Back in 1987, when most teenagers weren’t thinking about the Internet and the massive changes it would bring about just a few years later, Tiffany Shlain co-authored a proposal called “The United Nations Intelligence Communication Software.” It was about how “computers are going to help solve world peace,” she states. “It was very optimistic, young and naive. But it came from a hopeful place.” Just age 17 at the time, she was already thinking about the impact computers and digital communication would have on the billions of people inhabiting the planet.
Shlain is of Russian descent. Her grandfather emigrated from the Soviet Union, but he never wanted to talk about the country. It remained a mystery until she was invited to be a student ambassador to the USSR as part of the People to People program in 1988 — in part thanks to the one-page U.N. proposal she co-authored a year prior. “I think that’s when I began thinking that computers were a bridge for the world,” she discloses. “I was blown away by the potential of connecting!”