Lessons From My Life’s Darkest Teacher

“Be grateful and happy that beautiful people chose to be in your life. Be happy that it happened, not sad that it’s over.”

I was listening to Cheryl Strayed podcast (author of Wild) on The Tim Ferris Show and at the end she challenged all listeners to write down who their darkest teacher was, life events, people whoever it might be. Here is my attempt.

Was my darkest teacher my Mom’s death? My Dad’s death? My lost teenage years? My failed ventures? they were all significant and some of them life altering but which ones taught me the most about how to live a good life?

I don’t know if it was the darkest teacher but losing my Mom and then my Dad has definitely set me on a different path than I’d have taken otherwise. I am very certain about that, I was a different person before losing them. I became reticent, much less interested in external achievements and rewards, others opinion of me didn’t matter, diminished faith in the external world and I struggle with these everyday.

Why did mom suffer physical pain for 4 years? Why did she die so young? What happened to all the goodness she brought to people around her? What would it be like if she is still around now? What would she say to her grandchildren? Why did dad have to die so young? What more could he have accomplished if he was still around? What happened to all the good things he brought into this world? Many questions and no clear answers, I don’t know if I will ever find them but the inquiry and struggle continues. Even if I find answers to some of these questions, are they worth anything now? Can they remove the pain, the darkness and the feeling of sadness I have experienced in the past and continue to experience to this day? Can the answers bring back what was once lost?

Am I supposed to simply wail in this abyss of darkness, is there a point in trying to look for light? Is this darkness what I am meant to experience? Is this all a random probability? or is there a rhyme and reason to all of this?

Through all this I learned a few things

Be kind and loving to everyone you come in touch with, no matter the situation, who it is, what it is, where it is, be kind and loving in your thought, word and action.

Be steadfast in your faith even if the outcomes are not as you expected and keep doing the work, keep living the life according to your conscience, not according to what the world expects, not what your friends or relatives expect but what you expect of yourself.

Listen to others going through the troubles, don’t advise, just listen and offer a shoulder if they want to lean on.

Be grateful and happy that beautiful people chose to be in your life. Be happy that it happened, not sad that it’s over.

Last but not the least, live up to their values, remember them in your daily life and cherish those wonderful memories.

With Love, A.I: Can A.I Replace Radiologists?

Well the short answer is “Yes”, longer answer is “not right now but in a few years”. I know that is very provocative and most people would disagree, especially radiologists. Stanford researchers have been able to create machine learning models and algorithms that can detect brain aneurysms much more effectively than a radiologist.

What is a brain aneurysm?

Brain aneurysm is a bulge in the blood vessels that could potentially leak or burst causing brain hemorrhage, damage or even death.

So the question is, if AI can do a better job of identifying aneurysms, can it be used in place of radiologists doing a similar function? If it can, then we will not be limited by number of radiologists there are but by number of servers we can add. Moore’s law applies to machines and not to humans so over time it’d become cheaper to deploy AI Radiologists than human radiologists.

This new AI tool is apparently built on an algorithm called HeadXNet. Researchers note however that the results are dependent on “scanner hardware and imaging protocols” which are not standardized, providers (hospital or lab) might have different hardware and use different imaging techniques that will influence how the AI tool detects or misses accurate diagnosis.

In this brain scan, the location of an aneurysm is indicated by HeadXNet using a transparent red highlight. (Image credit: Allison Park)

“A lot of patients are not getting treatment fast enough.”

Eric Schmidt

Augmented reading on the topic from wired.com

The Algorithm Will See You Now

Most Important Thing Is To Be Customer Obsessed

“Don’t satisfy the customer, delight the customer” __Jeff Bezos

Listen to the blog.

Samantha at https://ttsreader.com
Heather at https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/
Zoe at nuance.com

What does it mean to be customer obsessed?

Give customers what they love and strive to delight them at every touchpoint. It’s that simple, harder in practice. For example, Amazon knew that customers love free delivery, no one likes to pay for shipping. Amazon came up with the idea of Prime to address that customer want, to make shipping free. Apparently, Prime customers spend $1300+ per year, nearly twice the amount spent by non-prime members.

“The missionary is building the product and building the service because they love the customer, because they love the product, because they love the service, the mercenary is building the product or service so that they can flip the company and make money. Paradoxically, it’s usually the missionaries who make the most money.”

Jeff Bezos

Strategies and tools to be customer obsessed?

