Ishiguro: Klara and the Sun

We are all familiar with sci-fi stories of evil robotic overlords. I’m not into science fiction as a genre, yet I thoroughly liked the movies Ex Machina (2015) and The Matrix (1999). Both movies are nominally about artificial intelligence, but ask deep philosophical questions.

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Ghachar Ghochar, A Novella

I recently read Ghachar Ghochar, a novella by Vivek Shanbhag. The original is in Kannada, but I read the English translation by Srinath Perur.

The novel is slim; it runs to a little more than 100 pages. This is significant, because within these pages, the author still tells a wonderful story. It’s a story that leaves a lot unsaid, for the reader to fill in the details.

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The importance of selection effect

It was the first class of a data science course in the MIDS program. Our instructor started off with a question: “Do you think this academic program gives you a better career?” We gave a bunch of answers, quite the ignorant folks that we were. Of course, is this even a question at this point?! Yes, here are all the new things we’re learning. Yes, the instructors are top-notch. Yes, look at the syllabus and the projects, yada yada … nothing surprising there.

The instructor asked, “Yes, but how do you know that the program is making you better? What if you joined the program because you were motivated enough to apply and work through it, and therefore you’d get better in your career anyway?

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Global Irrigation Map, our capstone machine learning project

For our capstone project at UC Berkeley, we worked with the Department of Environmental Studies. We developed a machine learning model that we continued to improve even after the course term, and I’m happy to report that it is now under discussion to be a published paper – a first for the program itself, according to our lecturer.

Global Irrigation Extent, as per our ML Model

Update Aug/5/2020: New blog post: a behind the scenes look on how we built the model.

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Notes on Spark Streaming app development

This post contains various notes from the second half of this year. It was a lot of learning trying to get a streaming model working and ready in production. We used Spark Structured Streaming, and wrote the code in Scala. Our model was stateful. Our source and sink were both Kafka.

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Privacy in today's age with a SOCKS proxy

Say you are at a cafe, and you want to surf the Web. But the WiFi is not secure. Or say your company lets you bring your laptop, but what if its firewall has blocked your favorite website? Is there no hope, besides paying $15 to a VPN provider?

There is, and it costs about $3.50 per month as of this writing.

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