Machine learning: Thou aimest high.

Was reading the book Why Nation fails by by Daron Acemoglu and found this anecdote. This reminded me of similar thoughts, many have advocated about artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In 1583 William Lee returned from his studies at the University of Cambridge to become the local priest in Calverton England. Elizabeth I (1558–1603) had recently issued a ruling that her people should always wear a knitted cap. Lee recorded that “knitters were the only means of producing such garments but it took so long to finish the article. I began to think. I watched my mother and my sisters sitting in the evening twilight plying their needles. If garments were made by two needles and one line of thread, why not several needles to take up the thread.”

This momentous thought was the beginning of the mechanization of textile production. Lee became obsessed with making a machine that would free people from endless hand-knitting. He recalled, “My duties to Church and family I began to neglect. The idea of my machine and the creating of it ate into my heart and brain.” Finally, in 1589, his “stocking frame” knitting machine was ready. He travelled to London with excitement to seek an interview with Elizabeth I to show her how useful the machine would be and to ask her for a patent that would stop other people from copying the design.

He rented a building to set the machine up and, with the help of his local member of Parliament Richard Parkyns, met Henry Carey, Lord Hundson, a member of the Queen’s Privy Council. Carey arranged for Queen Elizabeth to come see the machine, but her reaction was devastating. She refused to grant Lee a patent, instead observing, “Thou aimest high, Master Lee. Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring to them ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars.”

Crushed, Lee moved to France to try his luck there; when he failed there, too, he returned to England, where he asked James I (1603–1625), Elizabeth’s successor, for a patent. James I also refused, on the same grounds as Elizabeth. Both feared that the mechanization of stocking production would be politically destabilizing. It would throw people out of work, create unemployment and political instability, and threaten royal power. The stocking frame was an innovation that promised huge productivity increases, but it also promised creative destruction.

I am not smart enough to know if the apprehensions are right or wrong, but as a machine learning enthusiast, I am fascinated with the field. 

Deep learning, AI, ML are tools like knife and hammer that we are now beginning to understand better and put them to practical use.
Exciting times.


Books 2015

Almost all the blogs I follow had a book post this week, that reminded me to look at my reading list for this year. 

So here is it from top to bottom. 

This year was an interesting mix of books and I see an increased focus on investing.

  • The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
  • Charlie Chaplin by Peter Ackroyd
  • Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen
  • The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
  • The Little Book of Economics by Ip, G.
  • Hooked by Nir Eyal
  • The Little Book of Big Profits from Small Stocks by Hilary Kramer
  • The Little Book of Valuation: How to Value a Company, Pick a Stock and Profit (Little Books. Big Profits) by Damodaran, Aswath
  • In Defense of Food by Pollan, Michael
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman, Daniel
  • The Element by Ken Robinson
  • The Armchair Economist -Economics & Everyday Life by Landsburg, Steven El
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You By Newport, Cal
  • Purple cow by Seth Godin
  • Being Mortal Atul Gwande
  • Seeking wisdom from Darwin to Charlie Munger by Peter
  • The Warren Buffet Portfolio by Robert G
  • The Myth of innovation by Scott Berken
  • Permission marketing by Seth Godin
  • The little book of big dividend investing by Charles B. Carlson and Terry Savage
  • The road less travel by M. Scott Peck
  • The Wright Brothers By David McCullough
  • How to drive a tank and other everyday tips for the modern gentleman – Frank Coles
  • The Wandering Mind by Michael C Cornallis
  • Rise of robots: technology and the threat of a jobless future by Martin Ford
  • All marketers are liars by Seth Godin
  • Irrationally yours: on missing stocks, pickup lines and other existential puzzles by Dan Ariely
  • The road to character by David Brooks
  • Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman by Ralph Leighton
  • The selfish gene by Richard Dawkins
  • Misbehaving: the making of behavioral economics by Richard H Thaler
  • Carrots and Sticks by Ian Ayres
  • The invisible gorilla by Chistopher Chabris
  • Standard Deviations by Gary Smith
  • Think twice by Michael J. Mauboussin
  • Stumbling on happiness Daniel Gilbert
  • The rational optimist by Mat Ridley

If I have to choose choose top 5 among the lot then this is the list in no particular order.

