Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Typecasting in Dagstuhl

After this pre-recorded typecast, we learned of the tragic death of Alexey Chervonenkis, the C of VC dimension, a huge loss to the learning community. We’ll have a proper obit soon. Now onto the typecast.

Lance: Hello and welcome to Dagstuhl for our first typecast since the 2014 Complexity Conference. Howdy Bill.

Bill: Hi Lance. Are you enjoying Dagstuhl?

Lance: I always have fun at Dagstuhl especially when you are here Bill.

Bill: I have not seen you at many talks.

Lance: So maybe you should go to more talks Bill.

Bill: Never mind. As you told me Scott is writing a blog book. Should we too?

Lance: Something we discussed many times.

Bill: How about a slightly different idea? At the end of this year you will have had FIVE lists of TEN best theorems. (Doing math in his head) That’s FIFTY theorems. There’s a book with a unified theme.

Lance: And I’m glad you’re going to write it.

Bill: That’s not exactly what I had in mind. But I’m happy to help you write it?

Lance: Do you think there are people who would want to buy this book?

Bill: I need your help BLOG AUDIENCE. Leave a comment to say if you would read this book. Would you read the book if you have to pay for it?

Lance: I certainly wouldn’t.

Bill: You don’t count. But they (points to the audience) do. [Bill leaves to get ice cream and comes back] I’m sure it will sell well in Silicon Valley.

Lance: Speaking of Silicon Valley, that was one tough post to write on MSR-SVC, basically an obituary post for a research lab.

Bill: Isn’t rather grim calling it an obituary?

Lance: Exactly.

Bill: Do you always give one word answers?

Lance: No.

Bill: You are man of few words.

Lance: You are a man of a few words too many.

Bill: Yes, I like to keep conversations flowing.

Lance: Indeed you are of the few extroverts in complexity. Introverts like me think deeply of what to say before we say it.

Bill: Did you just insult me? How did an introvert like you become a department chair?

Lance: I fake it well. [Quickly changing topic] I hear there’s exciting news out of Maryland. And I’m not talking about the Orioles.

Bill: We’re getting a new building, The Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation.

Lance: Because there’s no innovation in computer science. Brendan who?

Bill: He co-founded Oculus which was sold to Facebook for Ackerman of O(1) dollars.

Lance: Sounds exciting. It is one pretty ugly building you are in now.

Bill: Moving on, how the Complexity Conference in Vancouver?

Lance: You didn’t read my blog post?

Bill: [Reading blog post] Wow, no best paper and only 66 participants. Seems a bit lower than last year.

Lance: We were correlated with STOC last year and next year at FCRC as well. Though not with the IEEE anymore.

Bill: Is complexity theory dying?

Lance: The talks at this Dagstuhl alone prove otherwise.

Bill: I particularly liked David Zuckerman’s talk about using statistical sum-product theorems to create non-malleable codes. Why is it so empty in here?

Lance: It’s a rare sunny day at Dagstuhl and we’re inside doing this typecast. What other topics are exciting you at Dagstuhl?

Bill: There’s a resurgence of interest in VP and VNP, Valiant’s algebraic analogues of P and NP and genuine optimism that VP <> VNP might be provable in the near future.

Lance: There is some great work there but let’s wrap this up while we have still have some daylight.

Bill: You know what to say Lance.

Lance: In a complex world, best to keep it simple.


  1. I will buy your book of 50 most important theorems if you not only merely state the theorems but also give proper background to understand those theorems and their proofs.

  2. I absolutely would purchase such a book.

  3. I would read such a book if it accompanies proper background to understand those theorems and their proofs as mentioned by a more senior anon. However, I would read it if and only if it has a free softcopy version easily downloadable. If it becomes a classic, I might buy it and keep a copy to prove that I have read it. Maintaining an expensive hard copy of a book is punishing for grad students and young researchers. You have to pay for it when you buy and also every time you carry it on travels or shifting from one lace to another. And you don't pay only by money. There is time, effort, emotional and physical baggage etc.