Monday, January 2, 2017

My experiences in 2016

2016 was a pretty bad year for the world, in many ways. But this post is about my own experiences, including many with my wife, Shirei. Interesting that the last blog post I made was from before we got married.

I broke my record for the most travel in one year!
  • Travel with Shirei
    • Hiroshima, Miyajima, Naoshima - good food, beautiful sights, funky art on Naoshima.
    • Karuizawa - nice, quiet, beautiful place with lots of French food. Also it was Pokemon Go launch weekend in Japan !!!!!!! !!! 
    • Maldives - the most amazing snorkeling everrrrr... accessible by walking out my bedroom straight into the water...surrounded by a billion colorful fishies..
    • Busan - Shirei's father's hometown... but it was actually my 2nd time, and her first. Food food food food food... and  Spa Land was nice too.
    • Stanford / San Jose - I was MC / translator at my childhood friend Gordon's wedding, at a winery. Also, first time showing Shirei where I used to live and the Stanford campus. Randomly bumped into an old friend. She and I were co-chairs of the Japan student club at Stanford in 2003.
      • I actually visited 5 airports in 20 hours! because of this trip and the following China trip and flight availability issues. Another record.
    • Taipei - celebrating my mom's 60th birthday. Thanks mom for raising me!
    • Taipei (again) - Supercell spouse offsite! Really great hot springs hotel.
    • Helsinki
    • Tallinn, Estonia - 2-hour ferry from Helsinki. Smallest country (1.3mn population) we've ever been to, not counting the Maldives and Vatican City. Nice medieval feeling in Old Town area of Tallinn. It actually feels medieval, unlike Stockholm's Old Town. Also we ate the best ribs we ever had in our a place we randomly found, and got maybe the best Thai massage we ever had. 
    • Stockholm - wow. Amazing, beautiful architecture. Lots of history around royal families, military conquest, etc.  The ship in the Vasa museum is by far the largest indoor object I've every seen. 
  • Work travel
    • San Fran - Game Developers Conference
    • Seoul (twice) - unfortunately nothing kpop-related but they were nice business trips! No I'm not referring to Twice, unfortunately.
    • Shanghai - Chinajoy (world's largest game expo)
      • Bumped into a college friend who was in my Japanese class in 2003. 
    • Beijing - discovered a new great, yummy, healthy restaurant chain called Youmian 莜面 which serves pipe-shaped tomato noodles among other things
    • Hong Kong - bumped into 2 unrelated friends, neither of whom live in Hong Kong, in the same 10-minute span during my hotel breakfast. 
    • Shenzhen - visited Tencent (in addition to being an internet giant, it's also the biggest gaming company in the world, now owns Supercell) to chat about analytics. Also saw my dad :)
    • Spain - company offsite in Alcantara, Spain... at an Asia-themed resort.... in Spain
    • Finland -  company offsite in beautiful Lahti, an hour away from Helsinki. 
    • Finland - started working in Helsinki in November for a few months as an analyst / data scientist for the game Clash Royale.. which won Game of the Year from Google, Apple, and Facebook! Pretty lucky to get to work in this amazing team.
    • London - still remembered some things from my 2-month stay in 2006. Visited Space Ape Games for this event. Great to see old Googler friends too :)
2017 will probably involve less travel... hopefully we'll have a baby by the end of the year!

Other happenings in 2016:

