Browse Author: dstartupkid

An interview with Mr. Patrick van der Smagt – A man who loves to see connections through research fields!


At the Second Workshop on Brain, Computation, and Learning (BCL) at Indian Institute of Science, we got a chance to interact with some of the leading minds in the field of Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence. We interviewed few of them. One such humble person was Mr. Patric van der Smagt, Director of fundamental AI research at Volkswagen group. Currently residing in Munich Area, Germany, he is also a Chairman of the board of directors of Assistenzrobotik eV, a non-for-profit organisation for assistive robotics to help people. Being an enthusiastic professor in the past and head of several divisions, it was quite a fun to have an informal interview with him. Despite being a viewing generation (than reading), I hope you would love to have a read at following!


As an A.I. director of Volkswagen and being in this area of Artificial Intelligence for a while now, could you clear us what is a bigger challenge, finding a problem or finding a solution?

I am not involved in finding problems, I am only looking at solutions. I know it sounds funny but for me that is the difference between fundamental research and applied research. Like in applied research, somebody has a problem, he/she comes to see you and you say ‘Oh, I need bigger computer, tons of engineers and scientists and I have two years in hand to solve the problem’.  In fundamental research, nobody comes to you and you say to yourself that, I have this silly idea and I am going to implement it and see what it does and half of the time nice things come out (and somebody can indeed use that). Advantage of being in a company like Volkswagen compared to a university, finding a problem to research on is always quite easy. Versus in University, you try to find solutions but nobody has a problem for you.

Do you think by looking at current progress of AI that at some point of time in future it will be capable enough to solve the major problems as Global Warming and Economic Bubbles?

Given an infinite amount of time, yes!

Ha Ha Ha. Cool! Lot of people lack the proper understanding of AI, they overestimate the stuff. So, from your experience, how can someone manage the expectations of what’s possible with AI and what’s realistic?

(Chuckles) That’s a very good question. So, most of the people highly overestimate AI. By the way I don’t like the word AI, because that’s the root of the problem. Because whenever you say AI, people think about human intelligence. We are talking about excellent machine learning methodologies which in themselves are very well defined and clearly enclosed in specific domain and can do some tasks even better than humans. For example, image and speech recognition. You could show that if you write a machine learning based program, it can surpass human level performance to solve that specific problem. But that’s the same as saying an aeroplane can fly faster than a bird and a car runs faster than the fastest animal. Because you created a piece of technology that is fit for that specific task and for that specific task only. But that doesn’t mean that you have solved general intelligence. It won’t be there this year and it won’t be there next year. And I am pretty damn sure it won’t be there in next several years. And it is silly to make these kind of predictions because technology always amaze us.

A.I. basically automates stuff. It reduces human efforts. So, which kind of jobs do you think will be most affected at first because such intelligent systems?

One good thing is our jobs will be the last ones!

Everyone laughs.

I think in administration, there is a lot of repetitive kind of work is being done. And we should be happy if we could automate such tasks. And people doing those jobs will be free for some efficient work. From the era of industrial revolution, from last 200 years this has been  happening. So what we have observed over all these years is that it doesn’t lead to unemployment but it leads to higher employment. Because the people can get off to more meaningful work than the boring work our brains are not made for. This applies for any repetitive work. For example, copying data from one excel table to the next table. I have seen people doing that. And people make mistakes because our brain can’t do that very well. There will be some societal challenges anyways, because the rate of development is increasing and it will be harder for society to take care of those people who will be losing their jobs. But there’s no alternative, right? You guys are holding your mobile phones right?

(Defending ourselves), Sir, they are just for recording the interview.

(Chuckles) I know. I know. But you know what this thing costs, right? Do you know why are they still affordable?


Because, they are made by people in countries having really poor life and really poor salaries. So, this kind of work which is going on right now, which is also kind of necessary to produce these things is not going to happen in 10 years from now. Because, people will start having life. Their economies are booming like anything. So, what is next? Going to some other cheap labor countries?

At some point of time it will saturate, right?

Exactly. So, none of us will be prepared to pay three times as much for these things. So you have to find different ways to keep up the same kind of efficiency as we have at the moment. Because, we have no alternative. Economy is not local to a single country or single continent but it’s a global thing.

