Steve Jobs — Is He Worthy?



Image by Alan Rhodes via Mike Davidson’s Design a Steve Jobs Movie Poster

I’ve started writing a biweekly column for Wired News and calculatingly chose a controversial subject that’s been on my mind for a while: whether Steve Jobs is worthy of our slavish devotion?

The column was tricky to write and looking at it now, I don’t think I quite pulled it off. Based on the feedback, there seems to be some confusion about what I was trying to say.

The column was not a critique of Jobs’ achievements, which are monumental and undeniable — he’s been a driving force of the PC industry for 30 years — but with the way the press and public project a progressive image onto him, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

I was also questioning my own reverence for the man. He’s quite magnetic, but should I really admire him that much? My heroes — most of them British punk singers from the seventies — hated capitalists like Jobs. And in public at least, there’s no sign he’s anything but a captain of industry.

The same could be said for Bill Gates, of course. I used to revile Gates, but his philanthropy, which seems earnest, is beginning to redeem him. Even though he earned his fortune in reprehensible ways, there’s salvation in the ambition to give it all away before he dies.

What do you think? Wired News’ comment system is temporarily down, so please contribute your thoughts here.

Several people sent me email that made good points I’d like to share. Here’s a couple:

Andrew Mayne said:

“You also make the classic mistake of equating net worth with liquidity. The vast majority of Jobs wealth is in stock. His salary from Pixar is $52 a year and $1 from Apple. His billions are in Pixar stock and options in Apple (to a much lesser degree). So far he has liquidated very little of his stock from either. He lives far from an ostentatious lifestyle compared to others of his own net worth.”

And John Kwo wrote:

“… while I certainly agree that Elvis Presley was never the outspoken activist that John Lennon was, Presley was incredibly generous in private. The following is from the official Elvis Presley website: … ‘Most of Elvis’ philanthropic endeavors received no publicity at all. Throughout his adult life, for friends, for family, and for total strangers, he quietly paid hospital bills, bought homes, supported families, paid off debts, and much more.’


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10 responses to “Steve Jobs — Is He Worthy?”

  1. C.A.Williams says:

    Your explanation here is different from the take I got from reading the article. Thank you for clearing it up…maybe.

    As was pointed out with Elvis, not all philanthropy goes on in the public eye. I know many people who don’t have the money Jobs or Gates do yet give generously to others and request that nothing be said to anybody. Perhaps Jobs does not feel the need for a public pat on the back? Absence of proof is not proof of absence.

  2. Trent Lapinski says:

    Money has never been why people like Steve Jobs. “Fame” is simply something in people’s minds that tells them someone has some kind of importance, be it for entertainment or other reasons. In this case, Apple users see Jobs as the reason their computers are what they are and they personally thank him this rags-to-richs icon they all grew up with as being the guy who looks out for their interests for what ends up on their desk. If anything its probably people trying to humanize their computing experience giving credit to the capitalist or made it all happen: Steve Jobs.

    When it comes down to it of course Steve Jobs is just a man like any other. He has his successes, his failures, and his flaws, but at the end of the day he seems to get the job done which is what I think most people admire about him.

    –Trent Lapinski

  3. Steve Porter says:

    Recently, NPR (or PRI) had an story about Bill and Melida Gates and their foundation. The summary was that for a long, long time, Bill kept his money. Didn’t give away any and was run over the coals in the same manner that Jobs is now enjoying. It was Bill’s ‘greed’ that enabled him to create such an incredible foundation. Had he given and given when the press got on him, we might never have seen the B&MG foundation.

    Perhaps, Steve just hasn’t reached that point yet.

  4. Charles says:

    Totally Incomprehensive to me because I have lived far below the poverty line all of my life. And now at age 55 I live on the streets like a dog. No income and no help from people like Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates. These Billionaires and Millionaires are in reality no better than a poor man. I use to be able to write software programs rivaling the best of programers. Yet I am a poor white man whom can get NO help from the goverment, social security, nor the FILTHY RICH whom fear they will loose their wealth if they give it away to help the poor. THe only way they will give is if they can see a way tod get the money back as like with a TAX Charitable tax deduction. Charles McCorkle I know not even where I will sleep tonight nor where my next meal shall come from, yet the knowledge God has given me I would not trade for all the money in the world.

  5. Anon says:

    @Charles: Perhaps you should trade the stupid knowledge that your invented “God” has given you for some food, or clothing, or shelter? Why isn’t your God helping you?