Meet the Pioneers

Here are the winners from the first Pioneers tournament, summarized here:

In the short 3 months since its launch, Pioneer has garnered a global reach. Our first tournament featured applicants from 100 countries, ranging from 12 to 87 years old. Almost half of our players hailed from countries like India, UK, Canada, Nigeria, Germany, South Africa, Singapore, France, Turkey, and Kenya. Projects were spread across almost every industry — AI research, physics, chemistry, cryptocurrency and more.

They are a remarkably impressive group, here is one example:

Clark Urzo (23, Philippines)

Clark is making a programming language for physics. The idea is to enable anyone who can code to contribute to serious physics research (for example, simulations of gravitating systems). This opens up the field to the wondrous forces of open source and promotes open and accountable science along the way.

Noteworthy: Clark has an insanely impressive trajectory. He learned to code when he was 12. By 16, he was doing Laplace transforms, tinkering with Arduinos, reading Marx and Nietzsche, and taught himself conversational German. He co-founded a VR company by 19.

Or:

Harshu Musunuri (18, USA)

Harshu is creating synthetic materials to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sepsis, a leading cause of death in hospitals around the world. Unlike other approaches, these materials don’t require refrigeration and enable low-cost toxin capture in resource-poor settings.

Noteworthy: Harshu comes from a humble background: she was born to an electrical engineer and an elementary school math teacher in a small village in South India. But her work is anything but humble. In her short career, she’s done research with NASA’s JPL, built a seizure detection app for epileptic patients and is now working on a project with the potential to save thousands of lives. She’s also a hacker at heart: when she lacked the formal lab tools to braze at high temperature, she used the exhaust vent of a ceramic kiln.

The overall lesson is that there is a great deal of undiscovered talent out there, and also that some people are out there discovering it!  And if you wish to apply to round two, just follow the instructions at the top link.

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One good way to elevate talent would be to stop suppressing it in favor of the ruling class.

Oh yes the Jewish ruling class....take the blatant bigotry somewhere else please.

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Ah yes, the elite Zionist scheme to control the IVY league and the skull n' bones controlled federal reserve at... checks notes... UCLA?

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Wish there was a 'like' button. Love this project.

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Yawn, color me unimpressed. Not to rain on these youngsters parade (yeah right), but the first guy, from the Philippines, seems to be doing nothing more than designing a sort of Object Oriented programming language where if you type G = Gravity(x,y); then the points x,y will be subject to a constant downward force. No big deal (today computer games do the same thing with a lookup table, that's why they look so 'realistic' but it's an optical illusion); the second guy, from India, seems more adventurous (hardware oriented) but "curing sepsis" is a constant biotech Holy Grail (I almost invested in two biotechs the other day who are curing sepsis, only one has FDA approval, which AlexT correctly points out is getting harder and harder to get, which stifles innovation, but I digress), how is her advance any different? Basically sepsis is a superbug in your bloodstream that rots your flesh.

Rots your flesh, that's probably what my creepy dour comments do? Johnny Rotten.

Whats up with the negativity today Ray? Bad mood? Couldn't find any 19 year olds to pick up?

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Hi! I suppose blurbs really do away with a lot of the details, heh, but to clarify: my project is about formalising some of the more mathematical aspects of standard physical theories (starting with GR) via homotopy type theory. The idea is to have physical concepts as *primitives* so one can manipulate them in code directly, delaying their deflation to numbers and matrices of numbers for as long as possible. If you're familiar with categories, you can think of this as *categorification to a fault*, of trying to preserve as much of the mathematical structure of the physical systems before committing to a representation. John Baez quotes Richard Elwes in [1]:

> Why do three apples and three oranges both reduce to the same “3”, when apples and oranges are entirely different things?

> The answer is that the mathematical structure that “3” inhabits - the system of ordinary numbers - is an abstraction shorn of any information about the things it represents. In this case, categorification involves replacing this system with a richer structure, a “category”, in which the rigid equations that define the number system - “1 + 2 = 3”, for example - are replaced with weaker statements comparing the sizes of different sets of objects. This category offers a real-world flexibility that numbers on their own do not: its sets can be different even if they have the same size. In this structure, the original number system appears as the category’s “shadow”, obtained by collapsing all sets of size 3 down to just one representative: the number 3.

You might think of all this as abstract nonsense and you'd be right: the inclination of modern mathematics nowadays is certainly skewed towards algebraic-geometric tools and all its offspring (incl. category theory). This and the physics community's insistence on number-heavy, measurement-above-all cleaves the two fields into mutually incompatible directions, and historically speaking that's a problem since you don't get the usually fruitful cross-pollination between the two.

