R.I.P. Steve Jobs. But let’s get a perspective, shall we?

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.

6 Responses to R.I.P. Steve Jobs. But let’s get a perspective, shall we?

  1. -
    i’m sure you
    are confidant
    that your life
    will never be
    in this fashion

    for obvious reasons
    ok if you don’t print
    as long as you read it

    • Hello Esteban! Why would you think that your comment wouldn’t be published? The point of writing an article is after all, to stimulate thinking & encourage debate.

      As for me being confident that my life “will never be examined in this fashion” – on the contrary, I am very open to having my life examined under a powerful magnifying glass by others. In fact, I make a practice of holding a magnifying glass to myself – because that is the only way to ensure that one keeps evolving.

      With a figure as public as Steve Jobs, it is but inevitable that his life / practices / ethics be held up to scruntiny, especially since he bore (and continues to bear) the onerous burden of influencing world thinking. In fact, it is not only inevitable but necessary for the world to see clearly the man that they are deifying, because he continues to serve as a beacon for large numbers of the world’s educated. If the world follows his blueprint for success, the environmental degradation & social inequities unleashed via his advocacy of planned obsolescence will be compounded exponentially, with obviously disastrous consequences for all of us. Unfortunately, we live on a planet where resources are finite and we MUST be cognizant of our reponsibilities towards the earth, ourselves & future generations – if we are to ensure that the earth remains inhabitable for future generations.

      This piece is not an attempt at vilification. Instead, it is an attempt at getting a perspective on a widely admired man – a perspective which should be used to caution against the creation of further environmental & social imbalances by those desirous of following his blueprint for success.

  2. Fabulous Sandipta !!! Delighted to see this crystallizatn of envmtl philosophy in splendid terms….something every ecologist has felt deeply about in the last decade where crass commercialisation without conscience has destroyed our connection with the Planet and deified the shortsighted destructors.Thanks, thanks…muaaaaaaaahhhhhh

  3. Perspective,at last!

  4. To docket this perspective under “environmentalist” is to my mind less than accurate because it softens the focus on real and continuing human suffering engendered by the sweat shops that make Apple gizmos marketable at all.

  5. -
    you are right of course
    the word is confident

    i guess i’m a little
    involved in this case

    as i have a stake
    in it’s outcome

    no i don’t own a share
    but i got an old mac

    i’ve never touched
    a p c in my life

    but back in 1973
    i learned to program

    it was ticker tape
    and ibm punch cards then

    basic cobol fortran
    ones and zeros

    i completely ignored it
    since then

    but me and kurt
    [prof. at harvard now]

    could a had a micro soft
    or an apple given time

    in sight and vision
    that’s all you need

    yes examine your life
    that’s the place to start

    actually i’m fine
    with a pen and paper

    i only wish the same
    for you