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Things Don’t Have to Change the World to Be Important

I’m not going to pretend like Steve Jobs held a special place in my heart before he passed—I probably saw more screen time of Noah Wyle in Pirates of Silicon Valley than of the actual man himself. But I read many tributes to Steve yesterday, and I became very moved. I stumbled upon this excerpt from 1996 hidden among his many other, more widely-known quotes:

“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t. I’m sorry, it’s true.

Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much—if at all.

These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that.

But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light—that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” [Wired, February 1996]

Will these technologies make your child smarter? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s not the point.

They offer an extraordinary gift of sharing, learning, and interacting. And little things like this—however humble or ambitious they may be—do matter! They matter because they can change *your* world.

Update (Nov. 23 2011): I just finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I am no less convinced that he was an extraordinary man, albeit a touch narcissistic. One of the things his wife, Laureen Powell, said in her interview struck me for this post: “Like many great men whose gifts are extraordinary, he’s not extraordinary in every realm. He doesn’t have social graces, such as putting himself in other peoples’ shoes, but he cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind, and putting the right tools in their hands.” This wonderful iPad journey is not just about *my* daughter and her progress, but also the implications for all sons and daughters in this next generation.