Random Thoughts Collection #1

  1. A nation’s infrastructure is a representation of its wealth and management. Singapore government constantly repairs or repave our roads because it is necessary. A failing infrastructure will cost the nation millions if not billions of dollars. Try imagining poorly maintained roads resulting in traffic accidents or goods tumbling off transport vehicle
  2. I never liked working on legacy systems with limited budget. It feels restrictive… Stifling…maybe part of it is because I wasnt there to build it… Thus never get to see it grow up… So yeah….hate to work on somebody’s stuff
  3. You pay money to subscribe to a service. And then you come with an expectation of how the service should be. So if there’s something wrong you’ll get upset and wonder why you even pay for that service. And if the customer support goes the extra mile, you are happy. It’s the same thing as being an employee. The concept is exactly the same. The company pay you for a service and therefore they expect to get their money worth. So does it make sense for company to continue to pay you for poor service? Are you as the service provider even worth the kind of money?
  4. Glass half full or half empty. Neither. It is simultaneously full and empty.
  5. In your writing, it is necessary to achieve a balance between your privacy, authenticity and vulnerability. You don’t want to be revealing too much details about your life but reveal enough to show that it’s real.

Journal #287

I will start off my journal with the following quote about design. The quote speaks to me and reflects very well about how I feel about working on something, no matter how small or trivial it is:

“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.” – Saul Bass

What happened

While having my breakfast, I went about reading several articles on Medium.

The first article talks about when writing code is a waste of time. That is extremely useful for me because I’m someone who likes to rewrite codes just because I don’t like what I created previously or I hate what someone created. So that article helps me better evaluate when is the best time to rewrite and when not to. But I’m still a highly emotive person so my feelings may just overwrite everything when it comes to the actual situation.

The second article talks about The Myth of the “Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of None”. Because of my recent shift to doing more creative stuff instead of pure engineering, that article is particularly insightful and helpful for me. It served to reinforce that I am on the right track and my innate interest in so many fields, even if it’s theory, is very useful and can aid in me doing design.

After breakfast, I had a shower and brushed my teeth. I switched up what I wear. Originally, I kept wearing the same set of olive green flannel shirt and black chino pants to work. Today, I went full black by wearing a black checkered flannel shirt instead.

In case you are wondering, I’m still living a minimalistic lifestyle because of two things: Focus and Essentials

Instead of going to office, I went to the customer’s office to do some deployment. Yesterday, I mentioned that I didn’t prepare the ClickOnce package properly. Today, it turns out I could just install the application as per usual and then change the configuration file locally. The application works as intended.

Throughout the day, it was all about troubleshooting issues found and getting the whole system functioning again.

However, I found most of my time spent just waiting around for either my colleague to finish their part or for the sub-contractor to finish fixing some stuff. In the meantime, I got a pretty big backlog of development work that I need to do. This “going to site” is just not an effective use of my time. And from what I know, we are simply rushing to meet some arbitrarily deadline set by management with insufficient manpower.

We also went to lunch separately so that our chairs and table don’t get taken away by other contractors from other companies who are working on other projects for the customer. After all, we are always in the datacenter and there are limited furnitures for us to use. It is also more effective in a way because we don’t need to wait for the customer to have someone around to help us unlock the physical server racks after we lock them up when we step away.

Work ended early at 5.30 and by then, I’m confident that the things that I need to do are done. Tomorrow I’m so staying in office to do my development. Someone else can go over instead.

Another thing that happened was my colleague commenting on another colleague about her approach to work. All I did was just nod and listen with the occasional smile. For me, I will let the end result of whatever work done to be the best example. My team lead shall be the best judge and let him decide. I will just focus on doing what I enjoy doing.

What am I watching

I went and watched Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars on iTunes after coming across it when I was looking for something to watch. It costed me $20 to buy on iTunes and there was no rent option. It wasn’t on Netflix either. Despite all that, I enjoyed watching the show.

How I feel

I had mixed feelings today.

I felt bored because of troubleshooting. I always preferred creation and then perfecting whatever creation that I have done.

