Disney’s Futuristic ‘Tomorrowland’ Rejects Dystopian Tropes With An Optimistic Call To Action


A few minutes into “Tomorrowland,” it becomes clear that Disney’s latest live-action adventure isn’t going to brood over the apocalypse or depict a purely desolate future. Instead, the movie blends sci-fi and fantasy with realism to depict a world where hope is the only antidote to extinction.

In “Tomorrowland,” directed by Brad Bird and co-written by Bird and Damon Lindelof (with Jeff Jensen earning a story credit), we first meet Frank Walker (George Clooney), a once bright-eyed young boy with innovative dreams, as a now-hardened cynic in the present day. We learn what shattered Frank’s buoyancy when Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) backtracks to tell her story as a teen determined to save the future of a doomed NASA rocket launch site. After finding a mysterious pin secretly given to her by a young British girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), Casey is briefly transported to the futuristic world of Tomorrowland. But the real future turns out not to be as bright and shiny: A clock counts down to a predicted apocalypse, prompting Casey, Athena and Frank to try to save the fate of a crumbling planet Earth.

With the awe of “Alice in Wonderland” and a hint of the futurism of “WALL-E,” Bird’s “Tomorrowland” feels very much like a Disney-fueled vehicle, but one which heavily cashes in on the power of positive thought — think of the best-seller The Secret, which Lindelof named-dropped while discussing “Tomorrowland.” The movie packs on the cheesy believe-and-you-can-achieve Disney mantra quite heavily, but it’s nevertheless refreshing to see a positive spin on the dreary future that fills the big screen today. “Tomorrowland” has already been labeled the anti-“Hunger Games,” a departure from the typical nihilism.

george clooney

“The future we’re getting fed a steady diet of is sort of post-apocalyptic,” Lindelof told The Huffington Post. “The idea that something kind of terrible happens and now the dregs of humanity are roving the desert in tricked-out cars or shooting arrows at each other, that’s kind of what the future is.” While Lindelof — who, let’s not forget, is the co-creator of “Lost” and HBO’s ultra-depressing “The Leftovers” — admits he loves those types of stories, he wanted to discover what a different kind of future would look like, and whether or not audiences would even want to see it.

While this approach is hardly something we see in movies or on television today, it does reflect a mindset of an earlier generation, before hope was vanquished by pessimism. “When both Damon and I were young, the world was still a rough place,” Bird told HuffPost. “There were wars and injustice and pollution, and all the things we have today, but the attitude towards the future was that we were going to solve all these problems and that the future was this bright thing just over the horizon.”

It was this question of “What happened?” that fascinated Bird and Lindelof, leading them to use Disney’s theme-park land as the inspiration for what the word “Tomorrowland” actually meant to society, then and now. “In a broad sense, it’s about Walt Disney’s view of the future, that it was an exciting thing, that it was a giant opportunity [rather] than this burden we come to think of it as, this coming disaster,” Bird said.


But “Tomorrowland” doesn’t paint a future that is bright and sunny where all of the world’s problems can be solved by making a wish and dreaming big (despite the film’s hefty serving of goofy sentimentalism). No fairy godmother flashes into existence and no magical wand flickers to save our world. The film asks more of its audience than simply sitting back and enjoying the movie, most directly in a monologue delivered by the villainous scientist Nix (Hugh Laurie), who blames the predicted demise of mankind on mankind itself. It’s a moment where “Tomorrowland” breaks the fourth wall and holds the viewers responsible for the apocalypse that could come if we succumb to resignation.

“The big cosmic shrug, I don’t get,” Bird said. The director made a point to claim “Tomorrowland” isn’t necessarily a political film, but he does hope that audiences walk away with some sense of desire to contribute to a better future. Robertson echoed that sentiment: “I think it’s important for audiences when they see a movie like this to take that into consideration and maybe work it into their own life in trying to put forth actions that contribute to a more optimistic future.”

tomorrowland britt

But Bird knows that the Cinderella model — “a dream is a wish your hearts makes” — isn’t all it takes. “Dreaming is great and crucial, but dreaming is step one,” Bird said. “All the rest of the steps are putting the dream into motion and asking and deciding what future you want and making every decision drive towards that future.”

