From child prodigy to AI champion, the second coming of Tanmay Bakshi

The last time I met Tanmay Bakshi, the world’s youngest IBM Watson programmer at 13, he was just a child prodigy. Our conversation in June last year, which resulted in this video that now has over 2,00,000 views on YouTube, was mostly about things that child prodigies are made of — learning to code early, stardom, and so on.

Nine months later, last Tuesday, I got on a call with Bakshi to record this episode of Outliers, and I was blown away. He still sounds the same — one word tumbling upon another, yet each emphasised with great passion.

This time though, he seems to have found a new life mission, and some serious new questions for himself to answer.

How can AI (artificial intelligence) be applied to solve real world problems?

Can AI help give voice to a 29-year-old woman in Canada suffering from the Rett Syndrome?

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Bakshi is now part of The Cognitive Story project, an open source initiative that applies cognitive technologies to help individuals who are unable to communicate to express their emotions   [/perfectpullquote]

Bakshi is now part of The Cognitive Story project, an open source initiative that applies cognitive technologies to help individuals who are unable to communicate to express their emotions. It’s about using AI to give a voice to those who cannot express themselves.

And Bakshi is all too excited about his newfound passion.

As part of the cognitive project, Bakshi, along with the Darwin Ecosystem, is trying to help a girl in Northern Ontario, Canada, who’s an advanced quadriplegic and cannot communicate, express herself.

“She’s literally trapped in her body, and that’s not good,” says Bakshi. “What we are trying to do is to give her back the ability to express her emotions through cognitive and machine learning,” he adds.

They’re trying to do this by analysing her brainwaves, and deciphering them, so the system can tell the girl’s mother what she girl wants and what she’s thinking about.

Some progress this!

To listen to previous episodes and subscribe to The Outliers on SoundCloud, click here. iTunes users can click here to subscribe.

Podcast produced by Anand Murali.

Labnol’s Amit Agarwal, India’s first blogger, on why he gave up blogging

Amit Agarwal is a quintessential geek; an engineer who loves building things. But most importantly, he writes code that solves real-world problems. As the founder of Labnol, a tech how-to website launched in 2004, Agarwal is among the first tech bloggers in the country. A few years ago, he quit active blogging to focus more on writing code that solves problems. And some of those applications, including several Google add-ons, have already crossed a million users. Some of his famous web-apps include Online Dictation, HTML e-mail and Tall Tweets, which was endorsed by Amitabh Bachchan on Twitter.

In this episode of Outliers, recorded at his ancestral home in Agra, Amit talks about his experiences in building solutions that solve users’ problems and shares his concerns about the lack of disclosures on paid content and sponsorships by bloggers and social media influencers.

Tune into the podcast to listen to the entire conversation.

To listen to previous episodes and subscribe to The Outliers on SoundCloud, click here. iTunes users can click here to subscribe.

Subroto Bagchi on how overachievers are their own best friends and worst enemies

This week in Outliers, Pankaj Mishra talks to Subroto Bagchi, cofounder of Mindtree, an Indian IT services, consulting and digital solutions company with operations across the world. Bagchi currently heads the Odisha state government’s skill development authority.

In this podcast, Bagchi talks about the important lessons he’s learnt from life, and says you shouldn’t fret about where you’re headed in your journey. He also says overachievers are their own best friends and worst enemies, and emphasises on the importance of the power to “receive” (learnings, criticism).

Tune into the podcast to listen to the entire conversation.

To listen to previous episodes and subscribe to The Outliers on SoundCloud, click here. iTunes users can click here to subscribe.

Sarah Lacy talks about Silicon Valley’s sexism and “asshole culture”

When Sarah Lacy first raised concerns about “outrageous sexism” practices by Uber and its founder Travis Kalanick in November 2014, many thought she was crossing a line: from being a journalist to an activist.

Over the past few weeks, a series of disturbing revelations about Uber’s work culture and its maverick CEO-founder’s own questionable behaviour seems to validate most of what Lacy accused them of. In fact, this blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler nailed it.

Lacy also points out Silicon Valley’s “asshole culture” accentuated by white males feeling insecure among immigrants and women rising up the ranks.

For many Indian founders and even investors, Uber has been a go-to template for everything ranging from the company’s status as the gig economy posterchild, to its maverick culture.

But are we looking at the right role models? Clearly not.

As I sat down with her for this episode of the Outliers Podcast, she’s like, “I told you so!”

Lacy is one of the most important voices tracking issues that matter in the Valley, and is the founder of PandoDaily.

After two failed attempts at recording the Outliers Podcast with the participants on two different continents, we finally got it right. Well, almost, because it’s still short of the production quality we aspire to achieve at FactorDaily.

To listen to the previous episodes and subscribe to the Outliers podcast on SoundCloud click here. iTunes users can also click here to subscribe.