Photo of Sean Holden
Dr Sean Holden
University Associate Professor
of Computer Science

I supervise various subjects for Trinity College, and lecture on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and Bayesian Inference.

Picture of Sean lecturing.

I also regularly speak in the wider media.

Supervisions in 2023/24

A note on ChatGPT and all the similar nonsense...

There are two ways of using such things. One is (only just) acceptable; the other ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE!

If you want to use such things for background research then by all means go ahead. But consider the fact that the quality of the output is extremely variable, and you're not necessarily in a position to judge its quality at this stage. Buy the course textbook and use it.

Do not under any circumstances hand in material generated by ChatGPT or similar as supervision work. I expect anything you hand in to me to be your own words and thoughts. If I find myself reading and commenting on anything auto-generated, then I shall consider it an offensive waste of my time. I regard this as a very good reason to Dean you. (And to take the view that you obviously won't mind if I use ChatGPT to provide feedback, rather than wasting my own time on it even further.)

Does that sound harsh? Consider the following: the College is paying a great deal of money to allow you to be advised by experts. (And yes, you're paying fees, but in fact they come nowhere near to covering the actual cost of your education.) We really don't want our time wasted. Why anyone should want to do this is a mystery to me, as supervisions are intended to be an entirely supportive process, having no bearing on the outcome of your degree, which you make the best use of by actively engaging in.

Easter Term - Artificial Intelligence

I suggest that we start supervisions in Week 2, by which I mean the week starting Monday 6th May. As usual, my reasoning is that if we start a week earlier then there is relatively little to talk about.

There is a problem sheet available on the course web page. Please complete this as we go through the course.

In addition, please attempt exam questions as follows:

Solution notes are EVIL!!!

Solution notes seem like a good idea, but this is deceptive. Why?

First and foremost, there is the temptation to look at them without having first attempted the problem. This is an extremely bad idea, as once you've peeked, most of the educational benefit that you would have attained by attempting (and possibly getting stuck with) the question is irrevocably lost. Some of the problems we set are hard. That is deliberate, and in computer science many of the problems you meet in the future will be hard as well. The difference is that in the future you will not have access to hints of this kind.

"But!" I hear you protest. "Right now we have them and it helps to get a hint." Fine, but remember this: at some point, the oily, sickly fear of the exam hall will induce cold beads of sweat to trickle down your neck, and at that precise moment, you will thank me for emphasizing the need to be able to complete exam questions when solution notes are not available to you.

Second: solution notes are NOT model answers. They were never written with the aim of serving as model answers; in fact the only purpose they have is as a guide to examiners, not students. There is, at this level, no such thing as a model answer - there are most likely many answers to a given problem, of greater or lesser quality - and the time to accept this is right now.

Third: the supervision system is there for you to use. Solution notes give a hint at one way a question might be done. I can usually provide you with several different ways, the trade-offs between them, and an explanation as to their relative merits. Which do you think is more useful?