Inspirational Keynote by Douglas Adams

  • innovation
  • software-development
  • api-design

Stumbled across this inspirational keynote by Douglas Adams that he gave at a Microsoft Conference back in 1996 in front of a large audience of tech people. It’s really inspiring to watch this man think about the future, talk about biology, and apply that knowledge to technology.

He begins by telling us about our, or rather his, misconceptions about the nature of computers:

I didn’t understand why it could possibly be any use to me. Because I had the wrong idea of what it was. I thought it was an adding machine and this is what everybody thought.

We’ve now gone to another iteration with the world wide web. Because we’re now saying: ‘It isn’t any of those things! It isn’t just a stupid television – it’s a brochure!’

So again, we are developing it as a bunch of a million brochures.

Douglas Adams|Professional Developers Conference Keynote (1996) @ 35:04

He eventually arrives at his main conclusion:

The computer isn’t any of these things. But the fact that we are able to model those things in it, tells us what the computer is: it’s a modeling device!

And it is only when we begin to understand that, that we’re going to be able to start really doing useful things with it.

Douglas Adams|Professional Developers Conference Keynote (1996)

He ends with a recommendation to the assembled developer community that is still valid today:

Don’t build dead pages.
Build living models.