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Oh my god it's Steve fgsfdin Jobs!!!

Let’s Talk About Steve Jobs, Because Everyone Else Is

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Reflections – Zacqary Adam Green

Reflections – Zacqary Adam Green

Steve Jobs’ resignation from Apple has caused the Internet’s collective head to explode into several trillion pieces. The resulting gory splatter is a treasure trove of tributes and travesties, incessant babbling about the legacy — good or bad — of the man in the black turtleneck. This endless jabber about Steve Jobs is misguided, absurd, and frankly, infuriating, which is why I’m going to make it worse by endlessly jabbering about the aforementioned endless jabber.

I, like every single freaking person on the planet, have an opinion about Steve Jobs, and the things he has done in his life. I’m not going to share it with you right now, because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all.

When most people blabber about Steve Jobs, they’re rarely flapping their lips about him, personally. After all, most people in the world don’t actually know Steve Jobs, nor have they ever even met him in passing. The things about which most people yammer are the effects and consequences of Apple, Inc.’s product releases and business practices. These things matter.

The influence of Apple products on the consumer electronics industry — not to mention computing as a whole — is palpable, prominent, and profound. Simple, intuitive machines, modal in nature, driven by finger input on a touchscreen, with system resource management relegated to the background — this design philosophy has been or is being adopted by most of Apple’s competitors, and is a strong signal of where computer technology is headed. At the same time, the notion of electronics being “magical”, their inner workings not to be considered by the user; the unchecked advance of DRM into every nook and cranny; the ignorance or acceptance of needless monitoring and tracking — the success of Apple products have also affirmed and exacerbated these problems.

It’s those trends and issues that matter. But the fact that Apple, specifically, was the company to catalyze all of them doesn’t. And it especially doesn’t matter that His Holiness Dalai Lama Steve Motherfucking Jobs happened to be the CEO and founder of the company that did all of these things.

Steve Jobs is a very smart man with impeccable attention-to-detail, marred by some control issues. This does not make him a special little snowflake that must be cherished for all of its beauty and uniqueness. Millions of people are just like him, probably came up with the same ideas that he did at or around the same time, and could have had the same effects on the world. Now that he’s “gone”, there will certainly be many more like him in the future. The only thing unique about Steve Jobs is that he was in the right place at the right time.

Because he was in the right place at the right time, many people take their feelings about the direction of computing and technology, and direct them at Steve Jobs.

This is not innocuous. This tendency to equate ideas with their executors leads to equally absurd lines of thinking: patents, copyright, and “ownership” of a component of human development. In obsessing over the individuals who win the race to set a particular change in motion, we create a culture that values not progress, but personality. When we worship, for example, Steve Jobs, it becomes easy to make the ad hominem argument that the ideas he promoted are his, no one else’s, and other such drivel.

I’m not saying we should completely ignore the individuals who change our world — everyone likes recognition for their achievements — but must we put them on a pedestal? Steve Jobs, and people like him, are to be learned from and studied, inspired by or rebelled against. Not to be revered like some kind of larger-than-life deity with herculeanly monotonous fashion sense.

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About The Author: Zacqary Adam Green

Zacqary is an activist in the New York Pirate Party, where his official title is "Cat Herder." He is an open source game developer, and the Chief Executive Plankhead of Plankhead, a free culture arts collective. Despite believing that money is a superfluous social construct, he has a Gittip profile.

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15

  1. 2
    Martin

    I thought you said you weren’t going to share your opinions about Steve Jobs? :)

    Seriously, though, as entitled to your opinion as you are, I disagree with it. See, it really is your opinion shining through. Words like “worship” and calling him “Dalai Lama” are, frankly, completely unnecessary and irrelevant IF your intent truly was to objectively discuss the phenomenon of Steve Jobs, not the man himself. Instead, now everything reads as yet-another-Apple-hater whining about the “fanboys” and the Dark Lord himself, Jobs.

    I agree that Jobs has become a living myth, and of course is no more of a super human than anyone else. Yet some people do stand out in history. I wouldn’t compare him to Einstein or Darwin, but his name certainly deserves to be prominent in the technology section of the history books. Just as Bill Gates transformed the world with Windows (for better or for worse), Jobs transformed the world with the iPod, iPhone and modern Macs. Apple, always tightly controlled by Jobs personally, has stood behind some of the greatest inspirations the technological world has seen in decades. No matter how much you want to belittle the man, this is a fact that cannot be ignored.

    Lastly, your point about most of the people praising him not even having met the man in passing is a bit ignorant as well, seeing as there are an unusual amount of focus on, specifically, the personality of Jobs. People HAVE met him and known him, not just through PR events. He’s responded personally to everyday people’s e-mails. He’s been there in person when new products are revealed. He’s walked around the Apple campus. He’s been personally involved with developers, designers and CEOs alike.

