Live from TED2016

The quotable Linus Torvalds, live onstage at TED

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Chris Anderson interviews Linus Torvalds onstage at TED2016.

Chris Anderson interviews Linus Torvalds onstage at TED2016. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

I am not a visionary. I’m an engineer.

[As a kid] I was into computers, I was into math, I was into physics. I don’t think I was particularly exceptional. My sister said my biggest exceptional quality was that I would not let go.

Q. During the development of Linux itself, that stubbornness brought you in conflict in other people. Is [stubbornness] essential?
A. I don’t know if it’s essential. Sometimes I’m, shall we say, myopic, when it comes to other people’s feelings … and I’m not proud of that. “I’m sorry,” wherever the camera is.

What I love about open source is that it really allows different people to work together. We don’t have to like each other. And sometimes, we really don’t like each other.

Code either works or it doesn’t. There’s less room for argument, and yet we have arguments despite this.

The way I work is that I want to not have external stimulation. On the walls are light green. I’m told at mental institutions they use that color. It’s calming.

My computer doesn’t have to be big and powerful — it needs to be completely silent. If the cat comes up and it sits in my lap, I want to hear the sound of the cat purring, not the fans of the computer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually not a people person. I don’t really love other people, but I do love other people who get involved in my project.

I was afraid of commercial people taking advantage of my work, but those people were really lovely people. They used open source in ways I did not want to go. It works beautifully together. You need to have the people people, the communicators, the warm people.

If I was stranded on an island and the only way to get off the island was to make a pretty UI, I’d die there.

I do not have a five-year plan. I do not have a moonshot. I’m looking at the ground, and I want to fix the pothole that’s right in front of me before I go in.