Dr. Ming, Cyborg Woman
Encapturing the mindset behind one of the most successful women of the modern-era
I was given the chance to hear an hour-long talk by the majestic Dr. Vivienne Ming. Ming is an American theoretical neuroscientist and artificial intelligence expert. She was named as one of the BBC 100 Women in 2017, and as one of the Financial Times’ “LGBT leaders and allies today”. She gave a talk about her life experiences and how it sculpted her mindset which led to her incredible innovations. Although the sparks that flew in my brain while listening to her is impossible to put into words, and I realized this should be a universal experience. I will attempt to summarize her takeaway points. Precisely, the main topics I walked away with.
College does not define who you are
When Dr. Ming went to college, her goal was to complete a college degree in the span of one year.
There were three degrees possible: math, neuroscience, and economics.
Through flipping a coin, Dr. Ming decided upon neuroscience. After she flunked her class (if I recall accurately in her keynote), she sought to better the lives of people.
She initially discovered this passion through her son who was diagnosed with diabetes. She realized that hospital technology wasn’t working for her son, so she hijacked their at-home system and personalized the machine. In turn, her invention worked wonders for her son. Ever since then, she strived to make the lives of others better.
College is such a minuscule part of life. When people record themselves seeing which colleges accepted them, they don’t realize in the moment that a rejection from an Ivy League doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail.
Rejection is redirection.
One rejection should not define a person. What defines a person is bouncing back from those rejections, unphased.
Did the life of an average college student go downhill due to the sole rejection of Stanford? No.
College doesn’t encapsulate one’s identity.
The more defining factor is what you choose to do with your time at college. In Dr. Ming’s case, it was to simply help others.
This wasn’t a point she explicitly stated, but more so implied through the context of her storytelling.
When you have a passion, you can excel in it because your inner drive drove you to do better. To work harder. A college degree doesn’t define that.
Know Your Purpose
Many aren’t a 100% sure of what you want to do with your life. In that case, it’s crucial to explore your options. Familiarize yourself with the end goal and have an outline of how to get to the end destination.
Dr. Ming’s story started from the bottom and then crusaded upwards. Dr. Ming’s ability to persevere is of pure quality.
After dropping out of college, Dr. Ming was at an all-time low. During this time period, what was she passionate about?
She was extremely interested in building cyborgs for the better of today’s environment. Dr. Ming believed that cyborgs were able to orderly accomplish routine, habitual tasks. Going down this path, humans can focus on improving current inventions.
Build a team that hones into your weaknesses
She was not afraid to advertise what her weaknesses were — she made it extremely clear that everybody has weaknesses. No one is perfect. Her weakness was socializing. So, she built up a team of individuals that did that part of the job for her. Weaknesses aren’t something to be ashamed of — instead, one should be proud to display their weaknesses. After all, pobody’s nerfect.
Dr. Ming is the founder and plays leadership roles in countless startups, nonprofit organizations, and businesses. She understood that the interview processes of many existing companies is arduous and tedious — so she did it her own way.
This is what it consisted of:
“Think about a crazy science idea — and you and I collaborate. If you contributed ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of and added fruition to the discussion, then I would hire you. Simple as that.”
When you build a social-good product, give it away.
I will be blunt — I was stumbled by this statement.
I’ll admit I had a selfish thought when Dr. Ming mentioned this — I thought to myself, “What’s the point in working so hard to create a product if you’re not going to make a few bucks from it?”.
A lot of the audience members were perplexed by her beliefs. Dr. Ming transgressed about the happiness it provides; helping people without asking for anything in return.
She didn’t keep her eye on the money; instead, her sole focus was to make the lives of people bearable.
Many groups which she helped weren’t able to afford the technology from the materials she’d created it by, so Dr. Ming figured, “why not give it away?”.
She also didn’t have to worry about the financial aspect of selling her products. She mentioned she made most of her income giving keynote speeches!
She noted her failures when working on creating solutions for her projects
She addressed the curiosity that the audience showed regarding financial stability. So, she made sure to state that it
it’s more costly to operate a working idea than a failed one.
I found this intriguing, and her talk definitely 180º’d my views on creating social good products.
I was so grateful to discover the opportunity to sit down and hear top-tier advice from a person with decades-worth of experience;
— when the going gets tough, the tough get going.