    You tell me, how many funny anecdotes, stories and memories have people shared about ANY other company’s retiring CEO (with exception, perhaps, for Bill Gates)? How many people have had ANY inkling about ANY other retiring CEO’s personality, whether by direct contact or third-party testimony? Can you tell me what drives Michael Dell? Were Hewlett and Packard funny guys? What did Larry Page do in college?

    Steve Jobs is a character, and people like characters. For you to dedicate a whole article about this fact is, to be perfectly honest, rather pathetic. Focus on Apple’s corporate policies, their stance on DRM, their patents, their litigation. Those are important areas that need to be talked about. What we don’t need is more anti-Jobs whining, especially when most of the reasons for disliking him are thin at best, completely baseless at worst.

    • 2.2
      hkjonus

      damn dude your personal rant is longer than the article.

    • 2.3
      iReply

      People like things that seem simple. Locked devices like iPads and such seem like simple things. But they’re *limited* things. (It’s called Jailbrake for a reason).

      People are easily manipulated. And Jobs was good at it. Even better then Bill G.
      Both was/is just as greedy, i see no reason to like any of them.

    • 2.4
      Anonymous

      Well this is just ranting against ranting isn’t it?

      As there certainly is a shallow reason for many to hate Steve, there is a profound reason for others to dislike him, which consists of disagreeing with a very fundamental idea. The idea about having ownership of ideas.

      I’m not a hater of Steve jobs, personally I just see Steve Jobs as one of the guys that climb up the latter and then kicks the latter away. (again, im thinking of copyrights, patents, property rights of any sort)

      Holding valuable ideas for yourself, is just immature. Nothing else.

  2. 3

    @Martin
    He’s got a point, though. Yes, the bias shows through, but if you cut out all that you’re left with his conclusion here:

    “I’m not saying we should completely ignore the individuals who change our world — everyone likes recognition for their achievements — but must we put them on a pedestal?”

    It’s a fair point. People tend to create cults of personality that eclipses the organization/company/work itself. Why? Probably empathy. People identify with people, not companies, not products. It is problematic because cults of personality preclude objective discussion of progress. (So, okay, this is not an objective discussion, but it raises the point nonetheless.) So Steve Jobs may be a good guy, a technological visionary even. Maybe lots of people do have personal anecdotes about him. Not to be callous, but does that really matter? Shouldn’t the focus be more on the products and the company, not the personality?

    This part is also important:

    “The only thing unique about Steve Jobs is that he was in the right place at the right time.”

    Steve Jobs could be considered a “black swan,” an unpredictable phenomenon that dominates its field. The _unpredictable_ part is what people tend to ignore because it puts a knife through the cult of personality. There isn’t necessarily anything unique about someone who is massively successful. They may very well have a lot of talent (as he no doubt does), but so do others. Their success comes down to any number of uncontrollable, and unpredictable factors.

    In other words, there will be other Steve Jobs-es.

    I think this article makes a good point, albeit one colored by opinion.

    • 3.1

      For the record, I personally regard Steve Jobs with strong, absolute, total, violent, vigorous, furious, passionate ambivalence. I am so fervently on-the-fence about him, it makes my blood experience zero change in temperature. My feelings about him are so mixed, Erwin Schrödinger could use them to explain quantum mechanics.

      Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  3. 4

    Crap, my last reply ended up in the wrong place. Oops. Anyway, concerning this:

    “At the same time, the notion of electronics being “magical”, their inner workings not to be considered by the user; the unchecked advance of DRM into every nook and cranny; the ignorance or acceptance of needless monitoring and tracking — the success of Apple products have also affirmed and exacerbated these problems.”

    Ok, I’ll admit I don’t know very much about technical aspects. (I read this blog because I’m an artist and interested in copyright stuff. When it comes to technology, well… I’m learning . . . slowly. . . ) However, is this really a knock against Apple? Does everyone in the world need to have a thorough understanding of the tech in order to have a say in how their lives are affected by it? I can drive a car without knowing how it works, and I can understand that I wouldn’t the car company to track me or control and manipulated or even take away my own car. Are other pieces of technology any different? I may not understand exactly how DRM works or monitoring and tracking stuff, but when we talk about those things, we’re talking about basic civil rights here like privacy and property rights etc. and I can sure as he\\ weigh in on that. And yeah, I realize I’m revealing my stupidity and opening myself up to criticism here, but the world isn’t full of technical people, and you have to talk to us sooner or later. :-)

    Also, this is a very good point:

    “When we worship, for example, Steve Jobs, it becomes easy to make the ad hominem argument that the ideas he promoted are his, no one else’s, and other such drivel.”

