Andrey Kurenkov's Web World Jekyll 2022-06-21T02:23:30-07:00 / Andrey Kurenkov / <![CDATA[Lessons from the GPT-4Chan Controversy]]> /writing/ai/gpt-4chan/gpt-4chan 2022-06-02T00:00:00-07:00 2022-06-02T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/gpt-4chan/index.html">Lessons from the GPT-4Chan Controversy</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on June 02, 2022.</p> <![CDATA[Kamikaze Drones in Russia’s War Against Ukraine Point to Future 'Killer Robots']]> /writing/ai/kamikaze/kamikaze 2022-04-15T00:00:00-07:00 2022-04-15T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/kamikaze/index.html">Kamikaze Drones in Russia’s War Against Ukraine Point to Future 'Killer Robots'</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on April 15, 2022.</p> <![CDATA[Generating AI Art from Text with Google Colab]]> /writing/ai/ai-art/ai-art 2022-02-11T00:00:00-08:00 2022-02-11T00:00:00-08:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/ai-art/index.html">Generating AI Art from Text with Google Colab</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on February 11, 2022.</p> <![CDATA[The Messy History of Facial Recognition Company Clearview AI]]> /writing/ai/clearview/clearview 2022-01-15T00:00:00-08:00 2022-01-15T00:00:00-08:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/clearview/index.html">The Messy History of Facial Recognition Company Clearview AI</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on January 15, 2022.</p> <![CDATA[The Inherent Limitations of GPT-3]]> /writing/ai/limitations/limitations 2021-11-26T00:00:00-08:00 2021-11-26T00:00:00-08:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/limitations/index.html">The Inherent Limitations of GPT-3</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on November 26, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[GPT-3 is No Longer the Only Game in Town]]> /writing/ai/only-game/only-game 2021-11-05T00:00:00-07:00 2021-11-05T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/only-game/index.html">GPT-3 is No Longer the Only Game in Town</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on November 05, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[In Favor of More Science Communication by AI Researchers]]> /writing/ai/sci-comm/sci-comm 2021-10-15T00:00:00-07:00 2021-10-15T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/sci-comm/index.html">In Favor of More Science Communication by AI Researchers</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on October 15, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[The Best AI Newsletters]]> /writing/ai/best-newsletters/best-newsletters 2021-08-10T00:00:00-07:00 2021-08-10T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/best-newsletters/index.html">The Best AI Newsletters</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on August 10, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[My Tools and Practices for a Healthier and More Productive Life]]> /writing/life/habits-2021 2021-07-18T00:00:00-07:00 2021-07-18T00:00:00-07:00 <p><br /> &gt; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” <br /> -Aristotle (except actually <a href="">Will Durant</a>)</p> <p>It has been 3 years since I started <a href="">my blog post “Habits and Tools, Old and New”</a> with that quote. That’s a long time, and longer still given the nightmare that much of the past year turned out to be. So, I thought to write an updated version of that old blog post, once again sharing the tools and practices I find benefit my healthy and productivity. This will not be an exhaustive list since it’d be boring for me to say obvious stuff like ‘go to the gym regularly’, and will instead focus on less standard stuff I think is neat and not appreciated enough.</p> <p>So there you have it, enjoy this little summary of the things I think make my life better.</p> <ul id="markdown-toc"> <li><a href="#health" id="markdown-toc-health"><em>Health</em></a> <ul> <li><a href="#exercise" id="markdown-toc-exercise"><em>Exercise</em></a></li> <li><a href="#diet" id="markdown-toc-diet"><em>Diet</em></a></li> <li><a href="#sleep" id="markdown-toc-sleep"><em>Sleep</em></a></li> <li><a href="#meditation" id="markdown-toc-meditation"><em>Meditation</em></a></li> <li><a href="#journaling" id="markdown-toc-journaling"><em>Journaling</em></a></li> <li><a href="#pets" id="markdown-toc-pets"><em>Pets</em></a></li> </ul> </li> <li><a href="#productivity" id="markdown-toc-productivity"><em>Productivity</em></a> <ul> <li><a href="#habit-tracking" id="markdown-toc-habit-tracking"><em>Habit Tracking</em></a></li> <li><a href="#daily-todos-planning" id="markdown-toc-daily-todos-planning"><em>Daily TODOs planning</em></a></li> <li><a href="#email-task-tracking" id="markdown-toc-email-task-tracking"><em>Email Task Tracking</em></a></li> <li><a href="#time-tracking" id="markdown-toc-time-tracking"><em>Time Tracking</em></a></li> <li><a href="#pomodoro" id="markdown-toc-pomodoro"><em>Pomodoro</em></a></li> <li><a href="#easy-meeting-scheduling" id="markdown-toc-easy-meeting-scheduling"><em>Easy Meeting Scheduling</em></a></li> </ul> </li> <li><a href="#conclusion" id="markdown-toc-conclusion"><em>Conclusion</em></a></li> </ul> <p><br /></p> <h1 id="health"><em>Health</em></h1> <p><br /> Gotta have health! Both physical and mental, of course.</p> <h3 id="exercise"><em>Exercise</em></h3> <p>Let’s start with exercise, since frankly it’s the most fun to talk about. We all know we need to do it, and we all know how to do it (go to gyms or hike, play sports, etc.). The tough part is actually motiving yourself to do it regularly. So the below are my favorite ways to do just that.</p> <p>By far my favorite way to exercise is to go to <strong>fitness classes</strong>. Boxing classes, yoga classes, weightlifting classes. Nothing beats being in a physical place, among other people, with loud music and a charismatic instructor, to push yourself to your limits. And having regularly scheduled times to show up for make consistency easier. For instance, post COVID vaccine I started going to boxing classes at <a href="">True Strength MMA</a> and have absolutely loved it. But regular ol’ generic gyms often also provide classes as part of the membership, and for my money that is a far superior way to get a good work out than just going to the gym yourself.</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/boxing.jpg"><img class="postimagesmall" style="width:70%;" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/boxing.jpg" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>From the Seattle Boxing Gym, which I loved. Those big wide open spaces are for group classes.