Yeah. And what do you think about independent A.I. startups competing against tech-giants like google, apple, amazon, etc? Should they try in this domain despite having some big shots in the field?

(Pause) Yessss and Noo. When people take up on startups like autonomous driving, I think that is a bit courageous. Because Google, BMW, Volkswagen, Nvidia, Baidu, Lyft and many other well established companies who invest a lot of manpower, infrastructure and money in that because of potential of having a big use case there. I think that having similar approaches on small scale is silly. But on the other hand, these investment of resources makes them inflexible where small companies and startups are good at. Startups can change flexibly according to customer needs. At a big company, you can’t do that.

So, if an area is not too competitive there is no reason why you shouldn’t try to implement your small thing and try to make a mark. I have been involved with various startups in this area. There is always a decision you have to make at the beginning whether you want to build a product and go on full risk but have the benefits of scaling or want to go for consulting and have a busy but comfortable life. That is the decision you have to make.

Thanks for the advice. As startup enthusiasts, we will definitely keep that in mind. Next one is for beginners in AI. Does one need to know about complex maths, calculus, linear algebra if he/she wants to start on this path? And what resources do you suggest them?

The number one thing is Do Your Mathematics. Do linear algebra, calculus, etc. With that you can do anything afterwards. Also, computer programming is not a hard skill to learn. The thing is, these things are important to master. But most people do not even know how to multiply two matrices. And you have to know some basic things in order to work on all this stuff. So, learn these things first. And then learning some machine learning stuff is just a matter of few months, not even years!

Having said that, I am really sad that I don’t see a single person at university, at least the ones I am associated with who does not do machine learning in their Masters’ project. It gets so boring. Get a life to something else.

Laughter again 🙂

Yes, we need machine learning people. But we also need the other ones. So, get your basis and then you can switch. In fact I have been switching my field of research on a very frequent basis. I have worked in bio-mechanics, neuroscience, AI and stuff. The advantage being after some point of time you start seeing connections between all the fields. And that is an amazing feeling when you are working on something and suddenly a thought comes.. ‘Hey, that makes sense!

Ammm. I think that is sufficient. Many people know about what you do at work. So, we have some questions about your personnel traits. Do you like science fiction movies?

They don’t impress me actually. I get inspired by more human life based movies.

Which is your favorite book or novel?

That is always the one I just read. I have just finished Paul Auster’s 4321. It came out last year. And oh, I read some metamorphosis by Franz Kafka last week. That is more or less a favorite of mine. Its story is strange having a backdrop of first world war.

The last one, what do you want to build or design in the next 5 years?

There is this American group which looks into societally correct ways of using artificial intelligence. Keeping an eye on usage of these technologies in weapons and other industries would be necessary.


Pro Tip: On an end note, he added that one shouldn’t try to compare different regions or countries of the world. Everyone has their own set of problems. As far as A.I. is concerned, you need have a focus on solving your own societal problems like every country should have. Try to use machine learning and artificial intelligence in that aspect. Society problem doesn’t only mean getting the poverty off the streets, it is much broader than that. That’s like more efficient production, cleaner environment, etc where machine learning or data mining can play a huge role and have huge impact. This way every country can have a significant contribution to humankind!


On behalf of all the students who were interested in the BCL workshop as well as eager to listen what great minds had to say, I thank Patrick Sir for giving us the opportunity to interview him 🙂

Hasta la vista !



She wrote down a beautiful message for us – the people buried under screens!

Holly Butcher, an Australian woman, left us on the morning of 4th of this month. At mere age of 27, she has found something important which we just aspire to search for. She had a rare form of cancer, and just a day before leaving the earth she penned down a powerful letter for all of us. I just happened to come across that post. It touched me somewhere and left me humble and teary for a while. Re-posting it for you guys.

By no means, I own the rights or wanna take credit for this post. Just felt like sharing it 🙂


A bit of life advice from Hol:

It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; Until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.

That’s the thing about life; It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.

I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy.. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.

