About the Instructor
CSC 261 Artificial Intelligence Fall 2013

My answers to the questionnaire

  1. My name is Jerod Weinman. For this course, I prefer to be called any of the following: Professor Weinman, Dr. Weinman, or (in egalitarian Grinnell College style) Mr. Weinman, whichever you prefer.
  2. I studied Computer Science and Mathematics (double major B.S.) at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a similarly-sized school in Terre Haute, Indiana that focuses on teaching engineering, math, and science.

    My PhD in Computer Science came from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I specialized in computer vision and machine learning. My dissertation research involved designing algorithms for a system to help the blind navigate by reading text from images (such as street signs and storefronts).

  3. In addition to this course, I am teaching TUT-100.35 "Virtue in Animal and Machine", an exploration of ethical behavior (reality and/or possibility) in non-human agents such as artificial intelligences.

  4. Unlike today, when I started with computers, it was still unusual to be first exposed to them as a one year-old, which I was when my dad brought home his first Apple ][. This is the same computer I first learned to program on in junior high. (My first was a quiz program about baseball trivia.) I was excited by the opportunity to practice creative thinking and problem solving that could be applied to whatever other interests were at hand. As an undergraduate, an introductory course on image processing led me to my research area where I am often faced with reverse engineering a different kind of "computer"--the human visual system.

  5. As always, I look forward to getting to know my students and their approaches to learning about computation.

  6. Even if you are not a Computer Science major or choose not to take any further CompSci classes, my biggest concern is that you will have a greater understanding of the fundamental problems faced by intelligent agents and their designers, and how to go about analyzing such problems and potential solutions.

  7. You can ask me about the landmark of my hometown in Nebraska, how my infant child is implementing the learning algorithms we discuss, my earlier involvement as a college radio DJ, my stint as a frontman for a punk band in a previous life, or whether I've managed to resuscitate my hobby of playing fingerstyle guitar, which has been dormant since writing my PhD thesis.

What questions do you have for me that have not already been answered?

Could you tell us about your research?
Well, that could be a long story, so you could start at at my web page.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I'm not playing with my son, I like to read fiction. When I'm not doing that I might be working in my garden or firing up some barbecue (the real deal, with wood burning low and slow).
Do you have any music from your past band days that we could listen to?
Do I have it? Yes. Will you ever listen to it? Hmm...maybe....
Do you think the computer science department will ever transfer from a qwerty keyboard design to a dvorak keyboard design?
Not in my lifetime.
What do you think about the portrayal of AIs in pop-culture such as the movie "WarGames"?
Oh, it's been too long since I've seen that particular movie. But you raise a very good question and I find it difficult to give a simple answer. Some things are grossly exaggerated or mischaracterized. Other things don't reflect present reality but I believe should make us consider our future carefully (I don't subscribe to technological determinism.)
What is the landmark of your Nebraska hometown that you mention in the "About the Instructor" section?
You'll have to peek at the postcard next time you visit office hours! (Don't get overamped though, it's not that exciting, just unique.)
18) My (current) ambition is to be on the team that creates the first strong AI. 19) In your opinion, will I be able to complete Graduate School in time to have a chance to realize #18?
There was a great deal of discussion about this very recently on the UAI mailing list (open to all, but must be a member to view archives). In short, it seems likely you would be able to do so.
Jerod Weinman
Revised 1 September 2009
Revised 30 August 2011
Revised 13 August 2013