20.Sep .2021 19:00

My brief experience with Nico - Giorgi Chakhnashvili

My brief experience with Nico - Giorgi Chakhnashvili
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I am going to toss in my two cents by writing this very brief essay reflecting on a few vivid and vital moments that I shared with my great friend and do so purposefully in an English language (it was a convention for me and Nico to discuss things in English, even during regular circumstances).

I have unfortunately witnessed some of the pain that Nico's family, relatives, and close friends were going through and I can only imagine how terrible this is for them. As for me, I was about to have a meeting with Nico in 25 minutes that day to finalize our new project concept, and what happened afterward completely broke me. Writing this is extremely difficult for me, I am under severe psychological stress that impedes me from writing a longer, well-written, well-structured essay that does not look like something a primary grader would write. However, this is one of the few things I can do with my fragile power to pay my friend a tribute. I strongly believe that everyone must be aware that this country and this universe have lost such a great human being this week - an epitome of humanity, a man of the future, a hero.
 
It was roughly two months ago when I first met Nico: it was a completely random occurrence. I was doing my new AI (Artificial Intelligence) project and the company's CEO with whom I was working (Zura), decided that it would be a great idea if Nico and I met and conversed. Briefly after, we became friends and coworkers, realizing how many things we had in common. We graduated from the same European School and worked with the same Business and Technology University, we both loved meeting new people, driving cars, travelling and enjoying life in general. Materialistic motives were never a priority for us: we both had more than enough of it throughout our lives and our perception of success certainly spanned much beyond that and the concrete world in general.

Both of us had a lot of experience of developing successful products in the tech industry, and there were many philosophical perspectives that we shared, one of the notable being our vision of a simple, decentralized, and fair world. We merged our skills to develop the completely innovative blockchain idea together, and put in our best efforts at it - we, along with many extremely experienced people around us, strongly believed in its potential. We were about to meet that day, that hour, to finalize the first demo of our innovative project, before the terrible tragedy happened.
 
The light beams of a fierce sun violently bounced over the concrete block and refracted through an enormous pane of glass, as if the already flaming discussion two men participated in, was further flared by the ostensible external force. My optical vision was… well, adequate despite the sun rays ruthlessly striking my retinal cortex and my hearing was pristine in spite of the inexorable "a screaming kid in the restaurant" event - that however, did a negligible amount of work in terms of helping me properly register the situation. Everything that kid in front of me was saying seemed ridiculous on surface, but simple, logical and innovative at the core. Despite my equally ridiculous questions, Nico had a logical explanation for every argument he made, and more: he had an innovative general perspective, which was paralleled by no human being in my experience. Throughout my life, I participated in so many projects ranging from working on hypothetical quantum systems involving symmetric permutations and entanglement phenomenon with Professor Georgi Dvali to creating custom architectures of graph neural networks for semi-structured information extraction with the Amazon team. However, despite all of that, I felt stupid: Nico had more than just a complex knowledge, he had a way of transforming that complexity into a comprehensible idea, decomposing it bit by bit, and then magically making it innovative. I have met many extremely intelligent people, but none of them were capable of merging all the three mentioned qualities together - something that gives me the audacity to assert that Nico's talent reminded me of what I read about Richard Feynman. We shaked hands (sorry COVID-19), and as I walked out of the restaurant, still dumbfounded by what I heard, I realized that something really great was about to take place in this world.
 
There was a cacophony of car honking, engine revving and brake squealing. People were rushing away from the central city to escape the ruthless and merciless thermal radiation of the photon stream emitted from a giant sphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium through its layers. The summer sky of late August pridefully wore its stunning, unparalleled beauty through the colors of Venus, Mars, Jupyter and Saturn, much like Lucifer, the morning star, before his fall. It was approximately two months since the July Solstice, or after our first meeting. The head of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the UNICRI, Irakli Beridze was staying in Tbilisi for a week: he was about to depart to Hague the next day. I met Irakli a few years ago in Madrid, and I must admit, he is one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable people I know. Irakli's career involves meeting and talking to people such as Elon Musk, Vitalik Buterin and Stuart Russell and he is known for using his position for helping his country, by supporting young talented Georgian people to achieve their dreams. Knowing how much Irakli has helped me personally and how rare it was to see him in Georgia, I knew that it was IMPERATIVE for Nico and Irakli to meet, especially given that both of these people had much more general knowledge than I had in the industry we were working in (NFTs). I decided that my second home, away from the ruthless center of heat, in the plain of Tskneti, was a good meeting place. Nico and I agreed to meet at the gas station in the morning, so that he would follow my car on the highway to my home. Irakli was already there.

