The Steve Jobs Experiment: Outcomes Report

First some announcements: I’ll be holding an open house meet-up in New York City on Monday, October 17, around 8:30 pm at O’Reilly’s, 21 W 35th St. (upstairs: byo-drinks).  An informal gathering of folks who love the future, sci fi or just lots of talk! (If you really like all those things, then check out the Singularity Summit; I’m speaking on October 16.

I’ll also be Author Guest of Contraflow, the New Orleans science fiction convention on November 4-6.

The Steve Jobs Experiment: Outcomes Report

Steve Jobs had a knack for seeing the adult in a child, the grownup product that an infant idea could grow up and become. Looking at the toy computers that hobbyists soldered in their 1970s garages, he envisioned people like you and me wanting vastly more capable versions on our desks.  Looking back, you’d think it was obvious… which is pretty much the whole point about Steve Jobs’s genius.

For example, I wrote my first novel with a typewriter and edited using a pair of scissors. I cut-and-paste with lots of actual tape and glue. When I saw what an Apple II could accomplish, I bought one with a serial number in five digits and I’ve used its Apple successors ever since. They simply made life better.

The Xerox Corporation was a great American success story, but they never made this mental leap to thinking about people as customers — thereupon ignoring the market for home-copiers. They also snubbed their own innovators in Palo Alto, who wanted to turn the computer screen into a landscape, using a “mouse” to simply point at what you wanted. Executives at Xerox viewed this as a toy. Steve Jobs took one look at those early concepts and thought: “that’s how our ancestors’ brains worked on the savannah and it’s how to turn every human being into a computer-user.”

Even people who prefer Windows should still thank Steve for saving these inventions. He gave them to us all.

Early Macintosh computers offered a little program called Hypercard. It came with a few simple demo games, meant to illustrate the notion of click-linking from page to page. This was one of Steve’s worst marketing mistakes. He thought the concept of hypertext was so obvious, the world would see those little demos and run with it! But the same derisive sneers dismissed it as a “toy”… till Tim Berners-Lee invented the hypertext-based World Wide Web and it all became retroactively obvious.

Steve-Jobs-by-Walter-Isaacson-1By then, alas, Jobs wasn’t in much of a position to insist, having been cast into the wilderness by his own company.

So he built Pixar… giving us TOY STORY and other delights.  Nearly all of Steve’s financial wealth came from Pixar, not Apple. He sold all his Apple stock in the early 1990s. Kind of like Nicola Tesla refusing stock in alternating current. If he had kept that stock… or milked Apple later on, for huge compensation packages… Jobs could have been in the top tier of world’s richest men, instead of a mere single digit billionaire.

Instead, his passion was to make all of us richer, in the sense of the true positive sum game, when capitalism works. When millions of lives get better because we got insanely good products that were worth many times what we paid for them and that helped us be more productive in our own ways.  Alas, if only all of capitalism worked that way, as it’s supposed to.

Jobs never seemed as blatantly philanthropic as some — we’ll see how that turns out. And heaven forbid that most families or nations should be run in the imperial manner that, in some great companies like Apple, can get big things done, pursuing the virtue of exquisite product design above all else.

But those are minor cavils. What we ultimately see, in this bona fide American genius, is a light showing us the path out of America’s troubles. Do what we’re good at.  Innovate! Be thrilled by science and the infant technologies that may grow mighty tomorrow. Nurture the inner-tinkerer that all the world sees in us, and has ever since the nation’s beginning. Defend intellectual property! But stimulate others so much that nobody resents it. Make money not by financial parasitism but delivering better goods and services. (Duh?)

Help us all to both compete and cooperate with each other better than ever before.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “The Steve Jobs Experiment: Outcomes Report

  1. kent

    “…insanely good products that were worth many times what we paid for them…” “…a light showing us the path…” I’m sorry, but you have been drinking kool-aide by the gallon…

  2. s.wijono

    In accordance to the Google+ post comments, https://plus.google.com/116665417191671711571/posts/KqLhPYENQ5x , people talked about what is “capitalism”.

    Wondering why do people prefer to debate theoretically about capitalism in those G+ comments, while in crisis. That’s useful maybe in academic level, but far enough beyond folk. Why not talk about: micro entrepreneurship, micro credit, micro economy. That’s positive sum game, for people.
    In 1997-2000, East Asian countries suffered worst financial+monetary crisis. From that crisis we all learn most important lesson: “only big companies/industries are suffering crisis. While medium, small, micro, home industries/economy are all be proven as CRISIS-PROOF “.

    Steve Jobs give us example how to build a home entrepreneurship. It’s not important to us to be as visionary as Jobs, as well to be mega giga company likes Pixar, Apple. The point for people is, right in the entrepeneurship lesson.
    It’s dangerous to stop at “wow-ing” Steve Jobs, then doing nothing.

    Grameen banks worldwide are best example, with their micro credits. One of D-8 countries meeting agenda (now), is to gain advantages of your crisis, by proposing REAL actions, real cooperations, real jobs creation, real entrepreneurship pushing, not by debating the most appropriate economic system.

    We hardly see traditional markets in modern countries. It’s not about capitalism, liberalism or whatever, it’s about you DO what you think the best you have to do.

    Billion of people in third/developing countries, mostly women (most men working in formal sector) are doing the “very basic of economy: buying goods, selling goods, for profit”, on daily basis.

    E.g. in here and some other countries, traditional markets are protected. All town, downtown, suburban, village, has at least two traditional markets. NO minimarket, no supermarket, no mall, either chained or not, is allowed in 500 metres radius from traditional markets.

    Those trad. markets are the heart of 99% people economy. A trad. market has several hundred of kiosks. Men and mostly women get up at 4 in the morning, buying vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy, food, clothing, home/micro/small industry goods. Then selling. They don’t care about capitalism, liberalism, or whatever. Only to gain profit they’re realizing, to help family income. You may wonder how $100 a month could be aliving a family, that’s the real very basic of economy. They’re proven to be crisis-proof.

    Before Grameen bank exists, we have KUK (small business credit), KUR (people business credit), similar to micro-credit only by government banks. Those credits with NO or very soft collateral, helping very much for crisis-proof people’s home/micro-small businesses.

    Steve Jobs with Apple is legend, but instead of cultism, in imagination, what most important part we ought to learn from Steve Jobs is entrepreneurship with its very basic of economy (producer-consumer-profit), then do something, from people by people for people, positive sum games.

    Just some hours ago, Dalai Lama talks about positive motivation. You may have heard about “crisis” in Japanese Kanji, Chinese Mandarin or Korean Hanja, consists of two components, *danger and opportunity*. This is your opportunity to live & motivate people economy in reality level.

  3. Sedicious

    The Open House sounds great. I think you should announce it in a stand-alone post, though, to make it easier for us all to spread the info.

  4. Pingback: Some announcements | Healthy American News

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