The deification of Steve Jobs and the outpouring of grief that seems to have inundated the virual world since his passing leaves me cold. It leaves me cold because it brings home sharply the kind of society that we have created, where gizmos . . . are worshipped and the creator of gizmos is beatified for his inventive genius, totally ignoring the fact that he displayed a flagrant lack of social and environmental responsibility throughout his life.
Jobs needs to be condemned for firing up the cult of planned obsolescence—for making it fashionable, de rigueur in fact, for everyone to purchase a new iGizmo every year without a thought for the mounds of e-waste that is being created in the process. Sure, releasing a new iPhone every year was great for his bottom line, but wasn’t it a sign of flagrant irresponsibility to not spare a thought for the planet? And all of us—who will continue to live on this planet after Jobs has gone—are so taken up by the glitzy new toys that he gave us each year, that we completely ignore that those toys are making our planet unlivable and imperilling future generations.
Not only did the cult of planned obsolescence propagated by Jobs have alarming consequences with respect to the disposal of e-waste, it also had severely negative environmental and social consequences with respect to the sourcing of materials for iPhones, etc. It fired up the demand for rare earth metals like coltan which are used in iPhones, resulting in harmful environmental (since mining degrades the environment) and social consequences (coltan mining fed, and continues to feed, the civil war in Congo). It was only because of the Dodd-Frank Act that Apple was forced, since mid 2010, to source raw materials from conflict-free zones. Shouldn’t a man worth deifying, as Jobs has been, be required to display a semblance of environmental and social consciousness?
Steve Jobs could have used his inventive genius to create a whole new world—a world where technological innovation drives sustainability—but he chose instead, to do the opposite. I’m sorry, but I cannot applaud a man whose legacy of planned obsolescence will continue to haunt the earth for generations to come.
And lastly, on a personal front, Jobs was clearly the last candidate for beatification, having denied paternity of his first-born, to avoid having to pay for her upkeep. Jobs denied paternity by claiming he was sterile, while the mother, Chrisann Brennan, raised their daughter on welfare. Exactly how cheap is that? (He finally did fess up though, and had to cough up for her college education.)
Of course it is sad when anyone passes away in their prime. Of course it is sad when the person was an inventive genius. But just because he gave us glitzy new toys to play with, must we rush to deify him and stagger around under the grief of his passing?
Sandipta Dhar is a hamster on a treadmill (read: harried IT professional) with scant time for ranting on the blogosphere, much as she would love to.