On Steve Jobs
Published on June 03, 2021 • 2 min read
There've been countless nights where I've watched interviews of Steve Jobs until the sun began to rise, read many books written by anyone who's ever worked alongside him, and even gotten one of Steve's long-time confidants to invest in and advise my startup. Across space and time (and through the powers of computers) I consider Steve Jobs to be my mentor.
What Steve understood more than anyone else was that computing was never about the computers. Computing is about people. Good computing is leverage for the human mind, a way for us augment our creative abilities, and push the limits of cognition. He understood computers were no more than tools that should be wielded effortlessly by anyone while also being capable of being applied to a near-infinite set of problems. Steve understood that the brainpower computers required should never be wasted on the overhead of using the computer, but instead should be spent entirely on the task at hand.
In one of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes, he brings up a study he read in Scientific American that compares the energy efficiency of different species.
I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.
A bicycle for the mind, what a damn elegant analogy! A car or train for the mind would've implied that computers do our work for us which is plain wrong. Instead, they're a force multiplier for our own existing capabilities.
Steve also understood that computers shouldn't require any effort to operate. There should be no computing overhead. Want to make things bigger? Pinch to zoom. Want to watch a video? Just hold your phone sideways. Need to scroll? Literally flick the page down as if it were a sheet of fucking paper. Steve dedicated his life to slowly sanding away the friction in computing so that we could give the problem we're working on as much attention as possible. He understood computers should just work, that they should do what you want them to, and that they should be a bicycle for your mind.
Through the power of computers, thanks for being my mentor Steve.