The Connection Machine that inspired Steve Jobs

Product designer and mechanical engineer Tamiko Thiel turned computers into sculptures in the early 1980s before the Macintosh came out. Said Thiel:

“The general image of computers was IBM computers, racks of electronics. They looked like refrigerators or heating units. They didn’t have any identity”

Years later she found out that Steve Jobs wanted to hire her to design the NeXT computer. But she had already gone on to Germany to be an artist.

Nevertheless, her geometric reinterpretation of the computer continues to inspire the modern yet futuristic hardware designs we see in iPhones and gadgets today.

The Connection Machine machine now features in MOMA’s exhibition Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age, 1959–1989.

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‘Everybody sees it coming, but no one wants to talk about it’ 🐎🚗📱

There inevitably comes a time when our ideas, no matter how prolific, become extinct and get replaced by new ones. Just look at the emergence of autonomous cars. Writes former product head of General Motors Bob Lutz:

“The auto industry is on an accelerating change curve. For hundreds of years, the horse was the prime mover of humans and for the past 120 years it has been the automobile.”


There will always be a niche of traditionalists that want hands-on control, just as people still prefer to read hard books, string a brilliant guitar riff, and think with their hands in writing analog.

But the volcano of ideas are all digital. As Lutz quips: “I think probably everybody sees it coming, but no one wants to talk about it.”

There is no cart, there is no horse, there is no wheel. As Steve Jobs once discovered in Scientific American: “The man riding a bicycle was twice as good as the condor.” Humans build tools to maximize efficiency.

Remembering Steve Jobs: ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ 📱

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via giphy

Steve Jobs died six years ago today. He was 56 years old. His uniqueness, unconventional leadership, and big-picture thinking will never be forgotten.

Jobs made tech fashionable. He made sure to remind us that we are the creators.

Below are some of my favorite Jobs’ quotes.

“Make something wonderful, and put it out there.”

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.’

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Obama’s final exit interview

President Obama talked with historian Kearns Goodwin at the White House for one of his last open-ended interviews before leaving office. The two discussed the president’s legacy, Lincoln, the importance of long-term thinking and Obama’s ‘writer’s sensibility.’ But the discussion over FDR’s ambitions and his struggle with polio is particularly interesting.

GOODWIN: For example, young F.D.R. seemed a pretty ordinary guy. At 28 he’s a clerk in a law firm. He hasn’t done anything particularly great in college or law school. He gets his first chance to run for the state legislature, and somehow, when he’s out there on the campaign trail, something clicks in. William James said, “At such moments, there is a voice inside which speaks and says, ‘This is the real me.’ ” And F.D.R. knew then that’s what he wanted to be.

OBAMA: I think F.D.R. is a great example of what I mean. If you look at his early life, it is ambition for ambition’s sake …

At some point in life, meaning trumps ambition. You still want to be successful but you want to do it with more authenticity, i.e. true passion. In FDR’s case, enduring life with polio only strengthened his resolve, an attitude he echoed in his first inaugural address: “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”

As Steve Jobs would later say during his fight his cancer:

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.

Of course, death is not a pre-requisite for chasing meaning. Your fearlessness may depend on well you love yourself. Perhaps Bill Murray said it best:

So what’s it like to be me? You can ask yourself, What’s it like to be me? You know, the only way we’ll ever know what it’s like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself: That’s where home is.”

In short, we all know what we’re born to do. It just takes time getting comfortable with ourselves while we figure out what our role is.


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Do you love the work or the idea of it?

motivational penguin

Do what you love. Love what you do. These cliches, however, are missing important pieces: Do the work and be good at what you do.

People think they can write a book, but they never set aside the time to work on it. People want to get in shape, but they never hit the gym. People aspire to be an artist, but they never go to the studio to paint.

“Everything is work,” writes Brianna Wiest. She continues:

“People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.”

Instead of doing what you think you love, do something you’re already good at and that other people find useful. Never underestimate your innate talents. “Do what you have to give,” Briana implores.//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js

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Briana’s advice is the opposite of a book I read this summer entitled Grit by Angela Duckworth. In it, the author praises the ethics of pertinacity. The book’s message is trite but true, assuming the person succeeds. Other times, it might be wiser for people to quit and move on.

But there’s also a third way to look at careerism. Instead of accepting your God-given skills or striving for success, you try new opportunities that come your way so you can grow your mindset/skillset. You decide to challenge yourself, fail, and learn quickly which takes a lot of courage.

People that excel at their job still need to be tested. Skills get you places. But so does curiosity and reflection. Remember Steve’s wisdom, “don’t settle.”

The odd piece out

Photo by Cody Davis

There are some basic principles of every art. Take the rule of thirds or rule of odds for painting and photography for instance.

Mastering the fundamentals helps guide the creative process. But learning how to make art prevents more creativity than it unleashes. True art goes beyond the basic skills in the back pocket. It improvises and disrupts the existing framework.

Einstein and Steve Jobs rejected traditional thinking behind science and technology. It wasn’t just marketing that made Madonna the Material Girl or Michael Jordan the Jumpman. Both artists became idols because they excelled at playing the game differently.

People shine brighter when they cultivate their own originality. Resisting expectation gives others the confidence to do the same.

Why is the sky blue?

Photo by Wells Baum

Great minds don’t think alike; they think different. That’s how we got great thinkers like Einstein and Steve Jobs. They excelled in breaking tradition.

Something happens when people reject the status quo.  By going in the opposite direction, new possibilities come to light.

For Einstein, it was reversing traditional physics.  It wasn’t light that was relative, it was time and space.  For Steve Jobs, it was building the personal computer so that everyone could become an artist.