  • Summer Sonic in Tokyo - huge, awesome music festival.  My 4th time attending :) We saw Sakanaction and Zico.
  • Slush Asia - maybe the biggest startup-focused event in Japan ever, and even more amazing that it's all in English.  I watched the on-stage chat between 2 Artificial Intelligence experts and finally asked myself.. how can I get involved? I went to talk to one of the the experts afterwards and he was very encouraging.
  • My sister got pregnant with her second baby!! Shirei and I need to catch up.
  • Shirei started a new job (in Jan 2016), sales operations at Criteo, the French ad tech company, covering Japan and Korea
  • Shirei's sister decided she'll be working at Google Tokyo! Yay!  I'm sure she'll have lots of fun. Hope she invites me for Google lunch!
  • Watched Westworld and the sci-fi cartoon Rick and Morty. Probably the 2 best TV series I have ever watched, in any language.
  • My vote for best movie of the year: Your Name. It's not the typical corny stuff.
  • I break-danced (poorly) in front of the whole company...twice...
  • Bought a PS4. Beat Fat Princess 2 with the help of my bros :). Didn't use the PS4 much though because of all the studying and travel..
  • I lost faith in democracy
Learning stuff
  • 2016 was the year I decided that I really want to become much better at coding (with a focus on data science). At the age of 32 (the same age as Mark Zuckerberg), it's pretty late to realize you want to learn to code well, although many would argue otherwise. But still, not too late.
    • When I took Artificial Intelligence at Stanford in 2001 (yes, before I enrolled in college), it was not a very sexy field. It seemed that big progress hadn't been made in a long time.  In retrospect, maybe I should have stayed more interested in the field back then..
  • In March, graduated from the 6-month Startup Leadership Program, Tokyo Chapter.  Very interesting / crazy group of participants. One participant attributed his success to posting the word "p*nis" on Facebook in Japanese repeatedly.  By the end, about 7 people out of 22 or so had quit their regular jobs to work on startups.  
    • I presented a business plan for a smart language education app that uses machine learning for optimization and focuses language pairs using combinations of Chinese, Japanese, Korean,  English. Of course I never built the app..
  • Enrolled part-time in a coding bootcamp, Dive Into Code, in Shibuya, which mostly focuses on Ruby on Rails. I was >50% done before I moved to Helsinki.  Decent materials and lessons at a very low cost (about $1500 for everything). All in Japanese, but actually it wasn't any harder than learning in English.
  • Coded my first (and last?) iPhone app in 80 minutes, an omikuji app, at TECH::CHAMP in Shibuya. Bumped into an old Googler friend.
  • Attended various data science-related meetups/events, ranging from demonstrating applications of HiveMall (machine learning using just SQL), to a Microsoft Azure Machine Learning tutorial, to a group of random people sitting mostly in silence for hours trying to figure out TensorFlow together. PyData meetup, with the lightning talks, was pretty cool too. Also, the Data Science Symposium was interesting. Looking to attend even more events in 2017!
  • Various books.  Fluent Python is quite good for intermediate Python. Data Smart is very good and accessible book for Data Science even if you don't know Python/R.  Also, Chaos Monkeys is a great book for a no-holds-barred story from a key Facebook insider, even if it's just for the entertainment.
  • Online stuff
    • Various online lectures. MIT's Introduction to Algorithms is good and on Youtube.
    • Completed a bunch of interactive coding data science courses on DataCamp and DataQuest. Great for learning to manipulate data in R and Python. There's a bit of intro material for machine learning too.
    • Completed the online University of Washington course, Machine Learning foundations. They do a really good job of explaining things in an easy-to-understand way for a broad audience.   I'll probably do more courses from the same professors.
    • Clicked on >1000 links from Hacker News, probably
    • Subscribed to several data-related podcasts. O'Reilly Data Podcast, Linear Digressions, and Data Skeptic are good.
    • I actually started thinking about this part-time  online master's of computer science program. People say it's very good.
  • I've actually learned a ton on the job as well, at Supercell. I got much better at R, Python, Spark, machine learning, the Linux command line, etc. It's also great just discussing with other analysts and data scientists about interesting analytical and technical problems. Of course I had that opportunity at Google too, and I appreciate that, but it was to a lesser extent because most people in my organization (Finance) were more businessy people and I had fewer opportunities to interact with very deeply analytical/technical people.  It's too bad that at both companies, most of the analytical people were located in a different time zone. 
Also, thanks to Shirei for always supporting me in my crazy endeavors <3 div="">

How about 2017 resolutions? Pretty simple:
  • Get better at coding, data science, and machine learning
  • Help slow down the decrease in the population of Japan
  • Stay fit

Not ready for changing the world yet...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Accepted into Wharton!! and commentary on IRIS

Japanese version of this post:

This ends a long journey of MBA apps that was much more painful than college apps. It definitely took up hundreds of hours of time, not to mention the anxiety. So glad that it's over with and that I got into my top choice! w000000000t!

