A Hippie Control Freak with a Reality Distortion Field

Let me post a recent BBC video here about the late Steve Jobs and Apple. You may consider it a little off-topic, but I think it is worth watching for people who do have a soft spot for both the company and the person (who used to be) behind it.

The documentary gives an overview of Jobs’ professional history and how it was entangled with Apple. Now, I have seen a number of documentaries on this topic (and more generally speaking on Silicon Valley), and I can tell you that there is a great deal of overlap among these films both in terms of dramaturgy and the original video footage the used to spice up the movie. Nevertheless, this BBC piece is a nice addition to this line of documentaries as it does introduce some rare footage (e.g., Steve Jobs visiting an AppleStore before the launch of a new product) and it follows up history up to very recent times. It also includes interviews with people who did not appear in earlier documentaries (unlike for instance Wozniak or Sculley who get featured a lot quite understandably).

I sometimes use videos like this in my Introduction to Business classes. I think they can be meaningfully used to augment the often boring (and hard-to-grasp) ideas endorsed in ordinary textbooks. For instance, it is now a commonplace to emphasize that companies should not think of themselves as selling a product (or service) but rather as making an experience available to customers. What an oh-so-appealing idea! But how do you you go about it? I believe that Apple is a good example of how a company can successfully implement this idea rather than keeping it just a slogan. The documentary does reflect on this aspect quite well. And it also briefly touches upon the ‘style over substance‘ argument that is often vocalized in regard to Apple. As one commentator expressed his view, the distinction is unnecessary, the two are closely integrated: the better it looks the more you want to use it, and the more you use it, the more function you get out of it. I think he hit the nail right on the head, and it also resonates very well with the purpose of this blog.

A last personal note to those who may be sceptic about Jobs’ qualities and achievements (I met quite some of them during the great news media fuss about his death):  it is not as much a matter of worshipping for me, not at all, but rather a matter of making sense of an extraordinary story and what it has to teach me about approaching tasks and challenges in life…differently. 

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About Csaba Pusztai

I graduated from CEU with a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy. I taught undergrad and graduate economics and business for 16 years. I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies in Yokohama, Japan. I converted in 2004 purchasing a 12-inch PowerBook which I used until 2012, when it finally gave in. I find pleasure in reading, thinking about and discussing science and technology.
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4 Responses to A Hippie Control Freak with a Reality Distortion Field

  1. Aleh Cherp says:

    I have recently listened to Keith Devlin on Leonardo and Steve: How Fibonacci Beat Apple to Market by 800 years http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NZQceNqtUA&noredirect=1. It makes amazing parallels between Jobs and Leonardo of Pizza who basically “invented” modern calculus. The point is that neither he nor Steve Jobs “invented” anything. Their incredible talent was to understand how to make the astronomically elite and complicated technologies of their times (hindu-arabic numerals for Leonardo and graphic interface for Steve) available to everyone.

    • Csaba Pusztai says:

      I guess one does not necessarily have to be supersmart in an intellectual sense to make a difference or to be outstanding in their respective field. There is another kind of ‘smartness’, a sophisticated sense for what may be ‘valuable’, ‘desirable’ or ‘exciting’. And many may believe that this form of smartness is there in everyone, it is just commonsense. Well, retrospectively judging it does appear so, but the people who exhibit this kind of smartness did what they did looking into the future. It kind of reminds me the the funny equation I saw on a t-shirt:

      MODERN ART = ‘I COULD DO THIS’ + YEAH, BUT YOU DIDN’T

  2. Aleh Cherp says:

    Csaba, the video link does not work

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