What I realized on the way to my dream of artificial intelligence
I really started dreaming about artificial intelligence when I was about 19 years old. I set myself a clear goal: to make a significant contribution to the creation of a common * artificial intelligence; in other words, in creating a machine capable of thinking, reasoning, and acting rationally, like a man. At that time I was studying economics and management at the Siberian Federal University. I decided to study economics and management because I was hoping to learn how to create and develop companies. I was motivated by my activities in middle and high school, where I participated in various activities related to information technology, computer science, their organization and my first startup, in which I participated when I was 16 years old.
* The word "general" in the definition of "artificial intelligence" means that the machine can perform any task that a person can perform. In other words, the ability of the machine is not limited to any particular task.
Events in which I participated as a schoolboy contributed to the birth of my dream about AI. I created websites and programs for free and for money. I participated in the summer school sessions, where we, students of 12-16 years old, were trained in software engineering and management, and developed this software. School sessions lasted 5-10 days, where our teachers “ordered” software and bought it, paying us an imaginary currency. At the age of 15, I also had a great opportunity to lead a group of 15 high school students. For 2 years, we have successfully developed educational software and websites and sold them to real customers. In addition, I was a co-organizer of beauty contests and storytelling, and also helped to organize a large event at the All-Russian School Newspaper Workshop, developing a web publishing system for her. Finally, in my last year of high school, I co-founded a startup as a “technical director”, and this was a decisive moment for me when I decided to study economics and management.
I think it is also fair to say that I always studied hard when I could. Both at school and at university, I also tried to participate in research, starting with simple research topics. For example, such as “What is the golden section? Let's measure it on my classmates' faces when I was about 14 years old. When I studied at the undergraduate degree in economics and management, one of the topics of my scientific work was the topic “Innovative growth in Russia: problems and prospects”, for which I received the prize of the best scientific work at the university.
In the middle of the second year of training in economics and management, I was "slightly lost." The startup in which I participated was relatively successful, however, rapid development was not expected. I also realized that it is impossible to simply learn how to be a “good manager.” I was very grateful for the excellent foundation in economics and management that I received during the first two years of study, but I also understood that it was time to change something. At about the same time, an understanding of my dream of artificial intelligence began to form in my mind. I successfully transferred to the Faculty of Mathematics and began to study at the undergraduate degree in mathematics, again in the second year .
At about the same time, I bought the first version of the iPad with money earned through all of my commercial initiatives. Using it, as I understood later, I applied a visualization technique. I painted and visualized that “I see myself as one of the best students (graduate students) in the most powerful universities where people work on artificial intelligence: Stanford, Oxford, Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, Cambridge, MIT, CMU, etc. d. I wrote the names of these universities in capital letters and used this visualization for a long time, most likely more subconsciously for myself than consciously.
I studied hard. I focused on math and computer science. In one summer, I visited 5 summer schools (two of which were organized by Microsoft Research) in various areas of artificial intelligence. I almost won the 1st place at one of the competitions at one of the summer schools, but then due to an error on my part I received only 4th place. Then I took 1st place in the next competition at the next summer school.
Over the next year of studying mathematics, I began to dream of going as a visiting research student to one of these universities. I looked through all the possible pages of university sites, where all the information about visiting student programs is described. I studied all the possibilities to find a possible scholarship or grant for this. I sent emails to various research groups that were of interest to me. I received an offer from CMU, provided that I receive a Russian scholarship to study there. Unfortunately, I had to reject this proposal, because in this case I would lose the reprieve from the army (which would no longer function, since I had already transferred from one department to another).
It was around this time that I went to Boston (and, therefore, for the first time in the United States) to present my first startup as a co-founder. During this time I had the opportunity to meet with researchers from MIT. This meeting was due to my previous attempts to find a place as a guest student. The topic that the researchers at MIT were engaged in was very interesting, people were willing to work with me as a student. After my trip in January 2012, I started successfully working remotely on research in the field of artificial intelligence using probabilistic programming .
During the winter-spring 2012, I was accepted to the Summer School at one of the leading Swiss universities, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). I applied there a year earlier, but they refused me then, but the second time I was even accepted for two programs, and it was very difficult for me to make a choice between them. The end of winter, spring and early summer of 2012 were very tense, because I had to study a lot, work on my research remotely with colleagues from MIT, and also prepare documents for a scholarship that I had to cover the year as a guest student at MIT, if I decide to go.
In June 2012, 3 weeks earlier than the summer program was supposed to start at the EPFL, I arrived in Lausanne and began working on research in the field of robotics. My earlier start was previously agreed with the host laboratory by e-mail (I myself paid for my 3-week stay from my earned money, because I so wanted to continue research in the field of AI).