I got accepted into the Lauder program (around 60 student per year) at Wharton, which is a dual degree program: an MA in international studies with focus on a specific country/language (japan in my case) and the regular wharton mba. I have to complete both degrees in almost the same amount of time (25 months instead of 22 months) so it's going to be really intense. really excited about it tho. i'm gonna study my ass off and make the most of it~

So my schedule will look like this:

Now until May 2010 Keep studying Korean in Seoul
May 10, 2010 Start studying at Wharton for 1 month with other Lauder students
June/July 2010 Go around Japan visiting executives of big companies and taking classes on culture/history/language. Most of the time will be in Tokyo and Kyoto

August 2010 Start pre-term at Wharton
Sep 2010 Start first term at Wharton
June-Aug 2011 Do internship in Tokyo
June 2012 Graduate from Wharton and move to Tokyo.

I got rejected from Harvard and MIT Sloan. Haven't heard from INSEAD. Would I have gone to Harvard over Wharton if I had gotten in? I admit there's a good chance I would have, but it would have been a hard choice. I think Harvard still has a better reputation (especially among non-business people and especially in Asia... my parents hadn't heard of wharton until i told them) but Wharton is better in reality in several regards (e.g. international programs/diversity) and much better fit with me personally. So if I had gotten in to both schools it would have been a choice between reputation (which would be sort of copping out on myself in a superficial way) and fit (the true better choice). Anyway, Wharton's reputation is still amazing, ranked #1 in the world in the financial times, etc. so I can't really complain about the reputation

One question that some people have is, why am I studying more Japanese if I'm already fluent?
Well, actually you have to be already fluent to get into the Lauder program. The goal is to become even more fluent. I have to totally and utterly pwn in Japanese. Heheh. Since I am planning to spend most of my life in Japan, it's going to be worth it. Just like with English, actually sitting in a class and learning how to write essays, analyze literature and newspapers etc. will give you better language skills than just using the language in everyday life. I haven't written a formal report/essay in Japanese in ages.

On life in Seoul...I think Korea is awesome and I think Seoul would be the 2nd favorite place for me to live in the world after Tokyo. It basically has all the cool places/stuff you would ever want in a big metropolitan city except it's cheaper than Tokyo and the economic growth prospects of Korea are better so people are more optimistic about the future. Not to mention Korea has the #1 broadband network in the world, the #1 electronics company in the world, and amaaazing pop stars, movies, and celebrities. Korea is also doing a much better job internationalizing itself than Japan (for several reasons.. maybe i'll analyze in another blog post). I just have been blown away by how good Korean pop has become and how well it's produced and the choreography and everything. I would say out of my 10 favorite pop songs of all time in the world maybe half of them are Korean now. I'm almost having trouble now deciding whether I like Jpop and Kpop more and for those of you who know me you know that this is a pretty big deal. From an overall perspective though I would still have to say Japanese music is better because they have awesome artists in several genres whereas Korea is mostly just pop. you could point out, though, how two of my favorite Jpop artists, Verbal (from m-flo) and BoA are actually Korean..

As I said a couple years ago... the world is only beginning to realize how cool Koreans are.

On a totally different note, Final Fantasy XIII just came out! Over 350 people lined up in the Tsutaya in Shibuya to buy it even tho it costs like 110 USD. I think this might be the best game ever made in the history of mankind. The goal is to take the scenes from Advent Children and turn that into actual gameplay, which is ridiculous! I wonder if I will ever have time to play it haha...

This blog post is getting way too long and way off topic, but mad props to Korea (again) for producing the drama IRIS. This is maybe the best TV series I have seen in my life, in any language. The drama stars Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-hee and I think they're the perfect actors for their roles. Basically there's a secret organization called the NSS which is like the CIA except it's so secret that even the Korean president doesn't know about it. NSS basically sends people to carry out missions to gain intelligence and assassinate people etc. Then there's an even MORE secret organization called IRIS, which is based in North Korea but they have members secretly in the North and South Korean Government, even secretly in NSS... and it's a freaking TERRORIST organization that goes around pwning people.

