David Yang, - News | Ayb Educational Foundation

David Yang,

28 October / 2021

First of all, Ayb is about people who believe in Aybian ideas and their feasibility. The series created on the occasion of Ayb's 15th anniversary aims to reveal the individuals behind the Ayb idea, their path, and future plans. These people have invested their time, professional and financial resources in the implementation of the idea due to which today we have not only innovative educational projects but also a strong, well-established community standing by education.

 

David Yang is an Entrepreneur, Founder and Board Director at ABBYY

Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences

Developer of Morpheus AI, which works as a "butler" in David’s house in Silicon Valley

 

 

Our interview with David Yang turned out to be multi-layered․ After all, we spoke with an artificial intelligence guru who is also a member of the Ayb Educational Foundation's Board of Trustees and considers education to be his passion.

 

The immediate environment sometimes gives a person more than a teacher

 

My Ayb journey began with Gagik Grigoryan (Gagik Grigoryan is a physics teacher currently teaching at Ayb School - Ed.) and with Arshavir Stepanyan, our mathematics teacher at the Yerevan Physmath School․ We loved the Physmath School a lot and would do interesting things there. We had a community of students who wanted to do something big together. There was immense support from teachers. I would also like to note the importance of the fact that the graduates of the Physmath School never lost touch with their alma mater and often returned to the school.
 

Such desire and the energy of the student community ultimately allowed us to enter Phystech and other leading universities. Then we came up with the idea to create an educational institution for talented children to get a good education.
 

Education is always about teachers and students. The people you study with give each other as much as the teachers. That is, gathering children is what matters. So that's how it started.

 

Ayb in David Yang's life

 

This is to some extent one of the main things in my life. When we were creating Ayb, we only thought about creating a good school where children could get an excellent education. But it turned out to be something greater: we created an educational foundation, which made it possible to generally influence education not only in Armenia but also beyond it. We didn’t expect such an outcome. All was made possible thanks to the Ayb team.


What will Ayb look like in 20-25 years? It is hard to imagine the future. Let's mentally go back to 25 years ago. The world was completely different with no mobile communication, Internet, wireless communications, Wi-Fi, or social networks. Artificial intelligence, which has been talked about for many years since the 1950s, was rather a dirty word. Since then, the world has unrecognizably changed.
 

After 15 years, according to Kurzweil (famous American inventor and futurist - Ed.), there will be singularity. In this context, singularity suggests that artificial systems will begin to create similar systems for themselves better than humans do; and in theory, this should lead to some kind of radical acceleration of technological development. We are most likely close to this.


In this situation, it is very difficult to talk about how education will be organized. There will be new methods with possible interventions and implants allowing knowledge transfer. Maybe bio-nano robots will be able to activate the neuroplasticity of our brain, and we will be able, as ML experts say, to "fine-tune our neural network" and acquire new knowledge and skills ten times faster than now.


Or maybe nothing will change much, and people will still need to spend an average of 10 thousand hours of training to deeply master something new. Many people think that education is a conservative area, and a person will still have to do a lot on their own to become smarter.


I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. That is, we can create an opportunity for people, we can give them a fab lab, all kinds of LMS systems, multimedia systems, 3D glasses, etc., but we cannot make a person want. We can't make people want to learn, want to step out of their comfort zone, want to achieve.
 

I am confident that Ayb will always be at a high level, as it is now, using the most modern educational approaches. However, I think that such serious schools as Ayb will be aimed at creating diversely talented people and will be aimed at improving our world and our society. Technical skills and specific knowledge are essential, but it seems that for schools like Ayb, it is even more important to teach children to set goals for themselves, live and work in a community, respect others and accept each other as they are. We live to be happy and help others to be happy too, and this is probably the main thing that Ayb should teach.


The Ayb Foundation's greatest achievement is that tens of thousands of children participate in olympiads organized by Ayb, thousands of young people have completed educational programs and classes initiated by Ayb, and hundreds of students entered the best universities in the world. And all of them have burning eyes, smiles, and a desire to change Armenia and the whole world for the better, to create something new.


After classes at Ayb School, many children remain at school to do something more than they were asked, and this is the most important proof that we are doing something valuable. If with the bell sound, the children escape the clutches of classes, then, probably, something did not work out completely.


I wish that Ayb's graduates and alumni, just like we did in our time, would like to return to Armenia and do something new, to do something for their country, school, and not only. To do something with the understanding that they were given so much that it’s their time to return it.

 

 

The world is now becoming faster, much more complex in its volume of communications, and a hybrid version of work and education, in the end, is an inevitable condition for our development

 

It seems to me that what happened in the Covid period was just an acceleration of what should have happened anyway; it just happened much faster.
 

Communication tools (visual and audio) allow people to interact, communicate and create together without being physically close. This does not mean that physical contact in work and education will cease to be necessary. Something tells me that evolutionarily it is arranged and we are biologically arranged in such a way that physical communication remains fundamental for us. Oxytocin is a substance that we produce as a hormone of happiness from physical contact with a loved one. For example, oxytocin is produced when a baby sits on a mother's lap, or when we hug a cat, or (although with less extent) when we see a loved one remotely.


