Jay Ambrose, Tribune News Service
Lots of people hate Jeff Bezos because, you know, he is the richest man in the world, but I love the guy because, to begin with, I am a bibliophile and he started this incredible online bookstore where you could buy just about any work you wanted pretty darned cheap. You could ordinarily get it in a couple of days, and, if anything was amiss, a quick phone call would take care of it, joy, oh joy.
Now he has zoomed to space and literally, truly, honestly plans to get millions of us up there to live our lives and thereby change the world because that’s what he is good at. He showed as much when he started converting his Amazon book store into an online retail outfit selling just about everything anyone wanted.
I said, oh, no, the bookstore will be forgotten, but it held in there as he created a commercial bonanza reliant on his internet prowess and further erasing the imprint of brick and mortar. Keyboards took the place of cars when you went shopping there, but jobs stuck around. Amazon has 1.3 million employees. This didn’t happen by accident, but because of brainpower. Bezos was valedictorian of his high school and a National Merit Scholar who had also been taking college courses. He won a Silver Knight Award for community involvement, it’s reported. He went to Princeton, graduating summa cum laude with an engineering degree. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. According to an online biography, he went on to be a top-notch success at several different finance and technology companies and then began to figure out unsolved puzzles about online businesses that led to the Amazon adventure.
It was Bezos himself who delivered his high school graduation speech, and what he said then is what he is talking about now, that we human beings are on our way to colonizing space.
Then, about 20 years ago, he started a company called Blue Origin, and it has been building and flying rockets since then. One finally took him and others on an 11-minute trip to outer space and back, a long-distance glance at Earth and some non-gravitational floating about. Just a week or so earlier another billionaire, Richard Branson, had done much the same thing as part of a plan for profitable commercial flights, and Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, is reported to be ahead of either of them technologically.
One of Bezos’ aspirations is all kinds of large cylindric space stations floating about even for the purpose of living in them, industrializing them and then, later, establishing living quarters on planets.
If you think that odd, you should know that Musk and China are planning human abodes on Mars. For a whole long list of reasons, from military needs to scientific investigation to utopian dreams, space is becoming a thing again, something like it was when the United States first landed men on the moon with the difference of private entrepreneurs playing a significant role today.
I have no idea how this will all end up, but this is part of what humankind is about: moving on, exploring, testing propositions, getting out of the chair and walking into the future to see what resides there. Bezos is exactly the kind of innovative, ever-questing, bright-and-ready personality who can guide the way.
His wealth? It was necessary to get to this point of helping to forge a bold, new adventure possibly enhancing human life. He is a philanthropist and has provided jobs and jazzed up the economy if, oh so sadly, not in a self-defeating, progressive, profit-averse fashion, and some are really, truly put out. Let’s forgive them.
Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, is set to join the astronaut club Tuesday on the first crewed launch by Blue Origin, another key moment in a big month for the fledgling space tourism industry.
As he prepares to blast off into a new career stage, Jeff Bezos leaves an enduring legacy after transforming Amazon from a modest online bookseller into one of the world’s most powerful corporations.
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