It was June-End 1998, I joined IIT-Kanpur for my B.Tech Program …

The very first week, some seniors took a bunch of us to their hostel to rag us … they started belittling us … also, they were trying to brag about themselves … they showed us Penthouse and Debonaire which they brought when they were on their internships in US and Hong Kong. I got disillusioned :(

… they were in their final year, and they were bragging about being the proud owners of some almost-porn magazines which were not available in India …. When I was preparing for IIT, I thought IITians are the guys who build rockets which will someday take us to Mars. And here they were, bragging about having Penthouse :(

After a few days, I happened to explore the Central Library, I was mesmerized … It had so many books. I come from a middle-class background, books used to be an expensive luxury.

I attended all the classes for the first few weeks, I also scored 10/10 in my first quiz which happened to be in Mathematics … but after that, somehow I lost all interest. I started skipping classes, quizzes, even mid-sems :)

That was the time when I discovered the Computer Center (CC).

Henceforth I used to spend most of my time either in CC or in Library. I stopped attending classes completely.

In Library, I was usually found in the Philosophy Section or in the Physics Section. I read several books on Philosophy and Physics in the first few months. Then my neighbor, and later very good friend, Ashish Bhaskar introduced me to Computers and Java …. I spent the next few months exploring Java … I built my first website using Java Applets in 1998 … Next month I learned shell programing and I cracked the passwords of almost all my friends, with help from Ashish … the program we wrote ran for around 15 days but cracked more than 70% of the passwords.

There was one more library in the Students Activity Center (SAC), I got the membership and the first book I got issued was Mein Kampf. I got fascinated with Hitler … But somehow I found, I myself was not interested in Politics.

And that was the time I learned about Artificial Intelligence (AI). I went back to Central Library, they had an entire section devoted to AI. I still visually remember the whole shelf … there were hundreds of books on AI. I found a row which had books on AI through LISP … There were these books, all in blue. I liked one series, it had around 26 Volumes. I picked Vol. 1. Finished in 2–3 days, but didn’t understand a word. I picked 2nd Volume, finished again in 3–4 days … again didn’t get anything … Somehow I can’t give up easily … I picked 3rd Volume … halfway through, I thought probably it’s not my cup of tea 😄.

I now focused solely on Philosophy … found Vivekananda … His first book that I read was Raja Yoga. I got fascinated … I stopped caring about anything … Now I wanted to get all the supernormal powers mentioned in that booklet :) … I was probably imagining myself in future slaying dragons with my superpowers :)

By then It was almost a year … I bunked almost all classes and most of the exams :)

… and I failed all the subjects, except physics :)

… I packed my bags and went back home.

They had this provision of some appeal where they consider the applicants for reinstatement. My professor, Mr. Biswas, talked to my dad and asked him to send me back and he’d get me reinstated.

I refused.

Building Artificial General Intelligence

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