Rylan Schaeffer

Kernel Papers

16 June 2020

The Idea Machine

by {"name"=>"Rylan Schaeffer", "email"=>"rylanschaeffer@gmail.com", "twitter"=>"RylanSchaeffer"}

Learning at Harvard and MIT in the Age of Artificial Intelligence


One of my favorite books is The Idea Factory: Learning to Think at MIT by Pepper White. It tells Pepper’s story as a student earning his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at MIT in the 1980s, capturing his experiences as a student and as a researcher, including his constant feelings of inadequacy. Forty years later, as a Master’s student at Harvard conducting research in MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Science Department, these posts are my stories, inspired by Pepper and in tribute to those who came before. To highlight my favorite quote, “If I could see […] an insight, a new way of looking at [a problem] that would maybe, just maybe, find its way into future generations […] In the Eiffel tower of technology, I would be a rivet.”

Black Lives Matter

Last Thursday, our lab participated in #ShutDownSTEM, a global event aimed at tasking academics to reflect on what they can do to minimize racial and economic disparities in science. One outcome was that our lab resolved to spend thirty minutes a week discussing such topics.

A Revisionist Touch

A week or two ago, we submitted our NeurIPS paper. The next logical step was to begin connecting the model with mouse behavioral and neural data, but there was a problem.

Foibles in the Supreme Court

Harvard Hillel hosted a talk with Justice Stephen Breyer, an alumnus of the law school, that my mother and I attended. Breyer was delightfully well-spoken, setting a standard I envied, but his evasiveness in responding to even softball questions quickly grew old.

tags: idea-machine - 2020 - MIT - Harvard