This is the last and final series of Steve Jobs given to Playboy in 1985…
Playboy: When you were in college in precomputer days, what did you and your classmates feel was the way to make a contribution? Politics?
Jobs: None of the really bright people I knew in college went into politics. They all sensed that, in terms of making a change in the world, politics wasn’t the place to be in the late Sixties and Seventies. All of them are in business now‐‑which is funny, because they were the same people who trekked off to India or who tried in one way or another to find some sort of truth about life.
Playboy: Wasn’t business and the lure of money merely the easy choice in the end?
Jobs: No, none of those people care about the money. I mean, a lot of them made a lot of money, but they don’t really care. Their lifestyles haven’t particularly changed. It was the chance to actually try something, to fail, to succeed, to grow. Politics wasn’t the place to be these past ten years if you were eager to try things out. As someone who hasn’t turned 30 yet, I think your 20s are the time to be impatient, and a lot of these people’s idealism would have been deeply frustrated in politics; it would have been blunted. I think it takes a crisis for something to occur in America. And I believe there’s going to be a crisis of significant proportions in the early Nineties as these problems our political leaders should have been addressing boil up to the surface. And that’s when a lot of these people are going to bring both their practical experience and their idealism into the political realm. You’re going to see the best-trained generation ever to go into politics. They’re going to know how to choose people, how to get things done, how to lead.
Playboy: Doesn’t every generation say that?
Jobs: These are different times. The technological revolution is more intertwined every day with our economy and our society‐‑more than 50 percent of America’s gross national product comes from information-based industries‐‑and most political leaders today have had no background in that revolution. It’s going to become crucial that many of the larger decisions we make‐‑how we allot our resources, how we educate our children‐‑be made with an understanding of the technical issues and the directions the technology is taking. And that hasn’t begun happening yet. In education, for example, we have close to a national embarrassment. In a society where information and innovation are going to be pivotal, there really is the possibility that America can become a second-rate industrial nation if we lose the technical momentum and leadership we have now.
Playboy: You mentioned investing in education, but isn’t the problem finding the funds in a time of soaring deficits?
Jobs: We’re making the largest investment of capital that humankind has ever made in weapons over the next five years. We have decided, as a society, that that’s where we should put our money, and that raises the deficits and, thus, the cost of our capital. Meanwhile, Japan, our nearest competitor on the next technological frontier‐‑the semiconductor industry‐‑has shaped its tax structure, its entire society, toward raisin the capital to invest in that area. You get the feeling that connections aren’t made in America between things like building weapons and the fact that we might lose our semiconductor industry. We have to educate ourselves to that danger.
Playboy: And you think computers will help in that process.
Jobs: Well, I’ll tell you a story. I saw a video tape that we weren’t supposed to see. It was prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By watching the tape, we discovered that, at least as of a few years ago, every tactical nuclear weapon in Europe manned by U.S. personnel was targeted by an Apple II computer. Now, we didn’t sell computers to the military; they went out and bought them at a dealer’s, I guess. But it didn’t make us feel good to know that our computers were being used to target nuclear weapons in Europe. The only bright side of it was that at least they weren’t [Radio Shack] TRS-80s! Thank God for that. The point is that tools are always going to be used for certain things we don’t find personally pleasing. And it’s ultimately the wisdom of people, not the tools themselves, that is going to determine whether or not these things are used in positive, productive ways.
Playboy: Where do you see computers and software going in the near future?
Jobs: Thus far, we’re pretty much using our computers as good servants. We ask them to do something, we ask them to do some operation like a spread sheet, we ask them to take our key strokes and make a letter out of them, and they do that pretty well. And you’ll see more and more perfection of that‐‑computer as servant. But the next thing is going to be computer as guide or agent. And what that means is that it’s going to do more in terms of anticipating what we want and doing it for us, noticing connections and patterns in what we do, asking us if this is some sort of generic thing we’d like to do regularly, so that we’re going to have, as an example, the concept of triggers. We’re going to be able to ask our computers to monitor things for us, and when certain conditions happen, are triggered, the computers will take certain actions and inform us after the fact.
Playboy: For example?
