I recently watched my son, who’s almost 2 years old, pick up my iPhone, unlock it, get on to YouTube, navigate through the recent videos and start watching The Wiggles’ Big Red Car video.
If you have an iPhone or one of the many smartphones that followed it, this experience won’t seem remarkable to you. But if you’d told me the day before the iPhone was released a few years ago that it would happen, I’d have looked at my existing ‘smart’ phone and told you that it was impossible, and that all my son would be doing with a stylus would be poking himself in the eye.
When people think about the legacy of the iPhone’s creator Steve Jobs, they usually recall that he created great products. But Jobs didn’t set out to create great products for the sake of it. His favourite phrase was ‘putting a dent in the universe’. He wanted to create amazing products because he wanted to change the world.
On face value, creating better electronic devices doesn’t seem so noble. But some of the consequences of Jobs’ innovations are literally life changing, and too mind boggling in scale to get your head around.
Steve Jobs pulled an enormous and entirely new market for tablet PCs out of thin air. No one was asking for a tablet PC when Apple released the iPad. Two years on, tablets are transforming the web, business and education like no other device in recent history, and the flow on effects are massive.
For example, people in India can now buy a tablet computer (obviously not an Apple one) for $35. As a result, millions of people will be able to access the web and connect with the rest of the world, consume content, educate themselves. What kind of impact might they have on the human race that would otherwise have been untapped?
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You and I have had probably around 15 years of access to a decent internet, and maybe five years with mobile access to it. That’s opened up some remarkable opportunities for us. But compare that with what will be achieved by a generation of people who were educating themselves via phones when they were toddlers. I can’t even begin to imagine what they’ll come up with.
Like a lot of other small business owners I like the idea of carving out a future for myself that doesn’t tie me to working for someone else. But for me there’s a broader purpose that rises above convenience and control.
I like the idea of challenging myself to create new things. In my case websites and applications that solve problems in different ways. I like to think deep down that if I can move things forward even in my own little area then when I leave there will have been some impact. And I also believe that even something that seems small at the time could mean a big leap forward for the human race down the track.
This underlying feeling drives me to do more, create new things, help others, take risks and challenge the status quo. I hope that when I leave I will have put a dent in the universe.
How about you? How are you putting a dent in the universe?