Felipe Perrone, associate professor of computer science, considers the life and inﬂuences of Steve Jobs.
By Kelly Anzulavich
Q: In the wake of Steve Jobs’ death, the world press has both celebrated and denounced him. What do you believe has been overlooked?
A: People attribute all the Apple products they see to Jobs. I think it’s important to acknowledge that he had an amazing team behind him that helped to realize his vision.
Q: As a computer scientist, how do you think Jobs influenced the field?
A: Jobs has shown that the excellent computer products will be those developed with awareness for the cognitive abilities of the user. His legacy is the goal of developing “insanely great products,” which starts by considering how easy to use they will be. Apple has shown the value of having well-rounded people working on design and engineering. The famous picture of Steve Jobs at the intersection of technology and liberal arts is a powerful idea and something that speaks to the core of what Bucknell is. This University exists at the intersection of engineering and liberal arts.
Q: What can be learned from Steve Jobs’ creativity and design?
A: Minimalism. The more controls given to the user, the more likely it is that the user will be confused. But, if things are kept at a minimal level, intuition can guide the user to figure out how to work with the device or application. If more designers aspire for ease of use, the market will see faster advances in consumer product technology. Now, intuitive design in computing cannot come from the mind of a vertical computer scientist. It comes from someone who has a broader understanding of people, of how they learn, of how they react to their surroundings and to multi-sensory input. Steve Jobs said that users don’t know what they want until you give it to them and Apple has delivered products that people didn’t expect to see. Apple pushed the boundaries with multi-touch interfaces. The market is rife with products that use that technology. Apple is doing it again with natural language processing and speech recognition.
Q: Is this technology an improvement?
A: Although some have said that the products Jobs helped to build keep humans apart, I don’t understand the sentiment. Yes, I think these technologies are an improvement. They have made us more productive, more efficient in our jobs, and they also are a lot of fun. Even if they haven’t directly affected the grand challenges of humanity, these devices are enablers and how we use them is up to our creativity. The fact is they have a measurable, positive impact in the way we do our jobs.