Was Steve Jobs Really Insanely Great?

Ever since Steve Jobs died last week, I’ve been thinking about what it means or why everyone is so convinced he was a brilliant executive.

Of course Jobs was a gifted, creative man. It’s terrible when anyone with a family and thriving business is cut down in his fifties, and I was certainly saddened by news of his death, just as I was when he stepped down as Apple CEO in August. I’ve been a Mac loyalist for decades.

Steve Jobs, 2007

But just because I’m enamored of a brand, doesn’t mean everything its creator did has now turned to gold. And with all that’s been written about Jobs’s legacy, I’m uncomfortable with the notion that business success is the most important measure of a human being’s value to others.

"The world is immeasurably better because of Steve," Apple sighs—of course—but I see no major media outlets questioning this PR statement. Steven Levy, author of Insanely Great, his 1994 book about "The Life and Times of the Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything," even says in his recent Wired memorial that no one would ever "take issue" with it.

But I do. Much as I appreciate Levy’s credible analysis of Jobs, especially in his nuanced look at the many forces that made this adoptee who he was, I’m not convinced Jobs was the "most adored and admired business executive on the planet, maybe in history."

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