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-|- The Chicken-Egg Problem |-|

I was just thinking about this. About the movies that we, Indian audience get to watch. ‘Bollywood Masala’, that’s what we call it right? Yes, it is true. A fun fact, more than 75% movies made here revolve around only one genre – romance, love stories. Once in a while a good movie releases and of course, when it is able to cast known stars or celebrities, then we realize.. ‘Dude, we’ve been watching shit all this long!’. Because yes, quality of our movies are drastically reducing down. And we even realize it few times.. few good creations alarm us to review our taste.. once again. But the thing is forget rate of Indians is too high. Next shitty film comes and we fill the theaters or watch pirated so called 3 hour entertainers on home theaters. If someone tries to make a better attempt, keeping it low on casts and costs, what do we do? We do nothing. Did you forget about our high forget rate? We’ve already forgot those clean emotions we got when we saw that last good movie. Or in some cases, a lot of convincing is needed to bring us to those films. Our mind subconsciously judges it with a quote – ‘If it didn’t make it to and on Box Office, it’s probably not worth of my time.’ Ohh, and did I tell ya, probability fucks sometimes!!

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Golu #Episode 3 : Who is Zafar?

Don’t forget to read first two episodes to get what’s going on:

Episode 1: Golu and First Day at IISc

Episode 2: Golu and his heroic love!


“You know guys, we are born on a very special time in human history. We have everything. Literally everything. We have a song for every possible mood like a speaking shadow of our soul. We have every damn vehicle to get anywhere we want in a matter of few hours. We have each and every kind of food to satisfy our taste buds. We have N sources for entertainment for our lazy cortex. Damn, we have 32 dating apps on play store even to meet the opposite sex. I think we are blessed. All this wasn’t there just few decades back. What if we had born few years before. We should thank Almighty because he showered his boons on….”

“Sutta bacha hai kya?”, Einstein interrupted Golu.

Einstein heard no response from other two. So he asked again about the availability of cigarettes.

There was still no response. He looked at them. They were staring at Golu.

“Either he is too smart or I am too high”, said Chinna. It was for Golu.

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Dreams – One way or the other

What passes on is time, and what get spent is us. So before you get totally spent, live that dream you are counting on all your life.

This doesn’t make any sense

But well not everything does, not everything has to.

now I am gonna touch the age old ghisa-pita discussion of what race are you racing in! You don’t have control over your birth, your religion, your caste, the economical situation you get born into and the kind of schooling you get.. nothing. You grow up, see other kids passing their board exams, getting into the college and then graduate, so do you! You are lucky if you get a job among thousand candidates for a single vacancy otherwise you go for something which can at least earn you daily bread and butter, you get a girl according to your stability and financial conditions, you marry, manufacture children, apply same cycle to them and then on one fine day your heartbeat stops.

Well, that’s it. Everyone among us is doing it with or without realizing it. Nothing new and nobody is special.

Oh, but wait there is always a thing that makes you special. The thing you buried down years ago. Your dream. yes!! That poor little thing which you never nurtured. Ohh boy..

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Master Golu : The one with our Hero’s love!

I know, I am quite late to post this second episode of our Master Golu series and no excuses, I apologize for that. Getting acquainted with IISc is not as easy as it is with IITB (and well, that answers typical ‘IISc or IITB?’ question).

I promise to post atleast one episode per month for those who like Golu and for those who don’t, I can’t force you not to be serious for few moments in IISc (pretty much similar to saying I don’t care :p )

Hope you like it 🙂

If you missed the first episode, here’s the link: Master Golu’s first day at IISc

Checkout Episode #3 :

~ ~ ~

“Well, life is not about what you plan and not about what you don’t plan either”, Golu read the last sentence and kept that book back on the shelf in same place and started the recently played song for the 46th time straight. Headphones plugged, he leaned back in his chair and slowly closed his eyes…

“Pehla nasha.. pehla khumar.. Naya pyaar hai.. Naya intejaar……..”

Our Golu was on cloud 9 since the day he got to know that she was in Civil, the department right infront of his CSA. One of his special sources and former intern at 221 B street, Chinna had everything for Golu. On the very next day when he first saw her, Chinna was ready with the report.

