Today’s tutoring sessions were amazing.
In our first, we started with order of operations, during which my student invented an AWESOME notation for working through problems with nested order of operations issues – one that I’m going to adopt. We then talked for a while about how totally cool it is to invent something like that, and some of the hallmarks of great notation or language invention: 1) It makes it easier to do. 2) It graphically shows the flow of the steps. 3) It’s intuitive and easy to understand.

We then talked about Star Wars IV (which he’d just watched). He asked about why Lucas started with IV, which led to a discussion of Homer’s Odyssey, Joseph Campbell, and the Hero’s journey.

Next we reviewed our work on harmonies and tweaked his javascript a bit, then went back to our exploration of problem spaces, starting with blackjack. He taught me about MarI/O (a cool neural network that is learning to play Nintendo games), and we discussed the differences and similarities between Neural Network and Genetic Algorithm approaches to problem spaces.

We then had a super cool conversation about the problem of local maxima for artificial intelligence and humans in general. I’m going to have to do a separate post about that because it’s such a rich topic and relates so well to a friend’s recent post!

That led us full circle to Luke Skywalker, and why the destruction of Owen & Beru’s ranch was required to propel Luke from his local maximum to seek for a deeper optimal solution…

I introduced him to Cog, and OpenWorm, and we came up with our new master plan, in which we will work towards evolving either a Neural Network or Genetic Algorithm solution to a simple challenge for a robot we’ll build with EV3 and then test.

I really – REALLY – love my job.