Posted by Danny TarlowWe've all had this experience: you're out at some party or social event, doing your best to blend in and have a good time. Inevitably, though, somebody wants to talk to you. One thing leads to another, and it happens: they ask, "so... what do you do?"
My default answer is
- "I'm a Ph.D. student in Computer Science." (optional addition: "I do something called 'machine learning' ")
This leads me to wonder, though. What, then, is the most exciting answer in the world for a PhD student in machine learning to give? A few rules:
- One sentence limit.
- It has to be more-or-less true.
- (this is the hard one) It needs to be a conversation starter rather than a conversation ender. So while "you don't want to know" satisfies (2), it is disallowed by (3).
- "I teach computers how to think."
- (serious face, matter-of-fact tone) "I develop algorithms for MAP inference in graphical models, typically looking at classes of energy functions where standard techniques like quadratic pseudo boolean optimization or max-product belief propagation are inefficient or don't work well." (Update: this one is meant to be a joke, for the record)
- "I pretend my computer is a baby, and I try to teach it about the world."
- "I design parts of robot brains."