Hop on the rug with us…and get to know how tech entrepreneur and writer Amit Gupta lives life well.
Science fiction, for many, is a realm filled with dystopian landscapes and doomsday futures. Some of the most well-known movies and books are built on this pessimistic outlook of what’s to come. But for Amit Gupta, the genre holds the ability to imagine so much more for our world – and the future itself. The entrepreneur and writer – and occasional investor – prefers to see within science-fiction, the realm of potential good instead.
“I read a lot of science fiction as a kid,” he says. “And I think subconsciously, and probably consciously to some extent, it influenced the work I ended up doing in my career and the things I was excited about, and it shaped the way that I saw the world.” Gupta, a nomadic soul who’s currently based in Hawaii, has spent his career looking at ways technology can improve our lives, through investing in, and starting up, his own companies.
After he sold his last company, Photojojo, he had the opportunity to take a time out. At first, he didn’t know what to do with that time, but eventually found his way to writing, and a return to science-fiction, through coming up with short stories.
Journey to the center
“I had always loved reading and I was a strong writer, but I'd never written fiction before, and it felt like an entirely new muscle to flex,” he says. “It was pretty hard. It still is very hard. And I think for most professional writers, it's hard, but it felt like an opportunity to create some of the things that I had loved so much growing up, and even today, that has given me different ways to see the world and to imagine the future.”
As a youngster, Gupta read a wide range of science-fiction, from Isaac Asimov to Andy Weir, devouring whatever he could get his hands on. “As a genre, especially back then, in the golden age of science-fiction and even the years to follow, there’s a very deep-seated optimism in a lot of that science-fiction, even though the worlds are complicated and the characters are complicated, I think there's still this sense that technology could make the world better,” he says.
It’s what attracted him to the genre in the first place, and, together with seeing his uncle build things as an engineer, spurred his desire to want to create and invent. The feeling was the opposite when he came across the other kind of sci-fi. “I also read a lot of dystopian sci-fi but I find it more draining,” he adds. “I find myself less kind of excited to face the world and the problems in it after I read those things.”
Gupta’s passion for technology that improves lives has only expanded as his career has progressed, and it’s a belief he’s sought to share: that what we believe technology can do, it will.
“As a society, I feel like we look at the negative so often that it doesn't need more gazing upon,” he says. “Obviously, technology has a lot of negatives, but I think it's ultimately a neutral thing. Technology in the right hands can be a really beautiful life-saving thing, and in the wrong hands can be something really terrible.”
Brave new world
Gupta knows this firsthand. After all, technology did help save his life. In 2011, he was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. “In the hospital, I had a stem cell transplant from a donor that was very gracious to allow me to have his stem cells, and across that process, there are thousands of technologies, millions of technologies and innovations, that are the sole reason that I'm here today,” he says. “It certainly wouldn't have been possible without medical science.”
He sees the potential for technology to help enhance life in other ways, even if it’s not on as significant a scale. His latest company, Sudowrite, is fueled by this aim. It uses AI to help writers that may be stuck get unstuck, by offering prompts. “We see a future where technology can help take away a lot of the drudgery of creative work,” he says. “Our hope is that in the future, we all have an AI collaborative buddy sitting next to us, virtually, who can help us be more creative, and to stay in flow, and to tell the stories that we truly want to tell.”
That’s at least what Gupta envisioned when he got the idea for the company during a bout of his own writer’s block. But he doesn’t think AI will completely take over; he’s sure it won’t replace the creative work that we as humans are capable of. “Work that’s more challenging, but also more fun and more engrossing and more rewarding,” he says. “But with any new technology, I think there's a transition period where people are having to learn new things so that's probably going to happen here, too.”
And whatever the future brings, there’s nothing that can replace good old-fashioned hard work. “When I’m at my best, writing is a daily ritual,” says Gupta. “15 minutes or 500 words, it’s a pattern of doing it over and over that leads me to do more.” In the here and now, or in the time to come, that remains the best way to imagine – and create – an optimistic future.
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