Chiradeep Roy | #TalkbackTuesday

#TalkbackTuesday number 51 – with Chiradeep Roy, and we talk about languages, statistics, and Japanese culture.

Chiradeep Roy #TalkbackTuesday

Hi, and welcome to #TalkbackTuesday. This week’s interview is with Mr. Chiradeep Roy. See his interview below.

Talkback Tuesday is a weekly interview with everyday people. It is always inspirational to look into the life of another person, and realize it is just as complex and large and confusing as your own.

1. For the readers, who are you, what do you do, and what is your current side project?

Hello everyone! My name is Chiradeep and I am currently pursuing a PhD. in Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas. My research requires me to work on probabilistic methods of solving machine learning problems.

I don’t really have any current side projects per se, but I do like learning languages in general. I’ve dabbled in quite a few and have spent a lot of time studying one in particular (Japanese).

2. Tell me more about your fascination with languages. What led you to study Japanese? Given that it’s a very region-exclusive language, how has the language affected your understanding of Japanese culture?

I’m sure you’ve heard this story before. Teenage boy is enamored with Japanese culture. Teenage boy watches a lot of anime in his free time, reads nothing but manga and plays nothing but Nintendo and Square Enix. That was me, almost ten years ago (wow, has it really been that long already?).

I only seriously considered learning Japanese during my twelfth grade (ouch – bad time). My initial end goal was initially to be able to consume Japanese media in its original language.

That changed over time after this goal was met. I gradually found myself more and more intrigued by this curious little island nation and its many strange traditions, rich culture, unique history, and beautiful language.

Japan has a deep, rich culture that informs all their media. This unique nature attracts fans from all over the world.

A lot of people say that language is only a part of culture, but I would say that it is the most important part and serves as a gateway to culture itself. Once you learn the language, you stop viewing the culture from an outsider’s perspective.

You unlock the ability to understand what people belonging to a culture think about it in the form of their books, their TV shows and their newspapers – in other words, an insider’s perspective!

I would definitely say that learning the Japanese language is a very good starting point for trying to understand this fascinating country.

3. You said you’re pursuing a Ph.D. What drives your thirst for knowledge and higher education? Why did you choose machine learning as your field and what challenges in the field do you find interesting?

As a child, I always dreamt of building a ‘virtual’ pet. This idea was inspired by an actual program I had called Virtual Creatures. In it, you could choose to adopt a Mexican Red Knee Tarantula or a Chilean Rose Tarantula. You had to feed it and pet it every day in order for it to like you and not die.

That is where my fascination with AI started, and at the time I had no idea that I would actually be studying it in the distant future. I find the whole idea of teaching a machine to solve problems on its own a fascinating one. It lends a whole new meaning to the adage of teaching a man to fish.

With Google announcing that they’re an “AI-first” company, the age of AI is truly here.

Currently, there are many ways that the research community approaches the learning problem. The mathematicians like using their optimization models, the neuroscientists like simulating the brain using neural networks and the logicians like describing the knowledge as a set of coherent, logical rules.

The statisticians have their own way of approaching the problem, however. In fact, there exists a very powerful framework for problem-solving that combines probability theory with graph theory called Probabilistic Graphical Models.

From spell checkers in your favorite word processor to movie recommendations on Netflix, graphical models are everywhere!

While all this might sound a little Greek, it is basically a neat way to compress a lot of information about events and their probabilities into a very compact form. You can then run inference algorithms on these models, which are basically like simple questions you pose to the system.

For example, you can ask the system what the probability that a patient has depression is given that his appetite is low and given that he sleeps for over 12 hours every day.

These models are actually used all around you. Two examples I can name off the top of my head are spell checkers in your favorite word processor and movie recommendations on Netflix. Graphical models are everywhere!

As far as general AI is concerned, there is still a lot of work to be done before machines can start passing the Turing test. But as and when we do get to that point, I want to be a part of it and see it all.

4. So as a child, you were interested in AI, and here you are. As a teen, you were interested in Japanese, and here you are. What three pieces of wisdom can you give the reader about perseverance and the pursuit of dreams?

As clichéd as it might sound, never give up! Keep working hard every day, and you will reach your goal eventually.

More importantly, manage your expectations. I remember reading somewhere that people tend to greatly overestimate what they can accomplish in five months but greatly underestimate what they can accomplish in five years. So stay healthy, work hard and you should be fine!

However, we all have our bad days when nothing seems to be going right and the whole world seems to be working against us. These are the times that test our perseverance the most.

People overestimate what they can accomplish in five months but underestimate what they can accomplish in five years.

During such times, I personally find solace in reading inspirational quotes, my favorite of which is this one by Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

5. Fantastic. Finally, what would you like to leave the audience with? What can they explore?

Well, I would like every person reading this article to seriously consider learning a second, third or even fourth language! There are multiple benefits to language-learning, some of which can be found in this article:

One of the best places to start is, in my humble opinion, this website:

Who knows? It might even turn into a life-long passion!

Thank you for reading Talkback Tuesday! What did you think of the interview? Leave your comments below.

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Next, check out the previous interview from last Tuesday with Yajnaseni Chakraborti by clicking on the image below.

Yajnaseni Chakraborti | #TalkbackTuesday
Click the image to see the interview.