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Science Fiction and Silicon Valley

The Martian

I read books to feel inspiration, but earlier this year, the books I picked up started to feel dull. These were the same kinds of business and nonfiction books that I’d devoured last year, but for some reason I just didn’t like them.

A friend suggested I try reading something less familiar, so I picked up some science fiction. First, I read a story about a man stranded on Mars called The Martian. Then The Three-Body Problem by a popular Chinese writer named Liu Cixin. And finally, Isaac Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation. Reading was fun again and I strongly recommend all three books.

More importantly, these books made me feel inspired again. I noticed that each book was an exercise in the author asking a simple question on a grand scale: What would happen if?

What would happen if a man was stranded on Mars? What would happen if we could travel through time? What would happen if we could engineer the climate?

There’s something attractive about this concept of taking an idea and seeing how far it can go. These authors ask what would happen if and continue to ask that question until a future unfolds. This, I think, is exactly what I like most about Silicon Valley.

Great entrepreneurs follow the same process as great science fiction writers. You’ll often hear venture capitalists refer to the best founders as seeing or living in the future and feeling compelled to make that future a reality. That’s the best part of the Valley: the belief that we can ask what would happen if and create a future around that. There’s a romantic human pursuit and a real sense of agency and purpose that’s hard to find elsewhere.

We're the authors and entpreneurs of our lives. We can all benefit from that optimism and belief, even if it's just asking what would happen if we tried something new that we've been scared of or fixed something broken in our lives.

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