On Steve Jobs — or, really, what we think of him

Whereas it is tempting to join the effusive chorus of eulogy for Steve Jobs, one cannot be taken aback by the degree of saintliness people attribute to this man these days.

Please excuse my (non-trivial) carping, but it is not “Jobs’ technology” — the true electronics genius behind Apple’s product is Steve Wozniak, the other co-founder of Apple, who is utterly unknown to the general public yet ardently revered among computer specialists. Steve Jobs is a brilliant salesman — this only an ignoramus can dispute — yet it is equally ill-informed to laud him to this godly degree, as if he were the sole source of Apple’s success.

Furthermore — what about Apple’s success? Is it even so laudable? Dennis Ritchie — the inventor of C programming language and the godfather of modern programming — died today without an iota of public recognition. Bill Gates — who dedicates his life to eradicate malaria and rescue America’s public school system — is never regarded with the same awe and reverence as the saintly Steve Jobs commands. (“Bill Gates? He’s a rich guy” — that’s all we think.)

Why is that? Because Apple’s products “transform” our lives? How much of a consumerist (dare I say, hedonist?) have we become to regard a consumer product as “transforming”, as “revolutionary”, while philanthropic work and basic science research are not held with commensurate esteem? How saddening it is that we now hold iPod dearer than public service, and iPhone cooler than the basic research that makes it possible in the first place.

(Not to mention that Steve Jobs’ career is pretty much a series of dick moves. In their early, poor, college-drop-out days, Jobs got $5,000 for developing a game, paid Wozniak $375 to do it, and kept the rest secret from his “friend.” He cancelled all Apple’s philanthropic works as soon as he assumed leadership. And he jumped the line for his liver transplant thanks to his stand-by private jet, which allowed him to register in multiple states. The loophole has since been closed.)

Am I a nitpicking alarmist? Perhaps. (Really, I don’t think so 😀 — that’s just soothing rhetoric). Steve Jobs himself is not even the issue, but only a case to demonstrate the rage-inducing gullibility of the public. (Sure enough, he is a great strategist and presenter–that fact is in no way tarnished by the farce of mindless reverence everyone heaps on him now.)

I guess misguidedness just irritates me. A lot.

  1. hikaneos said:

    I would say: let him rest in peace.

    • anhqle said:

      That would be ideal — he deserves it. The mass, however, needs to be upbraided 😀

  2. milkievu said:

    Take Steve Jobs symbolically, not literally. People revere him because they see him as a representation of possibilities for creativity and social mobility, and not because they believe him to be the single mastermind behind every invention. Also, people pay more attention about things (they register as) closely intertwined in their daily lives then things that seem far-fetched, and hence talk more about them. This doesn’t mean they belittle public service or scientific research in lieu of social media products.

    Good luck with your quest of upbraiding the mass #thingswealreadyknow

    • anhqle said:

      I guess you have more faith in the mass than I do.

      If only everyone could intelligently point out that he or she is only revering Steve Jobs as a “symbolic representation” like you did. Once a person has such kind of self-awareness, he is no longer misguided — which is the only thing I can’t swallow. He can worship Steve Jobs all he wants, as long as he admits what you said in your comment.

      Heck, it’s like how I look up pictures of cute girls all the times, but I’m *aware*, and willing to admit, that cuteness doesn’t mean crap.

      (I’m not sure whether that’s even relevant or I’m just trying to brag rofl.)

      P/S: Steve Jobs wasn’t the creative one at Apple either. He just took all the credits. I don’t think the majority know this — hence I accuse them of misguidedness.

    • anhqle said:

      Plus, of course people will pay more attentions to things closer to their lives. That’s how things are — but is it how things ought to be?

      If we can agree that science or philanthropy are higher ends to society than consumerism, then the fact that people talk more about Steve-the-consumer-god than Bill-the-philanthropist is not desirable, even though clearly understandable.

      How about a crude example: we shit all the times, yet we don’t discuss it over finer things, do we?

