My Journey Learning AI, and What’s Next
A reflection on my journey through AI starting at age 16, and what my plans are going forward
Since I’m graduating high school this week, I’ve been in a reflective mood. I wanted to write a lot on Medium this last semester, but I ended up deciding not to until now. Writing on Medium about AI has been a big part of my journey through AI—it’s helped me collect my thoughts and interact to a global audience. I wrote my first article about 2 years ago, which was quite a poor article in retrospect. In this article, I’d like to discuss how I was introduced to AI, what I persevered through, and why I decided to pursue this field. More importantly, I hope my story inspires younger students and can be a guide for them, as I’ve received many messages/emails asking how I became successful in this field. Hopefully, you find this article helpful, inspiring, or an interesting read.
How it Started
I first got involved with AI around my 16th birthday, or my sophomore year of high school. I wrote about the following story in my college essays, most notably my personal statement. These events meant a lot to my academic career, which is why I decided to make it the focal point of my application’s narrative.
While I started an AI project early in sophomore year, I really picked it up when quarantine first started. I was working on a simple skin cancer diagnosis algorithm, a common project to begin with. From this one project, I had “mastered” AI — but only perceptually. No matter who inquired about my work, I presented the same complex explanations I’d meticulously rehearsed. Whether what I said was correct became an afterthought — the show must go on. I’d received too many encore requests.
But finally, it caught up to me. One day while chatting with friends, I was asked about the project. In response to my friend, I did what I always did. I performed my routine — I confidently rambled about convolutional layers, loss functions, architectures, and similar jargon I didn’t remotely get. He didn’t know AI, so I didn’t expect much of a challenge. Surprisingly, he followed with rapid-fire questions — “What’s a convolution?” “What’s a loss function?” “What’s a U-Net?” I was doomed. Attempting to reply, I stuttered and…