Whether or not you walk away from “Tomorrowland” feeling inspired with a sense of hope and activism, or simply dazzled by the visuals, it’s at least reassuring to see a major summer movie evading the usual dystopian cliches. “I don’t want to be holed in a house eating from a tin can of beans as zombies scrape at the door,” Lindof said. “I want to watch it, I don’t want to live it. So why not make one that has a future that I would want to live in?”

“Tomorrowland” is now playing in theaters.

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With Cloud Computing, Feds Should Swing for the Fences

Bryce Harper is hitting the cover off the ball for the Washington Nationals. He’s already hit more home runs this season than all of last season. For Harper, the sky’s the limit because he finally has reached his potential. But a few blocks away from Nationals Park, Federal IT managers aren’t quite in the swing of things.

The Congressional Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group’s new report on the state of cloud computing in the Federal government, “Don’t Be a Box Hugger,” sees both balls and strikes in Federal efforts to adopt cloud computing.

Cloud represents “a tremendous opportunity to dramatically transform how the Federal government manages, processes, and shares information,” writes U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) in his foreword of the report, available here.

Cloud promises financial savings, faster development, perpetual modernization, and more, by getting the government out of the risky business of buying computer technology. Instead, cloud allows it to lease both software and hardware, ensuring perpetual access to the latest program and hardware updates. Cloud allows agencies to tap into the unparalleled scale of huge commercial vendors, like Amazon and Microsoft, firms whose data storage capacity dwarfs that of even Uncle Sam, the world’s biggest IT consumer.

The Feds aren’t all alone in stepping to the plate on cloud transformation. Cloud represents the fastest-growing segment within the $4 trillion global IT market. Gartner predicts organizations will spend 4 percent of IT budgets on cloud computing, or $176 billion this year. But by 2017, that figure will soar to $240 billion, Gartner predicts.

Within the Federal government, cloud computing is advancing, but it’s more of curve ball than a fast ball today. The President’s budget request for Fiscal 2016 calls for an IT spending of $86.4 billion, of which an estimated $2.1 billion would pay for cloud computing solutions. That’s a little more than 2 percent of the IT budget.

Meanwhile, Federal agencies expect to spend nearly $60 billion on life support for legacy systems – the kinds of aging, labor-intensive solutions that cloud promises to make obsolete.

That, notes the Congressional Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group’s report, is where cloud’s greatest potential lies. It’s why Federal CIO Tony Scott says in the report, “If everyone does it, cloud could be huge.”

Too many box-huggers – those who don’t want to even look at cloud – and fence sitters – those dipping a toe into the cloud, but not yet ready to make a mainstream cloud transition. What’s needed are more cloud pioneers – those willing to drive to the plate.

What’s to be done?

The Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group identifies three central solutions in its report:

  • Tell the Truth: The White House should set and enforce deadlines as well as increase transparency on actual cloud spending. Squishy numbers make for squishy standards. But clear numbers will drive change
  • Change the Game: The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) – a government-wide cloud security standards initiative – has made good progress in certifying commercial and government Cloud Service Provider’s (CSP) offerings. But the FedRAMP program office is underfunded and resourced – meaning that a program designed to help cloud adoption may actually be unwittingly holding it back. Increased funding could help streamline cloud adoption, the report says
  • Think Bigger: Uncle Sam has already picked much of the low-hanging cloud fruit, like transitioning email and collaboration software. So now agencies need to identify where cloud solutions can help save money, speed development, improve services, and increase mission effectiveness.

Like Bryce Harper, who in his fourth Major League season now appears to be his generation’s Babe Ruth, cloud computing also has nearly limitless potential. But it’s up to Federal IT managers, leaders in Congress, and others to make sure they are swinging for the fences by putting cloud in their lineup.

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Want to Fend Off Cybercrooks? Wear Protection!

Every year at this time we anxiously await Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, hoping that this would be the year that all cybercrooks would disappear. But, as usual, our hopes have been stomped upon by the facts.

We’re all aware of the large-scale attacks against big companies, which have gotten big play in the media. But, the vulnerability for so-called small businesses is a shocking one in 2.2 chance that they will becomes victims. This, coupled with a slower reaction time of software companies to patch vulnerabilities and the rise in “trojanized software updates,” has made the waters of the Internet hazardous, at best.

