Steve Jobs the tweaker

13 November 2011

Malcolm Gladwell on Steve Jobs There are inventors, and there are tweakers - these make small but important adaptations that make the big thing work; Malcolm Gladwell says that Jobs was a tweaker. Would that make him an Englishmen?

I still think the this is not quite correct; Steve Jobs was responsible for several innovations, the adoption of graphic user interfaces on mainstream computers and the invention of true type fonts . Graphic user interfaces were invented by the Xerox PARC , the concept worked on workstation computers that cost more than 10000$ and Xerox did not see the idea as something interesting. Jobs made it to work on the modest personal computers of the 1980ies, and this was quite a huge leap, it was something barely possible. For this he earns my respect.

Of course Jobs also brought about the shift in computing away from the relatively open PC platform to closed gadgets, like the iPhone, where the end user does not have full control over the device. This move has some internal logic - in the PC world there are lots of players, one company is producing the computer, another one the operating system etc. etc. here every player gets a piece of the pie. However the profit margin for a single player are higher if this single player can sell a larger and more integrated package.

The limited pie was good enough, when the PC market was growing fast; this is no longer so, therefore the big vendors try to increase their own margin by selling integrated systems. This trend was not created by just one person, so it goes.

i read parts of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson; what strikes me is the super sized ego of Jobs; at the same time he is said to have dropped acid and he was into Buddhist religion. Somehow the concept of Ego death and super sized ego do not seem to match very well.

Ego death would be a temporarily suspension of the ego (i guess that a permanently suspended ego would be a sign of psychological damage). The Ego is like a shield of the self: all incoming information is evaluated by means of the ego - this results in strong filtering, for instance one is shielded/unable to perceive inconvenient truths.

temporary suspension of ego may result in a new kind of openness; for the information filter may no longer be absolute. For some positions the gain of new insights may out-weight associated negative effects.

Maybe the right balance way would be for the ego to be both there and not there; don’t know if that is possible and don’t know if Jobs has reached this stage though.