Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak – who is often credited with inventing the modern personal computer – thinks it will probably be “a couple hundred years” before we have machines that can do everything and run the world.
Wozniak (“Woz” to those in the tech world) covered a wide range of topics during a keynote Q&A at the Digital Summit Seattle conference Tuesday at McCaw Hall in Seattle. He talked about Steve Jobs, Dancing with the Stars, and what it’s like to have a wax figure made of you.
On the issue of learning computers, he is “concerned” given how much we have already lost to automation and efficiency, noting how he had to give up a newspaper and a lot of other things that were “good.”
“Economics tends to always win,” Wozniak said. “That’s a real fear.”
He cited the example of how, 200 years ago, people made the clothes we wear, while today machines do. And those people had to move on to find other jobs.
“I don’t worry about machines being the masters of us,” he said. “I do worry about some level of jobs being lost, and we’re already there.”
On the perception in pop culture of Steve Jobs as a maniacal, hard-driving businessman who wore his employees down, Wozniak didn’t disagree – or mince words. He acknowledged much of that perception is accurate, while also noting how influential the products that Jobs helped bring to life have been on our lives and culture.
“He had a lot of negative things with his personal side,” Wozniak said. “A lot of things where, you would never raise your child to be that way. But he built a lot of great things.
“Almost all the people who worked on the Macintosh group said they would not work with him again.”
Wozniak said when he met Jobs at age 16, they were both fun-loving and free. But everything changed when they started building Apple and money – and history – became part of the equation.
“He wanted to be an important person in history, and there was big money,” Wozniak said, and that changed his personality and drove the person he became.
When asked whether a young entrepreneur should follow a traditional path to earn a degree or join a high-risk startup company, Wozniak advised the latter route, saying education will always be there.
“I created Apple with no college degree. Go with the startup. You can always go back to school,” said Wozniak, who eventually went back to school himself, using a made-up name to earn a degree from the University of California-Berkeley.
The name on his diploma? Rocky Raccoon Clark.
If you don’t follow the inner workings of the tech and business world you may know Wozniak from Dancing with the Stars in 2009. He said it took the show’s producers a year to talk him into it, noting that he does not watch television and had no idea what the show was really all about.
He said he was not used to moving his body that way – or really any way at all. He worked seven days a week for six hours a day to learn a 90-second routine. He fought through a broken toe and lost five inches on his belt size over the six weeks of training.
“Finally I got to a point where I could be happy with it,” Wozniak said. “I stood up and represented geeks in a way.
“When you work hard at something and say I’m going to enjoy it, how lucky am I that I even got to do that?”
Among his current passions is the Silicon Valley Comic Con, which brought in more revenue to San Jose in its first year than the Super Bowl. He is also speaking to as many high school and college students as he can, spreading his message to make the most of your youth.
“I worked designing calculators during the day and went home at night and got to work on my ideas,” Wozniak said of the time in his career when he and Jobs started Apple. “When you’re young you can waste your free time or use it to pursue your ideas.”
Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared on KING5.com.