</p> </figcaption></figure> <figure class="sidefigureleft"> <img class="postimage_50" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/fitbitcoach.jpg" /> <figcaption>A workout routine I did on FitBit coach.</figcaption> </figure> <p>But, fitness classes are not the most convenient. Cost, time, place – lots of factors make this flavor of working out impractical. So: replace a fitness trainer with recordings of a personal trainer, and a gym with your room. YouTube works, but I prefer apps, especially <strong>FitBit Coach</strong>; good routines, good UI, good trainers. What’s more, no equipment at all is necessary (though some helps). During COVID quarantine, this was something I made use of a lot.</p> <p>The second ingredient for COVID quarantine working out was something new to me: <strong>Virtual Reality</strong>. Specifically with the <strong>Oculus Quest</strong>, which is affordable, has a great library, and is super easy to get started with. Just like fitness classes, exercise games in VR (such as boxing, rhythm, and other types of games) make it easy to push yourself beyond what you thought possible. And it’s fun! My personal favorite exercise game by far is <strong>FitXR</strong>, but there are many options out there to pick and choose from.</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/boxvr.gif"><img class="postimage" style="width:90%;" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/boxvr.gif" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>FitXR, my current favorite exercise game.</p> </figcaption></figure> <p>Last, most recent, and simplest: <strong>walking</strong>. In the past, I’ve always walked or biked as part of my commute to work. With COVID, that stopped being the case. Like many, I made walking outside a regular practice for a while. Presumably also like many, I eventually fell out of that habit – until recently. Now that i’m again going on a 30 minute walk every morning, I’ve grown to place a lot of value in it. Not only is it a good way to consistently be at least a bit active, but it also makes time to reflect on the goals for today, journal, and do other little tasks to get the day going well. And it’s just walking! Not a hard task to will yourself into doing.</p> <p>As a complement to all of the above, I also like having an <strong>activity tracker</strong>. I especially like <strong>Fitbit Charge</strong>, which comes with the great FitBit app and just tracks steps and sleep and has no fancy smartwatch type features. As with other tools we’ll see later in this post, just having your behavior tracked and reported to you is a good motivator to not be lazy about health.</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/fitbit.jpg"><img class="postimagesmaller" style="width:40%;" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/fitbit.jpg" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>The daily summary FitBit provides in their app.</p> </figcaption></figure> <h3 id="diet"><em>Diet</em></h3> <figure class="sidefigureright"> <img class="postimage_50" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/weight.jpg" /> <figcaption>My rocky history with weight.</figcaption> </figure> <p>To be clear, when I say diet I don’t mean an approach to losing weight; I mean an overall approach to nutrition, with managing weight as part of that. A good diet is obviously one of the pivotal ingredients for a healthy life, and one that I’ve struggled to do well on. In the first few years of my PhD (2018 and 2019), especially in the lead up to deadlines, I used to indulge heavily in stress-eating and my health (and weight) quickly suffered.</p> <p>So, I needed a way to have a consistently good diet – mostly not eating out, mostly not indulging in junk food, etc. My solution? <strong>pre-prepped meals</strong>. AKA prepare (healthy) meals ahead of time, and (mostly) stick to the plan. Problem: i’m not much of a cook, which makes preparing meals ahead of time a non-option. So how to attain a routine? For me, this way: let others prepare the meals. At first, this meant usually eating <a href="">Soylent</a> for lunch. Lately, that means ordering actual pre-made meals to have for dinner; I like <a href="">Factor75</a> a lot, but there are other options like <a href="">Sun Basket</a> as well. I am also a big fan of buying pre-prepped salads from grocery stores. Some might scoff at me not preparing these pre-prepped meals myself, but honestly they are great!</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/factor.png"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/factor.png" alt="Factor75" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>Obviously a promotional photo, but honestly it is a fairly accurate representation…</p> </figcaption></figure> <figure class="sidefigureleft"> <img class="postimage_50" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/mfp.jpg" /> <figcaption>Calorie tracking on MyFitnessPal.</figcaption> </figure> <p>So that takes care of mostly eating healthy. Mostly. Pre-prepped meals are great, but still make it easy to eat a ton of unhealthy snacks on a rough day. So, I am also a big fan of <strong>nutrition tracking</strong>. I say nutrition tracking to mean not just calorie tracking, but also tracking of macros (protein, carbs, etc.). There are a few reasons this helps with having a healthy diet. First, it makes it easy to know when you have been eating too much or too little (obviously). Second, it makes you to more mindful about the food that you consume to avoid eating too much or too little, and to avoid eating too much sugar or the like. The guilt brought by seeing the quantification of your indulgence is a real force for good… Lastly, it makes it easier to avoid mindless snacking, since logging a snack is kind of a chore and one’s laziness at the thought of this task may overpower the desire of eating the snack.</p> <p>Well that’s great and all, but you gotta snack sometimes, right? In any case, I definitely gotta snack sometimes. So, these days I regularly buy <strong>healthy snacks</strong>. Like, a lot of healthy snacks. There are tons of sweet protein bars, but did you know that there exist protein <em>chips</em>? Or protein <em>cookies</em>? And though not all healthy snacks are delicious, a surprising proportion of them are (to me). And it’s always fun to find new ones to try once something gets stale. So snack away!