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Steve Jobs: Change We Learned to Believe In

Steve Jobs: Change We Learned to Believe In

iTechnology and a better world

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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.


Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (23)
October 12, 2011
Re: old and tiresome
Just had to love that one!
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
October 12, 2011
Dear Anon in Berkeley,
Hey, you're in Berkeley. Should I say anything more? (Berkeley is notoriously a very, extremely liberal city, even more liberal than I am, and that is saying something.) Also, how can you debate positively? If all you have is a negative debate, it's not a debate but an opinion. Yes, I can see your eyeballs roll. Hahaha. Cute! Love it. Reminds me of my sons when they say, "Awww, Mom. MUST you?" When I tell stories of the old days, or even when I tell a joke. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, "I get no respect. No respect at all." Hahaha.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
October 11, 2011
old and tiresome
The defects of advances are negatively debated by the old generation. That's mainly backwards and backward looking, wrapped up in your nostalgia. Boring, makes our eyeballs roll.

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.
Anonymous
berkeley, ca
October 11, 2011
It's the old philosophical debate again.
Is the technology era good for us or not? It is always two steps forward, one step backward. When we began in the industrial age, smokestacks from factories blew thick, black smoke into the air. People gagged and coughed, then died early, but hey! It was good for job growth! Trains? Again, bad for the environment, but produced an EASE of travel, and yes, good for job growth! Computers? Great for instant access to information around the world, but bad for what KIND of info is spread. At this point, I don't know if we even COULD go backward if we wanted to. Do you ever wonder what OUR children will see being created? When you think of the advances made during our lifetimes...WOW. I still remember old phonographs, large and bulky cameras, reel to reel tape recorders, black and white televisions, and wringer dryers. I remember being astounded when a man walked on the moon and when Russia sent a dog into space before men went. Snail mail. So much change! We adapted, right?
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
October 11, 2011
technology is great but......
There is also another side to the story and we have to be VERY CAREFUL how to use these advances.

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!
Shoshana
Jerusalem, Israel
October 10, 2011
Amendment to my Oct 9, 2011
Re: Perspective ( IN in NY ) Oct 9, 2011, i would like to change my perspective from eulogy for Jobs to ' game changers, right idea right time '.

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.
Mordi
wisc
October 10, 2011
On the one hand, yes, this was great...
On the other hand, we are also seeing BOOKS disappearing as it's so easy to store our books on our MACS and other devices borne after MAC was created. I grieved when Borders went out of business. When I saw their empty bookshelves, it was traumatic. Yes, the computer is here to stay. But soon, gone will be paper books and also newspapers.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
October 9, 2011
Let's keep perspective
"I love my iPhone 4s?" Please. This site is supposed to be about spirtuality. I don't discount the message of doing what you love. However, don't be so eager to hop on the "icon" worship trip. I believe that was the end of one of the Batei HaMikdash, at least. Worship of gadgetry and entertainment for its own sake is today's Sar Shel Eisav. Steve Jobs lived and died in a flagrantly amoral atmosphere of promiscuity, pursuit of lucre, and party hardy. None of the above are our values. If you see someone nonstop texting about nothing, ask yourself, "What does this have to do with us?" Technology is a tool, yes. This is different. I doubt the Rebbe would have ever sent one text..
Anonymous
bklyn, ny
October 9, 2011
Jobs
It is wonderful that you understand the preeminence of Jobs to civilization. He cleared the way for mankind to seek truth/Truth.

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.
Mordi
wisc
October 9, 2011
Re: Perspective (I N in NY)
This article is not about the person, but about a role that had to be played. It's about a destiny to which the world is moving, the origins of that destiny and how it is playing out in our time.
Tzvi Freeman (author
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What's the latest news? For that information, check your local or national news outlet. In this blog we will discuss the "why?"

Not "why did this event occur?" but "why did I find out about it?" There must be a reason. It must contain a lesson I can use to better myself and my surroundings. Together we will find the lessons...
Tzvi FreemanTzvi Freeman, director of Ask The Rabbi for Chabad.org, is the author of two volumes of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth -- collections of meditations based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe -- a s well as numerous articles and essays on Jewish mysticism, philosophy and practice. He also writes Chabad.org's widely acclaimed Daily Dose of Wisdom mailed daily to tens of thousands of subscribers. Or subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing with the Freeman Files subscription.
For more about Tzvi Freeman, visit his bio page.
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