Steve Jobs, the da Vinci and Thomas Edison of our time, died yesterday. He was an artist for the digital age, umatched in his ability to meld creativity and vision, technological know-how (his and others'), and board room savvy.
He took what engineers and computer scientists created and applied it to how people act and think in the real world, and on those occasions when he thought beyond the public, the public came to him (and Apple).
Under his leadership, Apple changed human communication and interaction. Here are just a handful of ways our children's lives will be different – for better or worse – from ours. Because of Apple. Because of Jobs.
• On-demand media. The songs, movies, games, apps and TV shows you want, when you want them. Jobs wasn't responsible for Hulu or Netflix, but he was responsible for something even more influential: iTunes.
When my kids ask for a song in the car, they get it instantly. They won't have the joy that comes with hearing your favorite song pop up spontaneously on the radio, unless their favorite song is by Katy Perry, in which case you have failed as a parent.
• Lifestyle-altering smartphones. Blackberries, like Palm Pilots, were functional. iPhone and Droid allow those who are able to afford them to create and maintain real-time online identities and offline personal and professional relationships from anywhere in the world where there's a signal.
I've written before how my smartphone allows me to feel connected to friends and extended family, even though I've got a job and family that dominate the 1,440 minutes of my day. One can only imagine how our daughters will communicate 10, 20 years from now.
• News consumption. There's a scene in Minority Report when a subway rider's e-newspaper headline changes to reflect breaking news. That's not far off. Heck, it's already happening on the iPad and Kindle Fire, depending which news app you use. Twitter, which will be heavily integrated into Apple's new iPhone 4s, even put out a funny ad about its technology moving quicker than an earthquake.
• The expansion of cloud sharing and computing. Imagine your medical records available anywhere in the world at the touch of a button. You're on vacation. Your kid slips and hits his head. He goes to the local hospital, where in less time than it takes you to fill out release forms the medical staff learns his age, allergies and medical history. In emergency medicine, time saves lives.
• Technology designed for end users, not engineers.
• Touch-screen technology.
• A commencement address that I suspect will make the rounds for years to come. And yes, it's true, Steve Jobs went to college for only six months. I love this excerpt from his address:
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
I have to admit, this Patch post could have been another 10,000 words. It was a much better idea in my head before it started, but the more I research, the more I realize it will take a book – multiple volumes – to capture Jobs' true impact on the future of first- and second-word societies.
Goodbye, Steve Jobs. I'll tell my kids about you.