I refueled my car and parked it right next to the station. I waited for a good 20 minutes, which would certainly feel similar to swimming in the eternal lake of fire luxuriously: had not I turned the A/C cooling in my car. In order to ensure that Nico was arriving at the right place, I sent him a picture on WhatsApp, assiduously focusing on the event of the checkmark turning blue (which would imply that he had seen my message). Despite all the luxury and comfort that I felt sitting in my car, detached from the burning land, there was an odd sensation that took hold of me momentarily - Nico was not answering yet. Maybe he was driving? Or perhaps the battery of his phone was dead… right? I mean, nothing worse could possibly happen. I was not wrong, I quickly woke up from the trance after seeing the checkmark instantaneously turn blue, and two minutes later, he was right next to me, in his infamous brand new Range Rover, waving his hand and smiling. A new Mercedes SUV next to a new Range Rover huh? We followed the Georgian (more specifically: "Gegeshidzean") tradition of showing off our cars by examining each individual features, and right after that ritual, we were completely prepared to overcome the Tskneti highway by hitting the gas throttle. It was a fun memorable ride, away from the heat, noise and well, pain. The narrow steep rocky downhill leading to my house was obstructed by a large truck, offloading a large package to my neighbor's Temur Chkhonia's settlement. I really felt like this was disrespectful to Nico: a busy individual who has a lot of work to do in a short period of time. Thus I quickly parked my car on the hill, got out of it and asked the workers to clear the path for us, then I went to Nico's car to apologize for this disruption which would make us wait for a few minutes. Before my vocal cords could vibrate to articulate words, Nico told me not to worry, that there was absolutely no problem and we could wait as long as it is necessary - I went to him to make sure that everything was cool with him, and instead, he was the one who ensured that everything was cool with me! Then we exchanged a few jokes (the funniest one being about a dancing cow, for an explanation of which I could write a separate article, or even a book!) and waited until the construction truck was gone for good.
 
An unexpected wind blew between the two giant mountains, dispersing and hence anhilliating the ruthless heat as it reached for the brigade of plants in my yard. They say, each time a plant is pushed by wind, it releases a hormone that stimulates the creation of a stronger stem. Three of us however, couldn't care less about that ostensibly negligible fact - we were, after all, discussing plausible global level ideas and concepts that could change the world. At some point in the talk, Irakli and Nico started discussing NFTs and shared a lot of complex information. Looking at them in utter silence, I felt so proud and blessed to witness the two of the most intelligent people I know understand each other so well. I almost somehow knew that the thought process of Irakli at that moment was similar to the thought process that I had when I first conversed with Nico, to summarize: both of us have witnessed a human that had an exceptional, special talent and incredible potential, but who was also equipped with utter kindness, respect and determination. Our discussion that spanned at least two hours involved many things: philosophies, ethics, politics, humor and most importantly, plans that we had to execute together. We were completely prepared to initiate our project. Two of us, well-known young Georgian engineers, backed by extremely experienced and influential people like Irakli, Sandro, Petya, Zura, Kvhicha and many others. At that point in time, the fierce glowing sun was visible at its zenith from my yard, and we knew that there was no obstacle that could possibly stop us from succeeding and creating one of the biggest projects of all time.
 
The light beams of a fierce sun violently bounced over the asphalt concrete block and refracted through the small windows of my car, as if the already flaming ambitions that I had, were further flared by the ostensible external force. My optical vision was perfect due to well tinted windows framing the car interior and my hearing was immaculate. That however, did a negligible amount of work in terms of helping me properly register the situation. It has been more than 30 minutes since we had to meet and the checkmarks of my last two WhatsApp messages were still grey. Maybe he was driving? Or perhaps the battery of his phone was dead… right? I mean, nothing worse could possibly happen. I had to make sure though, so in the following fifteen minutes, I called him twice - but he never answered.

