Steve Jobs

Steve Job’s biography has been a huge bestseller – and seems to divide those that read it. There are those that see him as a genius who was above the norms of civilized society. There are others, and I am among them, who are repelled by him and fear that too many will read into his life and achievements a justification for the worst in personal and corporate behavior – the ends justifying the means.

Egotistical perfectionism has often been the dominant characteristics of those that push the world forward in leaps rather than steps: Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are good examples. No one would expect sainthood from these men but Jobs seemed to take pleasure from humiliating people, cheating his partners and generally behaving like an arsehole in large and small ways, not least parking deliberately in disabled parking bays. Quite how he seems to have become some sort of YouTube spiritual guru after his speech at Stanford where he told an audience the amazing news that they would die some day is beyond me.

This is not to deny his visionary genius in so many of the fields that he changed and dominated. That he was extraordinary is not in question. The problem is that  aspiring jerks with a quarter of his talent and vision will think that they can behave as he did – and that this is both acceptable and even desirable. In the same way that a generation now believes that the sort of ‘business’ practiced by the odious Alan Sugar in The Apprentice’ is normal, many will take Jobs as their posthumous mentor.

It will be a sad thing, when the last Ipad has been thrown on the tip, Toy Story is just another Boxing Day film, and Itunes the day-before-yesterday’s technology, that Job’s gift to posterity may only be a coarsening of personal and business behaviour.

I suspect that Bill Gates’s legacy will be the one to admire.


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