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What inspires us

Books

Totally non-curated and merely a collation of the team’s diversity and diverse reading habits.

Personality. What makes you the way you are

Personality. What makes you the way you are

Author: Daniel Nettle

Why we love it

Buddhi, Our Principal Data Scientist recommended this book to me. I read it in a weekend.
Written by Daniel Nettle, a British behavioural scientist, it goes into the pedagogy of personality measurement discovering that all the way back to 1884, natural language was considered a sensible and obvious way to measure personality. The author has done a wonderful job of bringing personality to life, using real case studies and people he has interviewed as part of his research to descriptively illustrate the continuum of the Big 5 traits in personality.

What I learnt from it

Everyone has all the 5 traits just as everyone has a height or weight. Where we differ is the magnitude. One takeaway for me was that “conscientiousness is the most reliable personality predictor of occupational success as opposed to the personality requirements of a particular job”. Nettle weaves in the heritability of personality traits and shows how the variation between people’s personalities helps preserve our species. There is neither good nor bad in where you stand in the personality trait scales. What is important is knowing one’s personality and gaining a higher level of individual agency over one’s life, making better choices in key life decisions like selecting what to study, what career to pursue, and whom to marry.

Civilized to Death

Civilized to Death

Why we love it

Christopher Ryan raises the question, is life really “better” or are we “happier” than our pre-modern hunter-gatherer ancestors? Better and happier might be relative terms, but at least with regard to our health, wealth, longevity, work and leisure, are we in a better state today?

What I learnt from it

The takeaway is not to undo life as we know it and become foragers, but to question some of the driving principles of modern civilization that has led to some clearly undesirable outcomes. For example, why are lot of us unhappy and unengaged with the work we do? Ryan coins the phrase “Narrative of Perpetual Progress” (NPP) to explain the shared belief we have on the superiority of civilization and to take as given that “progress” makes the future better.But if we put “progress” under a microscope, would we find this to be the case? Using forager life as a reference point in answering that question creates a renewed sense of appreciation for our forager ancestors, which most us think of as “primitive”. There clearly are lessons to be learnt from them.

For example, I found the following explanation of how hunter-gatherer survival activities (what we today call work) can be seen more as “play” than some reluctant activity most of us want to trade-off with leisure or “life” as in work-life balance.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we can say the same about work today? Maybe then we wouldn’t look forward too much to the weekend or for that matter Monday might excite us more than Friday!

Why it’s a must

For anyone interested in answering the question “can we make things better?”, it is a great starting point. Ryan focuses mainly on the perils of modern civilisation and how forager way of life can help us understand our true nature. I find that it also brings to light the value of advanced technologies such as AI and automation, how those can help people focus on more enjoyable work or gain more leisure time for example.

Who should pay attention?

Business leaders, Anyone who values human well-being

 

 

How Smart Machines Think

How Smart Machines Think

Author: Sean Gerrish

Why we love it

Because this was recommended by Matt, one of our awesome advisors. It has everything you’ve always wanted to know about self-driving cars, Netflix recommendations, IBM’s Watson, and video game-playing computer programs.

Google Books Write-Up

The future is here: Self-driving cars are on the streets, an algorithm gives you movie and TV recommendations, IBM’s Watson triumphed on Jeopardy over puny human brains, computer programs can be trained to play Atari games. But how do all these things work? In this book, Sean Gerrish offers an engaging and accessible overview of the breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and machine learning that have made today’s machines so smart.

Gerrish outlines some of the key ideas that enable intelligent machines to perceive and interact with the world. He describes the software architecture that allows self-driving cars to stay on the road and to navigate crowded urban environments; the million-dollar Netflix competition for a better recommendation engine (which had an unexpected ending); and how programmers trained computers to perform certain behaviors by offering them treats, as if they were training a dog. He explains how artificial neural networks enable computers to perceive the world—and to play Atari video games better than humans. He explains Watson’s famous victory on Jeopardy, and he looks at how computers play games, describing AlphaGo and Deep Blue, which beat reigning world champions at the strategy games of Go and chess. Computers have not yet mastered everything, however; Gerrish outlines the difficulties in creating intelligent agents that can successfully play video games like StarCraft that have evaded solution—at least for now.

Gerrish weaves the stories behind these breakthroughs into the narrative, introducing readers to many of the researchers involved, and keeping technical details to a minimum. Science and technology buffs will find this book an essential guide to a future in which machines can outsmart people.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Why its a must

Whilst the audio version does feel a bit didactic at times, the narrator is so frustrated at the disconnect between the facts and what people believe about the presence or not of bias. There is some solid data referenced which reflects the deep and wide research that has gone into uncovering often invisible nature of gender bias in many sectors.

Winner of the 2019 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
Winner of the 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize

Amazon write-up

“Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.

Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates the shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women​, diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, unforgettable exposé that will change the way you look at the world.”

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