Hit Refresh

Book cover

One of the rare times I picked up a physical book to read. My father was a voracious reader so we have many books around the house, and this one happened to catch my eye. I don't usually this genre of books, but I thought I'd give Hit Refresh a shot as I really respect Satya Nadella for driving the transformation that Microsoft has gone through since he took over.

This book is a great and surprisingly easy read. Nadella's writing is concise and he has the ability boil difficult concepts down to their fundamentals. Within the book, he tells the story of his upbringing, reflects on how he had transformed Microsoft after taking over, and looks towards the future of Microsoft and of technology. The book has inspired me to research and reflect more in two areas: zooming out and ethics in AI and tech.

Zooming out

As a junior software engineer, my work is very focused, often working only on a tiny subset of a much larger system. It's very easy to develop tunnel vision and lose sight of the bigger picture, like why we're even working on a certain project or how one change might affect other parts of the system.

This book gave me a chance to zoom all the way out, to the biggest picture of all: why even work in technology in the first place. As the CEO, Nadella has a unique perspective as to how technology can really impact the world. When you wield the capabilities of a company such as Microsoft, you can start focusing your efforts on the really big problems.

And it's also the zooming back in. To see how a single individual's contribution creates value all the way up the chain. The ability to zoom in and tackle the minute details, and subsequently zoom out to revisit the overall goal, is what I've been inspired to work towards.

Ethics in AI and technology

Ethics is at the heart of the intersection between technology and people. As we continue to innovate and grow our technological prowess, we need a strong ethical code to abide by. Without ethics, we will experience the uncontrolled growth of technology, and much like cancer, it could consume us all.

"The best way to answer the hard questions about control in a world full of smart machines is by understanding the values of those who are actually building these systems" ~ John Markoff in Machines of Loving Grace

As engineers, the responsibility falls onto us to build ethical software. And as we get better at building AI, the importance of this only increases. We need to start thinking about where to draw the line.

I find Microsoft's three principles of building AI to be extremely helpful here.

  1. Build intelligence that augments human abilities and experiences
  2. Build security and trust into the technology
  3. Build software that is inclusive and respectful to everyone

Closing

I recommend this book to everyone who has a passion for technology and creating impact with it. While navigating the complexity of modern technology, this book is a sobering reminder to what truly matters.