Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Several times a week, I'm overtaken by the vacuous twaddle uttered by some startup founders.

I sit and wonder whether they really believe their own words, or whether they think that by using Californian mutterings of communal kumbaya, they'll get yet another billion or two in funding.

Yet they're not necessarily the creators of the automation of bloviation.

Silicon Valley has known it for quite a while.

Steve Jobs is, these days, justly revered for his prescience and his understanding of the human soul.

He was perhaps the only entrepreneur of his generation who understood that computers should feel easy and accessible to humans, rather than be chilling boxes of gobbledygook and despair.

He wasn't, however, always right about how computers would be used.

In a 1981 appearance on ABC's Nightline featuring Ted Koppel, Jobs was asked a question that foretold so much of what we experience today:

There is a sense, though, that many of us have, who really don't understand how computers work or what they do for us or to us, that we are getting controlled by the computers. Any danger of that happening?

Yes, 38 years ago, they were already worried.

Jobs, at first, tried a joke: 

Well, as you know, the product we manufacture, many people see it for the first time, and they don't even think it's a computer. It's about 12 pounds, you can throw it out the window if the relationship isn't going so well.

And it's certainly happened many times over the years.

He then went on to describe the computer as the big democratizer: 

I think if you look at sort of the process of the technological revolution that we're all in, it's a process of taking very centralized things and making them very democratic, if you will -- very individualized, making them affordable by individuals for a small collection of tasks.

You could argue at least some of this came to pass, as with so much other technology.

Over time, gadgets become cheaper, smaller and more accessible to more people.

However, Koppel then pressed Jobs on a considerable nightmare: 

The government has the capacity by using computers to get all kinds of information on us that we're really not even aware that they have. Isn't that dangerous?

It's quaint that Koppel could only conceive of governments spying on us, rather than vast companies created by youths. You know, like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Still, Jobs replied: 

I think the best protection against something like that is a very literate public, and in this case computer-literate.

Jobs said it was already happening in 1981, as one in every thousand household enjoyed a personal computer.

Ah. Oh.

Jobs truly seemed to believe that this great democratization would lead to people knowing so much about computers that they'd know if the government -- or, presumably, anyone else -- had nefarious intentions.

What actually happened is that people ignorantly and unknowingly sold their personal information and, in some ways, their whole souls just for the ability to preen a little and contact people they'd been attracted to in high school.

What happened is that our privacy became something to be infiltrated and traded.

I suppose I should also mention the way computers have allowed governments of all hues -- some of them red -- to hover over our lives and our politics to the degree that our elections appear to have been jeopardized.

Grand visions can be uplifting. They can be enticing. 

Never underestimate, however, how humans can turn them to paste. 

Humans are the worst sort of primitive species. We think we're really clever.

It usually takes minimal amounts of time for us to show that we aren't.

Published on: Oct 13, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.