Graduate School Dreams

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An honest, cheeky, unfiltered brain dump of why I’m ready to go back. Partially an exercise to aid writing my statement of purpose, maybe somebody else can solidify

The Field

Industry

There’s a certain intellectual apathy. The emphasis on product is frustratingly limiting. Of course, I know grad school isn’t all rainbows and butterflies (it IS compromise that moves us along, after all [it’s a Maroon 5 joke.]) but there is research direction and personal freedom; it’s not “we are literally dead if we don’t ship.” I did that, it was fun. It was crazy. It was stressful. I’d love to do that again at some point. I really want to experience the creative freedom and direction and exploration that grad school affords.

Academia & Affective Computing

HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS?


Affective Computing is the thing I always loved and didn’t know was real. I literally didn’t know there was a field for studying emotion in the way I feel it: logically, reasonably, with nuance and complexity, and as a dramatic enhancement to my experience on this planet. I have never understood why people shied away from it (why STILL indeed?) since it seems like the most blatant necessity in the coming “AI revolution.”

Honestly, if I had had my shit together coming out of undergrad, I would have applied sooner. But I didn’t, and that’s actually way better. I didn’t know how to handle myself right out of undergrad, and now I not only know how to write great code and do like basic time management, but I have a profound appreciation for my own interest in this field.

Seriously, I was never one to read white papers for fun (except cognitive neuroscience, Phil Holcolmbe was the best prof) until I discovered this field because DAMN how can you not!? It’s annoying to me that I understand my passion so deeply that it almost doesn’t even feel like there are words for it… it’s just obvious that rigorously and computationally studying empathy and communication is what I’m meant to do.

Empathy

Over a year ago I met my best friend, Ms. Claire Duvallet. Over the course of one year, she has prompted more self-reflection and growth than any other influence in my life. She speaks to me in a way that I hear so uniquely, and goes so deep in our interests. Here’s the thing though: there’s only one of her. I am grateful for her friendship, and think about how she helps me; how could her lessons be distilled and passed on?

If she teaches me because she adjusts her communication style to me, then surely a machine or automated coach could do something similar. This is going to revolutionize everything.

Lucky for me, MIT seems to be on the education kick too. But obviously it’s so much more.

It’s more than customized lesson plans.

It’s more than actually helpful UI that doesn’t annoy you.

It’s more than empathetictherapy bots.

It’s more than helping autistic children learn social skills.

It’s fucking scary. It’s marketing, targeting you. It’s cognitive scientists, bayesian modelers, and the most crooked CEOs you can dream up manipulating you into buying their products. It’s manipulating the cultural psyche. It’s FUCKING TERRIFYING.

I’m a good guy. I want to be there to fight bad guys.

Empathy is this beautiful tool that is like a dope double-edged sword of justice, that both increases world awesome and decreases world suck.


(for reference)

“Why Grad School?”

I’m jealous of my friends

I am so envious of my graduate school friends. Every time they invite me to a lecture, or a talk, or an interesting speaker or event, I want to go. I’m working hard at the office(s) and that’s fine and dandy but damn do I wish I could leave from 2:30-4:00 most Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve started doing it more often, but I just wish it were my job to learn new things and become inspired by brilliant speakers.

I haven’t met “the one”

I just know where they live. I don’t yet know what problem is going to be MINE yet, but now I know how to get there. It’s Emotional AI. It’s Affective Computing. Yo, do you think Rosalind Picard would think it’s weird if I wrote her thanking her for inventing this field like 40 years before I would be able to?

I Just Know™

I’ve always known. My professors have known, my parents have known, my friends have known. I’m just cut out for grad school. I thrive in the chaos and the creativity and the rigor and stress and want to steep in it like an intellectual tea bag.

The most honest thing I can say is: the more I research and look into the groups I want to work for and learn about the field, the more ideas I have. The bigger my excitement gets. The stronger the passion. The more I want it.

The last time I knew something like this was in my first computer science course. I love the feeling. I love just knowing. It’s such a relief to have found what I want to dedicate my life to. Now comes the stress of enacting exactly where and how that can happen.