On PhD, Organized Education and Shipping

Sep 09, 2015

Software engineering is both an art and a science. You can't go to university and become Gauguin, Picasso or Yeezy.

A friend of mine once told me entrepreneurship means “entrepreneurs ship!” If that is true, how long should one take to ship an idea? If like me you are doing a PhD, the current model is 6+ years in the U.S.

With learning, I won’t do the just ship attitude with K-12, and other people’s mini-humans. For adults, I will. For my kid, absolutely. Even as an elementary school student there were some things I took offense at learning like the times (multiplication) table. I intentionally refuse to learn it past 12*5 because I felt it was ridiculous. Even as a child I knew it would be much more efficient to learn the underlying rules than to clog up your memory with factum that lack context nor relevance.

[Complete digression here.] I went to PTA night and was just taken aback with the glee that the teacher expressed in teaching the kids how to use Microsoft products. I literally thought I would vomit. First of all, why use paper and pencil technology? Then 2, the tech is Word? Are u kidding? How am I supposed to do remote collaboration with my son on word, or worse paper! I have to get those guys up in the cloud, asap. Okay let me remember this is 3rd grade. And these “teachers” are not tech savvy and fail to understand that some of those 3rd graders write code routinely, so school work seems like an intellectual insult. Back to what I was saying before I went off.

As I type this, am mentally prepared for my child to skip college, or at best, drop in on the classes he is interested in. The degree and all that is irrelevant. The only relevant thing to ME is are you adding value to society. Are you solving real problems? If your desire is to be at the frontier of your field, and invent new methods, then you should not only go to college, but also grad school.

If you just want to add incremental value now, then learn to build and do it now. And I believe 4 yrs in a university isn’t the best approach to becoming a software engineer. Perhaps a year and the rest an apprentice model. Software engineering is both an art and a science. You can’t go to university and become Gauguin, Picasso or Yeezy. That comes with doing and working with masters.

When it comes to education and religion, I have a bit of a libertarian streak. I don’t believe in organized religion, nor organized education. Left to me, my child would be climbing trees, doing experiments, writing code and participating in community sports and social clubs. But parenting takes two, and I have neither the time to do it myself nor Jedi mind tricks to convince his father to forfeit all and take up my charge! So we take our son, our pride and joy,off to outsourced learning and societal indoctrination camp called school. My major reason for pursuing a PhD has nothing to do with academia or future employment. I took this journey as a way to get back to myself after the demise of my marriage. I was lost and the only thing I knew that wasn’t scorched was my intellectual fire. So, I fanned those flames! It was more a spiritual quest for me, a systematized process of self discovery. The accolades that come from it are quite incidental. Which is why my path has been atypical.

I love learning how to learn. I love the human brain and what it is capable of. I love the art of expertise. And I love artisanal making. Which is why I love CS. I am eternally fascinated that I can now think a thought, and realize it in computation. That is awesome!!!! It really is a drug. Computation in particular is what I love, because it allows me to conduct my own cognitive experiments. As the tailor has a needle, thread and scissors, computation is my tool.

I understand that my view is counter to how society currently runs, but then I feel society is broken. So my natural instinct is to fix it. Especially for people who have been historically marginalized, the current model of society is absolutely inadequate.

Once you know that all you need is the ability to generate $$$ through legal means, you can buy yourself out of the current model. That is the social experiment that I conduct with my life, and hope to continue refining.