When you think about the Wall Street demonstrations, which are growing, they are largely protests against economic elitists—against the bankers and corporate executives who people feel have too much control over their lives. And yet the ultimate elitist died yesterday, and many of the same people love him. The reason is that they felt that his elitism was meant to make better products for them; that his perfectionism, his high standards, were not to make money—though he did and he charged higher prices than his competitors—but to help them. And so though he was an elitist and a corporate giant, he stayed cool. People treat his death like the President had died.
To a certain extent, Apple has replaced McDonalds as a threshold consumer experience: with caveats for socioeconomic class, sometimes it seems like everyone has some sort of Apple product, and getting one of your own is a membership badge.
Steve Jobs was some kind of gorgeous genius and his products have, incrementally, helped make like nicer, prettier and happier for millions of people. That's no tiny achievement and one well worth celebrating sensibly. That does not require one to rush to an Apple Store to hang around with depressed hipsters and make a fool of onself. Those that do so reveal themselves as members of a cult that's just as stupid as any other and equally deserving of scorn and pity. Making an iReligion is even dafter than other faiths which at least had the excuse of being invented in older, simpler times.
Jobs created objects of prestige that induced envy because they could change your everyday life. But then, like Henry Ford before him, Jobs quickly pushed those objects down the socioeconomic pyramid. What was once only for the rich would be for everyone. Just wait. The great forces of technology and industry were working to make it so! It is appropriate that a version of his defining invention, the iPhone, will be free (with a contract) soon.
The full legacy of Steve Jobs will not be sorted out for a very long time. When employees first talked about Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” it was a pejorative — they were referring to the way that he got you to sign on to a false truth by the force of his conviction and charisma. But at a certain point the view of the world from Steve Jobs’ brain ceased to become distorted. It became an instrument of self-fulfilling prophecy. As product after product emerged from Apple, each one breaking ground and changing our behavior, Steve Job’s reality field actually came into being. And we all live in it.
[D]oing what you love, and never settling until you find it, is a costly signal of your career prospects. Since following this advice tends to go better for really capable people, they pay a smaller price for following it. … It sure feels good to tell people that you think it is important to “do what you love”; and doing so signals your status. You are in effect bragging.
Thanks to his mix of tech-savvy and aesthetic perfectionism, the hardware and software of choice for cutting edge techno-optimist early adopters is also the hardware and software of choice for laggard quasi-Luddite doubters like myself. And whatever my doubts about the world of Wi-Fi and smartphones and e-books, living in that world is far, far easier when your tools are intuitive as well as addictive, and beautiful as well as functional. In this sense, Steve Jobs changed my life for the better — and it would be absurd for me to claim otherwise.
[I]t was Steve Jobs who, almost single-handedly, turned personal technology into personal technology. Which is a truly astonishing legacy to leave.
My thoughts here.
(Photo: A man uses his iPhone to take a photo of flowers, signs, apples and candles sitting outside the Apple Store on 5th Avenue on October 6, 2011 in New York City. The shrine has been created in rememberance of Steve Jobs, founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., who died on October 5, 2011. By Andrew Burton/Getty Images)