By now, Martine Rothblatt is used to making headlines. She has launched four extremely successful and totally diverse ventures that have revolutionized telecommunications and life sciences industries. She's the highest-paid female executive in the world, earning $38 million in 2013. She's a trans woman and an activist for transgender rights. Most recently, she's become an advocate for technological immortality. She's created an online platform that registers personality traits and preferences via social media accounts.
But before she was one of the most talked-about women in America, Rothblatt was a courageous, determined woman who carved a space for herself in a predominantly male world by ignoring the naysayers and listening to her heart.
Rothblatt was invited to deliver the eMerge Americas keynote address for the Women in Innovation Summit, where top female professionals from various industries discussed how they are transforming the business landscape through technology and innovation. Rothblatt was a particularly fitting choice: a woman who has forged to the top in a male-dominated industry while using her hard-earned cachet to promote a clear message of equality.
Rothblatt stirred the audience of women by declaring that this is their moment. She talked about her convictions formulated based on the insights she has gained throughout each of her successes, developing a set of lessons to break away from tradition to truly innovate and change the game. She explained how she breaks down her life into four chapters, in each applying her four-syllable model: C, Q, act, do — be curious, question authority, act lovingly, and do practically.
Her persistent curiosity about satellite technology and why it was transmitted onto to massive receivers spawned her quest for a handheld satellite device that could transmit radio signals. She began by creating handheld GPS receivers married to sonar fish finders, a device previously thought impossible. But Rothblatt knew she wasn't so "turned on," as she put it, about helping fishermen improve their craft. This, she said, is the most necessary step for innovation: You must have passion, you must have a burning desire to break through and create what you're seeking; otherwise, you will be derailed by the many roadblocks along the way. "Persistence is omnipotence," the screen behind her read.
To achieve her ultimate goal of using satellite technology as a means of uniting the world, Rothblatt considered the most practical and cost-effective methods for introducing the technology. She outlined her initial rollout of Sirius Radio — it would go directly to people's cars, they would be required to pay a subscription fee, and, as such, programming would be an entirely uncensored. She played a recording of an interview with Howard Stern for the audience; Stern told her he wouldn’t be here if it weren't for her, and Rothblatt quipped that she liked it when he called her "Martin Luther Queen." Rothblatt's openness and ease with which she related to her audience personifies the individual many have observed only from a distance.
Rothblatt recounted how her daughter's illness was the catalyst for her entry into the life sciences industry and how her company United Therapeutics vastly improved the once-bleak death sentence for thousands of Americans diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. Again, it was love that fueled Rothblatt's mission; from the day she was told her daughter wouldn't live past the age of 15, Rothblatt got her hands on all the research she possibly could, defied scores of physicians and medical experts in the search for a viable cure, and patented a drug she innovated over the years to respond to maximizing the life of a patient. When her daughter was diagnosed, only 3,000 Americans were living with the disease; today, there are more than 30,000 Americans leading long and healthy lives. United Therapeutics has also developed groundbreaking technologies for preserving organs.
Perhaps the key to Rothblatt's unequivocal success is the support system she has built around her, and her latest project seeks to preserve the relationship she has sustained with her wife of more than 40 years, Bina Rothblatt. Her provocative new mission is to create a "mind file," a system in which people's tendencies and curiosities are captured and downloaded as a way of extending your life indefinitely. Coupled with the possibility to store a DNA sample with your mind file on lifenaut.com, Rothblatt envisions a reality where human clones can exist. She's toying with concepts of the soul, stating that a "soul" is what you develop as you learn.
She urged the audience that if this is the direction we are moving toward, we must reassess our education systems and place the emphasis on humanist principles. She boldly stated that we need to teach the Declaration of Human Rights in schools and respect and grant citizenship to immigrants. As Rothblatt sees it, in her futuristic world, where we can create human bodies from DNA samples and mind files, we will all be immigrants.
What's most appealing about Rothblatt's brand is that she doesn’t simply question authority; she defies it. She encourages women to form their own opinions and not be afraid to do so outside of what's socially accepted. She doesn't care what you think of her. Never mind the accomplishments and the accolades, Martine Rothblatt is an inspiration because she isn't afraid to be who she is, and you can count on her to encourage others to do the same.
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