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I write about design, technology, and people. Sometimes I take photos of places I visit.

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Skilled at working around the system

From Flash Boys, an excellent story about high-frequency trading by Michael Lewis:

Constantine was also Russian, born and raised in the small town on the Volga River. He had a theory about why so many Russians had wound up inside high-frequency trading. The old Soviet educational system channeled people away from the humanities and into math and science. The old Soviet culture also left its former citizens oddly prepared for Wall Street in the early twenty-first century. The Soviet-controlled economy was horrible and complicated but riddled with loopholes. Everything was scarce; everything was also gettable, if you knew how to get it. “We had this system for seventy years,” said Constantine. “People learn to work around the system. The more you cultivate a class of people who know how to work around the system, the more people you will have who know how to do it well. All of the Soviet Union for seventy years were people who are skilled at working around the system.” The population was thus well suited to exploit megatrends in both computers and the United States financial markets.

Reminds me of Yugoslavia and post-war Croatia.

Drawing comics together

You like drawing, right?”

That was my opening line when I approached a few friends and colleagues almost a year ago. I wanted to get back to drawing on regular basis. I also wanted to improve my storytelling skills. Drawing comics seemed like a good way of combining both, but it could be even better if done in an excellent company that keeps you accountable and helps you improve. The four of us sat together, and I explained that the current skill doesn’t matter and the commitment is flexible. We were all in. Read more

Learning machine learning

The hype around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) skyrocketed in late 2016. I felt at the time that my lack of understanding of the topics affected my ability to discuss them with others and my ability to grapple with some of the more existential questions around algorithm fairness. At that moment I decided to immerse myself in the world of data science. I’ll share the resources and educational materials I’ve used for more than a year with a hope that you’ll find them helpful too. Read more

My thoughts on machine learning

Context: I’ve spent around 15 months learning statistics and machine learning (ML). I’ve written a post about the journey and resources I’ve used. Here I try to share my thoughts and observations about what ML is in essence, why we experienced the recent hype, and some of the potential dangers and opportunities that await us in the future.

Machine learning is pattern recognition

If I had to summarize what ML is as practiced today, I would say pattern recognition. Many of the algorithms try to find patterns in data or build patterns from rules and the environment. Many things are a pattern in some form or another. For example, home prices usually increase with size, a disease has similar symptoms across a population, people in the same life situation buy similar things (young families buy a lot of baby stuff), similar objects have recognizable shapes and color, traffic participants respond to changes in the environment similarly, and speech is just a collection of patterns of sound waves. There are more examples than I can think of, and that’s the beauty of ML—you can use it for so many things. It doesn’t mean it will replace everything we do today, just that it can help us in more areas than it does at the moment. Read more

Good books I read in 2017

Books on a shelf.

Even though I’ve listed only a few books on the topic, last year I read a lot about current technology and how it may affect our society in the future. Ethics, machines that “think,” and our inability to comprehend complexity around us were the themes of the year, prompted by my short post about fairness in late 2016. Here are some of the books you should consider putting on your reading list. Read more

If you want to read more, check out the archive.

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