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>Gladwell [...] adds this marginally related story about tweakers so the entire article isn't regurgitating [...] anecdotes

I think you're missing the main point here. The computer revolution, as a large scale technological and social transformation, does bear comparison to the Industrial Revolution. Where does someone like Steve Jobs stand in this comparison? He was obviously neither the inventor of a fundamental technological advance (James Watt) nor the guy who provided the money and business expertise (Matthew Boulton). The article makes a good case that the closest analogy is actually with the people who took Watt's steam engine and eventually improved its efficiency fourfold (and, BTW, the term "tweakers" comes from the referenced Meisenzahl & Mokyr paper).

I said as much -- there is some truth to it.

However, there are thousands/millions of people that are "tweakers". That isn't Jobs' only talent or even his most salient characteristic. (The title of the article is "Steve Job's real genius".)

Did any of the tweakers mentioned in the article start 3 companies and make billions doing it?

I think it is backlash for giving Jobs all the credit for everything, which is a mistake. I agree he didn't "invent" the iPhone, as Obama claimed. He led its development. But it's an equal mistake to say that all he did was tweak things, which the article claims explicitly.

Here's a PDF of the Meisenzahl, Mokyr paper:


Yes, many of the "tweakers" discussed did achieve success in multiple business ventures (and took patents).

It's not a disparaging term, so there's no reason to call it backlash. This is simply an observation that there is a (often overlooked) class of people who are 1. technically competent 2. very good at polishing and perfecting others' ideas, rather than coming up with them de novo.

The paper credits these people with playing the main part in the Industrial Revolution, and it's actually quite creditable to say Steve Jobs might have been among the best of them.

Being a tweaker is a fair assessment of Steve Jobs merit. One month after his death, this article is the first balanced article I've read among more than one hundred hagiographies posted all over the web.

History will judge.

Okay, I'll bite...what did Jobs create that wasn't just an improvement over something someone else had already done?

No one really "creates" anything if one isn't allowed to build off of what already exists. We would literally be re-inventing the wheel right now if we weren't allowed to look at past inventions. Gladwell is one of those authors who appeal to the masses with his oversimplified pseudo-intellectual mumbo jumbo. I'd like to know what Gladwell has actually innovated in his life or how he changed the world.

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