Watch Steve Jobs predict the future we live in today – in 1981

Jonny Evans for Apple Must:

This 1981 Nightline interview with the Apple/NeXT co-founder and Pixar boss says so much…

He’s 26. He’s wearing a tie. And he predicts a future with “bicycles for the mind.”

Steve Jobs portion of the segment begins at 4:21. Note, particularly the portion concerning privacy, beginning at 8:08.

MacDailyNews Take: Stunningly visionary. Both Jobs and David Burnham.

And, by the way, sadly, you’d be hard-pressed to get anything even remotely resembling insightful discussion like this on U.S. broadcast television today.

“I think the best protection [against government amassing personal data] is a very literate public and, in this case, computer literate… I think the feeling of computer literacy among the populace is the thing that, for me at least, gives me the most comfort that that centralized intelligence will have the least effect on our lives without us knowing it.” – Steve Jobs

Ted Koppel: “I keep borrowing this phrase from the N.R.A., “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Computers don’t do that to people; people using computers do that. Isn’t a computer in and of itself a neutral tool that can be used for good or evil?”

David Burnham: “It is. And men use guns to kill people and men use guns to hunt animals. The question is, is our society alert enough to understand the power of the computer and to turn it toward the good things or are there people and occasions where we will use this tool for a bad purpose… I wonder whether the individual citizen alone is any match, say, for the U.S. Army when a few years ago, it began surveillance programs of hundreds of thousands of people who were lawfully opposed, voicing their opposition to the war in Vietnam? I wonder whether the individual citizen can control the Army.”

See also David Burnham’s 1983 book The Rise of the Computer State.

You can commiserate with Jobs who in 1981 was trying to launch the personal computer revolution and make computers seem as easy-to-use and as non-threatening to consumers as possible. He, of course, later said this about privacy:

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English, and repeatedly. I’m an optimist; I believe people are smart, and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data. — Steve Jobs, June 2010


  1. Look at any of Steve’s old videos and you’ll be shocked at how often he was correct about the future; and then look at any of Bill Gates’ old videos like his keynotes at CES, and you’ll be rolling at how often he was wrong about the future.

  2. David Burnham, the other guy in the interview, was far more prescient than Steve Jobs. The idea that everyone having a computer (now almost everyone owns several) would prevent the government from abusing its citizens with technology was total BS. The surveillance conducted both by the government, corporations and their affiliated cabals is infinitely worse than the most terrible nightmare scenario you could imagine in 1981. Great that Apple itself hasn’t invaded user privacy like others have, but Jobs dropped the ball in demanding protections for consumers from government and corporate tyranny, nice tie though.

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