On November 15th, 2018, I promised myself I would write down my journey of accomplishing one of my dreams. This post is the realization of that word.
What I believe is that GOD doesn’t grant our wishes. GOD grants the opportunities that we can use to achieve our wishes.
I’ll start by saying that I love Japan (esp. Tokyo). Yes, a country with picturesque Sakura flowers, idyllic old castles and temples, redoubtable punctuality, astonishing culture, technological advances, you name it. And since I was in senior high school, I had dreamt of visiting this country. But not for a vacation.
I have two main rationales behind this. The first one is kinda childish; therein lies a fact that my readability in the future of technology had already started. Meanwhile, the second one is more solemn for it made me lured into the world of AI and software engineering.
So this part of series only tells you my rationales behind pursuing this dream. The next part will be about the real journey to achieving the dream.
Rationale #1: Doraemon by Fujiko F. Fujio
As a child who loved to watch Doraemon (one of the oldest and most popular Japanese anime series), I was impressed with this robotic cat’s capability in providing almost any gadget from his magical pocket to solve problems. I would say that my top 3 dream technologies that I wish were real are the Anywhere Door (Dokodemo Door in Japanese), Time Machine, and Take-copter (from the words taketombo (bamboo-copter in Japanese) and helicopter).
But you know what, I was only 90% interested in Doraemon’s apparatus. I was more fascinated with the fact that every gadget has its own function with all the details appertaining thereto. So they’re not merely objects with mediocre usage avail. For instance, the Dokodemo Door’s core function is to enable its users to travel anywhere. Just tell the destination and the magic door will do the trick. However, in some episodes the door solely knows the dream destination. I was a bit perplexed as in the first place the Dokodemo Door was said possible to usher the users anywhere up to the end of the universe. In later episodes, the Dokodemo Door was only able to travel with 100000 light years as the maximum distance. Although such a door seems to be marvelous, the users can’t make use of the Dokodemo Door if it has been exposed by electromagnetic waves.
Based on that brief functionality description of the Dokodemo Door, my favorite part is when the door is able to know the user’s destination. I made a conjecture that the door must had some kind of mind-reading technology. And yeah, surprisingly my initial hunch was correct. Evidently, this mind-reading concept was explained in a chapter in The Doraemons manga (7 Dora-Dora Theater). I was wondering whether such a complex thoughts decoder could become a reality in this planet. Even so the development of mind-reading tech that helps the world understand non-verbal thoughts is considered possible, it would be useless without embroiling artificial intelligence (the future of computing). My childhood imagination seems to reach the surface gradually. Researchers at Purdue University has developed a mind-reading tech using a form of AI.
Because of the minutiae gadget’s description, I would say that those Doraemon’s instruments could be presumed as prototypes. I found that there’s one (at least) pertinent correlation between the gadget’s functionality and human activities. Ideally, just use a Take-copter if you have an importunate meeting. Don’t need to experience bad traffic; use a Dress Up Camera (Kisekae Camera) when you want to write a fashion review on your blog regularly yet the outlay makes you think twice; use a Jelly Translator (Translator konyaku) if you wanna travel anywhere around the universe; and use Memory Bread (“Anki-Pan”) if you hate History subject and you’re one step closer to that A score that was seemingly impossible.
I fell in love with the author’s creativity in delineating this lovely robotic character as well as allowing the audience to imagine what the future of technology would look like. “I have to visit Doraemon’s country in the future”, said Kelvin.
Rationale #2: Self-Programming Machines
My journey in Computer Science starts when I had to opt for Computer Programming or Computer Animation as my junior high school’s extracurricular. My late father told me that the former was better for should I were good at it, I could broke into bank (was only a joke by the way). But, seriously? Assuredly I chose programming -_-
Early days were so arduous. It was my first time learning how to write computer programs. The first task was to create a ‘simple’ form using Visual Basic. I had to ask for help to one of the teachers as I felt the other teacher taught us so fast. The final project of this Visual Basic’s section was to create an image of jar. I had to finish it in a short time and the mathematical explanation thereof specified. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention when the teacher was talking about how to apply the math. I was in my own world finishing the previous task. In short, I survived and submitted the project on time as well as explained my approach successfully :D
Hereinafter, we learned about Turbo Pascal. The most challenging task was when I had to draw various figures with a certain configuration. Sometimes, the figure contained a pattern represented by numbers. From that task, I fathomed that the key principles in programming are logic and math.
Things went different in senior high school. I would say that I was more expeditious in learning new programming languages. Until finally I decided to participate in several programming competitions (online and on-site). It was a great experience for I finally got a chance to prove that my previous allegation regarding the key principles in programming was true.
Till one day I didn’t feel well in a contest and still had a few problems to solve. Somehow an idea to have an intelligent computer virus in my USB that is able to solve any programming problem traversed my mind. Just plug in the USB, wait (or sleep), and unexpectedly you have reached the top position in the leaderboard.
It was a lunatic idea. Professedly preposterous. I saw it as a computer virus for I was obsessed with what so called as a highly intelligent cyber weapon, such as the Stuxnet and Flame. Such sophisticated type of malwares were used to infect myriad computer networks for the purpose of espionage. Both malwares successfully undermined the Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, especially those used in the uranium enrichment process and thereby set back the nuclear program by one to two years.
Alright, back to our topic. After knowing about AI and all the relevant sub-fields therein, I found that it’s possible to create such a self-programming machine. To be more precise, the AI itself should be incorporated with the program synthesis technology. The AI-Program Synthesis combination is an active research and it’s one of the most difficult tasks in the field of AI. Several references includes it as one of the grand challenges in the field of AI.
Nevertheless, current approaches are only able to yield the desired code when the input is in structured and predefined form. For instance, the users have to write the algorithm (or code) in the form of XML whereby the predefined tags and syntactic form are not common. Moreover, the complexity of the code writing will increase along with the replenishment of the LOC (line of code). What if we could just describe the problem statement in our language, human language, and then the system produces the relevant code?
Such a question evoked my interest in AI as well as software engineering. In particular, I’m interested in making machines understand human language. That’s why I decided to make a deep dive into AI, especially natural language processing.
Having known my future direction, I wanted to delve into what so called as the future of computing in a country labeled with “The King of Electronics”. At that time I chose the Land of the Rising Sun as I admired its robotics technology, mathematics, and natural science world.
My journey to accomplishing this little dream was neither easy nor straightforward. I had to attend lots of interviews and write short-yet-significant essays. I’m gonna tell you the story on the next part of this article series.
Thank you so much for reading this article. All the best.