I felt irritated by the fact that I am wasting time when I could be writing more codes and doing design.

Yet, I’m also tired from the long day at work. I’m happy too because I finally got around to write bits and pieces of my novel. Finally, there’s some achievement there.

State of my novel writing

As I have recently started working on my novel with whatever time I can find, I think I should mention a little about it.

I’m just not someone who plans his work out in advance. I write based on how I feel like doing at that time or whatever inspiration that struck. Thus far, even though the novel is a science fiction novel, I didn’t focus on creating the world and the technology. Instead, I focus on relationship; specifically, the relationship of two main characters and how it evolved. I didn’t have an exact chronological order. I just write in a way that’s most intuitive to me.

A thought on improving voice user interface while ensuring privacy

Voice user interface is going to be one of the ways we interact with our devices as we go about our daily lives. It is just a very intuitive way for us because we communicate primarily via voice with text and images to complement.

But there still are various problems that need people to work on them to improve the overall experience. One of it is related to how the AI behind voice user interface can interact with us more naturally, like how we interact with fellow human beings.

A premium Medium article written by Cheryl Platz got me thinking about that. It also covered a little on privacy and why it is a contributing factor that make it difficult for current generation of AIs to speak more naturally and understand the context when we speak. Unless, companies don’t give a shit about our privacy and start collecting even more data.

In this article, I am going to share what I thought could help improve the AI and ensure user privacy.

Current Implementations and Limitations

What an AI needs to be better at understanding and responding in ways most useful to us are processing power, a good neural network that allows it to self-learn, and a database to store whatever it has learnt.

The cloud is the best way for an AI to gain access to a processing power and huge enough database. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft offer cloud computing and storage services via their AWS and Azure platform respectively at very low cost. Even Google offers such services via their Compute Engine.

The problem with the cloud is reduced level of confidence when privacy is involved. Anything you store up there is vulnerable, available for retrieval through security flaws or misconfigurations. Companies could choose to encrypt those data via end-to-end encryption to help with protect user’s privacy but the problem is the master keys are owned by said companies. They could decrypt those data whenever they want.

Or you could do it like what Apple did with Siri, storing data locally, and use Differential Privacy to help ensure anonymity but it reduces the AI capabilities because it doesn’t have access to sufficient amount of personal data. Two, Siri runs on devices like Apple Watch, iPhones and iPads, which could be a problem when it comes to processing and compute capabilities, and having enough information to understand the user.

Although those devices have more processing power than room-sized mainframes from decades ago, it’s still not enough, energy-efficiency and capability wise, to handle highly complex neural networks for better experience with voice user interfaces.

Apple did try to change that with its A11 Bionic SoC that has a neural engine. Companies like Qualcomm, Imagination Technologies, and even NVIDIA are also contributing to increase local processing power with energy efficiency for AI through their respective CPU and GPU products.

Possible Solution

The work on the hardware by companies should continue so that there will be even more powerful and energy efficient processors for AI to use.

In addition to that, what we need is a standard, wireless-based protocol (maybe bluetooth) for the AI on our devices, irrespective of companies, to talk to each other when they are near to each other and in our home network. This way, the AI on each of those devices can share information and perform distributed computing, thereby improving its accuracy, overall understanding of the user, and respond accordingly.

A common software kernel is also necessary to provide different implementation of neural network a standardized way of doing distributed computing efficiently and effectively.

So now, imagine Siri talking to Alexa, Google Assistant or even Cortana via this protocol and vice versa.

Taking privacy into account, information exchanged via this protocol should be encrypted by default with keys owned only by the user. Any data created or stored should only reside on device also encrypted and nowhere else. Taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, the generated keys should come from some kind of hardware-based “Secure Enclave”.

To further improve the neural network, Differential Privacy should be applied on any query or information sent by the AI to the cloud for processing.

Conclusion

The above is really just a thought of how current the AIs powering voice user interfaces can be improved.

At the end, it’s really up to the companies to decide if they want to come together and improve all our lives taking into account our privacy and security.

