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RIP Steve

Tributes to Steve Jobs | Technology | The Guardian.

Steve Jobs managed to live just two years longer than Mrs Paine. Cancer cut him down in the end though his wealth gave him unrestricted access to the best medical care in the world. I feel for his family today. They will feel that all their wealth and all their luck is in vain. I hope they will soon be able to look back with gratitude on a life lived well and thoroughly.

He was a business genius and - like all despised businessmen - did more good than any do-gooders. He was not really a technologist at all. Unlike his geeky competitors, he loved not the hardware or software, but what it could do and how well - if beautifully designed - it could enhance our lives. He made the world a better place, while making his partners, employees and family richer. This video is the closest he got to articulating what motivated him.


He was lucky, not because he was rich, but because he found what he loved to do. It's instructive that wealth can't buy you health and safety, but it's encouraging that you don't need it to be lucky. Passion, love and family life are available to all, rich and poor. 'Don't settle'. It's good advice.

RIP Steve.


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Suboptimal Planet

"Steve refusing conventional treatment is a rumour that has taken off because it suits a certain narrative"

The article Raymond linked to suggests it wasn't so much a matter of refusing conventional treatment, as delaying it:

"As Fortune reported in a March 5 cover story, ("The trouble with Steve Jobs"), Jobs tried various alternative therapies for nine months before the tumor was taken out on July 31, 2004, at the Stanford University Medical Clinic in Palo Alto, near his home."

I haven't looked any further into it than that, though.

"When conventional medicine is failing, you get to a point where you are prepared to consider anything."

I agree with you there. My mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1999, aged 42. In addition to two rounds of chemo and visits to the Mayo clinic, she ended up trying various strange teas and even Reiki. Even if it had only placebo benefits, or none at all, I still reckon it was worth trying.


I agree. There is no conflict. Raymond is barking in the wrong walled orchard though. Firstly, it's a myth Steve refused surgery. He talks about it in the film embedded in this post. 'I had the surgery and thankfully I am fine now." He didn't turn out to be fine, but those are the breaks with cancer. All the painful treatments are the lottery tickets you buy for the chance to live.

Steve refusing conventional treatment is a rumour that has taken off because it suits a certain narrative. It's just the Cartmans of computing calling him a hippy. Did he try alternative therapies? Possibly. When conventional medicine is failing, you get to a point where you are prepared to consider anything. If Mrs P had wanted to try voodoo, I would have decapitated chickens - with my teeth if necessary. Therefore there's a particular nastiness to this rumour that I find disturbing.

Secondly, as you say, you don't have to enter Apple's walled garden. Nor is there anything to stop anyone building another, better one. The tight integration of hardware and software is a key element of Apple's success. Microsoft is attempting something much harder (to make an operating system that runs on any old junk) and understandably often fails. If computing is finally to be prised from the gnarled hands of the geeks and delivered to the people, it needs to be simple, intuitive and reliable. Apple has led the field on that at every stage in the history of the industry because it's driven by designers, not engineers.

There's no libertarian dimension here.

[Declaration of interest: I am an Apple shareholder, live in a multi-Mac / multi-iPhone household, and this blog is made on a Mac]

Suboptimal Planet

Well said, Tom. Of all the early obituaries I read, yours was the best.

I read an interesting one today from Eric S. Raymond, libertarian author of The Art of Unix Programming.

In particular:

"like most people who attract a cult following, he became increasingly convinced of his own infallibility. It was an error that eventually killed him; the kind of pancreatic cancer he had was essentially curable with early surgical intervention, but Jobs insisted on treating it with “alternative medicine” that didn’t work."


"I don’t mind so much that Jobs made the walled-garden model of computers and smartphones immensely profitable for a while; the lure of that will pass because the economic fundamentals of software are against it, and I never had anything against the profit motive to begin with.

What’s really troubling is that Jobs made the walled garden seem cool. He created a huge following that is not merely resigned to having their choices limited, but willing to praise the prison bars because they have pretty window treatments.
Human cognition is messy and all sorts of ethical and aesthetic reasoning run together in peoples’ heads; we cannot expect people to love tyranny in small things like smartphones without becoming less resistant to tyranny in larger matters"

Personally, I don't see any conflict between being a libertarian and owning an iPhone (there's no coercion involved, after all), but I think there might be something to what he says.



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