Today I gathered my parents for a review of the code I produce for my MSc research, a Genetic Programming platform designed to work with any prepared .csv file, no matter the user’s level of experience in Python or Machine Learning.
Over the course of an hour I successfully explained how so much of the world, even the greater cosmos can be explained through mathematical functions. Some simple. Some extremely complicated. But all of them, that is, the ones that truly express the inner workings of the cosmos are elegant in form and function. They are beautiful.
When it came to my code, 3000+ lines of Object Oriented Python, there was a moment’s hesitation when I recall that very first line of code, the very first hesitant definition of a variable and function when I thought I’d have the basic code running in a few hundred lines, not thousands; over the course of six weeks, not six months.
In the telling of that story, in the explanation of what I had accomplished, there was very little ego or expression, rather a pure joy for the process of discovery. I was proud not of what may hands accomplished, for I did not invent Genetic Programming, but for the means by which I can now explore the world around me with the vehicle I had built.
I imagine the joy of a geologist is similar, seeing rock layers through the eyes of time and pressure. In the same way, on a much smaller scale, I was challenged to bring this code to life, to allow me to see patterns that tell their own story much as solidified layers of drifting sand, quartz, calcite, and igneous flows tell the story of what happened hundreds of millions of years ago.
I can say that six months of programming was the most mentally challenging thing I have ever done. While the mathematics were relatively simple, the implementation was often arduous. I discovered a new capacity for problem solving that goes beyond my former work in designing supercomputers or a 2000 package operating system, beyond the intrinsic risk / reward of running a for-profit enterprise when every large contract presents a do-or-die situation.
Now, I wonder, have I short-changed my own potential? Not in some kind of ego stroke, but in a very real, “What else am I capable of? What more can I do that I would have otherwise thought impossible?” How many of us truly engage our full potential? With concern for funding, bills, relationships, family, and physical well being, the times in our modern lives in which we are enabled to just think, brainstorm, and solve problems is truly but a minor fraction of our waking hours.
What a shame. What a waste of resources when so much of our world, so much of all our daily, living, breathing, working hours are spent on the day-to-day operations of just getting by. Who out there, who among the myriad humans on this planet has ever been given the challenge and reward of fully using his or her innate ability to solve problems … and indulge in the total bliss of discovery?