Friday, October 7, 2011

Two interesting takes on Steve Jobs

Although Steve Jobs's contribution to people's ability to express themselves feely and to communicate openly was enormous, I have not written about his death because I did not think I could add anything of real interest or importance to the oceans of coverage the event received.

However, two pieces have caught my attention (yes, all right, they are both by friends even if one of them is a cyber friend and co-blogger on Chicagoboyz merely) that I thought were worth linking to.

Shannon Love analyzes why Jobs should have evoked the kind attention and admiration that is not usually given to entrepreneurs.
Psychologists have long noted that people don’t resent all wealthy equally. People resent millionaire bankers but don’t resent actors, athletes or musicians who make as much or more for less work of far less import. The key differences seems to be that the work of bankers is mysterious and largely invisible to the ordinary person while the work of actors and athletes occurs right out in the open where everyone can see it. People can connect specific songs or other works of art with specific artists. People don’t seem to intuitively begrudge great wealth and power as long as they can “see” the work that created the wealth and connect that to an individual.

When people used a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iTunes, they got an intuitive sense of results of Jobs work. In a sense, they could “see” him working just like they could see the work of an athlete or an actor. When people held an iPhone, they thought, “Steve Jobs created this.”
Though I still find it extraordinary that people should resent the wealth of business people but not that of empty celebrities or lottery winners, I think Mr Love has a point. I am not a Mac user (though I am wondering whether to change) but I can see and understand the achievements of Apple. Those who are users can do so a hundred-fold.

The other piece is by Jim Bennett, the godfather of the Anglosphere as Andrew Roberts put it (I am going in for an orgy of name-dropping today), published on the RFE/RL website.
There are, fundamentally, two subspecies of entrepreneur. One starts from the present, and visualizes the next logical step from where things are now. This type figures out how to make something better, cheaper, or more widely available, and manages to clear the financial, regulatory, and market barriers to getting it into the marketplace. The other visualizes a different world, one in which things are different and better from the way they are now, and then figures out what path of evolution brings us to that world, and, as the last step, what is the least ambitious step possible that will move things toward that goal.

Steve Jobs was one of the latter group, and one of the most successful of his time. It’s common to use the term “visionary entrepreneur” in describing the founder of any successful large-scale start-up business. Yet this term is only really applicable to the latter type. Often, what the former is visualizing is a really large pile of money, which differs from the ambitions of the common man only in the size of the pile. Steve Jobs genuinely merited the title of visionary.
Of course, not all visionaries are successful in implementing their vision and not all visions benefit mankind. Far from it, as the history of the twentieth century can attest. In the case of Jobs, his vision was beneficial and he did succeed in implementing it. Read the whole piece.

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