Last updated: 12.02.22
Hi, I’m Laurenz. I currently live in Tübingen, Germany and plan to move to Berlin soon. I studied Physics, but quickly moved into machine learning and currently work at the MDC Berlin where I use latent variable models to predict drug response for cancer cells.
I am very curiosity-driven and like to go into obsessive bursts about all kinds of topics. I feel like many of my interests are connected, but it is hard to put into a linear text. Maybe I’ll create a mind-map at some point. Until then I’ll just ramble about what’s on my mind. TL;DR: tools (for thought), data science, emergence, (machine) learning, puzzles, fun, happiness and awareness. I plan to start writing more about topics that interests me in the blogpost section.
I am interested in tools in the most abstract of senses: I love simple tools like a good pen, I love tools for building stuff like my 3D printer. I am fascinated by how the tools we have shape our thinking, behavior and our culture, from very old ones like language itself, maps and cartography, the development of more and more accurate timekeeping devices to modern tools like the web or the railway. A special curiosity belongs to tools for thought. How can we design better tools that allow us to expand the space of thinkable thoughts and make collaboration on thoughts less frictionless? In particular I am interested in using AI to improve search and develop better metrics of similarity to find relevant information depending on the current context.
I love data and I love numbers. Visualizing data and nicely visualized data are great. As a kid, before I had access to the internet, I asked my parents to buy me a book called “The world in numbers”. It was just tables of numbers comparing all the countries on earth in 100s of categories. I loved it.
In university, I studied physics with a focus on biophysics and complex systems. One of the most interesting and surprising phenomena for me is how the combination of simple building blocks and rules can give rise to behavior of unlimited complexity. These emergent phenomena were what fascinated me in statistical mechanics, in cellular automata, in biology when looking at proteins and cells at the lowest level and finally when studying machine learning and deep neural networks.
I love all kinds of learning on all scales: Teaching neural networks to learn stuff, understanding learning from a neuroscience perspective, teaching other people to learn stuff, how to create a better education system, how to manage knowledge alone and in collaboration with other people. Watching children learn by themselves and figure stuff out is just mind blowing.
I am fascinated and confused by conscious experience and awareness, and I am very grateful for them. Like how crazy is it that I am currently experiencing writing this and that you are currently reading this. I am currently getting more into psychotechnologies like focussing, meditation, circling and shadow integration. I believe that a future in which people are much happier than today is possible.
I feel most motivated by doing something that has a purpose, that I feel is helpful and useful for people, building stuff, doing research or analyses that have impact. Then there are also times where I like puzzles, often mathematical puzzles (or building that damn rocket in Factorio). Finding something out, even if other people have done it before, even if it has no external use, feels great for its own sake. Fun itself is a purpose, and I believe fun, interestingness and curiosity can provide a valuable direction for exploration. In a world of unknown unknowns curiosity-driven projects have astonishingly often lead to great discoveries and progress in hindsight.
I love to take long walks in the sun, cooking something new and buying more books than I could ever read.
If you want to chat feel free to just drop me an email (laurenz.hemmen[at]gmail.com) or DM me on Twitter.