The Most Inspiring Tech Talk I've Ever Seen

I generally believe it’s more valuable to create new content than to simply point you to someone else’s, but this is the single most inspiring tech talk I’ve ever seen. Rather than a tour of the latest APIs or tools, Russ Olsen’s “To the Moon” is a heart-wrending telling of the incredible story of the first moon landing in 1969.

As it turns out, the moon landing was an incredible feat of science, engineering, and teamwork, overcoming many perils and obstacles along the way. Honestly, it tells like a piece of science fiction. In fact, it’s an incredible case for the argument that fact is stranger than fiction.

Watching this talk reminded me why I’m in STEM, but more importantly, that I’m here to make a difference. And why I’m attracted to healthcare technology – why make the next big mobile game when you could contribute meaningful improvements to human health, the foundation of our lives?

Still, no matter which science or engineering background you come from, watching this talk will send you away with a spring in your step, either energized to double down on the work that you’re doing, or jazzed up to seek out something more meaningful than the “it-pays-the-bills” work that you’re doing now.

So, please set aside an hour to watch this video, and, even more importantly, be sure to take a second afterwards to ask yourself:

  • “Is what I’m working on truly valuable for society?”
  • “Could I be challenging myself more?”
  • “How can I find true fulfillment in my work?”

Some people are happy to spend their lives writing code for Goldman Sachs or Deutsche Bank. But I urge you to watch this talk and ask yourself the hard questions before you spend your entire life as a company man.

You see, I suspect that there’s a fire burning within you, one that won’t be quenched by making incremental tweaks to a huge, already-working system that only affects our lives in a highly abstract way. No, I think that you might want to be a bit closer to the action, a bit closer to the reality that we all live in each day.

In short, I challenge you to seek out the meaningful stuff. The hard stuff. The stuff that will inspire young kids to grow up one day and do the impossible.

“You see, I’m familiar with the impossible. I saw it done on TV when I was a kid.” - Russ Olsen


Russ Olsen is VP of Consulting Services at Cognitect

He originally gave this talk at at Clojure Conj 2013, but I prefer this performance, given at GOTO Aarhus 2014.

Written on November 15, 2015

David Kay has dedicated his life to the advancement of the technological singularity. When not working to change the future of software development, he enjoys meditation, rollerblading, and jazz piano. If you found this article helpful, join his weekly newsletter.