My Most Important Startup
Dear MIS* Catherine,
You and I talk a lot about this ‘changing the world’ thing. You hear about it all the time, in school or when my Silicon Valley friends come visit us in Germany. Does ‘changing the world’ happen, when there is no one there to applaud the change? Does writing a children’s book qualify the same as finding a cure for a disease? Who decides when you are ready to step up and do something big?
I remember so many things about you. When you saw a performance of the opera “Turandot”, you asked me after the first act if the princess was evil or if she just didn’t like stupid men. You were six years old then. That same year you took a Robotics course in a summer camp in San Diego. You felt lonely among all the boys there and you wanted to know why girls did not like building robots.
You started writing “Teddy Factory” stories where teddy bears run a manufacturing facility for a juice that makes people like each other more and that helps them thrive in their jobs. You were seven years old. Around the same time you asked me why I needed to fly to Munich “just to tell some guys what to do and then to have dinner with them”. Now you are 9 years old and I enjoy every moment we are together. You advise me to ‘order in’ so that we have more time to cuddle. You tell me to smile more when I talk to my clients, and to have tea before a difficult meeting because ‘a voice always sounds friendlier after some tea’. You have already changed my world for the better, and I am immensely grateful to have you in my life.
I guess there is little practical advice I can give you. You seem wise beyond your age. You have everything in you to succeed on your own terms and you already know what success means to you. You know that you can’t perform a Mozart Sonata without practicing it 10 hours a week. You understand that writing music requires hours of thinking, listening, erasing and starting over again. You know that hard work and a few tears here and there come before the immense joy you feel when you achieve something great.
You may be part of the last generation that will learn how to drive a car. You will wonder why coding wasn’t part of your primary school program. You may have difficulties with boys who never learned to listen, to be curious and to be kind. While I sit here and write about Artificial Intelligence, you will actually live with it. At university your term papers will be evaluated by a machine rather than by an actual human. Your first job will be so very different from my first job. You may even have a robot assistant at home, making your salad and brewing your tea. You will however never forget that a machine doesn’t ask questions, it can only give you answers.
*MIS (Most Important Startup)