Library of Congress 1990

A short video made for the Library of Congress where Steve Jobs talks about the future of libraries with Stewart Brand, the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, at NeXT's offices in Redmond City.

Video Transcript

Note: for some videos, timestamps on the transcripts might be off by a few minutes due to theĀ original videos having been edited for YouTube (typically, sections with music playing may have been removed).

Stewart Brand: My idea of a library is, it's both a sort of a refuge.

Steve Jobs (SJ): Uh-uh.

Stewart Brand: It's just a safe, wonderful place with lots of leather, (unintelligible) supply or something like that. And at the same time, it's a dangerous place intellectually where you can find, you don't know what. And some of the really pleasure of danger in the library for me is in the stacks when you're wandering about, and you find things, talk to you, their spines, talk to you, you see stuff that's next to stuff, or a whole domain of categories of books you didn't even know existed, dive in there, and adventure happens.

SJ: We were very privileged in we've had access to some pretty nice libraries, still these libraries pale in comparison with the volume of information at the Library of Congress. So, I think what's going to happen is rather than - we're not going to tear down our libraries, but we shouldn't be building too many more. And we should be augmenting the libraries we have with links to the Library of Congress. Then, to put the entire Library of Congress and even the smallest town, all we have to do is run a network spigot into that town and hook it up to the computers. And we will have the entire Library of Congress at our fingertips.

Information stored in electronic form will actually be fairly permanent. And will be fairly easy to transmit from generation to generation. I think the Library of Congress is in a unique position to lead this charge. To rally the efforts, the resources, the leadership necessary to lead us into this new digital age of information.

I remember the video game phenomenon, probably all of you do too. What was the most interesting thing about the video game phenomenon to me was that within a few years after its beginning, kids and non-kids we're putting in two and a half billion dollars worth of quarters into these things a year. You can look at these things as games and dismiss them, or you can look at them as very simple simulated learning environments. So as an example, in a simple Pong game, the game is constantly telling you how well you're doing by how well you score. And so the more you learn the underlying principles, the better your score. So the underlying principles in these - in the case of most of these games were fairly, fairly simple, but carry the concept much further. Imagine if the underlying principles are a sophisticated macro economic model of how France might have functioned in the time of Louis XIV. This type of simulation then becomes a little less trivial than the video game, and yet the principles are still the same. And you can imagine what it will be like if we could use the historical material in the Library of Congress, coupled with the interactive computer technology that we're developing to do these things. These simulations will become what most of our students are learning from.

I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that, we're tool builders. And I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. It was not - not too proud of a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn't look so good. But then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And a man on a bicycle, or human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that's what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it's the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with. And it's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.