Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, technology enthusiast and tinkerer at heart took to Reddit last night. In an extended AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on the site, he revealed a great deal about his thoughts and the FBI vs Apple case, gave advice to entrepreneurs and spoke of his life so far.
The entire AMA makes for a very interesting read and offers insights into one of the nicest and most interesting men in tech. Please do read it if you can spare the time. That said, his most important replies have been curated below.
On Apple vs FBI: “I’m on the side of personal liberties”
When asked about his stance on the FBI vs Apple case, Steve Wozniak spoke of the human angle. He asks, “How do you define what humanity is?”
Talking about his early life, he says that he was brought up in a time when everyone knew they didn’t have privacy in communist Russia. It was the place where you were spied on, a place where you lived in fear of being arrested for the smallest thing. At that time, America was great, it was free and one had the Bill of Rights to protect us [Americans]. It was a place where human beings had the right to “live as humans.”
He adds that he’s a very private person, his personal thoughts and the special people in his life, ones that he doesn’t talk about, mean a lot to him. These little secrets are what define him, make up his “whole essence of being.” To have someone snoop on that is harkening back to a Russia under Stalin. That’s not what America is supposed to be.
Talking about the backdoor, he says, “I just got a chill inside. These are dangerous, dangerous things, and if some code gets written in an Apple product that lets people in, bad people are going to find their way to it, very likely.”
Wozniak’s reference to Stalin’s Russia is very telling. It’s a sentiment that’s being echoed more and more today, especially with regards to the FBI. The FBI is an organisation tasked with protecting the people and that protection includes the right to privacy. Instead of thinking about protecting the people and their privacy, the FBI is exclusively concerned with prosecution rather than protection and don’t care what they have to do to achieve that end.
Do the means really justify the end? In this case, we certainly don’t think so.
On Tim Cook: “I’m very approving of Tim Cook”
Wozniak spoke of Jobs as a man who was always concerned with “making good products that help people do things they want to do in their life” and is happy that Tim Cook is continuing that “strong tradition.” He talks very fondly about AirPlay and continuity and that these are updates that really affect people and the way they live.
He’s not that happy with Apple Watch however, saying that “it’s taken us into the jewelry market.” Aghast at the range of watches on offer, going so far as to say, “Twenty watches from $500 to $1100. The band’s the only difference? Well this isn’t the company that Apple was originally, or the company that really changed the world a lot.”
Advice to young entrepreneurs: Motivation is more important than education
He is adamant that education is not as important as motivation. “Wanting to do something. Having your own reason” is extremely important. Almost as important, he says, is separating yourself from the money. Quoting Russell Simmons, “Operate from a place of needing nothing. Needing nothing attracts everything,” Wozniak suggests that one should be willing to “go out and build stuff that you like.” You have to learn from your mistakes and you can’t do that unless you try.
A statement that we found very interesting was when Wozniak said that humility doesn’t matter. It’s a surprising statement coming from someone as humble as Wozniak, but understandable given his association with Apple. “Try and make common sense decisions,” he says.
Reiterating his love for tinkering, he says, “If you can find somebody who never went to college but has built a lot of things as a tinkerer – knows how to operate the equipment, run into their own little garage or laboratory quickly and whip something out – that’s the person that companies are missing out on, and all their requisition requirements overlook those people.”
Leading the blind
There’s one answer that we’d like to publish in its entirety though. It’s an excerpt that’s quintessentially Wozniak and is an apt summary of the kind of man he is—quiet, shy and with a wicked sense of humour.
“I wait until I’m alone in my places and get on my computer and do things where I think I’m more efficient. I really see a lot of people that are dragged into it, but you know, I don’t criticize them.
When you have change, it’s not that the change in how people are behaving different to you is bad or good, it’s just different.
So that’s sort of the modern way, and you know the millennials, every generation wants to criticize the next generation for missing out on things like personal human contact, but I’ll tell you a little story. When we started Apple, Steve Jobs and I talked about how we wanted to make blind people as equal and capable as sighted people, and you’d have to say we succeeded when you look at all the people walking down the sidewalk looking down at something in their hands and totally oblivious to everything around them!”