Inside Qualia Interview Series

Who is Qualia?

Jiyen, Graduation, Qualia Graduate, Arete Graduate, Senior Quote

Jiyen – Qualia – Senior, Class of 2022

How long have you attended Qualia?

Four years.

What are your plans after Qualia? 

Definitely college. My plan is to start off by studying engineering, but I also plan to be pretty broad in what I experience in college. I want to take classes in really interesting and wide-ranging subjects, which may help me discover something new inside or outside of engineering that I really like—something that excites me.

What is a favorite Qualia memory? 

Working with the robotics team. Staying late at school is really fun because the team is so student-led. It’s a shared experience we all have. You spend the day with your friends working on the robot.

What accomplishments are you most proud of during the last four years? 

My podcasts and my symposium projects. I think at Qualia I’ve changed and developed a level of academic creativity that I hadn’t imagined before going to school here. The school has a big emphasis on generating your own ideas and then reasoning through them. That has spurred me to create my podcasts and also inspired my symposium projects.

What are your podcasts about? 

They’re about anything I find interesting. Some are speculative, such as ‘How we might live in the future?’ Some concern solutions to problems. I’ve discussed evolution, combatting climate change, psychology and history. They really cover a broad range of things.

How does your education enhance your life? 

I previously thought that school was this one domain where I did learning, and home was this other domain where I did other things. Qualia’s pedagogy changed the way I live life and how I enjoy learning. It’s something that goes beyond the classroom. I’m a lot more excited to take hold of learning opportunities instead of just being assigned them.

Who is your favorite philosopher and why? 

Thomas Kuhn. My senior project is about truth and the construction of truth and reality. Kuhn says that science and truth change over time and that they change towards the better by providing more useful answers. Truth doesn’t exist in isolate because of the way society works. We discover truths in ways that aren’t clear. Oftentimes, you’ll change an idea of the truth for another that offers a more practical and more useful understanding of the world. We continue to get closer and closer to the truth.

What was your favorite symposium about? 

My favorite one was the accountability problem of artificial intelligence. I considered military drones and social media algorithms and how they’re used and how to legislate them. The challenge is that no one is accountable for the decisions and actions an artificial intelligence agent might take. The question becomes, ‘How can society handle the responsibility for these decisions and actions?’ I used a program called Twine to create a choose-your-own-adventure story to explore how different decisions would play out so the audience could experience this.

Is there anything you are passionate about that you want to do as a career or in your life? 

I’m really intrigued by implementing embodied and distributed cognitive capabilities into machines and artificial intelligence. There’s a new and vibrant field exploring robotics in that direction with extended mind theory. I think it’s a really interesting confluence of everything I’m interested in. 

Would you recommend Qualia to other students? Why? 

I would. I think their approach is right. They put students in the center of decisions about the school, so there’s the opportunity to shape how the school works. Then, in the classroom, you have so much agency and respect from the teachers that you can steer your education and you become invested. You aren’t prone to getting away with doing less work. It’s not because teachers assign a ton of work, but because students become so engaged that they want to enrich themselves and have a rigorous education. 

What do you like to do when you have free time? 

I like to hike and bike places. I play video games with friends. I like to learn about history. 

What are you looking forward to most in the future? 

I’m really looking forward to finding new places and new people to learn from and build something with. I like to be in an environment that has a lot of new information happening where I can have good conversations with people. I think I’d be really happy in the future if I found work or a friend group where I’m constantly challenged intellectually and where I’m put in problem-solving situations. That’s fulfilling to me.

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