Projects/Interests

Things I work on / things I'm passionate about

Deep Learning

I managed to (re-)invent convolutional neural networks as part of my Master's thesis research back in 2002, a few years before they hit mainstream. (This is a moot point now though, because GPGPUs were not yet available, making these networks inefficient and impractical at the time, and I had to graduate, so I never ended up publishing this work!)

However, I have a number of ideas I am working on for ways to improve the capability and the flexibility of modern deep learning networks over the current state of the art.

Computer Science and Computational Biology

My PhD was in computational integrative developmental genomics at MIT, in collaboration with Harvard Medical School.  I searched for genomic features that regulated cell division and tissue differentiation.  Ultimately I am interested in trying to find where the blueprint of an organism is stored in its genome, and to reverse-engineer "the structural compiler" of biology.  My PhD work involved data normalization, integrative genomics, statistics, pattern recognition and machine learning.

Automatic Parallelization

I am designing a new type of programming language that solves the multi-core dilemma by automatically parallelizing all code written in the language, up to Ahmdahl's law.

Open Source / Free Software

I have written something like a quarter of a million lines of code in the 30+ years I have been programming, and I have started releasing some of my old or reusable code back into the public domain as opensource projects.
Android

I have developed a number of Android applications, and back when Android was first released, I hacked the Synaptics touchscreen driver in the Android Linux kernel to support multitouch scaling (pinch-zoom) on the first Android phone (the G1) a year before Google added official support for multitouch.

Ideas



I am passionate about innovation and disruptive ideas. I received a TED Fellowship to attend the TED conference ("Ideas Worth Spreading") in 2011 and a Feast Fellowship to The Feast Conference (feastongood.com) in 2013.

Acceleration of Technology

I was accepted into the Inaugural Class of Singularity University, GSP-09.  I am passionate about the impact of technology and information on society.

North Korea

I worked as Director of Educational Technologies for Choson Exchange, a nonprofit that is trying to improve the quality of life in North Korea by improving the quality of education. I have visited North Korea twice, the second time to take OpenCourseWare materials to donate to North Korean universities.

I have been passionate about improving conditions for North Koreans since I lived in South Korea 14 years ago.  10-15% of the population of North Korea died of famine in the late 90s and nobody noticed -- because it was the middle of the Asian financial crisis and everybody was worried about their wallets.  How many countries do you know that that sort of statement can be made?

I am fluent in Korean, so have the unique experience while visiting North Korea of understanding the North Korean perspective in their own language and not through a translator.  (South Koreans cannot visit North Korea without special government permission.)

I have also traveled extensively in the border regions between North Korea and China and interviewed both ethnic Koreans and ethnic Chinese living in China in their own language about the political and social situation North Koreans find themselves in living in China.

China / Chinese

While finishing a PhD at MIT I realized that I could cross-register to Harvard for free, so after finishing my core classes for my PhD I pursued my 20+ year dream of studying Chinese formally.  In my spare time I took up to halfway through the fifth year syllabus in the Harvard intensive Chinese program, including taking a year of intensive syllabus over two months at the Harvard Beijing Academy in Beijing right before the Olympics.


Quotes (collected mostly for my own reference) 

Elegance and truth

"Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better."—Albert Einstein

"We have seen that computer programming is an art, because it applies accumulated knowledge to the world, because it requires skill and ingenuity, and especially because it produces objects of beauty."—Donald E. Knuth. Computer Programming as an Art. Communications of the ACM, 17(12):667–673, December 1974.
"I do not think that there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love...everything."—Nikola Tesla

Determination

"I believe brick walls are there for a reason. They're not there to keep us out. They are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something." ... "Brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people."—Randy Pausch (1960-2008)

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."—Mahatma Gandhi

Having a healthy disregard for the impossible

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world.  The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  All progress then depends upon the unreasonable man."—George Bernard Shaw

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."—Henry Ford

"If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."—Albert Einstein

"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong."—Arthur C. Clarke

"The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible – and achieve it, generation after generation."—Pearl S. Buck

"Research should be defined as doing something where half the people think it's impossible. Impossible! So what that means is that a true creative researcher has to have confidence in nonsense."—Burt Rutan

[Dean Kamen, one of my childhood heroes]:
  • "Have a healthy disregard for the impossible."
  • [In response to an interviewer on 20 Minutes NZ asking, "Does anybody ever say to you, You're crazy?"]: "All the time! Why do what everybody else is doing? Do something else!"
  • "When everyone around you tells you you're crazy, you can know you're onto something."
  • "Most of the time you will fail, but you will also occasionally succeed.  Those occasional successes make all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile."
"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."—Arthur C. Clarke

Calling in life, and coming alive

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”—Howard Thurman

"Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. [...] anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you."—David Whyte

Leadership:

"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Positivity:

“There were many terrible things in my life, and most of them never happened.”—Michel de Montaigne

Intellectual humility:

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."—Sir Ken Robinson

Moonshot inspiration:

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return."
—(Unknown, always misattributed to Leonardo da Vinci)

Zero-G!