Confessions of a researchaholic

May 27, 2020

AI and art

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:20 am

A few days ago I read two articles about AI and art:
Computers do not make art, people do
A philosopher argues that an AI can’t be an artist

I cannot predict the future, including the possibility for AI to create art.
However, at the current stage of technology, AI can automate only a very tiny portion of creative tasks.
So just like all existing automation tools, I see AI as an assistant to elevate humans to higher mental tasks rather as a replacement.

May 8, 2020

Deep journey and genuine experience

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:51 pm
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There are these tourists who just want to visit as many places as possible to take (or even fake) photos without spending enough time experiencing the local life and culture with sufficient depth.

Researchers who abuse authorships are like such tourists.
They pretend having all the fun without actual experiencing much.

Life is a deep journey, and genuine experience is what matters the most.

May 3, 2020


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:11 pm
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A few days ago I read an article about an open-source ventilator that can be built with $400 in readily-available parts.
Today I saw a Facebook post discussing an article titled “Do top conferences contain well cited papers or junk?”.

Our impact is measured more about what we do for others (e.g., solving a social issue, curing a disease, saving the environment) than for ourselves (e.g., ego or career).
I would care much more about developing useful products or services than counting the number of papers or citations.

April 22, 2020

Remote internship

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:24 pm
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I have experiences in remote collaboration and mentoring.
I did not need research meetings and I did not meet the first authors of some of my papers until before the conference presentations.
(I have yet to meet the first-author of my latest CHI 2020 paper for which the physical conference is canceled.)

However, there are important aspects that are difficult to emulate remotely beyond research and technical works in research internships, such as serendipitous encounters with different people and immersions in different environments.

Thus, I have been thinking about what would be good alternatives or replacements for remote internships (or research collaborations in general) that can best emulate on-site experiences?
If you have ideas, feel free to share with me.

One (Adobe-specific) possibility I have been thinking about is artistic creation via various tools, suitable for remote and asynchronous communications and yet different from and complementary to technical research.

April 4, 2020

Virtual machines

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 8:55 am
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When I was a grad student at Stanford I thought the idea of virtual machines was entirely crazy. And then came cloud computing.
This CACM article nicely summarized the background story.

March 23, 2020

Networked creativity

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:57 am

I used to think that individual creativity is essential to succeed in a research career, either academic or industrial, until I saw people who managed to compensate their lack of creativity (or more general talent/effort) with socializing and networking to leverage up their apparent productivity.

March 18, 2020

How to clarify technical writings

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:06 pm

There are two ways to clarify writing: modifying existing texts, and rewriting from scratch.
These two can be combined in some way and thus not exclusive.
Sometimes, if the writing has fundamental structure issues, it could help to sketch out a fresh outline aiming for a general audience without deep knowledge of the topic.
This exercise could then provide a roadmap for subsequent steps.

March 7, 2020

Information flow

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:11 am
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Watching the real-time electric power flow among the grid, solar, battery, and home, I like to be able to see similar flow visualizations for our buildings (e.g., heat, water, gas) and bodies (e.g., calorie, cholesterol, blood sugar) so that we can be more informed to take care of our internal health and external environment.

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February 20, 2020

How to bring up a research student

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:34 pm
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My approach can be titled as “multi-resolution mentoring”, depending on the skill set and development stage of the student.

For students who can already single-author SIGGRAPH papers, there is not much need for a mentor.

For students who can already develop and implement ideas, guide them on high level direction and building a project from proper components.
A good project often has more potential that can be done for a single paper, and thus it is important to scope it properly so that it contains the right amount of contributions and materials, neither too much nor too little.
We likely need to write the paper (and script the video) to guide this process.
If the direction is big enough, plan several projects/publications.

For students who can develop and implement detailed algorithms but lacks ideas, brainstorm with them as much as possible, to best fit their interests and leverage their strengths.

For students who can implement but not develop ideas and algorithms, give them specific instructions, such as algorithms in the level of pseudo-code via paper drafts.

For students who have difficulty with basic implementation, they are not ready for research and should go back to practice coding, e.g. reproducing algorithms from their favorite papers.
Never write code for them as that would consume our time and hamper their growth.

For students who get stuck in the development ladder, at some point we might have to suggest alternative career options which might be more suitable than research.

At some stage of your career, you might find developing talents even more satisfying than publishing papers or building products.
Guiding a student grow is a magical process (probably like parenting, which I have no hands-on experience yet) and can form a long-term collaboration relationship.

January 13, 2020

Working in a dream

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:53 am
Tags: ,

Since I have this habit of thinking about stuff all the time, even when I am dreaming, I sometimes could not tell if I have done something for real.
For example, earlier today when I looked at a comment I made in a paper draft, I found it missing a part that I thought I have added, but then I realized that I only did it in my dream a few days ago.

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