Steve Jobs on why people are both inspiring and utterly depressing

The problem is television?

When you're young, you look at television and think, There's a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that's not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That's a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It's the truth.

So Steve Jobs is telling us things are going to continue to get worse.

They are getting worse! Everybody knows that they're getting worse! Don't you think they're getting worse?

I do, but I was hoping I could come here and find out how they were going to get better. Do you really believe that the world is getting worse? Or do you have a feeling that the things you're involved with are making the world better?

No. The world's getting worse. It has gotten worse for the last 15 years or so. Definitely. For two reasons. On a global scale, the population is increasing dramatically and all our structures, from ecological to economic to political, just cannot deal with it. And in this country, we seem to have fewer smart people in government, and people don't seem to be paying as much attention to the important decisions we have to make.

But you seem very optimistic about the potential for change.

I'm an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what's happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don't seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.

The people who built Silicon Valley were engineers. They learned business, they learned a lot of different things, but they had a real belief that humans, if they worked hard with other creative, smart people, could solve most of humankind's problems. I believe that very much.

I believe that people with an engineering point of view as a basic foundation are in a pretty good position to jump in and solve some of these problems. But in society, it's not working. Those people are not attracted to the political process. And why would somebody be?

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This is the best thing on Steve Jobs (and Apple) I have ever read. Everything in this interview from 1996 still informs everything Apple does today.

I don't agree with a lot of what Steve says about television, people or elitist views of humanity. I think many of those ideas are wrong and harmful, and caused him (and Apple) to have certain blind spots which are still around. The interview, however, is thought-provoking and funny, even if it's often just gallows humor and the out-of-touchness of all his references to European luxury washing machines, luxury cars and megacorporations put against the ideals of the internet and the web.