reCAPTCHA and Duolingo: Luis von Ahn

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Think about the small moments or decisions in your life that actually had a huge impact on how your life turned out. Maybe it was a conversation. You struck up with the person next to you on an airplane. Maybe it was a party. You reluctantly went to only to meet the person you'd eventually marry or maybe it was a decision to stay on vacation an extra day that sparked a new idea for Kevin System. It was a random remark from his girlfriend that made him decide to use filters on instagram for Blake. Majkowski was a chance meeting with a group of young Argentinian who took him to the countryside where he saw kids with no shoes. That one day inspired him to create. Tom's and for Louis Fun on it was a free lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in two thousand. We'll get deeper into the story in a few minutes but that single lecture would lead him to invent to ingenious new tools the I was capture. Yes captures those annoying twisted and blurred letters. You have to type into a website to prove your human and the second one was duo lingo now. The biggest language learning APP in the world which is now getting even more popular because people are looking for new things to do now that they're stuck at home but was captured and duo. Lingo were designed to harness the power of crowdsourcing to solve problems. And I'M GONNA blow your mind here if you have ever typed in a capture or reused dueling go. There's a good chance you've taken part in a massive online collaboration that you probably weren't even aware of and it's amazing. How Louis came up with all this but let's start at the beginning. Lewis was born in Guatemala in late. Nineteen Seventy S. Both as parents were doctors and though he was surrounded by poverty violence in Guatemala City. Louis screw up in comparative privilege and as a kid. He spent a lot of time hanging out at the family business. My Mother's family actually had a candy. Factory everybody is always a Mesa. The fact that I grew up with a candy factory they think it was like Willy. Wonka or something. I was not all that much into the candidate. Self I was into the machines because basically the candies made by these gigantic machines. That bump out I don't know how many thousands of pieces of candy per hour and basically all my weekends. I spent playing at the Candy Factory and I would They the machines apart and put them back together they would be some extra pieces after. I put him back together on that. That would be a problem but what? What kind of student were you were? You were school pretty easy for you. Yeah I was pretty nerdy basically. That was really good at math. Math was just easy to me. I what I would do during the summers is basically get either next year or you know. Couple YEARS LATER. Math books on all the sizes. Wow it kind of came easy but the way I really got good ideas by doing hundreds and hundreds exercises. That's what you do in. The summertime was bored. I mean I was an only child I is. I didn't have that much to do. This is remember this is also pre Internet pre everything. So what was I going to do? Man That's what I did was putting playing cards in the spokes of my bicycle and by jolly ranchers seven. Eleven should math books. So you were. Did you just love math? I mean it sounds like kids. Don't think about their future. They're not like I'm going to study math so I can be in tech one day like unless I've really enjoyed it. I I enjoyed it was it was like a puzzle for me by the way this is not the only thing I did. I mean I I also played a lot of video games Pirated Video Games in my commodore sixty four like floppy disks. Floppy Disk loppy discs. That's right I wanted a Nintendo. When I was eight my mother would not get many intendo. She instead got me computer. Commodore Sixty Four. And I couldn't figure out how to use it but eventually I read like the manual stuff and I figured out how to use it more than I figured out. I could buy other people's video games. And so I became a little hub in my in my little neighbourhood but these were not other kids adults or kind of basically young adults who had a computer and they would come to my house and I would take their games and give them my games exchange so then. I collected a pretty large number of video games but sh- mentioned right that I mean because your childhood sounds pretty nice but but like as a kid I guess or even as a teenager there was a civil war in Guatemala right. I mean we know that today. There's a a lot of violence there. Obviously violence in the US and other countries to but Guatemala's has been particularly hard hit. I mean did it feel dangerous when you're a kid yes it did. There was a civil war pretty much since I was born in seventy nine to nineteen ninety-six. There was a civil war going on the whole time. It always felt dangerous when I was fifteen or so. My aunt was kidnapped for ransom. I mean she was gone for seven or eight days. Wow People's cars would be stolen. I don't every couple of months. Somebody's car would be stolen in my family. Going past seven thirty PM was rare games. You needed to go out in a large group. If you're going to go up at seven thirty PM and I did my house had walls and barbed wire yeah. It felt dangerous. I mean this is one of just one of the reasons I came to the US. Actually I mean I was. After my aunt was kidnapped I thought to myself. I don't WanNa live here. Yeah and I guess you did end up leaving Guatemala for college because you went to Duke in North Carolina and you describe yourself as a like a math nerd in school and and is that what you intended to do like to do something in math. That's what I wanted to become an economic math professor. I was pretty certain. I wanted to become a math professor at the time. I thought the best thing that I can do is really learn a lot of math and I really it and I thought it was futile to learn how to deal with other people. It is interesting because my job. These days is one hundred percent just dealing with other people's problems. I'm just trying to understand the so so by becoming math professor. You thought. Hey I wouldn't have to deal with people I would just deal with facts. Data and numbers. Yes yes and you know I. I'll do math research all day long. And every now and then after class of but whatever that's like a tax That's that's what I thought so all right so you are She gets your degree and you this path to go into academia and you go into a PhD program at Carnegie Mellon Correct and I guess you go into computer science right yes. I changed from math computer science because I visited a math Grad school and what people were saying the professor was saying. Oh I'm working on this open problem that nobody's been able to solve for the last three hundred years and I thought I don't think I'm smart enough if you haven't done it and nobody's done it in three hundred years that's Kinda not for me whereas when you visit in computer science I mean this is crazy thing before like. Oh Yeah I still have an open program yesterday. Well it's a much younger field yet so that I thought that was much more exciting for me. At

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