During a class discussion last week one of my students asked me “Who is the most successful computer scientist in the world?” Whoa! What a question. I started my reply with “it all depends on how you measure success.” Success means a lot of different things to different people.
If you measure it by money then Bill Gates is probably the one. But I suspect that Bill Gates would rather be remembered for his philanthropy than for his work at Microsoft. At least at this stage in his life. If you are a theoretical CS person then
winning being awarded the Turing Prize would be a good measure of success. While a number of them are well off I don’t think any of them are in the billionaire range. But they sure are successful in the opinions of many.
What then is success in computer science? I doubt there is one answer. There are probably as many answers as there are people in computer science. I told my students if at the end of the course they were not turned off to computer science I would call that some success on my part. If they were more interested in CS after the course and before that would be big success.
I gave up on getting rich a long time ago. The price of riches is too high in too many ways for me. I once heard someone say that being able to afford both the time and money for a weekly one hour massage was success. Financially I think that is about right. Being able to do the things you like is success.
There is a great cartoon strip that has been making the rounds on the Internet the last few days. Words by Bill Watterston and drawing by Gavin Aung Than. Check it out.