Lot of reading and learning in May. Here are my favorite articles and videos from last month. I’m also making my way through two interesting books - The Tycoons and Alex’s Adventures in Numberland. I’ll report back when I’ve finished reading them. Until then, I hope you enjoy this month’s favorites:

Reading

The 3 Keys to Becoming Irresistible

If you have time to read just one article in this post, this is it. In this quick read, Jon Gorman teaches us the importance of humility, curiosity and empathy - three essential traits to becoming a better person.

Humility is the soil of knowledge. Curiosity is the water that helps it grow. Empathy is the sunlight that shows us which way to bend.


Google Duplex

How can I round up this month’s reading list without mentioning Google Duplex? Duplex is arguably one of the most impressive technology demonstrations in recent history and it most certainly stole the show at Google I/O this year. While the technology is impressive, some people are already questioning the ethics of an AI system that artificially introduces quirks in its speech to mimic humans.

Like all disruptive innovations, Duplex will need to cross many technical hurdles and its makers will need to address several ethical questions before it can be used widely in public. Yet, it’s hard not to marvel at the impressive demo and the rapid evolution of AI.


AI Winter Is Well On Its Way

Contradictory to the positive outlook on AI above, some experts in the industry believe that deep learning has reached a plateau. While compute power has grown exponentially, experts argue that we’re not seeing proportionately better AI. The author makes a case for thinking beyond deep learning to solve some of AI’s biggest challenges like self-driving cars.


Think American Elections Are Bad? Indian Voters Get 1,000 Texts a Day (paywall)

I’ve been quite vocal on Twitter about the spread of fake news on WhatsApp. This article emphasizes the scale of the problem with a more authoritative voice. To add to the article, I believe this issue may be getting sidelined by the tech press because it hasn’t been recognized as a large enough problem in the west.

WhatsApp is a western company (based in California) but Americans don’t use the platform nearly as much as some Asian countries do. As a result, could it be that WhatsApp simply doesn’t recognize this to be a big enough issue? If the spread of fake news on platforms like Facebook can have such a negative effect on educated, internet-savvy Westerners, imagine the damage it can do to gullible, first-time smartphone owners in the developing world!


Map of medieval trade networks

An interesting map because it almost serves as a time capsule of world’s economy between the 11th - 12th centuries and highlights important trade routes of the day. Notice that popular Indian ports - Chennai (depicted as “Mylapore”), Kochi, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and others have remained vital to trade in India for more than 750 years!


Rewarded for RISC

As a web developer, most of my work happens above many layers of abstraction. I barely get to learn about all the fun stuff that happens deep inside a computer. I enjoyed reading this article and learning a little about the 1980s origins of RISC, the architecture that powers pretty much every smartphone and computer today.


Introducing Bangalore Watch Company - aBlogToWatch!

A couple in Bangalore are kickstarting India’s first luxury watch micro-brand. In an age of smartphones and fitness trackers, I think watches still have a place in every wrist. I’m a fan of intricate automatic watches and so I was naturally excited to see a watch Designed in Bangalore!

Bangalore Watch Company


What happened Gmail?

Google announced a major design refresh of Gmail in April to mixed reception. Avi Ashkenazi notes that the new version introduces much needed features while compromising the user experience. I firmly agree with Avi. Normally, I’m an avid early adopter but this new version of Gmail is unusable and full of jarring UX patterns. I’ve switched back to the old Gmail and hope Google will fix the new version before we’re all forced to use it.

Watching

▶ The Imagination of Leonardo da Vinci

Fun conversation between David Rubenstein (one of my favorite interviewers) and Walter Isaacson about Leonardo da Vinci. Isaacson recently authored an amazing book about da Vinci.


Genius of the Ancient World (Netflix)

TV broadcaster Bettany Hughes travels to India, Greece and China to profile Buddha, Socrates and Confucius, three of the greatest thinkers of antiquity.

Favorite Quotes

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” — Confucius

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” — Archilochus