Steven's "Letter to his younger self"

Steven, in my response to joe lkcl to joefrancis I wrote about how Michael Newton's book can give so much perspective (and peace as a result), and I feel that you likewise would appreciate it.

My comments to you I believe are best framed in terms of a similar analogous situation to your own, from my own experience. I'd like to relate to you the story of how I've been developing eco-conscious computing. It's been a long, slow process, with absolutely zero V.C. funding. There have been donations (sponsorship) because people believe in the ethical principles which I uphold above all else, as absolute and sacrosanct. These principles being directly in conflict with how Venture Capitalists operate, it should come as no surprise that I cannot take any money from them (see lkcl sections about what money actually is for the context). So I have managed, bear in mind that this is over five years, to develop a fully ethical laptop that saves people money over the long-term and allows them to be in control of their own hardware and the software running on it... for about a total of $USD 100,000.

Now, here's the thing: if you look at the extremely public example (and failure) of for example Google's "Project Ara", which is... sorry, was... an effort to create a truly modular eco-conscious smartphone, desired by over a million people world-wide that we know actually made a public committment to buy one or something like it (see the "Fairphone" project), you'll see that even with the billions of dollars of money that Google has, they failed.


The answer's very simple: it's because they solved problems by throwing money at it instead of thinking creatively.

For example: when a new "backbone" was needed for this entirely new concept, they put out a call for proposals and, with the amount of money available to them, it wasn't long before some companies rolled up and said, "we'll take your money!! yes, yes, please, Google, give us $USD 50 million and we'll do whatever you like!!".

... can you see already where this is going to go horribly wrong?

So those companies of course took out patents on their "invention", despite the fact that it was the backbone - the core - of the entire project, which was supposed to be "open" to anyone, so that they could make compatible upgrades, plug-in modules (such as a camera, or a WIFI upgrade) that snapped onto the back of the smartphone, where people could then trade those later or buy 2nd-hand on ebay, or buy as-and-when they wanted to and could afford to...

... but if the core technology is patented, who on earth is going to develop 3rd party products if they have to pay royalties to those people who were allowed by Google to take out those first patents??

Absolutely nobody.

So, the project has already failed. Absolutely nobody wants to take Google up on their offer to "join" their quotes open quotes project. Hundreds of millions of dollars wasted because they didn't think about what their money would do to people.


Why am I telling you this story? Well, you're clearly making a lot of money, now, yourself. But, from your background, do you feel inclined to go out buying fancy cars? Do you spend the money lavishly and irresponsibly? Sure, I bet you go out occasionally, with your family, but I bet that you really appreciate your time out more than anyone else around you could ever do, and that you can see it in their dulled and sleepwalking eyes, which you never look into because it makes both them - and you - seriously uncomfortable (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Why do you feel so lucky? because you remember where you came from, that's why. And you do feel like you're the luckiest person alive, cherising every moment, don't you?

Also, I bet that, actually, you give a hell of a lot to charity - far more than anyone else with as much money as you would normally do. Again, because you feel that others in a similar upbringing to you should have the opportunity to break out from their situation and live their lives to their full potential. Here's the thing, though, Steven: if I am wrong about this guess, I don't want to hear you write back to me and say, "you're wrong". I'm challenging you to make it so that the answer is, "yes I do". And your own life experience you can and will use as a filter - a recognition tool - of those people who are genuine and those who are not. Look in their eyes: you'll know straight away.