Last night I had the pleasure of attending the 7th annual Mortimer Spinks Technology event. Let me just say, as someone immersed in the tech community – this was an event worth going to. I sat in the production booth, almost like Soshanna did in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious B*sterds, but the fire this time was provided by the speakers and not the producer…
Bethany Koby, CEO / Co-Founder of ‘Tech Will Save Us’ opened the show with her keynote speech, and it’s safe to say the room full of 200 people were all in absolute awe of her business, actually to call it a business doesn’t feel right, we were in awe of her mission. She spoke in great detail about enabling all children to create, shape and invent the world around them, to quote Bethany ‘creativity is not just imagination, but also the application of skills to full realise their idea’. This is what led her to developing and founding her busin----, sorry, mission, which is centred around technology-drenched children’s toys.
The story Bethany then told us blew my socks right off. She spoke of her ‘Creative Coder’ toolkit, whereby the kids use tech in their toys to create something bigger, something better and something truly mind-blowing. One whippersnapper, aged 8 years old, had the idea for a game that after 2 minutes of play would turn something red – almost like an alarm system, a ‘hot potato game’ of sorts. If that isn’t cool enough, I am only just getting started… He then took his game idea and opened it up to his peers (who are all of a similar age), who share a safe platform provided by Tech Will Save Us. They gave him in-depth and insightful feedback, *welp* I just think about what I was doing at 8, it wasn’t creating a game, I wasn’t giving advice to friends, I was just staring at Dennis Bergkamp with glossed over eyes.
Anyway, his peer group then inspired him to do something EVEN MORE AMAZING. The boy’s mother did not believe that he was brushing his teeth for the recommended 2-minute timeframe, so with the code he made, the programming he installed, the game he created and the ammunition of good ideas from his peers, her set about using his, yes HIS, technology to enable his toothbrush to flash rainbow colours upon 2 minutes of brushing. Eat that, Mum! The whole room was in total amazement of this story. Bethany spoke of the importance of merging play and learning and giving ‘play’ a purpose and ended her keynote speech by highlighting that ‘children need the tools, skills and resources to shape their future’, because after all, children are the fu----, no, Kids Will Save Us!
There was then an expert panel that featured some wonderful speakers, but this blog has a theme and it’s largely a 26-year-old being wowed by children’s sheer excellence with technology. Which leads me nicely to the end of the event, which was closed by Kari Lawler, a 15-year-old entrepreneur who founded an AI consultancy as well as Youth4AI – an organisation that addresses AI-naysayers and disproves their ‘Skynet’ fears. I’m an ambassador of ‘Tech For Good’ and it really does dampen my mood when I see the media scaremongering around technology, so imagine my absolute joy when I find out a 15 year old is righting them wrongs.
Kari dropped out of school to pursue her technology dreams, she spoke about being an accelerated learner and that school wasn’t challenging enough for her, so she left school and submerged herself in a new passion – technology, and more specifically AI. In a small space of time, Kari created her own version of Amazon’s Alexa, ‘Infinity’. This was all when she was circa 13 - *enter your own blasphemous phrase here*. She spoke about pivoting her business… which may have just been a fairly through away comment, but I watch HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ and they (I know it’s a fictitious TV show but hear me out) could not successfully pivot. They lost sight of their goal, were out-Alpha’d by a new CEO and ended up back at square one. This has not happened to Kari, and from the way she presented and spoke, this will never happen to her. To be aware enough to realise you need to pivot is arguably as important as the ability to successfully pivot, Kari did this age 14 - *insert your own shocking sweary phrase here*.
I could ramble on and on about Kari’s sheer brilliance, but I’m probably going to turn into much of a ‘fan boy’ if I do. She ended her speech, and the event, with a mantra that only a bright-eyed, young, entrepreneur could pull off: “learn and fail, accept advice, find ways around your obstacles and don’t let anything get in the way of your dreams.” Mic drop, standing ovation from me in the production booth.
We know children are the future, but it’s frighteningly exciting just how amazing some of them are. If only I could go back to the 10-year-old Jack Pearce and say ‘you won’t play for Arsenal FC, get coding now’…