-UP Provident (pension and renewable life)
Operations Research: Optimization
Actuarial Science/Mathematical Finance: Risk
Biomathematics & Mathematical Social Science: Complexity
Note: this is just a simplification
The main thrusts of University of the Philippines (Los Baños campus) are biology, agriculture, environmental science, forestry and natural resources; that is why we have a specific group for Biomathematics. The NuMath team is designed to cater a more general area, including financial math, operations research, numerical analysis and mathematical social science (with some biomath researchers also being involved in NuMath).
I have three proposals:
1) to investigate the foraging behavior and food-site selection of stingless bees. I have initial data for this study. My goal is to describe the multistable behavior of bees using a mathematical model, that can be used for predicting their future behavior. Stingless bees are very useful for crop pollination. This study can be done in one to three years, in collaboration with the UPLB Bee Program.
2) to study the effect of the "less fit" in uplifting the society. In Social Darwinism, it is expected that the "fittest" "survives". However, the "less fit" are not becoming rare but rather are common in society, and oftentimes they provide the power of inspiration and motivation for the society to survive. My goal is to study the interaction, feedback loops and complexity of having "less fit" in our society. This study can be done in one to three years with a student working on mathematical social science.
3) to assess the "L-infinity strategy" in education and social development. L-infinity or MinMax strategy aims to minimize the maximum gaps between reality and the ideal situation. The strategy focuses on the most underprivileged, which implies uniformity and equity. My goal is to compare this strategy with other strategies (e.g., using L-1, L-2 and hybrid of the different strategies). I believe that choosing the measure of success dictates the strategy that we use, which affects the overall social outcome. This study can be done in 2-5 years with students working on mathematical social science.
Note: L-infinity strategy is used by our team for extension works, see http://jfratup.weebly.com/l-infinity---camp.html.
Herbert Marshall Mcluhan proposed that “the medium is the message” and “media as extension of ourselves”. He conceptually predicted the World Wide Web before it was created, and he called it the “Global Village”. In Mcluhan’s perspective, media is synonymous to technology. Indeed, similar to bow and arrow as man’s extension of his body to catch animals for food, technology is an extension of our physical and cognitive self. For example, the internet becomes the amplification of our mind --- not just individual mind but also the collective consciousness of the society.
I agree to Mcluhan except for his idea about “the medium is the message”. In my point of view, the medium is a necessary part of the message but not the whole message itself. I argue that a message has triumvirate parts, consisting of the (1) people (sender and receiver, where the sender and receiver can be the same person), (2) media (including the environment) and (3) the information/content (including the intention or purpose). This triumvirate is inseparable from each other, that is, eliminating one will make the message incomplete. Disregarding the people and the content and focusing only on the medium reduce the value of the message. The content and people are not just incidental/secondary to the medium. The triumvirate should be seen using a systems perspective and not using reductionism.
However, I totally agree to Mcluhan’s idea that the “effect rather than meaning is a basic change of our electric time, for effect involves the total situation, and not a singe level of information movement”. For example, the effect to the receiver when an enemy (sender) sent “I love you” (content) using telephone (medium) is different compared to the case when the receiver’s lover (sender) sent “I love you” (content) using telephone (medium). Another example is that the effect of advertising a certain product using television and using radio are different. This implies that the question “Is technology good or bad to humanity?” is pointless as effects of technology vary depending on the situation.
Alan Kay became famous as a pioneer of object-oriented programming and graphical user interface (GUI) design. He is also well-known for his idea of “a personal computer for children of all ages”, called Dynabook, even before laptops and tablets were invented. The works of Alan Kay impress me, especially his innovative ideas. Innovation --- theoretical/conceptual (Dynabook) or applied (object-oriented programming and GUI) --- could change how humans utilize technology.
Another good thing about Alan Kay’s work is promoting personalized dynamic media. Technology is not anymore rigid but is now dynamic. Human can now use technology that fits his/her own preferences and personality. Technology is not just a device but already part of our lives. Dynamic media increases productivity of the society.
I would like to comment about Mathematics VS Computer Science. We cannot judge what discipline is more important compared to the other. Computer Science will not exist without Mathematics, while Mathematics could not progress without technology. In fact, in this modern times it is difficult to put a demarcation line between these disciplines. I agree that traditional mathematical models could not represent all biological, physical and social phenomena but I also believe that computer simulations cannot represent all biological, physical and social phenomena. In fact, there are no perfect models/simulations (that is why they are called models because they are abstraction of reality) but, of course, there are useful ones (and also useless ones).
I must say that doing research, specifically publishing papers, is just part of my academic career. I am an advocate of holistic academic career, where Research (formulating new knowledge), Instruction (sharing knowledge to other people) and Extension (application of knowledge for social development) should go hand-in-hand. We can connect this idea of holistic academic career to Human Interface (HI) model. If we want to build a good HI, we should not only focus on one sensory input but focus on multiple sensory inputs and interaction among the inputs --- that is, taking into account the holistic personality of humans. Moreover, HI should be formed using holistic human-interface-computer system (that is, not as individual reductionist interface-only or computer-only model). We need to look at both directions of how humans can enhance computers and how computers can enhance humans. “Humans” here do not necessarily pertain to individuals but can also pertain to interacting individuals or to groups or communities.
Further research can be done to improve HI (e.g., algorithms, content database, infrastructure, security, etc.). We also need to improve how we get meaning/value out of available huge data that are available (e.g., in the internet). When I think of advanced HI, the movie Ex Machina comes into my mind (trailer can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYGzRB4Pnq8). The movie presents an advanced human-like AI robot; however, I believe that robot is not yet perfect.
Experience is a good teacher. However:
Stupid people learn from experience. Smart people learn from history.
We don't need to experience everything!
reductionism is not bad if we ALSO look using systems perspective...
Philosophy AND Reality = Science
Physics & Chemistry AND Life = Biology
Biology AND Mind = Psychology (note: brain is not equal to mind)
Psychology AND Human interaction = Social science
Math AND Technology = Computer Science
A bit of everything = Engineering
Note: this is just a crude representation of the branches of science (we can do this representation to other specific fields; can you write a representation for Economics?). the distinctions between branches are vague in the modern perspective. my goal here is just to show that all branches are unique and important. :)