  1. Charlie Chaplin
  2. Surely you are joking Mr Feynman
  3. Rational Optimist
  4. Think Twice
  5. Stumbling upon happiness. 

What are your fav reads for 2015?

Books Read in 2014

In 2013, I read close to 50 books. In 2014, the goal was to read 25 and I managed to do so all though the reading, this time, was slow pace.

Following is the list of books read in 2014. Started the year with the excellent book by Scott Adams and spent most time on the book Antifragile by Nassim N Taleb

  • How to fail at almost everything and still win big by Scott Adams
  • Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Smarter – The new science of brain power by Dan Hurley
  • What the most successful people do in the morning by Laura Vanderkam
  • How will you measure your life by Clayton M Christensen
  • The 4 hour body by Timothy Ferris
  • Brilliant Blunders Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein by Mario Livio
  • Money – The Unauthorised Biography by Felix Martin
  • Do the Work – by Steven Pressfield
  • The Secrets of happy families by Bruce Feiler
  • Why people believe weird things by Michael Shermer
  • Sleeping With Your Smart Phone by Leslie A Perlow
  • The Borderlands of Science -Michael Shermer
  • Imagine by Jonah Lehrer
  • Think Like a Freak – Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D Levitt
  • Would You Kill the Fat Man? by David Edmonds.
  • Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions. by Gerd Gigerenzer
  • The Warren Buffet’s portfolio by Robert G. Hagstrom
  • The Power of Forgetting by Mike Byster
  • Antifragile by Nassim N Taleb
  • How we learn by Benedict Carey
  • Contagious by Jonah Berger

Uncertainty is the friend of the buyer of long-term values

I am half way with this excellent book, The Warren Buffett Portfolio by Robert G. Hagstrom. Here are some of the most popular highlights by Kindle users from for this book.

Loved the idea of viewing building a portfolio to building a company!!

Buffett does not adjust the discount rate for uncertainty. If one investment appears riskier than another, he keeps the discount rate constant and, instead, adjusts the purchase price.

Review annual reports from a few years back, paying special attention to what management said then about strategies for the future. • Compare those plans to today’s results: How fully were they realized? • Compare the strategies of a few years ago to this year’s strategies and ideas: How has the thinking changed? • Compare the annual reports of the company you are interested in with reports from similar companies in the same industry. It is not always easy to find exact duplicates, but even relative performance comparison can yield insights.

Buffett tells us that, in a low-interest-rate environment, he adjusts the discount rate upward. When bond yields dipped below 7 percent, Buffett adjusted his discount rate up to 10 percent. If interest rates work themselves higher over time, he has successfully matched his discount rate to the long-term rate. If they do not, he has increased his margin of safety by three additional points.

“The goal of each investor,” says Buffett, “should be to create a portfolio (in effect, a `company’) that will deliver him or her the highest possible look-through earnings a decade or so from now.”

“Charlie and I let our marketable equities tell us by their operating results-not by their daily, or even yearly, price quotations-whether our investments are successful,” explains Buffett. “The market may ignore business success for a while, but it eventually will confirm it.”

“Take the probability of loss times the amount of possible loss from the probability of gain times the amount of possible gain. That is what we’re trying to do,” says Buffett. “It’s imperfect, but that’s what it is all about.”

“You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.”

“Face up to two unpleasant facts: the future is never clear and you pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus. Uncertainty is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.”

“Your goal as an investor should be simply to purchase, at a rational price, a part interest in an easily understandable business whose earnings are virtually certain to be materially higher, five, ten, and twenty years from now,” explains Buffett. “Over time, you will find only a few companies that meet these standards-so when you see one that qualifies, you should buy a meaningful amount of stock.”

