My 50th birthday - Second letter to a small friend

Dear small Marcus,

two years ago I wrote to you the first time. You did not know me back then, but I knew you. Now you remember? Today is my 50th birthday and for you - in many years from now - it will be your 50th birthday too. Exactly the same one. I am the person, you are going to become.

Last time I wrote, I was still working and living in China. But since then, a lot changed. We have been leaving China in November 2014 and travelled the world for a year. You might ask yourself who are "we"? It is my wife Feibai and I. I thought, you might be interested who she is. But for you, she is not even born yet. She will be in Jiangsu Province (China) in 1984. Now you are just entering primary school yet and it is 1972. Yes, she is very smart and beautiful. But I leave that to find out for yourself. Okay?

We left China, because we have been there for really long, and it was time to see something new. Also, it is very polluted and we were afraid this could effect our health. So, I hit the road as a visiting professor traveling to many Universities around the world. It was very exciting. But I don't want to spoil it for you, by telling too much. You will see. Now we are in Malta, and decided to stay a little longer. It is a very nice place, and after a year of travel it is also time not to live out of the suitcase. In your time, Malta has just turned independent, and Dom Mintoff was just negotiating a deal with the United Kingdom and Libya to build a future for this small county. Your primary school does not have a library, and there is no Internet. But do have a look where ever you find information. It is interesting. I know, it does not make sense to ask your teachers, because they are complete idiots. Sorry to tell you that, when you just enter school and have 13 years to go. University will be great though. As of Malta, let me tell you so much for now: It does not look to good in 1972, but don't worry, it will be fine.

You with a "Schultuete" on your first day in school (1972).

You with a "Schultuete" on your first day in school (1972).

I found a few of your books, TV series and toys, and attach some pictures to this letter below. Today, people at your age already have small calculators which have digital radio connections to a network of larger calculators. Digital is a way of electronic signaling by binary number which are represented as 1 and 0, meaning there either is an electric current or non. That sounds very impractical to you, I know. It will need semiconductors first and they need to become small and integrated on a so-called chip. Then it makes sense and becomes feasible. Today these chips are very cheap. And you know why? Because there are many people who want these small radio computers. They call them smart phones, or tablet computers. Now you might think that these people must be very intelligent. But it is just the opposite. Sometimes children of your age are already zombies, only staring on their devices. It is a bit like Television (TV) back in your time. You can use it for interesting things, or you can turn yourself into a "retard". Now, don't despise the zombies too early. We need them, because they are many, and their money drives the whole technical development in this area. For example, soon you will see colored TV Sets. Great! But for people like us nobody would build anything like this, because we are only a small niche market. So, the zombies are making the bulk demand, and only because of them you will see many great innovations in the future. It is like an "Idiot based R&D Crowd Financing". You will know what I mean in a few decades. The electronic calculators are now so powerful, that they can process picture and even movies. They are called "computers", and they are really fun machines. In some ways they are even better than people. That's why some boring jobs are disappearing. That's great, because then people can do more interesting things. But we have to ask ourselves, how we distribute the income made by these machines. That's going to be as interesting as the machines themselves.

So, there are exciting times to come, and you will see the whole development. In 1982 you will send your first electronic message, by saving it on a magnetic disk from one calculator and reading it from the same shared device from another computer. Today they call it electronic mail (or short "e-mail"). There is even a radio operated electronic telegram service which is called "Short Message Service" (or short "SMS"). This became so popular that after 160 years of service the Indian Telegraph Services close down in 2013. And even SMS is already challenged by WhatsApp and WeChat.

I know you will be disappointed, we did not fly to Mars yet. Part of the reason is, because we got distracted by all the small stuff we have now. And flying to Mars does not have "Idiot based R&D Crowd Financing". But we are working on it. Just takes a bit longer.

Let me close my letter with best wishes from Malta. Have a good time (I know you will).

Even we will never meet, let's stay in touch,


My 48th Birthday - Letter to a small friend

Dear small Marcus,

let me guess: you are around 5 years old, and you are strolling around the backyard of a traveling circus to see the exotic animals? You are just learning that tigers don't eat grass (but hands). You don't have money for a ticket to see the show. But I am sure you will find a gap under the circus tent to watch it for free.

You don't know me. But I know you. Today I turned 48 and I am living and working in China. I am the person you are going to become.

Soon you will go to school. It will be okay. As a teenager you will think, you are clever. But you are not. You will join the German army during the end of the Cold War. You will even go to jail. People will live, love, hate and die. And again, it will be okay. What else? There are some big changes coming: The Soviet Union will collapse, Communism will defeated itself, and Germany will be unified. You will see the part of your family again, which was separated from you by The Iron Curtain before you were born. And you will feel very strange about them. Never mind. You will have wonderful University years, become a scientist, do interesting work with extraordinary people in different industries all over the world. It will be great.

Some things will really not be as you think. For example we don't fly to Mars and we will also don't have nuclear fusion. We still drive around in the same old cars, where they make little explosions in cylinders to drive the pistons up and down. Stoneage! Many people will still go to bed hungry. Far too many. But don't be disappointed. On the other hand, today, many diseases will be defeated or become curable. We will decode the human genome - wow! And we also will have Facebook and mobile phones, even you won't care about them. And sure, they really don't make a damn difference.

Even in the future you will have the means to enter the biggest circus, you will still not join the crowds. You will travel through life off the beaten tracks, and discover exotic things and places. You will find it more interesting. For that: train the basics, think clear, ignore assholes, and learn to appreciate and understand what you see. It is fascinating. Learn science, math and languages. But don't ignore the arts. One is for living, the other for life - or the other way around. They are one.

We will never meet. But I send you my best regards from the future.



P.s. Caution with explosives, defective firearms, fast cars and pretty women. No drunk motorcycling, and no Antonov planes in Africa, okay? Then you will be fine - except from some bone fractures. But who cares? 

Marcus Schuetz in 1969.

Marcus Schuetz in 1969.