Steve Jobs’ On-Off Switch and Eternity in Man’s Heart

It has been a month since Steve Jobs’ death. The talking heads have had their lime light, the biography has been released, and the tributes have been turned down to a simmer.

Before this passes out of the realm of current events and sinks into the internet’s vast catalog of oblivion, I want to make one more observation on Steve Jobs’ life.

The absence of an on-off switch on Apple devices is more than a design feature. It’s a life philosophy. It has been said that Steve Jobs didn’t put on-off switches on his products because he didn’t like the thought that at the end of a successful, influential life a person is just gone- put eternally in the off position.

“Ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about (God) more. And I find myself believing a bit more. Maybe it’s because I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear,” Isaacson quoted Jobs as saying.

“Then he paused for a second and he said ‘yeah, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone,” Isaacson said of Jobs. “He paused again, and he said: And that’s why I don’t like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.”

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Steve Jobs, the Gospel of Technology, and the Hope of Humanity (2)

Technology is like bamboo, it’s an invasive species.

I wish there had been a way to set up a worldwide time-elapsed camera taking shots for the last 10 years. I think if we could watch this film we would notice a progressive yet definite change in head posture (maybe you can see it on Google maps street view). Everyone is looking down at their phones.

Smart phones are beginning to rival God in some ways- they’re increasingly “omnipresent”, “omnipotent”, and “omniscient”. Maybe they don’t attain to omni status, but at least they’re ubiquitous, they function intelligently as diverse powerful tools, and they are fully integrated with the internet’s 8.04 billion websites and Wikipedia’s 3,785,993 articles.

Does this amount to a gospel? Everything you ever needed is now available at your finger tips. Just swipe your finger with the slightest touch and it all comes alive. As powerful as the iPhone 4S is with the new dual-core A5 chip, it is powerless against man’s fallen nature. It has no saving power.

Our grandchildren may discover that technological progress, for all its gifts, is the exception rather than the rule. It works wonders within its own walled garden, but it falters when confronted with the worst of the world and the worst in ourselves.

-Andy Crouch

Many people have more of a relationship with their phone than with their Maker. Not only is this a reversal of the logical order (iPhone -> Steve Jobs -> God), this is turning a cold-shoulder to your Husband.

For your Maker is your Husband…

-Isaiah 54:5

As such, a smart phone can begin to replace God in our experience. The time we used to give to the Lord first thing in the morning now may go to our phone. I know I’ve reached for my phone in the morning before reaching for God more than once.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology can be used by the Lord for His purpose. Of course. And I think we need to find more ways to do this.

But the other concern is equally valid.

This isn’t about redeeming an aspect of modern culture. It’s about faith, love, and hope (1 Cor. 13:13). What do we trust in? What do we love? What do we hope for?

The YouVersion Bible app has been downloaded 30 million times since it came out 4 years ago. Angry Birds has it beat by a factor of 16. The game has been downloaded 500 million times and it has been out for only half the time.

YouVersion Bible readers have posted 11,625,190,000 minutes to date.

Angry Bird players have posted 219,000,000,000 minutes to date.

That’s 200,000 years of playing Angry Birds! Again in half the time too.

How much we love the Lord can be measured in part by how much time we give Him. That’s why we need to redeem the time. Not because the days are morally evil, but because all we have is time that is constantly slipping away.

In this evil age (Gal. 1:4) every day is an evil day full of pernicious things that cause our time to be used ineffectively, to be reduced, and to be taken away. Therefore, we must walk wisely that we may redeem the time, seizing every available opportunity. To understand the will of the Lord is the best way to redeem our time (v. 16). Most of our time is wasted because we do not know the will of the Lord.

-footnotes on Ephesians 5:16-17, Recovery Version Bible