Notes to Myself


December 2017

Something significant has happened around us last week!

Few weeks ago I wrote about Misha Osipov – the new chess prodigy. That was an amazing feat by a human in chess!

This week something equally or more significant has happened in chess. Google’s AI, AlphaZero, developed a “superhuman performance” in chess in just four hours. After being programmed with only the rules of chess (no strategies), in just four hours AlphaZero had mastered the game to the extent it was able to best the highest-rated chess-playing program Stockfish.

In a series of 100 games against Stockfish, AlphaZero won 25 games while playing as white (with first mover advantage), and picked up three games playing as black. The rest of the contests were draws, with Stockfish recording no wins and AlphaZero no losses.

This is a very significant development in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning!

Chess programs and softwares so far used to work as a combination of “Huge database of Chess games + Rules/Analysis Engine +  Brute force of computing power”. So the programs were “fed with” chess games and rules; they didn’t “learn” chess. Of course that was also a tremendous achievement. You should read Garry Kasparov’s book Deep Thinking to read about his match with Deep Blue and the future of Man vs Machine chess.

But Google’s AI is altogether different! Few months ago Google’s AI beat the best human in a Chinese strategy game called Go. Watch a short video explaining Google’s Deep Mind here.

Google AI is trying to develop a general purpose machine learning software that can learn things on its own and then excel. In the recent game of chess the Google AI learnt the game of chess in just 4 hours; not just learnt, it mastered the game of chess in 4 hours! The program AlphaZero then played with another strong program Stockfish in 100 games and destroyed it 64-36!

Look at reactions of some of the best Chess players in the world today

You can read an academic paper on this Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm

The world around is us changing rapidly! Driverless cars, Drones, Hyperloop, Self-learning AI, Machine learning, Blockchain, Robots performing human tasks and posing threat to jobs…disruption is inevitable in all spheres of life!

One can only imagine how these changes would impact us in year 2030 or 2040! Embracing the technology and facing disruption is not an option; welcoming it and adjusting ourselves, and keeping ourselves up-to-date is the only option! Gone are the days when you could leave University with a degree and spend the rest of your life without upgrading your skills, learning new things. You must earn all your life just to keep pace with the world around you! Because now the threat is not only from other humans, but from machines as well!

Remember the Red Queen quote from Alice In Wonderland?

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Good Read – Example of Second level thinking and principle of Inversion

During World War II, lots of fighter planes were getting hit by anti-aircraft guns. Air Force officers wanted to add some protective armor/shield to the planes. The question was “where”?

The planes could only support a few more kilos of weight. A group of experts were called for a short consulting project. Fighter planes returning from missions were analyzed for bullet holes per square foot. They found 1.93 bullet holes/sq. foot near the tail of the planes whereas only 1.11 bullet holes/sq. foot close to the engine.

The Air Force experts thought that since the tail portion had the greatest density of bullets, that would be the logical location for putting an anti-bullet shield.

One of the experts named Abraham Wald said exactly the opposite; more protection is needed where the bullet holes aren’t – that is – around the engines.

His judgment surprised everyone. He said “We are counting the planes that returned from a mission. Planes with lots of bullet holes in the engine did not return at all”.

Einstein had said: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.


I got this interesting story as a forward. It is a very good example of second level thinking.

In his exceptional book, The Most Important ThingHoward Marks hits on the concept of second-order thinking, which he calls second-level thinking. Here is an interesting blog on Farnam Street on the concept. You can also read a Memo by Howard Marks on this here.

One of the important tools in second-level thinking or second-order thinking is Inversion. I briefly touched upon Inversion when I mentioned Charlie Munger’s story and quote of mathematician Jacobi. You can read the reference here.


The above fighter plane story is another example of second-level thinking using principle of Inversion. Others were looking at planes that returned safely and trying to identify which are they should protect. Abraham Wald rightly applied the Inversion principle and thought: “We should focus on the planes that didn’t return, and think why they didn’t and protect them from getting gunned down!”

