5 years ago, the world lost one of its most revered individuals. A lot has changed in the past five years, but if anything, Steve Jobs’s status as a modern idol has only grown in death. Yet as I rifle through Facebook with posts laden with RIPs I can’t stop thinking, do people really understand why he is idolized?
Was it because he succeeded at business without ever seeming like he was a business man?
Was it because he leaned on a type of marketing for Apple products that made us believe they would change us as people?
Was it because he was such an asshole that he never allowed any sort of “imperfection” in his products?
Look, people are taking away the inspiring parts of the man while choosing to forget the rest. They point out that Steve Jobs dropped out of college and started his company. He bucked all trends and outside influence to follow his vision. He helped to usher in the technological revolution, and certainly the smartphone revolution. Steve Jobs is every entrepreneur’s wet dream.
But Steve Jobs was also a thief, a liar, a self-absorbed asshole that pushed people until they broke, ignored his family and children for most of their lives, and strong-armed book and music publishers into accepting his terms thereby robbing free markets of determining the value of their work. Steve Jobs is a guy that nobody would want to be friends with.
I don’t believe that people who achieve success, even people that make my life personally better, deserve my blanket praise. They should be treated as the individuals that they are. Each and every person has values and faults, and they should be remembered accordingly. The legacy of Steve Jobs today is that he birthed the world’s most valuable company in terms of market capitalization, and he created of a host of products that nearly everyone has in their homes. Is that legacy really enough to turn him into an idol?
Let’s look at Steve Jobs’s contemporary, Bill Gates. No one reveres Bill Gates the way that they do Steve Jobs, and yet in terms of impact Bill Gates surpasses Steve Jobs in every category. The C programming suite powers nearly every embedded system. Windows, for all its drawbacks, is universal around the world. Excel, Powerpoint, and Word are the workhorses of modern business. How many presentations get shared with you in Keynote?
Bill Gates also developed his own things. He didn’t steal other people’s work and he never misrepresented himself. And now, at his current age, he has devoted his life and his billions of dollars to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the ambition of solving the world’s most complicated problems by applying all of his immense wealth. Bill Gates is like Steve Jobs if Steve Jobs wasn’t an overly greedy, ambitious piece of shit who never stopped to help anyone but himself.
“Whoa,” you might say, “maybe Steve Jobs just did his donations on the sly, not like Zuckerburg who was concerned about his image.”
Just look at the evidence. Steve Jobs was laser-focused on Apple. He did create a foundation, which he shut down one year later. There are no schools with his name on them, no major organizations that counted him among their major donors. Sure, he had a $1 per year salary when he was CEO of Apple in the later years. For a billionaire, that’s not really generous, and who is that helping anyway? The only thing he cared about: his company.
I’m not trying to say that I’m any sort of moral judge. I would be delusional to think that I was somehow better than Steve Jobs. All I wish to do with this post (rant) is point out that we idolize someone who does not deserve to be praised so unabashedly. We need to take a long look at who Steve Jobs really was before applying him as any sort of standard.
If you consider the facts, he was about as ruthless at a 19th-century oil tycoon.
If you’re still not convinced, I invite you to read my epic satirical poem, iNFERNO, about Steve Jobs descending the levels of hell to witness the sins of technology and Apple in particular.