Steve Jobs: teaching us to be better consumers

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish." 

At the moment, I’ve only owned four Apple products: 3 iPods – a blue 6gig mini, a black 60gig classic, and my current blue 16gig 4th generation nano – and my white Macbook that I’ve had since April 2007. I’d like to believe my still-well-functioning Macbook is a testament to Apple’s business model, which has always aimed for quality and form, a business model spearheaded by none other than the recently deceased Steve Jobs. 

Obviously, I never knew Jobs. Like so many consumers I was only familiar with what he produced: sleek, beautiful machines that raised my expectations for what technology could and should accomplish. 

The remorse I felt for Jobs’ death was a strange one. Unlike other public figures who’d passed away, Jobs’ aspirations lent themselves to a relatively small spectrum: he was not known for anything outside his pursuit of technology and business – not philanthropy, not politics, not art, not science, not anything in particular. His public presence was a singular one, a soul that aspired towards perfecting and re-perfecting consumers’ tastes for a computerized future. If anything, the world is grieving for the loss of expectation. 

And yet, there’s something incredibly sad about such a loss. For a decade we were indoctrinated to expect more than mediocre, better than average; that quality and form were not mutually exclusive, that the notion of I.T. help didn’t have to be a jumbled, outsourced nightmare. 

Jobs taught us to be mindful consumers, a paradigm that in itself sounds like a oxymoron. Yet this is what he accomplished: he extended expectations for innovation beyond the niche of Silicon Valley, instilled us with hope that just around the corner was something new, something better waiting. There was a guarantee that a costly investment in a Apple product was worth its lifespan, and should the inevitable day come when we needed tech support or a replacement, the Apple store and its geniuses would be waiting. This is the kind of consumer-business guarantee that anyone has yet to surpass. 

Change is constant, and Jobs embraced this notion: with each product he looked to the future and saw what we wanted but had yet to perceive. The concept of change is a simple yet powerful notion, one that rejects current dogma in order to improve upon its successes and surpass its failures. The nature of consumption is a unrelenting one, quickly satiated and even more quickly left waiting for more.  Consumption is not kind to nostalgia. 

Jobs understood this, and more. His death extends greater than the death of a innovator that enhanced the lives of those fortunate enough to afford his products; it extends towards that of an icon that encouraged us to consume mindfully rather than mindlessly, akin to how a food critic teaches us to love food or how a movie critic teaches us to love film. Jobs taught us to love technology, and to expect more of it every day. 

The world is mourning not the loss of a humanitarian, but of an icon of humanity and what we can accomplish. And that, in itself, is a sad enough. 

Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005

Steve Jobs explains the Apple Store, presumably circa 2001 when the Apple Stores were first introduced

A young Steve Jobs, excited to see himself on a nearby television monitor

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