That Was The Week That Was: 29th March to 4th April 2023

The one in which I did finally get back to work.

Delhi, India

I'm really late in publishing my weekly updates two weeks in a row now. I hope this doesn't become a pattern. 😓 🤞🏽

After last week's failed efforts to get back to work, I am quite happy to report that this week was fairly productive. While I didn't meet my goal of 20 deep work hours (5 workdays x 4 deep work hours), I wasn't languishing in the early single digits like the last few weeks either. It was a noticeable improvement (*pats own back*).

I had an important work deadline this week and had to drop everything else to meet it (which delayed the previous edition of That Was The Week That Was). When I was not working, though, my mind inadvertently went to a topic of concern that I had been harbouring for a few weeks—what will the consequences of ChatGPT and Dall-E be on the future of my career?

I've lived with some form of imposter syndrome all my life. Even with work, I know enough that I know that I don't know enough. The more I thought, the more fear started taking hold of my mind. What if AI can start writing code and making websites better, quicker and cheaper than I do? Lately, I've also started writing a few technical articles—in part to help solidify my knowledge (grok in programmer parlance). The situation seemed even more bleak there. With AI writing complete articles with images and code snippets, is that now a pointless exercise? Why should I even bother to get better at programming when AI will eat up all the programming jobs within a decade? Then my mind just started going bonkers. Will I have to change careers again? Should I do something in the physical world? Should I become a farmer? Or should I switch to AI/ML? I wish I had started programming in college—at least I would have had a few more years...

It sounds stupid and even a little funny in retrospect, but it was keeping me awake at night. I was searching the web for good solutions but what I mostly found were echoes of my own concerns. Eventually, I came across a sensible reasoning on a Hacker News thread that gave me some hope. In a nutshell, it said that even if AI could code, it would still need someone to create commands (or prompts) to describe the problem well enough.

Thinking about the requirements and constraints of a problem deeply and turning that into actionable statements is not as easy as it sounds and is a major part of the decision-making process when building anything, even today. Even if the method to translate decisions to code changes, it doesn't change the fact that decisions need to be taken. And I strongly feel that informed decision-making can only happen if the decision maker knows the underlying system well enough i.e. knows how to design and code the system themselves.

I might have completely misunderstood the comment and my reasoning might be flawed, but this rationalisation was enough for me to move on from this question and get on with my work. And that was the most important thing in that moment (as I can't control anything else).

Dekha jaayega. Aane do.

Other Notable Stuff

  • I had been feeling low on energy for the past few weeks (work was also getting affected) and decided to get some health tests done. The results were not good—thyroid, vitamin B12, vitamin D and cholesterol were all off. 🙁

  • I met a few seniors from the NSIT Quiz Club at a BYOB place called Oh Hi Yo in Greater Kailash 3. The reviews online were quite shady but the food was surprisingly good (yet pricey). Pro tip: if a BYOB place massively overcharges for water bottles and doesn't let you get them from outside, carry your own water discreetly in a wine bottle. 😉

  • I had some time to kill in Gurgaon last Wednesday and found a nice and quiet BYOB (ironically) place called Soul Kitchen. It was a good place to sit and read for an hour and a half in the late-afternoon sun.

  • I wrote a short rant about Basecamp not being affordable. It became obsolete within 4 days. 🤷🏽‍♂️

  • I printed more than 100 A4 sheets worth of articles to read. (I am easily distracted by links and the only way I can read with focus is when they're taken out of the game.)

  • After an unlikely resurgence in recent games, Chelsea went back to their underperforming ways in a lousy defeat to Aston Villa. I don't want to say anything else—I've got Angry Rantman to do it for me.

  • The latest dismal performance finally got the management to act and the head coach, Graham Potter, was fired. He did get sacked in the morning.

  • Ankur Sethi, the person whose weeknotes inspired me to start publishing weekly updates, has decided to stop writing them. This news has made me feel slightly weird. But having just started, I don't have any such plans. They take effort but they also have a therapeutic quality to them, like journaling. So far, I'm enjoying this process a lot.

Random Thoughts

  • I found out that OpenAI is not open. The code to their AI-based products is not open-source, as originally intended. Kinda terrifying, no?

  • I just learned about bounding asterisks while writing this draft. I had seen them used in chat messages but hadn't explored them further. Some people clearly don't like them, but the internet doesn't care.

Content Consumed

Stumbled Upon

  • iA Presenter, a new tool to create presentations:
    OMG! This looks amazing. I'm a big fan of iA Writer (writing on it right now) and the design sense that iA has in general. Although I don't create presentations often, the idea of creating them using Markdown and styling them using CSS is unbelievably exciting.

  • ColorSlurp, a Mac-based colour picker/palette app:
    I had been looking for an alternative to Sip for a while. Sip is exquisitely designed, but the pricing model and inadequate support was really getting to me. While ColorSlurp isn't as polished as Sip, it seems to be more than good enough and without the annoyance of yearly subscriptions. Paying for the Pro version was an easy decision.

  • Pika, a wonderfully simple colour picker and contrast checker for Mac that somehow manages to pick colours without asking for screen recording permissions.

  • An amazing tweet by Nassim Nicholas Taleb highlighting the positions that most non-extremists take but is hard for other people to accept as it doesn't fit a simple narrative.

  • An interesting quote about the need to find alternatives to VC-based models shared on
    "Recent weeks have drawn a bold underline beneath what has been clear to many for a long time: that those controlling massive amounts of capital and power in our society are not the smartest, or most level-headed, or most altruistic among us. Venture capital may be the best way to serve the interests of capital, but we need to consider alternative models that prioritize the interests of people."

  • Liz and Mollie, an illustrator and writer duo who create inspiring doodles on the emotions related to work.

Last Week in Numbers

  • 13 deep work hours

  • 4 hours spent excessively worrying about AI

  • 3 times less TSH being produced than normal

  • 39 - Chelsea's win-percentage under Graham Potter 🤮

That was the week that was. Looking forward to the next one.