Michael Shalyt, CEO of Evo.Do: The Value of Sci-Fi for the Future of Humanity
An AI pro, a quantum physicist by education and a cyber security expert by trade, Michael is a big believer in the power of technology to do good – but it’s our responsibility to make it so.
He graduated from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Physics, and earned his Master’s Degree in quantum optics and quantum information. Michael has been coding for more than 20 years – you can find all the details on his LinkedIn profile.
In 2018, he co-founded Evo.Do together with Nataly Bendersky Shalem (CTO), developing AI-enabled bots that play games and find bugs. Their bots are flexible and understand the underlying structure as good as human testers, but faster and more efficiently.
Michael and Nataly spent 9 months learning from the research led by OpenAI and DeepMind, where AI beats human at video games. They adapted those insights to game testing, going from an algorithm to building the product.
This year, Evo has been part of Y Combinator – the world’s biggest startup accelerator, that led to an “exciting, educational, inspiring, often terrifying” experience. You can check out here their Demo Day presentation.
From our interview with Michael you’ll learn more about the books that he recommends to logical thinkers who want to understand the (frustrating) irrational human behavior, why sci-fi reads are important for the future of humanity, resources related to the startup world and sale process, and more.
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
Business – Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. In the book Prof. Ariely shows, through a series of experiments, how irrational human decision making really is – but there is order to the madness. Very important read for any engineer/logical thinker who’s frustrated with how rash, emotionally driven and seemingly random many decisions seem to be. The book shows that often there is a pattern even if it “doesn’t make sense”.
Non-Business – Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. In the book a group of misfits saves the day because they put their mind to it and get a little lucky. Startups are a little bit like that – the odds are stacked against you but you might win nevertheless.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell us about it?
In my previous company we were selling to huge power companies, and the sales process was very long and convoluted. The New Strategic Selling helped me maintain order and understand what is the right approach to every person we talked to.
What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.
My father gave me my first book by Asimov when I was 7. It created a spark of love to “hard” science fiction that eventually pushed me into a carrier in physics and tech.
What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path & why?
My career path was PC kid -> Physicist -> Cybersecurity researcher -> AI pro -> CEO, so it’s quite unique. I would recommend:
- Start with Sci-Fi at a young age, to cultivate hope and belief in a better and bigger future for humanity. Asimov’s Foundation series is a good example, or the classic Star Trek: Next Generation series.
- Predictably Irrational
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Prof. Kahneman
- The series of essays on Paul Graham’s (founder of Y Combinator) blog. He writes very candidly and logically about the startup world – a must read for any new entrepreneur, especially if you’re an engineer.
- The New Strategic Selling – a good baseline explanation about the process of convincing an enterprise to use your product. Skip the introduction and skim through the parts that are obvious, but pay attention to the structure they describe.
We’re interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How do you make time for reading? How often do you read? What format do you prefer?
Since time is short, lately I prefer audio books – so I can feed my mind while driving/eating/doing dishes etc.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I only write down key concepts and core ideas that struck a chord with me. Sometimes these ideas evolve and become articles on my blog.
How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people?
Usually I follow recommendations by people I both respect and who think in a similar way – so the books they recommend “speak in the language” I best understand. For example, most technologists will recommend “mathy”/logic-driven materials, which is exactly what I like. 🙂
Links where you can follow Michael Shalyt or find out more about his projects:
All books mentioned by Michael Shalyt in our interview:
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely
- Guards! Guards!, by Terry Pratchett
- The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World’s Best Companies, by Robert B. Miller, Stephen E. Heiman, and Tad Tuleja
- The Foundation Series, by Isaac Asimov
- Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman