Computers are taking over more and more thinking jobs and becoming more like brains, but there’s no need to fear that our machines will ever turn on or replace humans, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told a room of 2,100 travel agents and suppliers on Monday. “The equipment we build is always going to be built to help us.”
In a 45-minute exchange with Ninan Chacko, CTC, CEO of Travel Leaders Group at the Travel Leaders Network International Conference in Orlando, Wozniak reflected on the lessons learned from his life designing computers, weighing in on everything from the future of computing to the value of hard work and what it means to be human.
Wozniak, who is self-taught, recalled designing increasingly complex science projects in grade school. By high school, he was spending every weekend shut in his bedroom trying to figure out how to design a computer. “I fell in love with it in 5th grade. My motivation was the fun,” he said.
Remembering the first time he handwrote a note to himself on Apple’s first touchscreen MessagePad, he said, “That would change my life forever. I wanted to have the machine understand me and have a computer system that was more like a human being,” he said.
Wozniak, who designed Apple’s first products, the Apple I and Apple II computers, said, “It was really the social goal, the social benefit, that drove me––how to build a useful computer that was affordable.”
Here are a few nuggets from Wozniak’s comments.
- On applying yourself to work you love: Wozniak designed the Apple II computer before he could even afford a computer himself. “I handwrote the entire thing, the program on one side of the page, and the 1s and 0s on the other side of the page. To put yourself so deeply into something that is all yours, your creation, that’s when it turns out excellent, especially if you appreciate simplicity and elegance.”
- On the innovation process: “Generally I would have a goal and I would know how to take the lumber and build up to that goal. That doesn’t mean everything I did was worth money, but they were learning steps. Now the next time I want to create something out of nothing, and it’s just a dream, now you have a starting point, and you get better and better as you go through life.”
- On machines outsmarting humans: “Computers can be taught to learn faster than a human. But learning is not intelligence. Does a machine ever say, ‘Hmm, what are the problems of the world? What’s something I would like to challenge myself on today?’ No. Only humans do that. I think the equipment we build is always going to be built to help us. I don’t fear artificial intelligence.”
- On what’s ahead in computing: “Machines getting more powerful isn’t the important thing anymore. We’re kind of at the limit of that. We have to work on software assistance, understanding humans, being more like a human––being more helpful in the right ways is the future.”
- On finding solutions: “When I fall asleep and wake up, my mind is in a very receptive state to new thoughts. When I was young, I’d go to sleep thinking about a computer or math problem, deeply, deeply, and I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a solution. Sometimes the solutions were worthless, sometimes they were good.”
- On what matters: “The important thing in life is how happy you are and feelings. Don’t argue with people. You can have one opinion and someone else can have another, and you’re both good people, just different,” a comment that drew applause
- On regret and blame. “If my car gets scratched, I just say, ‘Cars get scratched.’ You don’t blame other people. You just say what is the constructive path and get on the path moving forward. All this time we waste blaming other people is not productive.”
- On his 200-plus IQ: “Maybe once I had it. The only type of genius I am now is making people think I’m a genius.”