It was revealed last week or so that Harvard systematically rates Asian-Americans lower on personality, on subjective traits such as “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected.” I’m not surprised at all by this. Though they could have at least been a bit smarter about this by keeping this shit off the record. Now the investigators could actually reveal something about their process to the public that would undermine the institution’s credibility.
I’ve mentioned before that an Asian-American friend of mine, who is quite smart, disapproves of the whole campaign against Asian quotas spearheaded, or at least advocated, by Steve Hsu and others.
My thoughts on the importance of perception management, in addition to actually being good, by way of a chat log.
I recently learned that face recognition, led by unicorns SenseTime and Megvii, has reached the level of accuracy and comprehensiveness that it is percolating into retail and banking, and moreover police are using it to detect suspects, or so various media articles say, like this one. Just Google “face recognition china.” I’m both surprised and impressed. Of course, in hindsight, what they did was mostly collect, aggregate, and organize enough data to train the deep learning models to the level that they can be put to production. The Chinese government has, after all, resident identity cards for all Chinese citizens with photos. I was certainly somewhat envious of the people involved in that in China, and I feel like such a failure compared to them, and that my life has been so boring and uneventful in comparison. Of course, whether I’m suited to do deep learning is another matter. After playing a bit with neural nets, including on the canonical MNIST data set, I sure was disappointed, and I understood immediately why this guy, who is doing a machine learning PhD at Stanford, had said to me that deep learning is very engineering heavy. I wish I had the enthusiasm and motivation for stuff like GPUs. As for that, all I’ve done was play with CUDA in a way so minor almost as if I did absolutely nothing. Again I don’t see myself as terribly suited towards engineering (I’m too much a purist at heart), but I might eventually be compelled to become interested in that, and once I do, I don’t think I’ll do badly. This also makes me wonder what I would’ve ended up like had I stayed in China. I’m sure I would’ve been weird there too, though I would also be more like everyone else. I wonder what I would have ended up majoring in there, and what I would’ve ended up doing afterwards. I’d like to think that I would have gotten a much better education and cultural experience there, though of course, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For instance, in America, Asian quotas means you are judged relative to other Asians, but being in China means that automatically, and China, by virtue of having low resources per capita, is, needless to say, a grossly competitive society with fewer second chances, and thereby even harsher on late bloomers, though surely, the gaokao happens at age 18, whereas in America, grades start necessarily mattering at as early as age 14-5, when many are still very immature. I must acknowledge that as much as I dislike various aspects of the American education system, it is extremely generous, from what I see, relatively speaking, in tolerating failure at a young age. In China, you test into a specific department at a university, and once you’re in, it’s very hard to change, which means some land in majors they end up finding themselves unsuitable for. At age 18, it’s really hard to make such a decision, especially when you don’t really know anything about the actual content of the major, which is usually the case when one is a clueless kid. This is why I say that before you commit officially to an area, always try to learn something about it on your own beforehand to increase confidence that you actually have at least reasonable, and preferably high, talent for it.
I had the pleasure of volunteering for a math festival for elementary school children. There were puzzles, mathematical games, various fun math worksheets (sometimes with figures of animals as variable names heh), building blocks, and the likes. It was organized by some Russians working in technical fields in the area, of which one family has produced some relatively distinguished mathematicians, which go back to, of course, the Soviet era. I was thoroughly impressed by their organization, energy, and enthusiasm, as well as their variety. I had briefly attended back when I was a high school student the math circle that they had started well before then even and kept up till now.
I accidentally stuffed my face last night and found myself too uncomfortable from that to do anything productive, to my great disappointment. So I verged onto non-technical topics again, and in particular, I reflected somewhat on my personal experience growing up as a Chinese immigrant kid in America, and I write this with a hope that it might be inspiring to others with a similar background.
I was just looking at some baseball statistics, starting from Alfonso Soriano, prompted by my receiving mail from another of the same surname. I remember I was a keen baseball fan in grade school, and would watch almost every single game. I didn’t like studying at all, and I was even the kid who didn’t do his homework. In third grade, there was this animal project, where we had to write some report on some Australian animal, and I was the only kid who didn’t complete it by the deadline (in fact, I barely did anything). I got a low grade on it at the end for finishing like two weeks after, and I was super embarrassed about that. Surely, my parents weren’t very happy with me. Amazing how even to this day I still know the names of many of the best players from back in that day. Ichiro, Barry Bonds (steroids), Mark McGuire, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, etc.
I recently met this cool guy because we live in the same place. Though he’s not that nerdy (by that, I mean super mathy), we still share many common interests. For instance, he expressed interest when I told him a bit about 艾思奇(Ai Siqi). Additionally, he told me about his appreciation for André Weil and Simone Weil, particularly her mysticism, which I found quite pleasing as I was reading about them not long ago. He also told me about this guy who is trying to understand Mochizuki’s “proof” of the abc conjecture despite being not long out of undergrad, who has plenty of other quirks and eccentric behaviors. Like, that guy joined some Marxist collective, and goes on drunken rants at 3 am, and is in general “aspie af,” something that he described me as too when messaging that guy himself. There is also, “he would literally kill himself if he had to do a tech job.” (laughter) That guy’s dad happens to be a (tenured) math professor from mainland China, more evidence that madness runs in families. Continue reading “My awesome roommate”
Yesterday, I met this kid who just entered UC Berkeley for undergraduate. I had known him when I was a kid through friends of parents, though of course, when you’re a kid that kind of age gap disallows much meaningful social interaction. I vividly remember senior year of high school in my Spanish class, we were in the school library computer lab doing some project with a partner, and on the front page of the school district, there was news that this kid won a state math competition. I immediately said to my partner: “I know that kid!” And yesterday, he told me that he made AIME in 8th grade, and also later the USAJMO, which shows that he is highly gifted, perhaps more so than I am.