Another example of principle of Inversion which many of you would know if you are fans of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. When asked about what is the purpose or goal of life, most people would give answers which could be summarized as follows:

  1. My goal is to be happy in life – pursuit of happiness is the purpose of life
  2. My goal is to do justice to my potential – achieve the maximum that I am capable of

Jeff Bezos was asked similar question about his goal and what motivated him to found Amazon; and his answer was very interesting. He applied principle of inversion and said: “My idea was to minimize regrets in life when I am 80 years old!” This is a “Regret Minimization” approach as opposed to “Pursuit of Happiness” approach. Jeff said that giving Entrepreneurial instincts a shot was one of his life goals. If he had failed at Amazon he would have happily gone back to his previous career and would have scaled up there. But he wouldn’t have regretted at age of 80 that he had aspirations to start his own venture but he didn’t.

This is such a novel approach! It frees you from the burden of pursuing your dreams and fearing failure and enables you to just enjoy what you want to do and not have any regrets. Many things could be turned into success if we approach life with this philosophy!

Warren Buffett has often said that his biggest mistakes in life were not errors of commission, but the errors of omission. That is, Buffett regrets the opportunities he missed far more than his investing bets that went wrong. Because, according to him, in many cases of omission he had enough knowledge, insights, wisdom to make a right decision and yet for some reason he didn’t and then the missed opportunities turned out to be multi billion dollar “errors” – which never show up anywhere in the Books of Accounts.


Hope this highlights the power of second level thinking and principle of inversion as tools in thinking and decision making…


Cogito ergo sum

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog titled “I Teach. Therefore I Learn” which was a twist on a maxim by famous French philosopher and mathematician Renee Descartes (1596-1650) which says: Cogito ergo sum. (I think; therefore I am.)


In a Discourse on the Method, Renee Descartes questions the world and his surroundings by doubting and re-evaluation everything. By doing so, he aims to gain a fresh perspective without any preconceptions. Through the different parts of the discourse, Descartes questions the reality and incontrovertibility of his surroundings and comes to the conclusion in part 4 of, “I think, therefore I am.” He believes this is the only incontrovertible truth he can actually prove, the logic being that since he has the ability to recognize that other things may not be the true, he must exist to have the ability to do this in the first place. If he didn’t exist, then he would not recognize not doubt his surroundings. His maxim not only conveys his skepticism of the surrounding world but also explains the only truth he knows.

“I think; therefore I am” is such an intriguing quote that there are many layers to it. The deeper you peel, the more meaning and leading thoughts you can generate!

Though I like philosophy and serious thinking, I also like satire, humor, and, at times, even non-sense jokes! Some friends call me “the funny guy with a poker face”. Anyways, so what I found interesting was that how this famous quote by Descartes has been turned and twisted in some most hilarious and intelligent ways! I liked one, in particular, and used it as a tag line for my blog – “I Doubt. Therefore I Might Be?” It goes with my nature of being skeptical and suspicious about things and habit of questioning or debating everything! 🙂

Here are few more:

  • I think (too much); therefore I am (single)
  • I think (a lot); therefore I am confused
  • I didn’t think; therefore I am not
  • “I think I am, therefore, I am… I think.” ― George Carlin.
  • I rant, therefore I am. ~ Dennis Miller
  • I forget, therefore I was.
  • I drink therefore I am. ~ W. C. Fields
  • They think, therefore I am. ~ God
  • At times I think and at times I am. ~ Paul Valery
  • I think; therefore I am dangerous
  • I think; therefore I am…not here
  • I sink; therefore I swam – a song by John Law
  • I crave; therefore I blog
  • I forget; therefore…what was I saying?
  • I Bing; therefore I don’t Google


And there is an entire parody song written by The Comedian group. It is published on whose mission is “Making fun of music, one song at a time. Since the year 2000”!

Here is the song “I Think Therefore I Am”:

That French philosopher Descartes
Listened to his pounding heart
He thought a bit and he felt a spark
Tingle in his spine

‘Twas then he coined the line

From which
His fame be-gan

That pompous line —

“I think, there-fore I am!”

