On April 5, a bona fide member of personal computing’s Mount Rushmore rolls into Westchester County. That’s when Steve Wozniak alights at Manhattanville College for a much-anticipated lecture on technology, education, and entrepreneurship. We caught up with the father of the Apple computer to hear what’s on his mind these days, and we’re happy to report that the man affectionately known as “Woz” didn’t disappoint. He’s a good guy who just happened to change the world.
Is there any particular theme to your lecture at Manhattanville College?
We’ll talk a lot about my ideas of how to encourage innovative, creative thinking and how it applies to entrepreneurship in and out of companies. I care so much about young people, especially high school and university age, because that’s really where some magic things happened to me that gave me a direction in life. I just love being inspirational and motivational and encouraging. I’d like to talk in a lot more humor than straight technology.
What are your thoughts on the ways children are currently being taught technology in school?
At first, I thought technology was going to make such a huge difference, especially since youngsters tend to be the leaders in understanding it, but it really hasn’t changed how smart people come out of schools.
Now, I look to something that has not happened yet, which is artificial intelligence. That sort of a machine could be very low cost and would enable us to break our education system apart and let students at a very early age pursue the things that they like and can be good at. Everybody can go at their own speed.
Looking back, what would you say is the single biggest oversight during the formative years of the personal-computing revolution?
We couldn’t see where it was going. Things that we thought were going to be important for computers to do for people in their homes, turned out not to be important issues at all. A lot of times you can’t see the change in technology.
In light of recent events involving Apple and the FBI, where do you stand on the use of encryption and technology’s ability to invade personal privacy?
Human beings should come first. Technology can be used to spy on us. As a human being, I just want to feel that the inside of my head is my private world and that you can’t see it or even guess what I’m going to say next.
I don’t buy into the mentality that [government needs access to every aspect of our personal lives in order to keep us safe]. That’s just appealing to emotions and not to reason and objectivity. Basically, you’re saying the world of 1984 or Brave New World is what we want. Is that what we want?
How do you feel about being portrayed by Seth Rogen in the movie Steve Jobs?
I’m actually honored because he’s one of the coolest up-and-coming actors in the coolest roles. I thought he did an excellent job for what the role was. My wife and I got to go out with him and his wife to the Magic Castle.
What is it about the mobile era of personal computing that intrigues you the most or that you’re the most excited about?
It’s less from a technology stance, but an emotional feeling that I get when I use it that I feel like I’m some kind of superman. Man of the past never had the ability to do so much. Push a button and a car comes to pick you up. It’s a remote control that’s beyond our wildest dreams. Make my reservations for an airplane. Every little thing is so easy and close. I never thought we’d get there.
You turned 65 in 2015. Does senior status suit you, and are you where you thought you’d be back when you were a 20-something working in Steve Jobs’ garage?
[Laughs] No, I thought by 60 years old, you’re retired. I am so happy, though: At 65, my mind is working so fast. I’m excited about new technology. We have a lot of important things going on. I still get to be excited and be young about that.
What would you like the legacy of Steve Wozniak to be?
You know people will think back, “Oh Wozniak, one of the key people that started the revolution of computers, an early seed.” Obviously hundreds of thousands of people work hard and do incredible things with their brains to give us what we have. But some of us get to be symbols for it. That’ll probably be my legacy, but what I would really want it to be is the way I thought of building products that other people couldn’t build, ahead of the rest of the world as an engineer, through things I taught myself that weren’t even in books. I’d like to be known as a great engineer.