Thursday, October 20, 2011

Death Of Our Heroes

I have always semi-idolized Steve Jobs. The wild success of Apple, and some of his more trenchant statements indicated to me that he explicitly understood the principles that made Apple great.

For example, he was constantly referring to products as magical and beautiful. I believed that he knew that this meant attraction and minimalism. Magical meant that the design elicited interaction. The look and feel made people desire contact. Anyone who has ever caressed an iPhone 4 knows this feeling. Beauty is focus in design. No gew gaws or addenda. The perfect product is what it is and nothing more.

I also always assumed that Jobs knew that what made Apple successful was not the ideas, but Apple itself. It was the machine that generates the ideas that is valuable. This is why Apple rarely sued. It was also why they kept things so secret, because they knew that as soon as their ideas were out, people would start to copy them.

Sadly, it appears that Jobs was not explicitly aware of the latter, which makes me question my assumption about his knowledge of the former.

Gizmodo is reporting about a part of the Jobs biography where he fumed about the "stealing" of ideas for Android and wanted to see the OS destroyed. This wildly contradicts his earlier, wiser statements about "great artists" stealing. In fact, he directly said "I want you to stop using our ideas in Android," to Google CEO Eric Schmidt. He focused on the ideas instead of the implementation of those ideas.

For example, long after the iPhone came out, Nokia, LG, Microsoft, and Sony had not conjured up a legitimate response. Even if Apple had provided a blow-by-blow description of the iPhone as they designed it, they still would have been alone on the market for over a year. A year! If anything illustrates the importance of the implementation and not the idea, it's that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Technology World Without Steve Jobs

Many people are asking what the world will be like without Steve Jobs. Many people are saying that everything is fundamentally different. This is, of course, stupid.

Obviously, it would be equally stupid to disparage Jobs. He was a consummate artist and Apple is as much a corporeal manifestation of his internal world as it is a company. But overly exalting Jobs ignores reality. No one exists in a vacuum. Everyone is a reciprocal entity.

In much the same way as the world of philosophy, a thinker's viewpoint as much represents sentiment of the time as it does his or her own, unique thoughts. They exist together. One does not guide the other. The thinker and the world, the creator and the created, stumble into the future together.

The whole of the market is like a giant game of Ouija, where thousands of hands are guiding things. Not seeing the forest for the trees, looking at things in a quantum way, leads to an inaccurate perception of history as a linear narrative. This person caused this, this person caused that.

For example, do you think that if Newton hadn't come around, the truths of gravity would have never been discovered? If Watt hadn't invented his steam engine, do you think that large-scale steam power would have never been created? Of course they would have. Gravity would have been formulated, steam power would have created the industrial revolution. Aside from large-scale structural differences, the world would look fundamentally very similar.

Great inventions have a weird habit of being invented at the same time, independently, by completely isolated groups or individuals. It's amazing how few people realize this. If the telephone was invented by multiple people, all within a month of each other, why do we hold up Alexander Graham Bell as some shimmering example of human ingenuity?

I admit that many artistic achievements would never have happened if not for singular people. Same goes for stories, or movies, or songs. But in creations bound by a physical reality or the needs of a physical reality, certain attributes of any creations are necessarily guided by the nature of the time. The computer and technology world would not look exactly like it does if Apple had never been around, but it would certainly be recognizable.

This perspective is never popular since it reduces our heroes. It forces us to recognize that no matter how great a person might be or have been, the world would have chugged along perfectly well without her. It also reduces us and our fantasies. We all have fantasies of being someone of great import, but if people are only ever important vis-a-vis other people, and not in regards to some grand, cosmic standard, how can we maintain that fantasy?

Truly, western culture specifically seems obsessed with the heroic, singular person. Look at Ayn Rand. Her philosophy and explicit formulation of a person as a heroic entity is the absolute manifestation of this ideal. Again, we see this in the modern right-wing movement. One hundred years ago, at least those who thought they were the elite were actually the elite: robber barons and whatnot. Today, it's Mississippi.

We can see it again in the wholly Western focus on lost civilizations. Why are we so obsessed with Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, and their ilk? Because all of them were "advanced," even beyond what we have today. It is yet another thread from the underlying belief that great things can happen in a vacuum. All it takes is that "spark."

Did Steve Jobs and Apple change the world? Yes. Would the world have changed without them, simply in a different way? Also yes. His mark is indelibly placed on this planet, which I consider the goal of life. As the world was shifting, he molded part of it to suit his vision. He etched "Steve was here" into the sands of time. But to say that the world would still be in the technological dark ages without him is absurd.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

New Design House

I'm starting a new design house. I specialize in web design, brand design, and brand management. My prices are very competitive and I work incredibly quickly. If you want a solid brand, and a website that is mostly devoid of fluffy Flash and Javascript, thus concentrating on the actual, I dunno', content, hit me up. Check it out at