    That’s how the cult of personality functions. Fans will listen to the person up on the pedestal. It becomes hard to address the real issues. You have the same thing in the arts. Artists can have a lot of influence with fans, so when they go on a tirade about people stealing their work or ideas, all of a sudden everyone is very sympathetic to their point–not because their point is good but because it came from the right mouth.

    • 4.1
      Scary Devil Monastery

      “However, is this really a knock against Apple? Does everyone in the world need to have a thorough understanding of the tech in order to have a say in how their lives are affected by it?”

      In a word. Yes.

      The longer summary is that you don’t have to learn about how technology works but if you don’t you’ll end up sitting in the same position as the man who goes to a used car salesman without having the necessary knowledge to know whether he’s making a good deal or if the car will do what he wants it to do.

      There is in my arrogant opinion no business as full of snake oil salesmen today as the software industry. That being the case, Jobs has performed the market miracle of bringing to the table a product which actually has the guarantee of working the way the consumer expects.

      I.e. Steve Jobs is the one saying how your product will work and what it will do. If you trust his judgement everything is fine. If you want something else, don’t buy Apple. It’s that simple.

      Unlike Gates Jobs is first and foremost a typecast system administrator – he creates applications designed to be used by idiots and has made them foolproof according to the theory that most of his consumer base are tinkerhappy idiots able and willing to wreck or abuse any tool they are given. This makes his jog a great deal easier and I personally don’t fault him for it. I do the same in my job every day – never provide a tool for the general user base which has real power because the cost of a single abuse will be crippling to the company i work for.

      Unless you choose to learn about technology you will be faced with the choices of branded and well-known solutions locked in to the point where you have no real control over what your appliance does – or are left at the mercy of every smooth-talking salesman willing and eager to peddle you an out-of-the-box solution which may not work and costs ten times of what it’s worth. Your choice.

      “And yeah, I realize I’m revealing my stupidity and opening myself up to criticism here, but the world isn’t full of technical people, and you have to talk to us sooner or later. :-) “

      Lack of knowledge is not stupidity. Nor do you need to know everything about computers in order to make informed choices. I keep saying that the ability to make an informed choice about technology is when you have the same skillset which enables you to understand when your car is safe to drive. If you can wrap your head around checking tire pressure and oil level, then you have the necessary qualifications to learn about and make informed choices about computer purchases as well.

      When it comes to weighing in on DRM and locked solutions you don’t even need that. Understand that if you purchase a set of media carrying DRM or a locked slutions like an iPhone then you are accepting to “buy” an object over which you then have no personal control. I.e. although it may be your property you are left entirely at the mercy of the original distributor when it comes to how you can use the tool in question. To many people this is not acceptable.

      Getting a tool over which you do have personal control – like an open-source OS, for instance – usually means you start learning enough to actually make use of that tool.

      My personal opposition to apple products is simply that: It fosters a mindset of cultured helplessness in it’s consumers. A person using a solution such as that will never be encouraged to learn and grow. It’s a way to keep grown people in a safe playpen for the rest of their lives.

  4. 5
    moarity

    It has been said, that the ‘thing’ with Jobs is that he was the only computer geek in town who understood fashion. And had pin down one of the most basic rule of design, the rule that.. Simplicity is good.. and after the Enlightenment based the entire ‘concept’ around that single rule, with a marketing approach .. (or/and w dictator approach). me, myself as 3D and graphic-guy is a kind of a mixed bag, professionally, I have left the Apple-temple years ago. (but I still like apples once in awhile ;-)

  5. 6
    -

    I feel sorry for you. It’s sad when your opinion doesn’t matter even for you.

  6. 7
    intel

    ooh my… “touchy”

  7. 8
    theorangebox

    Steve Jobs = Cult of Personality.

  8. 9
    hkjonus

    This article touches on something important. The fact that we create a heir of godliness about “inventors” especially when they become rich from their efforts. No one need look further than the dichotomy of wealth between Tesla and Edison. Who do the history books give more praise? Hint: the man with the money.

    The problem with the cult of personality approach to wealth creation is that its an inefficient model. We promote their success as the best acceptable model of achievement. In reality its a thin replacement for what we really need which is a reasonable, sustainable and REPEATABLE, approach. We cant all be the next Steve Jobs, nor should this be our goal. But we are taught that it should be.

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About The Author

Zacqary is an activist in the New York Pirate Party, where his official title is "Cat Herder." He is an open source game developer, and the Chief Executive Plankhead of Plankhead, a free culture arts collective. Despite believing that money is a superfluous social construct, he has a Gittip profile.

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