Singularity University Day 2: Failure is an Option

Socrates /

Posted on: June 23, 2011 / Last Modified: June 23, 2011

My second day at Singularity University started by taking a few pictures at the entrance of the NASA Ames campus.

After I got the evidence I actually am here, I run to three fantastic lectures: Introduction to AI and Robotics by Neil Jacobstein followed by Daniel Kraft on Medicine and Neuroscience and Ruby Gadelrab on Biotech and Bioinformatics.

NASA Ames Research Campus

In the afternoon we had a 4 hour team-building bootcamp on one of the fields near NASA’s main office buildings. (Unfortunately my team did not win, though we did get much better by the end.)

The culmination was a mind blowing lecture by 3 time astronaut Dan Barry called Failure is an Option.

During his speech Dan told us both his and his wife’s life story and the almost infinite number of personal failures and rejections they had to go through before accomplishing their dreams.

Susan Barry (aka Stereo Sue) has been cross-eyed and stereo-blind since birth. It has been long thought that if one has been cross-eyed for longer than the first critical 5 years of one’s life, one would never be able to acquire 3D depth perception (stereo-vision). Yet despite all odds and after many decades of attempts, Susan found an optometrist who prescribed a little-known program of vision therapy. After intensive training she managed to not only correct her cross-eyesight but even to rewire her brain so that she can finally see the world in 3D — a feat that was long thought impossible by most medical and neuro-scientists. (Susan’s moving story is documented in her best-selling book Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions.)

Dan then moved on to his own life’s story and his thirteen unsuccessful attempts to join NASA’s team of astronauts. Eventually, his fourteenth application was successful and he is now a three-time astronaut who has lived on the International Space Station (ISS).

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3 time astronaut Dan Barry and his space T-Shirt

I am really fortunate to mingle and shake hands with inspirational role-models such as Dan, who taught me that failure is always an option but conceding defeat is really up to us.

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