You have the honour of being chosen as AI* of June, congratulations! How do you feel about it?
I am very happy, it was quite unexpected for me! When I looked at all the other people who had become AI* I felt I am not as active as they are, I am only in one committee. Most AI*s have been in twelve committees, 7 boards and were actually also there when CognAC was founded.
Well, sometimes it’s about quality, not quantity!
Can you tell us something about yourself?
Hello, I am Paul and I am 21 years old . I am currently finishing the AI bachelor, next year I will be doing the Software Science master (at Radboud). People always think I love programming, but in reality I think programming is often very frustrating and difficult and I hope I'll be able to make it less so
That is very noble of you. But am I hearing correctly that you are leaving AI to do a CS master? How come? Were you unhappy with your choice of bachelor?
I am happy I chose the AI bachelor, because during the degree I got to know a lot about many different subjects (for example cognition) that I ended up liking quite a lot but wouldn’t have gotten in touch with otherwise. The differences and similarities between the many sides of AI make it so that you develop a wide knowledge base. And as to why I chose that master; in my opinion Software Science is more “AI” than some of the AI masters, in the sense of the older definitions of AI. Classic “symbolic” AI was mostly about putting the programmer’s own intelligence in the program whereas the current “Machine Learning” AI tries to find intelligence in big data. That old form of AI is what interests me the most, the Software Science master is closest to this form of AI.
Since you mentioned that you are finishing the bachelor I assume you also wrote a thesis, how was it and what did you write about?
Thesis life was pretty stressful, but once you have your subject and you start researching it’s kind of fun. I had a lot of freedom so it took a while until I found the ‘gap’ I could research, once I found it it was pretty cool. My thesis topic was how different types of neural networks can be used to identify musical instruments in a piece of music. It was actually quite a difficult problem, but I did eventually find some improvements over older methods which was very exciting. There is even a chance my thesis will be published in a scientific journal! Publishing during your bachelor's; pretty cool :)
Would you recommend this topic to future thesis writers?
If you do your thesis about music there are a lot of different ways you can apply AI to it. ‘Reading’ music and extracting information from it has to do with signal processing, the melody is a kind of language you can decipher using natural language processing and different kinds of neural networks. Even logic programming can be used, especially to work with rules concerning music (e.g., how chords work and music theory). There are a lot of symbolic AI applications.
Totally unbiased question; can you tell us more about where you are from?
I am from Eindhoven (de gekste)! It took a while for me to find a room in Nijmegen, only three months ago I found my first (temporary) room here. But now, dear reader, we’re conducting this very interview in my shiny new permanent room!! So I can now finally say I am a proud native Nijmegenaar in progress ;)
For everyone who doesn’t know the context of my question, Paul and I both come from Eindhoven :)
Quite a lot of AI* are actually from the Eindhoven/Veldhoven region, for example, Spence and Noa also come from there, so that’s already two people. You have also been AI* before right?
No, not yet at least haha (wink wink)
Well, maybe you will be soon. Then we will have more Brainport region AI*!
Do you have a favourite CognAC memory?
In my first year, in the first semester there were a lot of very fun activities! Now that COVID is over (knock on wood), I would say that the most fun activity I have been to was the Weekend Bingo.
It was definitely a very unique bingo, props to the WkC!
Definitely, it was a good distraction from my thesis work. I must say there was a bit less hype for activities during the pandemic in my opinion. I also originally wanted to come along to Vienna, but I had different plans sadly.
But we’re definitely hyped for the next CognAC Weekend right??
What do you like to do outside of CognAC?
I play piano (of course) [piano music is playing in the background during the interview]. I am currently practising to play in a piano concert, performing a piece with multiple other pianists. Sadly another player got sick so we have to see if we make it. During the pandemic I also developed the hobby of designing programming languages, which I secretly spent a lot of time on during my thesis period. I also enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends in “Eindje”.
What character class are you?
I play a warforged artificer, which I thought would be easy to play with my AI background but it has its own challenges!
Do you play online with your friends?
No, we do meet up in real life, every Saturday! I also have piano lessons back home so I go most weekends.
How long have you been playing piano?
At least ten years, but be sure to write down a lower number so people will be more impressed at my concert ;)
Actually I think it’s quite impressive to keep at it for so many years and really develop the skill…
Well for a long time I ‘just followed’ piano lessons, but only in the last five years did I really start enjoying it a lot. It really depends on whether or not it makes you happy or gives you energy, not if you have been playing for a long time. I always find it very satisfying how your efforts are rewarded, as long as you keep on trying and practising at some point you will be able to do it. That is also my philosophy for life in general :)
What would you say is your favourite subject in AI?
Secretly, I really liked AI: Representation & Interaction, but I only found out it was so interesting after the course had already ended. I was also always a fan of functional programming… until we had the course Functional Programming. I think it is a very interesting way of programming, and it makes a lot more sense to me than other types of programming. Thanks to the mathematical side of it, you can express yourself very elegantly, but it is also very academic so it has some complicated aspects. Like ‘monads’, which really scare some programmers, but are not so difficult once you get them. In my programming language I would call them ‘flatmappables’, to make them sound less scary.
Do you have a favourite place or thing to do in Nijmegen?
So I know I should name a cool cafe or activity so people will know I’m hip, but in reality the most time I have spent in Nijmegen was recently when I was writing my thesis, during which I didn’t really have a lot of time to explore the city… Hopefully I can change that this summer! I must say that I love going to the Coop here.
Is there anything you would like to share with your fellow CognACcies?
I would like to recommend one of my favourite music pieces; Canto Ostinato by Simeon ten Holt, it’s one of the most calming yet engaging musical pieces I know and if you like it you can come to my concert. I would also plug the hip new programming language I’m working on but it’s still full of embarrassing bugs so I won’t. Also, the WebC is looking for more people interested in design ;)
Do you have any shoutouts?
Shout out to Sven! He’s done a lot of work for the new website :) And also a shout out to the XXXI Board!
Thank you so much for the interview Paul!
If you would like to nominate someone to be AI* of the month, send an email with your motivation to firstname.lastname@example.org!