As Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson made the PR rounds everywhere from 60 Minutes to the Daily Show, the terribleness of Jobs’ too-early death has come into focus: that Jobs evaded conventional medicine when his tumor first appeared, may have died as a result, and regretted it.
“I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don’t want something to exist, you can have magical thinking,” Isaacson told 60 Minutes. “We talked about this a lot. He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it….I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner.”
It’s not just that Jobs’ refusal of treatment is “crazy,” as former Intel chief Andy Grove put it to Isaacson. This tragedy sprung from the very thing that made him so great: his unwillingness to believe that technology needed to be clumsy, ugly, or difficult. In consumer products, this led to the MacIntosh and the iPhone. In animation, it created the Pixar canon. But biology and medicine are messy, and demanding a magic solution doesn’t always produce one.
There’s more here than just the simple lesson that people with cancer should listen to their doctors about getting their tumor cut out, or that you can’t cure cancer with diet or acupuncture, as Jobs apparently hoped he could. The kind of innovation Steve Jobs practiced, probably the type of innovation we mythologize and lionize most since personal computers started changing the fabric of society three decades ago, does not and has not translated to medicine in the same way.
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