Here are the numbers for 2014, as provided by Symantec:

  • It took software vendors an average of 59 days to create patches compared to four days in 2013
  • One-in-12 computer users were targeted by cybercrooks
  • One in 2.2 small businesses were targeted
  • Infected links were shared WILLINGLY via social media. In fact, 70 percent of all social media scams were unwittingly shared with “friends” on these sites

The folks at Symantec saw the biggest increase in attacks taking the form of “ransomware.” Simply put, ransomware is when a hacker gains access to files on a computer and encrypts them so they can no longer be read. The attacker then demands money from the computer user to decrypt the files. These attackers have been known to attach trojans to links to software updates or to programs downloaded via trusted websites.

According to the threat report, ransomware attacks grew by 113 percent in 2014 and 68 percent of the victims of these attacks paid the ransom, with no guarantee that their data would be set free.

But the real culprit here is the attitude of the average computer user and vendors to these businesses. The report shows that there’s an attitude of “we’re too small for anyone to bother us” that seems to be growing, with the result being that fewer of us are setting up defenses to thwart these attacks. This, of course, makes it easier for a hacker to gain access to email addresses, account numbers and other personal data.

Of course, there were a few major victims that lead to the theft of personal data for millions of people, Topping the list were healthcare companies and retail outlets.

According to the report, the healthcare breaches were caused by so-called “innocent” incidents ranging from lost or stolen laptops to the unauthorized downloading of software onto a company’s PC or Mac. But the scale of the attacks pales when compared to those launched against retail companies.

Retail data was the number one target of cyber crooks in 2014. In fact, 50 percent of all data stolen in 2014 was from retail companies’ computers – – – a whopping 11 percent of all incidents of reported data theft.

Much of this could have been avoided if the vendors and others had taken a few simple steps to protect their data.

Businesses need to:

  • Use advanced threat intelligence solutions to detect threats and respond faster to incidents
  • Enlist the help of a third-party security expert to manage crises
  • Establish guidelines for protecting data and regularly train employees on how to deal with cyber attacks

Consumers need to:

  • Use stronger passwords for accounts and devices without repeating passwords for multiple sites
  • Don’t click on unsolicited email or social media messages from unknown sources
  • Know what data you’re sharing when installing a new device such as a router or thermostat

Will we ever really be safe from hackers? Probably not. But we can go through an attitude change and realize that we, too, can become victims.

Attention Facebook users: Check out Michael Berman’s Jocgeek fan page or follow him on Twitter @jocgeek. You can also contact him via email or through his website.

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Code as a Second Language

On appearance, Kaira Villanueva seems to be an average sophomore student at Columbia University tracing her way through New York with a well-worn backpack, scratched-up MetroCard, and a youthful curiosity. Except she’s not typical. As a Latina computer science major, unfortunately, there is nothing common about her career path. And after being selected this year by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and Google to be part of the Code as a Second Language (CSL) initiative, she’s more of a Tech Action Hero.

Kaira and about a dozen other Latino programmers were tapped to be CSL Fellows to teach computer programming to Latino youth across the country – Kaira just finished instructing a class of high school girls in New York over an eight-session course using CS First curriculum to ensure there are more Kairas going forward. And more, Dantes. Dante Alvarado-Leon is a student at UC Berkeley that also wrapped up his CSL effort this week but across the country in an underserved school in San Jose. As America scrambles to find more programmers, it will take creative and resourceful approaches like the CSL initiative to empower more Tech Action Heroes like Kaira and Dante who are strategically leveraged to more effectively reach the imaginations of younger Latinos to join them in the dynamic but unfortunately exclusive tech space – a space which is desperate for programmers.

Yes, it doesn’t make sense to be desperate and exclusive at the same time but that’s exactly what the tech industry is. And the math just doesn’t add up … according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the next five years, 1.4 million new computer science jobs will need to be filled in the United States but currently in the pipeline are only about 400,000 CS students. At this time, there are over 500,000 vacant tech jobs. What is baffling is that nine out of 10 high schoolsdon’t offer coding classes and in 33 of 50 states, computer science classes aren’t counted as high school math or science graduation requirements (according to Code.org). That’s right, in most states computer science is treated more like a shop class instead of a math or science-based course. CS/technology is only one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields to decrease in student participation over the last two decades according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It’s no wonder that we’re so worried as a nation about competing globally.

