(I encountered this photo at http://theChive.com)
As an entrepreneur, it caught my attention and made me think about what our society values and what captures its interest.
Looking beyond the few inaccuracies here (Steve Jobs was a ruthless capitalist- NOT a hipster; media knew he was Jesus of BUSINESS, not computing), the point stands that Dennis Ritchie created a technology and Steve Jobs marketed it- Ritchie is unknown and Jobs is famous.
But why is Steve Jobs’ participation meaningless because the original idea wasn’t his? Jobs made this developed concept into something of utility to the masses and gave it to them. That is what we value- things that are useful to us. The Winklevoss’ may have had the idea for Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg GAVE it to us. “If you were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.” Which begs a question: Who is the REAL inventor- the creator, or the provider?
As an entrepreneur who is both the creator and provider, my opinion is that it depends on what you consider the end product. Here we have two end products: Ritchie’s coding and iProducts. Ritchie’s coding is ultimately an ingredient in iProducts, which affect the lives of many many more people. That is what entrepreneurship is all about- providing a service/good that affects the lives of others. It is giving a gift. Ritchie DID receive much recognition. Our citizen mass praised Jobs as his gift was given out to more people.
For example, one of my chemists has provided a service to say, a thousand people. To us thousand, her service is very helpful and she is a Dennis Ritchie in our eyes. But I plan to take her product (formulation aid) and use it as an element in a larger, more complex product (vodka) that will be sold to, say a million people. Who will be better known- this chemist or my brand? Similarly, if a new RTD (ready-to-drink) product uses this vodka brand as just an ingredient and sells to a billion people, the RTD will be even more praised.
That said, with each increase in product complexity, more resource-input is required. Ritchie needed other bits of tech developments to make UNIX. Jobs needed 10x more resources including hardware sources, marketing and branding savvy. It is reasonable to say that Jobs, as the creator of the further-down end-product, took much more risk in terms of investing time and money. In our society, ‘risk equals reward’. It’s business rule #1, and life rule #1 as well. Therefore, risk paying off big time captures our attention and is also why we’ve heard more about Jobs. We want to hear about risk payoffs whether it’s NASA reaching Mars or our buddy killing it in Vegas.
Ultimately, is this really the social injustice that the photo makes it out to be? I would say both are inventors, and both deserve credit for providing different products. The fact is purely that Jobs reached more people by taking a more captivating risk by standing on the shoulders of Ritchie as all creators do. After all, every single creation EVER is the composition of many before it- nothing is truly original. Which is why the statement in the photo that ideas were ‘stolen’ is ridiculous. If every brain fart was patented, nothing would be invented. In fact, the key to any form of creativity or art is ‘connecting two seemingly unrelated concepts in a way that produces new meaning’. This can be applied to anything- even jokes. ‘A guy walks into a bar…ouch.’ Here we’re presenting a connection (same word). Considering this, perhaps ‘combining’ doesn’t take it’s own form of brilliance, but IS brilliance. As a society, we are continuously standing on the shoulders of those before us including Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie.
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