Looking forward

What are your thoughts?

A couple of my colleagues put forth these thoughts. I am not sure which one is more real. But look at it primarily as a thought exercise. Neither one is entirely true. Nor is any of these false. Which sounds more realistic?

One:

India has progressed based on arbitrage economy. The companies here save some money for their clients and in the process earn some. There’s no real innovation. Infrastructure is very poor and is crumbling under the demands put on it.  Manufacturing sector is not strong. There hasn’t been much progress in the agricultural sector after the green revolution. Per capita income is barely above some of the so called failed states. The IT industry is still more services than products and startups. Education system does not produce curious minds. In twenty years the situation would be unmanageable due to the number of old people. Systems are collapsing. For example, on roads one who applies brakes loses. Nor do people care for social fabric. People keep on harping about culture and values and civilization. But probably it is mostly a facade over an age old inferiority complex. It can be immediately validated by the way they get defensive. People have lost faith in systems and in the idea that they can make the system better. Everyone is busy trying to milk the system to their ends and trying to do it while they can. And such ways result in arbitrage economy rather than an innovative one and long lasting improvements.

Two:

At one point GE was one of the biggest companies and possibly had valuation more than India’s annual GDP. It is now smaller than Reliance. How could such a conglomerate with such diverse business fail? On the other hand Alibaba sells goods worth two digit billion dollars in a single day. In India Flipkart and Amazon are barely getting started. It is probably less than a percent population which is currently buying online. The money is moving. The demands are growing and people are making money off it. We are now more health conscious. We are demanding more from the government. We are going beyond what the government can provide. Roads are being built and markets are more accessible. Forget twenty, even ten years back the picture was vastly different. Think about where we will be in twenty years. A billion people market and that too local is a luxury many countries don’t have. A very few people get such opportunity. This is the best time. And people are disrupting processes and old ways and companies. The young generation, particularly millennials, did not have to fight for basic needs and it has resulted in a growing confidence and hopefulness. Innovation, particularly in Indian context, doesn’t have to be ‘today Apple is reinventing the phone’. It is as simple as ‘a farmer can start the water pump via mobile IVR’. Disruption is that now homes in remote areas has electricity. More and more people are using mobile phones, more people than before are migrating to a different state and the social fabric is changing. The transformation appears chaotic but when people are not distracted by having to fight for basic needs, they become more productive.

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हमने देखा है ज़माने का बदलना लेकिन…

Started writing this post a couple of days back.

काल रात्री धडक बघितला. सैराट आवडल्या मुळे धडक टाळला होता. A few things which were sort of subtle, undercurrent in Sairat were shown in a manner too loud in Dhadak. So overall, not quite in the same league. Didn’t expect it to be.

लिहिण्यासारखं काही नाही. फक्त एका scene मुळं लिहावं वाटलं.

This scene is where the couple is settled in Kolkata and are in the middle of an argument when his friends come visiting. Madhu and Parthavi are both happy to see them and enjoy their company. Now, they are as much her friends as his. Then during the discussion she asks one of them and he says that now they are outcasts as well. That is a very tender moment. Then later in the discussion Madhu taunts her- in continuation with their earlier argument- and she goes back inside and starts preparing the bedding. Suddenly they seem more of his friends than her’s. And she feels left out and all alone. The previous scene is borrowed more or less from Saathiya. But being left out and all alone part was shown very well. I liked it a lot.

Plum

He was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when!’

….

There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.

….

“Reflect what proposing means. It means that a decent, self-respecting chap has got to listen to himself saying things which, if spoken on the silver screen, would cause him to dash to the box-office and demand his money back.”

….

“It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that caused A.B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead and the lion thought it wasn’t.”

 

….

That’s My Favorite English Author For You

When You Become The Music

I finished reading the book The Inner Life of Animals: Surprising Observations of a Hidden World https://www.amazon.in/Inner-Life-Animals-Surprising-Observations-ebook/dp/B01N9YNANU

I had read the author’s Hidden Life Of Trees and I had liked it very much. So it was natural to pick this book. I liked this one too. Maybe not as much as the earlier book.

The author talks about feelings, pains, memories, etc. in animals and birds. And things like consciousness, too. For example, he talks about things like mirror test.

I had decided not to underline anything in this book. The author has a simple style of writing and underlining/note-taking seems killjoy during a re-read. So have not underlined anything as such.

