Ahead of Monday’s Virgin Disruptors event in London we've asked members of our Virgin Unite community to tell us who their ultimate disruptor is. Today we have the co-founder of OpenROV and OpenExplorer, David Lang, share the story of his ‘Ultimate Disruptor’ with us.

Virgin Unite, Oceans, Disruptors, Cousteau

Who’s your ultimate disruptor?

Jacques Cousteau.

What made him so disruptive?

Everyone remembers Jacques Cousteau as a magical storyteller, which he was. His oscar-winning films, like The Silent World, opened up many people’s eyes to the wonders of our planet’s ocean. Not everyone remembers that he basically invented modern scuba diving by co-creating the Aqua-Lung. His passion for exploration spurred him to build new tools and, more importantly, share that experience with the world.

What have you learnt from his disruptive behaviour?

I learned that tools and technology aren’t enough. We need stories, too, if we want to change culture.  

When we started building the first OpenROVs (underwater robots), we ran into an interesting problem. As we solved technological challenges and improved the robot, we realised an even bigger issue: people didn’t see ocean exploration as something they could participate in. It was for the professional, privileged few that could get research grants or afford submarines, they thought. That’s why we created OpenExplorer, to give people a digital field journal to tell their own stories. We’ve spent a lot of time studying Jacques Cousteau, asking a simple question: “How do you motivate a generation to explore, fall in love with, and protect the ocean?”

Virgin Unite, Oceans, Disruptors, Cousteau, David Lang

What will he be remembered for?

Beyond inventor and filmmaker, I think Cousteau will be remembered as an environmentalist. His was the first generation to venture below the surface, and also the first one to realise what was being lost due to human activity. Also, no one will forget the iconic red beanie.

How would the world be a different place if he had never existed?

We’d understand a lot less about the ocean. There is an entire generation of ocean scientists who were inspired by Cousteau.

What actions can other people take to be more like Jacques Cousteau?

Build technology that empowers people to be curious explorers. Too often we think of technology as just a way to solve problems, but it can also be a doorway to new experiences and possibilities. Think big and go deep.

Virgin is all about inspiration, innovation and creating tangible change across businesses and the world. Join us at Virgin Disruptors for a full day conference to change your personal and professional life, hear from compelling speakers including Richard Branson, engage with interactive installations and connect with like-minded people.

To find out more and buy your ticket, head to Virgin Disruptors.