I never met Steve Jobs. Never even tried. I now regret it, of course. Even to shake a hand and chat for five minutes offers a connection unmediated by the various departments of the press. And I have done that with all kinds of people. But he’s gone, and he’s gone younger than I am, and my mortality and admiration and strategic sense are intermingled in a manner I find disturbing. I don’t think there was anyone who in such a practical way grasped the future – the near future, but the future – and found out how to monetize it using his own imagination and the marvelous skills of those he drew to him. Who else has leaped ahead of the focus group and been glad of it? Who else has produced packaging –packaging! – you feel you must be an aesthetic criminal to discard?
A second generation begins today, October 6. The “digital revolution” that the naive ones of the earth believe has happened and that has just started to find traction – the digital revolution is now into Phase II, post-Jobs, an exploration of the middle distance (10-15 years, which will always be our benchmark) as we contemplate our current competencies and what they will in due time entail. But it is indeed today. There is no comparable starting-point. And while the prophets among us tend increasingly to say we are going to live forever, or close to it, the death of the digital generation’s greatest man at 56 brings us back to the benchmark of human mortality. A mortality he discussed, as few do today, even as he prepared the way for those he knew would live on into a distant future denied to him by the interaction of his pancreas (what’s a pancreas? he once asked) and something called cancer that, despite all our efforts, remains a disease we can do surprisingly little about.
What better way to frame what lies ahead? We shall not become immortal (sorry, Ray). Our lives may indeed extend longer, perhaps much longer. Let’s learn from the example of the iconic figure of our Moore’s-Law driven technological times, who learned of his own mortality and dared speak of it – as he prepared us for immortal Siri and the challenging marvels that will lie ahead.
So, be thankful for a man who broke every mold. And let’s embrace our frail humanity as we also engage the extraordinary prospects for which he helped prepare us.