I refrained from writing about the death of Steve Jobs these last few days partly because by the time I got in front of a computer, the cataract of Jobs talk had already swept through the blogosphere. Then, too, I had never met Steve Jobs, and the moving testimony from so many articulate people who did know him gave me pause. I have nothing to add about Jobs the man. About Jobs the innovator, I can only add my voice to the chorus of admiring praise. Apple is an amazing company, stuffed to the gills with talent, and it was Steve Jobs who did the stuffing.
There is, however, one element about this last week’s Jobs festival that has not received sufficient attention. I mean Barack Obama’s official sympathy statement about Jobs’s passing.
I should say straightaway I suspect that Steve Jobs was an admirer of, or at least a voter for, Barack Obama. The famous Silicon Valley dinner with Obama and various tech CEOs last winter represented nearly a trillion dollars of American ingenuity and prominently included Steve Jobs, who was seated immediately to the left of the president. (Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was immediately to his right.) A preponderance of Silicon Valley types, I’m told, list leftwards, or at least have done so until recently. That has always been a mystery to me. I can understand why Hollywood should go in for green, granola, save the spotted-whatever, peace-not-war, tax-the-rich sloganeering. They are, most of them, deeply frivolous people who exist on the frothy surface of other people’s labor. But people like Steve Jobs are ruthless capitalist innovators. Jobs, an adopted child whose father sold used cars, started with nothing but brains and drive and talent. Over the course of a few decades he did as much as anyone to usher in the modern technological miracle that changed the way we receive and purvey information, listen to music, watch movies, and all the rest.