Category Archives: MIT

Biggest Regrets (MIT students)

Source: Quora, date indeterminate

One of the biggest regrets that I observed among the people I knew was that we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities available to us during our time at MIT.

At MIT, we had unparalleled opportunity to talk to incredibly intelligent, insightful, and interesting minds around us; not just fellow students, but also faculty and leadership at the Institute. People also had a great can-do attitude; if you had an exciting idea that you wanted to bring to life, chances were that you’d be able to find multiple people to help you do it.

However, for many of us, this opportunity was easy to take for granted, and there was always something urgent vying for our attention—a problem set due the next day, an upcoming week of midterms, rehearsals for this weekend’s a cappella performance. As a result, we entirely neglected this opportunity and didn’t realize that it would be gone until it was too late. This particular regret doesn’t just apply to MIT or even just to college in general—it applies to any time/place where a large number of interesting people are gathered. Take advantage of these gatherings, and talk to as many people as you can.

More personally, I wish that I had obsessed less about my grades. Perhaps I would feel differently about this if I were going into a field where my undergraduate GPA mattered (e.g. medicine, academia, anything that required additional schooling), but because I chose to enter the software industry, my grades were of little consequence as long as they were satisfactory. I felt that the amount of time and effort I spent worrying unnecessarily about my grades could have been better spent exploring more extracurriculars, working on side projects, or simply spending more time with my friends (I was often the one turning down Friday night group dinners to study).

Furthermore, this obsession with my grades made me more hesitant to take challenging classes, and I often dropped classes once it became clear that it would be difficult for me to get an A in them.


MIT Student Notes

Source: MIT, Sep 2017

Erik on AI

Source: HBR, Jul 2017

Interview of Erik Brynjolfsson. He’s the director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. And he’s the co-author with Andrew McAfee of the new HBR article, ” The Business of Artificial Intelligence.”

Machines are taking over more and more tasks are combining, teaming up in more and more tasks but in particular, machines are not very good at very broad-scale creativity you know. Being an entrepreneur or writing a novel or developing a new scientific theory or approach, those kinds of creativity are beyond what machines can do today by and large.

MIT and Stanford: Innovation

Source: Forbes, Nov 2012

Stanford is ahead because it has a different industry focus than MIT. Eesley notes that Stanford produces companies with more employees and greater revenues because its alumni produce more companies like Google (GOOG) focused on the consumer Internet and mobile.

By contrast, while Eesley worked at MIT, the school seemed to focus more on energy-related start-ups such as clean technology and more powerful batteries. MIT also “has a higher proportion of its startups in electronics (outside of telecommunications related electronics, which was a separate category and more even) than Stanford,” according to Eesley.

One very interesting part of Eesley’s Stanford study is that one of his researchers sorted the companies by their level of innovation — based on a variety of factors such as whether their intellectual property was patented and whether their business model was based on cutting edge science.

He found that 25% of the companies had a Medium Innovation Index (II) while 25% had a High II. But according to Eesley, the Medium II companies accounted for a disproportionate share of the jobs created (37%) whereas the High II companies generated a whopping 48% of those revenues.

Having spent time at MIT and Stanford, Eesley is in a unique position to compare their cultures. He finds that both institutions put a premium on deep knowledge of academic disciplines and using technology to change the world. But he finds that Stanford students in general tend to have a broader focusconsidering how technology can alter society; whereas MIT students are more likely to be content pursuing fascinating technologies for their own sake.


MIT Micro-Masters that can Lead to On Campus Studies

Source: WBUR, Jul 2017

The Poverty Action Lab, officially known as the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL, is testing more than 800 programs around the world. And now it’s part of a bold experiment by MIT: to allow students to take rigorous courses online for credit, and if they perform well on exams, to apply for a master’s degree program on campus.

“Anybody could do that,” Duflo says. “At this point, you don’t need to have gone to college. For that matter, you don’t need to have gone to high school.”

The master’s program is in data, economics and development policy. Duflo says with the knowledge gained in the program, students should be able to run their own evaluation projects. They would know that most imaginative, well-thought-out programs fail, and therefore they have to be tested in the field — and they would have the tools to do that testing.

More than 8,000 students around the world have enrolled online.