</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/snacks.jpg"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/snacks.jpg" alt="snacks" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>Yes, I have a lot of healthy snacks…</p> </figcaption></figure> <h3 id="sleep"><em>Sleep</em></h3> <p>Ah sleep, the thing I always seem to do too much or too little of. There is little here I can share that is not the standard advice on how to get better sleep. But here is one thing I love that’s a bit more out there: <strong>QR Code Alarms</strong> in the <strong>Sleep as Android</strong> app. I am a heavy sleeper who really hates to oversleep, and so have always needed to use extra measures beyond just having an alarm to ensure I wake up. But eventually, even the hardest difficulty math problems on my app got too easy and I could still go back to sleep. So, I’ve had to use an alarm clock check that <em>requires</em> me to get out of bed. And that’s exactly what this QR code things does: you place a printed out QR code somewhere, and have to scan it for the alarm clock to stop going off. Personally I always place the QR code in a different room, so I have to leave the bedroom. It does not help me get good sleep at all, but at least it helps get up on time… And apparently I am not the only one, as there exists this random article that backs me up (<a href="">“This one alarm clock setting is the best way to get you up in the morning”</a>).</p> <p>That’s great for waking up, but how about falling asleep? I have another trick I like for that: <strong>audiobooks</strong>. Nothing is worse than being unable to fall asleep for way too long, with your thoughts about falling asleep just exacerbating the situation. So how to get your mind off sleeping so you can actually fall asleep? Listen to a nice story! I like to listen to things using Audible via an Amazon Echo on my bedside table. It does not always work, but even then it sure is better to lie awake while listening to a good book than to lie awake listening to your own stressed out thoughts.</p> <h3 id="meditation"><em>Meditation</em></h3> <figure class="sidefigureleft"> <img class="postimage_50" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/meditation.jpg" /> <figcaption>How I used insight timer for meditating.</figcaption> </figure> <p>First, something I’ve done on and off for many years. <a href="">As I’ve written in the past</a>, I am a big fan of <strong>meditation</strong>. This is not exactly a novel piece of advice, and you can easily find a detailed account of all of its benefits (including the just-linked blog post of mine). It’s great as a daily practice, but also as a tool for more occasional for bad days or stressful events. Not only does it help you manage you emotions and focus, but it also tends to help me remember get new ideas. I tend to think it’s almost as beneficial as physical exercise – in fact, I think it’s fair to describe as ‘exercise for the mind’. And it’s so easy to try out these days! I particularly like Calm, but Headspace and others are good too. These days I stick with the simpler <strong>Insight Timer</strong>, myself.</p> <h3 id="journaling"><em>Journaling</em></h3> <figure class="sidefigureright"> <img class="postimage_50" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/journal.jpg" /> <figcaption>Some example journal entries from the past.</figcaption> </figure> <p>Next, another years-long on and off practice, keeping a <strong>digital journal</strong>. I like <strong>Journey</strong> in particular for its simplicity and cross-device syncing. more than a year ago now. This is not a big boon for mental health, but does help me reflect more on what happens in my life and think back to happy memories instead of bad ones. Plus, there is a lot of evidence that <a href="">gratitude journaling</a> helps a lot with mental health. I don’t do this much, and probably should change that.</p> <h3 id="pets"><em>Pets</em></h3> <p>This one is common knowledge and does not call for any justification, and I only include it here to show off our family’s super cute family <strong>dogs</strong>.</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/dogs.jpg"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/dogs.jpg" alt="snacks" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>Yep, 3 young dogs live in my parent</p> </figcaption></figure> <h1 id="productivity"><em>Productivity</em></h1> <p><br /> I have this problem where I usually want to do lots of stuff, and find it hard to ever get around to doing that stuff. Not to mention all these healthy habits I need to keep up with… So, here’s some stuff that helps me stay productive. Not just in terms of work, but in terms of generally using my time well.</p> <h3 id="habit-tracking"><em>Habit Tracking</em></h3> <p>Everyone knows about keeping TODO-list, but what about a habits-list? It’s a thing! There are a few really good <strong>habit tracking</strong> apps out there, though the one I like <strong>Loop</strong> most for its minimalist feature set. You know that idea (<a href="">often attributed to Jerry Seinfeld</a>) that having a streak to keep going is a good motivator? I’m a pretty big believer in this, and besides that as with all these other tracking thingies in this post I think just keeping explicit tabs on what I am doing makes me more reflective, self-aware, and mindful my actions.</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2018-01-26-habits/habitbull.png"><img class="postimagesmaller" src="/writing/images/2018-01-26-habits/habitbull.png" alt="HabitBull" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>Not the app I use these days, but close enough.</p> </figcaption></figure> <h3 id="daily-todos-planning"><em>Daily TODOs planning</em></h3> <figure class="sidefigureleft"> <img class="postimage_50" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/todoist.jpg" /> <figcaption>An example of a typical set of tasks for a given day.