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The Man Who Won Tetris
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The Man Who Won Tetris

September 10, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

That sounds, in spirit, similar to something Alexey has mentioned before, which is the idea of a Tetris world championship.

HR: Yes. This is the basis of the Tetris world championship. That game will find out who the best players in each area are, and then we'll have a Tetris cup.

I think Tetris is actually the first virtual sport. And how do you distinguish a game from a sport? When I was surfer from the 70s, everybody said to me I was a surf bum. In those days, there was no way to make money with surfing.

But today, [with] sponsorships, contests, money -- there's lot of money in surfing. Now it's a sport. They have high school surfing teams. It's gone from being a waste of time to being a serious thing.

So, we're going to have sponsored tournaments, and we're going to pay the winners just like golf tournaments. The top players will be going around the world playing in these contests. And it will become the first professional video game sport. That's the vision.

Then we'll have the world cup, and then we're going to work our way into the Olympics someday, hopefully.

Okay, so that's two of your four goals down.

HR: Three is to make a backup of life on Earth.


HR: Hello -- we're in an industry where you know you make a backup because something can get screwed up. And I'm not saying something will, but something could. If we have the technology to make a backup, we have the obligation to make a backup. And I think the easiest place for us to make a backup of life on Earth is on Mars.

Why is that?

HR: It's almost the same size; it's almost the same orbit. It's a little bit cooler, a little father away, a little less gravity, but it's the closest thing we have.

Venus is out of the question. And if you go farther out, there's nothing out there. So, there's the Moon, and then there's Mars. There's not enough gravity on the Moon to hold an atmosphere I think, so the closest thing, the easiest target is Mars, unless you go farther away to something we haven't found yet, but we don't have any technology that can get us there yet.

Mars would be a great place to make a back-up. And there used to be water there. You can look at it and say, "It used to be there. They just lost it somehow." So, if it means towing comets in and parking them in Mars' orbit and melting them little by little, we can do that. It's just a matter of time.

And then number four?

HR: Number four is to figure out how the universe ends. Because, you know, it could be that everything else is a waste of time. But I think that mission is more about understanding the other missions than the mission itself.

When you look at ending the use of carbon-based fuel and ending war, in the scope of the universe they're nothing. They're blips in time. They're tiny, tiny, tiny events. So, I like to think of them that way rather than huge, unattainable goals.

Just to keep everything else in perspective, those are easy. This is the tough one.

Do you have difficulties keeping perspective? When you're managing numerous companies on a day-to-day, or month-to-month, or year-to-year basis, and in another part of your brain you're thinking about things that could be happening years or even millennia from now, how do you keep those things in order?

HR: I actively divide my time. I only go to the office three days a week: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Saturday, I play golf, mostly for political reasons. And then Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I'm on the big island.

My business is in Honolulu, and on the big island, I have a little executive retreat, and I retreat. I'm building things there, and I'm thinking about things like my missions in life. I gather people on the big island. In the future, I will be gathering and doing think tanks.

We've already done a number [of those], but it's a place where you can just completely get away from it all -- there's no TV, there's none of the distractions that we normally have -- and get into thinking about my missions in life, which are arguably the important things.

You were born in the Netherlands. You have a lot of ties with both Japan and United States as well, not to mention the former USSR connection. Do you think of yourself as being a resident of the U.S. at this point, or does that not really matter?

HR: Well, I'm just a passenger on this bus. This planet has been here a long time and is going to be here a long time. Where I was born is kind of irrelevant. I was born somewhere on this planet. We can't control where we were born or our genetic background. Those are all kind of irrelevant. It's what we do in life and what we contribute to the future.

So that's where my focus is. I don't really feel like I belong in one country more than in another country. I did become an American citizen a couple years ago, only because I feel this country needs to lead the world, and we're tripping over our feet when it comes to solving the energy problem. We've got to solve it.

Historically, we've generated all the new technology and showed the rest of the world how to do it. We've got to do it again, that's our job. And I'm culturally American. I went to high school and university here. I do think like an American, and when I speak, people think I'm an American.

That's fine, but we have to take that leadership, and we have to show the rest of the world how to do it. That's the American way.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

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