Basically after a while everyone in the world is trying to kill Lee Byung-hun but he always manages to survive in the most pwnage way possible. Meanwhile the love story between him and Kim Tae-hee is one of the best love stories out of any movie or drama I've seen; the love story is even better because both of them are constantly surrounded by pwnage and people trying to kill them.

Seriously, I usually am unable to empathize with movie/drama characters when they cry but this drama is different...

I think it is pretty cool that I can watch this drama without subtitles...although some parts are still hard to understand..

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why isn't the brain green?

This NYT article, which came out today, supports the main argument of my end-of-the-world theory. (i.e., that people are too short-sighted)

Friday, April 3, 2009

my argument for the end of the world

In the 21st century, the world will experience a crisis several times greater in magnitude than world war II, the 2008 financial crisis, or the 1930's Great Depression.
Within 300 years, apocalypse will occur (possibly gradually), and after such an apocalypse, the world population will be much less than it is today, with a much lower average standard of living.

i'm sure that many others have similar theories.
but this is my , non-robust, short argument, from a sociopolitical, economic, and environmental perspective, for the end of the world as we know it, and it's coming a lot sooner than most people think. it's not robust enough because i don't have time now to look up all the relevant data, but I have a strong feeling that I have looked at enough statistics in my life to believe my own theory. also, some stuff might seem obvious, but I will state it to help make my argument whole. anyway, here goes.  Disclaimer: As cynical as I am about the world, I still consider myself an environmentalist and I still contribute to charity sometimes through actions or monetary means.

First an outline, then I will elaborate.

1. Inherent Individual Self-Interest. Humans, as any living beings, are inherently individually self-interested for the short term.
2. The Demise of Collective Well-Being. Human individual short-term self-interest usually does not work towards the long-term collective well-being of the human race or that of the world environment; in fact, it often works against such collective well-being.
3. The Environment. Humans are naive and impudent to take for granted that they are alive on this earth. Earth's current state is a happy geological and meteorological coincidence that bestowed an environment and natural resources that support life as we know it, but such a state won't last long at all, especially with humans messing with it.  Overpopulation makes this prolem worse.
4. Human Organization. Every form of human government and organization is flawed, even from a theoretical perspective, in that they cannot solve points #2 and #3.
5. Human technology is finite.  It is my belief that the rate of improvement of human technology cannot even come close to compensate for the above points.
6. Ergo: War. Chaos. Famine. Disease. Death. Apocalypse.  QED.  (Just kidding, no QED just yet)

1.  Inherent Individual Self-Interest
Humans only have the wherewithal (and wherewithal usually is a necessity for desire) to care about the well-being of others if they themselves are doing at least OK to begin with first. If Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were starving on the street, I don't think they would care about AIDS in India at all, no matter how kind their souls were. People only donate money to charities if they can cover their own basic needs. People need first food/water/air, then clothing, then shelter, then other basic comforts, and THEN maybe if they're good people they start to think of stuff like achievement or contribution.

This concept of self-interest applies to larger units of human existence. People care much more about their close friends and family than other people. People care more about their own city than other cities. People (including politicans) care more about their own country than other countries.  People care more about their own race, their own religion, their own social class, etc.  So in a way you could say that even the kindest, most generous people in the world are mostly generally selfish because when they give, they usualy give to a unit of human existence that they are part of... which they care about much more than the longer-term well-being of the world.  

All this self-interest is focused on the short-term. Most people care the most about themselves and their immediate offspring, and maybe some about the well-being of their grandchildren, but it's hard for most to care a great amount beyond that. Most people care more about the immediate future than far future.  To make an extreme example, if you are currently starving on the street, your primary concern is your next meal, and your concern probably isn't going to be your future grandchildren that haven't even been born yet, much less how the world will look like in 100 years.   That example was extreme, but it is generally true for less extreme examples.  If the economy right now is in a mess and you're unemployed, you want the government to give a huge stimulus package now, and you probably care a lot more about getting a job now than the fiscal health of the government ten years down the road.  Most people in the world are not wealthy or educated enough to care that far down the future.  Almost half of the people in the world don't even have access to toilets, and almost half of the world "lives in poverty" (depending on your definition of poverty).  So these people have to think about basic sanitation problems and basic survival issues rather than anything else.
2.  The Demise of Collective Well-Being
Since most people don't care enough about the collective long-term well-being of the world, that well-being is doomed.  Even if all people cared a lot, I still think the world would be doomed, since most people don't have the means to or don't understand how to best contribute to long-term collective well-being.  But anyway, not caring just greatly accelerates the process.  

