Thursday, March 17, 2011

If you’re smart, stay in school. Please.

Hey kids, there’s a lot of shady characters these days giving bad advice that you should quit college and jump right into the startup game. They tell you you’ll learn a lot more that way. They tell you you’ll earn a lot more that way. They say you’ll be the next Gates or Jobs or Zuckerberg, none of whom finished college.

Don’t listen to them. The world needs yet another internet startup like it needs, um…, the five hundred internet startups that probably launched today before breakfast.

It’s true, what they say, that you’ll learn nothing in college applicable to creating the next Facebook or Twitter or Youtube. Those internet services are just computer software. Computer software is relatively easy. It should be no surprise when 12-year-olds write great software, because there’s nothing taught past sixth grade that is applicable to writing software, creating web pages, linking them to databases, and creating the next Facebook. So if you’re going to skip college to be a software entrepreneur then you may as well skip high school and middle school too.

Do you know which people fundamentally made the latest batch of internet services possible? Two, among many, are Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg, who won the Nobel prize for the quantum mechanical magnetoresistance effect, the discovery of which led to our ability to store huge amounts of data, which led to internet services economically storing a zillion useless photos, movies, and tweets. Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg are really smart. They changed the world in ways we’ve only begun to understand. They didn’t quit school to form a startup.

If you’re really smart, please don’t quit school. The world needs you to stay in school, study study study, and prepare yourself to change the world in ways that we really need change. Because we really need change.

Study biology, so you can understand how our bodies work and prevent diseases in future generations.

Or study physics and chemistry, so you can provide the future with clean and safe energy breakthroughs.

Or study psychology, and figure out why we think we need to use so much energy in the first place.

Or study history and sociology and politics, and figure out why we humans are so messed up that society after society are compelled to live beyond their means and, again and again, collapse in disease, famines, and war, so that maybe this times things can be different.

But don’t quit school and do a startup.

If you’re smart, stay in school. Please.


  1. the most accurate assessment of humanity I have read in a long time..

  2. If you stay in school long enough, then you will also be able to work out a balance sheet, and then you will be able to tell that Facebook exists because people are willing to give them other people's money on the hope that after burning through all of that money, magically, in 10 years they will find a way into a business plan, and then make a profit...

    Thanks for being a voice of reason.