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Monday 27 May 2024

Reflections on student research projects

I was supervising 7 Masters of AI / Masters of Data Science / Masters of Cybersecurity students this semester.  Reach out to me if you are looking for people with these skills and I'll introduce you; also, if you have small industry projects that need doing, there are cohorts from Macquarie and ANU next semester.

On Friday we had the final presentations from my students and the rest of the cohort. Observations:

  • Very few students trained their own computer vision models. Viet (one of my supervision students) was one of the few that did, and was quite successful. Instead, research in computer vision is now often asking "how can I prompt Claude/ChatGPT/Gemini able to get the right answer?" As Marco found, this is often not a trivial exercise, is vastly more inefficient than a trained model, and not necessarily all that accurate. Yet.
  • Explainability is a big deal. Both Viet and Himanshu looked at explaining the results of their models. Shout out to Himanshu for delivering his presentation in the dark (I don't know why the lights weren't working...) after racing to get there after his car broke down.
  • We don't know whether blockchains can coexist with quantum computers. The problem is obvious: RSA or ECC public keys are too easy for quantum computers to break. Lots of solutions have been proposed: Suyash, Proshanta and Pradyumn all found problems in the different solutions they looked at.
  • In research, ChatGPT wasn't all that popular: about a third of the cohort that used an LLM in their research used ChatGPT. Open source models like llama and mixtral were far more popular in academia than in business (that I have seen).
  • About 90% of projects didn't use LLMs at all in their research. They might have used it to clean up their writing or other "mundane" tasks, but it didn't play a part in the research process itself. I am going to try to track that over the next few years as I expect it will drop.
Reflecting on the reflections:
  • For $20/month, you can have access to all the necessary tools to do world-leading computer vision tasks. It has been a long time since the forefront of technology has been that accessible and that cheap anywhere in anything. Truly we live in wondrous times.
  • As we move into a (possibly) AGI+quantum world, being confident that you can trust complex systems will become much more important than building the thing itself.

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