Recently, a neuroscientist scanned the brains of an Apple devotee with an MRI machine. What he found was that each time the Apple logo was flashed onto the screen, this acolyte's brain lit up in exactly the same region that lights up when a religious person is shown an icon of their faith.
Alex Riley, in his documentary, "Secrets of the Superbrands," set out to figure out "how (the world's most powerful technology) brands - such as Apple, Microsoft and Google - have grown so explosively to become some of the world's biggest companies."
"The scenes I witnessed at the opening of the new Apple store in London's Covent Garden were more like an evangelical prayer meeting than a chance to buy a phone or a laptop. The strangeness began a couple of hours before the doors opened to the public. Inside the store, glassy-eyed staff were whipped up into a frenzy of excitement, jumping up and down, clapping and shouting."
If this doesn't bother you, well, maybe it should.
Apart from what Riley has to say about the topic, and that topic includes sex and gossip, what the religion element reminded me of was the transition from the Roman Republic to the Empire.
(Hey, where'd everybody go?)
Anyway, the public (well, at least the free, male, moneyed public) that took such a hands-on role in shaping the policy of the Republic was displaced by an Imperial government that consolidated power in one man, whose will was carried out by a bureaucracy. When that happened, the formerly most influential elements of the society turned away from public life to "mystery religions": Mithraism, the worship of Isis and of course Christianity.
In the same way, it feels that we've lost something in turn. I'm not sure what it is - religious faith, political will, tribal affiliation? - but I can feel it. With the loss of that thing, people have turned to brands, particularly to tech brands, with their promise of connection, amplification, justification, belonging. The promise of salvation and relevance.
I'm not a cynic when it comes to tech. I could hardly be here, doing this, if I were. I get embarrassingly enthusiastic when somebody comes along and punks up some crazy tech doodad or process that lets us, say, discover 17 new pyramids or cheat the switches on the machinery of repression.
But I am a skeptic. If I had to sum up my philosophy in one sentence it would be this:
The unexamined tech is not worth using.
So if an influential minority of us is responding to Apple or Google or Microsoft as though they were gods, we need to put on the brakes, reinforce our skepticism and examine the tech we use before it winds up using us.