How can one delight their customers, by giving them what they love. How can we give them what they love? Understand what they love. How to understand what someone loves, get closer to them, go through a day in the life of your customer, shadow them, really, genuinely try to be useful to them. Create routines, rituals that will assist you to be in constant touch with the customer, not automatic emails or text messages that spam them but personalized messages, meet-ups, calls.

What about the money?

Amazon’s prime service drew ire for being “too good to be true” and helped underline the idea that Amazon is too inexpensive to be profitable. Jeff Bezos’s mantra was to delight the customers and not bumping short-term gains on the bottomline. As Bezos puts it, “paradoxically, it’s usually the missionaries who make the most money.” when you work to delight the customer, in the long run, money comes naturally. The lesson is to delight the customer and money will take care of itself.

WTF is PMF?

MAKE SOMETHING PEOPLE WANT

Jessica Livingston

“Identifying a compelling value hypothesis is what I call finding product/market fit. A value hypothesis identifies the features you need to build, the audience that’s likely to care, and the business model required to entice a customer to buy your product.” __Andy Rachleff

“When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins. When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins. When a great team meets a great market, something special happens. If you address a market that really wants your product — if the dogs are eating the dog food — then you can screw up almost everything in the company and you will succeed”

Andy Rachleff

“The term product/market fit describes ‘the moment when a startup finally finds a widespread set of customers that resonate with its product’.”

Eric Ries

“You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of ‘blah’, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it. You start getting entrepreneur of the year awards from Harvard Business School. Investment bankers are staking out your house. You could eat free for a year at Buck’s.”

Marc Andreessen

“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” 

Marc Andreessen

“You know you have fit if your product grows exponentially with no marketing. That is only possible if you have huge word of mouth. Word of mouth is only possible if you have delighted your customer.”

Andy Rachleff

3 Key Metrics for PMF

1. Returning usage – how many users return to use the product/service

2. Net Promote Score (NPS) – would you recommend this to others

3. Paying customer renewal rates

David Rusenko (Weebly)

Product Market Fit is like a Tango dance between product and market.

Mike Maples Jr.

‘WTF’ level features

“It also involves taking the most powerful and compelling aspects of the product and delivering them in the form of ‘WTF’ level features that are not merely compelling – they rise to the level of changing people’s points of view about what’s even possible and create intense delight in customers.”

a16z.com

“Getting product right means finding product/market fit. It does not mean launching the product. It means getting to the point where the market accepts your product and wants more of it.”

Fred Wilson

build-measure-learn iteration

Finding PMF is simple but not easy, build something, test it out in the real world, gather data and feedback and iterate on the product. If it’s that simple why do so many companies build products that no one wants? The process is simple but it takes speed, flexibility and a discipline of relying on data and not on opinions. I know this very well because I was a product owner of a few such products that were built in vacuum or built on very long cycles (iteration cycle was weeks or months and not fast enough).

Lessons From People No Smarter Than You

“With my dress, I was selling confidence and with its success, I was getting confident. Confidence in what you do is crucial”

Diane von Furstenberg

“Time to kick people and by “kick” I mean challenge, is when they’re on the way up, to remind them that when you’re growing, make sure your head is not growing too!”

Jack Welch

“My biggest mistake was thinking I shouldn’t show my mistakes – I learned I should.”

Jack Dorsey

“Your goal should never be starting a company. Focus on the change you want to make, find people who share your same purpose and eventually you may have an opportunity to build something that helps create purpose for others and has a positive impact on the world.”

Mark Zuckerberg

“There is a myth that being successful demands giving up commonsense values; integrity, generosity, courage, empathy etc. I respect ambition but not ruthless ambition.”

Meg Whitman

“For the economic, social and political benefit of all, the Web must be recognized as a public good”

Time Berners-Lee

“If you are not undermanned, you are overstaffed, and you will never see your heroes”

Jerry Jones

“All I had to do was wash dishes and I could earn $1.20 an hour. That was more than 99% of the people make back home in Pakistan.”

Shahid Khan

“It’s important to have good people around you.

Paul McCartney

“The clean energy economy can happen in the next 10 years. So when I think out 100 years, we’re going to be in a world of extreme abundance and peace and prosperity where people live these glorious lives or we’re going to be toast. It’s one or the other.”