3 months in the EPFL, and then 12 months in the MIT (I received a scholarship and went to the MIT) were truly "magical" months. It was a time of truly exciting research, conducted in collaboration with other people who are also passionate about science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. It was just a fantastic time. Every minute I was thinking about research in the field of AI. In the evening, before the presentation of the project in Switzerland, I slept on a wooden pallet (intended for testing the gaits of robots and smoothing their falls) in my laboratory at the EPFL, because I needed to finish my experiments and prepare a poster the next day. At MIT, I spent about 30 nights in the lab during this 1 year of research. Looking back, I can say that it might not have been very good for health,
Somewhere in December 2012, when I was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 4-5 months already, I began to think about what to do next. The obvious option was to go back and finish my studies in Russia, but I was wondering if there could be any other alternatives to continue the research work. I looked for and considered different possibilities, but without a complete bachelor’s degree it was difficult. I studied other undergraduate programs at other universities, including Oxford University, but it was all very expensive, and I had no money to implement it, and I did not know where to find it. I remember that I felt desperate and lost because of this.
We often hear about the power of visualization and dreams. There are so many methods and techniques, but the basic idea of all of them is that if you want something, then you should desire it as much as you can, for a long time and many times; you have to visualize it; visualization should be accompanied by strong feelings about it. By that time, the visualization had already helped me find the opportunity to work on AI at MIT, and this technique will help me to continue working at Oxford, but I still did not know about it ...
A few months later, I met at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a professor who was about to start working at Oxford. Maybe it's a bit selfish, but I think it would be fair that, because of my rather successful work at MIT, I was an interesting candidate for students, and after some cooperation with him at MIT, I had the opportunity to work at Oxford in laboratories of this professor.
When people talk about visualization techniques, they don’t often mention another important thing. It is not enough just to visualize your dream, many times and with great effort. It is also important to work hard, to actively look for opportunities, to try and try. Another important component is luck. If you are on your way to your dream, you need to understand that luck plays an important role. One chance can bring you closer or further away from your dreams. However, if you are distant from your dream, this does not mean that you need to give up. It simply means that you have to keep working hard, enjoy it, relax from time to time to recharge (and this is very important) and try again. And then luck will find you.
Thanks to the visualization, my hard work, good luck and, perhaps most importantly, the people who supported me, I spent 3 wonderful years in Oxford. It was magical , but a bit different than in the EPFL in Switzerland or at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The magic "differently" in Oxford began immediately, even before my arrival there. I probably worked too much at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also fell in love that by the end of my presence there, I got sick on the last day in the USA. This last day was full of “adventures” because I tried to get a passport with a visa in New York to study at Oxford for 5 hours, moving between different embassies, but this is a completely different story. In any case, I was terribly ill on my last day in the States, and as such I went to India, where I had to teach Russian and Indian students computer science and mathematics in Pune, and then meet with colleagues at Microsoft Research in Bangalore. The first 3 days I just lay and sick in India. Having partially recovered, I came to the UK, to Oxford,
Of course, my time at Oxford was not associated only with illness. It was still time, full of "magic and magic", including the continuation of work on the theme of AI and, of course, the feeling of "Harry Potter". City, university and colleges are truly magical, and AI research is one of the most modern. However, much of my time at Oxford was also taken by “difficult love”, which eventually “resolved”; the search for God and the thought of who it is, God; and awareness and understanding of money and the importance of the family. The time spent at Oxford was not only effective from the point of view of learning artificial intelligence, but perhaps it was even more important to begin to understand how the world works. I was able to become psychologically stronger (my first psychotherapy sessions provided by the university helped in this) and more “conscious”.
I was still the person who was so involved in the topic of artificial intelligence, so excited about the possibility of creating software (and possibly hardware) that can think and do everything as a person (in some way it was similar to thoughts of a possible “fatherhood” to artificial intelligence), but my attention has partially shifted to other topics.
I understood that although a possible contribution to the creation of general artificial intelligence is a big goal and a big challenge, this goal is not necessarily the only one.
There are already more than 7.5 billion people on Earth, more than 7.5 biological intelligent creatures. My dream was to create artificial intelligence, but I realized that it would be just another intelligence., which will add to this large number, to the billion already existing artificial intelligences. This new intellect will need the same energy and resources as all of us, and it will have its own needs and desires.
I also realized that there is a lot that can be done now to help other people. For example, simple technological applications, such as washing machines and irons in the past (although, unfortunately, not all people on earth have access to them so far). I began to realize that technical progress has already reached a level in order to provide any living creature on this planet with comfortable housing, healthy food, a safe environment, reliable transport and opportunities for education and work in the areas of its interests. I also realized that just technological solutions are not enough for this: culture and the humanities are also important.
At some point, I was just struck by the thought that now a lot can be done to help all of us change our own programs of our life. With the help of good works of literature and journalism, we can reprogram ourselves, become richer culturally and “nourish” our souls. With the help of literature and education, we can also become more effective in our professional life.
