Steve Jobs, Jobs and Reincarnation

Readers will know that my feelings toward Apple are profoundly mixed.

As I wrote back in July:

The notion of well-oiled blue-shirted brigades of lanyard-wielding corporate minions dancing, speaking and thinking in line to the beck and call of Steve Jobs goes beyond running an efficient operation. It’s obsessive-compulsive, and downright creepy. In my view, the sooner a competitor arises that delivers minimalist, solid and sleek computers at a similar price and without all this peculiar control-freakery, without the backdoor surveillance, and without the cultlike undertones, the better. I will jump ship as soon as I possibly can. But right now? Apple has no real competitors.

But there is no doubt Apple has a vast array of good qualities beyond having great products. There are three crucial ones: value creation, job creation and innovation.

From Sovereign Man:

While people like Warren Buffet are pleading with the government to raise their taxes and give away their wealth to sycophantic bureaucrats, Jobs showed time and time again that the best way to improve people’s lives is to create value and be productive.

Steve Jobs was one of the most productive human beings to have ever lived; he started several successful companies which directly employed tens of thousands of people. Indirectly, his businesses improved the livelihoods of millions across the globe, from Chinese factory workers to iPhone app programmers to Apple shareholders.

In building an empire and unimaginable wealth for himself, Steve Jobs enriched the lives and livelihoods of others by creating value. Not by forced redistribution. Not by giving things away. By creating value.

Ironically, just as I write this I am watching President Obama on Bloomberg Television trying to explain how many jobs his new plan will create– 1.9 million in his estimate:

“We’re just going to keep on going at it and hammering away… until… something gets done. I would love to see nothing more than Congres act… so aggressively.”

Politicians would do themselves and their constituents a great service by comparing their own track record for enriching people’s lives against Steve Jobs’ performance, and then kindly stepping out of the way. The path to prosperity is not paved in votes, but rather in freedom: the freedom to create, produce, risk work hard… and be rewarded for your efforts.

Well, amen to that. Our markets sorely need new value, new innovation and new jobs, and the answer to that conundrum — as I painstakingly pointed out here — is creating new wealth, not new taxes as many currently seem to advocate.

In my view, Jobs greatest contribution to the philosophy of economics (and something I have hammered on in recent months) is the importance of failure:

If you can’t succeed or fail, it’s really hard to get better.

The story of Jobs’ life, and the story of free market capitalism is very much one of trying and trying and trying again, learning from experience, and gradually improving. Look at the difference between a Power Cube G4 and a Mac Mini. The difference between a first-generation iPod and the new iPhone. Lisa and Mac OSX.

Sadly, as American Presidents heap praise on Jobs and his innovations, they’re not exactly heeding his advice. As I point out on an almost-daily basis, the highly interconnected global financial system has experimentally shown itself to be fundamentally flawed, and systematically broken. The establishment response — at both a national and global scale — has not been to put failures to one side and try new systems (hopefully ones that allow for less interconnection, less leverage and less risk — and subsequently less fragility) but to pump money and bail out failures to make the same mistakes all over again on a bigger scale.

So as Steve Jobs’ body begins its journey back into nature, back into the oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen cycles — to be reborn, as we will all be, as new organisms — perhaps it is time governments started listening to his advice? Perhaps it’s time for the global financial system to die and be reborn…?


13 thoughts on “Steve Jobs, Jobs and Reincarnation

  1. Apple makes some good products, however they are expensive and as you say they have built in issues making them slightly less functional like being forced to use ITunes to update the Iphone, power cables provided by Apple are very short and there is too much free hype given to Apple.

    • I agree about the power cables. Length is a delicate balance, but it’s better to be too long then too short. As for free hype, charismatic presentation has always got free hype, so I don’t see that as a problem. Blackberry used to get a lot of free hype, but RIMM are now experiencing huge problems caused by poor design and poor marketing. Apple keep getting great press because they keep delivering.

      Steve Jobs is not Apple. I personally believe Apple will go into a decline from here. Tim Cook is not the right guy to run the operation — he’s too technocratic, too in-the-box and too corporate. The guy who should have got the job is Jonathan Ive. But that’s another story for another day, because this post is about Steve Jobs:

      No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

      – Steve Jobs.

      Almost Nietzschean.

    • iOS 5 has over the air updates you’ll be happy to hear. And Apple deserve the free hype. They make things seem simple, which is very difficult to achieve.

