A Poet of Computation Who Uncovers Distant Truths

The theoretical computer scientist Constantinos Daskalakis has won the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize for explicating core questions in game theory and machine learning.
Guitar__CDScroll down to the bottom of Constantinos Daskalakis’ web page — past links to his theoretical computer science papers and his doctoral students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and you will come upon a spare, 21-line poem by Constantine Cavafy, “The Satrapy.”

Written in 1910, it addresses an unnamed individual who is “made for fine and great works” but who, having met with small-mindedness and indifference, gives up on his dreams and goes to the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes. The king lavishes satrapies (provincial governorships) upon him, but his soul, Cavafy writes, “weeps for other things … the hard-won and inestimable Well Done; the Agora, the Theater, and the Laurels” — all the things Artaxerxes cannot give him. “Where will you find these in a satrapy,” Cavafy asks, “and what life can you live without these.”

For Daskalakis, the poem serves as a sort of talisman, to guard him against base motives. “It’s a moral compass, if you want,” he said. “I want to have this constant reminder that there are some noble ideas that you’re serving, and don’t forget that when you make decisions.” …
Read more at https://www.quantamagazine.org/computer-scientist-constantinos-daskalakis-wins-nevanlinna-prize-20180801/

Read also: The Work of Constantinos Daskalakis

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