Steve Jobs is considered an amazing genius and made billions of dollars. Sure we overlook that he didn't pay his share of taxes and didn't believe in charity. But other than these occasional rumblings of dissent he is pretty much held in high esteem. We celebrate him because he invented incredible computers and phones to interact with the Internet and supposedly fix our mundane lives. And now we are addicted to these machines with most people under the age of twenty hardly remembering what the world was like without them.
The dirty little secret that nobody likes to talk about is that things just might have been better before the Internet. We had more time to ourselves before cell phones, and text messaging, and Facebook consumed our lives. But you don't hear many people making the argument that Steve Jobs could have ruined the world. That just isn't sexy on the technology blogs.
Instead we hear the purveyors of modern thought preach about how the Internet and social media have brought people closer together and changed the world for the better. About how it has freed oppressed people in Egypt and in other places. But are we in the Western world even as free today as we were twenty-five years ago? How can we be free when we are prisoners to social media, in a world without privacy? How can we be free when our every movement is tracked and every conversation is recorded and can easily be held against us? How exactly are we free if we are tethered to our cell phones?
And even worse, the human condition is beginning to devolve. We have become addicted to the vanity of social media unable to stop exposing our lives to the world. We post photos of ourselves pretending to be happy on Facebook and speak in 140-character tweets to people we don't know and will never meet in person. We have an emotional dependence on constant text messages from people that we have not seen in years, but still claim to be our friends? Is it pure freedom when these things consume our minds?
Before the cell phone and the Internet you felt a more pure sense of liberty than we do today. Whenever you left the house, and the phone, in your kitchen attached to the wall, nobody was able to get a hold of you. When you walked home from school you were alone with your thoughts, free to explore in the woods or skip rocks along the water of some lonely riverbank. Nobody could find you. You were actually alone. People were able to leave the pressures of life behind. Work would end at five o'clock. We were not pursued by a non-stop stream of electronic information scolding us about things still left to do.
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have become the rock stars of our generation, The Beatles of our time. So nobody in the right mind would want to forcefully suggest that technology could have ruined the world. That just wouldn't be hip. Technology is the new rock and roll. Railing against it may make you look like some old fogey from the 1950s, aghast at Elvis for shaking his hips on The Ed Sullivan Show.
And yes, we love Steve Jobs because he is an artistic and at times poetic technical genius. But could the true genius of Steve Jobs be that he invented a product that costs $600 and needs to be replaced every six months? Could the true genius be how he surreptitiously ripped us all off? It's as if the John Lennon of our times held us up at gunpoint and robbed us all blind.
Unfortunately our generation is so impressed by rags to riches stories and self-made billionaires that we are unwilling to address the fact that these assholes are screwing us. Instead we find these people inspiring. In this self-centered modern society we no longer thumb our nose at the oligarchs. Instead the corporate-controlled media has programmed us to believe that with enough hard work and dedication, we too could someday become rich assholes and screw everyone around us. So we don't say anything and hold on to the impossible hope that someday we will make it into their echelon.
Life as a human being on this planet changing. Our minds need instant gratification. There is so much information available at our fingertips that television networks and movie studios will soon become a thing of the past. Why go to the trouble of seeing a work of art in the cinema when you can instantly look at a cross-eyed cat stick its tongue out on your iPhone? Why do we need to watch actors read other peoples words on that antique piece of furniture called the television? We can look at an actual drugged up out-of-work actress stumble out of a nightclub on the Internet and tell us what she really feels. And watching these people publicly unravel makes us feel better about ourselves anyway. So we celebrate the train wrecks by gobbling up their failures and spreading our erroneous opinions about them online. We don't have to wait to get home to do it either. We can be vindictive shitheads anywhere simply by loathing into our iPhones. Technology is making regular people mean.
Sure this isn't entirely new. We've always enjoyed a good fall from grace. Human beings have always reveled in driving our geniuses into early graves. The Internet has just made this so much easier. Look what happened to Elvis and Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain. We loved to watch people lose it all. Hell a good high-profile death has always been great for ratings, even before the Internet came along. But now we don't have to wait till the evening news to enjoy watching other people fail. Thanks to Steve Jobs for giving us our smartphones. Now we now can enjoy reveling in other people's misery 24 hours a day from any corner of the earth.
Thank you Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg for making Schadenfreude convenient. It's as if we are enjoying the spectacle so much that we haven't noticed the cameras are now pointed at us. Who is laughing now?
We have no privacy anymore and there is no room for error. Now every time we leave the house we have a cell phone or security camera recording our image. We live in a world where our mistakes are documented online and can never be taken back. Our friends and neighbors can now happily laugh at every one of our misfortunes. There are no secrets anymore. A negative comment about every living soul on this planet is now just a Google search away. Everyone is a celebrity now and will have to get used to being treated like one, with a healthy does of disdain.
Today if you make one mistake and it winds up on the Internet there are no second chances. Perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald predicted our future when he said "there are no second acts in American lives." We have to be careful. Being so easily documented and published for the world to see is very new, and we can't possibly understand the full implications. Every citizen with a camera phone is like a member of some new Orwellian Gestapo. Make one mistake and it will haunt you forever. Life was more forgiving before all this electronic crap. Call me crazy. But I preferred the old days when only our close friends and family knew that we were assholes.
It would be nice to think that somebody out there had a solution and that things are not as dire as they seem. But maybe there is no solution. Perhaps we are too far-gone in our addiction to technology and social media. It's doubtful anyone wants to return to the days of the horse and buggy. It's a pretty good bet that there is no turning back and the old world is ruined.
Thanks Steve Jobs, for ruining everything.
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