Why a Self-Driving Car Nanodegree

What I thought was possible ten years ago, is now probable. Things change, and right now human capacity to build, and to automate is better than it ever has been. Every dream I ever had about a future world, a possible world, seems, now to be reality.

I want to take a dip into the realm of dreams. I want to know the possibilities, and to apply them to the world around me. I’m not looking for a new job, or a new career. Dreaming big is a way to aim for a better life. With big dreams come challenges and growth. With growth comes new abilities and insights.

I’ve been interested in artificial intelligence since childhood. It wasn’t just an interest at a superficial level. I was dreaming about what it would take to build a digital brain. I imagined a physical replica of a brain, but with metal and electricity. I couldn’t imagine a computer would be powerful enough.

I thought about the challenges of creating an AI as practically as I could imagine. I tried programming in domain knowledge to make something that seemed to have intelligence. I built an autonomous vehicle in Second Life. At another time, in my career, I integrated radar data into the voxel graph of the Demo III UGV.

Demo III UGV

All the time I spent thinking about it, and trying to design an AI, was all sort of on faith. I was feeling around in the dark, not understanding the field, or even knowing about machine learning. Every time I saw some AI working, on TV, in magazines, I was surprised, excited, and most of all inspired. Seeing it in person, in 2001 was mind blowing.

AI is now completely in the realm of possibility. I want to create that AI I always dreamed of. With that in mind, this year, my wife and I embarked on the Udacity Machine Learning Nanodegree.

Machine learning is everything I thought it would be, but in a way so much more convenient than I imagined. A $1400 laptop has enough computing power to machine learn from images, sensor data, and to produce an algorithm than can control an autonomous vehicle. This is a world of possibilities. This is my favorite time of my life.

This excitement about the near future is why I am enrolling in the self driving car nanodegree. I am not looking to change careers right now. I am happy creating React applications at Zillow Group. My interest right now is pure personal fascination and inspiration. I want to build something in my free time…and contribute to the open source initiative.