Jiwon's Encyclopedia

An aspiring computer scientist's musings on technology and society.

I have a problem with Netflix, and it's not just that you need a dozen subscriptions to watch everything these days. Even if Netflix had everything, I can't shake the feeling that it rests on a fundamentally unhealthy business model.

The Problem

Netflix promotes binging, one of its key innovations. I'm sure the savvy business folks at Netflix chose that model for sound reasons. For many end-users, however, binging causes unstructured, unplanned media consumption. It's common to have an entire day pass without realizing it.

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There's an interesting dichotomy in how we remember historical scientists. Ancient and medieval scholars are remembered for their errors. On the other hand, post-Renaissance scientists are remembered for their correct discoveries with selective forgetfulness for their numerous mistakes.

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In this installment of book reviews: The Witcher's tale, horror stories of Victorian surgeons, mathematical disasters, the art of recording, and life-saving music.

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Modern programmers are well aware that go-to statements are bad. Introductory programming materials actively discourage and even omit, the statement altogether. It's a shortcut for spaghetti code. Why is that?

In March 1968, the famed computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra wrote a letter to the editor for the Communications of the ACM. It was aptly titled “Go To Statement Considered Harmful.” In it, Dijkstra first distinguishes between the textual program file and the process of executing the program. He remarks that we are particularly bad at grasping the latter.

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Courtesy Jane Pritchard

Sometimes you come across common threads in unexpected, disparate places. I was listening to the Alignment Newsletter Podcast when I came across the idea that artificial intelligence safety is a many-to-many problem with many AI and human agents. This idea is further explored in The Age of Em.

Then I listened to the audiobook version of Deep Survival and learned about disaster siatuations in complex systems. That got me to think more about disasters – more than I already did – and to try to tie it together in some way, since disasters are in everyone's radar these days.

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Critics have long lamented how slowly universities change. Computer Science, one of the fastest-growing majors across countries, is no exception. Computer science students meant to serve the world's insatiable demands for computing professionals simply aren't prepared for the industry. They learn now-irrelevant technologies through dated pedagogy and adhere to academic honesty rules that don't mold well to modern software development practices.

Courtesy Jane Pritchard

In a recent op-ed for the University of Rochester student newspaper Campus Times, I dissected the issue in comparison to a popular alternate education model, coding boot camps. I also gave some concrete suggestions on how to improve undergraduate computer science education based on case studies. Read more here.

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“How to Become a Straight-A Student” by Cal Newport is the best student advice book I've come across, full to the brim with practical strategies that will leave you less stressed, more focused, and academically successful. I reread it many times, and in my most recent read, I condensed my reading notes into a single blog post.

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I have a bit of a history with existential questions. having long since struggled with the void that one must face once worldly desires are met. I have been fortunate enough to not have to worry about my survival, and, thanks to my education, not worry too much about employment or wages. I have achieved things that my peers strive towards, like a 4.0 GPA and recognition for my craft. I have experienced a relationship and know it's not the fairy tails that adults like to portray it as to young people.

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My current home office setup is simple. On my desk, I have my portable small form-factor Linux machine. My code, my archived notes, and my reference books are all digital. Behind my back, always accessible, is a large whiteboard. It's where thinking happens.

Battlestation

They say that a poor craftsman blames his tools. While there's truth to it, it's erroneous to assume that a good craftsman can perform regardless of his tools. In the realm of top performers, the smallest advantages can make a difference. Excellent tools are no exception.

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These are trying times, and it's pretty clear to everyone that solitude can mess up your mental health. A surprising flip side is that I'm enjoying the calm tranquility of structured solitude. I can spend days without unwanted social contact, needless decorum and the stress that accumulates in my hopelessly introverted soul from it all.

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