One of the sad rumors to break last week was that Steve Jobs may have six weeks to live. I’ve had several people close to me die of cancer. One stepmother was given a few months, but she actually lived more than a year and did a number of amazing things. Another stepmother died two days after the initial diagnosis, and my uncle died ugly in three months.
I also recall a close friend who had saved his entire life to spend a rich retirement with his wife only to die from deep vein thrombosis caused by too much air travel a year before he intended to retire.
He was the highest-paid executive in the Silicon Valley for a few years, and his ending was the saddest of all because he never got to enjoy the thing he had sacrificed his life for, and his wife was left heartbroken. While this this last is clearly a cautionary tale of what can happen if you park your butt on airplanes too much, it got me thinking about what I’d do if I had six weeks to live and was, like Steve Jobs is, a billionaire.
That’s what I’ll explore this week, and I’ll close with my product of the week: a wonderful case I used to build an even more wonderful AMD-based desktop system.
So many people I’ve known who have been given a dire prognosis have spent much of their remaining time trying to extend their life expectancy by a few hours or days, and then die disappointed. We all die eventually, and knowing about when you’ll go does give you one big advantage: You really don’t need to plan for a future after that.
While I’d clearly want to provide, as I’m sure Steve will, for those who depend on me, they probably wouldn’t need more than a few million — and as a billionaire, that would allow me an impressive amount of latitude.
Now, the time limit means no long-term projects, so I’m not going to be able to construct a 300-story pyramid or commission the building of a 1,000-foot yacht so I can pull up to Larry Ellison’s smaller boat and piss off the railing onto it. I could buy an ocean liner and pretty much do the same thing, though, so the projects would have to be limited to short-term events and generally be focused on doing epic things that I’d never have done otherwise.
They would have to require little in the way of set-up time but be significant in terms of their impact. Also, Steve isn’t a big people guy, and I’m not really into big parties either, which once again shortens the list of amazing possibilities.
So here is my list of things that I might like to do if I were Steve. I’m a James Bond fan, so you’ll notice a bit of a trend here.
Buy the Batmobile and Race for Pinks
Call up Larry Ellison and have him race me for pink slips with the Batmobile, and invite lots of media to watch. I’d likely lose the race but this wouldn’t be about winning, it would be about having an epic experience.
And Larry would end up with a car he would feel bad selling but really couldn’t drive anyplace. If the Batmobile part were sprung as a surprise, folks would talk about this for decades.
Do Fulton Surface-to-Air Extraction
Personally, I’ve wanted to try a Fulton Surface-to-Air Extraction since I saw the movie “You Only Live Twice” decades ago. This is system that uses a balloon to fly a line up to where a plane will snag it and you get snapped up into the plane. If I were Steve, I’d have them pull me right out of an event in my honor. This would not only get me out of the event, but, once again, folks would be talking about it for years.
If I couldn’t handle the stress myself, hooking one of these things to Larry Ellison after getting him a bit drunk would make a hell of a memorable impression, and what’s he going to do — sue me? If fact, since Larry is one of Steve’s buddies but Eric Schmidt is being a bit of a turd, it might be more fun to do this to Eric and get him on camera pissing his pants. Sometimes it’s the small things.
Show Up at the America’s Cup races in the Hydrofoil Car
Once again, I’m pulling from the idea that Larry is Steve’s closest friend, and pulling pranks on close friends is part of the fun. Rinspeed has car that uses hydrofoils to set speed records on the water. There is nothing like it. Buzzing Larry’s boat in something faster, more comfortable, and clearly more spectacular would be epic. The car isn’t cheap — but to a billionaire, it is still pocket change, and few have ever seen it. What a way to make that “I’m having a ball” statement.
You can just picture the moment. Folks are getting bored watching a bunch of big sailing boats jockeying for position at the start when someone notices a little yellow sports car coming up fast on the horizon. What the hell — a sports car, on the water, OMG it’s Steve Jobs, what is that thing? I could even have “iCar” painted on the side to really freak people out.
Rent the Google Dreamliner and Park It Next to the Google 767
Boeing could use some good publicity on the massive Dreamliner, which is currently undergoing flight tests. If I were Steve, I’d cut a promotional deal to have it painted with Apple colors and have the name “Android Sux” painted on the nose.
I could fly in right after the Google plane landed, accompanied by press, and park nearby. I’d say, “I just wanted to make a comment about the iPhone/iPad against that Android crap — this is kind of a metaphor for that,” and then step out of the plane on a carpet of crushed Nexus Ones.
Build a Jetpack
I’d like to create a believable-looking short-format movie, using green screen, of me flying a jet pack. If I were Steve, I’d have “iRocket” branded on the side, make it look believably realistic, and only use people who wouldn’t leak the secret even after my death. I’d work to make it good enough to fool experts. Let it leak to the Web and go viral. Have people believe that I was just about to pull a Tesla.
In fact, come to think of it, it could be any amazing invention. The key is to always have everyone deny it is real and act like they know nothing about it, but have it look like they are covering up the possiblity that it could be real. Only Jobs could pull this off but, years later, this would add to his legend. Done right, the story could live forever.
Wrapping Up: It’s All About Perspective
We all have a fixed time on this planet, and knowing when that time will end could be a curse or it could be an opportunity to do things that you’d never have done had you lived longer.
You can choose to die a victim fighting for each last breath, or a hero of your own epic events that not only bring pleasure to your last days but define you in an epic fashion for those you leave behind. The end will come regardless, and my hope for Steve is that his last days — however many he may have — will be his best ever.
Product of the Week: Thermaltake Level 10 GT Case and AMD Phenom II
I was bored the weekend before last and figured I’d build a new office PC. I had parts to build both an Intel box or an AMD box, but Intel’s Sandy Bridge problem removed that option, so I went AMD.
The case I chose was the Thermaltake Level 10 GT, and at US$280, it is far from the least expensive out there. However, it was a dream to work with, and the thing is drop-dead gorgeous now that it is done.
I love comics too, but this post wasted my time. Sure, doing extreme things in one’s short days left is a choice, which you could easily have communicated that using just one of your examples. But this is a profound question and, from a human and/or technological point of view, something I’d want to see serious reflection about. What do we hope for Steve, from his point of view, or for the good of the planet, or just those of us longtime Mac users who will be left without his extraordinary vision? You’re a smart guy, so I’m interested in your serious thoughts about this. Hope you try again.