Thank you, Steve.

Steve Jobs
1955 – 2011

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride … all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

—Steve Jobs, commencement address at Stanford, 2005

The only people for me are the mad ones,
the ones who are mad to live,
mad to talk, mad to be saved,
desirous of everything at the same time,
the ones who never yawn or
say a commonplace thing,
but burn, burn, burn,
like fabulous yellow roman candles
exploding like spiders across the stars
and in the middle you see the
blue centerlight pop and
everybody goes “Awww!”

—Jack Kerouac, On The Road, 1957


Geologic Universe, vault-keeper. Sheer Brick Studio, principal. Empty Set, designer. Bethlehem Mounties, media. WDIY 88.1FM NPR station programmer. Skepchick.

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  1. (Commented on Amy’s G+ link to this post, but figured I should copy it here too… see if we can’t get some rational discussion about Apple’s corporate practices that isn’t clouded by sweet-sounding eulogies.)

    Why are we thanking the supercapitalist egomaniac who slashed Apple’s corporate philanthropy for budget reasons and never brought it back after Apple had more spare cash lying around than the Federal Reserve? Because he made a pretty little touchscreen phone? Is that worth the abuses of Chinese factory workers? Just because you use his products doesn’t mean you should use his death as an excuse to gloss over the man’s bullshit existence.

  2. Rational discussion about a “bullshit existence”. Hmmmm. Is that possible?

    I think that Steve Jobs represents a lot of what people love in design and computing simply because he was the figure head of Apple for so long. Mac products are beautiful machines that have affected many designers and regular consumers deeply in many ways and while you may make some valid but angry points (I’m actually not sure of the validity but the anger is clear) I think that it might be a bit too soon to cast rocks.

    Or not.

    I honestly can’t say. I don’t know if he was personally a bad man, I just know he was an inspiration who helped make inspiring machines that have improved my life.

  3. And let’s not make this an “I hate the rich” or a “down with capitalism” thread. I was poor as could be a few years back and the only reason I can buy food and cover rent now is because I learned how to run my little art business from my phone while I was on the road promoting my art.

    Before iphone, I couldn’t have done that. So in a way Mac is partially responsible for my success as an artist and some of that success can be attributed to the decisions I can only assume were made by Steve Jobs. Sure other phones can do that now, but Apple revolutionized the market and that in turned changed my life. If I could thank the design team that developed the products I would, instead I give a figurative hat-tip to a man who died today.

  4. @reedbraden: It is possible to criticize someone’s failings and admire their achievements. Also, be careful about when you assume that people know what you know. There is much that I don’t know about Jobs and Apple’s business practices and I’m happy to learn. But your comment doesn’t convince me that you are interested in teaching.

  5. Why appreciate Jobs? It’s the same answer I have for everyone who claims we shouldn’t maintain a space program when people are still starving – human existence is a not a zero-sum game. If we don’t nourish the human soul by celebrating the heights of human accomplishment in science and technology, what’s the point of feeding the bodies? We’re not just animals. Jobs was an essential influence on the innovation of industrial design and the usability of technology for masses of people. His work enabled creativity and progress on an amazing scale. For rationalists and humanists, that is important, period.

    Like Amy, I don’t automatically define “capitalist” as a dirty word, and I admire strong individuals who are able to shape culture and education through unconventional means. I suppose that means I like egomaniacs. I don’t think traditional philanthropy is the only way to do change the world for the better. I also think that the conditions of Chinese factories is a complex discussion that is hardly sensible to drop wholly on Jobs on the occasion of his death.

    I’m perfectly capable of acknowledging problems and learning new information to adjust my own opinions, but a series of assumptions and biases intended to angrily negate anything else is not a foundation for rational discussion at all.

    Donna, I think this is a lovely post. It was the first thing I read on Jobs after waking up and hearing the news this morning and I’m glad of it.

  6. @reed Why should we give tribute to anybody then? Nobody is perfect. Sure, if Steve had turned his profits back towards philanthropy, it would be a gold star on his humanitarian report card. But I don’t see how it negates his accomplishments.

    On my own blog, I was careful to balance his accomplishments with the downsides, possibly to the point of underplaying them. But I feel no matter your beliefs, it’s just indecent to kick a corpse before it even gets cold. It’s the same reason I didn’t even touch the issue of his turning to alternative therapies until it was too late. It’s just not the time for that.

    Now is the time to send our condolences to his family and remember him for what he accomplished, not what he failed to accomplish. Because arguably, none of us will die with a list of accomplishments longer than our own list of regrets. Such is life.

  7. I was going to take the effort to respond to @reedbraden, but the other commenters above have done so thoroughly and much better than I could. The only thing missing that I feel I can contribute is the following standard response to all trolls:

    Fuck you, @reedbraden. You’re an asshat.

  8. Just thought I’d add this, a quote from Stephen Wolfram: “To me, Steve Jobs stands out most for his clarity of thought. Over and over again he took complex situations, understood their essence, and used that understanding to make a bold definitive move, often in a completely unexpected direction.”

    Yes, Steve Jobs & Apple Computer made business choices that caused harm; I feel mainly because the drive to achieve something overrode other considerations. Apple has moved to correct some of these problems – they are constantly reducing the impact of their packaging, and the amount of harmful compounds in their products. There is certainly much work for them to do in this regard in the future.

    But putting that aside, I feel the world (yes, and my own life & career) has benefited from the combined force of Steve’s clarity of thought and his unwavering drive to achieve what he envisioned. I get the feeling that he spent the time since his cancer diagnosis in a constant race to turn Apple into an institution that would endure after he was gone, and always try to make the best tools possible.

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