Jobs: Simple things like monitoring your stocks every hour or every day. When a stock gets beyond set limits, the computer will call my broker and electronically sell it and then let me know. Another example is that at the end of the month, the computer will go into the data base and find all the salesmen who exceeded their sales quotas by more tha 20 percent and write them a personalized letter from me and send it over the electronic mail system to them, and give me a report on who it sent the letters to each month. There will be a time when our computers have maybe 100 or so of those tasks; they’re going to be much more like an agent for us. You’re going to see that start to happen a little bit in the next 12 months, but really, it’s about three years away. That’s the next breakthrough.
Playboy: Will we be able to perform all of those things on the hardware we have now? Or are you going to charge us for new machines?
Jobs: All? That would be a dangerous statement, using the word all. I don’t know about that. Macintosh was certainly designed with those concepts in mind.
Playboy: You take great pride in having Apple keep ahead. How do you feel about the older companies that have to play catch-up with the younger companies‐‑or perish
? Jobs: That’s inevitably what happens. That’s why I think death is the most wonderful invention of life. It purges the system of these old models that are obsolete. I think that’s one of Apple’s challenges, really. When two young people walk in with the next thing, are we going to embrace it and say this is fantastic? Are we going to be willing to drop our models, or are we going to explain it away? I think we’ll do better, because we’re completely aware of it and we make it a priority.
Playboy: In thinking about your success, did you ever get to the point where you slapped your head and asked yourself what was happening? After all, it was virtually overnight.
Jobs: I used to think about selling 1,000,000 computers a year, but it was just a thought. When it actually happens, it’s a totally different thing. So it was, “Holy shit, it’s actually coming true!” But what’s hard to explain is that this does not feel like overnight. Next year will be my tenth year. I had never done anything longer than a year in my life. Six months, for me, was a long time when we started Apple. So this has been my life since I’ve been sort of a free-willed adult. Each year has been so robust with problems and successes and learning experiences and human experiences that a year is a lifetime at Apple. So this has been ten lifetimes.
Playboy: Do you know what you want to do with the rest of this lifetime?
Jobs: There’s an old Hindu saying that comes into my mind occasionally: “For the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.” As I’m going to be 30 in February, the thought has crossed my mind.
Jobs: And I’m not sure. I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I’m not there, but I’ll always come back. And that’s what I may try to do. The key thing to remember about me is that I’m still a student. I’m still in boot camp. If anyone is reading any of my thoughts, I’d keep that in mind. Don’t take it all too seriously. If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. What are we, anyway? Most of what we think we are is just a collection of likes and dislikes, habits, patterns. At the core of what we are is our values, and what decisions and actions we make reflect those values. That is why it’s hard doing interviews and being visible: As you are growing and changing, the more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you that it thinks you are, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to go, “Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.
Playboy: You could take off. You certainly don’t have to worry about money. You’re still working‐‑
Jobs: [Laughs] Because of guilt. Guilt over the money.
Playboy: Let’s talk about the money. You were a millionaire at 23.
Jobs: And when I was 24, my net worth was more than $10,000,000; when I was 25, it was more than $100,000,000.
Playboy: What’s the main difference between having $1,000,000 and having several hundred million?
Jobs: Visibility. The number of people who have a net worth of more than $1,000,000 in this country is in the tens of thousands. The number of people who have a net worth of more than $10,000,000 gets down to thousands. And the number who have a net worth of more than $100,000,000 gets down to a few hundred.
Playboy: What does the money actually mean to you?
Jobs: I still don’t understand it. It’s a large responsibility to have more than you can spend in your lifetime‐‑and I feel I have to spend it. If you die, you certainly don’t want to leave a large amount to your children. It will just ruin their lives. And if you die without kids, it will all go to the Government. Almost everyone would think that he could invest the money back into humanity in a much more astute way than the Government could. The challenges are to figure out how to live with it and to reinvest it back into the world, which means either giving it away or using it to express your concerns or values.
Playboy: So what do you do?
Jobs: That’s a part of my life that I like to keep private. When I have some time, I’m going to start a public foundation. I do some things privately now.
Playboy: You could spend all of your time disbursing your money.
Jobs: Oh, you have to. I’m convinced that to give away a dollar effectively is harder than to make a dollar.
Playboy: Could that be an excuse to put off doing something?
