Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Steve Jobs and Font Experimentation as a Parable for Learning and Innovation

In his 2005 Stanford Graduation Address , Steve Jobs immodestly claimed that he changed the course of human history because he randomly wondered into a calligraphy class at Reed College and learned some funky fonts that he introduced at Apple and then Microsoft stole his ideas and thus the "funky fonts" are now on every computer.  Here is a quote; "If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do."

Now, if Issac Newton had died in his crib, someone else would have discovered Calculus (such as Leibniz).  But, let's give Steve Jobs his "funky font" due.   The big point here (besides for his ego) is that innovation and experimentation can yield huge economic returns when we least expect it.  This simple case study highlights what I mean in Climatopolis when I said that we would launch 7 billion mutinies against climate change.  We will each seek out pathways to continue to thrive and some of our ideas will succeed and these winning ideas will be public goods that can spread widely.

Steve Jobs is an example of how human capital substitutes for natural capital.