Published on January 7th, 2024 | by Guest0
High-Tech Adventurer: Toine Rodenburg Melds Philosophy With Technology
Toine Rodenburg is an original. He is the kind of intriguing character who sometimes surprisingly rises from the ordinary computer-screen backgrounds we often see in the high-tech industry.
He is intellectual without being arcane. He pursues a rich array of interests and avocations. On a spectrum of fascinating tech notables ranging from Initech’s Milton Waddams at zero to Apple’s Steve Jobs at 10, the Portugal-based entrepreneur is a definite nine, rounded off.
Many in the industry first learned of Toine Rodenburg after his founding of MyMalls, the online international delivery service that has become such a hit in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many others have read his views on the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence, a perspective that is informed not just by his record of achievement in e-commerce and Internet ventures in general, but also by an eclectic academic background that includes heavy concentrations in philosophy and theology.
Originally from the Netherlands, Rodenburg studied at the Moller Institute in Tilburg, the Katholieke Universiteit in Tilburg, the Universiteit van Amsterdam and the Institut Catholique de Paris.
While he spends most of his time managing an assortment of high-tech investments from a halcyon praia on the Portuguese Riviera, he also sets off on treks across Europe with his classic caravan — most recently to Northcape in Norway and onward to gold-digging in Finland — or passes hours working on his 1976 Harley Davidson Electra Glide.
Given Rodenburg’s love of abstract thinking, one never knows if his devotion to the beloved Harley is mechanical or metaphorical. A voracious reader, he talks often of a book he first read in his youth, Robert M. Pirsig’s, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the 70s classic that melded explorations of philosophy with an Easy-Rider-inspired cross-continental adventure the author took with his son in 1968.
For Pirsig, it was a Honda CB77 that transported the father-son pair down blue highways and into realms of philosophical inquiry.
“Each machine has its own, unique personality which probably could be defined as the intuitive sum total of everything you know and feel about it,”Pirsig wrote. “This personality constantly changes, usually for the worse, but sometimes surprisingly for the better, and it is this personality that is the real object of motorcycle maintenance.”
When Toine Rodenburg shares this cultural classic with friends, he invariably opens his well-worn paperback to the page that features this perspective on technology:
“The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is — not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footstep on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs.”
That final phrase — the transcendent nature of technology — is the essence of Toine Rodenburg’s worldview. Whether tinkering with an Electra Glide carburetor or imagining new ways to explore the Internet’s vast potential, he remembers and respects technology’s power to transform and transcend. In so doing, he adds an extra dimension to his work, and enriches our industry.