The Future Belongs to the Children (At Heart)

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“The future belongs to the children.”

We’ve all heard this saying a thousand times—usually accompanied by a sigh and the distinctly adult caveat that the future has passed the speaker by.

As a teenager, I used to dismiss it as a cheap grown-up excuse for failing to be awesome. After working Milwaukee Maker Faire this weekend, I’m not so sure.

You may recall that last weekend I took in the novelties, notions, and nefarious inventions at World Maker Faire in NYC. Milwaukee’s hometown edition of the event, if a bit smaller, it was just as delightful as its flagship cousin.

What struck me most about the Milwaukee faire, however, wasn’t the event itself, but the question I received repeatedly from attendees over the age of thirty-five.

“Is this event just for kids?”

Working the main registration table, I heard it at least two dozen times in a span of three hours.  Each time, I was at a loss as how to answer.

Think about it: the question itself implies that anywhere people experiment, try new things, build and decorate and share their inventions is by its very nature meant for children only. It assumes that “grownups” do not make things or share them (especially if they aren’t perfect!), and that discussions of the future are exclusively the province of the young.

The children in attendance, by contrast, never bothered to ask if the event was “for them.” I heard more than one cry, “Look, Mom, we get to make things!” while tugging one or both parents, grandparents or other caregiver toward the entrance as fast as they could.

All of this got me thinking about the whole idea of “the future” and whether or not it might truly be for children after all. The adult attendees who embraced Maker Faire wholeheartedly were more like children, at least at heart. They entered with excitement and open minds, ready to learn and create.

It was the grown-ups, through and through, who paused to question.

Which leads me to believe that the heart of an inventor is really the heart of a child. Across all generations, those who have taken human technology to the next level are those who never bothered to ask permission, but simply dove right in, studying, tinkering, failing and succeeding until one day, they changed the world.

In that sense, Maker Faire—like any other event dedicated to the future—is most definitely for the child in all of us.

Have you attended a Maker Faire? What did you think? If you attended the Milwaukee event, share your favorite invention here!

4 thoughts on “The Future Belongs to the Children (At Heart)

  1. Living in the Bay Area, we’ve been lucky to have attended all but the very first Maker Faire. And I wholeheartedly agree that Maker Faire is for the child in all of us. And if you don’t have a child in you, you will by the end of your visit.

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  2. We attended the World maker Faire @ NYC, and had a great time. It was a fantastic experience, but I wish that there was a bit more coverage of the Young Makers that were there – one 11 year old had an exhibit where he sent data faster than the speed of light, another 7 year old built his own 3D printer and brought it to show that ANYONE can do it, another made a modified wheelchair…and there were others as well. Don’t get me wrong, the other stuff was awesome, but I’m just surprised that those kids got so little ‘press’.

    I just finished the reading the book “making Makers”, and one line which stood out was “Creative adults are children who survived”.

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    • This is a great point. There were some incredible inventors. Maybe this points to a larger challenge in our culture: that childhood is still not taken seriously. “Just for kids” not only implies the idea that it’s not for grownups, but also implies that kids aren’t doing serious work with their inventions, just like adults. No?

      Thanks for raising this point! Which, by the way, was your favorite invention or gadget at Maker Faire NYC?

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