Thought Snapshot #3

Snippet #1

It’s very simple really. If you need to buy something with your credit card or on installment plan, then you are too poor to buy it. You can’t afford it. So don’t buy it. The only time you can afford it is when you can pay the full amount upfront.

Snippet #2

You work so hard to earn the money just so that you can compare with people around you by filling your life with things. When your health start failing you, you start spending the money you have earned for the purpose of comparison. At the end of it, you have no things to speak of, no health to speak of, and no wealth to speak of. You are better off dead.

Snippet #3

What’s the worse thing that could happen to a writer? A writer’s block brought on by his own incompetence and lack of exposure.

Thought Snapshot #2

Snippet #1

Being un-busy doesn’t mean not doing any shit. It simply means doing the things that matter, the things that are essentials. Everything else is just noise. Don’t clogged up your calendar.

Snippet #2

Alcohol is a useful substance that help me minimise or neutralise my neuroticism. It remove my automatic, excessive self-control and allow me to be freer, happier, more extroverted.

Snippet #3

People put money on-top of everything else. I put environment conservation on-top. Thus I recycle.

Thoughts Snapshot #1

Introduction

Every day, from time to time, I would have these thoughts or comments about the world that I will publish straight to my Facebook account. But since my Facebook is mostly private, I decided to consolidate and share these thoughts or comments with the world as a snapshot entry. Previously, I have always published them as collections of random thought snippets under the Journal category. Now, I felt that they should be in their own category on my blog. In some cases, you may find that they are more suitable as a journal entry but I prefer to keep them as pure as they come. And if I don’t write them down somewhere, they are lost forever until one day, if I’m lucky, I will remember them.

Snippet #1

Most software companies aren’t design driven. They always apply engineering thinking to everything. They are all about the tangible output, fast cash, and I think that is why these companies are not amongst the most valuable companies in the world. It is especially so of system integrators. They will remain that way until they shut down, go out of business or bought over. They don’t bring to the table solutions that cover the emotive aspect of how one might use a piece of software. It shows. Humans intuitively know whether tender loving care (TLC) was applied to a product they buy. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with being pragmatic, being all about the objectives but your end product could become way more valuable to the “normal” people you are selling your product to. It is the subjective experience that will bring the most money in.

Snippets #2

An ex-colleague saw me today and commented how much happier I look. I’m happier than ever before because I remain steadfast to my values, doing things and acting in accordance to my own value system. To the people around me, you will also get something tangible. E.g. if I’m happy at work, my output is consistent and stable. If I’m happy with life, you get more smiley face or more jovial actions from me. But if you step on any of my values, everything flips. So, to external parties, the equation is simple and very easy to balance.

Snippets #3

If you want to get a LV bag, do you complain about the price? If you want to get a Rolex, do you complain about the price? Apple products are the Rolexes or LVs of the technology world. You want it, then shut up and pay for it or don’t buy it.

Snippets #4

Want to do product design or design a great user experience? Make sure you have an enthographer or someone with background in anthropology giving advice.

Snippets #5

It’s perfectly alright if you want to spend up to 14 hours every day, Monday to Sunday working. But don’t complain after when everything else in your life starts falling apart and you feel extremely miserable. Like someone smarter, more hardworking, and tried stuff, compared to me, once said, “You pick up the boulder, you can put it down any time you want.”

Journal #171 – Random Snippets of Thoughts

Thought # 1

It is not the drug that make drug addicts but it is the need to escape reality, the real “world”. The real world is both sad and happy, violent and peaceful, greedy and charitable, and so on and so forth. So full of contradiction and some of us, humans, just couldn’t navigate, even more so in this hyper-connected world.

Thought # 2

Sometimes practicality and pragmatism forces you to ignore what your heart tells you. So you went and do what is practical. Do what is pragmatic. You made a choice and through that choice, you forgot what your heart told you. Over time, maybe over ten years, maybe over twenty, it doesn’t matter, those emotions bubble up and tear you apart from the inside. The longer you ignore that, the more miserable you feel. All in the name of practicality and pragmatism.