Jeff Skoll

With Love, A.I: Medical Image Versioning To Manage Disease Progression

“A.I. could play a big role in supporting prevention, diagnosis, treatment plans, medication management, precision medicine and drug creation” __Bruce Liang, Chief Information Officer of Singapore’s Ministry of Health

In software development, versioning is one of the key tenets of good programming. One can go back in history using a version control system such as git, svn, cvs etc to troubleshoot bugs, reverse deployment. Wouldn’t it be cool if a similar system existed in medical imaging which can assist radiologists to quickly “see” if a treatment is positively or negatively affecting the patient? Computer vision can process images and highlight differences between two or more images in real-time. That means, a radiologist need not spend hours retrieving, interpreting images of a patient and identifying the differences, with a click of a button on their phone they can see highlights of what has changed between images.

If there was a hypothetical medical imaging versioning system, how would such a system work, how would it be implemented and deployed in hospital systems, who would primarily use it, how would it enhance treatment effectiveness?

“Medical imaging guides the course of much of patient care and is an essential element of biomedical research. From x-rays and ultrasound to computerized tomography (CT), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and positron emission tomography (PET), medical imaging helps clinicians diagnose, treat, and understand a range of diseases and conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Roadmap for Medical Imaging Whitehouse.gov

Internet Working Group for Medical Imaging (IWDMI) defined the above as the four key pieces for better healthcare through effective medical imaging. I’m particularly interested in “Advanced Computation & Machine Learning” aspect of the roadmap.

Here is a set of breast cancer images for a patient taken at regular intervals. I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on in the following image but anyone with half a brain can guess that it shows images of different stages of breast cancer and it’s trying to help the physician understand treatment’s effectiveness over time (week 1 through week 20).

For a radiologist to pull such a report, my sense is, it’s not straightforward. Retrieving images from disparate systems, putting them next to each other for quick and easy comparison and looking at the treatments (dosage etc) alongside the images and viewing that over time to get a sense of disease progression probably takes hours if not days.

This can be streamlined and automated using better image storage, retrieval and computer vision. If we can reduce the amount of time to generate this report from days/hours to minutes/seconds, it would save precious time for physicians and might be a life saver for the patient.

In this series, next we will see where the current art is on this issue and subsequently look at the possibilities of using latest Computer Vision (CV) techniques to save time for Radiologists and Pathologists.

Think Before You Talk, Feel Before You Judge

“We’re here on this planet to help each other, if we don’t love all then what’s the point, if we don’t serve all then what’s the point, if we can’t help all then there is no purpose” __Mahi SB

Love For All by Mahi SB

Think before you talk,

Feel before you judge,

Love for all,

No one ever thinks why do you do this,

Cant you just be respectful now,

You should think about other people’s feelings,

Why make messes and all these other dealings,

Put it to a stop, lets just love each other.

Why is it so hard why can’t 

They tell, they’re hurt in me

Like nobody else,

And god loves me no matter what.

No more falling apart,

No more doubting yourself,

We’re here on this planet to help each other,

If we don’t love all then what’s the point,

If we don’t serve all then what’s the point,

If we can’t help all then there is no purpose,

Think before you talk,

Feel before you judge,

Love belongs to no one, 

Love for all.

Aural Culture vs Typed Word

“If the whole truth is told, oral tradition stands out as the single most dominant communicative technology of our species as both a historical fact and, in many areas still, a contemporary reality.” __John Foley, Signs of Orality

Johannes Gutenberg ushered in the era of printing press and movable type around the year 1439. Thanks to him I’m able to write this blog but what intrigues me is why did we go from aural tradition to written tradition in the first place. What were the problems with aural methods that were addressed by printed word?

Johannes Gutenberg
Source: wikipedia.org

How did people transfer knowledge, news, gossip before printing was a thing? Handwritten manuscript was the prevalent method for writing and sharing ideas. However, the most popular method of transferring, sharing ideas with one another was through oral communication.

“If the whole truth is told, oral tradition stands out as the single most dominant communicative technology of our species as both a historical fact and, in many areas still, a contemporary reality.”

__John Foley, Signs of Orality

In ancient India, scriptures, folklore, stories were mainly transmitted orally. It is widely believed that srutis of Hinduism (Vedas) were never written down but have been transferred from generation to generation solely orally. Signs of that can be seen even today in the way music is taught in North India, Hindustani music, which is the main focus of one of the four vedas, Samaveda. The notations, structure of the composition (Raaga) and the Chalan (movements and interconnections between various notes) are some of the aspects that are still transferred between the Guru and Sishya in the so called Guru-Sishya-Parampara in oral methods.

