2023 iPhone event: Was that real or AI?

Okay, it took me forever, but I finally got around to watching the 2023 iPhone event.

Why so long? It’s all Apple’s fault. The more they announce new products in these prepackaged events, the less I feel like watching.

My viewing did not change my opinion of virtual presentations. Instead, in an odd way, it got me thinking about the power of AI. Not that Apple used AI. to generate the script—rather that AI could have written the script, and few would have noticed.

That’s because what Apple is doing is exactly what AI is so good at. They’re writing a script based on the show before. And the one before that. And the one before that. They’re stuck in a loop where a parade of presenters describe new products, minus any emotional connection.

ChatGBT wouldn’t break a sweat pulling that together.

To be sympathetic (for a brief moment), Apple’s pre-fab format was born of pandemic restrictions. It was the right solution at the right time. Kudos. But now, even as restrictions have been lifted, Apple chooses to self-restrict. Puzzling.

I’m guessing this is less about cost and more about perfection. Why take a chance with a live show when humans are so risky? The virtual format allows editors to add special effects and tweak the tiniest details to Apple-perfection.

And that’s the problem. It isn’t real. It’s a production, a format, sanitized for our protection. It’s about as personal as a web page. It ends up feeling like it was generated by AI, even if it wasn’t.

Honestly, it’s hard to ding Tim Cook for relying on a format when Steve Jobs had one as well. His scripts were tightly written, his shows obsessively rehearsed. The difference is, Steve’s format never overpowered humanity—it amplified it. It was impossible to miss Steve’s boyish enthusiasm for “cool stuff.” His vision and charisma sealed the deal.

But guess what—none of that would have worked if Steve’s shows were pre-recorded. He performed live in front of an eager audience. His shows had life, and even a touch of spontaneity when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Following Steve’s death, Tim’s live shows never rose to the Steve standard, but no one expected them to. Connecting to humans is not Tim’s forté. Forced to go virtual, the human connection only dissipated further into the editing suite ether.

A live show will always be more human than a pre-recorded announcement. It’s just a fact of life. Apple’s pre-fab events fail to connect because they offer only “virtual humanity”—which isn’t even a thing.

Being the most human technology company is at the core of Apple’s mega-success. So I can only assume that one day Apple will choose to hold live events once again. Imagine, real people talking to us in real-time. Revolutionary!

At a time when AI is sounding more and more human, it’s just a shame that Apple is sounding more and more like AI