There’s a steady stream of books being written by Knight Foundation journalism and media innovation partners. Today, the hottest best-seller among them; next week, the rest:
· Walter Issacson’s latest biography of an American giant, this time Steve Jobs, is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the complex, fast-moving psychology of Silicon Valley. In designing the most popular communications products of the digital age, Jobs followed the advice of scientist Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” And so, among many other things, we now have the iPod, iPhone and iPad – and entirely new ways to think about music, telephones and publishing.
Nearing the end of his astonishing go-for-it career, Jobs himself, in his Stanford commencement speech, gave this advice:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Concludes Issacson: “Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead. … Steve Jobs thus became the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now.”
Issacson, a news legend in his own right, leads the Aspen Institute, which has been helping Knight Foundation understand and improve national media policy through the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities.