I’d like to recall a discussion that the seniors had in
class a few weeks ago. Exactly how the conversation developed, I can’t
remember, but it culminated in a dialogue between Dean Brady a student about
the degree to which one’s ideology of a career transforms when children enter
the picture. The student was quite adamant that for him, career will always
come first -an ideology which I personally believe will inevitably lead to
dissatisfaction, though I do hope to love my career too -but I would like to make
a case for a quite opposite outlook on life: that our careers will inevitably
fail to actualize the false expectations that we eager college seniors assign
I make this statement in light of the recent death of a man
who shared that same conviction. In 2003, Steve Jobs discussed his
accomplishments with Wired Magazine, where he explained that he work never
really changed the world.
“What’s the biggest surprise this technology will deliver?”
Jobs: “The problem is
I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It
Wired: “That’s going
to break people’s hearts.”
Jobs: “I’m sorry, it’s
true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we
live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time.
Technology is not changing it much — if at all.
These technologies can make life
easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child
with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support
groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things
can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that. But it’s a disservice
to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change
everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”
So I ask you this question: if Steve Jobs believed that he
-and all that he did to advance communications and technology, and even art
-did not in fact change the world, then how are we to respond?
Downplay his words as humility, and believe that
he did in fact change the world?
Ask ourselves, if Apple and Pixar couldn’t
change the world even remotely, then what does change the world?
Or do we pose the question whether human beings
really can change the nature of the world: love, joy, peace, war, hate,
slavery, human interaction, jealousy, deceit, laughter, humor, beauty.
I ask this: maybe we can. Only maybe. But, given the state
of the world today -war (which never seems to end), poverty (where there is
greater inequality of wealth today than ever before), slavery (where there are
more slaves today than ever before in history) -if mankind can really change
the world, in all of our efforts, do we inevitably screw it up more and more
every year, and was the world (not
just your world) a better place 200,
800, 1500, 4000 years ago? My question is not whether there are men and women
out there -like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or William Wilberforce
-who have changed the world for the better; rather my question is whether the
global trend of social movement across history had been progress or decline?