I saw one of those business articles, the usual business language that amounts to nothing, is “absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas” (claptrap), and is used both in place of actual thought, and to prevent it.
The title of the article was something like “Steve Jobs did not invent the iPhone”.
The article argued that credit must be given to all those engineers and contributors, at all levels in the development of the technology, and so on.
What an absolute joke.
You don’t have to be a “fanboy” of Steve Jobs or of Apple to see the absurdity of such a narrative. You just have to have experienced the way corporations work (almost) all the time, with rare exception.
Most corporations simply keep doing whatever it is they are doing but with occasional repackaging or rebranding. Whatever they do now, they keep doing the same thing. That’s all. Anyone who wants to do anything different/new/better, is crushed by an opposing army of thousands. I mean, come on, if you’ve worked in the corporate world you know this.
Every corporate division/department has its seat at the table. Each of them has its hierarchy, and its budget (to defend). Each division has it’s leader, the one who tells everyone else the way it is.
What’s “the way it is”? The way it is now.
People who essentially think (and say) nothing, are given the authority (put in the position) to say: “whatever it is that the division is currently doing, that is what it must continue doing.” Any other “saying”, and any other person saying – any other saying – is ignored.
Systematic idiocy is the rule. Each idiotic corporate division, each with it’s own idiotic non-ideas, claims its place at the table, and demands that it’s division’s idiotic “product”, whatever it is, continue as part of any “new” product. That is, if by some incredible miracle, the idea of a new product even makes it to the table in the first place (which almost never happens).
So for the iPhone, when the technology for heat-sensing touch screens became commercially viable — thanks to a concurrence of decades of technological iteration and innovation, funded and developed elsewhere — the idea of using touch screen as the interface for a mobile device, this idea, if it even occurred to anyone, would have died, buried alive in the usual corporate claptrap.
The corporate division responsible for physical keyboards would claim (authoritatively) that ““real” business users who do “real”, work need a physical keyboard; the device must have a physical keyboard.”
That non-idea, that usual corporate claptrap, spoken authoritatively by those in authority, would have been respected, and respected certainly without question, by all of the usual corporate sycophants internal to a company, people who have the jobs that they have for no other reason than their unquestioning obedience to corporate claptrap. Such people not only cannot think, and have no imagination, they also have no desire to think. They show a preternatural hostility to thought. They embrace and welcome only one thing: corporate claptrap: whatever it is that their division does now, it must continue doing it.
So the touch screen keyboard would not have developed on the mobile device.
Likewise for each division.
The division responsible for the physical plastic housing, the body of the device, would claim the necessity to continue essentially as before, allowing only for possible minor iterative “modifications”. “It’s too costly to change.”
Likewise, the division responsible for the graphical interface: “interface must continue as before; we have too much invested in the current path; users don’t want change anyway (it confuses them); minor iterative modifications only; we must continue to maximize return on our decades-long investment in doing what we’ve been doing for decades without change.”
And the operating system? Are you kidding? My god. Forget it.
You think the average (or even the exceptional) engineer, working in this environment, is going to make any difference whatsoever? Long ago he/she gave up even the idea of giving 2 shits about anything, which is exactly what’s expected of him: show up, and shut up.
Without Steve Jobs, that very rare exception, that person who not only has ideas (and good ones), but is in a position enabling him/her to implement those ideas, the iPhone would not have happened.
There can be simply no doubt about it.
I had posted this to Facebook and of course the comments under it added important points:
Don Harder Agree, but I thought Steve Jobs didn’t design anything, he just demanded his designers meet his expectations on usefulness, etc… I thought Johnny Ive designed the phone.
In addition to what you wrote, Apple is a good case study for at least two additional issues. First, it’s society that innovates. Without an educated society with a massive infrastructure, none of this would be possible. There’s a reason Somalians don’t invent new tech and it has nothing to do with innate creativity or IQ. As such, it’s bullshit that we pay our CEOs, execs and stockholders huge sums as if they took risks the rest of us didn’t and should be rewarded for it. We all as a society contributed and a handful are profiting handsomely by leveraging that and we’re getting the shaft.
And second, the designs they come up with are purposely designed to have a short shelf life forcing consumers to keep upgrading. How hard would it be to create interchangeable parts that could be slipped in and out? For instance, as CPU tech gets better, let consumers buy a new CPU chip and snap it into their new phone instead of buying an entirely new phone. This would be WAAAAY healthier for the environment, but it would fuck the shareholders so they don’t do it. Classic example of one of capitalism’s inefficiencies.
Rob Snyder Yep, absolutely on public infrastructure. Without public investment in technology R&D, none of this would exist, not in any form. There’s so much evidence for that, and it’s just simply obvious too. At the same time, there’s a story that Jobs was shown a prototype of the touch screen, and it occurred to him, at that moment, that THIS could be the interface for a mobile device, and that this provides the opportunity for a reinvention of a whole range of things supporting that idea, including the OS, the interface, apps, the physical form… He conceptualized this whole and demanded its realization. So rare, and so common to suppress and oppose such ideas. Most people in fact, it seems to me, will choose to join in the suppression of good ideas, when given the choice. It’s amazing, and sad. The fact that this is overcome, ever, is just simply miraculous.
Stephan Schutter So what you said in summary: normal corporate decision making process does not produce disruptive products/technologies, only inspired individuals can? What about the 3rd wave of AI? — What do you think?
Rob Snyder Depends. Will AI organize itself into a typically corporate “decision” making structure?
Only thinking can produce useful thought. Steve Jobs was a thinker. Corporations generally (with few exceptions) are not producing significant thought. They seem capable only of a limited kind of intelligence: just reproduction of sameness. I mean, that does demonstrate a kind of thinking, but only a limited kind. Though reproduction of sameness is a necessity (we can’t live without it), we should be better at recognizing where sameness is appropriate and where original thought is an improvement. To do that, we have to be able to produce original thought, and compare. This involves a higher order of thinking, which is not something often seen coming out of typical corporate environments.
Stephan Schutter Well AI is a learning algorithm… So it finds the best answer eventually given some framework, like for instance the Go defeating Deep Mind. It made Go Masters think in totally new ways since is defeated all of them with what was considered childish or beginners mistakes.
Rob Snyder No doubt about it. Machines that think are going to be very interesting. And I don’t think it will be difficult for machines to surpass human interest in thinking. Most humans think as little as possible and have no interest in it. Great talk here from a guy working on it who I find totally fascinating https://youtu.be/2er6jWUGDuI (Dharmendra Modha)