One day in 1979, 24-year-old Steve Jobs walked into Xerox PARC and saw the first GUI—a computer interface with a mouse, designed to work the way people work. As Steve Wozniak describes the scene, Jobs was jumping up and down like a small child, demanding “Why aren’t you doing anything with this? This is the greatest thing! This is revolutionary!”
The executives responded that the world wasn’t ready for this. My bet is that a lot of them were pretty scared by it. What’s the point of being a techie, after all, if everyone can do it? But Jobs grabbed whoever he could from the PARC team and built the Macintosh.
If he hadn’t, I would never have been able to become a writer—being rather dyslexic and uncoordinated. I wouldn’t be able to hold a job—because I can’t sit in an office behind a desk for more than an hour. In fact, I have no clue where I would be—other than a real lousy, clumsy cog in IBM’s wheel.
I used to joke that Apple was my second religion. Then Apple got too popular, and I was never one for being part of a mass movement. Nevertheless, I believe in Apple, because I share Steve Job’s vision. And I believe the course of history was changed through him for the better—real, real better.
When Steve Jobs started Apple at 19, this world was the world of IBM, General Motors, Exxon, Dow Chemicals and Encyclopedia Britannica. Today, make that Google, Apple, eBay, FaceBook and Wikipedia. Jobs promise was that 1984 would not be an Orwellian techno-1984 that would reduce us to uniformed humanoids, and he made good on that promise.
What has changed? Everything changed. The world has been turned on its head.
There was once a world where you had to memorize a manual to use a word processor—the same one just about everyone used. Where you had to take someone from the IT department out to lunch just to get basic stats about the company you managed. Where you had to hire a computer expert to get simple tasks done much as we hire accountants to take care of our income tax statements today (and I hope, not for much longer).
Today, we live in an iWorld. If I don’t like the encyclopedia entry, I modify it. If I’m fed up with working at a desk, I check my iPhone map for the closest park and go work there. Technology is here to serve me. I don’t need to conform to it, I don’t need to be manipulated by it, I barely need to spend time learning it—because it learns me.
So some of you are asking, "What is so beautiful, so messianic, about an iWorld?"
And my personal answer: the iWorld is the destiny of humankind and its saving grace.
It is the belief that a human being is not a cog in the wheel of a great machine, but the inherent master of all machines. It has enabled us to create a world where everybody knows when justice has been perverted and can scream about it to the whole world loud and clear. It is the power by which totalitarian regimes have fallen and will continue to fall, by granting everyone access to knowledge, which is power. And behind it all stands a tacit conviction that every human being contains something of the Divine, and therefore should be master of his or her world and destiny.
In Jewish terms—at least, the way I experienced the evolution of the past thirty-something years: The iWorld is the world of Moses, a world where every man, woman and child is a member of the covenant, and must therefore know the laws and teachings for themselves. And what Big Machine Inc. et al were interested in building was more like the world of Egypt's pharaoh and its priestly caste, of those who inform you “we have all the knowledge and we’ll let you know when you need to know.”
Around 500 years ago, Western Civilization began moving rapidly towards towards its destiny, towards that iWorld. In the last 50 years, we’ve been rapidly shifting gears upward. Up and away from a world where human beings are tightly squeezed through homogenization filters so they’ll fit into the system, into a world designed to fit the human being. Into a world where knowledge is free, opportunities for expression and creativity lie literally at your fingertips, every voice is heard and almost anything becomes possible even for the most handicapped child.
The world has its destiny, produced and directed by the Master of all destiny. A destiny in which Steve Jobs played a principal role. Sure, his role was nothing more than a provider of tools—it's up to us to use them to create that world for which we yearn.
Riverside, CA, USA
Hey last generation, kindly clear the track. Let my generation embrace change, which includes cleaning up your serious messes. You had visionaries. You ignored them. You've been tagged the ' Me Generation ' and we all know why.
It's Sukkot. Remember when you build the roof of the sukka, you are to use refuse. Why ? To raise the holiness of those waste materials. If you are old and have no friends, visit a Rabbi's sukka. All four species of human being are welcomed. Let the introspection of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur count for something. ' Feel the love ' on Sukkot. The mitzvah of Sukkot is rooted in Chumash. Try to look forward to it. In cases where a hammer and nails are holding you back from building and dismantling a Sukka, use an electric drill.
Riverside, CA, USA
What about the ever-ready immorality, the pornography at everyone's reach? Young children have been exposed to a world that they never would have known and are learning other things much too soon. Where has the purity and innocence gone?
Many adults have become addicted to unclean webcites and marriages have broken up because of this and families destroyed.
And those phones that let you tune into anythig and everything have ruined the lives of many boys and girls.
And even though all good parents put some sort ot a screening system, children seem to be able to get around it or go to a friend who has access.
Therefore, Am Yisroel beware!
Re: Let's keep Oct 9 , 2011, The Rebbe may not have texted, however, with his scientific background he did have an appreciation for leaps forward.
We have just finished Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and instead of seeing the good in people, we are right back to disparaging them or their contribution to progress/destiny. i think that The Rebbe has made excellent use of the Computer Age. We have Chabad.org. It has enhanced my life. If you want to see the Rebbe in action, click on YouTube. Embracing change is not easy. i'll admit that drivers speaking or texting on a cell phone really burn me. Do we banish the cell phone ?
Less paper = less junk mail/garbage/litter and more trees. Win-win. A nation without wood dies. It's elementary to our kids. Many of the younger generation do not wear a wrist watch. They have cell phones.
Riverside, CA, USA
Thanks for writing up a eulogy on this singular individual. Wozniak will love it if he gets the chance to read it. Both men intended to be the best at what they did, for the good of mankind. They were both honest despite the bazillions of money.
Your eulogy is special because you have given an honest perceptive sketch of the man, even while Jobs was a Bhuddist.
Kudos to you.