Senior Wisdom: Jacob Andreas

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Name, Hometown, School: Jacob Andreas, Piedmont, California, The Zai Yuan Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University in the City of New York

Claim to Fame: I beat PrezBo in the Fun Run. I also helped run a website that you’ve probably used before.

Where are you going? To graduate school for a distressingly long time.

Three things you learned at Columbia?

  1. You are not as smart as you think you are.
  2. The paperwork required to make extra-ordinary registration changes is purely a test of will—the Committee on Academic Standing will approve basically any request if you hand them a stack of documents of sufficient thickness. Exempli gratia: waiting until senior year to take a sophomore physics lab; signing up for a 4-point seminar that overlapped with a required class, with the understanding that I would skip the required class; applying to receive 6 points for my thesis less than a month before graduation.
  3. In the sciences, every research project you start will fail with at least 50% probability. This is not a reflection on your worth as a human being. In the humanities, every thesis can be convincingly defended with approximately 100% probability. This is not a reflection on the merit of your thesis.

“Back in my day…” Pinnacle was Pinnacle, Campo was Campo, and none of my friends were engaged.

Justify your existence in 30 words or less: No.

Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? During 40s on 40, Public Safety stood quietly by while cheering students threw glass bottles onto Low Plaza. Is this a cessation of hostilities, or a Fun Intifada? Edward Said is proud of us either way.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? The very best kind of one of these things is better than the very best kind of the other. [N.B. I’ve always thought that ‘poutine’ would be a better name for a sex organ than a cheesy potato dish.]

Advice for the class of 2016: There’s a classical problem in statistical decision theory known as the “Multi-Armed Bandit”, which is cool mostly because it’s called the “Multi-Armed Bandit”. The setup is as follows: You’re in a room with several slot machines. You know that each of the machines has a different payoff rate, but you don’t know what any of the payoffs are. Your goal is to minimize a quantity called “regret”, defined as the difference between the amount of money your strategy will make on average, and the amount of money you would expect to make if you knew the best lever ahead of time.

There’s an inherent tradeoff between collecting information and maximizing profit. Unsurprisingly, many of the standard strategies have essentially the same form: divide your time between exploration (pull levers randomly and see what happens) and exploitation (pull the best lever(s) over and over).

Columbia is, in various ways, a multi-armed bandit. The same strategies apply. Don’t be afraid to commit to friends, clubs or sandwich shops early on, but don’t think you’re tied down once freshman year ends. Set aside some time every semester to explore before you exploit.

Miscellaneous advice: love the Core, spend a summer in New York, eat at Bab al-Yemen, watch the KCST spring show, join Philo, take Nobility and Civility, write for CULPA, read for pleasure.

Any regrets? If I’d persuaded the department to let me skip one intro CS course, I would have had time to take ArtHum and finish the entire CC core. I’m tempted to include here the two weeks I spent last summer in the McKibbin lofts (which two weeks included a smack-addicted roommate, a clandestine hair salon in our kitchen sink, an armed robbery and sickening quantities of banana incense), but in general the most regrettable decisions tend to create the best stories.

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  1. Anonymous

    Jacob! Remember when we were stung by jellyfish?!

    Also, you give the best hugs.

    Also also, you forgot to mention that you are the Master of the Universe.

  2. Anonymous  

    I don't know Jacob, but this is a great Senior Wisdom. That Advice section is one of the best I've ever seen. Wish we had met.

  3. Okay.

    How about some straight answers about the future, seniors?

  4. Anonymous  

    Dear This Senior Wisdom,
    Have sex with me.

  5. Anonymous

    Utterly Brilliant! This guy!

  6. Anonymous  

    Jacob is such a fucking baller.

  7. False  

    "You are not as smart as you think you are. "

    ORLY ANDREAS? i don't think you learned this one.

  8. Wisdom  

    "In the sciences, every research project you start will fail with at least 50% probability. This is not a reflection on your worth as a human being. In the humanities, every thesis can be convincingly defended with approximately 100% probability. This is not a reflection on the merit of your thesis."

  9. 4 point seminar  

    Yeah Nobility and Civility!

  10. Anonymous  

    the humanities line is wrong. he apparently thinks humanities are entirely sophisitic, adn that one can prove anything. this is false.

  11. Anonymous  

    Jacob is awesome!

  12. Anonymous  

    I'm loving the Senior Wisdoms, but I would really like to see some Native American, Hispanic, Asian or African-America senior wisdom. I mean... they are part of the school too.

