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Senior Wisdom: Jacob Andreas

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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58 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    @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.

    1. Jacob Andreas says:

      @Jacob Andreas Erratum: “maximize regret” should be “minimize regret”.

      Also, you people are creeping me out.

  • Anonymous says:

    @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.

  • Okay. says:

    @Okay. How about some straight answers about the future, seniors?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Dear This Senior Wisdom,
    Have sex with me.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Utterly Brilliant! This guy!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Jacob is such a fucking baller.

  • False says:

    @False “You are not as smart as you think you are. ”

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

  • Wisdom says:

    @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.”

  • 4 point seminar says:

    @4 point seminar Yeah Nobility and Civility!

  • Anonymous says:

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

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous prove it

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Jacob is awesome!

  • Anonymous says:

    @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.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous nominate them. it’s not that hard.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous much like this school, about 50% of the senior wisdoms have been students of color.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous You advise to 2016 is fucking legit.

  • Dana Prussian says:

    @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.

  • Anonymous says:

    @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…”

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous This is my internal monologue every night.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “Justify your existence in 30 words or less: No.”

    this.

    1. This says:

      @This is the only time I don’t mind people quoting the article without adding their own commentary on it.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Jacob. We don’t have a garbage disposal. And we never have.

    But you’re still a genius.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous I’ve narrowed this response down to two people. Their names begin with Z and R.

  • the dark hand says:

    @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?

    1. seas13 says:

      @seas13 Chill. Everyone has their own thing.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “Join Philo.” Yes.

  • Boooo says:

    @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.

    1. ... says:

      @... half are in the hospital with debilitating rsis and the other half are too busy writing new modes to engage in such trifles.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “I believe the word you’re looking for is…capricious” — This guy

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Marry me, Jacob!

  • I'm confused.... says:

    @I'm confused.... is he keeping the cheese or the BJs?

  • Easily says:

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

    Must meet this man.

  • Z+R says:

    @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!)

  • Anonymous says:

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

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Jacob,

    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

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous who are you, masked commentor?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Do any graduating seniors have good jobs???

    1. hahahaha says:

      @hahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

      oh god you’re too much

    2. *facepalm* says:

      @*facepalm* Yes, plenty of them do. The question you should be asking yourself is: Why have I found myself compelled to use this guy’s senior wisdom comment section as a forum to express premature underclassmen anxiety about my future employment prospects?

      1. Anom says:

        @Anom Because, I am starting to get concerned. I have noticed that most of the graduating senior wisdom students do not have jobs. Or, do not have jobs that will pay off these loans.

        1. wisdom says:

          @wisdom the ones with good jobs were too busy focusing on getting the good jobs to play campus politics or be enough of a social butterfly for a senior wisdom

          1. anom says:

            @anom Thank you. That sounds like a good explanation. OK, I will stop all my worrying and get back to studying for finals!

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Also, this sir received a very awesome scholarship:

      http://engineering.columbia.edu/engineering-senior-jacob-andreas-wins-churchill-scholarship

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous How do we nominate people for senior wisdoms?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This kid sucks.

  • Ugh says:

    @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.

  • Anonymous says:

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

  • Anonymous says:

    @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.

    1. Patrick McGuire says:

      @Patrick McGuire Meant to sign my name, anything but command line confuses me.

  • OMG JACOB says:

    @OMG JACOB maaaaaaarrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • OMG JACOB says:

    @OMG JACOB 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

  • OMG JACOB says:

    @OMG JACOB Also, Philo, yeah…nice. You should have joined earlier.

  • OMG JACOB says:

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

  • OMG JACOB says:

    @OMG JACOB 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.

  • Anonymous says:

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

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