3. The Environment.
Earth somehow miraculously developed into a place that provided a good mix of natural resources, atmosphere, and environment for life. In a universe where often temperatures are measured in hundreds or thousands or millions of celsius (or kelvin), and humans are sensitive to even a degree increase in temperature, it seems that earth is teetering with precarious balance between too cold and too hot, either of which would wipe out most life.  The degree to which humans are affecting the environment now compared to 100 years ago is different on several orders of magnitude.  Self-interest will overwhelm any environmental initiatives.  It's only natural that pretty much everyone in the world wants toilets, wants to be able to take hot showers, wants running water and electricity, wants air conditioning... and the people who already have those things would be pretty upset if those things were taken away...restoring those basic comforts would be their top priority if they were taken away.  And of course, the desire for non-basic needs are huge as well.  Many people want to buy a car, buy appliances, all sorts of stuff.  Just imagine of all the people in China in India consumed on average half as much energy and polluted half as much as the average american.  Just that alone would utterly decimate the world environment. I think even if everyone in the world were environmentalists the world would still be doomed.  An environmentalist still consumes energy and still pollutes to maintain a basic standard of living and basic sanitation and health.  And most people in the world are very far from being environmentalists.  Most humans are trying to increase their standard of living.  It is naive to think that humans can just forever increase their standard of living and have it be sustainable.  More on this in the section below on technology.

The world is already overpopulated, which exacerbate all of the above points, and it will only get worse in the coming years.  Sure, Malthus was maybe too early in his predictions of world doom, but the guy still has a point. I hate the Chinese government and its policies that violate human rights, but one policy I have to grudgingly admit to agree to is the one-child policy.  Without population control, this world is toast.  From a purely Malthusian perspective, donating money to save starving children in Africa is helping to destroy the world, not save it.

Some sci-fi movies depict humans eventually colonizing Mars or another planet in another solar system.  I'm not saying it's impossible, but I think even if it were pulled off it would be an extremely insiginificant percentage of the human population, and additionaly the resources or effort of making such a move would have a better impact on the human race if those resources or efforts were spent on making earth a better place instead.  An analogy would be, let's say I am living in a crumbling house.. and the situation gives me two choices: I could either spend 100,000 dollars repairing my house, or i could spend a hundred million dollars on transportation costs and setup costs of moving to a house in another city.     The point that I am trying to make is that space travel and setting up civilization in a new place will be prohibitively expensive, to the point that it will never be worth it to actually do it on a large scale. (sure, some countries might think it would be cool to send a couple dozen people to another planet to live just as an experiment) 

4. Human Organization and Government.
Even if all politicans were saints, and there were zero corruption, govt would still be flawed, and you all know the world is very far from scrupulous politicians and zero corruption. Politicans and rulers seek to work towards the benefit of themselves (if they are bad policitians) and their own country(if they are good).  If they do not value the benefit of their own country, then they will be deposed, which is easily done in a democracy, and it will still be done eventually in any other system of government.  To the politician, even the most corrupt politician who only cares mostly about himself/herself, s/he will still care more about his own country than countries, naturally.  Countries are not even able properly protect their own long-term well-being, much less that of the world.  Citizens want to have money now.  they want to have higher quality of life now.  They want to have all sorts of social programs and benefits now.  Sure, a good government might be able to sacrifice benefit now for some larger benefit 10 or 20 years later.. but how about 50 or 100 years later?  Not really possible on a large scale. Why do some governments still manage the economy so badly that they experience hyperinflation, even though hyperinflation has already happened so many times in the past?  Everyone by now knows what causes hyperinflation.  It is because it's human nature.  If you are faced with a pressing situation now, you will do whatever you can to deal with it now.  Add corruption, human folly and mistakes into that equation and it becomes even easier to mess up a whole country's economy.

5. Human technology is finite.

Some people believe that human technology will advance fast enough to solve most of the environmental problems we have and allow perpetual increases in the quality of life.  I beg to differ.

