Do You Work on Multiple Knowledge-Intense Projects? Here’s Some Inspiration

Via Mastodon, I discovered the following article, which I found quite inspirational. If you too work on multiple knowledge-intense projects across several disciplines, I think you will agree.

Long Out of Math, an AI Programmer Cracks a Pure Math Problem | Quanta Magazine

Gilmer worked on the problem at night, after finishing his work at Google, and on weekends throughout the second half of October and early November.

“You’d think someone who comes up with a great result shouldn’t have to consult Chapter 2 of Elements of Information Theory, but I did,” Gilmer said.

And regarding the importance of taking time off from a problem and revisiting it later:

“I was a bit rusty, and to be honest, I was stuck,” Gilmer said. “But I was eager to see where the community would take it.”

Yet Gilmer thinks the same circumstances that left him out of practice probably made his proof possible in the first place.

“It’s the only way I can explain why I thought about the problem for a year in graduate school and made no progress, I left math for six years, then returned to the problem and made this breakthrough,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it other than being in machine learning biased my thinking.”

The article illustrates the possibility of making significant progress on a project that is outside one’s daytime, also knowledge-intense, job. It also shows that sometimes one needs to take a long break from a problem before making progress. Add collaborators into the mix, and see what magic can happen! I know this isn’t news. But given how demanding it is to work night, day and evenings — a bit of inspiration can go a long way.

Mastodon continues to impress me as a source of information and respectful discussion. I am @LucCogZest on

Published by

Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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