Ms. Collins is off today. In “The Self-Sort” Mr. Blow says it’s easy to demonize, or simply dismiss, people you don’t know or see. Mr. Nocera gives us “The Apple Chronicles” and says these days, the tech industry is battling over patents instead of new products. Here’s Mr. Blow:
This week, four presidents journeyed to Austin, Tex., to address the Civil Rights Summit and remark on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s legacy on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
That landmark act brought an end to legal racial segregation in public places.
But now we are facing another, worsening kind of segregation, one not codified but cultural: We are self-sorting, not only along racial lines but also along educational and income ones, particularly in our big cities.
Our cities are increasingly becoming vast outposts of homogeneity and advantage, arcing ever upward, interspersed by deserts of despair, all of which produces in them some of the highest levels of income inequality ever seen in this country.
Some call this progress; I call it a perversion, at least of the concept of diversity — of race, culture, identity and class — that dynamic engine that built urban identities and that is now being erased out of them.
As a report by Kendra Bischoff of Cornell and Sean F. Reardon of Stanford pointed out last year: “The proportion of families living in affluent neighborhoods more than doubled from 7 percent in 1970 to 15 percent in 2009. Likewise, the proportion of families in poor neighborhoods doubled from 8 percent to 18 percent over the same period.”
This is consistent with a 2012 Pew Research Center report that found, “Residential segregation by income has increased during the past three decades across the United States and in 27 of the nation’s 30 largest major metropolitan areas, according to a new analysis of census tract and household income data.”
The report added, “The analysis finds that 28 percent of lower-income households in 2010 were located in a majority lower-income census tract, up from 23 percent in 1980, and that 18 percent of upper-income households were located in a majority upper-income census tract, up from 9 percent in 1980.”
As Richard Florida wrote in The Atlantic last month, “The poor face higher levels of segregation in larger, denser metros.” In affluent cities, he said, “The segregation of poverty is more pronounced,” adding, “The poor also face greater levels of segregation in more advanced, knowledge-based metros.”
According to a study published last year in the journal Education and Urban Society, “Students are more racially segregated in schools today than they were in the late 1960s and prior to the enforcement of court-ordered desegregation in school districts across the country.”
In fact, a report last month by researchers at the Civil Rights Project of the University of California, Los Angeles, found, “New York has the most segregated schools in the country.”
Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream about the coming together of children of different races seems, in some ways, to grow more faint.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last year found, “About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of nonwhite Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race.”
This kind of sorting has real world consequences in terms of behaviors, empathy and socialization. As The Independent of London reported last month, a new study found, “People who live in ethnically diverse streets are less racially prejudiced than individuals living in highly segregated areas and their increased tolerance is due directly to the experience of a more integrated society.”
The findings, the newspaper said, “emerged from the analysis of seven previous studies on community relations carried out between 2002 and 2012 in England, Europe, the United States and South Africa, and specifically tried to rule out the idea that the results can be explained by tolerant people being more likely to live in mixed neighborhoods.”
By ruling this out, the study was able to show that “even the attitudes of the most prejudiced people who did not mix at all with ethnic minorities became more tolerant over time as a result of living in areas where others were mixing on a daily basis.”
We need to see people other than ourselves in order to empathize. If we don’t live around others we do ourselves and our society damage because our ability to relate becomes impaired.
It’s easy to demonize, or simply dismiss, people you don’t know or see. It’s in this context that we can keep having inane conversations about the “habits” and “culture” of the poor and “inner city” citizens.
It’s nearly impossible to commiserate with the unseen and unknown.
Now here’s Mr. Nocera:
So they’re at it again, Apple and Samsung, fighting over patents in a courtroom in San Jose, Calif. They had a similar fight in 2012, in the same courtroom, which Apple won. Samsung has also won its share of these legal battles, including in Australia.
This time around, Apple alleges that Samsung has violated five of its patents, including the one that allows iPhone users to slide their finger across the bottom of the screen to unlock it. One of its experts testified the other day that Samsung should be forced to pay more than $2 billion for the harm done. Samsung, meanwhile, has retaliated by accusing Apple of violating several of its patents. The legal bills alone have to be running into the tens of millions of dollars.
Perhaps it is just coincidence that this latest trial coincides with the publication of a new book by Yukari Iwatani Kane, titled “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs.” The coincidence is nonetheless telling. (Disclosure: Kane devotes several pages to a phone call I got from Steve Jobs in 2008 when I was working on a column about Apple’s unwillingness to disclose details of his health problems.)
The Apple Kane chronicles in “Haunted Empire” is not the same company she used to cover as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, when Jobs was alive. That Apple was fearless in its willingness to take risks and bring innovative products to market. This Apple, the post-Jobs Apple, has become risk-averse, its innovative capacity reduced to making small tweaks on products it has already brought to market. Though its leadership still talks a good game, it has so far been unable to deliver on the kind of knock-your-socks-off products for which Apple was once famous.
Part of this was inevitable. Jobs was a once-in-a-generation leader, with product instincts that just aren’t replicable. It is a sobering tale of what happens when a corporation becomes so reliant on one man.
But there are other reasons, too. Kane tracks down Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor and author of the famous business book “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” The book documents how companies stop innovating as they reach a certain critical mass and become more concerned with protecting what they have rather than chasing the new. This makes them vulnerable to newer competitors. “By the time those companies paid attention to the cheap, new innovations they had initially ignored, it was usually too late,” writes Kane, paraphrasing Christensen. Apple, Christensen believed, had long been the exception to his rule. Now, he feared, it was facing the innovator’s dilemma, just as other big companies did.
Meanwhile, the stock market was souring on Apple, and even Carl Icahn was poking around, urging Tim Cook, Jobs’s successor as chief executive, to hand some of its enormous cash hoard to shareholders.
The only real way to stave off further decline is to come out with a product that establishes a whole new category — the way the iPad did in 2010. But that seems unlikely. “Outside the echo chamber of Apple’s headquarters, the notion of the company’s exceptionalism has been shattered,” Kane writes.
Which brings me back to the litigation with Samsung — the company that is coming to market with products that are every bit as good as Apple’s, and at a lower price to boot. This never-ending litigation is yet another sign that Apple is becoming a spent force. Suing each other “is not what innovative companies do,” said Robin Feldman, a patent law expert at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Nor has the lawsuit been going smoothly for Apple. One document revealed during the trial was an internal Apple presentation, a slide of which read, “Consumers want what we don’t have” — meaning inexpensive phones with large screens, which Apple doesn’t sell. In the earlier trial, although Apple won a verdict against Samsung, the judge refused to force Samsung to remove certain products from the market, as Apple has demanded. Instead, the case had the perverse effect of validating “the Korean company as a worthy rival and supplied it with free advertising,” writes Kane.
These patent war cases can be — and should be — easily settled, as everyone in the business knows. Every smartphone company is now armed to the teeth with patents, and the most sensible way to deal with the issue is to cross-license the patents. Then the companies can get back to the business of innovating. Apple’s utter refusal to do so suggests that it has become less interested — or less capable — of innovating and more interested in protecting what it has already brought to market.
Or, as Apple’s former general counsel, Nancy Heinen, tells Kane, “When patent lawyers become rock stars, it is a bad sign for where an industry is headed.”