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What intellectual curiosity means to me


One of the four core 1E values is Intellectual Curiosity; this is a short piece on what that value means to me.

It’s not about gathering knowledge simply for knowledge sake. Instead it’s figuring out how to apply our knowledge in new and effective ways to create innovative solutions for our customers.

I’m inspired by the fact that some of the recent advances in software development have involved “standing on the shoulders” (an Isaac Newton quote) of past intellectual giants. Engineers have identified original ways to address current computing problems, on occasion harnessing well established theories that existed long before the computing era.

For example, the author of Graph Theory is generally recognized as Leonhard Euler who wrote a paper on the Seven Bridges of Königsberg, back in the 1730s. At that time the Prussian city of Königsberg had seven bridges over the River Pregel and the challenge was to find a walk around the city that crossed each bridge once and only once. Euler took up the challenge and proved, using his graph theory, that such a route wasn’t possible. In the last few years graph theory has received new applications in network design and data analytics, with nodes and lines being used to model relationships between objects.

Another example is Game Theory, the study of strategic decision making. One of the authors of game theorem was John Nash who you may remember from the Russell Crowe film ‘A Beautiful Mind.’ In 1950 he proposed the Nash Equilibrium to describe non-cooperative games. It found rapid acceptance for negotiation techniques. Other aspects of game theory have been used by law enforcement agencies in plea bargaining with criminal suspects. More recently game theory has been adopted by software security companies to inform strategies for counteracting the efforts of software malware writers.

There are other examples too; Bayes theorem used in data analytics was published in the 1760s after the death of Reverend Thomas Bayes. Today Bayesian probability has found a new home in the detection of spam emails as well as in more general big data analytics. More recently, theories developed by neuroscientists are being used to enhance machine learning algorithms.

Science fiction too has proved a valuable source of inspiration – the origin of satellite communication was a science fiction article written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1945. Software companies investigating and investing in robotics have found inspiration from the ideas of other twentieth century science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.

The point is we don’t need to be intellectual giants of the stature of John Nash or Reverend Bayes to make a difference. Our intellectual curiosity will drive our imagination to consider and create new solutions to customer issues and as the above examples show we can find inspiration in the most unlikely sources.

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