Steve Jobs has died. I agree that he was a great innovator and business man. I agree that he has greatly changed tour lives.
But.............there's just one more thing (which Jobs was fond of saying at the end of his presentations of new Apple products). Some have talked of the passing of a great man, a revolutionary, a visionary. Has he really made such a positive effect on the world ?
The world is faced with two major problems that are (inter) related and urgently need addressing - over consumption and damage to the environment. I believe it is based on what Jobs did to help with these central problems that we can measure his greatness.
Firstly, over consumption. Jobs was a buddhist and was influenced by the 1960's counter culture. He said that his experience with LSD was "one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life". How was any spiritual enlightenment he gained passed on to humankind ? His mantra appeared to be : Buy more (Apple i) stuff and be happi(er). He has done nothing to reduce (over) consumption or get us to question our behaviour. If anything he has made the problem worse - iPod, iPhone, iPad and of course each successive upgrade of each product.
Secondly, damage to the environment. After criticism of Apple by Greenpeace in 2005 there was a bigger effort by the corporation to 'green its operation' and reduce it's environmental footprint. Jobs talked about 'A greener Apple'. However Apple still does not rank in the top 3 of the latest (2010) Greenpeace ranking of 18 electronics companies based on their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Climate Counts which ranks electronics companies on their climate footprint also found Apple lagging behind its competitors in the electronics sector
A truly great person, a true revolutionary, a true visionary would have really broken the business mould and made its products and production as green as possible, as fast as possible– power consumption of products, renewable energy used in production, packaging, recycled materials content, hazardous materials content, biodegradable materials content, recyclable materials content, in store recycling scheme for all company products, repairability of products, product lifespan. It would also have sold the idea to consumers and radically changed the way consumers think about the environment.
If Jobs had really wanted to make Apple a market leader in terms of its Green credentials and environmental innovation, he would have made it happen. The following anecdote illustrates my point that had Jobs wanted to really green the Apple corporation he could have done.
When the first prototype of the iPod was presented to Steve Jobs, he said it was too big. The technicians argued that it was just not possible to make it any smaller. Jobs reaction was to drop the iPod in an aquarium. Having sunk to the bottom, air bubbles escaped and rose to the surface. 'Bubbles means there’s space in there. Make it smaller !'
The world is still waiting for the true visionaries, to lead us forward into the Third Industrial Revolution – The Green Revolution. That move forward is essential if our species is to survive on a finite earth.