ESP Biography



FINALE DOSHI-VELEZ, MIT Grad Student in Computer Science




Major: 6

College/Employer: MIT

Year of Graduation: G

Picture of Finale Doshi-Velez

Brief Biographical Sketch:

I'm a grad student in computer science doing research in statistical modeling and robust decision-making. I believe that happiness is a choice.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


Understanding Uncertainty: Statistics Storytime in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
Is climate change for real? Is jaywalking safer than using crosswalks? Will I get caught if I cheat on that test? From small questions to big ones, many decisions require making sense of uncertainty. This short class will explain the basic concepts in probability, statistics, and logic through a series of real-life stories about numbers get used--and misused--in actual situations.


Creating Randomness:An Introduction to Markov Chain Monte Carlo in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
If we need a random number between one and six, we roll a die. If we need a random number between one and sixty, we can glance at the second-hand on our watch. But what if we need to random sample of something more complicated, like a random ice-cream flavor for a party or a random example of a car? In this class, we'll learn about a cool technique called Markov Chain Monte Carlo that will let us draw random examples from any (mathematical) space imaginable!


Writing Stories, for Serious! in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
Enjoy writing fiction?  Want a chance to get feedback on your projects? Getting--and giving--critique is one of the best ways to improve your writing because it helps connect ideas you've learn in school to projects that you think are cool.  We'll start this two-hour workshop session by talking about what makes a good critique and reading each other's works.  The second part of the class will be devoted to giving each other feedback: both on our writing and our critique.  You'll go home with lots of constructive ideas on how to make your story even better.


Searching for Happiness: Perspectives from Jainism in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
Just about everyone wants to be happy, but we all know that being happy is easier said than done. In this class, we'll first learn about the perspective that Jainism, an Eastern religion, takes on the nature of happiness--both what it is and how to find it. We'll compare and contrast it with other popular and religious concepts of happiness, and then have a discussion about how these various ideas apply in our daily lives and our society.


Prisoner's Dilemma and the Tragedy of Commons: An Introduction to Game Theory in ESPrinkler Summer 2011 (Jul. 10 - Aug. 21, 2011)
Bonnie and Clyde just got busted during a bank robbery, and they both have the option of ratting on their partner. It's in their best interest to stay quiet, but the stakes are high. If only one of them rats, the silent ``sucker'' spends 10 years in prison while the ``traitor'' gets released immediately. How would you handle this situation? We'll use this example and others to understand what the math tells us about these situations--and what it doesn't. You'll come away with some cool ideas in game theory and some practical insights for having leverage out of common situations.


Harry Whodunit, Statistical Detective in ESPrinkler Summer 2011 (Jul. 10 - Aug. 21, 2011)
In a world of uncertainty, statistical detective Harry Whodunit seeks the answers to all our burning questions: Are the dice in Vegas loaded? Is the mafia an equal opportunity employer? Are airport security scanners stealing your soul? Will we answer all these questions in this class? Unlikely. Will you learn some really cool statistics? Absolutely. Come listen to the fantastic and not-so-fantastic adventures Harry Whodunit, and along the way you'll get a taste a key statistical concepts including averages, standard deviations, confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing.


Prisoner's Dilemma and the Tragedy of Commons: An Introduction to Game Theory in Spark! 2011 (Mar. 12, 2011)
Bonnie and Clyde just got busted, and they both have the option of ratting on their partner. It's in their best interest not to rat on their partner, but the stakes are high. If only one of them rats, the silent ``sucker'' spends 10 years in prison while the ``cheat'' gets released immediately. What would you do? Explore these and other scenarios in this introductory game theory class--and see how you can leverage them to get more out of group situations.


Understanding Uncertainty: Statistics Storytime in Spark! 2011 (Mar. 12, 2011)
Is jaywalking safer than using crosswalks? Should I get a flu shot? Is climate change for real? For small questions as well as big ones, many of our decisions require making sense of uncertainty. In this short course, we'll go through a series of practical, realworld examples of how statistical concepts are used--and misused--in common situations. In the process, we'll learn about some basic probability, statistics, and logic that everyone should know to interpret all the numbers around us.