  3. milkievu said:

    Let me say this first then, what’s up with reductionism? Since when did Apple become just another synonym for the whole movement of consumerism, while all of its revolutionary technological innovations (which contributes tremendously to facilitate our lives, and if you want to add, civic engagement and science research as well) get discarded? Since when was Bill always the good guy, notwithstanding notorious cases of Microsoft forcing smaller tech companies to financial bankruptcy in their interests? Same token, since when did “the mass” only have one converged (ignorant) opinion of Steve Jobs?

    I never disagree that there are priorities that should have been promoted, but instead fell into unawareness. But c’est la vie – whether it’s desirable or not, it still happens. Any time, any age, you’ll have mindless people. The problem is just that whether they represents the majority or a visible minority, you don’t really know. And while I never disapprove of any project to spread the knowledge, the patronizing tone of this one is remarkably irritable.

    • anhqle said:

      Any assessment regarding anything is bound to be reductionist. When we say Asian cultures are more community-oriented, for example, we certainly disregard many individualist Asians or many communitarian Westerners. Indeed, even a remark regarding a person–let alone entire culture–is reductionist. When we say, “he’s a nice guy,” we certainly do not mean all the times or in all aspects of his life.

      All of those assessments are reductionist, but we make them all the same because they are useful in imposing a sensible order upon the complexities of life. Thus I would insist on saying that, on average, most people love Steve Jobs as the consumer god (not as the guy who helped Arab Spring); on average, Bill is more philanthropic; on average, Steve Wozniak contributes to technology than Jobs does. By saying that, I sure gloss over many finer contrary instances — but the pattern stands. And it is a pattern worth pointing out since, I believe, not many are aware of it.

      Regarding your point about “c’est la vie” — if those priorities do fall into unawareness, doesn’t that prove that yes, it is the majority, and not just a visible minority, who is being mindless?

      And, this is probably too provocative, but towards the mindless mass, I indeed feel very patronizing. I quite frankly do not understand why it is such a bad word — if there is right and wrong, good and bad, surely some will be morally and intellectually superior. If there is a standard, there will be a ranking. And yet we have been so enamored with equality that being above and recognizing that you are above suddenly become unacceptable.

      (Wrongly thinking you are superior is, of course, reprehensible. If I’m proved wrong, I would gladly change my stance. Otherwise, I would not consider patronizing a philosophically bad thing. Practically, it is, because we have recently fallen in love with the ideal of equality. Hence you don’t see me going around preaching IRL.)

  4. milkievu said:

    I won’t try to persuade you on how awesome (and yes, revolutionary too) Apple products are – there are a plethora of graphic designers, artists, filmmakers, music composers who will readily testify to that.
    (And this too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Apple_products)

    That aside, I reckon there’s room for generalization in life. But it is one thing to talk about patterns. It is quite another thing to discard a significant amount of evidence pointing the other way, just so as to focus on one side of the coin. And you yourself
    have acknowledged you’re glossing over “many finer contrary instances” – if we take this to be true (and it is true), isn’t saying that the patterns hold, or if there is a pattern at all, a bit of a paradox?

    By the way, cool theme. Makes me yearn for real Christmas atmosphere from across the globe.

  5. L said:

    A quick thought from just another mindless soul in the mass:

    I echo the thought about weeping over Steve Jobs as a symbol, not a literal person, as we all know Jobs the person is a dick in every possible way. Although I worship Dennis Ritchie, would kill to have Steve Wozniak’s autograph and cried uncontrollably when Micheal S. Hart passed away a month before Steve Jobs, also regrettably without much noise, I have to admit that I can’t relate to any of them. Ritchie and Wozniak are genius in born, while Hart is just plain crazy. Steve Jobs might have been a genius too, but he knew how to make the ordinary think that they could become like him someday. And I think in the quest to upbraid the mass, that’s a handy trick.

    You can add computer geeks to the plethora of the aforementioned Apple fanboys as well. Their technology is always solid. Always. No matter how much I would like to hate them, Apple’s products have the core of a *nix platform that I adore and the look of a supermodel that I can only (wet)dream of. Nothing related to the discussion, just saying *drooling in daydream*

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