Aim for 2020

It was 2005 in Tehran with dial-up internet connection and me and my friend Sina were talking for hours until around 4am about what the near future would look like. We came up with the idea of turning every little device with an IP address around the globe to a neuron and let them interact the way neurons do in our brain and we called it the Global Intelligent Machine. Then we thought about having our Operating System running on the cloud in a world that any device is your PC. Not long after that in 2009 both of us ended up in the scariest political prison in Iran for standing for our rights and freedom, not knowing what is to come after that.

After being a refugee seeker in Turkey for 3 years I came to United State in 2013 to start a life from scratch and aim for the near future that seemed so far from me. It has been a challenge, but this is how everything starts.

Less than a month ago I got an email from a friend at Tech SF to apply for software engineering program at Holberton School. The program is made available for free to those who are dedicated and serious with a selection criteria that involves multiple challenges to overcome. One of these challenges was to write a post to answer “Why I want to be a software engineer?” and “Why did I choose Holberton School?”

2020 is that near future for emergence of new technologies, applications, paradigms and experiences. Technology is growing with exponential rate, there are more research programs running simultaneously around the world than any other time, we untapped the power of crowdsourcing, internet is on the peak of its maturity and entrepreneurs are in charge of making our daily life more convenient. There are certain technologies that will emerge or become available by 2020 that can potentially have the largest impact in our lives. My goal is not to become a software engineer, but figure out how I can use software engineering to contribute to the future. I’d like to list three new technologies that will be available by 2020 and their impact that will go far beyond 2020 and why these technologies matter to me and how they relate to my motive for learning software engineering.

  1. 5th generation of mobile communication, Today we are using 4th generation of wireless network which is widely known as LTE (Long Term Evolution). Theoretically the maximum data rate on LTE is 1 Gb/sec and in practice it’s possible to reach 100 Mb/sec per user. Since commercialization of LTE in 2012, mobile applications have been revolutionizing our everyday lives by leveraging high speed data transfer on mobile devices. It is obvious to me that by boosting bandwidth to 5 Gb/sec, massive number of new possibilities for web applications, mobile applications and internet of things will emerge. Ericsson has already tested the first 5G devices in US, Turkey and Sweden. Ericsson’s plan for rolling out new technology for consumer demand is by 2020.
  2. A million spiking neurons, In August 2014 Dharmendra Modha who is lead cognitive computing scientist at IBM with the rest of his research team have published a paper on Science magazine announcing the first brain inspired processor that works very much the same as our brain works. This new system can solve complex problems that would take racks of supercomputers with thousands watts of energy with only 70 milliwatts of energy consumption in real-time with the footprint of a quarter. TrueNorth processor can change almost about everything in our life when it hits the consumer market by 2020.
  3. The miracle of Graphene, If Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals in greek mythology, then Andre Geim stole Graphene in 2004 for the modern humans. It is fascinating when you isolate an atom thin layer of graphite, then the magic happens and you have a new material that can blow your mind with its properties. Here are few possibilities that graphene could change our world: supercapacitors that charge many times faster than today’s fastest batteries and have up to 1000 times greater power density per gram than today’s supercapacitors. It’s thin, it’s 10 times harder than the hardest metal, it’s transparent, it can be used as solar panel with more efficiency, it can be used to build new generation of smaller transistors and displays and many more potentials to discover. Here is a paper on the roadmap for Graphene for consumer market.

What would I build if I had Graphene battery, 5G data transfer on air and a cognitive processor in my device? What problem can I solve with them that I can’t solve today? What problems can I solve better than today? What new problems will I find when these things get in my hand and everybody else’s hand? These are questions that I ask myself almost everyday.

Here is the grand challenge for me, I have no skills in building anything even for today’s technology. I spent most of my life growing up on the other side of the world where doing anything for the future seems like a dream than a reality. When I came out of the prison in March 2010 the first iPad was out there before me. But the amazing good news is that I’m in the perfect space-time, Bay Area 2015, where the brightest minds of our world are forging the future. And that email which triggered all the potentials of learning to code. It could all start from here.

Why I want to be a software engineer? Because I must learn to build. I must embrace today’s technology before I could do anything about the future. I must learn how to make softwares that can solve problems, I need to learn the process of building a tangible product from a vague idea. To put it in another word, I must get ready with necessary tools and skills for the time that new technologies are available.

And why Holberton School? Because it’s project based education. My goal is to walk through the process of solving hundreds of technical challenges in order to build a working application, it can not happen if I just sit in a classroom with an instructor telling me what is code. There must be a project with an objective so I can learn how to solve undefined problems to get to the final product. Also another reason is that Holberton School is giving me this unique opportunity to learn this process alongside other students who are dedicated and serious. At the end, “No one can whistle a symphony. it takes a whole orchestra” — H.E Luccock.