Sunday, September 6, 2015


You're saying it's not a film about the technology, it's a film about values, and Jobs comes back to values several times. You very sharply highlight how his early, rebellious values about controlling a large system don't necessarily mesh with his later values about protecting his own large system. As a person who covers Apple frequently, that’s fascinating. It's almost like, I think about it so much that I stop thinking about it.
It was to me one of the most striking things about him and his growth. Even though he thinks he didn't grow out of those countercultural values, I think he took certain affectations from the counterculture and left some of the more deep-seated values, both from the counterculture, and frankly from his "search for enlightenment," quote-unquote, behind.
And I think he didn't really fully appreciate that he had left that behind. He starts out doing blue boxes with Woz, right? And yet by the end he's going after the guys at Gizmodo. Who you'd think actually had that same kind of renegade blue box spirit that he celebrated himself and liked to believe that Apple still represented. It’s the idea of this plucky startup. Apple wasn't a plucky startup anymore! And he never was able to reconcile himself with that idea.
It's an interesting interview and there's a good chance that I'll see Gibney's Steve Jobs documentary at some point. How much weight I actually give to the Citizen Kane aspect of Jobs' life is another story..

The Apple vision is a seductive one from an aesthetic point of view. In a way this has only become more true over time. In the eighties they stood out from the pack because they had a piece of fruit in their logo and because of Steve Wozniak's involvement in the US Festival, one of the first attempts at building a branded Woodstock. Their line of personalized - or seemingly so - software and gizmos would take time to develop.

It's also true that the results of this vision haven't entirely been benign. There's been a decay in the whole idea of shared physical space, as "bricks and mortar" locations for businesses are considered atavistic and people in public gaze into their devices to avoid acknowledging each other's existences. To say nothing of how much the "sharing economy" looks to be a fancy name for letting proles fight over a shrinking number of tables scraps while the table groans with food.

But how much of this is down to the foible's of Jobs' personality? I don't know. The truth is that even the CEO of a very powerful company doesn't reset the course of society by himself. Others have to invest in the idea, directly and indirectly. A lot of people who already had money chose to use it to certain ends.

In other words, you can hate the player, but what really counts is how the game has been gamed.


semiconscious said...

well, first, thanks for the link to the interview, which was very good, & which finally got us to watch 'going clear', which we'd both been interested in, & then somehow forgotten about :) . strange tale, that (but no stranger than that of many other 'religious organizations', i'm thinking)...

afa jobs/apple, my own personal relationship: supporter of early apple, up to the point where the machines were pretty much obsoleted wholesale in favor of the new, improved mac. which really sucked, & led me to switch to pc until i got sick of that as well & returned to mac (via macbook) around the turn of the century. so, yeah, in a way, i'd already borne witness to, & been burnt by, the 'apple vision' :) ...

i (like many, i think) had always liked woz more than jobs (see here, but, as with allen & gates, there is no apple without jobs. overall, i very much agree with your take. i'm not so sure it's actually jobs' doing that we find ourselves today living in a country whose entire financial market, not to mention pension system, is anchored to the fortunes of a company that basically produces electronic toys for adults. this perverse landscape has more to do with where our culture in general has left us than with the accomplishments of any particular individual. tho, as always, it makes for a convenient, simplistic, & 'fascinating' narrative. 'steve jobs died for our sins'? :) ...

Ben said...

Died for our sins? Ha! They're still killing us. I really like your description of "electronic toys for adults" BTW.

One thing that strikes me is that shortwave radio used to be a pretty big trend, and it was mostly generic. You'd get parts from a company, but it wasn't set up to promote the company's product expressly. Now would it be possible to run computers/the Internet the same way? I don't know, but the idea of it not being proprietary seems not to have even occurred to anyone.