Enjoying new business job

Hi Everybody.

I’ve been really enjoying my new job at Time Service in Toledo. I’m about to finish my third month here, and I expect I’ll be staying with this job for quite a while. I find that working in business gives me a variety of interesting problems to solve, and although they’re not deep and abstract in the same way as math research problems, they still require a lot of creative thinking and give me challenges to work on over time and puzzles to chew on as I drift off to sleep, in my morning shower, etc., just like math research did. The whole operation of helping to run a business feels like a big optimization problem — how do I figure out the best way to use all of our company’s resources to the greatest effect?

I hope all my friends in the New York Logic community are doing well. Please keep in touch!

Resigning from LaGuardia

I have resigned my position at LaGuardia Community College effective the beginning of the fall semester. I will be moving back to my birth town of Toledo, Ohio in a few days, where I will help to manage a medium-sized business started by my great-grandfather. It’s a watch repair business, with departments across the country. I’ll get to work closely with my father, who is the President of the company. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to try out a completely different career.

As a side project, I hope to find some time to do a bit of research for MIRI. I’ve discussed MIRI research in a couple of recent posts here. I plan to continue updating this blog with stuff on MIRI research and other updates on my life. I’ll miss my colleagues in New York, and I hope we keep in touch. My students are welcome to keep in touch as well.

Two agent mild optimization

Here is a paper that came out of the MIRI Summer Fellows Program research workshop that I attended in June. The LaTeX code is here.

Quantilization is a form of mild optimization where you tell an AI to choose something at random from (for instance) the top 10% of best solutions, rather than taking the best solution. This helps to get around the problem of an agent whose values are mostly aligned with yours but that does pathological things when it takes its values to the extreme. In this paper, we examine a similar process, but involving two (or more) agents rather than one.

For those of you who were also at the MSFP, you can read some additional discussion of the paper here. The main idea is that Connor is working on a simulation to help test the ideas in the paper. If you’re interested in helping with the simulation but don’t have access to the forum post linked above, get in touch with me.

Starting out at LaGuardia

My new job at LaGuardia has been exciting and a lot of work. There’s a lot of new information to take in and procedures to figure out, but I’m adapting to it all. LaGuardia hired 70 new instructional faculty this year, 12 of them in the math department (including computer science and engineering). The school is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s great to be part of this large group of incoming faculty; it feels like we’re undertaking a grand adventure together, and we are available to support each other through the challenges of the experience. Like the student body, the faculty exhibit great diversity in ethnicity and in life experience. Even by CUNY standards, LaGuardia is a very diverse place, and that’s really saying something.

I’ve had a few opportunities to hear President Mellow address the new hires, and she is a very charismatic leader. She really seems to have a strong vision for the direction of the school, and she makes us feel that our work is very important.

The facilities of the school are much better than I was expecting. From the outside it looks like a series of ugly brown bulidings . . . but it’s the inside that matters, as that’s where I spend more time. The bathrooms are reasonably clean, and the elevators operate reasonably quickly. I have a good-sized private office, painted in interesting colors, with almost-new furniture including plenty of bookshelves, a filing cabinet, another cabinet, and pegs to hang my coat, backpack, etc. No windows to the outside, though some small high windows let in light from the hallway. Offices with outside windows are assigned based on seniority.  I have a much larger desk than I had at FAU.  The hallways are decorated with an eclectic collection of artwork, much of it by LaGuardia students, and painted in bright colors. There is a beautiful courtyard with greenery and benches, and a hall of flags with a high ceiling from which hang flags from many nations of the world. Is it all the nations of the world or just the ones that LaGuardia students come from? I don’t think there would be a big difference actually.

Got a tenure-track position at LaGuardia Community College

On May 22, I accepted a tenure-track professor position at LaGuardia Community College. LaGuardia is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) the same university system where I went to graduate school. It is located in Long Island City with in the borough of Queens, in the far southwest corner of Queens, south of Astoria and west of Sunnyside. The college is exceptional among community colleges in that the majority of faculty have PhDs and faculty are expected to do some research.

Several people have asked me whether LaGuardia Community College is located near LaGuardia airport. They are about five miles apart. They share the same name because they’re both named after a former mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia. LaGuardia was mayor during the 1930s. Although he was a Republican, he was also a progressive and an ally of FDR. He spoke several languages and stood up for immigrants. Therefore, it is particularly appropriate that LaGuardia Community College is named for him, as the college has an extremely ethnically diverse student body even by CUNY standards, which is really saying something. This is meaningful to me personally because my great-grandparents were immigrants, and I like the idea of helping immigrants and first-generation college students to improve their lives.

I am very happy to be moving back to New York City, as I really love the culture and lifestyle there.  It will also be nice to socialize and work with my many friends and colleagues in set theory at CUNY. CUNY has one of the most active set theory research groups in the world.

It’s also nice to have the security of a tenure-track position. Moving around every few years for postdocs would be exhausting, I think.The move down to Florida really took a toll on me, although in retrospect it was fun to live for a year in Florida, and I learned a lot about myself and my personal and professional life goals through the experience. There are a few people, places, and lifestyle aspects that I’ll really miss from Florida, but overall, I think I’ll be much happier back in New York. I’m planning to move around the end of July.


Professor Perlmutter

I have accepted a Visiting Assistant Professor position at Florida Atlantic University for the 2013-2014 academic year. I just dropped off the signed contract at a UPS shipping location this morning. I am looking forward to working on research with Bob Lubarsky, who was very helpful in setting me up with the job. I will be teaching two undergraduate courses per semester, most likely in calculus, and also likely teaching independent studies in set theory to graduate students. I’m super-excited about the opportunity to teach graduate students. I really feel like my career is moving in a nice direction.

Florida Atlantic is a public university located in Boca Raton, about an hour north of Miami.