GSB Emails Volume 0004

September 21, 2017

More GSB emails from May to September! See the older ones here:

Laptop Ban

The Department of Homeland Security is thinking about banning laptops on international flights, so we at GSB have come up with a few ways to stay entertained and productive on your next flight, other than reading a book.

  1. Renting movies on airplanes is expensive and the inflight wifi often wont let you stream video, so try the following next time you fly:
    1. Buy your favorite movie on a film reel
    2. Attach a weight to the start of the film
    3. When no one is looking, cut a small hole into the side of your window and feed the weighted end through it.
    4. Your movie will begin to spool out from the side of the plane and you can look through the film by holding it up to the light! This technique works best with silent films.
  2. Print your emails out ahead of time and go through them on the plane. If you need to respond to one, handwrite your response on the back of the email. When you land, mail the responses to your email administrator with directions to type up the email and send it to the appropriate recipient. Slip in a crisp $20 bill for faster processing!

  3. Preempt the garbage collecting flight attendants by asking your fellow passengers for their empty pretzel or peanut bags. At the bottom of these bags you’ll find food dust. Collect enough bags to fill a small cup with this fine powder, then ask the flight attendant for some water. Mix the water with the dust to create a mailable paste. Now you can build a sculpture on your tray table! After you’re done, hold the sculpture up to the reading light to heat it and make it it harden. Give your sculpture to the pilot at the end of the flight as a token of gratitude.

All Natural AWS

It was announced earlier today that Amazon is buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. We reached out to Amazon for comments and they shared the following changes to AWS with us.

Artisanal S3: Amazon S3 allows users to store large amounts of data in the cloud. Unfortunately, spinning disks aren’t very natural, which has been a point of contention among naturopathic computer scientists for years. Therefore, we’re introducing Artisanal S3, in which a hip employee types your data up on an old typewriter at a third wave coffee shop. Coffee stains can be added to your Artisinal S3 records for an extra fee.

Organic EC2: EC2 allows users to spin up on-demand compute instances at an hourly rate, but these instances may contain locked down silicon and non-free security patches. While these patches may reduce bugs, they also reduce your freedom! For an added fee you can get EC2 instances that surpass the criteria for FSF organic systems, including RISC-V processors and entirely free software stacks.

But it’s not just Whole Foods concepts flowing into AWS, Amazon will be making some changes to Whole Foods based on the success they’ve seen with AWS.

Spot Pricing: Spot pricing on AWS lets you pay well below on-demand rates for an S3 instance, with the stipulation that if the market rate rises above the maximum you’re willing to pay your instance is terminated. At Whole Foods you will be able to take any product that we have a surplus of and propose a price to the cashier. If the spot market price of the item later rises above the price you quoted, a Whole Foods Product Reclamation agent will be dispatched to your house to reclaim what remains uneaten of the product you purchased.


Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are the hot new way to get rich with very little effort. To do an ICO all you need is an idea that runs on Ethereum. Then, you sell shares of your “company” in tokens to raise capital, similar to an IPO. From this you can compute the market valuation of your company. These valuations are absolutely insane given that most of these ICOs haven’t actually implemented or planned anything. In one case, an ICO led to a valuation of $300 million.

Given all that, we here at GSB are doing an ICO by following the conventional steps:

  1. Come up with an idea. Deep learning is hot now, so maybe a distributed deep learning thing? Throw in some internet of things for good luck [2].

  2. Pitch the idea. I’ve put the important bits between in italics:

    “GSB is a distributed deep learning framework built on top of the Ethereum network. The internet of things can leverage our GSB layer to access the global supercomputer, enabling never before seen levels of interoperability. I’m an MIT student doing an ICO of 5% of GSB with a target valuation of $200 million so I can work full time on GSB.

    Note that I’m only offering 5% of GSB. This is important because it means that your investors have essentially no say in how the thing runs. No one will notice this.

  3. (Optional) Write a white paper with some technical details of how you’ll accomplish your goal. This used to be necessary but now a flashy website with no technical details will do just fine.

  4. Pick a date for your ICO and hype it like crazy on Reddit. Retail investors with no understanding of computer science or Ethereum will buy your coins like crazy.

  5. After you sell out of tokens, cash out everything. ICOs often perform worse than ether. Whether you can actually flood the market with your 95% share is yet to be seen, so you should probably do it slowly.

  6. Don’t build anything. You already have the money. Kick back and relax!

  7. Fight off the paranoia. This isn’t illegal, right? I mean, sure the SEC will probably make an example of a few people and send them to federal prison for securities fraud for a very long time, but come on, that won’t be YOU, right? Move to a country that doesn’t extradite to the US to be safe.

  1. I really wanted to call this email, “How I Made $200 Million From Home,” but last week’s email (All Natural AWS) got caught in a lot of spam filters and this definitely would too.

  2. I overheard some people in Kendall square the other day talking about how they wanted to do an ICO but they didn’t have any ideas. Their first mistake was thinking that they need an idea.

Depopulating GSB

We have reviewed Friday night grad student performance and found a shocking correlation between work output and GSB attendance! Work output on Fridays for the average grad student looks something like this:

| _____________
|              \
|               \
|                \
|                 \_____
^           time->

But for GSB attendees, the data looks more like this:

| _____________
|              |
|              |
|              |
|              |
|              |__________
^           time->

We are puzzled by this sudden drop off, so we will be using the same techniques the administration used with Senior House. That is, we will be depopulating GSB.

