I like bees. I like burnets. I do not like M366.

I like bees. I like burnets. I do not like M366.

This week, M366 has been sucking the life out of me.

I decided on Saturday that, since I’m getting on well with Block B of MS221, I should spend some time on M366 to make sure I’m ahead of schedule enough to put both those courses on hold in May/June while I revise for the M257 exam. I was pretty reluctant to leave MS221 and go back to M366, but I didn’t anticipate just how tedious I would actually find Block 3, the Natural Intelligence block.

Theoretically, this should have been quite an interesting block for me: I love insects (which are the inspiration for some of the AI approaches discussed in the block), I’m interested in evolution and natural selection, I’m comfortable with the vector maths used in the block, and the idea of swarm robotics is just plain cool. However, for some reason, I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about the material in this block. I don’t know whether it’s the writing style of the author, or something about NetLogo that puts me off, but either way I’ve found this weekend’s study sessions to be actually less enjoyable than a day at work. Which frightens me!

I did consider withdrawing from the course (I seem to consider this at least once per block with M366), but there aren’t many alternative courses that I could replace M366 with that count towards the BSc I’m aiming for. So I asked Alex for advice, since he’s had to struggle through a couple of books of S104 that he intensely disliked, and he recommended:

  • persevering with the course;
  • only doing the minimum work necessary to get the overall grade I want (i.e. if 85% gets me a distinction, there’s no point pushing to hit 95%);
  • looking at the specimen exam paper to see what kind of things I’ll actually need to understand and feel confident about for the exam.

And thankfully, it doesn’t look like there is any NetLogo programming required in the specimen exam questions – which is a huge relief!

So, rather than having Block 3 hanging over me for several weeks, I decided to just throw myself into it, and get it over with as quickly as possible. I’ve finished the actual reading of the block, and I just need to finish writing up some notes about potential fields methods and the adaptation/selection/learning section at the end of the block, and then I will be able to return to MS211 (at least for a while, until M366 TMA02 is released). I’m still feeling pretty unhappy about the prospect of doing another three blocks of M366, but at least I know I can complete the basic reading/exercises fairly quickly.

On a more positive note, I got M257 TMA02 back last week, and was very pleased to see it got 99%. I was expecting around 80%, so that was a very pleasant surprise! I dropped some marks for using a bunch of if-else statements where I should have had a switch statement, and some further marks for my trademark error: not reading the question carefully enough. Still, there was only one stupid question-reading error in the whole assignment, so I think my accuracy rate is improving!