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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Steve Jobs

I just finished reading Walter Isaacson's bio of Steve Jobs.  The book is as much about the technology as it is about the man.  Or maybe Steve Jobs was as much about technology as he was about humanity.

Even though Jobs was not an engineer and not particularly good at software, he nevertheless, was the key player in creating some of the most people-friendly, technological products ever developed: the iPhone, the iPad, and the iPod, for example.

From Isaacson's authorized and well-documented bio, Jobs also was the person you would be least likely to want to know. There's neither need nor space for illustrating Jobs' regularly obnoxious, ill-tempered, and downright brutal behavior.  If you want examples,  Isaacson's book abounds with them.

So I find myself obsessed with the question of how such a personally nasty human being could come up with so many devices designed to serve people so well.

Was nastiness a necessary part of his creativity. If his parents had required he behave in a more well-mannered fashion would they have destroyed his creative spark? I don't know. 

I do know, based on the discussion of Jobs' constant mistreatment and apparent disregard of people as individuals wit the feelings there is a huge contradiction in Jobs' insight into the human psyche.  Jobs somehow knew the design many humans would want before they even know they wanted it. How could someone with that much insight not be more of a mensch? 

I write these comments on an Air Mac. the perfect laptop for someone like me with shoulder and arm issues who has trouble carrying anything that weighs more than a couple of pounds. I keep track of my schedule on my iPhone because it is simple and also lightweight.  I use my iPhone to take photos. My $300 digital camera sits at home because I no longer bother with a camera when my iPhone takes nearly as good photos. And again, it is simple and lightweight. The iPhone camera also allows me to take better photos in terms of composition: I can see what the photo will look like in advance. I don't need a music player because my iPhone holds over a thousand songs on it. And so on.

I don't need to belabor how Apple products have changed many people's lives. You already know. 

If Jobs had learned to  keep some of  his incredibly untactful, unpleasant, or unnecessarily harsh judgments to himself, had treated his family members, co-workers, employees and friends as any decent human being should, would I now be typing on a clunky, heavy, laptop, trying to navigate through DOS on my computer. Without Jobs' bad behavior would the world be without the iPhone?

I don't think so.  In my work experience, people often worked better together when there was a cooperative spirit. But then I haven't created anything as elegant as an iPhone. I'm not one to be superstitious but for some reason, the more I write criticism of Mr. Jobs, the quirkier my laptop seems to become. the highlight and edit functions now are no longer working. So maybe I will end with an obvious concession to his genius: since the Renaissance no has created a device as elegant as the iPhone.

This is the particular part of my post which I cannot seem to edit : "Jobs was proud to describe his essential personality trait as an "asshole." He said that it was his job: to be an asshole."

Maybe I need to leave those two sentences just "as is."

Here's some of what the FBI files say about Steve Jobs.

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