Around 2009-2010, Voevodsky et al changed all this with their Univalent Foundations program [2] . For the first time, you can work with these abstract mathematical concepts in a *concrete* and *uncumbersome* way by lifting them into types, which computers can definitely work with much better than, say, set theory. And not only that, but you get the fruits of automated theorem proving as well, meaning papers like Mochizuki's 500+ page proof of the ABC conjecture get validated in 10 minutes rather than *six years*.

I'll be the first one to admit that it's a huge undertaking†—certainly not something I can complete during my undergrad years, if at all. I usually find myself out of my depth with the bewildering variety of things I need to know to proceed. So I'm starting as small as possible (contrary to the blurb) and writing a Coq/Agda library based on results which are already there. Only afterwards will work on an actual start, if it proves necessary.

† : But certainly not the first. Since Hilbert, people have been trying to axiomatise physics to no avail. But we're getting there piecemeal, with more recent breakthroughs such as Lawvere's *Categorical Dynamics* via toposes [3] and Schreiber's extensive list of results on exactly the problem I'm tackling [4]. My work is just one piece of the puzzle, the actual computer implementation.

[1]: https://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/2008/10/categorification_in_new_scient.html

[2]: https://homotopytypetheory.org/book/

[3]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXATg9_6iWE

[4]: https://ncatlab.org/schreiber/show/Modern+Physics+formalized+in+Modal+Homotopy+Type+Theory

> Only afterwards will work on an actual *programming language start

Typo. If you have more questions I'm willing to close inferential gaps. :)

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I think it's great. But why do you so specifically emphasize building a community of "young" people, rather than just a community of ambitious people? Seems very inclusive otherwise.

Lots of reasons: option value/more value of early interventions, younger people are less likely to have resources/reputations/careers to draw on, more energy/flexibility/fluid intelligence.

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Yeah, the ageism is a turn-off. Three of the top five on the leaderboard were 30 or older, and somehow none of them were selected. I guess experience doesn't count for much in this system.

I certainly think its a good thing to find and support sharp, talanted and ambitous young people. But it makes me wonder. What about all the sharp, talented old people that are retired and stagnating. Surely there is a lot of talent going to waste unnoticed.
Again, that is not questioning the Pioneers Tournament which I find inspiring.

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Very interested and very positive.

No negative energy there.

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Harshu and sepsis: Sepsis is frequently the cause of death but not the official cause of death. For example, one frequently hears or reads that someone died of leukemia. Not really. Someone with leukemia most likely died of sepsis. It's all those antibiotics that trigger the body's self-destructive response to infection. I've never heard or read that someone died of antibiotics. Anyway, good for Harshu.

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"Almost half of our players hailed from countries like India, UK, Canada, Nigeria, Germany, South Africa, Singapore, France, Turkey, and Kenya. "

I don't know understand this. What is the link between this group of countries?

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Anyone innovating in making a factory to produce, say 1000 electric cars per day, or to manufacture solar roof panels that will withstand severe weather extremes, hot, cold, wind, rain, snow, etc, for a minimum of 30 years, and ideally 50 years?

How about building flow batteries in volume to store a megawatt per unit scalable easily to a gigawatt?

How about organizing a workforce of 10,000 to build, operate, maintain, and constantly improve a factory?

Or how about boring tunnels large enough for transporting people, water, sewage, etc, at a speed faster than a snail?

What is discouraging is knowing hundreds of people have proven themselves capable of building large manufacturing plants in China that employ ten thousand workers quickly, and then constantly improve to increase quality, volume, complexity, and labor skills to greatly increase labor costs which greatly increases both demand for consumption and capital assets driving high growth in GDP.

People seeking to rapidly increase labor costs of an enterprise is a wonderful thing!

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The Pioneer effort is fine, even laudable, but I can't help but wonder how many Elizabeth Holmes types are hiding among the applicants -- and even among the winners.

At such a low level of granularity, it will be hard to separate malicious actors from genuine failures. Pioneer takes on extra risk by investing in *people*, not companies having/about to have profitable products or services, and as such they are more vulnerable to exploitation in the way you mentioned. But the thing is, they are already aware of this possibility. They've adjusted the benefits of winning to reflect this risk (e.g., by giving out Google Cloud credits instead of hard cash) and I think it would be more charitable to assume that they've at least done their homework on this.

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Oh my, I got mentioned in Marginal Revolution! This is such an honour!

I guess this is as good an impetus as any to stop lurking and start contributing. Oh, and I have to say that the Pioneer team has been really accommodating from the get go. Turns out it's difficult to send prize money to countries of varying regulations but they've been with us every step of the way.

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