This semester, we’ve been taking a course called “Algorithmic Game Theory”, which is the broad area that my thesis topic belongs in. Although Tasos is the course coordinator, and lectured the first couple of lectures, the bulk of the “lecturing” has fallen to the students in the course.
Last week was my turn, and I did my talk on evolutionary game theory. I had been interested in that ever since I read Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene, where he makes use of evolutionary game theory, albeit in a non-mathematical way, to explain his ideas for the evolution of genes. In a nutshell, evolutionary game theory allows you look at the evolution of strategies/genes/behaviours in a large population of organisms. For example, can a mutant gene overtake an incumbent gene? See the link before for more information, or read my lecture slides: evolutionary.pptx, evolutionary.pdf.
Now, onto the second half of the post’s title: why I’d hesitate to use PowerPoint again. I’ll begin with a clarification: why I’d hesitate to use PowerPoint again where I need to use equations at all. (If you’re an OpenOffice fan and you’re beginning to smirk, here’s something to wipe your smirk off: OpenOffice Impress fails to impress me even more dramatically. Sorry.)
I’ve been using LaTeX with Beamer for my presentations this year, and I’ve had a good experience with it so far. Why did I use PowerPoint? Mainly because I haven’t used PowerPoint 2007 for any real purpose so far, and secondly, because I saw that Word 2007 had a new flashy equation editor that’s kind of nice. It was a bit of a disappointment for me when I had finished writing all the slides with no maths to find that PowerPoint somehow failed to inherit this. Back to old Equation Editor. I hate it, so I took to doing the equations in Word and then copying them over as pictures. The main problem with all this is that, for a mathematical presentation, equations should not be treated as pictures. PowerPoint and OpenOffice both lack the ability to insert equations as inline text, and that frustrates me to no end. Another minor little gripe is that there’s no in-built way to have navigation bars like you do in Beamer.
The shocking thing is that most lecturers in academia, such as the School of IT, continue to use PowerPoint even though the set of tools it provides for technical presentations is minimal. (If you’re doing a sales pitch with pie charts and dot points, it’s fine.) Unfortunately, this just means there’s little incentive for Microsoft to go and improve the tools for this important market segment.