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Favorite Books and AI-Related Myths: Interview with Mikhail Dubov, CEO of Chattermill, an AI Tool for Customer Feedback

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Mikhail Dubov is the CEO and co-founder of Chattermill, an AI tool for businesses that collects and analysis customer feedback, helping companies make better decisions.

Chattermill uses artificial neural networks that learn from your data and help you make more customer-centric decisions. We first learned about it from a Sifted article about Europe’s top tech entrepreneurs.

Mikhail has a background in economics and tech. He took his BA in Economics from University of Cambridge, and has a Master’s in Management and Regulation of Risk from London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to founding Chattermill in 2015, he worked as a banker, data analyst, consultant, developer and software engineer.

From our interview you’ll find out what books helped him fall in love with economics and learn to see the world in a different way, those that affected how he runs his company, and stories that put his experience in context. Mikhail also talks about the common myths related to AI. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

It’s always hard to choose a favourite book, but if I had a gun to my head, I’d probably choose Shoe Dog by Phil Knight in the business category and Moonwalking with Einstein in Non-Business (but still non-fiction) category. I like both of these because of fantastic story-telling quality and insights relevant to what I do in business and in life more generally.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell us about it?

So many times! A few books had a dramatic impact on how I work day to day (eg. Deep Work, Influence, Rework etc), others affected how I run the company (Play Bigger, Zero to One, The Hard Thing About Hard Things). Still others are very useful stories that put your experience in context (Shoe Dog, Bad Blood, Masters of Doom).

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What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.

I’d have to say, Freakonomics. Back when it came out I wanted to do economics but for the wrong reasons. This book helped me fall in love with the subject and learn to think about the world in a slightly different way. Influence by Robert Cialdini is a close second.

What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path & why?

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?

These days I do most of my long form reading through audiobooks on the way to and from work, at lunch etc. Audible has been a godsend for me. Sometimes I would just walk around a town (especially on trip) listening to a book. Occasionally, I would also read an e-book on Kindle. I’ve completely given up paper books at this point. Short form reading (articles, blog posts etc) I read on iPad, typically before bed, saving them to Pocket.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

No, never have. I don’t necessarily remember every little detail, but the important stuff seems to stay in your memory. If I had more time, I’d like to write book reviews to highlight the most important stuff.

How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people?

Typically, I rely on recommendations from people I trust. These most often come via podcasts, interviews and blog posts, but occasionally in person too.

With the jobs market more and more unstable and insecure, lifelong education is key. At the same time, learning resources are becoming increasingly commoditized and know-how also becomes obsolete faster. What fundamental skills, those that will always matter, do you believe should be learned in schools?

I don’t really agree with the premise. I think people are a bit too eager to over-optimise learning, be hyper efficient at it. But a lot of learning is the same as it ever was. And it’s not always a good idea to learn faster. You need to read, particularly read books, and more specifically, old books. You need to apply the knowledge to internalise the lessons. School’s main job in my opinion is to not make learning boring, so people continue with it afterwards.

What common myths related to AI do you encounter on a day-to-day basis?

  • That AI works like a human brain. In fact, if you spent even a bit of time with a 2-3 year old, you would see that humans process information on a completely different level then even the best of today’s models.
  • That AI is just about a cool result in a paper. In fact, these days 90% of the art is in building datasets, identifying the right problems to solve, calibration the models and other less sexy challenges.
  • The biggest of them all, that AI will leave millions out of work. I don’t know the future, but I find that one very hard to believe based on what I’m seeing so far.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I am just finishing The Five Dysfunctions of A Team by Patrick Lencioni. It’s a rare combination of a book. Full of valuable, practical ideas and yet hard to put down. I can’t wait to apply the learnings with my team.

Links where you can follow Mikhail Dubov or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by Mikhail in our interview:

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