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Kutcher Jobs Report

So Steve Jobs died. I know this because Facebook is flooded with hundreds of postings noting his greatness and the personal impact he had on the lives of ordinary Internet users. There are clever iconic images using his profile in place of the bite taken out of the side of an apple, and cartoons depicting him in heaven, offering Saint Peter a useful app. He was obviously an exceptionally bright and motivated individual, whether his talent resided in select imagination, marketing, borrowing and expanding the ideas of others, or a tyrannical drive to bring employees up to his level of commitment. I’m not a huge Apple fan – I tend to relate more to the schlubby actor they chose to portray the Microsoft guy in their commercials. This said, I own several products and and a small amount of stock. So if this guy could get someone who was largely unmoved, and in fact bothered by the cult-like status surrounding his efforts, well, yeah, the sky’s the limit. But I can’t help noting a correlation between the coolness and efficiency of these electronic products that Jobs made so popular, and a general dumbing-down of the population. Many would argue, but I stick by my point.

We have all surfed on the wake of Steve Jobs’ ship. Now we must learn to sail, but we will never forget our skipper.” These were the thoughts of the great Ashton Kutcher, conceived no doubt on an iPhone or even iPad, and broadcast instantaneously to each of his over four million Twitter followers. Four million followers. Ashton Kutcher. Compare this to the efforts of Charles Dickens, the greatest of Victorian authors, whose work was distributed in serial form and via ship to perhaps several hundred readers waiting in the London harbor. Yeah, we’ve come a long way, but to what end? Perhaps even more distressing, Kutcher’s thoughts were reproduced in hundreds of online newspapers under the heading “Celebrities Respond To The Death Of Steve Jobs.”  Among others weighing in were Jimmy Fallon, Paris Hilton, and Neil Patrick Harris.

My understanding of the many ways Jobs influenced the world is limited. He was central in furthering the cause of the personal computer, and specifically in taking an idea conceived by Xerox and using it to greatly simplify the interface between user and machine. This led to the widespread use of the invention among graphic designers, publishers, and artists, a group who would remain forever faithful to the Apple brand. Jobs’ influence also centered largely around hand-held computing devices, primarily phones that perform a variety of other functions, and music players. The distinction between these devices became largely unnecessary – after all, your phone can easily double as your camera, mp-3 player, etc. That the iPod continued to exist after the invention of the iPod Touch and the iPhone is largely a testament to Jobs’ greatest talent. He was a supreme marketer. He didn’t really ‘invent’ any of this stuff, but he made it better, cooler-looking, and most notably, convinced millions of people that they needed it.

So where are we in a post Steve Jobs world, as many are asking, Face-booking, and Tweeting in the aftermath of his death? We’re in a place he greatly influenced, where the method and means of delivering the message knows no delay and has the potential to reach millions. And yet in this world of limitless possibility, some might conclude that our choices seem to be narrowing, and that despite the fantastic advances made in dissemination, the message remains largely controlled. Look, for example, at the current crop of political candidates, and among these options the select few who hold the possibility for nomination. Money, as Steve Jobs could’ve told you, still runs the show. The Super Bowl commercial for the original Macintosh computer in 1984 showed a colorful female athlete hurling a large hammer through a massive screen depicting an Orwellian Big Brother character keeping the minions in line. And where are those minions, twenty-seven years later? Apparently four million of them are following Ashton Kutcher as he tweets-philosophic on an Apple device. Think different, indeed.

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