Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, or “Woz” as he’s commonly known, designed some of Apple’s first products back in the 70s and 80s, including the Apple I and the Apple II, which revolutionised the personal computing industry. As a result, he’s somewhat of an icon in Silicon Valley.
Today he’s still technically an Apple employee but he found time this week to come to London and speak at the Festival of Marketing conference on Wednesday.
We caught up with Woz on a tour bus outside the conference ahead of his keynote. Here’s what he had to say during our five-minute chat.
Which areas of technology do you think will have the biggest impact on humanity in the next couple of decades?
I think a lot of the areas that artificial intelligence gets into. Of course, I’m leaving out biotech because I’m not close enough to biotech. I’m [also] leaving out quantum computers because I’m not into quantum computers. But I think artificial intelligence, machines that interact with us, will be more helpful than we ever imagined. That’s number one.
Virtual reality is such an incredible experience. Our entire trend from the earliest computers to personal computers has been to make the resolution seem more realistic like I’m in a real world and not a little fake cartoon 8-bit world. I’m not in that 8-bit world anymore and virtual reality takes huge bandwidth. We’re going to have to conquer some challenges of bandwidth on DSL, copper lines to your home, and on wireless to even be able to send really high quality virtual reality but it puts you in an entirely different space that is so incredible.
Do you have any concerns about AI in the future?
At one point I had concerns about AI because if you replace brains and then all of a sudden companies with people lose money and the machines do everything for us and we have no jobs left, I thought that way and then I totally reversed myself for a lot of reasons. One being that Moore’s law isn’t going to make those machines smart enough to think really the way a human does.
Another is when machines can out think humans they can’t be as intuitive and say what will I do next and what is an approach that might get me there. They can’t figure out those sorts of things.
We aren’t talking about artificial intelligence actually getting to that point. It’s sort of like it magically might arise on its own. These machines might become independent thinkers. But if they do, they’re going to be partners of humans over all other species just forever.
Where would you like to see Apple go next?
Well, Apple is such a huge company. I think that smartphones are going to be handheld devices for ages and ages, just like cars are kind of the same as they were 100 years ago: shape, size, looks and what they do for you.
I would like Apple to be the leader [with] the top smartphones in all categories. It’s very difficult for large companies to move fast into new technology areas and try to explore whether this might be the future. We’ll find out whether this goes or it doesn’t go? Apple, though, has to consider staying huge in size. Once a company is huge they have to stay huge.
They will probably go after something very big that we’ll spend lots of our money on. Things like housing, energy, and automobiles.
What’s the worst thing that you’ve backed on Kickstarter?
Turns out that I can’t remember what I’ve backed on Kickstarter. I think I backed/started the chip computer and Raspberry Pi maybe and they turned out great in my life, you know, great hobbies of mine. But the worst thing is I can’t remember, I’ve got so many, by the time they arrive they either didn’t work or didn’t do things as well as other options I have, or were kind of duds in my mind, or I didn’t have time for them.
I’ve actually turned away from self-funding for now. Kickstarter and Indiegogo and those sort of things.
You never get to see their accounting. You never get to see how they used your money. It’s not like a real open company.
Interesting. Are you still riding your segway or have you moved onto hover boards now?
I actually ordered a couple of hover boards and never got them. I probably got ripped off.
I ride my segway as much as ever. I ride it out of my house and into town in 10 minutes. I do shopping, entertainment, dining. I carry it in my car so when I’m in a different city I can pull it out of my Tesla and slide around electrically and learn a city well. And I play segway polo still.
Awesome. You made some slightly controversial comments about Apple removing the headphone jack. What do you make of the AirPods?
As far as the AirPods and Apple removing the standard headphone jack, I had some kind of mild comments that got way taken out of proportion.
For example, in the same sentence that I say it’s going to bother a lot of people, I would say I actually approve of when Apple gets rid of these things. Because you know what, I have this tiny little low cost adaptor that makes all my normal headphones work if I want them to.
I’ve never plugged any headphones into my iPhone so why do I really care personally?
However, I worry about EarPods that are Bluetooth because I have tested my music, which is very important to me in my life, and I’ve tested it in my cars and on my Jambox [speaker] and the Ultimate Ears device I have. I’ve tested them on Bluetooth and it doesn’t sound like music. It loses that sparkle at the high end.
So maybe it’s good enough for voice or listening to news shows or something. I’ll tell you one thing, I do like the little lightweight headphones. The ones that had a special charger from Apple in the old 30 pin connector days for iPod. These little headphones were the lightest, most comfortable, they stuck in all day long. I actually love that style.