But a couple of things I remember:

People experience closeness due to hormone secretions (for example, the bond between partners is strengthened by secretions in brain after sexual intercourse). But animals also have similar mechanisms. When a human mother nurses her baby, the bond strengthens. And becomes so strong that these bonds can last lifetime. He mentions that in case of goats the mother has to lick its baby dry soon after giving birth. If the slime dries out, the mother refuses to accept the baby. Because the act of licking its baby, and possibly the taste of that slime triggers love in the mother’s case. Then he discusses if animals can learn to love just like human learn to love in absence of natural bond (for example adopting a child).

The book is filled with many such discussions.

He mentions two mares their family keeps. The elder horse is 24yrs old and the younger one is three years younger. These two along with the family pet dogs, crows, goats, etc. pop up every now and then and the discussion is first hand experience with some science background. At one place he mentions that the younger mare sometimes takes her time when they are feeding her. She passes the time running here and there first and so generally they let her be and in fact punish her if she doesn’t promptly come to feed. She does not mind the punishment because on these occasions she is in playful mood. But if, by the time she wants her food, the older mare is there and she’s has seen her, the younger one shies and the author says you can tell she is ashamed of her childish behavior because it was caught by the elder member and she shies like a schoolgirl. (I remembered this paragraph because it was so real- like happening before my eyes- the mare running here and there before arriving for the allotted ration, etc.)

Again, in this book as well, not too many new things. But learned quite a few things. A very simple read. The author does not seem as expert in this area as he seems to be in the subject of trees. But the book is worth recommending.

The internet would not be half so interesting without cats and dogs. Some of tweets I liked on twitter. (The post title is from the tweet below.)

 

 

 

And lastly, a story on quora:

https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-nice-beautiful-stories/answer/Greg-Heynen?srid=X9OB&share=55d9433a

 

Mr. Apricot

काल खूप दिवसांनी कुबानी का मीठा https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qubani-ka-Meetha खाल्ला. होम डिलिव्हरी. आणि खूप चांगला नव्हता. It was not that good but had it after quite some time so… घरी try करायला हरकत नाही. Plus आज खूप दिवसांनी ऊस खाल्ला.

Among other things, The God of Small Things पुन्हा एकदा वाचायचे डोहाळे लागलेत.

Fresh fruit not good enough for you, eh?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Overall the book talks about a lot of stuff. From cognitive revolution, agricultural revolution to industrial revolution and beyond.

Did learn a few new things. But mostly a refresher course of sorts.

A few highlights.

The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, constitutes the Cognitive Revolution.

Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.

We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us.

Hammurabi and the American Founding Fathers alike imagined a reality governed by universal and immutable principles of justice, such as equality or hierarchy. Yet the only place where such universal principles exist is in the fertile imagination of Sapiens, and in the myths they invent and tell one another. These principles have no objective validity.

According to the science of biology, people were not ‘created’. They have evolved. And they certainly did not evolve to be ‘equal’. The idea of equality is inextricably intertwined with the idea of creation.

Evolution is based on difference, not on equality.

We believe in a particular order not because it is objectively true, but because believing in it enables us to cooperate effectively and forge a better society.

A natural order is a stable order. There is no chance that gravity will cease to function tomorrow, even if people stop believing in it. In contrast, an imagined order is always in danger of collapse, because it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them. In order to safeguard an imagined order, continuous and strenuous efforts are imperative. Some of these efforts take the shape of violence and coercion.

However, an imagined order cannot be sustained by violence alone. It requires some true believers as well.

Of all human collective activities, the one most difficult to organise is violence.

How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined. You always insist that the order sustaining society is an objective reality created by the great gods or by the laws of nature.

It follows that in order to change an existing imagined order, we must first believe in an alternative imagined order.

Writing was born as the maidservant of human consciousness, but is increasingly becoming its master.

Societies associate a host of attributes with masculinity and femininity that, for the most part, lack a firm biological basis.

Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural.

Every culture has its typical beliefs, norms and values, but these are in constant flux. The culture may transform itself in response to changes in its environment or through interaction with neighbouring cultures. But cultures also undergo transitions due to their own internal dynamics. Even a completely isolated culture existing in an ecologically stable environment cannot avoid change. Unlike the laws of physics, which are free of inconsistencies, every man-made order is packed with internal contradictions. Cultures are constantly trying to reconcile these contradictions, and this process fuels change.

