Not to make you feel like a slacker, but Arav Kumar ’23 probably accomplished more this past summer than most adults have in a lifetime. He started a business, built a computer, and developed an artificial general intelligence device. And yes, and had an email correspondence with Bill Gates.
Always thinking and creating, when he was bored this summer, Kumar took the first quarter of Kahn Academy for all his classes to stay ahead of the game. As a key member of the math team, he built a 2,000-page study guide for his team filled with challenging complex problems culled from the AMC and New England Math League. After reading The Four Hour Work Week, where he learned how to best communicate with people, he was inspired to connect with Bill Gates, yes, that Bill Gates. He visited Gates’ website, went to the contact page, looked at the source code of the page, and with the use of some software, he discovered Gates’s personal email address. (Gates left a message to anyone who found the address and congratulated them for uncovering it). Kumar emailed Gates and asked him about what he thought of artificial intelligence and the ways in which he wanted to use it. Gates replied that he was working on several projects, including a company with Elon Musk that infuses a neuro link with the human brain. Kumar’s one-on-one experience with Gates was unforgettable. “I was ecstatic. I am basically a fanboy. I really like Bill Gates as a person,” Kumar said.
“I think artificial intelligence (AI) is really interesting, what it does and how it works. You make a set of neurons like your brain would have and use calculus to adjust it to see how it would respond to something. You use fancy equations that programmers have already loaded up and you get to make it. I made face recognition and voice response devices after that.” He also made a mini version of artificial general intelligence that’s running COVID tests. Kumar looked at public research papers on the original coronavirus, researched someone who made a vaccine with 95% effectiveness who listed the details for it. “So I just took a genome - five letters in a random sequence and I took the vaccine genome -which is only five letters too - and I said, ‘Hey artificial intelligence, this correlates to this - just keep testing it until you get an equation that matches.’ AI makes its own math. Then it’s figuring out what the possible vaccine could be.”
This summer he also started a business designing logos, garnering 50 clients in one month. Kumar enjoys drawing and animation and used his drawing tablet to create designs after realizing there was a market for social media brands and individuals. He also built a supercomputer over the summer because his old computer wasn’t up to snuff. “I thought I’d build one that could handle all the coding. Normally, it’s a gaming pc but I took some AI functions from a book to modify it into something that is really good,” he said.
But, along with great success comes some spectacular failures, too. He and his friend's attempt at building a car this summer “failed miserably.” His logo business start-up which he initially worked with friends "went down in flames." Deep within the equation for success is Kumar’s ability to forge ahead despite the roadblocks.
“The funny thing is I’ve never been able to do something right the first time. I’ve always failed at it. I've tried to learn school before I go to school so when I go to school instead of failing, I'll be successful. Reading things is the best way I learn. It just stays in my brain. For AI, I’ve never gotten something right 100% of the time. There’s a lot of bugs. The problem with AI is a lot of people view it as a black box where you shove numbers in and you get numbers back. But some of the numbers are usable so if something goes wrong you have no idea what’s wrong unless you know advanced calculus.”
“I used to get burned out if I failed and get very frustrated. I tried to reach out to people I knew, but because of my age, they don’t take me seriously. Since I can't solve things through brute force, I thought I might as well work smart instead of hard and learn something and come back to it later.”
What motivates this young man with a plan? His mom. As an immigrant from India to this country, Kumar’s mom worked diligently and became successful. “She works hard so I can go to KO. Part of what I do is to pay her back.”
We intend on hearing a lot more about this entrepreneur who wants to take his talents one day to Silicon Valley. He’s dreaming big. “I want to try and finish my artificial general intelligence before college and create the ‘everything service.’ Cure a disease. Create a vaccine. Optimize government and the economy to make something more efficient - a tech conglomerate.”
At 14-years old, Kumar is well on his way.