It was a warm afternoon, not too hot, but not cold either: a perfect blend. I had planned to rest from all of my merciless university coursework that day and jump headfirst into the pool at my home. I also wanted to message Nico and meet him that day to finalize our project idea for the hackathon and talk about things, but I didn't have to, because he did it first! As I was talking to Nico through WhatsApp, something extremely weird and uncanny happened - there was a medium-sized snake in my yard. We had never seen a snake in that yard before, and this was an extremely rare occurrence, given that our plants are full of pesticides. I temporarily put away the phone to help remove the reptile from the yard and then completely forgot about that fact for a few hours. Nico and I agreed to meet at Mosashvili street at 4 PM, so I started preparing my stuff, extremely excited for our new project. I was also about to see my cousin that day, and I really wanted to see him and Nico meet. I exited my Tsqneti house at approximately 4:07 PM and arrived a little early at 4:28 PM, so I sent two messages to Nico to inform him about that. He did not see the messages for a while, so I called him, multiple times, in vain… At first, I thought he had some kind of emergency task, so I decided to hang out with my cousin and wait for him at Mosashvili for one or two hours before going to Tsqneti. There was a mysterious and uncanny aura between me and my cousin: we have always despised negative, pessimistic thoughts in our conversations, but this time it was different: we started speculating things. As we were about to exit to Tqsneti, I saw my cousin scrolling through the media news (something that he does frequently) and as he was about to open the article about recent shooting that had occured, I decided to call Nico (right in that moment, for some unknown reason) and so he diverted his attention to what was heard through the phone: "the number you have dialed is not in the service", we looked at each other in the eyes and thought about all the speculations that we discussed. Was his phone stolen? Did he get into a car accident? What the hell was happening?

We arrived at Tsqneti, and it was getting pretty cold - we were, after all, very close to approaching the September Equinox, bidding a farewell to our fierce sun. As I was getting out of the car, I called Nico once more, then my cousin showed me a post published by a close common friend and asked me if I knew who the person in the picture was. The post itself contained the text "please come back to us", and for some reason, my mind did not register the attached picture at all for at least 10 seconds, but when it did, my heart started racing and my pupils were completely dilated: I immediately asked about what was happening and... I got my answers… I only remember very little since that night, I have yet to properly register everything that happened after the 15th of September. I do recall doing something that I have not done for more than half a decade, since visiting mount Athos and eventually becoming non-believer. I stood on my knees for half an hour, and begged God to save Nico, to take away all my talent, money, success and fame, but let him live - so that this world could see him and his capabilities. For some reason, I believed with full confidence that he would survive, I believed that God would not allow him to die, despite being rationally aware that no one has ever survived more than 3 minutes of clinical death with the body that went through a hydrostatic shock.

I went to sleep at 6 AM that day, right after checking the WhatsApp chat hundredth time to see a miracle of those grey check marks turning blue, and woke up 2 hours later from an abysmal fever dream (that I will not discuss here). My feet and hands were frozen, I could barely move my limbs, I did not feel like a living being… There was no fierce sun, no ruthless heat, no car honking or annoying kid screaming - just cold and silence. Everything was gone with the sun: everything was gone with Nico. And it was raining everywhere, out there in the cruel streets, up there on the miserable hills watching over our poor, violent and merciless city, somewhere in heaven and very shortly after, deep down, there, in all of us.

This ruthless, bloody and violent country has taken the life of a man that had the key to doors of the future, to a much better world. He was a hero of mine, and I am sure he was a hero of many other people. Throughout my life, I thought I knew the meaning of a true pain: of a true trouble, until they murdered my close friend. I thought I knew what the suffering was until I looked in the eyes of Nico's mother, whom I have never met before; somehow, she identified me, even with my face mask on, and told me everything that Nico believed about me and our objectives. It is ironic that I thought the same exact things, but I will never have any more chances to tell him about it. We were supposed to travel to Portugal, Boston, San Francisco and around the world to do what we loved, only to come back and help our country: the same country it's only hope. I must admit, that I have lost every single shred of motivation when Nico died - all of my projects, all of my contributions and all of my ambitions were rendered as absolutely worthless. Every time I try to do my university coursework, programming tasks or scientific research, his voice and picture flashes through my mind and I lose my motivation. My arrogance would not allow me to say this to him, but Nico inspired me and changed the way I looked at the world. He was a hero that died through a tragic death, and his humility and kindness mixed with his intelligence is exemplary for ANY talented individual in this world. Nico was not Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, he was more: he was the future.

Thank you Nico,

Thank you for everything,

George