Jobs was no inventor, and that's okay

Discussion in 'iOS / iPhone' started by Mi An, Nov 8, 2011.

  1. Mi An

    Mi An Hyperfocal

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    Steve Jobs’s Real Genius : The New Yorker

    It's not something most here don't know, but the references to Jobs as inventor remain ubiquitous in the news.

    Now, there's nothing wrong with being a tweaker itself (credit stealing is another issue), and Gladwell does a fair job of explaining that.

    A nice closing quote:

     
  2. r0k

    r0k Dazed

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    Excellent article, Mi An. Thanks! I got Jobs' book on Kindle software on my iPhone and iPad but sadly I've been too busy to finish it. All the articles I keep seeing around the 'net are fueling my desire to get through it.
     
  3. Mi An

    Mi An Hyperfocal

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    I can't quite bring myself to read it just because of how popular it is. Honestly, I've seen as much from the book in channels that normally run political news as in those that do tech news. Once that cultural saturation peters, I'll probably crack it open.
     
  4. Chet L.

    Chet L. Mobile Deity

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    Jobs said no. He “had never liked the idea of people being able to open things. ‘That would just allow people to screw things up.’ ”

    This quote pretty much sums up what it is that I don't like about Apple products. I felt like I was just borrowing that which I owned. A lot of what I have learned in life I learned by screwing something up and then fixing it.
     
  5. hal

    hal itchy and cold feet hal

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    Jobs is certainly not an example of inventive. He is of true leadership, of vision and of an AMAZING commercial stamina. But not inventive. In the recent days, after his death and all this craze about his personna, I'm starting to feel like if Jobs was already getting the treatment of a trademark. Like if Apple = Steve Jobs. And, a trademark gets the merit of it all.

    FWIW, DaVinci was not a notable inventor either. Even though the cultural notion prevails otherwise, I shall ask: did his plane fly? Did his helicopter fly? Did his machinegun work? Did his submarine dive? And so on... the answers are NO. Ergo, did he invent them? No. He can have in those examples a merit of SciFi, of technical foresight, but not of actual invention. OK, he did make a tank work, but it just lasted a single shot. The tank was a UFO-shaped thing, comprising an elephant for motricity and a field gun for artillery. It is said that when the gun was shot, the elephant was struck deaf and shrieked (for the obvious reasons of being inside the same twerp along with a field gun, go figure), so he obeyed no more. DaVinci was an outstanding artist, a notable engineer and a pioneering surgeon and anatomist. Inventor? No.

    Likewise, Jobs is currently being elevated to a tech-mesianic status that is totally off-focus. Yes he leaded a benchmarking corporation in digital technology. Yes he co-founded it. Yes he forbade the usage of typewriters in order to pull said corporation into using the devices it was creating. And I keep no doubt that he incepted the general guidelines of many devices, therefore he can share a credit of innovation. But inventing them? I mean, even being the owner of a patent doesn't necessarily have something to do with generating it.
     
  6. philpalm

    philpalm Mobile Deity

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    The New Yorker article gave me thoughts of about whether or not to have a benign dictator (the Steve Jobs type) or a free for all democracy (Gates model).

    I am in favor for no fuss and just works (for only certain areas) type devices but I also worry about how it might curb the ability to diversify. Then again my fanboy bias is a bit showing and eventually there will always be less choice and more the bottom line of what is useful to me and what is peripheral and superficial.

    Then again people complain about the imperfections while Steve Jobs worked on the imperfections until he got as close to perfection as he could.
     
  7. Varjak

    Varjak Mobile Deity

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    I can't quite go that far. There are many examples in history of people who thought of devices that couldn't be executed yet, because the technology wasn't invented; but they did layout more than 'Star Trek' dreams. In fact, Nobels are often given for underlying research that leads to actual inventions and innovations. But your point is well-made. Personally, I wouldn't mention Jobs in the same breath as Da Vinci either.
     
  8. rkevwill

    rkevwill Mobile Deity

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    I get such a kick out of the free for all democracy comment. Gates and MS don't care which device you use, as long as they get their pound of flesh from each computer you use their OS on. (me, I'm a capitalist, and thats fine with me). And now......notice that MS is receiving more and more license fees from android phones.
     
  9. hal

    hal itchy and cold feet hal

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    Nobel prizes are generally awarded not for inventions, but for discoveries. OK, the difference can be very thin in several examples, though. And this difference is more clear in areas like Physics and Chemistry. But it's not that clear in areas like Health and Medicine (Dr. Salk's vaccine is a clear example of something half way between an invention and a discovery). This difference doesn't work at all in other areas like Literature, but that's pretty much off-topic. The reason why Nobel prizes bias towards discoveries, is because the latter immediately add to the knowledgepot of mankind, under the rules of science (you have to share the knowledge in order to receive the merit). Inventions give a different benefit under the precept of a patent.

    Now, the general notion is that an invention is so, the minute it works. Being able to foresee a nonexistent device, gives no merit of invention (i.e. Jules Verne described the Tesla gun, but he didn't get anywhere near of building one). And such merit can be biased in itself anyway. James Watt didn't invent the steam engine, it was Robert Fulton, but it was Watt the first one in giving the steam engine a practical application, and that's where he got an even higher merit, even above invention.

    That said, Varjak, I cannot take my own stance to the point of saying "oh, you're sooo wrong". Innovation has many bright and dark spots. How you said? "layout more than 'Star Trek' dreams"... OK, that clearly puts DaVinci, and Jobs for the case, out of the distant foresight. DaVinci's transports didn't work essentially because he failed in the invention of engines, and that in short was about 300 years ahead of his own time. However, the basic notions of fluid dynamics are clearly imprinted in his models. I mean, just as you say, however unapplicable in his own time, he was devising technological possibilities.

    Jobs was obviously a visionary. Now I wish to peel off this notion of "Jobs as the trademark", cause for one I think that it adds to the current attempt to rise a tech deity (& I'm agnostic :D), and for the other it actually masks Job's true merits. Forbidding typewriters in order to use computers can be clever and necessary... TODAY. 31 years ago? It was like Cortes setting his own ships aflame. You really had to trust an envisioned path to do something like that. Jobs was an innovator (and here's where the inventor-or-not discussion sustains). Even though he may have not known rip of many of the subsystems comprised in his visions, he had to know that there should be ways to figure out the whole. Trusting that it could be done, doesn't just involve an inner conviction, but also involves things like being informed of this or that minor innovations, that solve this or that detail that will eventually make the thing work. To many people, Jobs innovated to the point where he offered not just gadgets, but a lifestyle. I digress on that, but that's just me. Perhaps cause I don't buy it, or perhaps cause my lifestyle isn't nurtured with that envisioned path.
     
  10. Varjak

    Varjak Mobile Deity

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    Hal, that's my point. What seems to happen in many cases (often Physics), theoretical research is recognized years (sometimes decades) after the research when someone else puts it to applicable practical use. It was decades after the theory behind the MRI machine that someone actually won the award for it. Same with some medical discoveries. Someone recently won for how he created biomarkers for genetic research. It's value was proven my later users who use it to diagnose diseases (test kits) and even cure them.
     

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