Dorrian Porter (LLB 1997, MBA 1997) was astonished to discover that Nikola Tesla wasn’t better known in North America, considering that the visionary Serbian had made hundreds of pioneering contributions to science, including improving alternating current electricity. So Porter, a software entrepreneur in Palo Alto, California, decided to build a monument to the inventor in Silicon Valley. “Tesla thought beyond profits to make energy and information available around the world,” Porter says. “The statue pays respect to a person who used his brilliance to advance society, not for personal wealth.”
Porter secured a land donation from local developer Harold Hohbach and launched a Kickstarter campaign with a humorous animated video in which a ‘toon Tesla pitched his inventions to modern-day venture capitalists. The video caught the attention of the media, generated 200,000 views, and was instrumental in raising over $127,000. Artist Terry Guyer’s statue shows the inventor with the light bulb that he used to demonstrate wireless electricity in the 1890s. It also hosts a free Wi-Fi hot spot – so is the first statue in the world to help you surf the web.
At the unveiling ceremony, in December 2013, a time capsule was placed inside the base of the statue. It contained wishes for the next 30 years and predictions for the relationship between technology and humanity in 2043. Porter’s favourite contribution came from an eight-year-old girl. “I wish in 30 years I am a scientist,” she wrote.
Watch ‘toon Tesla explain his inventions in Dorrian Porter’s Kickstarter video:
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre