05/10/2015

Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson
2011

I struggled with this book for two reasons, which are linked. The first is that it's too long and too heavy. I could have done with half the length and a lot less detail - like Steve Wozniak's autobiography iWoz, which was a nice concise read.

Being so long and somewhat imposing, and having a pompous black and white headshot of Jobs on the cover, is there to tell you that this is An Important Book About An Important Person. Which is my second problem. The myth making. The whole thing is ridiculously uncritical of its subject.

If you've read the book, you might find this judgement slightly surprising. Isaacson writes frequently and at length about Jobs's bad behaviour - the tantrums, the cruelty, the selfishness, and much else. The trouble is that really, he approves of this behaviour. He thinks it's the price we pay for "genius" and for the series of products that "transformed whole industries".

This kind of sloppy thinking annoys me intensely. I think everyone involved in writing and editing of this book should be made to stand in a classroom and write on the board, "Correlation does not imply causation." Steve Jobs behaved really badly at times. Steve Jobs "transformed whole industries" through his "genius". One does not imply the other.

Anyway, "genius"? Give me a break. On the evidence of this book, Jobs was a deliberately and pathologically unpleasant man with a massively over-developed sense of his own worth, whose only talent, if it can be called thus, was for getting his own way. In this, he was perfectly suited to advancement in our imperfect corporate culture, and perfectly placed to take credit for the achievements of other people.

And "transformed whole industries"? I think you can certainly say that Jobs - along with others at Apple, whose credit Jobs appropriated in this respect as in others - was able to spot a trend early. But Apple did nothing first, and nothing that wouldn't have happened anyway. The industries were in the process of being transformed already, by bigger forces than one man or even one company could muster.

Steve Jobs was not a "perfectionist". He was not "blunt" or "driven" or "abrasive", or any other of the many, many pathetic euphemisms used to excuse inexcusable behaviour. He was a cunt. His legacy is not the Apple products; they don't make people's lives better really. His legacy is the continuing myth that in business, it's OK to behave like a petulant five year old with Tourette's Syndrome.

The world would be better without arseholes like these, and the inescapable conclusion is that the world would have been a better place without Steve Jobs.


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