwhelms any presumptive good. Most individuals would likely disagree.
It is an entirely eficable state of mind to consider every decision a consideration of cause and effect. For example, to flip a coin is a decision, and to observe the effect is a consequence of such a decision. However, in this instance there is also often a cause for the flipping of the coin. Suppose this coin toss is a way to decide who will start with the ball in a game of (American) football. In this instance, the game would be the inspiration; the coin toss the decision and the outcome the effect. This effect will lead to a consequence depending on the outcome— if the coin is heads one team may start, and tails the other.
In this instance, the purchase of AirPods may or may not have an inspiration. Likely, an individual will purchase AirPods because they need AirPods or because they have seen them and felt inclined to purchase them for themselves. These inspirations are both evidently inspired by gluttony, a poor virtue; the nature of this purchase is inherently that of excess. If they are purchasing them because they need wireless earbuds, they are failing to make a thoughtful decision and instead gravitating toward what capitalist society has inspired them to consider the exclusive suitable option. If they observed AirPods in any capacity and felt obligated to purchase them for themselves the purchase is inspired by both gluttony and jealousy. Moreover, if their initial inspiration is flawed then the purchase must be gluttonous as well.
The decision itself is equally disgusting beyond its shaking foundations. Unlike a coin flip in which the likelihood of one outcome or another is by all means 50/50, the decision to purchase AirPods concerns an individual’s free-will far more than calling a coin toss. It is imperative we first consider the restrictions and ambiguity of an elusive understanding of conceptualized free-will. Simply, the two most common theories are that man either does or does not have free-will in any society. If free-will does not exist in a commercialized US economy, then it suggests institutions’ uses of individualistic tendency to make unwise purchases. If said individual does have free-will, then it suggests they consciously decided due to outside influence as well as the ways they perceive these influences – such as aforementioned shortened attention spans – to make such unwise purchases. Either way, this suggests constructed institutions have direct influence in these purchases, moreover suggesting this makes anyone that purchases AirPods a pawn in a cruel system.
Similarly, any individual that purchases AirPods, perhaps due to this shortened attention span, have not considered other better options when deciding to make such a purchase. General consensus suggests AirPods do not offer the same listening technology as superior wireless earbuds from lesser known brands. Similarly, bluetooth, a developing technology, suggests AirPods face issues with being both too far beyond and ahead of their time. While bluetooth technology is perhaps not yet able to sustain such earbud use, AirPods themselves are both more expensive and inferior to other cheaper alternatives. It is also worth considering the companies and corporations that caused the steep decline in attention spans are now reaping the rewards of their corrupting a generation.
By giving these corporations the power to perpetuate their inhumane influence over the world, individuals that purchase AirPods propagate overwhelming downturn in society, making AirPods ultimately harmful to the individual and the broader community. The growing commonality of AirPods suggests companies can take advantage of consumers through altering technology to inconvenience the user and appear the savior with yet another product the consumer must purchase. In context, Apple removed the headphone jack from newer models of the iPhone and graciously offered AirPods as the alternative. Apple can then use this revenue to continue manipulating their consumers and monopolize the economy, or to potentially continue spying on their users and addict people to their products, corrupting them and retaining an iron grip over all of the United States.. Moreover, considering the faults of AirPods as well as Apple and the harms to both the individual and society, an individual’s choice to purchase AirPods is inherently flawed both by motive and decision and considered direct impact.
So, what is the effect of an individual’s decision to buy AirPods? In order to address this question, we must first return to the football example. The coin toss has two effects— a direct and indirect impact. The direct impact would immediately impact the individuals involved— if team A wins the coin toss, they may elect to start the game with the ball. This would be the direct impact of the coin toss. The indirect impact would be the consequence of this initial effect. Perhaps an individual that routes for team A grows excited that they will be starting with the ball. I choose to define that as an indirect effect as it is not immediately relevant to the issue the coin toss addresses, nor does it consider the coin toss, but its initial consequence.
The initial consequence of any AirPods can be described briefly as follows; the individual that purchased the AirPods now can use them how they please and the company that sold them now gets to retain the money given to them from the purchase. We have already considered indirect consequences of AirPods purchases; namely, how Apple is able to use this money to dominate society. Other less significant impacts include an individual like myself judging your purchase, or another manifesting jealousy in the place of my enmity. It’s possible an individual may lose one of their AirPods and feel any variety of subsequent emotions. AirPods may be given as a gift or a concession. They may cause an individual to not hear their surroundings because they have their AirPods in.
However, the most valid consideration for an indirect consequence is that I brought up earlier— how Apple as a company can use AirPods sales to potentially destroy our society from the inside; when considering what technology has accomplished to redefine both the ways in which humans communicate as well as how companies interact with the government. Both of these consider how a company can take absolute control over the lives of individuals and suits itself as a microcosm for how members of society can move forward as they interact with vast corporations.
The individual role in society is surprisingly significant to the health of a broader community. While individuals often form a juxtaposition between themselves and society, claiming they are the products of several moving parts, at least half of which supposedly are working in their best interest in a functioning democracy, it is more essential to the human experience to consider yourself a cog in the development of a broader living entity. Whether it be wearing your AirPods around for free publicity or not hearing something because your AirPods are blaring Kendrick Lamar, any individual’s decision to wear AirPods propagates a consumerist culture that continues to solely benefit the biggest consumers and most controlling companies. And as Apple uses their influence to control the lives of both AirPods and non AirPods users, cute little earbuds become more and more dangerous in unstable times.
As a germ that controls individuals, AirPods sincerely show how moving forward, rationality and luxury can pose themselves against one another. The choice as to how you move forward is yours.


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