Invent the future from the future

Today’s notes are from “How to Invent the Future”, a brilliant lecture by Alan Kay at Startup School:

  • Focus not just on problem solving, but on problem finding. You can be sure that 95% of everything we do is wrong, inefficient, and will be changed in the future, but it’s hard to see that from now.
  • Instead of innovating out from the present, invent the future from the future. Imagine the world 30 years from now. Think “Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if we didn’t have this?”. Take this initial glimmer of an idea so far out that you don’t have to worry how you get there. Then bring it back closer to the present, identify an achievable and realistic step towards it.
  • Try to see technology of today as the punch card machines in the 70s, and try to replace them with Apple II.
  • Strive to really advance something very important. Something worth dedicating your life to. Pursue grand visions, not goals.
  • Because it is difficult, focus on milestones, not deadlines. Deadlines can be missed, and are hard to set up realistically when you’re doing something that’s never been done before. Milestones are inspiring to reach, and it’s more encouraging to go from one milestone to another in pursuit of a long term goal.
  • Don’t worry about having the perfect batting average. Total number of successes matters, not success/failure ratio. Failure is just overhead — an expected cost of trying to do hard things.
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