This article was written by Sparsh Jain, Intern at Rewired – Summer 2018
Everyone has that career that they dream about but know too well not to go into. For most boys it’s becoming a footballer or an astronaut. I always wanted to be a politician. I think it first sprung from my history lessons in year 10, when I studied the Russian and Chinese revolutions. It only now occurs to me that that was a very basic course and that those details that make history so difficult to judge were probably left out in favour of a nice, simple narrative. But back when I studied them, I only remember my awe at men like Gustav Stresemann and Deng Xiaoping who came into power and seemingly reformed an entire country from rags to riches. These were stories about men with visions of prosperous societies who single-handedly transformed their reality into those dreams. Those lessons left me with the belief that only politicians could truly help the most disadvantaged in society and only they could push society into a better direction.
But the more I read the news, the more I realised just how oversimplified those history lessons really were. I was flabbergasted to discover that all politicians are not incorruptible saints with a keen sensitivity to the plights of the poor. I was also surprised to see that politics was not as good at getting things done quickly and efficiently as I thought. While there are still many politicians whom I look up to and am inspired by, I began to realise that politics isn’t the only means for me to impact my surrounding and the world.
Around this point I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. I felt stuck and I didn’t know what to do. I think one reason I never managed to get over politics was because the next best thing – business – never felt like an option. I hypothesise 4 reasons for this:
I. Perhaps I may have been misled by some of the political voices in my history lessons that stigmatize businesspeople. I recall thinking that they were materialistic and corrupt. At my worst, I may have even tossed the word bourgeoisie around.
II. Perhaps it is because my dad is a businessman and no teenager wants to do what his dad does.
III. Perhaps I really wanted to be an intellectual and thought the way to do this was to complain about the status quo and those who are part of it – i.e. businessmen – without having a real understanding of it or offering any solutions. 5 years later, a very wise man would come to tell me that the technical term for that is “intellectual masturbation”.
IV. Perhaps, and this is the most realistic one, I had become a victim to the information overload which seems to be causing people to see the bad side of everything. Though the news industry business model encourages sensational headlines, editorials titled “Is capitalism broken?”, “Was Marx right?” and “Is Jeff Bezos evil?’ were hardly helpful in understanding the state of the world as it really is.
For a long time, there was only one question on my mind,“who creates change?” One of the most exciting answers came from my experiences at Rewired, a robotics-focused venture capital firm. Rewired exposed me to a whole new world that I had never really seen before: the world of technology and innovation. One of my favourite quotes I’ve picked up at Rewired is “follow the trendlines, not the headlines” . It means that though newspapers make it seem like the world is ending, we should never forget how much progress we have truly made. This idea encapsulates what drives Rewired: the belief that every hurdle can be jumped, every limit can be surpassed and every problem can be solved.
This optimism is based on the idea that innovation, just like politics, can create meaningful change. Great inventions have the same effect that great policy has: they democratise opportunities and resources, spread information, empower people and solve problems. Perhaps the allure of politics comes down to the fact that politicians can show off a fancy new bill implementing a powerfully worded law, whereas powerful inventions quietly assimilate into our everyday lives. An interesting example is the washing machine. Ha Joon Chang, economist at the University of Cambridge, claims that in the same vein as feminist legislation, the washing machine liberated women from household work and helped to abolish many domestic services, leading to more women joining the workforce and gaining financial freedom. Innovation at its core gives people the freedom to dream big and the tools to execute.
To clarify, I wasn’t a militant Marxist before coming to Rewired, nor have I launched 25 startups since I’ve left. What I did gain from Rewired was a glimpse of a world where entrepreneurs are busy solving problems and working on creating an exciting future. A few years ago, I asked my dad why he always skipped the politics section and went straight to the business section in the news. He told me it’s because the politics section is always depressing and he doesn’t need more stress, whereas the business section is the one page that celebrates things that are fresh, exciting and, most importantly, hopeful. I’m beginning to see what he meant.
Posted on: June 15, 2018