Praise and condolences are rightly pouring in from all over the world at the news that Steve Jobs has logged off of this mortal coil. He’s a member of a very small fraternity of business genius-innovators – along with Ford, Edison and Bell – who have truly altered the world in which they lived. All of them invented products and services that changed the way we all live and operate on a day-to-day basis. Clearly, people of the magnitude of a Jobs just don’t come along that often. It’s been a few years since Henry installed his assembly line in Detroit. Will the gun industry ever see anything even approaching that level of innovation?
Granted, the nature of the gun biz and its products probably has a good deal less world-altering potential than the electronics industry did where Jobs made his tectonic plate-shifting marks. So let’s grant that, if someone does come along with a Jobsian sense of industry vision combined with almost flawless design skills and marketing sense in the firearms bidness, he or she may have less of an opportunity to bring about the degree of change in the lives of as many individuals as did the guru of Cupertino.
Or would he? Guns and other armaments may be the single class of industrial products that affect more peoples’ lives around the world – both for good and for bad – on a daily basis than any other. And it’s hard for me to speculate what kind of change might profoundly alter that. If I knew how someone with Jobs’ gifts might change the way people defend themselves and how wars are fought, I’d have more money than RF. Well, I’d have a lot, anyway.
But when someone invents…oh, I don’t know…a personal impenetrable invisible force field generator that clips to your belt and runs for a month on two AA batteries, that might change a few things about self defense, aviation security, police procedure, Presidential protection and a whole host of additional societal functions I can’t begin to fathom. Something like that might have a few follow-on effects for gun makers.
OK, that’s a crazy example. Maybe. But then who would have thought 15 years ago that you’d be able to jog with 10,000 songs strapped to your arm, you’d be able to video chat with your kid at college on your phone, the music businesses would have been turned upside down and the most valuable company by market cap – however briefly – would be a niche computer company in Silicon Valley? Change happens fast and usually when you least expect it. Anyone wanna buy some Kodak stock?