The Road Not Taken

In 1993 I started grad school in social science at Caltech, after being out of school for nine years.   But going back to school wasn’t the only option I had considered.   My good friend and mentor Eric Drexler, whose book Engines of Creation had put the nanotech concept on the world’s table, was a fan of my work on "idea futures," now known as "prediction markets."  Eric is a good writer; he had helped me hone my idea futures papers writing, and he was encouraging me to write a popular book on the subject.  I didn’t have anywhere near Eric’s contacts to help me sell my book, but with Eric’s help I might have had a decent chance at writing an engaging popular book on idea futures.

But I choose to go back to school, instead of writing a book.  I was 34, near the limit of how old a student can be to be accepted and seriously considered for an academic career.  I wanted to make a break from my software career to work on my ideas full time, but I had doubts about how far I could get with just a book and no other credentials.  I was worried that there were relevant things I didn’t understand about idea futures, and I wanted to pursue other related social institution ideas. 

It turns out that there was a whole lot I didn’t understand about social science, and by going to school I managed to find a career where I can think about ideas at least half time.  But now as I finally start to write my first book, I see it will probably never be clear to me whether I made the right choice.

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