Steve Jobs: Hero or Fiend?
The reaction to the death of Steve Jobs has been predictable, specials on TV, magazine covers and moments of silence. Not really surprising, mass mourning is part of being famous. The flip side of the adulation is that people are going to hate the guy who just died with all the same amount of passion as those who revered him. Again, perfectly predictable.
There is a problem with both the adulation and post thermodynamic equilibrium loathing of Steve Jobs. While everyone desperately wants people, particularly public figures, to be completely binary (either perfectly good or completely reprehensible) people are simply too complex to be cubbyhole into neat little categories.
It would be hard to argue that Steve wasn't a workaholic. Devoting an inordinate amount of time to work is generally seen as a negative thing but it is also very common. It easy to imagine Steve Jobs as indifferent to family and friends, overly obsessed with Apple but with that realization one might feel a pang of guilt that the iPhone they are carrying is a fruit of that overzealous work ethic.
When you're reading the rants against Steve you'll undoubtedly find Steve portrayed as someone who would semi publicly berate people. If you possess a shred of empathy you'll immediately feel for the people Steve berated. But it isn't so simple. Steve didn't just yell at people, Steve also cajoled and flattered them. Which is good coaching, anyone who has coached a little league team knows that you have to approach each player as an individual to get the most out of them.*
Stories of Steve's greed will be plentiful. You'll hear about how he worked Wozniak half to death and then screwed him out of several thousand dollars. Or how he took Pixar public and shafted everyone in the building out of stock options. This kind of behavior is very difficult to defend. Screwing Woz was completely unnecessary because Woz probably would have done it for free and cutting out Pixar employees from the IPO was practically unforgiveable.
But these are fault illustrating anecdotes were built on 56 years of very public living. It would hard to imagine not being able to paint someone as a complete jerk with carefully selected anecdotes spanning half a century.
So which is it? Was Steve Jobs a genius who bestowed upon humanity items of great worth and made everyone's lives just a little better or was Steve Jobs a perverse, overly competitive megalomaniac more worthy of loathing than admiration? The answer is that that the truth doesn't really matter. While Steve Jobs was a public figure his true personality and motivations will only be known to those who actually knew him. The rest of the world is just speculating.
*Actually the best strategy for little league success is convincing the parents to use the max dose of Ritilan