Stefan penned an excellent piece called “Now that Steve Jobs is dead, can we start solving problems that actually matter?” and I believe it is an amazing look at what we should really be focusing on. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that it is a bit myopic and it discounts how Steve Jobs and his ilk have pushed technology forward to the point where it does help us solve real issues that matter.
I agree with most of the points. The fact that the best and the brightest are more concerned with making apps that sell virtual goods or helping Wall Street create complex algorithms to bundle and re-sell toxic assets is a shame and a waste of talent. The exploitation of labor and resources in consumer electronics is an issue that many like to overlook but it’s one that needs to be talked about more. The gadget culture that we help propagate can also be silly when compared to things like natural disaster, terrorism or inequalities.
Still, communication, collaboration and computing are having a major impact on solving real problems and having people like Jobs help to advance those is key.
I’m not one to beatify Jobs. I was saddened to hear of his death, as 56 is too young for anyone to die but I didn’t have a personal connection to the man. I was lucky enough to see one of his keynotes and enjoy many of his products but I’m not going to pretend that I cried or that he is without sins. That doesn’t mean I can’t recognize his influence on modern technology and on society. He helped to make personal computers personal and even if you don’t use Apple products, his influence can be felt on one of the computing devices you do use.
“Ok Marin,” you may say, “so he’s helped us play Angry Birds on the train … big deal.” As I’ve said before, just because these technologies are being used for trivial pursuits most of the time, that doesn’t mean the technology itself is trivial or can’t be used for important things. I actually really value entertainment but the iPhone and smartphones are enabling amazing things that do really matter. A doctor being able to look at an X-ray on the go can and does have a demonstrable impact on people’s lives and I’ve already covered the potential mobile tech can have with education.
Twitter, Facebook and social media are also often seen as a sign of our decline because who really cares what you had for lunch or which song you’ve just listend to on Spotify. But we’ve seen the power of these platforms with events like the Arab Spring or even the recent Occupy Wall Street protests – being able to connect and organize with people via these sometimes fluffy tools is changing our world. In a broader sense, the collaboration that the Internet and social media allows makes it easier for those top minds focusing on real issues like cancer to connect and share information for the collective good.
The specs lusting is something that nearly everyone at IntoMobile is guilty of. I really want a quad-core phone because, well, it’s twice the horsepower as the dual-core devices on the market. But even the added computing horsepower has a strong role to play in combating real issues, as things like mapping the human genome would have been impossible without technologists trying to maximize what computers can do. We’re seeing all sorts of interesting examples of how seemingly time-wasting activities like gaming can lead to real breakthroughs.
There are also those who would argue that the best way to make an impact on the real problems is to make as much money as possible first. While Jobs was never known for his charitable ways, Bill Gates reached the zenith in terms of money and is now enlisting his billionaire friends to give it all away. He’s trying to end freaking malaria and he may be able to do it. Even Mark Zuckerberg is giving away $100 million to New Jersey schools and that will be addressing a real problem and it should have a tangible impact on thousands of youths.
I fundamentally believe that mobile technology and advances in technology as a whole can and do change the way we live in a positive way. Yes, we as a culture need to focus and champion more pressing issues in order to get our talented people interested but we also need people like Jobs to push technology forward to help combat these “real problems.”
People like Jobs are necessary to help give us the tools to address the issues in our world. It’s up to us to determine how we use them.