Warren Buffett applies three tenets about a company’s management: (1) rationality, (2) candor, and (3) resisting the institutional imperative.

And then there was this mention of uncertainty, how could I resist? 🙂

Books So far in 2014

books to read in 2014A quarter of the year is already over. Time flies away so quickly.. So here’s the list of books I have read so far in 2014.

This year going slow with the books and there are couple of repeats from previous years.

Reading List for 2014
1. How to fail at almost everything and still win big by Scott Adams
2. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
3. Smarter – The new science of brain power by Dan Hurley
4. What the most successful people do in the morning by Laura Vanderkam
5. How will you measure your life by Clayton M Christensen
6. The 4 hour body by Timothy Ferris
7. Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein by Mario Livio
8. Money – The Unauthorised Biography by Felix Martin
9. Do the Work – by Steven Pressfield
10. The Secrets of happy families by Bruce Feiler
11. Why people believe weird things by Michael Shermer
12. Sleeping With Your Smart Phone by Leslie A Perlow
13. The Borderlands of Science -Michael Shermer
14. Linchpin by Seth Godin

So far, Brilliant Blunders, Switch and How to fail at everything are my top favorites!

So what are you reading?

Advice from an Old Programmer

Was reading the online book Learning Python the Hard Way and landed on this page, Here’s some of the things that jumped out for me.

On Programming

Which programming language you learn and use doesn’t matter. Do not get sucked into the religion surrounding programming languages as that will only blind you to their true purpose of being your tool for doing interesting things.

Programming as an intellectual activity is the only art form that allows you to create interactive art. You can create projects that other people can play with, and you can talk to them indirectly. No other art form is quite this interactive. Movies flow to the audience in one direction. Paintings do not move. Code goes both ways.

Programming as a profession is only moderately interesting. It can be a good job, but you could make about the same money and be happier running a fast food joint. You’re much better off using code as your secret weapon in another profession.

People who can code in the world of technology companies are a dime a dozen and get no respect. People who can code in biology, medicine, government, sociology, physics, history, and mathematics are respected and can do amazing things to advance those disciplines.

Of course, all of this advice is pointless. If you liked learning to write software with this book, you should try to use it to improve your life any way you can. Go out and explore this weird, wonderful, new intellectual pursuit that barely anyone in the last 50 years has been able to explore. Might as well enjoy it while you can.

-Zed. A. Shaw

You should also be interested in this post. From Apprentice to Guru – Python Progression Path

Wow, that was brave!

Recently read the book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

And this is one anecdote in the book that I liked the most.

On day one our instructor explained the Dale Carnegie method he would be employing. Rule one was that no one would ever be criticized or corrected. Only positive reinforcement would be allowed, from the instructor or from the other students. I was immediately skeptical. How was I supposed to learn if I didn’t know what I was doing wrong?

The next rule was that every person would speak to the rest of the class during each session, but we had to volunteer to go next.

Eventually someone volunteered, and then another. Our speaking assignment was something simple. I think we simply had to say something about ourselves. For most people, including me, this was a relatively easy task. But for many in the class it was nearly impossible. One young lady who had been forced by her employer to take the class was so frightened that she literally couldn’t form words. In the cool, air-conditioned room, beads of sweat ran from her forehead down to her chin and dropped onto the carpet. The audience watched in shared pain as she battled her own demons and tried to form words. A few words came out, just barely, and she returned to her seat defeated, humiliated, broken. Then an interesting thing happened. I rank it as one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed. The instructor went to the front and looked at the broken student. The room was dead silent. I’ll always remember his words. He said, “Wow. That was brave.”

My brain spun in my head. Twenty-some students had been thinking this woman had just crashed and burned in the most dramatically humiliating way. She had clearly thought the same thing. In four words, the instructor had completely reinterpreted the situation. Every one of us knew the instructor was right. We had just witnessed an extraordinary act of personal bravery, the likes of which one rarely sees. That was the takeaway. Period.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life Scott Adams