We have seen exponential growth in technological advancement in the 20th century, but such exponential growth may not continue forever.  Few things in the universe, if any, can maintain exponential growth for too long.  I'll skip the discussion of how to define technological progress or growth for now.

Those who have taken differential equations might be familiar with the logistic curve, which looks like this:

I don't exactly think that tech progress will plateau out like this, but I do believe the rate of progress is no longer exponential today. 
What some people don't realize is that there are a lot of things that have stumped scientists for a long time and we have made little progress.  Believe it or not humans have made little progress in the field of artificial intelligence in the last 3 decades, despite the huge increases in computing power.  Computers sucked, and still suck at thinking for themselves, in other words.  In the field of how the human brain specifically works, this too remains largely a mystery.  I don't believe we will ever discover teleportation ("beam me up scotty") or time travel.  Far from it.  We won't even ever be able to create a robot that has the true learning ability of a 5-year-old, since we won't even truly understand how the brain works.  (hmm unless maybe we make an android..heheh... but that doesnt count as a pure robot)  If we were able to track how every individual atom and particle in the brain were moving and reacting, maybe we could figure out how it worked.  But as has been proven in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it's impossible to know exactly what the hell an electron is doing.  Anyway, I'll stop my rambling there, this argument could get really long.

Natural resources on this earth are finite, and energy on the earth is finite.  Technology cannot change this fact, it can only help us alleviate the problem slightly.  The only glimmer of hope for the human race to maintain its current rate of consumption of energy several hundred years from now is to unlock the energy stored in mass, that is, using nuclear fission or fusion to turn mass into energy a la E = mc2.  I'm not a particle physicist, but I don't think we're going to be able to pull off anything much better than the nuclear power plant technology (nuclear fission) that we have now. Particle physics is another one of those fields where there is a lot of theory and hand-waving and not much progress.  From a long-term perspective, I don't think the human race is currently spending enough money and effort on this. Then again, I am also human, and to be honest I care more about the next chance I will get to date a pretty girl than particle physics.
Right now, in the grand scheme of things, the world economy is actually doing ok considering that most of it is still functioning, and the world is relatively peaceful.  
Only in times like this, do countries have the extra luxury of spending money on something like, huge particle colliders, and even now, the world is only spending a couple billion or so on them.   Such particle colliders may be the key to amazing technologies, such as aforementioned producing energy via nuclear fusion.  Such a technology may be the key to saving the human race eventually.   Perhaps from a global long-term perspective, all the countries in the world should be pouring half of their national budgets into collectively advancing technology that will save the world 100 years or whenever down the road.  But nobody will do this.  The governments of the world having too many short-term issues to deal with to care enough about making such advances.

Humans are really just a speck of dust compared to the universe.  There are just some universal truths and the way things work that just can't be changed fundamentally by technology (although there are a lot of things that can be changed)

7. Apocalypse.  
When people, or countries, become desperate, they will do more desparate things, naturally.  Sure, many people did't support the war in Iraq, but what if hypothetically the price of oil were $5,000 per barrel, causing american standards of living to drop by half, and invading iraq would surely provide huge amounts of oil?  Hell, if one day I can't even afford to pay for basic transportation and hot showers I would probably support anything that could help me get that back. Again, you could raise many arguments about oil alternatives etc. but I was just trying to illustrate a point:  when people's most basic standard of living is threatened, they will resort to unscrupulous actions, and the same goes for countries. When attacking or coercing another country to get crucial natural resources is several times more cost-efficient than procuring that crucial resource itself, many countries will resort to such aggressive tactics. There are a lot of things a country can do (like threats) before resorting to outright warfare... but eventually it will escalate into outright warfare.  The UN and most international cooperation will break down.  It will be World War III... and perhaps it will be a war that will never end.  Countries will be forced to militarize aggressively just to protect themselves.  Warfare doesn't necessarily have to be using guns and bombs... warfare using computers or economics can work well too obviously.  Anyway this will only aggravate environmental and natural resource problems, which will in turn make countries even more desperate.  This will be a vicious spiral that will escalate into apocalypse. Most of the human population will quickly die, some from warfare but mostly from disease and hunger.