My father and silicon valley

I spent the last months with my father who visited me here in Silicon Valley. The story of my father in the Silicon Valley is a story of misunderstandings in technology, anachronism and family bonds.

The man in the picture above is not my father. That’s important to point out, because my father — especially since he is on his own — has turned his back on technology. Completely. I only learned what that really means when I spent the past few weeks with him. Technology, as he sees it has torn apart his family. He wouldn’t touch any new technological device, unless he really had to. And let’s not even start with the internet. Long story short: You won’t find any pictures of my father on the www — especially not holding a smartphone.

He wouldn’t touch any new technological device, unless he really had to.

That said, you can imagine the odd situation of taking my father on a tour through San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Although I have to admit that he tried his best in being positive about the things that surround me and my family and are my life now. You can tell that despite all his effort, deep inside he felt strongly torn apart. Although after all these years I felt the urge to finally show him what I’ve done the last couple of years, where the two of us were separated from each other’s lives. I want him to understand what’s fascinating me the most about it and why I so passionately love what I do. Because technology can change lives, it can change society and our world. It isn’t there for its own sake but in the best case tackles important topics and faces future challenges.

Technology can change lives, it can change society and our world. It isn’t there for its own sake but in the best case tackles important topics and faces future challenges.

Only when you’re forced to face it actively, you realize how technology and innovation has changed our lives dramatically over the last couple of years. Everything is connected and smart. Working at Bosch I know about electro mobility, driving assistance systems and automated driving, because working as a technology partner for many car companies such as Tesla or Faraday Future, these things are exciting for me, yes definitely, but they are every day business. When told about driverless cars, my father says that this reminds him of this “crappy science fiction movies, taking place long after I’ve kicked the bucket”. That’s when I decided to confront him actively with what I’m doing. I wanted him to realize that topics like electro-mobility, automated driving and the share-economy aren’t just pieces of innovation for the sake of it but that they actually intend to solve bigger societal issues and face the challenges of tomorrow.

Having been in the valley and San Francisco since December now, my father slowly realized that people seemingly soullessly gazing at their smartphone screens isn’t the leitmotif of the technological narrative. It’s a symptom that — and I agree with him big times here — needs to be tackled.

But sharing our everyday life with him has made my father understand that my family and I haven’t been sucked in by something evil that has taken possession of us. He has started to understand why technology is necessary and that technological innovation is mainly driven by good intentions.

‘Robot’ stands for something that he only knows from science-fiction movies

On one of our strolls, we passed the company where I currently work, Mayfield Robotics. I talked about new connections and topics like the internet of things and self-driving cars. I got the feeling he was doing his best to understand what I was saying. I went on to new perspectives like the smart city and connected mobility, which seemed to interest him as well. But entering these totally new worlds also scared him. ‘Robot’ stands for something that he only knows from science-fiction movies …

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My learnings so far:

I think my father and I have learned a lot over the last months: about different views and filter bubbles, about family, love, loss, and most importantly about us. I’m really happy that he’s here, that we are able to spend time together and get to know each other better. But I also realized that there are different realities and that there’s no right or wrong. I pushed him too much I guess, because I really wanted him to understand or even be as passionate about the stuff, I’m passionate about.

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