Prototyping Plots in Spark! 2011 (Mar. 12, 2011)
Got ideas for stories but not sure how to pull them together? Why do some plots just feel right? And how many coincidences can you really get away with in a story, anyway? (It's two, by the way; come and hear why.) "Prototyping Plots" is a crash course in creating stories - looking at where ideas come from, making memorable characters, and crafting coherent plots. Come in with some ideas and leave with more!


Understanding Uncertainty: Statistics Storytime in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
Is jaywalking safer than using crosswalks? Should I get a flu shot? Is climate change for real? For small questions as well as big ones, many of our decisions require making sense of uncertainty. In this short course, we'll go through a series of practical, realworld examples of how statistical concepts are used--and misused--in common situations. In the process, we'll learn about some basic probability, statistics, and logic that everyone should know to interpret numbers in the news.


Samples from an Infinite Buffet: An Introduction to Nonparametric Statistics in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
What does a Chinese restaurant have to do with models of gene classification? An Indian buffet with models of what movies people will enjoy? Welcome to the quirky, exciting, and ultimately useful world of Bayesian nonparametric statistics, an area of mathematical modeling that says: "If designing big models is hard, maybe making them infinite will make things easier!" In this class you'll be introduced to two classic nonparametric models: the Chinese Restaurant Process and the Indian Buffet Process. We'll talk about what they are, how they're useful, and how to "solve" them using inference.


Happiness Within: A Brief Introduction to Jainism in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
Jainism is a Eastern religion that talks about finding peace with oneself and the world by realizing an inner happiness that is truly one's own. Although relatively little-known, it served as inspiration for the nonviolent nature of Gandhi's protests (which later inspired Martin Luther King); elements of its philosophy have particular relevance given that America has the highest GDP of any nation--but is 26th in happiness. What exactly does Jainism say, and what do you have say in response? After a brief introduction about its history and principles, we'll focus the discussion on the implications of its philosophy in our current society.


Prototyping Plots in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
Interested in crafting stories but don't know where to start? Ever wondered what a monomyth is? Want to know what it's good for? And how many coincidences can you really get away with in a story, anyway? (It's two, by the way; come and hear why.) "Prototyping Plots" is a crash course in creating stories - looking at where ideas come from, making memorable characters, and crafting coherent plots. Come in with some ideas and leave with more!


What are the Odds? A Practical Introduction to Statistics in HSSP Summer 2010 (Jul. 11, 2010 - Jul. 11, 2011)
Is it going to rain? Should I get a flu shot? Is climate change for real? For small questions as well as big ones, many of our decisions require making sense of uncertainty. In this course, we'll go through the fundamentals of core statistical concepts while keeping an eye on how these concepts are used--and misused--in common situations. The technical material, supplemented with real world examples, will start off with basic probability an move into hypothesis testing and linear regression. Students will gain a solid intuition of both rigorous statistical concepts and how these concepts are and should be applied to actual decision-making.


The Art of Story Telling and Writing Longer Fiction in HSSP Summer 2010 (Jul. 11, 2010 - Jul. 11, 2011)
Ever wanted to write a novel? Design a television series? Tell stories in front of a captive audience? In this interactive workshop, we'll go through the basic elements of creating longer fiction: how to build scenes that grab us from the first moment, to design plot twists and turns that will keep us engaged for hours, to create compelling characters that will stay with us for months to come. We'll warm up with a few sessions of fun writing and oral exercises, and a bulk of the course will be devoted to getting started on a longer work -- oral or written -- and critiquing the work of other students.


Samples from an Infinite Buffet: An Introduction to Nonparametric Statistics in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
What does a Chinese restaurant have to do with models of gene classification? An Indian buffet with models of what movies people will enjoy? Welcome to the quirky, exciting, and ultimately useful world of Bayesian nonparametric statistics, an area of mathematical modeling that says: "If designing big models is hard, maybe making them infinite will make things easier!" In this class you'll be introduced to two classic nonparametric models: the Chinese Restaurant Process and the Indian Buffet Process. We'll talk about what they are, how they're useful, and how to "solve" them using inference.


Sustainable Energy made Practical in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Going green is in, and everyone knows it: ads for cars and energy companies are filled with images of nature; malls, schools, and supermarkets are littered with notices telling us to unplug our phone chargers, turn down the lights, and use fewer paper towels. We're swamped with suggestions, but the question is, how much difference do these things make? Will recycling plastic bags really save the planet? In this class, we'll do some basic arithmetic on the numbers behind generating and using energy. We'll draw conclusions about what it would take to switch to sustainable energy as well as what we can do as individuals to have the most impact on our energy footprint.


Inner Light: A Brief Introduction to Jainism in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Jainism is a Eastern religion that talks about finding peace with oneself and the world. Although relatively little-known, it served as inspiration for the nonviolent nature of Gandhi's protests (which later inspired Martin Luther King). What else does Jainism say, and what do you have say in response? After a brief introduction about its history and principles, we'll focus the discussion on the implications of its philosophy in our current society.


Creative Fiction Workshop in HSSP (2006)
Do you enjoy writing stories? In this workshop-style class, we'll spend some time exploring what makes stories exciting, from word ...


Robust Robotics: Teaching computers to make smart choices in SPLASH (2006)
As humans, we're incredibly good at making sequential decisions with poor or incomplete information. For example, a doctor might receive ...


Smashingly Stochastic: What Random Functions can do for you in SPLASH (2006)
Quick, pick a number! 3? 6? 17? That question probably wasn't too hard. But what if I said, quick, pick ...


Who I am: Writing the Personal Essay in SPLASH (2006)
Had trouble putting your soul onto a blank page? Tried writing about yourself and found it totally cheesy? Me too! ...


Who I am: Writing the Personal Essay in SPLASH (2006)
Had trouble putting your soul onto a blank page? Tried writing about yourself and found it totally cheesy? Me too! ...


Fantastic Flow in SPLASH (2005)
Flow isn't just about water going through pipes -- flow can be used to model flights in an airline network, ...


Prisoner's Dilemma and the Tragedy of Commons: An Introduction to Game Theory in SPLASH (2005)
Bonnie and Clyde just got busted, and they both have the option of ratting on their partner. It's in their ...


A New Vision for Space Exploration in SPLASH (2004)
Last January, President Bush announced a new vision for space exploration, and NASA reorganized itself for returning the space shuttle ...


Robot Vision in SPLASH (2004)
How can we make robots that can see? Most people don't have to think twice about interpreting the shapes and ...


Prisoner's Dilemma and the Tragedy of Commons: An Introduction to Game Theory in SPLASH (2003)
Bonnie and Clyde just got busted, and they both have the option of ratting on their partner. It's in their ...


Search! Basic problem-solving algorithms. in SPLASH (2003)
How do you teach a robot or computer to solve problems that it has never seen before? In this class ...


Voting Methods in SPLASH (2003)
Every Vote Counts... but some count more than others. Is it possible to (legally) manipulate the outcome of a vote? ...


Prisoner's Dilemma and the Tragedy of Commons: An Introduction to Game Theory in SPLASH (2002)
Bonnie and Clyde just got busted, and they both have the option of ratting on their partner. It's in their ...


Tae Kwon Do Escape Techniques in SPLASH (2002)
Targeted towards students with no prior martial arts experience, this class will introduce some basic releases from wrist grabs and ...


Voting Methods in SPLASH (2002)
Every Vote Counts... but some count more than others. Is it possible to (legally) manipulate the outcome of a vote? ...