Something Even Cooler Than a Touchscreen
Steve Jobs melded many American business ideals. As inventor, inspiration, lone wolf and comeback artist, Jobs became a one-body operating system. You could look at him many ways at once, as you could with the iPhone, and life would feel quicker as you looked. But while Jobs’ integrity and his insight blazoned our public lives, his perception of what American consumers wanted rarely comes out for a look.
Why did so many Americans want 99-cent songs, phones with no keyboards, and credit card receipts you sign with your finger? For a while I thought the answer entailed a desire to hide: climate change, corporate heedlessness and global instability made reality too scary. Then I thought maybe the Apple pull worked the other way round: a conglomerate tradition in the 1950s had foisted computers and screens on us, the screens were inescapable, and Apple took that fact as a starting point to make the screens fun. And personal.
Whatever mix of causes and effects he rode, though, Steve Jobs wedded Americans to screens. Paying for milk, voting and visiting the doctor now means spending more time looking at a screen than at an employee. Call that progress or dehumanization, you have to agree that it places more barriers between people than we used to expect.
So in tribute to Steve Jobs, let me suggest that connected Americans are readier than our forebears to find value in face to face contact. If we groove on iPhone apps, we can use them to look up the fruits and veggies that are ripest this week and buy them at farmer’s markets- from farmers who hand us dirty produce in exchange for cash or shares. If we design from iPhone photos, we can use them to muster volunteers to plant a proper mix of succulents and thirsty plants in a park- and if we enjoy the on-the-go iPad we can use it to work up a payroll and investment schedule for making that park viable.
Jobs’ famous quote urges people to avoid the zombie condition of “living someone else’s life.” Hear hear. But Jobs’ American fans are saying goodbye to him in a country where our healthcare costs, our corporate-loving tax code, and our odds of getting walloped away from our loved ones in a storm are all too huge and too confusing to escape.
Let’s pay homage to American invention by using the screens to invent a country where we can face each other and take our cues from what other people show us.
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