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Steve Jobs the Philosopher

These are Steve Job quotes paraphrased from his 1985 interview on pages 111 and 112 of The Playboy Interviews: Movers and Shakers.

When Steve Jobs got back from visting India, he thought about the most important thing he'd learned. It was that "Western rational thought is not innate". It is learned. It had never occured to Steve that if no one taught us how to think this way, we wouldn't. But that's how it is.

Steve Jobs says that to give away a dollar effectively is harder than to make a dollar. He argues this by saying that to learn you have to fail sometimes. And to fail, you have to have a measurement system so you know if you failed. You can give someone money to do something and most of the time you'll never find out if you succeeded or failed in your judgment of that person and his ideas and implementation. If you can't fail or succeed, then it's really hard to get better.

Reminds me of Popper. It has the core idea that we learn by trial and error. And it says that criticism is critically important to learning. Steve says it's hard to learn anything when it's hard to find out you were wrong. Being faced with your mistakes is crucial. The first statement about Western ways of thinking being learned is also something Popper knew, cared, and wrote about. Popper knew that other cultures had other ways of thinking (but that we can overcome these differences and learn from each other), and Popper also studied how Western thought started (before that time, no one anywhere thought this way).

Elliot Temple on December 8, 2008


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