On the Shoulders of Giants

It was Issac Newton who said "I stand on the shoulders of giants" when describing how he was able to comprehend the laws of movement. His laws stand on top of several previous years of research and experiments, and those same laws were the basis for new knowledge coined after Newton. It recalls me when I discovered the Rubik's Cube. I always considered the solving of the cube to be an indicator of how smart I am, therefore I never tried to look the algorithms to solve it. Several years later I still was stuck until I let my ego go away and memorized the basic algorithm. Now I am able to solve the cube in under 2 minutes, and even go further with new sortings. How hard was to construct the first algorithms?

Since I am from computer science, I even tried to create a brute force procedure to solve the cube. It would have been a good technical challenge: setup a data structure, an algorithm that uses the data structure and loops over the set of possible solutions, an heuristics to check the fastest solution, optimization of memory and time usage of the algorithm, etc. I normally took all of this for granted, but after I read "A Mind at Play", a biography of Claude Shannon, I saw how the modern basis of computation were constructed over several years of previous research and experimentation. It was an eye opener how Shannon created a circuit with levers to control an analog device, and then combined this circuit with Boolean algebra to gave birth to the modern binary system present in every electronic device. Starting as well the age of information.

But we can go backwards in time, to the advent of maths. In the book "From Mathematics to Generic Programming", the author take us in a journey from an ancient Egyptian algorithm for multiplication to the new feature of Concepts in C++. And the last five centuries has seen great mathematicians that had advanced several field of the sciences, and just in 1995 Andrew Wiles probed the Last Theorem of Fermat, stated in 1637. Who knows what new knowledge will bring the solutions of the Riemman's Hypothesis or the Hilbert's problems.

It has been a long way, and we are just scraping the Age of Information and Artificial Intelligence. The world has changed drastically in the last centuries and it is advancing at incredible speed, we can only dream or write about how the human life will be the next century, or even if we will be the same Homo Sapiens or the new Homo Novus (according to Sheldon Cooper).