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Steve Jobs: Technology Alone Is Not Enough - The New Yorker

28/07/16 6:19 p.m.

STEVE JOBS: TECHNOLOGY ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH


Editors Note: Details from this post appeared in similar form in a July, 2011, piece by
Jonah Lehrer for Wired magazine, U.K. We regret the duplication of material.
On January 30, 1986, shortly after he was forced out of Apple Computer (and years
before his return), Steve Jobs bought a small computer manufacturer named Pixar from
George Lucas, the director of Star Wars. While the Pixar team had produced a few
impressive animated shorts for marketing purposesThe Adventures of Andre and Wally
B is widely credited with spurring Hollywoods interest in digital animationJobs was
most interested in the Pixar Image Computer, a $125,000 machine capable of generating
complex graphic visualizations.
Unfortunately, the expensive computers were a commercial flop. Jobs was forced to
extend a personal line of credit to Pixar, which lost more than $8.3 million in 1990 alone.
His first post-Apple investment was in danger of failing. We should have failed, Alvy Ray
Smith, a co-founder of Pixar, says in David Prices The Pixar Touch. But it seemed to
me that Steve would just not suffer a defeat. He couldnt sustain it.
The survival of Pixar, and its subsequent rise, is a revealing case study in Jobss approach
to innovation. Although Jobss background was in computer hardware, he helped
transform Pixar into a movie-making powerhouse, one of the most successful studios in
the history of cinema. Since 1995, when the first Toy Story was released, Pixar has
created twelve feature films. Every one of those films has been a commercial success,
with an average international gross of more than $550 million per film. Not even Apple has
enjoyed that kind of streak.
When introducing the iPad 2 in March, Jobs summarized his strategy this way: It is in
Apples DNA that technology alone is not enoughits technology married with liberal
arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.
Such platitudes are common in Silicon Valley, where executives routinely introduce shiny
gadgets with lofty language. But what set all of Jobss companies apart, from Pixar to
NeXT to Apple, was, indeed, an insistence that computer scientists must work together
with artists and designersthat the best ideas emerge from the intersection of
technology and the humanities. One of the greatest achievements at Pixar was that we
brought these two cultures together and got them working side by side, Jobs said in
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Steve Jobs: Technology Alone Is Not Enough - The New Yorker

28/07/16 6:19 p.m.

2003.
This faith in the liberal arts is rooted in Jobs own biography. He famously dropped out of
Reed College his freshman year, but continued to audit classes in calligraphy:
I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space
between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It
was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science cant capture, and I
found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of practical application in my life. But ten years later,
when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we
designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I
had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have had
multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.
Perhaps the clearest demonstration can be seen in the design of the Pixar campus. In
November, 2000, Jobs purchased an abandoned Del Monte canning factory on sixteen
acres in Emeryille, just north of Oakland. The original architectural plan called for three
buildings, with separate offices for the computer scientists, the animators, and the Pixar
executives. Jobs immediately scrapped it. (We used to joke that the building was Steves
movie, Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, told me last year.) Instead of three buildings,
there was going to be a single vast space, with an airy atrium at its center. The
philosophy behind this design is that its good to put the most important function at the
heart of the building, Catmull said. Well, whats our most important function? Its the
interaction of our employees. Thats why Steve put a big empty space there. He wanted to
create an open area for people to always be talking to each other.
Jobs realized, however, that it wasnt enough to simply create a space: he needed to
make people go there. As he saw it, the main challenge for Pixar was getting its different
cultures to work together, forcing the computer geeks and cartoonists to collaborate.
(John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Pixar, describes the equation this way:
Technology inspires art, and art challenges the technology.) In typical fashion, Jobs saw
this as a design problem. He began with the mailboxes, which he shifted to the atrium.
Then he moved the meeting rooms to the center of the building, followed by the cafeteria
and the coffee bar and the gift shop. But that still wasnt enough; Jobs insisted that the
architects locate the only set of bathrooms in the atrium. (He was later forced to
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Steve Jobs: Technology Alone Is Not Enough - The New Yorker

28/07/16 6:19 p.m.

compromise on this detail.) In a 2008 conversation, Brad Bird, the director of The
Incredibles and Ratatouille, said, The atrium initially might seem like a waste of
space. But Steve realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye
contact, things happen.
That emphasis on consilience, even if it came at the expense of convenience, has always
been a defining trait of Steve Jobs. In an age of intellectual fragmentation, Jobs insisted
that the best creations occurred when people from disparate fields were connected
together, when our distinct ways of seeing the world were brought to bear on a singular
problem. Its what happens when a calligrapher designs a computer font and when an
animator strikes up a conversation with a programmer at the bathroom sink. The Latin
crest of Pixar University says it all: Alienus Non Diutius. Alone no longer.

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