Visiting the Simons Institute for Theory of Computing
A few days back I had the good fortune to spend four days at the
Simons Theory inst. at UC Berkeley (for a workshop titled
Learning, Algorihtm Design, and Beyond Worst Case Analysis,)
Not only was the workshop extremely well run, the entire Institute is
amazing - from wide open spaces for collaboration to an excellent staff
and amenities for visitors (especially long term visitors who have
shared office space). We were missing a Dagstuhl like venue in the US
for a long time, and I think the Simons Theory Center partially makes
up for this deficiency. Dagstuhl is of course a bit isolated, so people
have no-where to go but interact, and work, and that is part
of the charm. Berkeley isn’t isolated and has some of the most amazing
cafes and restaurants right next to its charming campus. I ended up staying
on campus at their Faculty Club.
Simons workshops are over-subscribed and in high demand, but even on
Thursday evening (my last day there) I noticed that scores of badges
had not yet been picked up. Part of the problem lies in the fact that
registration is free. Perhaps charging $10/day for registration will
ensure that people sign up for the days that they intend to be there,
so others who want to attend are not locked out (to be fair, I don’t
know how many were locked out, but I have the impression that due to
high demand, workshops have closed registration in the past).
Kudos to both the Simons Institute organizers as well as the ones
for the special semester and workshop! I did visit Simons once in 2014,
for just 15 minutes when we were visiting places to see for the design
of our very own Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation.
The construction of which launched in summer 2016, and we hope to be done
by August 2018. Come and visit after that! This project has consumed the
last 30 months of my life.
One of the main benefits of attending these workshops is to see sub-fields
as they form - long before new courses emerge covering these topics - and
it’s inspiring to meet the leaders in our field running the
program on Algorithms and Uncertainty. Finally, if you missed it,
videos of talks are available online here.