1. I still use VSNC (you can read more about it here: http://blog.pptstar.com/?p=441) as a simple model for delivering technical talks. As a coincidence I has already been planning on giving a meta talk about this to my team next Friday. He cared more about, and spoke more about, presentation skills than every other lecturer I had at MIT, combined.
2. He was also the only professor I heard speak about the value of leadership skills and how they can be cultivated.
3. He really did care about his students. I remember his saying to help us get over imposter syndrome, "At MIT, 5% of students think it's too easy, 10% of students think it's just right, and 85% think that at any moment they're going to be found out."
4. I still remember his definition of intelligence as something you almost understand. He would tell the story of giving a preview of an upcoming lecture where they would write a program to do differential calculus. A student came up to him and said "There is no way a computer could ever do that!" After the lecture the same student came up to him and said "That wasn't really AI. The program just does it the way I do it!"
especially love #4
He wouldn't just spend time crafting lectures (which you can see on OCW), but even spent time re-designing the course to try to improve learning and remove focus on the grades.
When students needed help, he was always by their side. When the Star Simpson events were taking place, PHW helped institute policies to better support students.
He was a true character. I pieced together a Twitter thread to try to show a glimpse of his personality. MIT will not be the same without him.
(Disclaimer: PHW was my academic advisor for 5 years)
I came in and he asked me why my TA would give me a C and I told him I had no idea. He asked me if I came into recitation, I said yes. He asked me if I participated in recitation and I said yes. He told me that they checked on my grades and indeed it was a mistake.
I thanked him for taking the time to review my grade, and that I've never complained about a grade before but it seemed very off in this case. The expression on his face suddenly firmed up from detached to grave and he looked me in the eye and said "Always speak up when you think something is wrong, if you've earned something don't let someone take it away from you."
It's hard to explain, but that instilled a permanent confidence in me. Whenever I've defended myself in my adult life since then, I've felt the confidence of PHW holding me up. It can't be understated how important little pieces of advice like this are for young people. RIP PHW
Non native English speaker here. What does "came in to recitation" mean. Recitation is the act of repeating something. What was the Recitation about and how can you go in to recitation. Could you please explain ?
Now fill that in and use it as adrenaline to accomplish your next (big, relatively) feat.
And then maybe even inspiring the next generation, thus continuing the cycle.
It feels meaningful to me and doesn't require any big assumptions :)
I would like to consider this and get back to you
I think the thing that speaks the most to his personality is how the brief friendship he struck up with Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas :
> Will likes to see stuff at MIT whenever he is in town. This time I took him to see robots in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, wearable computing in the Media Lab, and miscellaneous cool stuff in the Precision Engineering Research Group. It wasn't hard to find people to help out.
> We walked around for three hours. Then, he was off to do soundchecks. A few hours after he learned about energy-storing inverse lakes, he and his Black Eyed Peas played to a sold-out crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden.
> I always like amazing people, like Will, who is highly creative, does interesting things, and is interested in the future. MIT attracts amazing, highly creative, interesting, interested people like honey attracts bears.
> And on top of all that, Will is a fan of my field, Artificial Intelligence. Check out the Peas Imma Be Rocking That Body video.
> Anyway, when Will and his entourage were about to leave, and all the obligatory pictures were taken, he asked, as he generally does, if I could use a few tickets for the show. “Hey, that would be great,” I said. I like the Peas, and besides, I hadn't been to a good concert since the Rolling Stones were in town in '06.
> Alas, my daughter seized the tickets. “You're nowhere near cool enough to go,” she said, “and I have some friends.” Maybe I should find a new place to buy clothes.
"Mutual respect is the stuff from which great education emerges."
But he said one thing that I immediately agreed with (conceptually) and have recalled at many hard times in my life: "Perhaps we will look back on even this with fondness." (But in Latin, because Pat Winston)
Was this ever finished?
It's in the final stages of publication — I've seen an editor's print in its final form — although I'm not sure what will happen to it now. I would guess it will still be published.
I took both of his classes and used to "steal" the coffee from his office since he had an espresso machine and we needed it for our 3am late nights. Fuck.. its rough to think that place in my life is disappearing a bit more everyday. 3 professors from my time there are gone already, Minsky, Seth Teller and now him. :(
Some of the best mentoring I have received on the inner workings of academia came from Patrick. A great example: his theory of presentations, where he had a wonderful template: Vision, Step and News, i.e., the grand theory of your research, the concrete steps you're taking in the next year or so and the latest findings. He gave me that advice two days before my defense and it worked like a charm.
