I'd appreciate your feedback on my statement of purpose for a computer science master's degree application. My declared area of concentration is artificial intelligence. The prompt is:
Describe your reasons for pursuing graduate study and your academic and professional interests and goals. You may want to discuss events or experiences that have prepared you for graduate study in Computer Science and how your interests complement our department's faculty and research.
I squealed in excitement as I admired the jerky progress of my simulated creatures across the scrolling terrain on my laptop monitor. Their crudely-rendered bodies were composed of lines and squares, and as I watched, they took advantage of my "quirky" physics and learned to flip upward on the 2D hills. I had created the blocky creatures to demonstrate embodied cognition in automata, allowing them to interact with their environment and evolve an effective gait for navigating the dynamic terrain. Their lurching antics were easily more entertaining than Youtube videos of clumsy cats, and (under the guise of finding bugs in the physics I had written,) I proudly watched them shimmy, inch, lurch and wobble their way across the randomized terrain for the rest of the night.
The simulated creatures were part of a project for a particular professor whose open-ended assignments I loved to hijack to implement artificial intelligence techniques I had never worked with before. In another such project, I used his assignment of writing a Connect-4 AI player to familiarize myself with neural networks. Though it was an inappropriate task for a neural net, I was elated and surprised by the extent to which it could play with purpose.
Though it may seem naive to one more educated in the field than I, I am constantly surprised and excited by even the simplest new techniques that I learn.
A significant part of my motivation for studying artificial intelligence is simply that excitement. I could say that I'm interested in advancing the robotics industry, making better synthetic characters, or researching the nature of cognition-- and these things are true. But another part of my excitement about AI is entirely less lofty, exemplified by my glee in watching simulated creatures learn to walk: I am always exhilarated by writing a new type of agent and seeing it in action. I enjoy possessing the intellectual power to create things that are both dynamic and intelligent enough to keep me fascinated with not only the code and concepts behind them, but with their behavior itself.
Despite my child-like delight in the creation of intelligent agents, I am interested in more than fun and games with code. The sci-fi geek in me grew up with stories of body-swapping, clever androids, downloadable intelligence, and a myriad other technologies that seeded my curiosity about the nature of the mind. I am interested in studying the human mind as a biological machine, and the implications that may hold for artificial minds. I want to know how grey matter and our human selves intersect. I wonder about the nature of consciousness.
An academic mentor told me that the motivations of computer science students comprise a broad spectrum. There are those who love theoretical computer science, and those who romance the code. Then there are those who see the study of computer science as a way to learn how to formalize and implement solutions to a wide variety of problems outside of the field. I place myself firmly on this end of the spectrum. Formal theory may form a necessary foundation for my work and provide valuable insights and intuitions about how to go about solving a problem, but my passion lies in developing software to explore my curiosity about the nature of the mind and the limits of artificial intelligence. The question of whether or not we reach the point where I can sit down at a terminal and whip up a new soul may remain unanswered, but I continue to be fascinated by even the currently-possible in artificial intelligence.
I am most interested in the capabilities of AI to appear to or even be genuinely human-like, so I would be very excited to use my degree to start a career designing AI for video game characters or working on the development of interactive humanoid robots. However, since I would be happy working in many fields, I feel it is best to secure a more generalized education, explore varied topics, and keep my options open. Upon my acceptance to the computer science master's program, I would like to further my general education while pursuing my passion in the study and creation of intelligent agents. The Learning Agents research group is of particular interest, as I think that effective learning is a key part of human-like intelligence. I would also be excited to participate in the Neural Network research group, since bottom-up AI techniques like neural networks are so analogous to the human brain, and may someday aid in explaining how brain becomes mind.
My education so far has given me a good foundation in the field of artificial intelligence. However, I don't suspect such thoroughly researched and documented techniques as I've studied so far will continue to amaze me indefinitely. I wish to continue my studies in artificial intelligence at the University of Texas so that I can develop the new techniques that may lead to a better understanding of intelligence and the human mind.
Grammar corrections are always welcome, but I'm more worried about the structure and if I have adequately answered the prompt. I did not talk about specific faculty members or research because my purpose is to take classes and I don't have a very strong desire to participate in a lot of research, or stay in academia (hence the master's.)
Thanks in advance for your time!