Justin Li

Academic Typecasting


We often hear stories about actors who don't want to be typecasted. Although this is a term that's also thrown around in computer science, what actors usually mean is that they are seen too often in characters with similar personalities, and are therefore unable to get other kinds of roles. Jim Carrey, I think, is a great example; he tends to appear in slapstick-like comedies, although he is also capable of dramatic acting (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; I love that movie).

So I was thinking about grad school the other day, and how I will spent a chunk of my life solving one small problem. As an aspiring renaissance man, I am a little apprehensive of the idea, but I understand that it's a necessary path to being an expert on anything. What I do want to avoid though is being typecast as someone who only does computer science.

The thing is, once I get a PhD (5 years from now) and become a professor (who knows how long), I still want to have discussions about things far from computer science. One good thing about doing AI is that the field is inherently inter-disciplinary. At the very least you have to know some psychology, and then maybe some math. There will be senimars on education, so that's good, and it's always easy to branch into philosophy. But that's about it. The people I interact with daily, then, will be defined by these fields - just as I will be. What if I want to talk about social issues? Or perhaps explore the graphic design of some house? Global warming? While I'm sure other people will have some interest in things like this, I don't see any heavily promoted open forum to talk about whatever you want, with whoever's interested.

I can read (although I haven't done any leisure reading for the past month; I'm just too busy), but that's a very passive way of learning. I want to discuss ideas with people, to express my own and expect rebuttals and disagreements.

I'm not changing my mind about grad school; it's just a concern I have about my general well-being.

I guess my point is: please keep commenting on my blog.