I was always of the mind I don’t need to understand the maths to get a view on the human idea behind what a Google engineer might want to do. I don’t know the maths behind somebody punching me in the face either but I can observe the cause and effect, note the implications and weigh up the pros and cons of it.
I think building links, creating lots of decent content and learning how to monitise that content better (whilst not breaking any major TOS of Google) would have been a more worthwhile use of my time. Getting better and faster at doing all that would be nice too.
What can I say, the same feeling when I see these SEO "schools" offer a "course" on "SEO" for $4000 - I always wonder what kind of knowledge I would gain from such a course - what is there to teach? especially if one considers that a competent SEO/Link Builder/Content Creator should already be Internet savvy - there is really nothing anybody can teach that is not freely available on the Net, and even more so available for a lesser price by buying some tools to simplify and speed up your work.
I always explain to my clients that it is about hard work, real work - putting up content, links and so on. I DON'T work with tricks, there are no long living tricks (what "they" call "techniques") tricks are a very short term solution until they get discovered or dealt with. Google and the Others are too smart to let these slip by - they KNOW that people use them because they get good results for their queries - and they are not about to give that trust up - they will only try to improve the results...
In the future, a new way might be found to consume/get/find content that is not through search or maybe a major technology breakthrough will change search altogether and make all of my work redundant, but when that comes - it probably won't matter anyway, what is sure to come sooner is a more discerning algorithm that will detect attempts at SEO "techniques", so real content, real links and real page/site improvements will prove valuable while links spamming, garbage data and on site tricks will be ignored or penalized (more likely - although this is not always the case)
I don't do much SEO, but what I do, I try to do good - this technique has proved itself quite a few times for me in the past.