Justin Li


Complex Systems? Or Learning? Or...?

2008-12-01

As you probably know, I've been working on my statement of purpose over the last two weeks or more... Actually, now I don't know if it's a good idea to write about it here, since it reflects badly on my application. But I will go on anyway.

One of the things I needed to put in my statement is what I specifically want to specialize in. It doesn't have to be what I eventually do research in, but it does tie the entire essay together. At first I was thinking of using complex systems, since that was what I've been obsessed with for the past quarter, working with Sugarscape and all. And then I realized I don't really have much to say about that, and I'm not interested in the direct application of complex systems to computer science, which deals with network flow and analysis. You can also do distributed systems, of course, but that's also more hardware related.

So in the middle of writing, I had to figure out what really gets me about artificial intelligence. And the more I thought, the more I leaned towards cognitive modeling. It's kinda funny, because I was more into it during my first two years of college. In junior year I took all information retrieval classes, and have been more worried about making intelligent machines than with modeling humans. But I think that my true dream in AI is learning. Not like machine learning, which is maths and statistics, but learning in the general sense. More along the lines of case-based reasoning and knowledge bases.

I can only hope that's the right choice... funny, I always thought I knew what I was doing, until I actually try to write it down.

On the other hand, When I started writing the statement, the first thing that came to mind on why I chose AI was that I had a God complex. I want to create as God did, and show that He is nothing special. In that sense, somehow my interest in AI and my interest in religion has intertwined. The is something appealing about things like artificial life, where you can potentially create a whole eco-system. I think it says something about religion in a very sciency way.

Anyway, the last thing I'm going to say is that since I'm not applying to Berkeley anymore, I'm only applying to 3 schools. Since there is significant risk of me not getting into any of them, my backup plan is to apply for Teach for America (which, arguably, is equally hard to get into). And if that fails, hiking the PCT. Ah life.

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