And the long-term solution isn’t to search the globe for talent. (In about a week’s time, the H01B visa cap of 65,000 had been maxed out like a data plan on a very social teen’s phone.) Actually, the solution is right there here in the United States – in barrios, rural areas, urban areas, pretty much everywhere. To prove it, HHF hosted a LOFT (Latinos On Fast Track) Coder Summit at Stanford which attracted 500 registrants who were all programmers with half CS students and half professionals (40 percent were female). Participates broke down and cried about how overwhelmed they were to not be on the only Latino or Latina in a room of programmers. Kahttp://ift.tt/1Ka23H8ira and Dante were there and presented their innovative ideas along with about 15 other Latinos. We proved at the summit that a base of Latino programmers does exist and needs to be build upon and mobilized to grow the pool of talent, which is exactly what the CSL program is doing. We need to show Silicon Valley and the private and public sectors that a Latino programmer isn’t a brown unicorn carrying a keyboard!

However, leveraging the talent means tapping Kaira and Dante, providing them with platforms to inspire, introduce and teach younger Latinos about coding or to simply spark an interest in tech careers, or innovating to make a social impact, or learning a tool to express themselves better and be creative in today’s and tomorrow’s changing environment. This new wave of Latino innovators, tech workforce and entrepreneurs need to be added to the already burgeoning young Latino population to move America forward. America needs us.

And once again Latinos can fill the jobs our country needs us to fill. Latinos have always done what America has needed. Whether it was to build buildings, pick fruit, serve food or fight wars, we are a noble, hardworking and flexible workforce. And now we need to fill the gap in tech jobs. And as we have throughout history, we will come through.

But in order to do that we to be more resourceful, creative and actionable through programs like CSL, which just concluded in eight regions with visits to Google offices and the important connectivity to employee volunteers for mentoring and a vision of very cool jobs that they are now on track for (through CS First Curriculum it’s an opportunity for mentors, parents and teachers to also be Tech Action Heroes). It will take a collective effort between the private, public, education and nonprofit sectors to make an impact. This summer, HHF is working with Saber es Poder and the Mexican Government to bring CSL to the Mexican Consulates to provide our new arrivals that are on a pathway to residence and citizenship with a powerful value proposition for America. Immigrants are here to help to pay back the enormous debt we have to live in the United States. That’s the mindset. Our job is to collectively provide them with the tools and knowledge to fulfill that responsibility.

There needs to be a focus on Latino youth who currently represent nearly 25 percent of the student population. This is our future workforce of which 75 percent of new jobs will be filled by Latinos according to a report by IHS Economics. We need to make sure that a large portion of those new jobs being filled are in the tech industry. In the fall, CSL will start a year-round effort in up to 30 schools in Los Angeles alone through a partnership with community colleges.

And yes, going forward more Tech Action Heroes like Kaira and Dante will be deputized and empowered to meet our workforce challenges head on.

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Holychild Wants ‘Brat Pop’ To Save The World


It’s easy to stand out when you’re wearing a leather jacket covered in googly eyes and have jewels glued to your scalp. But Holychild frontwoman Liz Nistico was unbothered by the wandering eyes — googly or otherwise — at a Lower East Side coffee shop. Louie Diller, the other half of Holychild, sat beside her, in an oversized gold jacket affixed with angel wings. They were deep in conversation about lofty plans to move from Los Angeles to Mexico City, where they want to write and record their second album. Never mind that Holychild’s first full LP, “The Shape of Brat Pop To Come,” has yet to debut.

There’s a whole bunch of other things just about to happen for Nistico and Diller, who met in 2011 while they were students at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and formed Holychild soon after. They’re a few days away from going on tour with Passion Pit, have a couple weeks to go until their first summer festival season — they’ll play Governor’s Ball, Sweetlife and Lollapalooza — and are anticipating the release of a music video for new track “Money All Around.” The fact that their first single, “Running Behind,” was featured in the Apple Watch commercial is already old news.

