I'm finally getting around to reading the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. I'm fascinated by the discussion of how Jobs developed what became known as the Reality Distortion Field. Apparently Jobs had a lifelong battle with reality and won.

One way to look at Jobs' life is that he was a liar and a con man with a gift for design. According to Isaacson's reporting, Jobs had no love for truth. Jobs learned how to lie, cajole, manipulate, and charm until people believed whatever he wanted them to believe. By all accounts, Jobs' mixture of cruel and unsavory skills caused people to produce seemingly impossible results.

That's one way to interpret events. But it's not the only interpretation. According to Isaacson's book, Jobs spent years trying to understand the nature of reality before he started bending it. Jobs dropped a lot of acid, travelled to India, followed gurus, became a fruitarian, meditated, and studied religion. He was clearly looking for something. What if he found it?

Jobs' spiritual journey probably led him to believe reality is subjective - more like a complicated set of ideas than a huge clump of matter. I've never tried acid, but from what I hear, it changes your view of reality forever. Before you take acid, a rock is just a rock. After acid, a rock is sometimes a rock, and other times it's just one possibility. When you consider all of Jobs' spiritual experiences, it's fair to assume he had an open mind about the nature of reality.

For context, keep in mind that physicists also have some whacky ideas about the nature of reality. Some scientists believe we are experiencing just one of many universes. Others question the nature of time. Einstein showed us that reality is different for observers traveling at different speeds. And in the quantum world, reality is smeared across probabilities.

Maybe it's simplistic to say Jobs was a liar and a con man. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he found the user interface for reality, and lying is simply one of the levers. We know Jobs spent years trying to find the keys to reality's engine. Maybe he found them.

The biggest head-scratcher about Jobs' career is how many times he transformed entire industries: computers, phones, music, animation, and more. And each success happened with a different mix of Apple employees. Do you believe all of that success was luck, or perhaps luck plus extraordinary business skill? Or is it possible something else was happening?

I don't believe in magic. But I can't rule out the possibility that reality has a user interface. Perhaps the Reality Distortion Field was exactly what it looked like.

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Apr 18, 2012
Jobs had some really cool influences here and there, but for the most part, as someone else alredy commented, there were other MP3 players, other phones, other computers, other notebooks, etc. What Jobs was able to do, and Apple is still able to do, is keep a core consumer fanbase salivating to pay double for the thinner, slicker newest bestest.

You think someone else couldn't make a nice $700 tablet?
Apr 18, 2012
This subject reminds me very much of the books by Carlos Castaneda on don Juan Mateus a Mexican Sorcerer or man of knowledge. Carlos was a graduate student of anthropology at UCLA back in the 60's to 80's and was trying to get information on Mescaline and was introduced to don Juan by a friend. It turned into a decades long search to become a "man of knowledge". He talks about different realities that are very much like what physicists are just recently discovering about quantum physics, and this was back in the 60's. I started reading his books back in 1971. I recently found the whole collection of his books for free download on the web (pdf) search "Carlos Castaneda, all books in one"
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2012
Jobs was just the ultimate control freak, he envisioned what he wanted (which is pretty cool stuff), didn't take no for an answer, and refused to make Apple product play nice with others. I'm still amazed he allowed iTunes to go PC, but I guess money really is the most powerful motivator.
Apr 18, 2012
Maybe Steve Jobs was a moist robot with the ability to hack other moist robots.

Maybe not.

As to his success, maybe he just had the right ideas at the right time. Portable music had been around for years before the iPod. He just found a way to take a music file and put it on something smaller than a portable CD player. Memory got small enough and cheap enough to let him do that. Processors were getting smaller too. The iPad was the logical extension of the iPod... the technology was heading in that direction anyways. The Mac? It wasn't the first PC, but it was the first big one. His ability to promote and sell his products (hack other robots) probably didn't hurt in marketing.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2012
I recommend dropping acid next time you have to enter into one of your administrative battles with your tax returns. You may enter the reality where government bureaucracy makes sense.

Alternately, if it goes wrong and you end up naked and biting trees, nervous breakdown caused by tax return is a plausible excuse.

Apr 18, 2012
Maybe your affirmations technique is one of the levers?
+21 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 18, 2012
What?!? You've never dropped acid? I would have thought differently. It makes me wonder what the whole Scott Adams / Dilbert thing would have evolved into had you dropped a few times. I read your blog and strips regularly. It's quite amazing. All that, on a stock brain. Who would have ever thought.
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