They walked along drinkin’ rum an’ coke
A little confused, they remembered jokes
And passed around a joint for tokes
In a roach-clip burnin’ bright

They drank whiskey through the night

The big ex-am

Then they cried —

“I drink, there-fore I cram!”

A hurricane someplace far off blew
As he was workin’ wind-jammer’s crew
As the tide bust through a big gust threw
His sailboat upside down

He dropped into the sea to drown

But he was a
Stubborn man

And he shouted out —

“I sink, there-fore I swam!”

(harmonica & guitar instrumental)

He walked up, her back was bare
He didn’t see hair anywhere
He told himself he’d charm her there
Push in-to her open thighs

Felt a gassiness inside

Blew wicked gust-ings from his can

Coughed and cried —

“I stink, there-fore I scram!”

He hears the ticking of the bomb
And works along with a careful aplomb
Shuts it down with a wonderful calm
‘Til the timer’s stopped its spin

Maybe it’s ticking loud again

He’s a
Worried man

His last thought —

“I think, there-fore I–” BLAM!!

People tell me
I’m a fool

To waste what I
Did learn in school

I still believe that this is cool
Writing parodies

I’ll write more of these

‘Cause I
Was born a man

Whose motto’s —

“I think, there-fore I can!”

I Teach. Therefore I Learn…

I resumed my journey as a Corporate Trainer last week when I conducted a training on “Business Excellence” at Adani Power, Mundra, Gujarat.

I liked teaching even when I was young. I remember teaching my siblings/cousins Mathematics and other subjects when I was 10 years old. I enjoyed the process then and I enjoy it now – whether or not I am getting paid or getting any appreciation or any kind of reward.

It is said that when one person teaches, two learn! I completely agree with the thought based on my own experience.

To borrow from René Descartes (and twist a little bit): “I teach. Therefore I learn!”

All civilizations have valued teaching as one of the noblest professions. Indian civilization is known for putting the educators (the Brahmins) right at the top of social hierarchy (BTW, the hierarchy was not based on birth. There are plenty of examples of the same). A Chinese Proverb says “Give me a fish and I eat for a day.  Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.”. Aristotle said: “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” Albert Einstein said similar thing in more colorful manner – “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Another Nobel laureate Richard Feynman had interesting take on Teaching. Since it is not a one-liner quote I’m sharing the link here – Richard Feynman on Teaching.

The best way of understanding something deeply is by teaching it. You are forced to think; to get your concepts right before you present.

I had asked my MBA Professor what they look forward to in teaching. Didn’t they get tired of teaching same Case Studies, same theories/models year after year?

The Professor said that he would look for that “Teachable Moment” which would bring Aha! moment for him and would help him learn something new. Every time it is a different experience; can be made into a unique experience and that’s what all good teachers aspire for. I can totally connect with that thought now. The search is for “Teachable Moment” and the joy of pursuing it.

आज तिचा फोन आला…

आज तिचा फोन आला…

शब्दाऐवजी हुंदक्याचा आवाज आला …


स्वतःला सावरून ती म्हणाली –

” अरे माझे लग्न ठरले “…


ती सावरली , पण तो ढासळला , आणि मग

दोघांच्या असावांपुढे

पावसाचा वर्षाव कमी वाटू लागला …


शब्द सर्व हवेत विरले…


ती म्हणाली ” माफ करशील ना मला “…


तो म्हणाला ” माफी कसली मागतेस


कर्तव्य पूर्ती करून आई बाबांचा मान राखालास

तू …


” या जन्मी नाही तर पुढच्या जन्मी होशील

नक्की माझी ”


ऐकून ती म्हणाली ” आठवणीत

आणि हृदयाच्या कोपर्यात असशील नेहमी”


धीर धरून त्याने फोन ठेवला

” कुणाला अश्रू दिसू नये म्हणून पावसात जाऊन

तो रडत बसला “.

रडता रडता तो म्हणाला….

गेली एकदाची कटकट…

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