Jobs: No. There are some simple reasons for that. One is that in order to learn how to do something well, you have to fail sometimes. In order to fail, there has to be a measurement system. And that’s the problem with most philanthropy‐‑there’s no measurement system. You give somebody some money to do something and most of the time you can really never measure whether you failed or succeeded in your judgment of that person or his ideas or their implementation. So if you can’t succeed or fail, it’s really hard to get better. Also, most of the time, the people who come to you with ideas don’t provide the best ideas. You go seek the best ideas out, and that takes a lot of time.
Playboy: If you plan to use your visibility to create a model for people, why is this one of the areas you choose not to discuss?
Jobs: Because I haven’t done anything much yet. In that area, actions should speak the loudest.
Playboy: Are you completely virtuous or do you admit to any extravagances?
Jobs: Well, my favorite things in life are books, sushi and…. My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. As it is, I pay a price by not having much of a personal life. I don’t have the time to pursue love affairs or to tour small towns in Italy and sit in cafes and eat tomato-and‐‑mozzarella salad. Occasionally, I spend a little money to save myself a hassle, which means time. And that’s the extent of it. I bought an apartment in New York, but it’s because I love that city. I’m trying to educate myself, being from a small town in California, not having grown up with the sophistication and culture of a large city. I consider it part of my education. You know, there are many people at Apple who ca buy everything that they could ever possibly want and still have most of their money unspent. I hate talking about this as a problem; people are going to read this and think, Yeah, well, give me your problem. They’re going to think I’m an arrogant little asshole.
Playboy: With your wealth and past accomplishments, you have the ability to pursue dreams as few others do. Does that freedom frighten you?
Jobs: The minute you have the means to take responsibility for your own dreams and can be held accountable for whether they come true or not, life is a lot tougher. It’s easy to have wonderful thoughts when the chance to implement them is remote. When you’ve gotten to a place where you at least have a chance of implementing your ideas, there’s a lot more responsibility in that.
Playboy: We’ve talked about what you see in the near future; what about the far future? If we’re still in kindergarten, and you start imagining some of the ways computers are going to change our lives, what do you see?
Jobs: When I came back from India, I found myself asking, What was the one most important thing that had struck me? And I think it was that Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic. It is a learned ability. It had never occurred to me that if no one taught us how to think this way, we would not think this way. And yet, that’s the way it is. Obviously, one of the great challenges of an education is to teach us how to think. What we’re finding is that computers are actually going to affect the quality of thinking as more and more of our children have these tools available to them. Humans are tool users. What’s really incredible about a book is that you can read what Aristotle wrote. You don’t have to have some teacher’s interpretation of Aristotle. You can certainly get that, but you can read exactly what Aristotle wrote. That direct transmission of thoughts and ideas is one of the key building blocks of why we are where we are, as a society. But the problem with a book is that you can’t ask Aristotle a question. I think one of the potentials of the computer is to somehow … capture the fundamental, underlying principles of an experience.
Playboy: For example?
Jobs: Here’s a very crude example. The original video game, Pong, captured the principles of gravity, angular momentum and things like that, to where each game obeyed those underlying principles, and yet every game was different‐‑sort of like life. That’s the simplest example. And what computer programming can do is to capture the underlying principles, the underlying essence, and then facilitate thousands of experiences based on that perception of the underlying principles. Now, what if we could capture Aristotle’s world view‐‑the underlying principles of his world view? Then you could actually ask Aristotle a question. OK. You might say it would not be exactly what Aristotle was. It could be all wrong. But maybe not.
Playboy: But you would say it was at least interesting feedback.
Jobs: Exactly. Part of the challenge, I think, is to get these tools to millions and tens of millions of people and to start to refine these tools so that someday we can crudely, and then in a more refined sense, capture an Aristotle or an Einstein or a Land while he’s alive. Imagine what that could be like for a young kid growing up. Forget the young kid‐‑for us! And that’s part of the challenge.
Playboy: Will you be working on that yourself?
Jobs: That’s for someone else. It’s for the next generation. I think an interesting challenge in this area of intellectual inquiry is to grow obsolete gracefully, in the sense that things are changing so fast that certainly by the end of the Eighties, we really want to turn over the reins to the next generation, whose fundamental perceptions are state‐of-the-art perceptions, so that they can go on, stand on our shoulders and go much further. It’s a very interesting challenge, isn’t it? How to grow obsolete with grace.
Hats off to this Man…Love you Steve…
Disclaimer: This interview is from http://www.txtpost.com/playboy-interview-steven-jobs/, and thanks to http://longform.org/ for this.