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Jobs 'more showman than geek': Daisey -

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Jobs 'more showman than geek': Daisey

Broadcast: 06/10/2011

Reporter: Tony Jones

Mike Daisey is author of The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs and says the Apple co-founder was not
a classic geek but was intimately involved in everything Apple did.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Back to our top story, the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and we're
joined from New York by writer and performer Mike Daisey who's been touring the world, including
Australia, performing his one man show The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

Thanks for being there.

MIKE DAISEY: Thanks so much for having me.

TONY JONES: Let's start with the ecstasy of Steve Jobs. What do you think was his particular genius
and what do you think his legacy will be for that matter?

MIKE DAISEY, WRITER AND PERFORMER: I think it is heartbreaking today, I think we'll never actually
know how much we have lost.

Steve was devoted to work in a way that few people are. He easily could have led Apple for another
20 years and so just thinking about the scale of the things he did in his time since he returned to
Apple, through to the present day. When you think about what could have happened in 20 more years,
where he could have taken computing to, it is hard to swallow because there's really no one like
him in the tech industry.

There is no one else with that kind of vision, that kind of leadership.

The tech industry is actually an industry of followers and Steve has for a generation been the
leader of the entire computing movement.

TONY JONES: Did he really change the world as a lot of people are saying today?

MIKE DAISEY: Oh yes. When you use a computer, even if you don't use an Apple computer, when you
interact with that interface, when you use your phones, all these devices, he's responsible for
three fundamental shifts in the nature of computing.

He's directly responsible for the propagation of the personal computer in a form where it was
actually in people's homes, actually by them, where it shifted from being a mainframe.

He's responsible for the Macintosh which introduced the world to the graphical user interface and
introduced the mouse to everyone, and the idea of computing in a metaphor that today seems second
nature was extraordinary when we shifted from using computers that were like typewriters to
computers where you had windows and cursors.

And then he's responsible for the innovation of touch computing that you saw with the iPhone which
was introduced in 2007 and that completely disrupted the way people were computing before that as
well.

No-one else in the computer, in the entire history of computing, is responsible for even one
metaphor shift and he's actually been responsible for three.

So there's no one like him.

TONY JONES: How much influence did he have on your own life? I know you used to be one of those
famous Apple fan boys queuing up outside the stores for every new device as it became available on
the market. What effect did he have on your life?

MIKE DAISEY: Oh a huge one. I think everything I really understand about industrial design I
learned working with and using his machines. I think one of the reasons people feel so strongly
about Steve Jobs today is that because he controlled his company so closely.

He was personally involved in every step of Apple's hardware and the software in a way that almost
no CEOs ever are because of that level of personal attention to detail.

People who used Apple products feel very legitimately that they have been engaged in a decade's
long conversation with Steve. In their day to day usage, when they use these devices they can see
the human side of his attempts working through and with Apple to make devices that work well.

And so for me, my entire life in computing has been defined by Steve Jobs in a very direct way.

TONY JONES: It is interesting, isn't it, because he wasn't himself a technological genius, he
employed technological geniuses.

In fact his original partner Steve Wozniak was the computer designer of the original Apple
Macintosh computers.

So what was it that made him so fundamentally important if he wasn't himself technologically as
fluent as these others?

MIKE DAISEY: He wasn't completely unversed. He just wasn't what you would classically call a geek
in tech speak. You know he was more like Barnum. He was a showman. He was an inventor entrepreneur.
He had the skill to take things that you didn't even know that you wanted and make you need them.
Not only through showmanship alone but because he understood how we use computers or how we could
use them and then he was constantly pushing forward the boundaries of what was possible.

And he did it with a tremendous amount of panache, a tremendous amount of drive in an industry that
is actually devoid of these things, an industry run by people who are honestly introverted and
honestly not good at taking the stage and understanding human impulses. Jobs was so good at that.

TONY JONES: Let's go back to the beginning because I've seen you quoted as saying that Jobs started
out as someone whose devices were forged out of piracy. What did you mean by that?

MIKE DAISEY: The very first thing that he and Steve Wozniak worked on together, the very first
project, was a pirate box. It was a box that lets you hack into the telephone company and steal
long distance calls.

They didn't just make one of them, they made hundreds of them and they sold them to everybody. I
mean there's actually a famous story about the fact they were testing this box and so Jobs told
Wozniak to use the box to place a call to the Vatican but spoofed the call so it looked like the
call was coming from the White House and so Wozniak does this and he says, "Hello, Vatican, this is
the White House, I have Henry Kissinger on the line for the Pope."

And the cardinal or whoever answers the phone at the Vatican in the middle of the night says, "He's
sleeping but please hold on, we will go and wake him" and Wozniak freaked out and hung up the
phone.

I mean these guys were pirates, they were rebels. They were doing things that no-one had ever
thought of before and that's how they created this movement. I mean very much was borne out of an
anarchic sense of 1960s sort of counter-cultural freedom.

TONY JONES: There is a great story about how he goes to Xerox which is the company on the cutting
edge at that point of technology, that's where he finds the very first mouse, the very first icons
on the screens and the click and drag facility and he walks out of this laboratory and goes back to
his guys at Apple and says, "These guys are doing this for tech heads, we need to do this for the
rest of the world. We need to make this for households", and that is where they get their start,
isn't it?

MIKE DAISEY: Yes, that has always been part of Apple's ethos. They haven't always been the first
people somewhere but they're the people who make an implementation that actual human beings might
want to use. That's been their genius the entire time and Steve was very, very good at that, seeing
the human story beneath the technological.

TONY JONES: So tell me this, from your perspective, how does Apple under Steve Jobs turn into what
you call now the most locked down computer company in the world?

