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What Steve taught us (i.e. a “semiserious” epitaph)

Reading time: 5 minutes

The whole Board of Editors of TraiLeoni mourns the loss of Steven P. Jobs, billionaire, genius, magician and illusionist, prophet, cold-hearted businessman, unconventional philanthropist, cynical shark and global icon, hi-tech philosopher  and modern guide, villain of the free competitive markets, lover of aesthetic life; and joins his beloved and the community all in this day of woe.

Many people in the last hours have risen tribute to you, Steve, stressing differently but rather unanimously the way you somehow change our all lives: they mainly did it all the same way, through and by reason of the same technology that you delivered, showing the photo that Apple itself officially chose for you commemoration, posting video or sentences drawn on your landmark commencement speech at Stanford University.  Essentially displaying  total disregard to the message you wanted to deliver through that very speech. Many other people did by noticing how your products are irreparably part of our everyday life, irremediably affecting how we define our social relationship as well as we carry out normal routine tasks (raise his hand any iPhone-owner that check the email on his laptop – pardon, MacBook – anymore).  But this material appreciation should not, we guess, please you: as well as, at least, it would sound weird, if not disrespectful, to thank a decedent father just for having paid the College to his son when he was young.

This is the main reason why, we all, have taken a little more time for trying to say you goodbye one last time, in the way we mostly think proper to you, by recalling to our, maybe few, readers’ mind what did your life really teach to them.

To economists and legal scholars, Steve Jobs has taught lessons on monopolies. Sometimes there are lawful monopolies even when not under State’s control, though strictly respecting  principle of equality of treatment (look at each product: the price it’s been carefully the same all over the world). Sometimes this is far away from what people would intend as “market failure” and it simply gets the game more and more interesting: people drive crazy when told that airplane companies’ trust or energy utilities natural oligopolies will make their bill more expensive, but what if everyone would issue the same iPad two weeks later you buy it, but halving its price (i.e. starting from 499 + your cost opportunity of 5 hours of queue), just by calling it “another fancy latter of the alphabet but “I”- Pad”? An people are thanking for this, these days. Therefore: at times, subjective perception of monopoly in the real world is just something different than what you study on books. We always better learn the economic sense of patents from Apple than from any law and economics theory: whichever price you gleefully pay at the Apple Store will be an infinitesimal ratio of Apple’s 313 patents’ capital, the insurance they got from human envy and desire of exclusiveness. He finally taught that corporate finance is not even the stairway to business heaven (when it’s not the highway to the hell of bankruptcy): when Apple went public in 1980, raising 25$ mil selling stocks for overall value of 3% of its Net Worth, it was neither short of liquidity, nor had ever borrow bank money before: many argue it was just the ground zero of a new policy of commercial ads (people like to feel part of “something greater”). Good ideas can still make the grade without the ultra gear of financial “aid” – it doesn’t mean it have to be disdained. For all who think at the law as an instrument of justice, remember that corporate law is not always fair: you might get fired from the company you founded and owns without any remedy to avoid this.

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To businessmen and their apprentices, he taught lessons of marketing and corporate strategy to them all. Mystic experiences and business intuitions may have helped him to understand human soul and behavior, better than competitors. That people have always to be tickled, kept in suspense and then cradled with reward, so as to let them forget the triviality of what they are “offered” (as well as whatever price has become meaningless at the end of this rite). Steve showed us how to make hundreds million  people feel unique. And he did so well that we really believed it true (will be the same from now on?). The success of his company is measured by thousands people believing in the magic of Steve the Wizard, rather than by its market capitalization. This is by far such a unique achievement, that also his most ferocious critics cannot deny.

To We all, Steve left his most silent and sound advices. He showed how to believe in a positive future, when it’s still yet to come; many people die every day still waiting those “dots” magically to connect, but this doesn’t allow everyone not to believe in a better tomorrow. Life can unsettle even the most rationally built plans; it’s a message of hope to all young people untidily wondering about their future: stay foolish, think outside the border of conventionality and routine, don’t commit in following the path of others, the life of others. Never give up, even when you feel betrayed by yourself and your own work: someone may end up doing something else important as well (maybe not another 50$ billion company as Pixar). You don’t even need a bed where to sleep when your dreams lift yourself 10 inches up in the air, neither other comforts in order to pursue them. And Yes, your graduation sometimes is just about a piece of paper: it’s up to your feeling to establish whether, but always without fear, when asking yourself if you are doing what you like. And, finally, think at success as a collateral reward, as a clue that reminds you how good you are doing, not as the only last goal.

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To his critics, who mainly argue that his products have enslaved the world, subduing people to the need of needless technology, in consideration to highest monopoly prices, Steve would counter that the weakness of manhood cannot prevent innovation by argument that we are not able to handle it. His very message, would probably stand against this view, when he says “don’t waste your time living the life of others”. And this is the very question at stake We can think that his products have changed our life so as we could not live anymore without; but if we listen to what he really told the world, we should throw them in the junk the very moment we realized it. If, in a parallel world, Steve came back to life in a world where Apple has already been invented, he would probably do so. Or, we can think at them just as the most technologically advanced gadgets available up to now, and make the only right use they deserve. And probably Steve Jobs would be remembered just as one of the greatest businessman ever, but not a genius, not a modern prophet.

R.I.P

by Pietro Fazzini

pietro.fazzini@studbocconi.it

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