What does this mean for you? GSB will still go on but no two participants can be in the same room at the same time. Instead, we will have satellite GSBs around campus. You will be assigned a room to sit in alone with a single beverage of your choice, preferably with the lights off. We have booked the following exciting venues for reflection on why you aren’t being productive:

  1. 9th floor bathroom: This windowless cell will surely inspire dysphoric thoughts about your recent dissertation progress.

  2. Dreyfus tower: This tower is very close to being like our home in the Gates tower but everything is subtly off. You’ll slowly go crazy trying to navigate it like normal! Depending on the floor you’re assigned you may even have to come to terms with the fact that hardware is physical stuff with real limitations and not just a magic box.

  3. Atlas support center: This room initially looks very nice, but you’ll quickly discover that the waiting room couches have no backs! The sterile hospital smell will invoke images of disease as you try to fend off thoughts about your own health.

After extreme vetting some (but not all) grad students will be allowed to return to the normal GSB venue. We will be picking these students based on personality incompatibilities so that fun is limited and students will decide to just work instead.

Military Terms

In undergrad I lived with a few ROTC students, and when they were talking to each other they might as well have been speaking a different language. As far as I can tell, everything in the military has a unique term not used in civilian life, even though the same concepts also exist here. Adopting these terms to academia can make day-to-day life seem more interesting, so here’s the mapping I’ve come up with after thinking about this for way too long over the last couple years:

And here are some real word examples:

“I just got my PhD and I’m going to start a postdoc” -> “I was honorably discharged but the civilian life isn’t for me so I’m re-enlisting”

“Did you get that sandwich on campus? Do they sell it at the cafe in Stata?” -> “Woah, did you get those rations on base? Do they have it at the mess hall in the barracks?”

“My advisor wanted me to submit to SIGTBD and I spent a ton of time in my office but I still missed the deadline. It probably would have been rejected anyway” -> “My CO want me to send my draft card to the draft board and I spent a ton of time in my bunk preparing but I burned my draft card instead. I probably would have come up 4-F anyway” [1].

“I forgot to register with SIGPLAN so now my conference dues are really high” -> “I forgot to register with the Selective Service so now I can’t file the FAFSA and my tuition is really high”

  1. This admittedly makes no sense. Why would you have to go in front of the draft board if you’re already in the military? Maybe my mapping isn’t as robust as I initially thought.

New Offices

With CSAIL rapidly growing, the question of where to put new grad students remains unanswered. I propose the following locations:

GSB’s computing infrastructure needs your support!

After selling half of our couch space, we’ve decided to put GSB behind a NAT. This means that from now on you may not communicate directly to other GSB participants, but must instead communicate through a guy named Nat. Nat has agreed to ferry messages between participants, so don’t be surprised if everyone you talk to this week looks like Nat!

If you wish to speak to people directly you must submit to us an application consisting of your:

Open Studios

You may have heard that the CSAIL Open Studios event is coming up in October and you’re probably thinking, “this is really cool, but I don’t have the {time, skill} to make anything!” Fear not! Here are our helpful tips for participating in the upcoming event using only tools at the lab.

  1. Preferably another grad student’s mix tape
  2. Your SM diploma

Announcing CSAIL OpenID Connect Cache

This week TIG rolled out OpenID Connect to replace client certificates. However, change is bad because it violates Satoshi’s vision [1] so we’re forking reality to construct a reality where CSAIL uses our implementation of OpenID Connect, called “OpenID Connect Cache.” On the day of the fork, please choose the reality you prefer and destroy yourself in the alternate reality.

Here’s how OpenID Connect Cache algorithm works:

  1. Attempt to log in to a CSAIL service that requires credentials.
  2. You’ll be provided with a location in Stata to tap your MIT ID.
  3. You have 60 seconds to tap your card on the appropriate reader.

For example, if you’re at GSB and you’re told to authenticate yourself by tapping your card on the reader outside of the Dreyfoos tower you better book it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What if I want to authenticate while I’m off campus?
A: Wait, you can leave?

Q: What if the split happens when I’m off campus?
A: Unfortunately if the reality split happens while off campus you may not have access to yourself in the OpenID Connect Cache reality. Plan on moving yourself on campus before the fork.

Q: Can you explain the name?
A: Sure. You authenticate yourself by opening your wallet, taking out your ID, and connecting it to a card reader. Your authentication token is then cached for a few minutes so you don’t have to repeat the process too frequently.

Q: That’s a really long name, can I please call it ocache?
A: Absolutely not.

Q: You’re really stretching this silly analogy.
A: You’re banished from the OpenID Connect Cache reality.

  1. Satoshi never envisioned a client certificate-less CSAIL.

Moving Compensation

September 1st is only a week away, which means that anyone who is moving apartments will have to navigate the hell that comes from everyone in Boston moving on the same day. Given this, many of you will likely have to lean on friends to help move everything through the chaos. It feels weird to pay your friends, but it is socially acceptable (and encouraged) to pay them in beer. With that in mind, here is the official GSB beer compensation table for various moving acts. I’ve calibrated this table based on 4 (high end) beers for storing a friend’s things at my place for a couple weeks, which felt fair to me.

This table assumes you are buying standard craft beers. Use the following conversion factors for other types of beer:

  1. Standing off to the side saying “you can do it!” without actually helping yourself.
  2. The ones sold in 4 packs instead 6 packs