Peter Scott as a teenager
I was born/grew up in: Essex, United Kingdom
I now live in: Victoria, BC
I completed my training/education at: Cambridge University, UK
Describe what you do at work.
I spend most of my time helping build and operate computer services for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. These provide their scientists and engineers with the advanced computing hardware and software to do their research and development while meeting the lab's needs for security, accountability, and management. I work remotely from my home on Vancouver Island most of the time and am constantly in touch with my co-workers in Southern California via teleconferencing. We provide everything from data storage to data visualization. I spend the rest of my time writing and speaking about the risk and promise of evolving technology such as artificial intelligence and how everyone can play a part in making the future safe and magnificent.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect people’s lives?
I am helping the people who explore other planets and search for intelligent life in the universe. Everything JPL does is something that has never been done before. My books and talks are about expanding awareness of how we need to understand ourselves better, to build beneficial artificial intelligence.
What motivates you in your career?
I like that we are always doing new things and that "impossible" is not a word we ever use. JPL's motto is "Dare Mighty Things." I like that everyone comes together and it doesn't matter where people are from, how they look, sound, or how they are dressed. I want people to learn about the problems we will soon face so that my daughters can have the same opportunity I did to pursue life and happiness, to grow up in a world that is safe and nurturing.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
I always wanted to work on space, but initially I wanted to be a theoretical astrophysicist. So then I went to work for some of them and found I didn't care for it. That's when I got into computers and found I could make a difference that way, and still work on space: At the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy in England, and then the Griffith Observatory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles. I took advanced examinations in high school in England and earned a place to study mathematics and then computer science at St. John's College in Cambridge University. Going independent in 1999 enabled me to pursue other activities at the same time, such as teaching computer languages through books, videos, courses, and online training. The biggest challenge has always been prioritizing: deciding between many possible and attractive options.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I volunteer as an officer in Toastmasters and that has enabled me to become a far better speaker than ever before. I have two young daughters so relaxation looks like a chance to take a laptop to a quiet Japanese garden. My house borders the Galloping Goose trail and I run on it nearly every day.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Radical changes happen every 10-20 years and they will happen more and more frequently. Expect that.