Reality distortion field
Reality distortion field (or RDF) is a term first used by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs' charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Macintosh project. Tribble said that the term came from Star Trek, where in the episode "The Menagerie", it was used to describe how the aliens created their own new world through mental force.
In Chapter Three of Steve Jobs, biographer Walter Isaacson states that around 1972, while Jobs was attending Reed College, Robert Friedland "taught Steve the reality distortion field." The RDF was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs' ability to convince himself, and others around him, to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. It was said to distort his co-workers' sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and to make them believe that whatever impossible task he had at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the reality distortion field to appropriate others' ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea back to its originator, only a week after dismissing it.
The term has been used to refer to Jobs' keynote speeches ("Stevenotes") by observers and devoted users of Apple computers and products, and derisively by Apple's competitors in criticisms of Apple. On Research In Motion's official BlackBerry blog, Jim Balsillie introduced a blog post by saying "For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field".
The term has been extended, with a mixture of awe and scorn, to other managers and leaders in industry who try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects without regard to their overall difficulty or to competitive forces in the market. It is sometimes used with regard to excessively-hyped products that are not necessarily connected with any one person.
- Bill Clinton's charisma has been called a reality distortion field.
- The chess champion Bobby Fischer was said to have a "Fischer aura" surrounding him that disoriented Boris Spassky and other opponents.
- Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was said to have generated an RDF around her product, the Edison blood analyzer.
- The term has been also associated with Donald Trump's approach to running his 2016 campaign for United States President and his presidency.
- Financial Times used the term when describing Elon Musk.
- A parody of a reality distortion field appeared in a 2010 Dilbert strip in which a reality distortion field emitter is used during a keynote speech by Dogbert.
- Charismatic authority
- Cult of personality
- Locus of control
- Magical thinking
- Suspension of disbelief
- Hertzfeld, Andy (February 1981). "Reality Distortion Field". Folklore.org.
- Dudrow, Andrea (October 16, 2000). "Notes from the Epicenter: Exploring the Reality Distortion Field". CreativePro.
- "RIM Responds to Apple's 'Distortion Field'". Inside BlackBerry. October 19, 2010.
- "The Ajax Reality Distortion Field". davidtemkin.com. April 12, 2005. Archived from the original on June 18, 2010.
- Ferriss, Tim (November 21, 2010). "How It Works: Clinton's "Reality Distortion Field" Charisma".
- Darrach, Brad (1972-08-11). "Bobby is Not a Nasty Kid". Life. p. 40. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
- O'Brien, Timothy L. (2016-06-16). "A Peek Inside Trump's Smoke and Mirrors Tour". Bloomberg View. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
- Richard Waters. Elon Musk, billionaire tech idealist and space entrepreneur. Financial Times.
- "Dilbert comic strip for 2010-09-23". The official Dilbert comic strips archive.