- 07 October 2012
- By John Howell
The process by which someone becomes a saint in the Catholic church is called canonization. The process can take hundreds of years and requires, amongst other things, independently verified miracles. If Apple's CEO Tim Cook was the Pope, and Apple the Catholic church, Steve Jobs would have been fast tracked to sainthood by now and would be ready for our prayers. The miracles of the iPad and iPhone were witnessed by many. After watching the latest promotional video on the anniversary of Steve Job's death playing on Apple's website, it appears Apple is determined to turn their former computer salesman and marketing spin doctor into something far greater than he was. The media have been doing this for years, even without Apple's assistance.
Was Steve Jobs really a visionary genius who altered the face of humanity for the greater good? Is he really a figure up there with Gandhi, Albert Einstein and Saint Mother Teresa? A recent Wired article compared him to Edison, Ford and Tesla. Does he deserve the media spin, hype and absolute unabashed praise that he continues to receive?
If you've read the official Steve Job's biography by Walter Isaacson as I have, you'll know that Steve Jobs was no saint, certainly not a person worthy of deification or prayers. You don't even have to read between the lines to realise he was a bit of a bastard to many of his staff and so self absorbed that very little appeared to matter to him other than perfecting his products and his own detailed belief in how they should work. From parking in disabled spaces (because he could) to classifying his staff as either "A" or "B" players and unceremoniously sacking or screaming at those who did not live up to his expectations, there's not much there to like.
Perhaps the media hype demonstrates unequivocally how messed up modern morality is? Are we so screwed up globally, so lost in our ways, that we believe a man who helped sell millions of consumer products is more worthy of our attention, praise and reverence than someone who dedicated their life to healing the sick or who gave up all they owned to support people in need? Sure, he sold a lot of products, objects of aluminium, plastic and silicon, generated a lot of marketing enthusiasm for those same objects, but he did not invent penicillin, did not dedicate his life to charity, did not cure the sick or help the developed world get back on its feet (which the much maligned Bill Gates has dedicated the second half of his life to doing), he did not risk his life to help the oppressed, did not fight for justice when all was against him, did not overturn any repressive regimes at the risk of losing his own life (overthrowing Microsoft's Windows does not cut it), did not invent a faster than light drive that allowed us to explore distant planets or create an anti-gravity device with his personal scientific research.
As many of you may already be aware Steve Jobs' main claim to fame lay in re-badging other peoples' technology, altering it slightly, then claiming ownership and marketing it well. In recent years Apple's focus appears to have shifted to claiming ownership. A recent article in the NYTimes reveals that Apple spent more on making patent applications last year than it did on research and development. The more patents you file, the more that eventually make it through the patent system after repeated refilings, the more ammunition you have to stifle the innovations and work of others by sending them to the courts.
Or if I was even more cynical (which I don't think is possible) does this manufactured hype demonstrate how one company will abuse the memory of a man to establish a cult to sell even more shiny metal objects and amass even more wealth, all at the expense of the environment, reality, and if the patent wars and restrictive locked in operating systems are anything to go by, customers too?
When all is said and done, Steve Jobs was an incredibly successful computer salesman who created and popularised devices that, amongst other things, play music and make phone calls. He was arguably more successful than many other companies who make similar devices that play music and make phone calls, but they are still just objects that play music and make phone calls. So praise him for promoting some slick looking devices, but please stop trying to make him into something he wasn't.
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