Saturday, September 12, 2009

GPS: What is success?

We have recently started a little study group for our university students, borrowing the name GPS, which, for us, stands for Goal Positioning System.

Yesterday we discussed four (sets of) people in our field - information technology.

Steve Jobs, who founded Apple Computer, created the Macintosh, founded NEXT Computer, created Pixar, rescued Apple, then brought out iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, ... He has been extremely creative and successful. Yet also had some difficulties in his personal life and relationships.

Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft, which grew to become the behemoth that it is today. He has become one of the richest man on earth; and has donated huge amounts of money to charities and research organizations. He has been hated because of Microsoft, and admired for his charity work.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who quitted graduate studies at Stanford to found Google. Which has become just as successful as, if not more so than, Microsoft. It has also been surprising and consistently creative, and almost universally admired. It has developed a business model through which it has been able to provide hugely popular free service, while being hugely profitable through advertising.

Nicholas Negroponte, founded of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. And also the founder of the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) Association. He took a big risk in trying to create an inexpensive personal computer for the children of under-developed communities. Many consider the OLPC to be a failure because it is not as inexpensive as expected, and not a very large number was made. Yet it is a noble cause and the OLPC did stimulate computer manufacturers to come up with much cheaper personal computers.

We felt success means not only achievements in technology, knowledge, creativity, wealth, power and influence. But also in making life better for other human beings. In the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 8, verse 36, it says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Indeed.


Anonymous said...

But aren't there too many people forgetting about their souls in the search for power, status and money? How frequent do we hear about "noble cause" or "righteousness"? or "integrity" or "decency"? I am glad in the midst of all absurdity, I know what constitutes perennial joy - the serenity of mind for doing things that God approves. Ann

StephenC said...

That's what we try to teach our students. Education should be more than doing well in academics. Unfortunately, there is very little of that in classrooms. And we have to do that outside of the classroom. Even then, it is not often appreciated by the administration. We do that anyway, because of our convictions - despite the attitude of administration.