Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system and the Git source code management system, opened the “Code Power” session at the recent TED2016 conference, speaking in an interview with TED Curator Chris Anderson.
In the talk, Torvalds, whose blunt approach in dealing with people is well known, stated, “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.”
Torvalds went on to discuss his belief that “code either works or it doesn’t.” He should know. The current Linux kernel is one of the largest collaborative projects ever attempted, with more than 20 million lines of code and more than 12,000 contributors so far. Additionally, an average of 185 changes are accepted into the kernel every day — nearly 1,300 per week — and Torvalds ultimately has the final say on what code is accepted.
In the TED talk, Torvalds admitted that he is sometimes “myopic, when it comes to other people’s feelings…” However, he said, “What I love about open source is that it really allows different people to work together.”
Torvalds was listed as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME magazine back in 2004. In that profile, Lawrence Lessig wrote, “there is no doubt that the open, collaborative model that produced GNU/Linux has changed the business of software development forever.”
Nonetheless, typically self-deprecating Torvalds doesn’t see himself as a visionary. Instead, he says: “I’m an engineer. I’m happy with the people who are wandering around looking at the stars but I am looking at the ground and I want to fix the pothole before I fall in.”