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Steven Jobs' brave new world

IN MEMORY: Steven Jobs, 1955-2011

Today, most students probably don’t even think about a world where there is no iPod, laptop, smartphone or iPad. Staying connected in a social network, tethered to the internet, and listening to the soundtrack of your life through ear buds has fundamentally transformed our basic notion of time, space and being. But there was a time not so long ago when computers weren’t portable and phone calls were transmitted through phone lines, literally.

While Thomas Edison turned on the lights, Steven Jobs inspired our collective yearning for independence, entertainment — and staying in touch with friends and family.

Jobs not only imagined a new world, he was the most influential of all the inventors and entrepreneurs who ushered in the digital age. While Apple’s inventions offer a timeline of the relatively short, yet fast-paced history of the Information Age, Jobs’ ideas transformed our lives. His vision and passion for promoting the power of computers enhanced a sense of individuality and aimed to make the world a better, more humane place.

Jobs died Wednesday from complications of pancreatic cancer. He stepped down as CEO of Apple six weeks ago.

During the many tributes over the last few days, there is perhaps one speech given by Jobs that captures his vision and passion for life. In a commencement address to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University, he offered his reflections on life, death and the importance of following your dreams.

That he gave the address to new graduates embarking on a journey at a time filled with endless possibilities offers a telling reminder for people of all ages. Seeing our momentary place in life while remaining in awe of life’s wonders is more than a romantic vision. It’s a profound lesson of how each of us is the protagonist of our life, and not merely cogs in the proverbial institutional edifice and faceless society. Sure, technology helps make us more independent. But it’s what we choose to do with technology and our independence that will determine the future of our lives and the planet.

That lesson, perhaps, is Steven Jobs’ greatest legacy.

— Frank Provenzano

Photo: Courtesy of Apple

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