MIKE DAISEY: It is hard. It is a story that affects a lot of us, I think. You know we get older and
we are often trapped by the circumstances, the strengths that we create ourselves. The story of our
lives are often are defined that way. We start out as rebels and pirates and then we go out to
change the world and when we're not looking we succeed and we change the world but the world
changes us too.

And I think Apple today is locked down in a way that almost no computing platform has been; the
iPhone, iPad. People can't touch the software in there; it is controlled by Apple very directly.
And part of that is out of the desire, Steve Jobs' desire to control everything.

But after a certain point that level of control starts to take away choice from the user and it is
a hard thing this continuum because you start you start out with the best of intentions but if
you're not careful, you can go from a place where you're creating something and shaping something
to taking away options from users and making computing fundamentally less free.

TONY JONES: It's interesting isn't it because your own love affair with Apple really ended I
suppose when you went to Shenzhen in China and you discovered how and where and who actually made
these gadgets these days. Of course years ago they were made in California but then it all shifted
to China. Tell us what you found.

MIKE DAISEY: Well I found the work conditions in southern China and in the special economic zone,
which have been there now for a decade and have been well documented by numerous sources but are
never talked about because we have divided ourselves off from how any of our devices are man
fractured.

What I found were horrendous working conditions at Foxconn and the other subsidiaries that make
devices for Apple and all the other technology companies. I found children constructing
electronics. I found the electronics are made by hand under circumstances where people are working
on lines for 14, 15 and 16 hours a day until after months and years the joints in the fingers of
their hands disintegrate.

And simple humanitarian measures that could be taken to make this workplace safe for the people who
are working in it are not taken and it is because no-one in the ecosystem, not Foxconn, not the
companies at the end making the devices in China, not the companies like Apple and Dell and Nokia
that are requesting, that are using the companies to get the devices made.

No-one in that system is applying a human vision, the kind of human vision that Jobs originally
stood for and was always trying so hard to give to his users, he didn't apply to his own workers.
He didn't see them as being Apple employees but they made every device that Apple makes is farmed
out to the Chinese companies. Those people should have been Apple workers.

TONY JONES: Mike, how did you get into these factories in the first place because they are
themselves pretty much locked down? You can't get cameras in there. How did you manage to do it?

MIKE DAISEY: Well I went in on a tourist visa instead of applying for permission from the Chinese
government which I think limits a huge amount of our legitimate journalist access to China and one
of the reasons why we don't hear the stories and the way that they might resonate with us is it's
so difficult for journalists to get in and get these stories.

I posed as a businessman. I said I was looking for suppliers for companies back in America and I
went through a lot of steps along the way in finding people to help me. I managed to work with
people and get in and see the conditions on the ground and I had the luxury of spending weeks and
weeks doing this.

So I had the time to make connections with labour groups who are in China, who are under constant
threat of being imprisoned by the Chinese government, and work with the groups and talk to them and
learn from them.

And so the truth is that everything that we need to know about how our devices are made, how are
whole first world is supplied, is sitting in the open down there. We just don't have systems in
place to get the story out in a way where it reaches people in a human sense.

TONY JONES: Your monologue talks about suicide, it talks about child labour, robotic conditions.
You've talked about some of that already, Steve Wozniak the co-founder, the partner of Steve Jobs
actually came to see your monologue and I think you spoke to him afterwards. what did he say to
you?

MIKE DAISEY: He wept. He told the New York times that he was changed. That he would never be the
same again and I admire his bravery, you know that he would say that in public because as someone
who works in technology, you know it's very possible to be blind to be things. In fact the dominant
paradigm is going to be that kind of blindness. You're going to see it in all the coverage of Steve
Jobs today and in the weeks to come because we don't want to look at how we actually make things.

But it's so important and you can embrace the genius of the design, understand that it is beautiful
and incredibly well made and still understand the circumstances under which they're made. In fact
it's vital, if you don't actually embrace both halves of that then we can't really begin to
understand the true cost of what we make. So I really admire him.

TONY JONES: Is it possible that Jobs himself was so single minded, so focused on these devices and
the genius contained within in them that he wasn't even looking at who was making them? That he
didn't know about these conditions?

MIKE DAISEY:I can't accept that. He was far too smart. He was one of the sharpest people, I met him
in 2002, one of the sharpest people I've ever met and I think everyone knows just how smart Steve
was.

I think he made calculated decisions along the way. I think he made decisions about where his
priorities and he made judgement calls like we all make judgement calls in our lives. It's
difficult thing to be alive. It's a difficult thing to try to stay truthful to the ideals you have
in your youth.

We don't all succeed.

TONY JONES: Final question then, Apple without Steve Jobs will it stay on the top of this rapidly
changing technology market?

MIKE DAISEY: I'll tell you the truth. My fear is that it will stay on top because Apple is never
better when it is the underdog. Apple is never better than when it's scrambling its way up and
fighting and clawing to be relevant. That is when Apple has always been at its sharpest and its
best and when Apple has ever been dominant, when it's comfortable, the last time Steve left, when
he was thrown out of the company; it's not the same place. That rigour starts to fall apart, that
drive more than almost any other corporation in modern times.

Apple is a reflection of Steve Jobs. Without his animating spirit at the core of it, an era is
over. And while everyone in the marketplace might love to have Apple still be the same company it
was, it is not the same company and even if it dominates the marketplace in terms of selling
devices, that spirit and that time is passing and that's really the sadness for me that I lived
through this time and now I'm watching it begin to fade.

TONY JONES: Mike Daisey, you're obviously very conflicted about this man and his life and death. We
thank you very much though for sharing some of your thoughts with us tonight.

MIKE DAISEY: Thanks so much for having me.