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Brian T. Liao
Jan 26, 2019 • 9 min read

My Childhood Dreams Part 2

Continuing from part 1. School is getting busy too, but I like writing so I’ll try to do it when I have time.

Becoming a Spy/Joining the Military

Who wouldn’t want to be a badass secret agent?

I grew up in a time of media and as a boy secret agents, soldiers, and explosions are a thrill. Even today Mission Impossible movies still blow me away. Tom Cruise HALO jumping in, fight scenes, chase scenes, climbing the Burj Khalifa, I’d want to be a badass like Ethan Hunt. Strong, disciplined and keeps fight even when everybody (including my nation!) is against me. Spy’s play the charismatic man, who smooth talks his way to get his job done, but isn’t afraid to get his hands a little dirty.

Halo was also a big part of my childhood. It made me want to space marine, a soldier like Master Chief and all the other Spartans. There’s something humbling and inspiring about them, they take the fight that we can’t. They are the best of the best taken to the extremes of human technology and augmentation, but are a last hope against the insurmountable odds of the Covenant. They aren’t afraid. Spartans never die, they are just missing in action.

I think these experiences install a sense of leadership and determination, to be the best that I can be. These people, spies, soldiers, and Spartans, give their 100% to their jobs, or else the world as we know it is gone. That’s really humbling and honorable, something I wanted as a kid.

Learning Languages and Visiting Countries

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

As a subset of being a spy or a soldier, one dream was visiting other countries. Spies are experts at foreign languages, they blend in and can navigate the politics and business between countries. They have cunning and fluent, often undercover for long times at end.

For me, I just wanted to travel and see new places, experience new culture, and eat good food. I did take 4 years of Spanish in high school, and I’m at an ok level, as well as being able to listen in Chinese from my parents, but one of my biggest regrets was not knowing another language. I hope one day I’ll be able to move somewhere, like Taiwan or Japan, and become a fluent speaker and truly immerce myself in the culture.


Seeing Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park

This one came from my 6th grade teacher and I actually got to go there! My 6th grade teacher’s father was a park ranger and had a instilled love of nature I got to. Joshua Tree was special because the trees inspired Dr. Suess’s The Lorax.

They got really bushy, pointy trees that Dr. Suess would take illustrative liberties in making his own trees in the book about environmentalism. I included this because I didn’t get to go when I originally wanted to, our family took a road trip around Western United States but Joshua Tree was too far Southern and off the route in California. Luckily, I did get to go before Sophomore year of college, 2018. We drove down to San Diego and Tijuana, taking a cruise in Mexico, and got to visit Joshua Tree along the way 🌲!

Becoming a Professional Tennis Player

Uniqlo Roger Federer

I started really getting into tennis freshman year of high school. I loved sports and tennis was fun to play. I wanted to go pro. I always underestimate how difficult it is to get to that level. I thought I could play JV in high school, then varsity, then in college, and finally hit the pro circuit, playing at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, I don’t have that temperament, these players work incredibly hard and have been playing at a high level their whole life. But it is inspiring to be in this time, Roger Federer is incredibly dominant and with the big four, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray, who have been incredibly dominant over 15 years!

I still love tennis and playing with my dad.


Visiting Asia

Taipei, Taiwan

I have visited Taiwan when I was young, 10 or so? I saw my grandparents and hung out with my cousins. I got to see the place but I feel I would really appreciate it so much more now. My dream is to get a job in Taiwan, Google or Nvidia in Taipei, please hire me! I want to explore Japan, the people, the culture, the food! A formal people who live so healthily and technologically advance with huge populations but cultural respect for their past. I want to visit Korea, K-pop, gaming, (brutal education) but more beauty and food in the big city (how are Koreans so attractive!?) I want to visit China and Hong Kong, actually use Chinese and again experience the culture, people, food, and say I’ve been there.

In addition I want to see Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. These places are definitely less developed and popular, but they still have a rich culture and plenty of beauty that give them an appeal. I also was enticed by this video, it would awesome to have my business and work on the beach of Bali or Taiwan.

Going to Caltech

This was my dream school applying to college. I loved the idea of rigor in study, I was planning on studying math or physics or computer science and Caltech would be the place to hard hit it. Reading about Caltech, their economics for example takes multivariable calculus as a prerequisite while Berkeley’s Econ 100B has so far been can you take a derivative? Caltech requires math, physics, biology, and chemistry, and their is something really cool about having a super formal and rigorous education that bootstraps you and feeds your love of learning with like minded peers. Graduates of Caltech usually get a PhD. it’s pretty much a pre-PhD.

In the end, I didn’t apply, my SAT score would not have been high enough, and it would have still been a crap shoot. I also realized while visiting, all this rigor is really hard and a ton of work. Caltech is probably the highest workload school. At Berkeley, I go intense in computer science but really haven’t had to do math (beyond the requirements), physics, biology, and chemistry as well as the humanities, where they have to take a ton. So many requirements wasn’t appealing, and in the end I did go to Berkeley where I got to study more of what I liked, lot of computer science.

UCSB College of Creative Studies

Here’s a quick side and I talked about this in my previous dream wishing to study math. I also would have loved to done mathematics at UCSB CSS. Likewise you get to go in depth, intense with rigorous and pursue a love of learning a subject with crazy like minded peers. Taking grad math courses sounds insane, I would have loved it with the depth. Ultimately I was interested in machine learning, it’s funny how much it has blown up and Berkeley has satisfied that desire 🙂.

Building Cloud AI Infrastructure

So a lot of these were my childhood dreams. How about now? As a career, I would love to push the boundary in cloud AI infrastructure. Modern AI/Machine Learning is basically massive scale training algorithms on data, and have the model make predictions. The scale of training with the accuracy and standard we need practically requires cloud infrastructure.

The cool stuff:

TPU’s are Google’s machine learning circuits that are super efficient in machine learning operations. Google’s cluster can do 100 petaflops of operations.

Google Deepmind for example uses these hardware to train it’s reinforcement learning game playing bots. The first AlphaGo used 176 GPU’s distributed and had an Elo of 3,144. AlphaGo Zero had 4 TPU’s training over 40 days and had an ELO of 5,185.

Another example of cloud AI infrastructure is GPipe, a scalable pipeline library that can distribute huge neural network training workloads. Google’s automl neural architecture search took 3150 GPU days to train and search for an architecture for AmoebaNet with 557 million parameters, state of the art in image classification.

Facebook’s state of the art model in weakly-supervised learning (Instragram tags that might not be accurate), took 336 GPUs with 861 million parameters on 1 billion images with 1,500 hashtags.

A lot of building good models now is creating the infrastructure to train them and to run them with Google Assisstants for example giving millions of calls to the cloud running these models a day.


Conclusion

This concludes my writing on my childhood dreams. I think it’s an interesting concept, sharing our experiences and dreams and seeing how they shape us. I also find it therapeutic to share, especially the final part where it reminds me of the crazy evolving world we live in. Who knows, maybe better methods will be found and we won’t need giant cloud AI infrastructure. Maybe commercial space flight will be cheap and childhood dreams like going to Mars will be a reality. I look forward to seeing the future and continuing the pursuit to achieve my childhood dreams.

Post by: Brian T. Liao