</figcaption> </figure> <p>For many years I found todo apps pretty useless, as I inevitably got behind and abandoned the endeavor. That changed a couple of years ago, when I figured out a system that works really well for me: <strong>short term TODOs</strong>. The reason things piled up for me in the past is that I wrote down things I’d like to eventually get around to, and then of course never did. So my alternative is to only create TODOs of small tasks – no more than a few hours long, so they often end up being ‘work on X’ – for things I plan to do today or tomorrow. Having a concrete list of things to <em>finish</em> by day’s end makes it easy to know exactly what to devote most of my time to, and helps me avoid the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ excuse for avoiding work. And if I don’t manage to get around to all my planned tasks, no problem! I can just reschedule it to tomorrow or delete it for now. I really like the app <strong>Todoist</strong>, once again for its simplicity, but of course there are a million for you to choose from out there.</p> <h3 id="email-task-tracking"><em>Email Task Tracking</em></h3> <p>I am a big believer in <strong>Inbox Zero</strong>, or the practice of moving emails out of my inbox (once I am done with them) by trashing or putting them into a non-inbox folder. It’s inherently enjoyable to keep things tidy, but the main thing I like about this is that it organically results in my <strong>Email Inbox being a TODO list</strong>. That is, whatever emails are still in the inbox are the ones I am not done with, either because I still need to reply to them or because I still need to do a thing associated with them. This complements my short term TODO tracking, since emails can act as the “get around to eventually” sorts of tasks. Plus, with email “snoozing” (scheduling them to be hidden until a later date) I can have emails act as reminders of due dates and the like. Obviously it takes a bit of work to keep up with this, but for me it’s totally worth it.</p> <h3 id="time-tracking"><em>Time Tracking</em></h3> <p>Yep, yet another “X tracking” thing. What can I say, I like these things to help with accountability and self-awareness. I’ve been using <a href=""><strong>RescueTime</strong></a> for years and love it. Basically, it logs every single thing I do on my phone and computer, and tells me how much time I spend doing things that are productive (like this) or unproductive (like browsing reddit). The knowledge I am ‘always being watched’, even if it’s effectively by myself, helps motivate me to not spend too much time on time-waster websites and the like.</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/rescuetime.png"><img class="postimage" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/rescuetime.png" alt="RescueTime" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>The RescueTime website.</p> </figcaption></figure> <p>Plus, RescueTime has a nifty feature called <strong>Focus Time</strong>. When you start focus time with the RescueTime browser extension installed, you are blocked from visiting various distracting websites (reddit, youtube, new york times, etc) until the focus time period is over.</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/focustime.png"><img class="postimage" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/focustime.png" alt="RescueTime" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>The RescueTime website.</p> </figcaption></figure> <h3 id="pomodoro"><em>Pomodoro</em></h3> <figure class="sidefigureright"> <img class="postimage_50" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/pomodoro_2.jpg" /> <figcaption>My nice and simple pomodoro app</figcaption> </figure> <p>But time tracking alone is not enough to help me avoid distractions while I’m supposed to be working. For that, there is nothing better than a <strong>Pomodoro Timer</strong>. It’s a really <a href="">well known</a> and simple idea: when you need to focus, just set a timer for something like 25 or 45 minutes, and single-mindedly focus on a given task for that time span. Then, take a short break. Rinse and repeat until you are done with the task. Just the knowledge you decided to focus is enough to help you focus!</p> <p>There are lots of nice apps for this, and the one I like is <strong>PomoDoneApp</strong>. It’s not the prettiest or smoothest ones out there, but it integrates with both Todoist (by syncing with my TODO items) and indirectly with RescueTime (by automatically starting a Focus Time session when I started a Pomodoro timer). And that’s cool!</p> <h3 id="easy-meeting-scheduling"><em>Easy Meeting Scheduling</em></h3> <p>Last but not least, a neat little tool that not enough people are aware of. Do you find yourself needing to schedule lots of meetings? Well have I got a nice tool for you: <a href=""><strong>Calendly</strong></a>. Instead of listing some good times that work for you every time you need to schedule something, just keep your calendar up to date and let this thingie do the rest. It automatically shows whoever you need to schedule with the times that work for you based on your calendar, and let them pick a time from that. It works really well!</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/calendly.png"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2021-07-18-habits-2021/calendly.png" alt="Calendly" /></a></p> </div><figcaption class="figure__caption" style="padding-top:0;"><p>What the other person sees after clicking on your link.</p> </figcaption></figure> <h1 id="conclusion"><em>Conclusion</em></h1> <p><br /> So there you had it, an info dump on all the tools and practices I’ve been getting a lot of benefit from over the past months or years. Hopefully if you were so inclined as to read all this, a few of these might prove a fruitful addition to your own life.</p> <p><a href="/writing/life/habits-2021/">My Tools and Practices for a Healthier and More Productive Life</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on July 18, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[The Gradient]]> /projects/team_projects/gradient 2021-05-02T00:00:00-07:00 2021-05-02T00:00:00-07:00 <p>A lot of work and team building. Visit the site!