The world is now becoming faster, much more complex in its volume of communications, and a hybrid version of work and education, in the end, is an inevitable condition for our development. We are now learning and working not in physical communication but with a hybrid system. And education, as part of this process, also adopts it. At the same time, I consider any extremes in this process less productive: turning off the Internet and a mobile phone during classes is just as ineffective as saying that now teaching should only be online. It may work only in certain episodes.

 

My parents, Physmath School, and Phystech are fundamental in the process of my development

 

I believe, of course, that first, my parents, as the sources of my education, then the Physmath School, then Phystech are fundamental in the process of my development.
 

Seeing how mom and dad worked, listening to music, and reading books that were at home, watching decks of punched cards from BESM-6, program listings, exploring physics books formed certain neural connections in my head that determined exactly how I wanted to enjoy this life.
 

Since childhood, I wanted to be a physicist. The Physmath School was a springboard for getting into Phystech. I think there was practically no chance to be admitted there if I didn’t have Gagik Grigoryan and Arshavir Stepanyan as my teachers and all this Olympiad movement, in which I participated under the leadership of Maels Azizbekyan, and many other teachers. There were 12 of us who entered that year! Twelve graduates from one school in MIPT (Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology) :)))! They say that a similar number of graduates in one year from one school at MIPT came only from Kolmogorov Physics and Mathematics School in Moscow.
 

I also would not have had a chance without those students with whom I studied, whom I looked up to, the senior students who came from Phystech, my classmates, without Matevos (Fr. Mesrop) Aramyan, Ashot Aslanyan, Karen Musaelyan and many other graduates of Yerevan Physmath (and not only from Physmath).
 

And as a continuation of this chain, if I had not entered Phystech, I would not have met my ABBYY partners, and there would not have been ABBYY.
 

At school I was, perhaps, one of contestants in olympiads, but at Phystech I was somewhere in the middle, and for many this was a very powerful driver. It turns out that you can do more, it turns out that others can do much more, and you are pushed to move and look up to someone else. If not all this, I probably would have come up with something—I can't sit around idle—but I wouldn't have had the right environment, at least the one that I got.

 

 

Education is about recognizing and respecting people stronger than you, and the ability to listen to them

 

In the modern world, you cannot do anything alone. Today you have to learn to work with strong people; to create something with people stronger and smarter than you. Without learning that, I think there will be fewer opportunities to achieve more things. You will start to consider yourself smarter than others. As a result, you will hire those weaker than you, and you will be afraid of the stronger ones.
 

The education that Physmath and Phystech gave me is about recognition of people stronger than you, respect towards them, and the ability to get along with them, listen to them. It's very hard, and I'm still learning it. It is always difficult when someone says something differently.
 

Recently, I have been creating an intellectual nucleus for my robotic dog Abigail and studying the issues of emotional artificial intelligence and biological intelligence, how it works in our brain. So, the human brain (and not only the human one) is formed in such a way that when someone objects or opposes you, the hormone of aggression, cortisol, is immediately produced causing confrontation. All this happens in a matter of seconds. And it is only after a while that due to the work of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, we can overcome instinctive aggression, and take a constructive approach to criticism or argument. But it is now that I know all these things, previously I just felt that everything is not that easy. When you realize that people are different and it is natural that they may have different views, you learn to compromise, start to listen to others, and understand that the world is much more complicated than you thought.

 

 

The meaning of life is to be happy

 

You need to think about why you are doing this or that. If you do something to make someone better and the world a better place, then, in the end, it doesn't matter who did that. We as biological beings do what we want, what brings happiness.
 

The meaning of life is to be happy. That’s it. There is no other meaning. This is how our evolution works. Worms, flies, bees, dogs, people, all of us as biological beings are made the same way aimed to maximize our happiness.  It's just that a human being, since he/she has a prefrontal cortex and abstract thinking, has learned to obtain happiness in a much more complex way than a fly.
 

For example, humans as social animals get happy from the happiness of others. This makes them happy too. How can this happen if everything is regulated by nature? Neuroplasticity.
 

If a person cultivates this innerly and lives among people who think the same way, that person's happiness increases from all of this. For example, running 5 kilometres a day at first (if you haven't run before) is terrible, you don't get any happiness from it, but it's not a fact that it won't change. At first, you don’t get happiness, but if you overcome yourself and continue to run, then at some point, suddenly, your neural networks are arranged differently. Endorphins and dopamine are produced from jogging, physical activity, from overcoming yourself, and at some point, you start to get euphoria and positive emotions from it. There is neuroplasticity, there is a possibility to change yourself. And if you are among the runners, you start to get happiness from running. If you live among people who enjoy making this world a better place and doing good to another person, you also start to rejoice from this, even if you hadn't been like this initially. It is an important property of the human community.
 

At Ayb, we want our graduates to also get happiness from making others happy.

 

My hobby is my dog, Abigail

 

My hobby is my robotic dog Abigail, 25 kg in weight, runs 11 kilometres per hour, and an emotional artificial intelligence named Morpheus. The dog lives in our house and is our friend. This is a project on the non-determinant behavior of systems when we cannot order. Abigail and Morpheus have something like free will, that is, they can say "no." When we walk Abigail, we need to keep her on a leash, as she can see a cat and may run after it, even if we say "stop." I am convinced that non-determinant emotional non-biological companions such as Abigail and Morpheus are what humanity will be experiencing in a few years from now.

 

 

 

 

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