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.’