Can You Be Ahead Of The Curve And NOT Profit?
Goal: In this article I share a story about being ahead of time
In my 10/14/20 article, How Can You NOT Execute a Billion Dollar Idea?, I shared a story of a physical product that I envisioned and did not execute. In today’s article I want to tell a story of an academic pursuit.
As I mentioned in previous article, there have been several times in my life when I was so far ahead of the curve. If I had taken advantage of these opportunities my life would have been different and I would be a different person today.
I graduated from Purdue University with an Electrical Engineering degree. As I was graduating, I stopped by to see a legend in robotics, Dr. George Lee, about pursuing a masters in robotics. He told me not to do it since robotics was dead in the US. This was 1988!!!
I did not listen and pursued a masters degree in Control Systems and Robotics. After I finished the degree, I never did anything with Robotics.
After a couple of years after finishing my masters degree I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. I went back to Purdue’s main campus and spoke with Dr. Lee again. This time I did not tell him what I wanted to pursue BUT asked him what he was working on.
He told me that he had had moved onto AI as his research interest. I asked him to be my advisor and signed on to pursue AI for my degree.
I worked on AI from 1994 to 1999 when I stopped my pursuit of the Ph.D. degree without finishing the thesis (ABD- all but dissertation). There were several factors that let to me stopping the pursuit and one of them was computer speed.
Let me explain.
In 1995 I was taking an AI class in Neural Networks and the assignments was to teach an artificial neural network the concept of being inside of a circle and outside of a circle. You provide training data to the system with output label of YES inside or NO outside. It took the 486 machine an hour to learn that concept.
To me that was very slow and not usable. I figured we as human beings are so advanced that this computer converging to an answer after one hour was not a game changer.
BUT I was wrong!!!!
I failed to consider Moore’s Law which states that computer processing power doubles every 18–24 months.
Why does that matter? I should have considered how that speed changes the time to process. Consider the following:
What took 64 minutes in 1995
will take 32 min in 1997
will take 16 min in 1999
will take 8 min in 2001
will take 4 min in 2003
will take 2 min in 2005
will take 1 min in 2007
will take 30 sec in 2009
will take 15 sec in 2011
will take 8 sec in 2013
will take 4 sec in 2015
will take 2 sec in 2017
will take 1 sec in 2019
will take 1/2 sec in 2021
I did not consider that with computer speed increasing AI will become very valid and useful. If I had then I would have stuck with it and made it a career.
So what is the lesson?
Where would I be in my knowledge today if I had taken that path? Probably in the 1% of the 1% of people in the world knowledgeable in AI.
What is interesting is that the idea I had for my thesis is still valid today. Interesting….
Why didn’t I finish the degree?
Well that is a great question. In an article I talked about cutting your time in half for every major change in your life. That would be my time excuse. In reality I did not want it bad enough. I was too confident in my brain’s ability to quickly learn that I did not work very hard. I let my mind and other people and situations dictate my success.
As I said before…
Dreams have expiration dates. If you don’t pursue them someone else will. They will execute the dream!
I got to go…my future self alarm went off
Robert Trajkovski is professional with experience in leading people and projects in Steel/ Power, Refining, Chemicals, Industrial Gasses, Software, Consulting and Academia. He has worked for both owners and engineering companies. In addition, he has instructed 73+ courses at several institutions and often offers his courses for free on LinkedIn.
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