</p> <p><a href="/projects/team_projects/gradient/">The Gradient</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on May 02, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[How the Year of COVID Broke Me, and How I Started Getting Better]]> /writing/life/covid_depression 2021-04-06T00:00:00-07:00 2021-04-06T00:00:00-07:00 <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-04-06-covid_depression/2020 timeline.jpg"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2021-04-06-covid_depression/2020 timeline.jpg" alt="Covid" /></a></p> </div></figure> <blockquote> <p>“In this survey study that included 1441 respondents from during the COVID-19 pandemic and 5065 respondents from before the pandemic, depression symptom prevalence was more than 3-fold higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than before. Lower income, having less than $5000 in savings, and having exposure to more stressors were associated with greater risk of depression symptoms during COVID-19.” —<a href="">Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic</a></p> </blockquote> <figure class="sidefigureright"> <img class="postimagesmaller" src="/writing/images/2021-04-06-covid_depression/depcom464.webp" alt="Depression Comix" /> <figcaption><a href=""><b>Depression Comix, COVID Depression</b></a></figcaption> </figure> <figure class="sidefigureleft"> <img class="postimagesmaller" src="/writing/images/2021-04-06-covid_depression/depcom418.webp" alt="Depression Comix" /> <figcaption><a href=""><b>Depression Comix, The depression zone</b></a></figcaption> </figure> <p>It’s funny, i wrote <a href="">“My Mental Health Struggles in 2020 (so far)”</a> last year, and since then things got far, far worse. So in this post I’ll try and explain what’s been going on with me. I won’t get into how it’s gotten to be this way, since I barely know that. Obviously a huge amount of people have had it far worse in the past year than me, but it’s not like mentall illness makes sense.</p> <p>First, this post will probably seem like a it’s just a pained call for help, so let me outline why I am doing this:</p> <ol> <li>Mostly just to let my friends and family know how i’m doing. This is just the way that makes the most sense to do this.</li> <li>Also be open about and communicate the nature of depression in the past, both to put out something others can relate to and something others can learn from.</li> <li>And yeah ok, partially it is a call for help. But only in the sense that i’ve not shared this with many, and doing so seems like a good idea. If you are reading this and wanna help, no need to do much; encouraging me to be more social would be nice, as would letting me know you care with a message or that Facebook emoji.</li> <li>I guess it feels cathartic to write this, as a sort of self therapy.</li> </ol> <p>On to what has been up with me. Take a look at this:</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2021-04-06-covid_depression/range.jpg"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2021-04-06-covid_depression/range.jpg" alt="Covid" /></a></p> </div></figure> <p>I’ve been oscillating between ‘Struggling’ and ‘In Crisis’ for months, and only recently managed to upgrade to ‘Surviving.’</p> <p>So, not great. At the root of all of this is mainly one thing: I just don’t want to do anything. Not work, not excercise, not socializing, not checking emails, not even mundane things like showering or shaving, and so of course not things like meetings, brainstorming, programming. And so on. In fact, I actively want to not do those things. All I want to do is lie in bed and do nothing. Or do unhealthy things, such as drinking or smoking, or other varieties of self harm. Of course, I find the strength to force myself to do some things, and not do the harmful things. Sometimes this makes me feel better for a while; more often it just makes me tired.</p> <blockquote> <p>“Exercise/physical activity, eating healthy, spending time in nature, finding a hobby are all things that are supposed to “be good for your mental health”… but by definition, depression is a problem precisely because it inhibits your inability to function, much less do things that are good for you. Finding a therapist, trialling multiple therapists to see which one suits me best, or even starting on antidepressants and having to check in with a doctor/psychiatrist every few weeks, or having to change medications because one might fuck up my head even more, or not even work… all takes so much fucking effort that I can’t bother to do any of it.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>I went to a counsellor at my university earlier this year, and they suggested things like group therapy for my anxiety and volunteering for causes because that can give people a sense of purpose in day to day life… and I just didn’t know how to tell them, that is exactly the problem, I have utterly no will to do any of that and that’s why I’m sitting in your office right now and I don’t know what anyone can possibly do about me being this way.” —<a href="">Reddit</a></p> </blockquote> <p>The cumulative effect of all of this is a feeling of being exhausted by the mere act of living. You constantly need to drag yourself forward, when you need to find the strength to heal and persevere. It all feels like a never ending barrage from which you just want to run away. But running away via reading or video games or anything else just makes it worse too, because soon enough you need to get back to living life again, and running away makes you ability to do that atrophy. And at some point you feel fed up with all this shit, and you just want it to stop. But you’ve got to keep going.</p> <p>And because of this there is also a pervasive sense of despair, and dread. Despair at the feeling that I am no longer myself, at not knowing when this will end, at thinking that I am just… broken. And dread at the idea of having to live like this, at having to face today and tomorrow and so many days like this.</p> <p>And then there are the thoughts. Quite rote things, “I hate myself”, “I am not a pleasant person to interact with”, “I am worthless”, etc. And the annoying thing is that these are not beliefs really, I know intellectually these things are not true. I know I am not worthless, I don’t hate myself, plenty of people care about me and like me, etc. And yet the thoughts come, and having to constantly tell yourself to stop thinking nonsense is tiring in itself. Beliefs do not dictate feelings, sadly. It’s all quite irrational, and I know it’s irrational, but it is still what it is.</p> <blockquote> <p>“Depression is a bitch. I don’t want attention, I just feel worthless. Being my only company feels toxic because I hate myself. It’s so conflicting because I want to be alone. I don’t have the energy anymore to put on a fake smile like I used to. I distance myself from my friends and they don’t notice. Yet I don’t want to be alone because I’m drowning in a pool of self hatred and depression. I try to reach out and force myself to meet with people but plans always fall through. I just want to be reminded every now and then that people care for me because I feel fucking worthless. It doesn’t help when that validation never comes.” —<a href="">Reddit</a></p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, on top of the more universal traits of depression there are lots of more personal quirks. The worst for me is constantly feeling incapable of productivity and creativity. When I scroll Twitter and see cool research papers, or scroll Instagram and see cool art, or watch movies, or read books, or listen to music or podcasts, or even just watch YouTube videos, there is a little part of my mind that says ‘that’s not just because of talent – this is the result of years of honing their skill, determined work, perseverance, drive’. And then, ‘you are not capable of those things.’ And then, feelings of hopelessness, self-pity, self-dislike. Even seeing and interactive with people at coffee or grocery stores makes me feel bad, because at least they are putting in the work to do something useful. This especially sucks with friends, because of course I just want to be happy for them. And thus the desire for self isolation increases.</p> <p>I could go on and on, but the above captures the essence of what I have been going through. Part of why I am writing this now is that I am starting to be better, making it possible to write this without it being a complete downer. So, a bit on that. With medication and therapy and socializing and so on not having been sufficient, bigger life changes made sense. So, I have spent months taking on the minimum amount of work possible, tried to avoid unhealthy behavior as much as I could, moved back home with my parents, and most recently started a proper vacation with more or less zero work. With weeks off, I have had time to reflect, take baby steps towards building a consistent healthy routine, rebuild my sense of hope for the future.</p> <p>So, things are getting better. The sense of dread and despair is still there, but at least it’s lessening. So there’s that.</p> <p><a href="/writing/life/covid_depression/">How the Year of COVID Broke Me, and How I Started Getting Better</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on April 06, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[Skynet Today]]> /projects/team_projects/Skynet-Today 2021-04-02T00:00:00-07:00 2021-04-02T00:00:00-07:00 <p>A lot of work and team building. Visit the site!</p> <p><a href="/projects/team_projects/Skynet-Today/">Skynet Today</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on April 02, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[Analysis of 100 Weeks of Curated AI News]]> /writing/ai/2020-100analysis/2020-100analysis 2021-01-28T00:00:00-08:00 2021-01-28T00:00:00-08:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/2020-100analysis/index.html">Analysis of 100 Weeks of Curated AI News</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on January 28, 2021.</p> <![CDATA[AI News in 2020, a Digest]]> /writing/ai/2020-digest/2020-digest 2020-12-28T00:00:00-08:00 2020-12-28T00:00:00-08:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/2020-digest/index.html">AI News in 2020, a Digest</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on December 28, 2020.</p> <![CDATA[Please Stop Saying 'An AI']]> /writing/ai/stop-saying/stop-saying 2020-12-01T00:00:00-08:00 2020-12-01T00:00:00-08:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/stop-saying/index.html">Please Stop Saying 'An AI'</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on December 01, 2020.</p> <![CDATA[Hierarchical Mech Search]]> /projects/research/hms 2020-11-01T00:00:00-07:00 2020-11-01T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/projects/research/hms/">Hierarchical Mech Search</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on November 01, 2020.</p> <![CDATA[Visuomotor Mech Search]]> /projects/research/vismechsearch 2020-09-06T00:00:00-07:00 2020-09-06T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/projects/research/vismechsearch/">Visuomotor Mech Search</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on September 06, 2020.</p> <![CDATA[My Mental Health Struggles in 2020 (so far)]]> /writing/life/depression-in-2020 2020-09-06T00:00:00-07:00 2020-09-06T00:00:00-07:00 <p><br /> <em>Disclaimer: this little blog post is not a cry for help, and hopefully not (just) a form of self-therapy, but like my <a href="">prior</a> <a href="">writing</a> on the subject is meant to (hopefully) help those dealing with similar struggles or those not aware of such struggles. Content warning, discussion of depression. Reminder to friends reading this, I’m always happy to be there and help if you need it.</em></p> <figure> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">September is US <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuicidePreventionMonth</a>. At this point in our country&#39;s history, a lot of us are struggling, and may turn to self-harm or death. Remember that so many are in similar pain, and open conversations about this reality is one of the best ways to make things better.</p>&mdash; MMitchell (@mmitchell_ai) <a href="">September 4, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </figure> <p>Two weeks ago, on the calm Sunday afternoon of August 23 2020, I started crying for no clear reason. No event in the recent past or on the horizon was on my mind, no particular trauma or anxiety was eating away at me; I just felt bad, to the point of tearing up, crying, even sobbing. All this, while pacing around the living room of my nice new apartment where I now live alone, or sitting down in my bedroom where I now sleep alone. After an hour or two, I calmed down and felt a bit better. The crying and pain was unexpected, as I had been feeling rather good for the past few weeks, and so I started to take note similar incidents from then on:</p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2020-09-06-depression-in-2020/list.jpg"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2020-09-06-depression-in-2020/list.jpg" alt="List of difficulties over past two weeks" /></a></p> </div></figure> <p>Why write it down? I suppose to have an objective measure of how bad I felt, a proof that this was real and not something I could just snap out of. Because I could not snap out of it; though I knew that factually there was no reason to feel bad to the point of crying and sobbing (and moreover, that I am incredibly privileged and fortunate, have great friends and family, am still employed, etc.), still a darkness clung to me and made each day difficult, each moment of awakeness draining. Suddenly it seems I was in the grips of full-on depression, a type of sickness it would take <a href="">a whole other blog post</a> to try to explain.