  13. Anonymous  

    You advise to 2016 is fucking legit.

  14. Dana Prussian  

    It's no surprise that THE Mr. Jacob Daniel Andreas would give the finest senior wisdom. Congratulations on your many accomplishments, and good luck in the distressingly long period of time known as grad school. You're the best.

  15. Anonymous  

    BEST SENIOR WISDOM EVER. my internal monologue sounded something like this: "yes...yess...yesss.. yesss!!!... yessss!!!!...yyyiiieeessss!!...yyyiii- yiii- yieeesssssss!!!...oh jacob.. oh.. oh... *panting heavily* ... oh jacob..."

  16. Anonymous  

    "Justify your existence in 30 words or less: No."


  17. Anonymous  

    Jacob. We don't have a garbage disposal. And we never have.

    But you're still a genius.

  18. the dark hand

    Why would you take the entire CC core in SEAS? To artificially boost your GPA? You regret getting that extra A in art hum?

  19. Anonymous

    "Join Philo." Yes.

  20. Boooo

    I love senior wisdoms, by why do we keep interviewing Vi users? There are plenty of great people at this school using Emacs which Bwog refuses to profile.

  21. Anonymous  

    "I believe the word you're looking for is...capricious" -- This guy

  22. Anonymous  

    Marry me, Jacob!

  23. I'm confused....  

    is he keeping the cheese or the BJs?

  24. Easily

    the best SW I have ever read and by far my favorite.

    Must meet this man.

  25. Z+R  

    We love you Jacob! And also, we loved "doing the goat" with you (aka we second the go to Bab al-Yemen advice! Do it!)

  26. Anonymous  

    Smart guy and best senior wisdom so far. Really wish I could have gotten to known him better.

  27. Anonymous  


    You are insightful, clever and most importantly, a genuinely nice person. At the risk of cheapening my sentiments through mawkishness, I truly feel that there are few people that match the caliber of your decency. Although I'm too embarrassed to reveal my identity, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for being such an inspiration to me. And to commend you for imparting the incoming freshman with such keen advice -

    "Columbia is, in various ways, a multi-armed bandit. The same strategies apply. Don’t be afraid to commit to friends, clubs or sandwich shops early on, but don’t think you’re tied down once freshman year ends. Set aside some time every semester to explore before you exploit."

    At the end of the day, senior wisdom vignettes are so extraordinary because they allow us to the unique opportunity to peer into consciousness of our seasoned, departing seniors. We cast aside race, religion and political-affiliation to take a moment to reflect on our shared experience as Columbians. So I wish to thank you, BWOG for granting Jacob a mouthpiece to the undergraduate community - you've finally interviewed a senior with real wisdom.

    And Jacob, I'm sure this won't be the last time I will read about you. Good luck to you and good luck to the entire graduating class of 2012!

    - SEAS 2012

  28. Anonymous

    Do any graduating seniors have good jobs???

  29. Anonymous

    How do we nominate people for senior wisdoms?

  30. Anonymous  

    This kid sucks.

  31. Ugh  

    The throwing of 40s on Low Plaza made me embarrassed to be a part of CC'12. People had to clean that shit up at 4AM.

  32. Anonymous  

    this is actual wisdom, not least of which is the bab al yemen rec. Damn. You sir are a boss.

  33. Anonymous

    I was going to correct you, but I took your words over Wikipedia and John Koza's genetic algorithm book. Also, viper mode for emacs is a real thing – you don't even have to type differently. There are modes and everything. I don't know how you live without debugger integration in your editor — maybe you don't make mistakes, you're a better man than I All I wanted to ask after your rails presentation was whether you had a single key alias for everything. I decided that was a bit much.

    But you're the best. And if you can add an explanation for us lesser mortals on Github for your thesis that would be great, I have no idea what wizardry you are doing. I've got an even bet riding on you being the guy who beats the Turing test, don't let me down.


    maaaaaaarrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee


    I want to spend the rest of my life with you ;p until your sperm count drops and I can't sell it to Asians anymore


    Also, Philo, yeah...nice. You should have joined earlier.


    OK I will stop being annoying now since such behavior is incongruous in the Bwog community.


    I guess I am not done. Everyone neeeeeeeds to know that when I use the emoticon ;p I actually make that face; I don't throw it around around all flippant-nilly-willy-like. Just for you, Jacob. Just for you. Thanks for this senior wisdom. I didn't even get bored and skip parts.

  39. Anonymous

    Oh yeah this kid's in one of my classes. I'd pretty definitely have sex with him

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