User:Gustavo Lacerda

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I am a person. I have a website.


Disclaimer: Strictly speaking, I am not a native speaker of English. For most purposes, however, it is my best language. It would make little sense for me to list Portuguese as 5 if my English were listed as 4. I would like a more objective way of rating one's language skills, such as Cloze tests.

My thoughts on Wikis

I believe that Wikis need:

  • editing in-line, both for real content and comments (in normal wikis, once you hit 'edit', you lose your visual bookmarks of what needs changing). See also the WYSIWYG issue below.
  • modular design, à la software design. MediaWiki offers Transclusion in the form of so-called "templates"). I am interested in general design principles, whether applied to scientific methodology (see Lakatos) or software development methodology. See, for example, 1 and 2).
  • more formal structures: interactive reading through semantically-rich text. I like the ideas of the Semantic MediaWiki.
  • Integration with endorsement-based reputation systems, so that you know how much the information can be trusted. See TrustOPedia, my system project for a practical epistemology. In the same vein, Wikipedia's history viewer should allow one to query which editor (i.e. which version) introduced a given piece of text into the article.
  • Smart-linking: renders images that give information about the linked page (e.g. how complete / how rough the link is / whether it gives academic references, etc) without committing to loading the whole page.
  • integration with LaTeX for rich editing (see WikiTeX), and hybrid editors that mix WYSIWYG with text (à la DreamWeaver).

Some of my thoughts on this are influenced by User:Metaeducation.

I have previously edited as User:

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My Wiki Sandbox

WikiTeX seems to work here

A wiki-linked biography

Early years (1979-1997)

I was born in Recife on 11 Feb 1979. In 1986, I got an MSX and learned to program in BASIC. I loved the beach in Boa Viagem and had an obsession with geographical facts. In 1989 (age 10), my family moved to Luanda. I learned to skateboard, bike, and to play "bete", a variant of cricket. In mid 1992, we returned to Brazil (1993 was spent in São Paulo), and in 1994, we moved to London, where I gained fluency in English. Programming remained a lonely hobby (now with MS-DOS BASIC), and my projects included reverse-engineering Minesweeper and testing hypotheses about number theory. I studied at Southbank International School in Notting Hill, where I met a very diverse group of rich kids, while following the IB program, which included an independent project on fluid dynamics. An angsty teen, I subscribed to mystic beliefs, became interested in taoism and zen buddhism, until I grew out of it 3 or 4 years later (since then I've been a pretty good skeptic).

College (1997-2001)

For reasons still mysterious to myself, I decided to study in the USA. After visiting 6 colleges in October 1996, I ended up at Bucknell University with early decision. I started out majoring in Physics and Philosophy. My Philosophy major quickly turned into Psychology. Linguistics was not an option. Displeased with physics education (see my compiled rants), I became a Mathematics major. As the Psychology curriculum too proved disappointing, the distant promise of being able to take an AI class (looking back, I have been an "AI person" ever since my teens), along with a small bit of financial pragmatism, convinced me to major in Computer Science, a decision which surprisingly (to me) paid off in terms of knowledge of programming languages and algorithms. Finally, in May 2001, I got a B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science.

Boston and Traveling (2001-2003)

Unemployed, I moved to Boston. Spoiled by college, and with few social channels, I had to figure out how to meet people. I quickly became a regular at the bluegrass sessions at the Cantab Lounge and taught myself to play fiddle (with much help from that wonderful community). I also bought a guitar, and learned to jam with other people. This way, I found out about my talent for melody (I've been obsessed with solfege ever since I had piano lessons as a child), and near-impairment with rhythm. This year, I acquired a taste for Celtic music and gypsy jazz, and met several people from Berklee and MIT, where I often played soccer. I got a boring programming job in Woburn, which paid twice as much as I spent, despite the extra expense of buying a car for the commute (and parking). I occasionally went to other MIT events, such as swing dancing and Tech Squares. I also attended a monthly philosophical salon, and hung out with some friends from college.

Unhappy with the job, in August 2002, I left everything (i.e. my H1B, my life in America) to do something crazy: attend a logic conference in Europe and go traveling. I went to ESSLLI 2002 in Trento, and ended up doing a 19-city tour of Western Europe in 3.5 months. In Paris, I met Fare IRL.

At the end of 2002, I spend several months with my family in Recife, in which I discovered what Brazil is really like as an adult. I took 2 classes at UFPE: one on AI and one on information theory. The future was very uncertain.

Europe (2003-2006)

While traveling in Amsterdam, I had been lucky to meet the Dutch logicians again, as they were having a "schoolweek". So in 2003, I started an M.Sc. in Logic at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam, what I imagined to be a sort of "Goedel, Escher, Bach studies". There, I learned a little bit about modal logic, formalized mathematics (and science), and type theory, Kolmogorov Complexity, game theory and formal semantics and pragmatics, and did work on the cognitive science of autism, automatic dictionary building (for IR purposes), and for my thesis, I wrote an equational reasoner in Lisp (quite a learning experience!). I was part of a delicious music cognition reading group, a couple of workshops on the evolution of language, and helped organize AIED2005, on educational software. I also tutored several high-school students in math and physics.

After graduating, I went to Munich to work for Cadence Design Systems as Lisp programmer. Despite the fun I had with new language (trust me, it's a lot more fun(ny) when you know Dutch!), I felt it was time to return to academia and to America (Americans are much easier to meet).

CMU (2006- )

My frustration with the non-customized format of classes and textbooks increasingly fueled my interest in educational software. In 2006, after flirting with Carnegie Mellon University's philosophy department, I came to work as a researcher / programmer for the HCI and Machine Learning departments at the School of Computer Science, making cognitive modeling-based educational software. I am also pursuing interests in: