Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Thinking About Steve Jobs and the Marriage of the Humanities and Technology

Steve Jobs programming with an Apple I.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death. I wrote about it last year when I was still in Kent, Ohio–right after my Dad called me to tell me the sad news.

Yesterday, I reflected on missing out on meeting and talking with Jobs–something that Scott Kurtz captured brilliantly on PvP. Growing up, I wanted to meet him–the natural element, the force of nature, the man who led his company to create “insanely great” things that enabled people to be creative in the digital age. However, I didn’t want to meet him in passing. I wanted to make or do insanely great things myself–things worthy of his admiration and interest. I suppose I’m still working on those insanely great things, and I unfortunately missed my window of opportunity to accomplish those things while Jobs was still with us. Nevertheless, his inspiration lives on and it drives me.

Yesterday, Apple debuted a fitting tribute video to Steve Jobs’ legacy–Apple’s inheritance. To borrow Michael Stipe’s words out of context, it was “a right pretty song.” I snapped the pictures at the top and bottom of the post from that video. I decided to keep the frame of Mac OS X, because it just seemed right.

Yesterday, I thought about something Jobs says in the video. He says, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” This was from Jobs’ surprise appearance to introduce the iPad 2 on March 2, 2011.

Today, the obvious need for the humanities to be infused in our technologies is lost, I believe, on many people–particularly other technology innovators and so-called “education innovators,” who fight for STEM to the exclusion of all other ares of study. It extends also to education debates taking place right now in the United States. At the recent presidential debates, there was mention made of the need for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, but there was no mention of the humanities. How can we produce top rate engineers without instilling them with the ability to communicate effectively, the ability to think critically, the ability to argue rhetorically, the ability to think ethically, the ability to recognize and appreciate human difference, and the ability to situate themselves and their work within historical, cultural, and social networks? STEM is obviously one half of the solution, but the humanities and all that we have to offer are the other half of creating a total solution. If we choose to ignore the interconnection and interdependence of STEM and the humanities, we will not create an “insanely great” future. Instead, we will destroy the legacy of insanely great innovators, leaders, and teachers who worked so hard to give us a present time that could lead to a brilliant future.

Tomorrow, we will reflect on the choices that we make today. We have to seize this opportunity to work collaboratively and integratively towards that future. If we ignore this opportunity today, tomorrow we will regret our choice: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away/Now it looks as though they’re here to stay/Oh, I believe in yesterday” (John Lennon and Paul McCartney).

Steve Jobs looks toward the sky next to Apple’s flagship store in New York City.

 

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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Posted in Apple, Computers, New Media, Technology
Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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