Steve Jobs didn’t die from cancer
I read this quote from an article by Chelsea Fagan about bullshit tech industry myths that really struck a nerve with me:
I know that it’s more convenient and Jobsian to think of a staff as a series of blinking zeroes and ones rather than living, breathing human beings with feelings and needs, but Steve Jobs abandoned his daughter for 18 years to focus on his business, then acted like his success was more due to his wearing the same shirt every day. So, yeah.
How about this totally taboo subject: why did Jobs abandon his family by refusing any scientifically-proven cancer treatments despite their pleas?
He apparently told Isaacson toward the end of his life that he regretted the decision to rely on juice cleanses and acupuncture, that it was the result of “magical thinking” and that his approach had worked so well for him in the past. Is that so dissimilar to the mythical “magical thinking” that we so lionize as a hallmark of elite engineers and tech entrepreneurs?
We talk about Jobs’ famous “reality distortion field” like it’s something enviable, something that got revolutionary products to ship. Let me not mince words: the reality distortion field has left four people without a father, three of them barely young adults. (Let’s not get started on Foxconn suicides.)
I’m not condemning a private medical decision. I have no access to the conversations that went on in his family. For all I know, deep down, Steve’s family was happy with his decision. I have my doubts but it’s not the point.
The point is that Jobs died from arrogance. It’s the same arrogance that is fostered, fanned, and celebrated by the tech industry. It’s a core part of the “genius engineer” myth that occludes the endless sacrifices of women, families, minorities and underprivileged and underpaid “support staff” in pioneering and sustaining our field. It’s part of the same cycle of abuse and toxic masculinity.
Cancer didn’t kill Steve Jobs. Our culture did.