</p> <p>Now, it is again a calm Sunday afternoon, and with two weeks having passed I am sitting here writing this, feeling fine. Normal. It has been one week since I last cried, and almost one week since I talked to a new psychiatrist about my sudden descent into misery and fatigue. Perhaps the psychiatrist’s recommendation of increasing my antidepressant dosage was what stabilized me, perhaps it was other things, perhaps both, who knows. As usual, having ascended from the distorted mental space of depression leaves me feeling like just being normal, like this, is all I could ever wish for.</p> <p>And what got me into the depressive funk in the first place? It’s honestly been years since I was in a place as bad as that in terms of mental health, since I cried on a daily basis or had intrusive thoughts visualizing (though, not really considering) self harm. What got me there? Well, the general state of the world, of course. But, I also blame the decreased interaction with others that COVID 19 has made the norm for half a year now. It’s no surprise that isolation and the general repetitiveness of mostly-just-stay-home life would bear a mental cost, but in retrospect it seems like it has somehow built up, until I suddenly found myself in that dark place.</p> <p>And so, I share these sordid personal details now. I do so because I think others might be accumulating pain and struggling too, and that just sharing how i’ve struggled might help in some small ways. Like, maybe me sharing this will help others feel less alone, or less self-conscious, or more motivated to keep going. It’s too easy to get lost inside your own head, especially this year, so perhaps this account of my recent – and less recent – difficulties could make yours more manageable.</p> <p>What other sordid details of personal struggle shall I dredge up, you ask? Just a few. Again, with the intention of showing that at least for me, this year’s whole course and isolation in particular can build up to some rather nasty outcomes, and so maybe you should not feel self-conscious if the same is true for you. So, let us go on a quick tour of what I have to offer, in reverse chronological order:</p> <p>July 30th: a month ago, I had a bit of a precursor to the week of crying I already told you about. A mix of deadline-induced stress (as well as general PhD grad-school-is-hard stress), isolation (living mostly alone, and on top of that multiple days of not really talking to anyone while working on the deadline), and a last-minute discovery of a nasty bug combined to give me a little nervous breakdown a day before said deadline. I sobbed a lot and had spirals of stress, perhaps even got close to panic attacks. Luckily, a friend was awake and helped me calm down just as this was starting, and the next day my collaborators were understanding and wisely suggested I not worry too much about the situation and take the weekend fully off.</p> <p>A few days of rest and catching up with friends and family proved to be all I needed to return to normal. And afterward, I began a routine meant to help me stay that way (that evidently did not quite suffice, but still, I felt good for a few weeks):</p> <figure> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Have been trying to improve daily routine lately, particularly:<br />- Going out for walks twice a day (early and late)<br />- Limiting drinking to one glass of wine with dinner (on weekdays) <br />- Resetting sleep schedule to sleep and wake earlier<br /><br />Anyone else finding ways to improve lately?</p>&mdash; Andrey Kurenkov 🤖 (@andrey_kurenkov) <a href="">August 6, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </figure> <p>July 4th: This was a few weeks after I had returned from living with family in Georgia to living by myself in California. That first weekend of being in my apartment proved more depressing than I had expected, and I felt down. Not as down as the things I had already described, but still, it hit me harder than I expected. I thought it was only natural to return to my own life after a time of staying with family, and moreover needed to move soon, and had this deadline, so it seemed to make sense to return here and focus on those things. But still, I felt miserable.</p> <p>May 17th: The whole idea of living with family for a while came about unexpectedly, while talking to my mom on the phone. I was doing okay, but at this point growing numb to the sameness of every day, every week. Although flying was of course a risk, the truth was that I felt I needed this just then, badly enough to agree with my mom and book a ticket for less than a week later. I was in a state of malaise, of im-okness that felt like it was wearing me down day by day. The trip home did help, as expected, and perhaps I should have stayed longer.</p> <figure> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sharing something fun! <br /><br />A little mini-movie to show how wonderful it is to go on long walks with our family&#39;s two pups. It&#39;s so great being home for a while, even if so much else in the US is a mess... <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Andrey Kurenkov 🤖 (@andrey_kurenkov) <a href="">June 17, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </figure> <p>April 23: A month and change into sheltering in place, the introverted notion of ‘wow, shelter in place is kind of nice and relaxing, I could get used to this’ had passed, and I started feeling less energetic and motivated. I was exercising multiple times a week, following a healthy diet, sleeping well, doing a lot of socializing with friends online, enjoying video games or reading or movies regularly, and yet somehow still I felt myself growing less energetic. After consulting with my general care provider, I decided to resume the taking of antidepressants (which I had weaned down to not taking just months prior) as a precautionary measure against depression. I got around to finishing <a href="">“Things Everyone Should Know About Depression”</a> soon after, in the spirit of such precautionary measures, and I suppose it was not too surprising I ended up having to remind myself of my own advice from that post over the last few weeks.</p> <figure> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Navigating mental health during the pandemic is even more complex than usual. It&#39;s okay to not be okay right now.