A great teacher, a great mentor and a great human being. I will miss him.
I always looked forward to attending 034 lectures and learning from his STAR sub-lectures. Using a lot of those lessons now.
Not to mention the great contributions he's had in science and in developing some of the greatest scientist; Winston's flame will not burn out.
He used his talents wisely, lived a life that's an inspiration to us all who remain. May the Lord comfort his family and may his soul rest in peace. RIP fellow beaver
He had more patience for me than I deserved.
In addition to Java, C, and C++, Winston also wrote On to Smalltalk.
 An introduction to a particular language for readers whoe are already experienced programmers.
 Content is presented in numbered short paragraphs, many just a single sentence long. He calls these paragraphs "slides" but they are more concise and pointful than the slides people usually show at talks.
A few remain, but not many.
I'm deeply saddened by each loss. The soul of the Institute dies a little bit more each time.
In this age, it's nearly impossible to make professor at MIT, let alone tenure, without lapses of integrity.
Patrick Winston will be missed.
VSNC, Star - Story, Slogan, Salient, Surprise, Symbol
Today, I can't sleep because I can't stop crying.
Thanks for delivering on your 6.034 empowerment promise, and thank you for being the inspiration and a reason to continue onward in my mission.
But one thing is that i am always amazed (and saddened) on HN when i hear about the death of a pillar of our industry whom i had never previously known about.
I find his presentation style is not only clear, but relaxing. It's like a friendly sermon or something.
I really enjoyed your AI lectures.
For example, the SVM lecture (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PwhiWxHK8o=_PwhiWxHK8o=_Pwh...), is by far the best explanation of SVMs I've ever heard, highly recommended!
It's my understanding that the Spring professors really disagreed with the content in the Fall version. It was too old-school AI and they believed it was a disservice to students to teach them AI in that way. I believe they marginalized Winston.
To be honest, I cannot tell if they are right or wrong. I am not familiar with the curriculum in Winston's 6.034. How much does it look like an AI textbook from the 90s? I know that he included topics such as SVM, which is, relative to Winston, newer AI.
But, in any case, I do wish that the two philosophies didn't butt heads. Especially because I have no doubt that Winston's course was better organized, and had more enjoyable lectures.
But I'd like to think it wasn't the prevailing sentiment in the department. I actually think a little bit of it stemmed from jealousy about the student praise PHW received. Because I know plenty of students that are now doing more "modern" or "hardcore" ML research that praise 6.034 highly.
It's true that 6.034 did not teach enough math to jump right into theory research, and it's true it didn't teach enough modern implementation to go right into an industry application. But it certainly didn't look like a textbook from the 90s! Professor Winston reworked the course a little bit every year. He gave excellent lectures on the concepts behind deep learning and reinforcement learning. He brought in current professors to present their research goals almost every Friday.
It covered plenty of modern topics, just in a more abstract sense. Which is perfect for an intro course, especially one that is taken by not just CS students but those from many departments (even graduate students in architecture, business, etc.). I think it's so helpful to start with understanding these concepts and then work through the details, rather than start in the weeds like many other courses do.
He did also spend time covering older concepts, which are still good to know, especially when presented through the lense of the history of the field (in academia and business). That's just not something available in any other courses that I'm aware of. Same thing with his amazing communication advice and his sharing of interesting biology, psychology, and neuroscience research.
I sincerely hope 6.034 will continue on somehow in the spirit of the original course. It was inspiring to many students, with life/career lessons that are memorable well beyond school. MIT has plenty of good more traditional ML courses, as do many schools. What I haven't heard of elsewhere is something like 6.034. It was one thing that made MIT unique I think.
Anyway, that is rambly, but I just wanted to defend not only the execution, but the philosophy of 034 (or my take on it anyway, can't speak for PHW). And I hope that the minority that dislikes it doesn't try to take over the course now.
Today, I weep because we lost PHW and because I lost PHW.
Thank you for delivering on 6.034's empowerment promise.
My mission remains the same, but I can no longer hope to show you its results.
Great person, too.
R.I.P., Mr. Winston.
How did he die?
It's not a human moderator, it's the ALGORITHM (TM)! It seems Hacker News has a capitalization algorithm that automatically capitalizes the title to proper news headlines.
Most of the time it works well, but sometimes it would ruin intentional caps and it's pretty annoying. And mysteriously, it doesn't always trigger for all titles, it must have a set of hardcoded pattern-matching code.