I’m starting with the bottom line. If you are in any way interested in Apple or Steve Jobs, then this is the book to read. There will never be another that had access to the subject in the same way – it won’t get better than this. There are so many great stories and you discover a lot:
• his ability to berate and insult people
• his extremely petulant behaviour, and the ability to suddenly burst into tears
• he had no problems abandoning friends when it suited him (not to mention his first daughter)
• his relationship with John Sculley, and the background story of Steve leaving Apple
• his long term relationship with Bill Gates
• the story of the 1984 commercial and the lack of success of the first Mac
• the evolution of the iPod, iPhone and iPad
• the Pixar story, and the relationship with Disney
• his long battle with cancer and how it affected his relationships
Especially as you get closer to the present day, it is revealing to hear the real details behind the stories we have been told. It’s increasingly sad, as you know the end is approaching fast, and ultimately he is as human as anyone else.
A couple of little negatives: the book can get a bit repetitive – as if the chapters were meant to be self-contained and mentioning things again rather than relying on the reader’s memory. You could make a drinking game out of hearing the term “reality distortion field” – getting nicely sozzled along the away. Also, just at the end, Jobs is given too much credit for the coming of cloud computing, when he wasn’t a pioneer in any other way than he made very nice internet-enabled devices. It’s a shame, as otherwise I thought it was a well balanced book.
Finally, a note to say that I read the audiobook version – an excellent way of getting through 600+ pages / 24 hours + of material. It is well read, if not earth-shatteringly amazing.
Overall, a great book on a great (if imperfect) life.
I came about this book in a rather convoluted way. The Amazon page for What Technology Wants recommended a book called Lights at the End of the Tunnel, and when I checked that out there was a link to an article in the New York Times featuring this new e-book about how technology will affect employment and the economy, both now and in the future.
Lights at the End of the Tunnel seems to be the main book on the subject, but I found Race Against the Machine to be a good introduction to the idea. It’s a straight forward and interesting read, that can be finished in an evening. A bargain at under £3.
One criticism: the authors finish on a vague positive note, which detracts from the argument that they are making – convincingly – in the rest of the book. I guess they did not want to be portrayed as unremiting doom-mongers on the subject.
• The Observer: What Britain must learn from the misfortunes of middle America
• Washington Post: Cloud centers bring high-tech flash but not many jobs to beaten-down towns
Here are my Kindle highlights / clippings for Race Against The Machine:
We don’t believe in the coming obsolescence of all human workers. In fact, some human skills are more valuable than ever, even in an age of incredibly powerful and capable digital technologies. But other skills have become worthless, and people who hold the wrong ones now find that they have little to offer employers. They’re losing the race against the machine, a fact reflected in today’s employment statistics.
And computers (hardware, software, and networks) are only going to get more powerful and capable in the future, and have an ever-bigger impact on jobs, skills, and the economy.
The root of our problems is not that we’re in a Great Recession, or a Great Stagnation, but rather that we are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring. Our technologies are racing ahead but many of our skills and organizations are lagging behind. So it’s urgent that we understand these phenomena, discuss their implications, and come up with strategies that allow human workers to race ahead with machines instead of racing against them.
We can’t win that race, especially as computers continue to become more powerful and capable. But we can learn to better race with machines, using them as allies rather than adversaries.
“Man is the lowest-cost, 150-pound, nonlinear, all-purpose computer system which can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.”
Whatever else computers may be at present, they are not yet convincingly human.
When you consider that the overall population has grown, the lack of job creation is even more troubling.
Lack of hiring, rather than increases in layoffs, is what accounts for most of the current joblessness.
Employers just don’t seem to have the same demand for labor that they once did.
Historically, increased output meant increased employment, but the recent recovery created much less employment than predicted; GDP rebounded but jobs didn’t.
The historically strong relationship between changes in GDP and changes in employment appears to have weakened as digital technology has become more pervasive and powerful.
For over 200 years, the economists were right. Despite massive automation of millions of jobs, more Americans had jobs at the end of each decade up through the end of the 20th century. However, this empirical fact conceals a dirty secret. There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.
…technological progress is not a rising tide that automatically raises all incomes.
…wage divergence accelerated in the digital era.
According to economist Emmanuel Saez, the top 1% of U.S. households got 65% of all the growth in the economy since 2002. In fact, Saez reports that the top 0.01% of households in the United States—that is, the 14,588 families with income above $11,477,000—saw their share of national income double from 3% to 6% between 1995 and 2007.
… corporate profits have easily surpassed their pre-recession levels.
… corporate profits as a share of GDP are at 50-year highs. Meanwhile, compensation to labor in all forms, including wages and benefits, is at a 50-year low.
Technology has advanced rapidly, and the good news is that this has radically increased the economy’s productive capacity. However, technological progress does not automatically benefit everyone in a society.
… humans will eventually lose the head-to-head race against the machine.
Fortunately, humans are strongest exactly where computers are weak, creating a potentially beautiful partnership.
Smart entrepreneurs can, and will, invent ways to create value by employing even less skilled workers.
When significant numbers of people see their standards of living fall despite an ever-growing economic pie, it threatens the social contract of the economy and even the social fabric of society.
As digital technologies make markets and businesses more efficient, they benefit all of us as consumers. As they increase government transparency and accountability and give us new ways to assemble and make our voices heard, they benefit us as citizens. And as they put us in touch with ideas, knowledge, friends, and loved ones, they benefit us as human beings.
Pretty much sums up the situation. All the problems, none of the answers.
Not particularly appealing people, apart from David Carr.
Short enough not to drag things out too much.
If you’re interested in the subject area, check it out.
I’ve read a number of interesting articles recently. I can’t comment on them all, but they are all good stuff. Knock yourself out…
• Business Week: Steve Jobs, 1955-2011
• Fast Company: The Great Tech War Of 2012
• Wired: A More Perfect Kilogram
• Vanity Fair: The Rules of Succession (Murdoch empire / News Corp)
• Vanity Fair: Goldman’s Alpha War
• Vanity Fair: Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%
• Vanity Fair: How Fast Can China Go?
• Vanity Fair: The Convictions Of Conrad Black
• The New Yorker: Creation Myth (by Malcolm Gladwell)
• NYT: Panic Of The Plurocrats
• Vanity Fair: Enter The Cyber-Dragon
By the way, I’ve never gotten into a service like Instapaper, but emailing the articles directly to my Kindle is working a treat. Simple, if a bit manual. It’s worth it - once they are on the device there is no need for an internet connection, they never expire, and they can be re-delivered if necessary.