Thought # 3

I consume so I create. I am a processor.

Thought #4

Art works are censored because the people doing the censor or allowing the censor to happen are not willing to allow certain truths or another person’s reality to interfere with their own reality or perception. They are afraid.

Thought #5

There is only one truth in life. All of us will die with regret if we don’t do what our hearts tell us to, try new things or have new experiences. Even those who crave stability, security or certainty, should still go and do what you desire to do when that desire come to you. It’s that simple but not easy. You need to ignore that innate nagging that you need to be safe, be secure or be certain. I know because I am such a person. I’m struggling against this nature so that I don’t die with regret. Have a rough plan, put in place some basic safety mechanism (can be money, housing, clothing or food) and go execute that plan.

Thought #6

Being alone in the now is so important. Just like I decided to put away my headphones, stop watching Netflix. And listening to Spotify, and go for lunch alone. I’m sitting here waiting for my lunch to be ready, and I’m just staring at a wall with some sort of painting that has lots writing. It allows me to think, to create ideas, and then I write them down.

Daily Journal – Jun 28, 2017

This is my 88th journal.

For a moment there, I didn’t quite know how I want to start. My personal life has gotten pretty boring in my view as of late. So maybe let me just share some thoughts instead and see how it goes.

There are two kinds of content which I feel need to be improved on, which are necessary to improve readership. On a personal level, I prefer textual stuff. It allows my imagination to run wild. Art works and drawings kind of take that away because you are seeing what the artist want you to see. Get my drift? Though I got to admit that graphical stuff are important when you want to explain a concept or idea.

Sorry about the digression.

So, the first kind of content involves my own daily journal. After all, this my personal blog. I know I need to increase the number of graphical or video-based content instead of textual content. But I think in order to do that, I would need to take more pictures, maybe even take videos. A friend of mine invited me to a musical/performance event. I’m still trying to decide if I want to go or not. Get out of my comfort zone again??? That might be a good chance to practice my photography skills and get some content for this.

Another kind of content is those involving teaching. I mean I have a stronger background in programming, software development and design compare to other skills which I am currently exploring and attempting to learn, namely drawing, cooking, and copywriting. So I suppose I should start doing more content on those.

Anyway, I just want to add that writing a daily journal is about establishing some kind of discipline and routine. Even if just writing a single line saying, “I’m busy”, is as important as writing a multi-paragraph entry.

But these days, I suppose youngsters don’t read. They prefer cat pictures.

Now now, just like that, I have multi-paragraphs and I mentioned that I wasn’t sure how to start in my first paragraph.

For work today, I went to the customer office and conducted SIT. Spent the whole day there. Had lunch by myself, which I usually do on weekends anyway. Though it can be quite a sad thing.

Something of note is that my boss removed me from many of the slack channels that I was on. Kind of a relief in a way. That means that I didn’t need to care so much anymore. I can devote more brain power to other stuff and just do whatever task that’s left.

Remember yesterday I mentioned that I signed up for a drawing course? I forgot to include the link to what I was talking about. So here it is.

The drawing course by Rich Graysonn. I came across it through the Singapore’s SkillsFuture platform where you can sign up for courses to upgrade yourself. It was an initiative by the Singapore government so that Singaporeans are ready to take on the future work.

In my personal opinion, it is a good attempt but in light of a world that will be highly driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), whatever skills Singaporeans in general will acquire will fall short.

My questions to Singaporeans and the government are very simple: What problem will there be that an extremely advanced AI or robotics can’t solve? What do Singaporeans in general have to offer that people from nations where they are leaders in AI and Robotics don’t have?

The world order will change. United States and China will be the leaders in AI. Their economies will be increasingly driven by that.

In my opinion, seeing how small Singapore is, the lack of local specialists, and that the people here are all about “management”, “outsourcing”, and our population is falling due to low birth-rate, I doubt we can even survive. Smart-nation probably can free up some human resource to do “intelligent” work but there just isn’t enough of us (locals).

Here I conclude my journal for today.