Imagination is more important than knowledge -Albert einstein
Majority of successful entrepreneurs say they are influenced by fantasy tales and science fiction. I found this to be particularly intriguing. Consider one Peter Thiel (Paypal, Founders Fund, Palantir). Peter is influenced so much by J.R.R Tolkien book, The Lord of The Rings such that majority of his work mirrors the fictional story. Palantir is named after mythical ‘seeing stones’ from The Lord of the Rings. He also has named other ventures based on characters of the book- Rivendell One LLC and Lembas LLC. Other such as Valar Ventures and Mithril Capital derive their names from the Lord of the Rings universe. It’s not just the naming of the companies but also influencing the work culture. For example, Palantir, from The Lord of Rings is about an all powerful magical artifact that can be able to see what is happening on the other side of the world. Palantir, the company’s mission is to use big data analysis with the aim of making predictive insights for organizations and government agencies like intelligence agencies. Palantir even has annual gatherings called ‘Hobitcon’. Their headquarters in Palo Alto has a nickname “The Shire” (home of hobbits). Hobbits are the essential part of The Lord of the rings saga.
the Palantir, seen here as used by wizard Saruman in the Lord of the rings in the film adaptation of ‘The fellowship of the Ring’. source:wikipedia
Elon Musk also says that he was highly influenced by J.R.R Tolkien- The Lord of the rings. Elon says that in his childhood, he was highly influenced by fantasy and science fiction. The heroes in such type of books always felt the need to save the world. This influenced Musk and others to develop such tendencies- founding companies that ‘help save the world’. If you follow closely stories by major Silicon Valley honchos, you will hear some line like ‘our company’s mission is to help the world become better’. They try to mythologize their companies just as in fantasy and science fiction stories. Whether this is by design or not i don’t know. But i guess, it is the case in each industry.
Indeed, fantasy is said to play an important role in development of the brain. This article by Guardian explains that, fantasy stories help human to fill the gap between reality, knowledge and experience. Fantasy and fiction have a more powerful way of teaching us lessons in a more subtle way than other publications. Another thing with fantasy literature is that it has themes that the reader has to decipher the meaning. They make you to think and reflect upon a character and what you would do in a similar situation. There are different characters in such stories and they have diverse abilities. It is upon the reader to choose what they want to associate with. Fantasy builds curiosity. The thing with fantasy stories is that they free of misconception and limitations of this world. They don’t try to put you in a box. You build what you want without the thought that you could fail. One of the famous quotes from J.R.R Tolkien is “If more of us valued food, cheer and song, above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. All we have to do is decide what to do with the amount of time given to us“.
In Africa we have Afrofuturism. But i’m sure not ,many of us are aware of some of the works in that area. We should spur more concepts of Afrofuturism throughout Africa. It will inspire the next generation of creators, innovators and because it’s just fun, relatable and inspiring. For example, the intergalactic fictional saga, star wars is worth more than $40bn. Its not just the box office numbers but a whole franchise of toys, video games, comic books, animated TV series and merchandise. USA might have the financial muscle and audience willing to pay for all that, but it did not begin yesterday. It’s a culmination of years of interest and building of characters and stories. Marvel and DC comics started way back in the 1950s. Star wars was launched in 1977 and was initially a big failure. But my focus is not just on financial windfall but impact of people’s way of thinking, pop culture and all. It’s very easy to hear someone quote a star wars, avengers, harry potter or James Bond reference in politics, or any aspect of real life. In Africa we have plenty magic, space travel, fictional universes, you name it.