Yet, Nistico and Diller are looking beyond all that, talking shop about Mexico City and why it’s the next best place for what they call a “nomadic lifestyle.”

“I really want to go someplace where I don’t know anybody and can be made uncomfortable,” Nistico said. “I like being made uncomfortable. I think the best art comes from being uncomfortable.”

Due out June 2, “The Shape of Brat Pop To Come” is Holychild’s shot at introducing the world to Brat Pop, the label they’ve given their music. “Brat Pop is essentially sarcastic pop music,” Nistico explained. “It’s really thick with social commentary. The things we’re talking about are gender roles and expectations.”

It’s half-performance art, half-saccharine Top 40 drenched in obvious symbols about feminism, class discrepancies and social constructions. “Dye your hair! Tan your skin! Liposuction’s really in! Adderall! Join the fall! Do it to be beautiful!” Nistico chants on the LP’s second track, “Nasty Girls.”

She writes most of the lyrics, while Diller heads up musical production. But together, they’re trying to say something. “The lyrics are like diary entries,” she said. “Just trying to make sense of this world we’re put in and find some universal truth.”

“I feel like our first EP, ‘Mindspeak,’ was feminist-driven,” Diller said. “But the album has a broader scope in terms of everything Liz just said.”

A few weeks later, Holychild took the stage at Brooklyn’s newly renovated Kings Theater. Backed by Diller’s brother on drums, multi-instrumentalist Sam Stewart (son of The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart) and two back-up singers, Nistico and Diller launched into an hour-long set,”bratty” as hell. But with a cavernous ceiling and seated ticketing, it’s an awkward venue in which to introduce Brat Pop to the masses. Half the seats remained empty and only a small crowd huddled in front of the stage.

That didn’t stop Holychild from trying to turn the venue into an all-out dance party with heavy percussion and electro-pop crescendos. But the reality was more talent show than warehouse rave. Halfway through the set, Nistico kicked off her shoes, commanded the crowd to clap and went full Gaga in her diva artistry. The thirst for pop stardom is real, and she’s not embarrassed to have it.

holychildA GIF from the “Money All Around” music video

The summer of Brat Pop continued when Holychild dropped the surrealist music video for “Money All Around.” “Watch, share, make people uncomfortable, challenge societal norms!” they tweeted.

In it, Nistico and Diller try to tackle nearly every big issue, mentioning everything from disordered eating to plagiarism. The duo dines at an expensive restaurant in Los Angeles as text reminiscent of VH1’s “Pop Up Video” plays throughout. Things like like “Liz felt ‘fat’ the day of the shoot and was self-conscious to wear the one-piece. She weighed 111 pounds” run across the screen. Rather than let fans figure out what exactly Holychild is trying to say, they hit you over the head with broad messages, leaving nothing open to interpretation.

“The meat on the table represents humans as lifeless objects,” reads one pop-up. Another says, “Holychild wanted to use older actors doing sexual acts to provoke conversations on ageism.” The video ends like a PSA on capitalism: “85 of the richest people in the world control $110 trillion or have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest. Money is meant to provoke thought on truth.”

“What we’re trying to do is accessible art that’s also not going to spoon feed you,” Nistico explained. Their message, though, is scattered. Think. Just think about anything, they seem to say. “There’s a really heavy lean in our music towards human equality and trying to figure out if that’s possible, human equality between genders and sexual orientations and classes and ultimately racism.”

“It’s almost like the way children’s shows are super fun and colorful,” Nistico continued. “They’re like, ‘Today we’re talking about sharing. Isn’t sharing amazing?’ These concepts can be fun. Pop jam 2015! But then it’s also like, ‘Fucking money!’ We’re trying to question the role of money in our culture. I feel like money doesn’t exist. It’s one of these weird ideas of a thing.”

“It really doesn’t,” Diller added.

“It’s around and somehow I’m eating food, so that’s cool,” Nistico said.

Holychild’s “Running Behind” featured in the first Apple Watch commercial

But, the ironic notion of Holychild’s hit single being used to sell Apple’s latest high-profile product, which is, in a way, the absolute symbol of money and power, is not lost on the band. “I think that a lot of the reason why people are connecting with our music right now is because it says something,” she said. “Apple using the song is a larger indicator of that. They were down with everything from hypocrisy in images to the feminist messages of Brat Pop. We’re in a very precarious place as a culture where indicators like that show that we can move forward.”

