Applied Category Theory Check-in: Meeting #3

Learning From Failure

Last week, my official second check-in for my Spring 2020 Independent Study of Applied Category Theory, was nearly a complete bust. While I read through and took detailed notes on the first ten chapters of Category Theory for Programmers, I hadn’t really digested any of the material. As I prepared for the meeting with my adviser, my lack of understanding became glaringly obvious. One of the topics I sought to cover was the product of categories. In a recursive manner, I groped for some understanding… “ok, a product is a universal construction”… “a universal construction is a construction”… “quite honestly, I am not even 100% sure what a construction is.”


Doomed for failure, I walked into the meeting hoping some divine intervention may fill in the serious knowledge gap in the material I was about to attempt to convey to my adviser. I more-or-less fell flat on my face.

fall on face

So, this week I decided to take a slightly different approach, an approach that is actually well supported by An Invitation to Applied Category Theory. This week I focused on working through examples of all the concepts (the approach Brendan Fong and David I. Spivak take - thank you both, you’re life savers!!!). The second change-up is to prepare a slide without visuals, but symbols that say “insert drawing here.” I believe this will help by forcing me to lecture more in the style of coding interviews than class presentations… with examples and judicious whiteboard usage. I developed this skill over the course of my interview prep over the Fall, it’s time to put it to good use!

For anyone who wants to checkout my presentation, here is a link.