One small step

— What a cute baby! He seems so much bigger since the last time I saw him. And these cute first teeth! They are so sweet at this age. What a sweet little man!

— Shh, don’t disturb him. He is doing differential geometry. It’s incredible to think that only half a year ago he didn’t know what an exterior derivative was… They develop so fast!

— It would be even faster if he had a sibling. Mine is learning so many things from her sister.

— I am a bit worried about algebraic topology. He avoids it, and sometimes I even have the impression that he has difficulty… Perhaps, I should take him to a doctor.

— Nonsense! Every child develops at his own pace. He will make it up quickly. Besides, have you ever seen a grown-up that doesn’t know algebraic topology? Everyone learns it eventually. Trust me, there is nothing to worry about.

— I must be overly protective and paranoid. I guess it’s because he is my first child.

— Exactly. Trust nature — it’s strong.

— It’s amazing! Infants learn so differently from us adults. They seem to cope much better with frustration. Imagine if we had to learn calculus at the age of, say, ten! All the failed attempts to grasp this term or that notion would be so disabling! I don’t think we would ever be able to learn math at all…

— Fortunately, we don’t really learn it — we acquire it in our infancy, in part by some innate capacity, in part by imitating adults. It’s a completely different process. I have a child in a toddlers’ school and I know for sure. At the age of 10, they work really hard to learn. And the amount of load only grows until you reach university.

— I often dream of how these little people are going to be when they grow up. I ask myself how their lives are going to be? What are they going to do for a living?

— Sweet. But don’t make this mistake, don’t force him to pursue your unfulfilled dreams. Let him decide for himself. It’s more important that they become decent persons. And live a happy life.

— But the job…

— Does it really matter so much? Our society is much more equal in our generation than what it used to be in our grandparents’. Even with a humble job, you can nowadays afford a very decent living — playing Mindcraft on Sundays with those big shot corporate CEOs and sending your kids to a university. Even if he becomes a simple mathematician, it’s not the end of the world…

— I wish I had this solid certainty of yours. I’m too much filled with doubts and worries… I was watching one of those Fred’s shows recently and I thought that, perhaps, Daniel can become like him…

— Don’t be silly. Fred is a genius. Someone like him is born once in a generation. Maybe once in a century. Nobody can do what he does. He is absolutely unique.

— I know, but still. I was looking at a few of those schools…

— You are deceiving yourself with impossible dreams. These are things that 99% of us humans are simply not good at. It takes something inexplicable, some spark of a genius. Someone like Astaire. It requires many years of very hard work, and despite that, very few are actually able to even do the first small steps.

— I know it’s improbable, but I still want to dream a bit…

— Not improbable — impossible. There are so many outstanding professions that are satisfying, are well-remunerated, and enjoy the social prestige. An AI ethics specialist. Or a blockchain lawyer. A quantum computer engineer, or a physicist, perhaps. But please be realistic — your son is never going to be a dancer.

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