Mathematics is the driving force of love, justice, and progress. Mediamax and VOLO launch a joint project, MathArt. It will tell about the talents developing Mathematics in Armenia, and their work.
Mathematics is of key value in the modern world and we hope that MathArt will help attract Armenian youngsters into that particular science.
Two loves have directed Adam Mathias Bittlingmayer from Germany in two very important stages of his life: one has brought him towards machine learning and artificial intelligence and the other one – to Armenia.
Decision to learn languages and the “victory” of the accurate science
Adam says that the fate and a little bit of a chance have played a helping hand in his decision to master the secrets of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“I always loved learning languages and doing translations which has brought me towards machine translation. During my first semester I couldn’t make up my mind which one to do and registered in a couple of classes. I started learning Spanish and after a while I was speaking it fluently. Still, I got an average grade at the exams and was quite disappointed and saddened, because I knew the subject excellently. But what can you do? You can’t say that you know Spanish literature best of all; it’s all very subjective:”
After the exams were over, Adam realized that he should choose a more accurate direction. His friends who were studying architecture were quite helpful and the fact that he was interested in informatics, mathematics and statistics also played a role in his decision. Adam studied Computer Science at University of Washington.
“There was no subjectivity there, and nobody paid attention as to how you spoke or interpreted. You develop software, there are no mistakes and thus no subjectivity. Nevertheless, I never stopped learning languages: I speak Italian, Spanish, French, Serbian-Croatian, English and German. There is no conflict of interest here, if you love something you should do it from the bottom of your heart. I realized that the right thing to do was to learn something which I loved with the focus on math, informatics and statistics.”
The “inspector” of machine translation
Adam has worked as a software engineer at Google for 7 years. Today he owns a machine learning startup. In his work he combines both his interest in languages and computers.
He is the co-founder of Signal N company, which has created a system predicting machine translation quality.
“You want to translate something, you have to decide which approach is the most productive one. It’s not too accurate but it allows working with a lot of amount of information. Because there was always a possibility of mistakes we decided to develop a program prompting whether the translation was accurate or not. You input a sentence and its translation in any language you want and the program decides how accurate the translation is. Our system helps understand which sentences need to be improved. The software will not be available online, we intend to sell it to our clients.”
For the first time Adam Bittlingmayer visited Armenia 4 years ago with the Google developer group and spent 7 days here. This short visit has changed his life. Two years later he decided to move to Armenia.
“I met a wonderful girl in Yerevan and fell in love. When we got married I was still working in the States but I didn’t want to live there. We have been discussing options with my wife and finally decided that Armenia was the best place to live. I love it here. It’s a small country but full of warmth. Yerevan is not a big city, doesn’t provide great opportunities but people here are really interesting and smart.”
During these two years Adam learned Armenian as well, and it’s hard to guess that he is not a native when you talk to him. Only the small accent gives him away.
“I used to speak Russian in Yerevan and it didn’t sit well with me, so I decided to learn Armenian. I can read, although not fluently. I took some classes for two months but I learned the language through communication mainly.”
The need to study mathematics
Adam says that people can be motivated to study mathematics in different ways. If you want to think differently and find the right formula of solving problems, you should definitely know some math.
“Mathematicians do think differently. Every student should understand math in order to be prepared to face the real world. Even if you are not an expert it will definitely help you solve your everyday problems. For example mathematicians know how to divide big problems into smaller ones and find the basic solution. It forms an analytical way of thinking. The mathematician is either right or wrong. This is very important both in life and in work.”
Machine learning and Armenia’s advantages
According to Adam, there are real good experts specialized in machine learning in Armenia, but the biggest problem is that most of them are web developers, which is not a promising career.
“The same thing will be much cheaper in India and there are more specialists there. Armenia should concentrate on more complex things such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science. People should learn to see the bigger picture even if it means working for free for half a year. You should not be afraid because this investment it worth the opportunities that will be opening before you in the future.”
Adam believes that all this requires a strong mathematical base which Armenia can definitely provide.
“The mathematical base is one of Armenia’s benefits, because in other countries people don’t love and study mathematics the way they do it here. This opportunity should be used and Armenia needs more machine-learning specialists. If we look at the statistics, other regional countries have bigger populations and even if their specialists are not highly qualified, large companies will still prefer those countries when they open new offices. It’s all the same for them that Armenian specialists are more qualified. They will choose the country with a higher number of specialists and a bigger consumer market.”
As Adam says, if Armenia concentrates on this direction and prepares more specialists, it will start attracting bigger companies taking into consideration the country’s geographic location. “There are good tendencies in machine learning here and Armenia can for sure become very competitive in the world.”
Photos by Emin Aristakesyan
VOLO is the general partner of the project