“So many countries,” Duflo says. “Ten percent of the students are from China, and then there is a big group of them from India. In total, there are 182 countries represented as part of the program, even some from the U.S.”

Students take five online courses for free. They pay only to take the final exam for each class, from $100 to $1,000 depending on their income. Once they’ve completed the online courses, students can apply to the on-campus master’s program. Students are admitted based on their performance in the online courses. If accepted, students would spend about six months on campus: a spring semester and a summer semester. They would be required to complete a capstone project involving a field experiment with randomized evaluation, which could be with their current employer. They would also write a master’s thesis.

MIT is still figuring out how much the first group of successful graduates of the online program would have to pay if admitted to the on-campus program, but it would be based on ability to pay. MIT is trying to raise financial aid to cover the cost of attendance and living in Cambridge for the first group of students, scheduled to arrive in 2020.

Ed Boyden: How to Think

Source: MIT Technology Review, Nov 2007

1. Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read, even when you’re reading what you conceive to be introductory stuff. That way, you will always aim towards understanding things at a resolution fine enough for you to be creative.

2. Learn how to learn (rapidly). One of the most important talents for the 21st century is the ability to learn almost anything instantly, so cultivate this talent. Be able to rapidly prototype ideas. Know how your brain works. (I often need a 20-minute power nap after loading a lot into my brain, followed by half a cup of coffee. Knowing how my brain operates enables me to use it well.)

3. Work backward from your goal. Or else you may never get there. If you work forward, you may invent something profound–or you might not. If you work backward, then you have at least directed your efforts at something important to you.

4. Always have a long-term plan. Even if you change it every day. The act of making the plan alone is worth it. And even if you revise it often, you’re guaranteed to be learning something.

5. Make contingency maps. Draw all the things you need to do on a big piece of paper, and find out which things depend on other things. Then, find the things that are not dependent on anything but have the most dependents, and finish them first.

6. Collaborate.

7. Make your mistakes quickly. You may mess things up on the first try, but do it fast, and then move on. Document what led to the error so that you learn what to recognize, and then move on. Get the mistakes out of the way. As Shakespeare put it, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

8. As you develop skills, write up best-practices protocols. That way, when you return to something you’ve done, you can make it routine. Instinctualize conscious control.

9. Document everything obsessively. If you don’t record it, it may never have an impact on the world. Much of creativity is learning how to see things properly. Most profound scientific discoveries are surprises. But if you don’t document and digest every observation and learn to trust your eyes, then you will not know when you have seen a surprise.

10. Keep it simple. If it looks like something hard to engineer, it probably is. If you can spend two days thinking of ways to make it 10 times simpler, do it. It will work better, be more reliable, and have a bigger impact on the world. And learn, if only to know what has failed before. Remember the old saying, “Six months in the lab can save an afternoon in the library.”

Logarithmic Time Planning

Two practical notes. The first is in the arena of time management. I really like what I call logarithmic time planning, in which events that are close at hand are scheduled with finer resolution than events that are far off. For example, things that happen tomorrow should be scheduled down to the minute, things that happen next week should be scheduled down to the hour, and things that happen next year should be scheduled down to the day. Why do all calendar programs force you to pick the exact minute something happens when you are trying to schedule it a year out? I just use a word processor to schedule all my events, tasks, and commitments, with resolution fading away the farther I look into the future. (It would be nice, though, to have a software tool that would gently help you make the schedule higher-resolution as time passes…)

Conversation Summaries

The second practical note: I find it really useful to write and draw while talking with someone, composing conversation summaries on pieces of paper or pages of notepads. I often use plenty of color annotation to highlight salient points. At the end of the conversation, I digitally photograph the piece of paper so that I capture the entire flow of the conversation and the thoughts that emerged. The person I’ve conversed with usually gets to keep the original piece of paper, and the digital photograph is uploaded to my computer for keyword tagging and archiving. This way I can call up all the images, sketches, ideas, references, and action items from a brief note that I took during a five-minute meeting at a coffee shop years ago–at a touch, on my laptop. With 10-megapixel cameras costing just over $100, you can easily capture a dozen full pages in a single shot, in just a second.

Mathematics @ MIT – Ideas

Mathematics is just a way of connecting ideas that are really far apart from each other and sort of building a path of stepping stone to get from Point A to Point B



… math is not just about formulas. It is about ideas.