ID 112078275 © Nuthawut Somsuk | Dreamstime.com
I was raised pretty poor in Los Angeles by a single mother with disabilities in a three hundred square foot, converted motel room. Every year, around New Year’s, my mother would take money from her welfare check and begin making deposits on a layaway program at the local toy store, so that a year later — by Christmas –my sister and I could open about twenty new toys each. My sister and I couldn’t produce the amount of gifts that my mom gave, so we learned to make things like poems, sculptures, collages, and paintings, and we would wrap them up as best we could to give to her. My mom would make such a big deal about each one, which would boost up our confidence and our creative ability. It was because of this poverty that we learned to be really creative.
It was the Cold War era, so as a child I used to think about the future and how there were two paths the world could go down — the Scary Path (the Armageddon path) or The Fun Path, as I called them. Because of how I was raised, I had over-sized creative muscles in my brain. It became so clear to me that if I wanted the world to go down the Fun Path, solving problems were big puzzles and I had to crack the code, hack the system, and be creative to make an impact.
A sense of anxiety in me made it clear that I wanted to create change — but it had to be big change. Now.
In 1994 I started Irwin Naturals and immediately started applying my unusual, creative way of doing things (usually what others were not doing) in order to get to my goals. Always trying to crack the code with innovative methods.
But after running the business for 15 years, something changed in my heart very abruptly. It started when I took my daughter for her tenth birthday on a flight to escape Earth’s gravity. We rode in a hollowed out airliner that did fifteen parabolas where for thirty seconds we had zero gravity, and from there I gained a new perspective. On that flight I met Peter Diamandis, who at that time wanted to start Singularity University. It would be a place that would study the convergence of strong AI, genetics, nano-technology and robotics — basically any technology riding the exponential growth of the expansion of our digital capability specifically to solve the world’s grand challenges. An institute set up not for profit but to tackle worldwide problems like global warming and malnutrition. I was fortunate enough to get together at NASA Ames Research Center with a small group of inspirational problem solvers including Google co-founder, Larry Page. All of these powerful, important people were coming together trying to create change, and I felt sort of underwater, where I had been building a business for fifteen years but not thinking beyond that. Listening to these people talking about changing the world reminded me of my childhood thoughts about the big issues, the giant missions and the idea of steering the evolution of our global society from what sometimes seems like we’re going down The Scary Path, back onto to The Fun Path.
Shortly after that I made the decision to quit my role in business. I decided I was not going to spend my time working at Irwin Naturals anymore, but to spend the rest of my life trying to create global impact, with no focus whatsoever on making money. I wanted to do that by focusing on perhaps the most important puzzle of the universe that could lead to extremely high-impact solutions for the entire planet — discovering what the substructure of nature is and a theory of everything. A unification theory that underlies all of technology and all of reality itself has got to be the biggest cypher or key to solve the ultimate puzzle. So I created Quantum Gravity Research, where I work with about fifteen to twenty PhD mathematicians and physicists working on this outside-the-box approach to unification physics that we call emergence theory.
It’s kind of crazy, what we’re working on. It’s a competing theory to string theory, but with very fresh mathematic ideas — and hopefully it’s crazy enough to crack the code and steer us onto the Fun Path — permanently.