  2. Who do you think would be the final winner in the smartphone market after the iPhone? I think Apple would sustain its place for a few years, maybe until the iPhone 5 or 5S, then be on a track of gradual decline since its competitors would catch up on the designs and Apple would lack the hardware to fight them off. Personally I think Samsung will rally for some years, almost going into a complete monopoly since it can produce the parts of phones at the cheapest price and largest scale in the whole universe (this ain’t gonna change for at least a decade). Then Google would step in to make the phonemakers pay for Android, perhaps at a similar price to the MS Windows, so that phonemakers other than Google-Motorola would either shut its production lines or go bankrupt. I don’t think Korean semi-militaristic Confucianism would allow Samsung to be innovative enough to come up with an OS to combat the Android. Much prospect of that?

    • TJ — Smart phone market moving toward maturity, so innovation may be less important. Samsung will be more competitive in that environment, and i don’t see Google licensing Android like MS Windows. Samsung is a key partner — they’re launching Ice-Cream Sandwich on Nexus Prime. Ice-Cream Sandwich is much more standardised and straighter than previous Android builds. Apple’s industrial design process has significantly helped them make strides in innovation and radical design, but it hinders them from pumping out multiple new products a year like Samsung and Motorola-Google can.

      Apple pioneered visual OS’s for desktops, but without Steve Jobs they couldn’t keep pace with their competitors. He’s left them in a great position with some awesome patents and products, a great team and most likely great products in the pipeline. I think Jobs great mistake was not designating a more maverick successor, like Jonathan Ive, and leaving Tim Cook — the technocrat, the organiser, the consummate wingman — in charge. Jobs said his model was the Beatles — well Tim Cook played McCartney to Jobs’ Lennon. And we all know everything McCartney did post-Beatles was… a bit shit.

      Certainly Apple can at very least keep pace with the Confucian copycats for at least two more business years, but the 4S launch wasn’t exactly promising.

      • Well if that’s the case, too bad. I sold all my SEC shares right at the moment Google bought Motorola. Buying up the whole supply chain has often been a good strategy for cost reduction and larger market shares.

  3. May your soul RIP Steve. Thank you for your contribution.

    Perhaps this marks the end of an era, I don’t think we’ll see any more Gadgets that mark the zenith of human creativity. I mean what else is there to invent. Phones are Phones. Music is Music. TV is TV. Computuers are Compututers. Get a life gadget lovers.

    We have lost our way in terms of community spirit, soul and meaning.

    Perhaps we are are dawning a new age. The Age of enlightenment. Thanks to the Internet. With a world wide recession, people will have more time to think, create and change.

    Revolution and renewal is around the corner.

    • You do realize that pretty much every year for the past 100 years people have said “what else is there to invent”, right? That’s why they are called inventions. It’s why Apple has been so successful. Real innovation is breaking ground while other people sit around and admire what we already have

      • I think in terms of gadgetry we may have seen a (relative) zenith (like Nikola Tesla marked a relative zenith in grid infrastructure).

        Key upcoming technologies are 3-D printing, better transit systems, better energy infrastructure (widespread, decentralised solar and wind, artificial petroleum) and better resource extraction technologies (space mining), the continuing march of miniaturisation, better biotech technologies (widespread stem cell therapies, neural implants?), smart grid, arcology, decentralised agriculture (hydroponics, etc).

        Not all of these will work out, of course, and some may cause more harm than good.

        But I’m excited about the future.

      • I’m sorry, but I have ask the question: what innovation did Apple bring to the table?? They merely took existing technology, and simplified for the non-techie masses and hipsters. That’s real innovation these days? Honestly??

        • You don’t think interfaces and accessibility are genuinely innovative? It’s the difference between a motor car and rickety horse-drawn buggy.

          I don’t like to defend Apple, but their innovations include:

          The Apple I (brought computing to a whole new market of hobbyists) the Apple II (first home computer), Lisa, Macintosh graphical user interface, OSX (finder, spotlight etc), multi-touch, CoreAudio, iTunes/App Store distribution models, unibody aluminium manufacture, Apple store model, VisiCalc, Thunderbolt and all the miniaturisations that have led to the Macbook Air, etc etc.

  4. I was referring more to Apple’s innovation this past decade, rather than during the 80’s. And sure, they did innovate, but that innovation is VASTLY overrated. Most of the items you listed have to do more with design than anything else. Nothing ground breaking, certainly not in terms of technology.
    I think multi-touch was invented during the 80’s as well, and not by Apple.
    If I were to list Microsoft’s list of innovations over the last decade, it would almost certainly dwarf Apple’s list. Its just that Apple was much better at showcasing what they did, and their innovations were in a more public space.
    As I mentioned earlier, I’m not really denying the innovations Apple has created, I’m just saying they aren’t spectacular, and that in the minds of far too many people, Apple gets a great deal of credit for things they did not invent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s