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Success is Built from Failures

Perspective from Engineer & Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

“Success teaches us nothing... Only failure teaches.

From Admiral Rickover address to US Naval Postgraduate School (16 March 1954)

Hyman G. Rickover (January 27, 1900 – July 8, 1986) was an engineer and Admiral in the U.S. Navy and the father of the nuclear submarine, one of the most sophisticated engineered systems of the 20th Century. His influence on the Navy and its warships was of such scope that he may well go down in history as one of the Navy's most important officers. In just three years, from 1950-1953, not only did he develop a controlled nuclear reactor, but he miniaturized it so that it would fit on a submarine, and solved a host of technical problems. The USS Nautilus submarine became the first submarine to cross the Atlantic without surfacing and without taking on any fuel. He remained active in the development of nuclear subs through 1982.

Adapted from

Admiral Rickover on the cover of Time magazine, January, 1954

Implications for Today's AI Project Failures

The development of artificial intelligence (AI), is still in its infancy. Failures are rampant (see next post). Success will require AI to overcome many technical challenges and workflow integration issues. Leadership will have to be patient. AI is not IT.


We who work in the building and deployment of AI systems are quickly learning from these mistakes. As an engineer, I focus on failures to learn and prevent them. That's where the reduction in success rates comes from. That how successful engineered systems are developed.

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