<br /><br />Sometimes we have to focus on looking after our mental health, and everything else will follow. 💜<a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AcademicChatter</a> <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AcademicTwitter</a> <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#phdchat</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Dr Zoë Ayres (@ZJAyres) <a href="">June 30, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </figure> <p>So there you have it. Despite being in an incredibly fortunate situation (able to keep working, friends and family largely well and there for me, etc.), and despite active efforts on my own part to maintain my mental health, I still had episodes of intense pain and misery. Does that show that I am weak? That I can’t take care of myself? When I was at my low points it was all too easy to feel that way, and I did to some extent, and that’s why I write this now to hopefully help others fight such thoughts, and accept that struggle is fine and natural this year and all you can do is your best to feel well.</p> <figure> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&#39;Thirty-nine per cent of graduate students screened positive for anxiety, and 32% screened positive for depression.&quot;<br /><br />Terrible to see this... I am fortunate enough to have been able to keep working remote, and even still i&#39;ve felt this year has been tough. <br />2020, please just end. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Andrey Kurenkov 🤖 (@andrey_kurenkov) <a href="">August 19, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> </figure> <p>And one last thing: I hope this can be a reminder to face your struggles, and seek help, if you need to. Though I’ve had a few tough days and weeks this year, for the most part it’s been ok, these are nothing compared to months-long episodes of depression I’ve dealt with in the past. And I really do think that this is because I pushed myself to ask friends and family to talk, and was open about my pain if I felt I needed to be, or otherwise just spent time with them rather than close off and stay alone. And further, because I talked to doctors when it seemed like a necessary step. Rejecting and ignoring your pain, just because objectively things are not so bad (or, if they are so bad), will just make it worse. Don’t feel ashamed about it, and instead be honest and face it as best you can.</p> <p><a href="/writing/life/depression-in-2020/">My Mental Health Struggles in 2020 (so far)</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on September 06, 2020.</p> <![CDATA[COVID-19, Inequality, and Donating What You Can Now]]> /writing/life/covid-donate 2020-06-21T00:00:00-07:00 2020-06-21T00:00:00-07:00 <p><br /></p> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/covid.png"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/covid.png" alt="Covid" /></a></p> </div></figure> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/jobs.png&quot; alt=&quot;jobs.png"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/jobs.png" alt="jobs.png" /></a></p> </div></figure> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/race.jpeg&quot; alt=&quot;race.jpeg"><img class="postimagehalf" src="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/race.jpeg" alt="race.jpeg" /></a> <a href="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/race2.jpeg&quot; alt=&quot;race2.jpeg"><img class="postimagehalf" src="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/race2.jpeg" alt="race2.jpeg" /></a></p> </div></figure> <figure class="figure"><div class="figure__main"> <p><a href="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/income.png&quot; alt=&quot;income.png"><img class="postimageactual" src="/writing/images/2020-06-21-covid-donate/income.png" alt="income.png" /></a></p> </div></figure> <p><a href=""> As 100,000 die, the virus lays bare America’s brutal fault lines – race, gender, poverty and broken politics </a></p> <p><a href="">I.M.F. Predicts Worst Downturn Since the Great Depression</a></p> <p><a href="">Coronavirus has widened America’s vast racial wealth gap, study finds</a></p> <p><a href="">George Floyd and the cascade of crises in black America</a></p> <p>This is the world we live in now – one in which those worst off are hit hardest by the Coronavirus, and the inequalities and ugly divides within the United States get even worse.</p> <p>I asked myself what I should do about this, as someone who at least has a stable income and considerable savings from the 2 years I worked as a software engineer in the Bay Area. The answer was simple: donate a lot of the money I had saved, and do it now, ideally in a way that got it to those likeliest to get hit hardest by the pandemic.</p> <p>And so, I donated 20% of my cash savings, $7000, to GiveDirectly’s <a href="">Project 100</a>, which <a href="">simply</a> “gives $1000 cash transfers, no strings attached, to families in financial need to help make ends meet during the coronavirus crisis.” I also donated smaller amounts to other causes, but 20% was the big one. I decided on this amount as something sensible to still leave me with significant savings in case of a crisis or need (I might actually want to buy a car some day, who knows).</p> <p>I share this not to elicit praise or pat myself on the back, but rather to suggest you consider doing something similar, if you are in a similar position of having considerable amounts of money saved up in checkings or savings accounts. Now more than ever it made sense to just do something big, to really give away what I could, in the face of this enormous crisis that will only make the lives of those who already have a much harder life that I do that much harder.</p> <p>To really address these issues would require far more than individual actions, of course. But personally, it just seemed to make sense to still do what I could, and I only hope this post might give some others in a similar position this idea to consider.</p> <p><a href="/writing/life/covid-donate/">COVID-19, Inequality, and Donating What You Can Now</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on June 21, 2020.</p> <![CDATA[Lessons from the PULSE Model and Discussion]]> /writing/ai/pulse-lessons/pulse-lessons 2020-05-25T00:00:00-07:00 2020-05-25T00:00:00-07:00 <p><a href="/writing/ai/pulse-lessons/index.html">Lessons from the PULSE Model and Discussion</a> was originally published by Andrey Kurenkov at <a href="">Andrey Kurenkov's Web World</a> on May 25, 2020.</p>