At Choose To Thinq, we put "learning from smart people" at the core of what we do. 2016 was, by all standards, a pretty significant year in many domains, like it was for us as individuals and as a company. To make sure we squeezed out every ounce of "learning juice" from the year, we decided to bring together some of the smartest people we know. Not an 'offsite', but something actually valuable ;-).
So Saturday, 17 Dec. 18 people. 7 hours.
"When I was 17..."
We did two sets of introductions: one, the boring, LinkedIn headline, introductions. Then the real ones: before the day of Incite, we'd asked everyone to tell us something interesting they had done when they were 17. These were read out without revealing the matching identity. People were asked to guess which person matched which item.
(Notable achievements and non-achievements ranged from "being a 'specimen' in a dental exam', 'illegally crossing over to Pakistan', 'failing an exam', 'creating a hit play', 'learning English almost overnight', and 'winning a trophy and sash by Gaay Chaap Zarda').
"What I learned this year"
Through the course of the day, several people spoke about something they learned about in 2016. (Some just came up to confess they didn't think they learned anything. Which was fine.)
Prajakta Panshikar-Divekar spoke about her efforts and travels to understand the state of the planet, and why it scares her. Niranjan Pedanekar spoke about taking a play to the National School of Drama, despite (or because?) being an 'amateur'. Bhooshan Shukla mentioned this was a year of 'contraction', trying to reduce things to those he could have real impact on. Navin Kabra talked about learning about 'persuasion' in the Trump era.
"What CTQ learned this year"
Contributed by each member of Choose To Thinq based on what they had read or learned about in 2016, this was a conversation with prompts in the forms of quiz questions + stories from the year. Here are some highlights:
- 'Causality is Focality' - from the book Pre-suasion
- Canned laughter as an example of the concept of Social Proof - from 'Influence'
- Is self-hypnosis a quack methodology?
- B.J.Fogg and 'surfing motivation'; plus how to make apps addictive.
- Nudges, like flies on German toilets
- Learning Russian? You are doing the hardest thing an astronaut could do
- Hotels on cranes
- The 4 types of 'chance'
- The importance of the 2nd serve in Tennis
- Did you know that, not only colouring books for adults, there are summer camps for adults as well?
- Why quills make amazing writing equipments
"AI, AI, Captain"
2016 was a year that saw an assault (or, depending on how you see it, revelations) by AI in various fields. AI programs produced art, composed music, wrote sonnets, beat the pants off board game champs, scared middle managers, and took off in cars and trucks.
In this afternoon session, we took a quick tour of the history of AI and how we got here. In the process, we hazarded guesses on what this all meant for us (and humanity).
You might want to read up on:
- History of AI and Robotics
- Turing Tests in the Creative Arts
- "Quick, Draw!"
- The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
- The Competitive Landscape for Machine Intelligence (and why ML models are more like Savants)
- Experiments in the Universal Basic Income
- Is AI Permanently Inscrutable? (and can we demand a 'Right to Explanation' from an algorithm?)
- The "less than one second of thought" automation threshold - Andrew Ng
"'Being Human' a.k.a Surviving AI"
So if AI is taking over the world (in Niranjan's words: "this time it's for real"), what should we do? A bunch of questions based on what some people have recommended that humans focus on.
- Future Work Skills 2020 published by the Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute (PDF link)
- Scott Adams on the 13 skills every adult should acquire a working knowledge of
- Leo Babuata of Zen habits about The 9 essential skills kids should learn
Enough of 2016. ('Out, damned spot, out'?). In our last Incite session, we fast-forwarded to Dec 2017. It's Incite 2017 and we are talking about the crazy year that was 2017. We asked questions on 'facts of 2017'. Examples:
- This was only the third such instance in US political history. It unsuccessfully happened in 1868 and then in 1998. What? (Ans: Impeachment of a US President)
- Sir Alex Ferguson is in charge of Home. J K Rowling is in charge of Education. Sean Connery is in charge of Defence. What happened? (Ans: can you guess? tell us in the comments!)
- Not Amitabh, but Rajinikanth became 'this' in July 2017 (Ans: President of India!)
- This director released a film called 'Money' in 2017, based on the 2016 demonetization. Who? (Ans: your guess in the comments!)
- As part of the Smart City initiative, the Mayor of Pune inked a sister city pact with Pontevedra, a Spanish city. The sister city pact forced a decision that Spanish PM Rajoy (also from Pontevedra) is enacting in Spain to be implemented in Pune as well. Most commercial establishments were not impacted by it at all but one of the most iconic establishments of Pune decided to shut down operations because they couldn't imagine a world where they will have to do this. What is the change that Rajoy is trying to bring in Spain? (Ans: Doing away with afternoon siesta time for establishments. Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale shut down operations - 'hum mar sakte hain par jhuk nahin sakte!')
(Books, articles, and people: based on recommendations from participants during Incite 2016)
- The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
- The Age of Endlings: Explorations and Investigations into the Indian Wild
- Deepa Malik, Paralympian Silver Medalist
- Ben Saunders, explorer
- 'Weaponized Sacredness' (essay)
- 'Our Brand is Crisis' (film)
- Triggers (book)