“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!