Rebellion is a mentality of pioneers who don’t compete but rise above sidedness altogether.

Photo by Wells Baum

7 articles to read this weekend

Every week I like to collect a bunch of articles on creativity, culture, and tech. Below are my 7 favorites.

1. Team Genius

Behind every genius there’s another partner. People are social animals; they need other people to bounce off ideas and to collaborate with. One could say that the mind engages in its own internal dialogue but a second person is actually needed to get all that work done.

Steve Jobs needed Steve Wozniak. Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen. Genius comes in pairs. I like to think that today’s genius can be defined as a ‘scenius,’ where one person can be influenced by many people because of the strong interconnectedness built by the Internet.

2. Brainpicking

People say sadness is the root of creativity. But as Maria Popova explains happiness or rather “emotional excess” are also powerful contributors to creative work. In short, you don’t need a mental disorder to think differently.

3. Write It Down

The list is only way to keep the motor of life running. The list makes history and assigns new duties. The list is how we remember. “We like lists because we don’t want to die.” Umberto Eco breaks down the everlasting process of making lists.

4. Photorealism

Why waste your time painting when all you need to do is point and shoot? Photography is quicker and easier than painting. There will always be more photographers than painters. But photorealism showed just how replicable photos were and put photography back in its place. Now, painters get the last word.

5. Draw Something

Doodling helps you remember more than rote note-taking. The act of drawing what you learn in pictures is essentially mapping out how it all works together. Personally, I understand the bigger picture when I use mind-maps and understand less when I type note-for-note. **Learning requires reinterpretation**.

6. Faking Confidence

There’s a big difference between competence and confidence. Someone who talks a lot is not necessarily competent. A big mouth rarely equates to skills. All we really just want to know how competent someone is.

As this HBR Podcast explains, confidence is really a distractor.

+ Fast Company:. Don’t let the person with a big mouth taint the meeting with their biased ideas. The most effective meetings require everyone to write down their own ideas first.

7. Utopian Capitalism

Capitalism creates opportunities yet distorts the world. Businesses confuse profits with meaningful work. We can all point the finger at companies that make people unhealthier and dumber.

Utopian capitalism puts forth societal progress with profits instead of cheating workers and consumers in a race to the bottom.

Forward Thinking

Guessing the future is easier than writing it. Steve Job did both. He knew what people wanted and built it for them.

Most people are either one of the other: analyst/forecaster or developer. The analysts’ information generally direct the developers what to do, mostly because the developers just want to do the work. They want to think in code. But you can’t waste a developer’s time building something outdated.

Research and development flock together, ideally as one, where forward thinking meets predictive doing.

Acceptable

Acceptable is good enough. Acceptable is what gets you through high school and college. Acceptable gets you paid at work.

But acceptable only gets you so far in life. If you want to be remembered, you’re either going to have to do something extraordinary, make a ruckus, or make something different that lasts.

Only a select few people get to be Picasso, Steve Jobs, The Beatles, Michael Jordan, or Mark Zuckerberg. Let them be. Everyone else is just looking to leave a trail of significance in their work.

Today is your best chance to show your work and see what happens. Yes, the Internet is full of noise and you’re unlikely to be heard. Yes, your work will never show up in the top 10 Google results. Welcome to the world of trying!

The good news is that there’s still room for you to build a small tribe. Some people say you need 1,000 dedicated fans to build a reasonable business. That’s awesome! So what are you waiting for….

  • Throw out some Tweets, Instagrams, and drawings to see what resonates
  • Connect with like-minded people
  • Embrace your scenius
  • Show Your Work

You want more than a nod when it’s all in said and done. You’d like people to name a few things you did. Acceptable today is therefore a means for mediocrity. It’ll get you through with little guarantee of being remembered.

Stake your claim.

“…there is a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product.” -Steve Jobs Great ideas are nothing without great work. The magic is in the doing, learning from your mistakes, and taking the product to the next level. Innovation never truly ends.
“…there is a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product.” -Steve Jobs Great ideas are nothing without great work. The magic is in the doing, learning from your mistakes, and taking the product to the next level. Innovation never truly ends.

Day 1 – SXSW

Main points and highlights:

Gary Vaynerchuk: How to Rock SXSW:

“Provide value up front.”

Vaynerchuk makes it clear that SXSW is not about selling upfront, it’s about offering value first and then (only then) pitching the sale. In other words, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

Austin Kleon: Show your work

“Don’t be a hoarder.”

Kleon implores creatives to share their work and collaborate in what he calls a “scenius,” where fans, artists, thinkers gather and steal each other’s ideas. You don’t have to be a genius, you just have to be willing to share your process and recast what others do best into your own art.

Always be Innovating: thinking like a startup

“You can’t outsource culture to HR.”

Culture starts from the top, the founders set the tone. Apple may still be innovating today but it’s not ‘creating’ because Steve Jobs isn’t there to push a vision. As a result, Samsung is eating away at its Smartphone sales.

Meanwhile, Facebook still manages to promote its hacker ethos while scaling on Wall Street. And Larry Page is making Google a design-first company in the name of Google’s altruistic tenet: “Don’t be evil.” But what happens to Facebook and Google if the founders aren’t there?

Why It Pays Not to Rush the Process of Innovation

“Creative tension has to exist.” – Matt Rogers, co-founder of Nest

Nest never rushes its products; it takes its time to get it right and develop all ends (the complimentary app, customer service etc.) so that the first customers become the biggest advocates.

Nest steals right out of the Apple playbook. Rogers argues that the best marketing for your product comes from keeping it a secret. If you give everything away, there’s no new news to hype the product. In a twist of irony, Google now owns Nest because it’s trying to be the next Apple.

Day 2 begins now…