“Name? Tanya Mittal”

“Age? 22”

“Branch? Civil”

“B.Tech.? BITS, Pilani”

“Class timings? Mon-Wed: 8am and Thu-Fri: 2pm”

“Relationship Status? Complicated”

“Instagram followers? 504”

“Favourite Food? Panipuri”

“Favourite Actor? Rajesh Khanna”

“Favourite Sport? Gossiping”

“Proposals till date? 16 wait No.. 17”

“Ohh…”, this was Golu. “Well, ammm.. I don’t know”, his heart took a steepest descent transition from 9th to 2nd cloud on the last piece of info.

“Saala naam se hi lag raha hai ki bhai ke aukad ke bahar hai”, someone murmured.

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Master Golu : First Day at IISc


Its been few weeks since I was thinking of writing something but couldn’t get the subject. So, I thought why not to write college life’s happenings as a series. Here is the small description.

Golu is a fictional character who is about to pursue M.Tech. at IISc, Bangalore. I am writing this one as a series of situations, affairs and craziness that is yet to happen around Golu provided atleast few of you like this episode. So, lets high your pitchers and… cheers…!!

P.S. 2nd episode is out now. Checkout:

And so is Episode #3:


“Is this a room?”

“What shit!!”

Golu’s room heard the the voice of its near future owner for the very first time. He was very excited to check out his new allotted after a lucky draw. Golu had sky-high expectations about how his room and other amenities should be, because he was told that by the universe that he was going to study at Indian Institute of Science… Science.. Country’s premium iinstitution!!

“Meh… Premium..” one among the four said.

It was the series of disappointments since Golu entered in the iisc from that library gates. First of all, he went late to the admissions final procedure. After a long waiting, he was done with documents verifications and then he got know that there is again similar waiting list for getting yourself photographed and taking your CSA department ID card.

‘Can’t they just do it across a single queue’, Golu thought.’Afterall this is the place where we are going to work on some optimization problems for making systems efficient’.

And then finally this hostel thingy happened. He got the worst hostel and the room without the company of any of his batchmates.

“Kharab rooms de hi rahe ho to kamse kam batchmates ko to saath me rakho”, the annoyed other among those 4 said.

Its been 2 days since Golu was the center of attraction of the colony. He had secured one of the top ranks in premium exam of the country. Everyone was having very high hopes for Golu’s bright future. The kind of 3-starrer hostel rooms he’s going to live in.. The 40L+ salary package.. Every father will run behind Golu as a perfect groom for tbeir daughters… his gali friends were envying him

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List of GATE Toppers’ blogs


People often say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing!


While I was preparing for Gate, like everyone else, to be efficient I needed to keep my endorphins high. And the quick and easy answer to that is to read the blogs and interviews written by toppers. But, I always found it hard to search for different blogs on google (they might not be better SEOed). So, I thought of compiling it in one post. Aspirants can bookmark this listing if they want. Kindly note that, whatever may be your stream of UG, you can follow some or the other guidance by these people listed here. Inspirational bloods don’t have a caste, age or a branch 😛

(P.S. : You can find mine on

Here it goes..

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Evidences of Rape

Torn, staggering and depressed, I reached to the gates of police station. I peeped in. Two hawaldars were in their chairs, resting. I saw one head constable in the corner trying to adjust his position to make a comfort sleep. I went in.

“Where should I file a complaint?”, I asked one of the hawaldar.

“What happened”, he asked without looking up.

“Amm..” I stammered, moved my head a little to check if anybody else is noticing. But, it seemed that nobody cared about what was happening other than his own desk. I gathered all my courage and told him, “I got raped!”

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You are on time

Time is but the stream I go a-fishin in.

    – Henry David Thoreau

Sydney is two hours ahead of Manila, but it does not mean that Manila is slow and Sydney is faster than it. Its just both countries are working based on their own ‘Time Zone’.

Someone is still single, someone got married and ‘waited’ ten years before having a child, there is another someone who had a baby within a year after marriage and the ones without marriage :p

Someone graduated at the age of 22 and yet waited 5 years before securing a job, and there is another who graduated at the age of 27 and secured employment just after national service.

Someone became CEO at the age of 25 and died at the age of 50 while another became CEO at the age of 50 and lived for 90 years.

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