My 2018 50-Book Challenge (January)

I know I should read more; but life has a way of getting the way.

I read a lot as a kid, read more in grad school, but have mostly read work-related books/journals ever since.

This year, I set a personal challenge to read 50 books that are mostly not related to my work. That translates to about 4 books a month book-ended by 5 books in January and December.

Well, I am sharing this goal publicly to keep me on track while sharing my thoughts on the books I read during the previous month.

In January, I read:

1. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE – Phil Knight

2. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

3. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – J.D. Vance

4. Introducing Artificial Intelligence (Graphic Guides) – Henry Brighton, Howard Selina, Richard Appignanesi

5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari

I particularly liked “Shoe Dog” and “Born a Crime” because they were both truly authentic. Phil Knight crafted a truly gripping and remarkably unvarnished story about the early days of NIKE in “Shoe Dog” while Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” was one of the most humorous, depressing (for Africans like me), and intensely compelling human stories I have read in a while. It reminded me of Norman Vincent Pearle’s assertion that “anyone can start from anywhere and become anything they want to be”.

“Hillbilly Elegy” is a uniquely American story that reads a bit like a pre-election manifesto. J. D. Vance walks us through his dysfunctional family as a prototypical hillbilly unit. We see the poverty, crime, and indolence of everyone else as a counterpoint to his illustrious and awesome pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap self. I really wanted to like the book but totally disagree with his underlying thesis that the core driver of extreme poverty is personal choice rather than institutional forces. I will be shocked if Mr. Vance doesn’t run as a social-safety-net-bashing Republican in a few years.

“Introducing Artificial Intelligence (Graphic Guides)” was a disappointment. The book simply had no depth. I plan to read a better AI book in February (suggestions please).

“Sapiens” was absolutely fantastic, but a little bit academic. Yuval Noah Harari is a tenured professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and he brought his “A” game to the book. “Sapiens” explores the human experience from about 2.5 million years ago when the genus Homo first appeared on earth to about 70,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens (deliberately?) destroyed the other Homo species till today when we (Homo Sapiens) have completely domesticated the planet. I particularly liked his explication of the cognitive revolution. I can’t recommend the book enough for other geeks and nerds who are interested in reading an accessible primer on human history.

I am currently compiling another set of books to read in February, please feel free to comment with suggestions.

Applying Artificial Intelligence to Business Management

We started with a simple premise: can we develop a computer program that would help C-level executives develop and implement business strategy while proffering solutions to a wide array of business challenges? Can we get the software to do it with the intelligence of a competent human manager? The implication is simple: can we create an AI entity for business management?

Research on AI primarily focuses on 4 key components of human intelligence: learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and perception.

1.   Learning: Our AI entity must learn from previous experiences and proffer solutions based on its learnings. For instance, if manager A performs action X to attain result Z, then our AI entity must recommend action X to any manager seeking result Z.

2.   Reasoning: Intelligent entities can draw inferences from disparate data. Our AI entity must assess business data and tell executives how the business is performing on a variety of business objectives.

3.   Problem-solving: Intelligent entities accept and use inputs to compute results. Our AI entity must accept inputs and use it to answer management questions like “which of my employees has worked hardest (work rate) or most efficiently (work results) at my financial objectives?

4.   Perception: intelligent entities can scan environmental features to deduce meanings and assess relationships. Our AI entity must review management data to identify individual manager’s/employee’s efficiency and effectiveness at their jobs.

It has taken two years of active development to build a system that achieves these four components of AI. Our software is going through its final quality check. We plan to launch early next year and hope to provide business managers with a unique tool for implementing their business strategies. Stay tuned.

Back to Tech

I wrote my first software in 1988. I was 12 and had just been gifted a programmable calculator by a benevolent guy who was dating one of my sisters. The trusty TI-82 calculator provided my first incursion into the tech world. I spent countless sleepless nights exploring the wonders and mysteries of this computing powerhouse with an incredible 28KB RAM (yes, 28KB) and an unbelievably smooth FORTRAN interpreter.

Let me backtrack a little bit. I was a young kid in a really small town in Southwest Nigeria. We had a total of one TV station that only operated between 4:30 pm and 10 pm, and didn’t even have a local library. I had obviously never seen a computer prior to the arrival of this glorious TI-82.

I quickly fell in love with its graphing abilities. I drew and redrew sine curves, binomial distributions, and polynomial functions. Graphing was fun until I discovered that this computing marvel could also develop fully functional programs. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that its operating manual included basic programming lessons which I used to learn TI-BASIC and FORTRAN.

My first project was the game Tic-Tac-Toe. It was implemented with a series of if-then-else loops and accepted “1” and “3” as inputs since I didn’t know how to converts strings (X and O) to numbers for the win/lose computations.

That calculator eventually stopped working and with it went my access to computers. I ended up studying mechanical engineering in college and have gone on to work in consulting, advertising, and finance.

But I retained my love for technology and continued to code occasionally despite my busy schedule.

About two years ago, I started a tech development firm in Lagos, Nigeria. We took projects from clients across the world and built technology that has been used and deployed in Europe, North America and across Africa.

Sometime last year, we got into the Microsoft BizSpark program (https://bizspark.microsoft.com/) and started specializing in the .NET framework. We became a .NET dev firm but have recently started exploring Python/Django.

In the process of developing software for global businesses, we have developed tech competencies that are at par with the rest of the world. We have also developed enterprise-level security protocols, UI/UX skills, and market sensitivities that have prepared us to build our own products.

Earlier this year, we transition to a mono-product software startup with global aspirations. We focused on building, testing, and implementing our own flagship product targetted at the global enterprise market.

We know the enterprise market and have built a product that we believe will change strategy implementation forever. We will launch our flagship product shortly and hope to rewrite the template for African startups.

Stay tuned.