Form and Fortune: Steve Jobs’s pursuit of perfection—and the consequences | The New Republic

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THE LAST DECADE—Apple’s most successful—has been even more intriguing, for the company once again built products that perfectly responded to the spiritual and aspirational demands of the day—or at least it did an excellent job convincing people that this was the case. Amid all the current brouhaha about the liberating impact of social media, it is easy to forget that, as far as technology was concerned, the last decade began on a rather depressing note. First came the dot-com bubble, which all but shattered the starry-eyed cyber-optimism of the 1990s. It was quickly followed by September 11—hardly an occasion to celebrate the wonders of modern technology. The hijacked airplanes, the collapsing twin towers of the World Trade Center, the failure of the American military—the most technologically savvy force in the world—to do much about it, the invisible surveillance of our electronic communications in AT&T intercept facilities: it seemed as if technology was either malfunctioning or profoundly repressive.

Apple’s response to the mood of the time was to build technology that was easy to use and worked flawlessly. While its gadgets looked plain enough to match the sober spirit of the country, they also teased their users with the promise of liberation. “It just works”—Jobs’s signature promise at product launches—was soothing to a nation excited and addled and traumatized by technology. Nothing could go wrong: Apple had thought of everything. The technology would work as advertised; it was under total control; it would not get hacked. Apple promised a world in which technology would be humane, and used to ameliorate—rather than undermine—the human condition. For much of the last decade, Apple was not just selling gadgets; it was also selling technologically mediated therapy—and America, a nation that likes to cure its ills with redemptive shopping, could not resist the temptation.

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