Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Most Successful Computer Scientist in the World

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.

1 comment:

Classof1 said...

That was an eye opener. Many students stepping out of college, have a wrong notion of success and this makes them depressed, depriving them of the opportunity to find happiness. My definition of success is the ability and freedom to do whatever that makes you happy, whenever you want.

Thanks for that brilliant post.