Textbook fundamentals

Back in school, we would learn about the fundamentals of a specific field before moving forward to its applications. For example, in chemistry class we would read textbooks which describe the elements of the periodic table and their constituent protons, neutrons, and electrons before attempting to understand how atoms from different elements bond with each other to create compounds. You need to know the former to be able to understand the latter.

After leaving school, our focus shifts from textbook fundamentals to applications. In many areas, we read about compounds and their applications without understanding the underlying atoms and elements which make up these compounds.

If we’re simply a consumer of an application, we often don’t need to understand the textbook fundamentals which drive how it works.

However, if we hope to create or support the creation of an application, in other words if we’re an entrepreneur or an investor, we need to understand the textbook fundamentals. Continuing with our example, we can’t hope to come up with a new compound with a useful application without understanding how atoms from different elements bond with each other.

Although the example I outlined pertains to chemistry, the same holds true for today’s most popular fields like biological engineering, deep learning, and the blockchain.

If we hope to be creators of applications in these fields, we need to return to the textbooks. We need to return to the fundamentals.

Also published on Medium.