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Steve Jobs's Genes

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It’s difficult to say something about Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic founder and CEO, that hasn’t already been said. Jobs’s retirement in August sparked an outpouring of remembrances, retrospectives, and encomia . . . which were followed by weeks of blogospheric speculation about the new iPhone. No doubt, the Steve Jobs’s Myth shall become even grander after the death of the man.

But Jobs is one of the few American historical figures whose cult is grounded in reality. (The Jobs Myth is, in this way, quite unlike the media’s and public’s fascination with retired presidents, each of whom contributed negatively to Western civilization.)

Though Jobs might not have actually invented the graphical user interface that we’ve come to take for granted—Xerox can claim credit for that—he saw more clearly than most everyone else regarding how computing could be integrated into our daily lives. He also saw how it could be done elegantly, seamlessly, and beautifully. Most competing operating systems—from Microsoft’s Windows to Google’s Android—have been attempts to capture the Apple aura without engaging in blatant copyright infringement. (The fact that Windows featured a hourglass instead of a watch to indicate processing, and used “Exit” instead of “Quit” in its File tab, gave the game away.)

I can actually remember being in my father’s home office when I was around 8, and learning how to use a mouse (quite a novelty at the time!) by making digital doodles via Apple Works on an original “Mac.” I’ve never owned a non-Apple computer since, nor have I ever wanted to. My father can actually lay to claim to being one of the few who purchased an Apple II in the early ‘80s.

Much of the tech blogosphere was disappointed with Tuesday’s launch of the iPhone 4S . . . apparently expecting an iPhone 5 with a sleek new body design. But those who pooh-poohed the event missed the boat. The new iPhone will be the first handset to integrate not just voice commands but real Artificial Intelligence—something Apple had been working towards since the late ‘80s and, one would think, something Jobs had envisioned much earlier. AI integration will be what smart phone-makers compete over for the next decade. Apple got there first.

Furthermore, one can grasp the importance of Jobs the man simply by examining the trajectory of Apple Computer: his forced departure from the company he co-founded inaugurated a decade of consolidation, stagnation, and, eventually, decline. After Apple purchased his high-end Next Computer—whose operating system, by the way, was used by Tim Berners-Lee in developing the first Internet (HTTP) server—Jobs’s Second Coming at Apple marked the company’s triumph in so many new fields that the “Computer” had to be dropped from the firm’s name.

All this being said, there is one aspect of the Steve Jobs Myth that is worth debunking—and which HBD is particularly well equipped to dismantle. This is the myth of the son-of-an-immigrant businessman and “Arab-American” entrepreneur.

Regarding the latter, Jobs’s biological father is, indeed, Syrian (more on that below); his biological mother, Joanne Carole Schieble, on the other hand, is of English and German descent. Thus, Jobs could just as accurately be praised as the world’s greatest Anglo-German entrepreneur. But since America still adheres to a kind of One Drop Rule, Jobs’s European lineage is considered of negligible value . . .

Culturally speaking, Jobs’s penchant for Buddhism, aesthetic Minimalism, and “Think Different” ‘60s icons, makes him, for better and for worse, the ultimate Baby Boomer WASP. Indeed, when the history of the postmodern White person is written, chapters will be dedicated to Steve Jobs, whose products defined and identified the urban SWPL for at least a dozen years.

Still, the Syrian side of Jobs’s identity (or what little we know of it) is genuinely fascinating. It also reveals the opposite of what multiculturalists and mass-immigration enthusiasts want it to.

Recently, the Partnership for a New American Economy (which features Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Antonio Villaraigosa, Rupert Murdoch, Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer, among other evil-doers, as co-chairs) issued a report [PDF] finding that “40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.” Two long lists are included: Immigrants and Children of Immigrants entrepreneurs, their companies, and their countries of origin.

The tacit implication—indeed, the take-away message—is something like this:

  1. America’s native WASPs are mediocre and their country wouldn’t have amounted to anything without vibrant immigrants;
  2. Current immigrants are just like the older entrepreneurial immigrants, so we should just let them in, sit back, and watch them create Fortune 500 companies.

Without dwelling on the multiple fallacies imbedded in the paper’s thesis, it’s worth pointing out that the lists of Immigrants and the Children of Immigrants who founded Fortune 500 companies are, with precious few exceptions, litanies of White guys: Nordics, Alpines, Slavs, and Ashkenazi (mostly German) Jews.

Three-fourths of the way through the Immigrant list, we reach someone from Zambia, Africa . . . but unfortunately, he’s Dr. Kiran Patel, the Cambridge-educated, English-speaker of Aryan-Indian and Asian ethnicity who founded the insurance giant WellCare Health Plans. (Alas, the great African immigrant entrepreneur is still at large.) To no one’s surprise, an East-Asian immigrant from Taiwan founded Yahoo!

“Diversity” doesn’t improve much when moving to the list of Fortune 500 companies with Child-of-Immigrant Founders. Hilariously, the WASP elitist Henry Ford is included among the huddled masses!

The lone stand-out on this second list is Steve Jobs, by dint of has Syrian father, Abdul Fattah “John” Jandali.

Much as “The ‘New American’ Fortune 500” reveals the remarkable predictive power of race, the story of Jobs’s father, and the Syrian side of his family, bespeak the importance of heredity.

From what we know, Jobs’s grandfather was not simply a remarkable Arab, but something close to a postmodern Medieval Lord. According Jandali,

My father was a self-made millionaire who owned extensive areas of land which included entire villages . . . . He had a strong personality and, in contrast to other parents in our country, my father did not reveal his feelings towards us, but I knew that he loved me.

Jandali himself emigrated to America, earned a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin (where he met Schieble), and then became Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. (The future Steve Jobs was born, and put up for adoption, while Jandali was a graduate student.) Dissatisfied with academia, Jandali later became a successful businessman.

Jandali and Schieble also had a second child, Mona Simpson (Steve’s biological sister), who would go on to become an award-winning novelist and UCLA literature professor. Simpson dedicated, elliptically, her novel Anywhere But Here to “my brother Steve” even before she had met him.

Though utterly lacking as a father, Jandali—along with Schieble—bequeathed to his offspring the cognitive—and unquantifiable spirit and daring—to excel in outside-the-box careers. That Jobs would revolutionize software and the personal computer was a matter of circumstance and individual difference. That he would become a powerful leader was matter of blood. The lives of Jobs and Simpson are, in turn, testaments to the power of genes to define us, for better and for worse, across generations in eternally recurring patterns.

Such “determinism” might strike some as depressing, or at the least, “un-Apple,” as the company’s brand has always conveyed individuality and endless possibilities. AltRight readers, no doubt, “Think Different.”



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