The Five Best Things: Oct 24, 2020


(I should have made it more obvious I was going for the Barbra Ann/GAN joke)

Today I go deep on GANs, or Generative Adversarial Networks. These networks are becoming relevant across a variety of domains - fashion, art, beauty, self-driving cars, medicine, synthetic simulations - due to their ability to generate new data that mimics the characteristics of input data.

The Five Best Things

  1. My layperson understanding of how GANs work - there are two networks trained on the same input data set, but with different objectives. The ‘Generator’ network must produce new examples that mimic the input training data. The ‘Discriminator’ network must then determine if the new examples generated are fake or real. They go back and forth until the Generator network starts producing examples that successfully fool the Discriminator network. I like to visualize it as a game between an art forger and a detective, with the forger getting better and better until the detective is no longer able to tell a fake painting from a real one.

    I found this good depiction of GANs on Reddit -

    Some currently available applications of GANs -

  2. MSN: After His Son Co-Founded Coursera, He Became Its Earliest Student and Completed 146 Courses

    • This article is a profile of Ronald Ng, the father of Andrew Ng and presents a life filled with relentless pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement. Some quotes -

      “These life lessons taught me that we need very little in life to make us happy, provided we have that frame of mind to enjoy whatever we have.”

      “The joy of learning helps keep the mind sharp and allows us to appreciate the beauty of the subject matter.”

    • Andrew Ng -whose material on GANs is referenced above - is one of the foremost authorities on Machine Learning today. He is a Professor at Stanford, founder of Google Brain, founder of Baidu AI research, and an AI investor. He also kicked off the MOOCs revolution as the co-founder of Coursera, and published the most popular Machine Learning class on the platform. A peek into his Dad’s journey helps explain how he ended up with such a wide-spanning career. His dad grew up in Hong Kong and became a hematologist, then moved to Singapore and served in the army, before moving and settling in the U.K.

  3. Invest Like The Best: Jesse Livermore

    • This podcast with analyst ‘Jesse Livermore’ (I explain the quotes below) dives into why the stock markets are back at all time highs, when by all reasonable indicators we are in a horrible economic downturn. He explains, by turn, the impact of the Fed’s response, the fiscal response, capital vs. labor, inflation concerns and the market’s biggest concern being gridlock in Washington, D.C. The best phrase in the whole recording - “We have to heal the wound before worrying about the bruises.”

    • ‘Jesse Livermore’ is a pseudonymous analyst, who publishes a few, thoroughly researched pieces a year. He named himself after a brilliant stock broker of the early 20th century. The internet and podcast medium allows him to maintain his anonymity as he publishes brilliant pieces. Howard Marks’ latest memo arrives at similar conclusions as Livermore about today’s markets.

    • This piece made me feel a bit less worried about the inflationary pressures due to the unprecedented money printing that is going on right now. We know inflation will happen, we don’t know where, but we have the tools to fight it. The biggest roadblock to recovery is the lack of a fiscal response due to gridlock in our 3 chambers of lawmaking. Something to think about with the upcoming election.

  4. History Extra: A Sikh tragedy: the Indian kingdom that fell foul of the British empire

    • This post goes into the history of the rise and downfall of the Sikh empire in India in the early 1800s. It chronicles the rise of Ranjit Singh, who united the various Sikh misls (clans) into a formidable empire that the British East India Company was unable to topple. He utilized a combination of war, diplomacy, personal and trading alliances, in order to cement his power and established an enduring legacy in the Golden Temple. The article also briefly spotlights the female mentors who aided his rise. Ultimately though, insufficiently grooming his son as successor led to the downfall of the empire, as the British were able to spread rumors of the new king being an ‘imbecile’.

    • I love stories from Indian history, especially when there are lessons of statecraft. The Sikhs are a particularly inspiring religious minority in India, whose teachings are rooted in equality, service to the country, and to the community. Funny how so much of Ranjeet Singh’s story rhymes with that of Toussaint Louverture - who led the only successful slave rebellion in Haiti, and Napoleon.

  5. Evolution is so cool (click the tweet below to watch the whole snippet)

Honorable Mentions

  • Intel announced Q3 2020 earnings, and there’s not a lot of good news. Datacenter and IoT sales nosedived, and client computing (laptops, notebooks) are only up 1% in the pandemic.

Job Drop

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not represent my employer.