Week 4: Different Minds
Through the past 70 years, humanity has reached a point where whatever we could imagine can become real, our understanding of the universe is more advanced than ever. A lot of incredible minds have helped us to get to this point, but we tend to believe that there is only one way to achieve all of this. You have to follow the scientific method, you have to study your whole life, you do an experiment and if you can prove it is true, but if you cannot then it’s false and there’s that you can do, or at least that’s what we all think, we try to prove things instead of question them, when in reality all these wonderful minds what they actually did was questioning everything.
I never knew anything about Richard Feynman until this week, and honestly am ashamed of it, not because of the fact that he did some contributions to the computer science field (which I'm part of), I felt ashame because a person and a mind like that will always be good to know. Feynman thought differently, he never saw problems, he saw puzzles that needed to be solved, he was a very curious person who was trying to understand the world he lived in.
When we think about a genius, the first thing that comes to our minds is a person who spent most of their time alone, solving super complex mathematical problems, someone who just wants to be alone and not be bothered. Richard never fitted that profile, he was a very extrovert person, even when he was dying of cancer, he always tried to look at things from a different perspective. Some people may think he was annoying, I mean, hiding important documents from a very important project from the US government, saying that some spies have stolen them just because he was bored, may have not been received very well by some people. Although, for me, it’s amazing to know that these types of personalities could also make a big difference.
Richard Feynman is one of the biggest physicists of all time, his understanding of the world is very enthusiastic and especially science, everyone can watch a video on youtube and know what I mean, the way he talked about very complex topic was natural and very easy to follow, even though you have no interest in physics it feels great listening to him, you can feel all of his passion. Minds like these are the ones that I believed could help us to get to a better understanding of the universe and its complex structure, people like Richard are the ones that proved that everyone could be a genius, and that’s fantastic.
Computing the universe
Our understanding of the world we lived in it may seem very limited, but every day we are improving, people are discovering and learning new things and all of that knowledge is closer to us than ever. Wolfram Alpha is proof of that, this amazing tool is trying to compute the entire knowledge into a single web page, that is astonishing, you can solve complex mathematical problems just by typing them and have a very detailed explanation of them, you can question things however you think of them. All of the understanding of different science-related topics is free for you, the only thing you need is to think of it and Wolfram Alpha may be able to solve it.
Beyond that, nowadays we are reaching a very important point, today we can almost compute the universe itself, quantum computing is getting closer but our understanding of quantum physics is still very limited, it may take some time to get to that point, but we are no that far though. Seth Lloyd proposes that the universe is a quantum computer, atoms, electrons, elementary particles, all have “computational” power. In fact, Lloyd says that atoms are like bits and they do not collide, they compute, And what are they computing? well, they compute its own evolution.
During the past week, we have the assignment to develop three different ideas under the preotyping model, and it was something I was more familiar with than I could think. Whenever we try to pull this new crazy idea, we faced the fact that we do not know how people are going to accept that idea. Everyone tends to believe that all of our ideas will be groundbreaking, and everyone would want to be part of it, so we develop them without actually know what will happen. Pretotyping is one way to solve that, every idea under development needs to be tested, and not on a big scale, actually in more random scenarios, you are trying to collect some data to see if it will actually work and if your data shows that it will be a complete failure it will always be better to cancel a project where you only spent a few amounts of money in the test than one where you spent thousands of dollars developing something that you believed would work but not being sure of it.
In our case, one of the ideas was a bot so people could meet randomly on a slack channel, we were not sure of how people will react to it, so we did some tests. We obviously needed a bunch of time and resources to develop the bot, so the best way we came with for test it was a fake bot actually, so we design a fake profile with some random questions. The idea was to pair people and leave them with a series of questions that work as icebreakers, we could describe the bot as a wingman. The important here was not the result I think, it was the conception of the bot and the numerous ideas we had for testing it, we look from a different perspective to the problem we faced and get to the best way to get the result we wanted.
Tests and more
As I mentioned we went through a test to prove that our idea could actually be great, and this is something that everyone should do, and all companies do. Testing is a powerful tool, it helps you early and late stages of development, if you don’t test everything you do, how do you know is working the way it's supposed to? how do you prove that your new idea is right?. In some cases, it may seem weird, but you need to break stuff to prove how reliable they are, you are challenging all of the assumptions of your project.
By doing this all that you can get is positive besides the result does not seem to, if you failed the test now you know the reason for it and you can keep progressing based on that, keep a black box, yeah you know, the tool that every airplane has and keeps a record of how the engine is working and in the case of a failure they can know what went wrong. It’s great to have that concept in mind, the more you are consient of your failure and the reason behind it, the better you’ll perform in the future…