Popular books and works of art and journalism, such as the Bible (Old and New Testaments), the Koran, books of Buddhism, works by Mao Zedong (and others), Harry Potter, "7 habits of effective people" and many other works, all this shapes our lives everyday. All this determines the programs of behavior of all of us, as intelligent beings.
I realized that there are many opportunities to help others, both using technology and helping to develop a culture.
Am I still dreaming about AI? Sure. One of the reasons that helped me find an opportunity for myself to slow down the work on AI day and night is that I am sure that there are outstanding students, scientists, inventors and large corporations who work almost exclusively on general AI every day (and often every night).
I still try to bring as much into the field of AI as I can, of course, although in fairness I must say that my priorities have shifted to specific applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence, in particular for analyzing data and forecasts (for example, in medicine and various human well-being, as part of my work at Babylon Health). I call my current job the job of my dream, because I have the opportunity to apply the most modern methods together with my colleagues with the mission to provide affordable health care for all people on the planet.
My thrilling adventure to general artificial intelligence continues. I think it is fair to say that the trip was made possible thanks to my loving family, wonderful people who helped and help me throughout the journey, who support and teach me, the wonderful colleagues I work with.
One of the most important lessons I learned was that: “Everything is possible.” If you focus on what is important to you, if you seek and find solutions and opportunities, you can achieve everything. This lesson allowed me to get all this precious experience and skills that I can apply today for introducing AI for medicine. This idea that “Everything is possible” allowed me to study economics, mathematics, computer science and other areas at Siberian Federal University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford and receive a full scholarship for postgraduate studies at Stanford (however, I could not use the last opportunity; but that's another story).
It is worth repeating and repeating many times that: "Everything is possible." You just find a way to get what you need. This, of course, takes time and energy, but: anything is possible.
Of course, the path must be worthy. That is why culture and the humanities, meditation and God are so important. You get everything, but you have to be sure that your path is noble , and also your result is correct .
It is also important to remember that no matter how much you got, you can lose it all. Here it is important to note two opportunities to lose everything. First, because of chance, you can lose everything, but if inside you are safe and honored, you can just start everything from the beginning and, the chance is great, everything will work out. If you have integrity, then everything is in order. There are no guarantees in this world, but if you are honest and optimistic, it is likely that everything will be fine again.
However, if you lose yourself and honor, even if you are on top, this is a real problem. As soon as the inner core is lost, the fall is most likely inevitable. It is very difficult to go back, and in any case, this path is full of sincere repentance, both in the soul and in deeds.
Dark times may come, but if you are psychologically strong and have the necessary skills for an effective life (i.e., you maintain good psychological hygiene, keep a budget, find opportunities and use them), then the black bar will change to white.
Also, to get to your dreams, you had to inventor. You invent for your own sake, including because you know that you will receive rewards and other resources for this (if you can commercialize your inventions), but you also invent for others. If you invent something useful, both you and other people will benefit. Of course, the benefits for you and others are directly related, because as soon as people benefit from your invention, you usually also benefit.
To get to your dream, we must continue to move. Continue to invent. Continue to work. Keep relaxing. Grow spiritually and professionally. Smile and accept the world as it is and try to improve it. If today we do not have the strength to invent, you can simply work. If you do not have the strength to work, you can just relax and get ready for tomorrow.
In conclusion, I will provide some important tips and reminders that I make myself from time to time (they may be useful for someone else as well):
- Keep improving your skills. Learn, grow and grow.
- Know that everything is possible.
- Be honest, and be with God in your soul. Be responsible.
- Work on noble tasks with good people and good goals.
- Visualize and dream about what we can achieve (that is, everything). Remember that we can manage our lives. That we can be in harmony with the environment and with the planet, with the universe. That we can improve our lives and the lives of people near us. What we can invent and implement to make the world a better place.
- Work hard, but do not recycle. Working wisely. Seek and use the opportunities that creatures are myriad.
- Work in teams, along with other people. If you are not a superior or an individual entrepreneur, respect your boss and hierarchy. If this is not possible, look for other options.
- Remember that life is very short. We are given only about 30–50 years of life “by default” on average (after that, we can continue to work hard and efficiently, but much more resources are needed to maintain this rhythm).
- Love and be loved.
- Meditate and practice mindfulness. Accept the world as it is, but do not confuse this action with ignorance or with inability to act. Strive to achieve nirvana. The true path to enlightenment does not have to be difficult by definition. There are basic, simple steps to achieve this. Search for them.
- Be fit in your body and spirit. Take care of maintaining the environment around you (and in the whole world as far as possible) clean.
- Accept that resources (willpower, time, money, influence, brain power, power, etc.) are limited. Buy and create more resources.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Copyright (excluding acquired images) is mine. If you want to share this text, please send a link to this page. The original from which this material is translated: www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-i-learnt-journey-pursuing-my-general-artificial-dream-yura-perov