Dr. Gupta Awarded $90,000 Wisdom Grant
Can a mathematical measure of wisdom be developed? Assistant Professor of Computer Science Ankur Gupta is going to try.
Gupta has been awarded a $90,000 grant from the University of Chicago as part of a $2 million project to study wisdom from various angles. More than 600 scholars applied for the grants.
“The grant is about defining wisdom,” Gupta said, “and my particular approach to that problem is that the task of data compression in computer science can be considered to be wisdom in certain contexts. I’ve fleshed out those contexts and defined the role.”
Gupta explained that data is compressed, essentially, by finding patterns in a file, removing those patterns and replacing them with something much more succinct. Consider Google, for example.
“Google searches all over the web,” Gupta said. “They have billions of pages they have to know about to help you find what you’re looking for. How do they do that? They compress everything. Then they learn something about what the Internet contains, where it keeps all that information, through the process of that compression. Then it uses that wisdom to help you find what you’re searching for in less than a second.”
The two-year grant begins Oct. 1. Gupta and the other grant recipients will present their work by Sept. 30, 2010. The findings may be collected in a book designed to help define wisdom.
Gupta said his interest in the grant “was sort of accidental.” The University of Chicago sent announcements seeking participants in his wisdom-gathering venture. When it came to the Computer Science Department at Butler, Chair John Sorenson asked if he’d be interested.
Gupta said he won’t be starting the project with a preconceived understanding of wisdom because he’s not an experienced wisdom researcher.
“Computer scientists feel wisdom is actually conveyed through compression,” he said. “And though we walk around with this intuition, we don’t express it concretely because it’s not something we thought anyone would be interested in. However, it turns out somebody’s very interested in it. My goal is to develop that in a more concrete and fully formed way.”
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