Ivan Ewert will be performing “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” with the Epic-Rep Theatre
at Barrington’s White House on Sunday March 20th at 3:00pm.
Enjoy this exclusive interview with Ewert on his personal perspective of Steve Jobs:
1. How did you become interested and expert in Steve Jobs?
Honestly, through this wonderful monologue written by Mike Daisey! I was never a Mac kid or an Apple fanboy, and working with computers I thought the “system wars” were frankly silly. I took on the play as a means to discuss the human cost of our love of gadgets, and in so doing felt I had to become more involved in the man himself. The more I studied him, the more I understood the extreme polarization his personality and work style caused.
2. There’s been plenty written about Steve Jobs and his demanding personality with respect to employees and business partners. Was his personality a liability or an asset?
Oh, excellent question with no easy answer. I’d say it was an asset to consumers, who benefited most from his singular drive and focus on results. On the other hand, I have to say I wouldn’t want to be his employee. Particularly not in one of the factories.
3. Of all of the brilliant things that we attribute to Steve Jobs, all of the awesome consumer products which were original derivatives of the Macintosh. What is it about those technologies and their design that make them so intuitive?
Design has always been in Apple’s lifeblood. The focus on making everything as simple and user-friendly as possible was really at the forefront of a lot of their design – they put form before function, in some cases; which is one part of the system wars I mentioned above. People who like fiddling with code and figuring out how things work usually don’t gravitate to Apple products, while people who don’t care about how a thing works as long as it works are a big part of the Apple audience.
4. Conversely, how come some people don’t find those technologies intuitive at all.
My father was one of the first computer science majors out of IIT, and when he passed he was working on artificial intelligence programs. He was a very smart, very focused man; and he couldn’t wrap his head around the Apple devices because they were almost too simple. He just wasn’t an icon person, he wanted words. Verbal, not visual. He also wanted feedback when something wasn’t working – what am I doing wrong? Whereas I’ll just keep pushing different buttons until the device does what I want it to.
5. To what extent did Steve Jobs’ unique background, as an adopted child and growing up in Silicon Valley, have on his success. How much of this is a return on luck?
Oh, I don’t think you can easily use the words luck and Steve Jobs in the same sentence. Any breaks he got, he recognized and immediately exploited them. He capitalized on everything that ever happened to him, and what might have been a lucky break for another person was a golden opportunity for Jobs.
6. Jobs may or may not have been at the helm of the controversial strategy of manufacturing apple products in China. What is the human cost of manufacturing apple products in China? How much of the humanistic zen that Apple portrays cannot be justified from a human cost standpoint?
This is the meat of our story, truly. In my personal opinion, the human cost of manufacturing anything in any country which doesn’t include a guarantee of human and worker’s rights is too high for a truly civilized country to bear.
With that said, it’s not just Apple. Your yoga mats and yoga pants are made in sweatshops. The CEO of Birkenstock is a notorious enemy of worker’s unions. This happens because we’ve become so divorced and disconnected from the very process of how things are made. We’ve sacrificed our compassion for convenience, our hearts for high profit margins.
But once you realize that the people making your iPhone, your jeans, your chicken breasts, your laptops, your EVERYTHING, are being ruthlessly exploited to keep corporate profits high and consumer costs low – well, I think you as a consumer have a choice to make. Only when enough people truly realize the immense cost of their low prices, only then can we effect real change.
And lest that sound holier than thou, I’ll point out that I’m typing this on my iPhone. But …
When this phone started acting up two weeks ago, no longer holding a charge, I took it to a local shop where they simply replaced the battery. Not only did I avoid paying for another phone made in intolerable conditions, but I put money back into our local economy here in McHenry County. You don’t have to throw away all your conveniences and appliances, and start living in rags, to make a difference. You simply have to be aware to the wider consequences of your actions.