Just as medieval culture did not manage to square chivalry with Christianity, so the modern world fails to square liberty with equality. But this is no defect. Such contradictions are an inseparable part of every human culture. In fact, they are culture’s engines, responsible for the creativity and dynamism of our species. Just as when two clashing musical notes played together force a piece of music forward, so discord in our thoughts, ideas and values compel us to think, re-evaluate and criticise. Consistency is the playground of dull minds. If tensions, conflicts and irresolvable dilemmas are the spice of every culture, a human being who belongs to any particular culture must hold contradictory beliefs and be riven by incompatible values. It’s such an essential feature of any culture that it even has a name: cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is often considered a failure of the human psyche. In fact, it is a vital asset. Had people been unable to hold contradictory beliefs and values, it would probably have been impossible to establish and maintain any human culture. If, say, a Christian really wants to understand the Muslims who attend that mosque down the street, he shouldn’t look for a pristine set of values that every Muslim holds dear. Rather, he should enquire into the catch-22s of Muslim culture, those places where rules are at war and standards scuffle. It’s at the very spot where the Muslims teeter between two imperatives that you’ll understand them best.

Once trade connects two areas, the forces of supply and demand tend to equalise the prices of transportable goods.

For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil. Be that as it may, money is also the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively.

Every point in history is a crossroads. A single travelled road leads from the past to the present, but myriad paths fork off into the future.

Ever more scholars see cultures as a kind of mental infection or parasite, with humans as its unwitting host.

There is no basis for thinking that the most successful cultures in history are necessarily the best ones for Homo sapiens. Like evolution, history disregards the happiness of individual organisms. And individual humans, for their part, are usually far too ignorant and weak to influence the course of history to their own advantage.

Scientific Revolution

Humans have sought to understand the universe at least since the Cognitive Revolution. Our ancestors put a great deal of time and effort into trying to discover the rules that govern the natural world. But modern science differs from all previous traditions of knowledge in three critical ways:

The willingness to admit ignorance.

The centrality of observation and mathematics.

The acquisition of new powers. Modern science is not content with creating theories. It uses these theories in order to acquire new powers, and in particular to develop new technologies.

Capitalism

It follows that an increase in the profits of private entrepreneurs is the basis for the increase in collective wealth and prosperity.

But in its extreme form, belief in the free market is as naive as belief in Santa Claus. There simply is no such thing as a market free of all political bias.

Industrial revolution

The Industrial Revolution yielded an unprecedented combination of cheap and abundant energy and cheap and abundant raw materials. The result was an explosion in human productivity.

Happiness

What do we want to want?

The Hidden Life Of Trees

Today I finished reading the book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

This is not a book review as such. I purchased the book recently. It is a pretty new book(at least the English edition) and when I purchased it the kindle edition was not available. Now a couple of months later, there is one. (And hardcover is cheaper than paperback.)

A few months back, I read about it- probably on twitter, not reviews. But just that people liked it and how it’s one of the best books outside their work area they read recently type of thing.

The author manages a wild forest in Germany and talks mainly about trees in terms of beeches, firs, oaks, etc. The author is politely insistent that we should protect the natural wild forests and let them be.

On one hand I could say that I came to know only a few new things from the book and on the other hand, I could say that every couple of pages there was some new insight.

David Attenborough and others have made evolution, biology, wildlife, and nature, in general, quite accessible. But still I learned quite a few things from the book. For example, I did not know that when seeds fall from the tree nearby on the ground, the new trees cannot grow rapidly because they can’t get much sunlight and the big trees- mothers- don’t let them grow rapidly but save them from dying by supplying nutrients to them via roots. It’s good for the youngsters. And also surprising was the fact that in forests, there is no grass on the ground. Because hardly any sunlight reaches the ground. As soon as I read it, it was so obvious. Grass grows on plains, not in natural forests.

The book is very easy to read- there is no scientific terminology overload. Thing are told very simply. I like trees and in junior college I hated Botany. Nice statement, wasn’t it? In fact, Botany, along with Industrial Electronics and Metallurgy has been the top hated subject in my career. Surprisingly, after engineering I got interested in biology. But during junior college, I hated Botany thoroughly- those things like xylem, phloem, conquest of land and what not. Probably I hated the Latin names and terminology and once it was detached from the subject- once I started looking at it with curiosity- I kind of got interested. Just to be clear, I don’t go out of the way to read those books. But this is one of those books which are not restricted to students of the subject.

Another aspect is that the love shows. It is very clear that the author is in love with the subject. And any book written with such love comes out to be good.

So go ahead and read it. I am more or less certain you will enjoy it.

The book does not explicitly mention it, but just to kindle your curiosity let me ask you if you know about something called as Crown Shyness?

 

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