“The Vedic texts were orally composed and transmitted, without the use of script, in an unbroken line of transmission from teacher to student that was formalized early on. This ensured an impeccable textual transmission superior to the classical texts of other cultures; it is, in fact, something like a tape-recording… Not just the actual words, but even the long-lost musical (tonal) accent (as in old Greek or in Japanese) has been preserved up to the present.”

— Michael Witzel

In Greece, it’s believed that Homer’s epic poetry (Lliad and Odyssey) was primarily composed, performed and transmitted orally.

Are we getting back to oral/aural mode of transmitting ideas more so than written script? This brings me to the point I’m trying to make with this writeup, if we can speak and the machines can understand and converse with us just like humans, if not better than humans, would oral communication become the predominant way we transmit ideas, commands, conversations?

If we can talk to the TV, talk to the garage door, talk to the thermostat and listen to books, listen to magazines, make annotations using audio markers rather than visual markers, you get the point, If I can talk to my phone and it can talk back to me (as Turing dreamed of), would we still want to type or read? or would we rather talk and listen?. What do you think?

Sources:

With Love, A.I: Speaking Sense

“Alexa and Google Duplex are not perfect but so are humans, only difference is, Alexa and Duplex are making great strides forward”

During the years 2008-11 I had worked at a healthcare IT company that used Automated Speech Recognition (ASR), Speech-to-Text (STT) and Text-to-Speech (TTS) software to automate collecting insurance information from members on behalf of health insurance companies in the US e.g. Blue Cross, United.

Speaking to technology, as if you are chatting with a human, has been the holy-grail of digital user interface design and I believe we are in the golden age of speech recognition.

Speech recognition will become so ubiquitous that we wouldn’t have to type to chat with friends and family, in any language, or speak to an automated voice assistant that doesn’t understand what you are saying even after repeating 5 times. We would never have to fumble through many similar looking buttons on your TV remote to watch the show you want to watch, from any streaming app. It will be accomplished by a simple voice command, as if summoning a human assistant to find and play the show from Netflix for you.

source: wired.com

Alexa And Duplex Are Not Perfect But So Are Humans

In 2017, when I spoke to my Alexa at home in Telugu (my mother tongue), it was missing what I said 9 out of 10 times but now in 2019 it’s already faring a lot better, magic of NLP in the cloud. I’d say it’s still far from perfect but not 1 out of 10, may be a 5!

Typing in non-english language into your iMessage or WhatsApp requires installing a language keyboard, finding several key combinations to type a single word, it’s not easy. Imagine simply speaking to the chat bot and it types the text in a language of your choice effortlessly. Imagine being able to communicate with a tourist in english while she sees text on her phone in her language instantly. It’s already possible to a large extent, with assistants like Google Duplex we are well on our way to this “utopian” world where language is not a barrier to communication any more.

Here is the sample google duplex making a call to reserve a spot at a hair salon, not bad ha?

Google Duplex

Sources:

Lessons From People No Smarter Than You

“Business isn’t all that complicated. If someone is out in the desert walking around, they’re going to be thirsty. You just have to ask them what they wan to drink. If you have the humility to listen to other people rather than just hawking stuff, you are going to have a loft of customers”

ARTHUR BLANK

“I always try to maintain a sense of reality and ensure that I surround myself with people, who understand the times in which we live”

GEORGIO ARMANI

“I have always chosen to ignore the conventional wisdom in favor of the ideas that interested me”

SEAN PARKER

“My biggest mistake was that I always sold stocks way too early. Selling your winners and holding your losers is like cutting the flowers and watering the weeds.”

PETER LYNCH

“Find a good business – and one that I an understand why it’s good – with a durable competitive advantage, run by able and honest people and available at price that makes sense.”

WARREN BUFFETT

“There’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. If you can increase your potential 10% 20% or 30% by enhancing your talents, they can’t tax it away. Inflation can’t take from you. You have it the rest of your life”

WARREN BUFFETT

“One must continuously go through learning curves to stay relevant. A part of learning is done through reading, and the other part, which likely more important, is talking with bright minds, from different fields – scientists, writers, policymakers, philosophers etc.”

NEIL SHEN

“What I want to do really is leave something of value”

OPRAH WINFREY

“If you are present and awake, you become this great thinker, this great worker. You become a fine-tuned machine. Yogis refer to the state of yoga, which is the same as Heaven on Earth.”

RUSSELL SIMMONS