This article is not as heavily technical as the others, but I would like to explain my journey so far with regard to education and research and get a little clearer in my own mind where I am going next. OK, what have I done so far? To explain that, it's best to go in two directions. The official, certifiable direction can be easily dealt with by noting that since finishing school I have so far completed only one apprenticeship as a software engineer.
But that's not what I'm interested in here. In the course of the last 9-10 years, I have developed into an autodidact who can find enthusiasm for almost any subject. Unfortunately, with every piece of knowledge completely new areas open up exponentially, so that sooner or later you run into a time bottleneck. But let's begin at the beginning. It all started at some point with a lively interest in technology, in particular electronic technology, which inevitably led to computers. My first steps in programming began with the computer and if you want to organise programs in a more intelligent way, you inevitably move on to mathematics, where I was particularly fascinated by the binary system, which is ultimately the basis of computers. What I didn't really realize at first is that I had begun to think in a really analytical way as a result of programming and abstraction, which, when applied to human patterns of behavior, ends in psychology. By reflecting on thought and behavior I came to the rudiments of philosophy. A few fringe interests that also opened up are rhetoric and linguistics, which in turn is ideally suited to computers. Generally it's fascinating how nearly every problem from the real world can be represented on a computer.
Many of these approaches can also be found in the ideology of the hacker, which is why I would cautiously call myself one. In any case, there's still a lot of room to develop upwards and I still have far too much to learn. Perhaps this attitude will one day leave me old, grey and embittered, when I realize that time is running out and I can't know everything, but at the moment I don't want to worry about that, since I think knowledge is more important than anything else - it is almost sacred to me.
The problem in our world is, however, that we live in a world of appearances and you enjoy no special existential right as an autodidact. In my world, you profit from ability, not from possessions. Except that at some point you have to submit to the system and realize that, however much knowledge you may have, from the sociological point of view you are just one among many. If you want to demonstrate your interest and ability to learn, you have to work towards academic status.
I think that's why I came to the Open University. At the moment I'm working on degrees in "Computing with Psychological Studies" and "Computing and Mathematical Sciences" there. Unfortunately, I 'm only just starting out and the really interesting things like "natural and artificial intelligence", "approximation theory", "cognitive psychology" and "exploring fear and sadness" only come later on in the program. The good thing about the OU is that the basic idea of being an autodidact is take for granted and the autonomous and individual is not so vulnerable. At times, however, studying like this is very arduous because you always have to motivate yourself so as not to surrender to the laziness that the initial effortlessness brings with it, together with the fact that you have to get through everything on your own, since fellow students and tutors are not directly at hand.
Nevertheless, I'm happy to have taken this path over recent years and to have developed in this way; and today I am filled with such a desire for knowledge and research to try to bring the world a little closer, which would certainly not be the case if I had just followed the successive stages that our education system prescribes. If you combine all of my activities to date, my research, some mentoring and what I have learnt, you inevitably reach a point where you think that it would have been simpler to get everything from one source. Because there are enough institutions where people who are enthusiastic about knowledge can come together: you should, however, make some distinctions so that you don't end up at a mass clearing house, but choose a university at which individuality is valued and any prevalent potential is encouraged without a hidden bureaucratic agenda. But that kind of thing will probably remain a pipe dream, since such institutions are thin on the ground in this country. Perhaps I should really just make a decision and risk going abroad.
OK, but what should come next? I am of the opinion that you can only obtain real knowledge by trial and error in practice. Predetermined solutions that just have to be learnt by heart don't get you very far. You adapt the opinion you have learnt without really being able to provide a justification for it - unless it had to be learnt by heart. Nevertheless, probably the best way is to stumble across the insight you have been looking for, which is also relative, since we do live in an analog world. Certainly, the whole thing could be made easier and you don't have to re-invent the wheel, but sometimes learning in this way is best. The problem with the whole thing is that it is all extremely time-consuming. And in the age of Wikipedia and Google, no one wants to work away for ages gaining knowledge, it needs to be presented quickly and easily. The best thing is surely to find a middle way, which, although it is provided by the current situation, I have to accept has a few shortcomings, even if it's only building up social competence - which doesn't mean that I live on another planet, but I'm a perfectionist.
My biggest private area of learning and research in the last 3 or 4 years has been the optimization of databases and the scaling of high-traffic websites, especially for start-up companies. As no one had filled this niche at the time and there was no real information about it from companies like Google or Yahoo, who were confronted with such problems very early on, the only possibility was to carry out the research myself. There is still really not much information on the subject. OK, a few books have appeared now, but basically it's every man for himself in this area, which might be good from the point of view of being unique, but from the point of view of general progress should rather be seen as a hindrance. But the problem in this area is also that you can't get on without initiative, no matter how you look at it - even if there was a basic body of information, since every problem over a certain size is individual. I don't want to write too much about this here because I'm going to publish a whole article about the problem in the very near future.
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