Holychild’s first album, “The Shape of Brat Pop To Come,” is due out June 2 via Glassnote Records.

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Damon Dash Responds To Jay Z’s ‘Stream Of Consciousness’ YouTube, Spotify Diss

Jay Z debuted his latest freestyle last weekend at the Tidal X: B-Sides show. In the freestyle called “Stream of Consciousness,” the business mogul defended his streaming service by flipping the dialogue and questioning consumers’ existing support of YouTube, Apple and Spotify.

The Grammy Award-winning rapper’s lyrics went on to garner the attention of many fans , including his former business partner, Damon Dash.

During an interview this week with Dr. Boyce Watkins, Dash –- who has previously expressed his own displeasure over the practices of corporate America taking advantage of artists — shared his thoughts on Jay’s decision to take aim at his new tech rivals.

“I know Jay, and as my experience with him, whatever’s winning is what he’s going to embrace,” he admitted during the interview. “So if bringing awareness to being robbed as a culture is what’s now in style… that’s what I wanted to happen… Of course, the timing of it may make it look like he’s doing it as a marketing plan, but good. Everything that he does is a marketing plan.”

“So if being independent is a marketing plan then that’s good,” Dash continued. “And bringing awareness to being robbed so he can make money is a marketing plan, as opposed to bringing awareness to selling drugs and shooting, or ‘I’m better than you because I have more money’… Like when the most commercial person is saying that – even though he’s talking about independence at the most commercial level – I still like that’s the mentality.”

Check out more of Damon Dash’s interview in the clip above.

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Wired Founders Are Still Optimistic About The Future Of Technology

The founders of Wired magazine — business and life partners Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rossetto — received a lifetime achievement award at the Webbys this week.

But rather than focus on the past, The Huffington Post caught up with them after the ceremony in New York Monday night to ask about how the world has changed since 1993, when Wired launched, and what they expect from the future.

How do you think the world has changed in terms of how people interact with technology and how they care about technology?

Louis Rossetto: It was a small community inventing the future almost in isolation from each other, and Wired helped unify that community. That community has now grown to all the people using this technology, all the ones who care about what’s the next thing. We used to say our mission was to roam across the horizon of time and come back with a fresh kill from the future. And that mission is still valid because everybody wants to know what’s coming next.

Jane Metcalfe: Well, I think everybody wanting to know what’s coming next is perhaps relatively new. I mean, when we launched back in the early ‘90s there were fewer people who kind of cared about what technology was doing, where it was going, and there was less focus on the future.

LR: I think everybody is living in the future now.

JM: Right, I mean, this is the future. When we started, the future was 2000 — the year 2000. [Laughs]

LR: I feel like all the stuff that we’re doing, things are preoccupying us — whether it’s genetics or whether its drones or whether it’s artificial intelligence or intelligence amplified or 3D printing or biomedicine — all of those things even 25 years ago were still, you know, science fiction.

wired magazine 1993
The first issue of Wired, dated March 1993
So, are you optimistic about where we’re going in technology and how the world is changing?

JM: I am wildly enthusiastic about what data is teaching us about ourselves as biological creatures. You know, like mapping the genome, mapping the brain, microbiome. It’s just redefining who we are as living beings. It’s not just our human cells, it’s our biome that goes along with it. So, I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be alive.

LR: In like a billion-mile-away perspective, it’s neither good nor bad. The universe just is. For humans, for this species at this moment, I think it’s a remarkable time. And personally, I think to be an entrepreneur, to be a participant in trying to shape this, we have to be optimistic. You have to. It’s just required on a CV that that is how you think about the future. That is how you think about the world, and that it’s gonna get better, that you are gonna help make it better.

I used to go around giving talks, and one of the things I said was, you have to think about owning, being responsible for the future, because if you don’t, if you just think that it’s a bad time and things are going to get worse, then they are. But if you really believe that you can make a difference and you want to make a better world for your children, then you can step up and actually make that happen. That sense of using the tools you have and technology, that sense is what makes the world better.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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