Exploration of an EntrepreneurSHIP

When I ask, “Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?” I have most commonly heard the following from many wantrepreneurs:

  • “I’d like to be my own boss
  • “I hate working late hours at the office and being told what to do, I wish I had a startup so I could follow my own rules
  • “I have this great idea, I am sure it will change the way people do <every startup idea ever>

(Among various others)

However, from my personal experience of being an entrepreneur for close to 5 years – a first-generation entrepreneur in particular – isn’t as fashionable as it sounds in the dream-dimension.

  • You aren’t ever a boss, you are always…everything – the Marketing-Sales-HR-FInance-Legal-Counseling-and-everything the startup wants you to be…Like what Gotham expects of the Batman.
  • You cannot hate working late hours. In fact, you have to ask “what does late even mean”? Forget late, forget the concept of time, you have to be ready to be active and on full-charge round the clock.
  • Having a great idea is never enough. In fact, there is no such thing as a great idea. Sure there is an idea, but there should also be a market, the time should be right and well, YOU have to make it great.

So, what does being an entrepreneur really mean?

The answer might differ from one entrepreneur to another, but to me, it means:

  • Having a ridiculous amount of BELIEF in one’s idea
  • Being RESTLESS in pursuit of the goal
  • Being comfortable with UNCERTAINTY
  • Being comfortable to WALK ALONE. no matter the adversity, the roadblocks or disappointments

To me, Entrepreneurs are much like the Explorers of the 14th century.

They all had a ridiculous idea of finding new lands, setting sail into unknown waters, knowing well that there are sharks and dangers unknown right below, knowing well that the ocean is never the same, never calm, never truly predictable, knowing that all those who set sail don’t make it all the way, but still, setting sail in pursuit of the goal. Relentless.

However, as to the “WHY” part – was the exploration of new lands (the goal) in pursuit of wealth and glory? Was the expedition to stop when “a” land was reached? Or was it going to continue? Always in want of more? I am not quite sure.

However, taking cues from the oft said one-word answer by Mr. Sudhanva Dhananjaya – “Curiosity” is the wind under the wings of any being, and hence most certainly of an entrepreneur too.

Thoughts?

Living in the FEAR of NASH

Is the world growing more and more inward and less and less competitive?
They say tough times bring out the best in people. It opens new vistas, makes people stronger, make people collaborate and work together – as a and for the community, but has it though? Really?
In the last 4 months, the world has seen the toughest of times, which we are all well aware of. But, what have we done in this time?
1. Attended numerous webinars
2. Probably taken some courses (or enrolled at least)
3. Talked about the New Normal many times
4. Used #workfromhome (I see there are around 4.3 million posts with this hashtags as of this moment)
5. Subscribed to…pretty much every mode of entertainment available online
And more of the like.
But, have we ever tried to collaborate…on anything? Or cocreate?
This leads to my point on the world growing less cooperative and more competitive. Being in the fields of Handicrafts / Gifting and Digital Marketing, I haven’t struck or have found opportunities to collaborate for the better, and I admit to being guilty of the premise on which I am writing. And I am sure each one of you reading this article share the same answer when you ask yourself: “Have I done the best I can to collaborate with peers in my industry to come up with a solution together in view of solving the most critical of issues confronting us all today?”
I am sure that even if you did want to collaborate, you’d be hesitant to take the first step, just because of the fear of what I call “The Fear of Nash”.
In game theory, the Nash equilibrium, named after the mathematician John Nash is a proposed solution of a non-cooperative game involving two or more players in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy. In simple terms, if I assume that it is in the best interest of my competitor to not contribute in a collaborative venture, rather he/she is simply there to just assess my competency to better exploit it and win over prospective customers, then in all likelihood he/she is bound to assume the same about me, in which case, both of us, even though we might decide to do something “Collaboratively”, will just venture so in theory, but not share our best idea or be complacent. Hence, this Fear of Nash, which runs through the lengths and breadths of all industries, has turned the world inward and less and less collaborative.
This lack of collaboration has turned the world over to monopolists, to sloganeers and opinionators whose ideas sound real good in theory, but mean and implement nothing concrete, and to conservative-small-minded-individuals who work in silos not knowing if they are reinventing the wheel or worse, reverse-inventing (will explain this term in my next article).
So, given the premise of finding it hard to collaborate, we certainly aren’t making the best of the opportunity, and it surely is proving Winston Churchill’s “Never Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste” wrong.
However, concluding with another one of his quotes, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”
Are we though? And will we? Something to think about…
Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Pick and Speak – 4: Bitcoin

While discussing on the whole Free Software, Open Software and IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat for $34 billion, Dr. Sudhendar Hanumantharao, a professor whose knowledge reaped from corporate experience and academia combined is a treasure beyond measure, mentioned various names and concepts during a lecture. I hadn’t heard a few of those names before, so I thought I’d look them up and share snippets of information with you all, as I do in most of my “Pick and Speak” articles, so you’d be inspired, maybe, to look up more should the interest bug bite you.

Context: Free Software and Bitcoin

Key People Mentioned: Richard Stalman, Eric S. Raymond, Satoshi Nakamoto, Herbert A. Simon, Rober Schiller

Key Concepts discussed: Free-software, Cathedral and the Bazaar style of development, Concept of Bitcoin, Greater Fool Theory, Bounded Rationality, Irrational Exuberance.

__________________________________________________________________________

Richard Stalman

A genius activist and author, who founded the Free-Software Foundation, authored EMACS (the extensible, customizable, self-documenting, real-time display editor), launched the GNU Project (GNU’s Not Unix) and wrote the GNU General Public License, among various other towering achievements. He is the Gandalf of the Free Software world, ever-so-wise, making numerous people follow in his example and leading to the creation of a new shared world. Over time, Linus Torvalds freed the Linux Kernal and it pieced perfectly with GNU, and helped change the world for the better by creating a free operating system that could run on any computer. A lot more on how Linux made an entirely new world possible is beautifully outlined in an essay by Eric S. Raymond in the Cathedral and the Bazaar (about which I have talked in the next section).

Richard also came up with the popular statement: “Libre not Gratis”, which means free software isn’t about it being “Free (Gratis)” in terms of “Price”, but about the “Freedom (Libra)” to “Use”. He describes, in one of his TEDx talks, the 4 types of Freedom.

  1. Freedom 0 – Freedom to run the program as the user wishes for any purpose
  2. Freedom 1 – Freedom to study the source code of the program and change it, so that the computer does what action the user wants it to perform
  3. Freedom 2 – Freedom to redistribute
  4. Freedom 3 – Freedom to redistribute the changes made on the source code

Eric S. Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”

Eric S. Raymond, in his seminal essay says, “While I don’t claim to be a great programmer, I try to imitate one. An important trait of the great ones is constructive laziness. They know that you get an “A” not for effort, but for results, and that it’s almost always easier to start from a good partial solution than from nothing at all”. Or less formally, “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

Eric dubs this as “Linus’s Law”. His essay talks about “Fetch Mail” and how he worked in the example of Linus Torvalds and ended up building a great software. The two styles of development talked about in the essay are as below.

  1. The conventional, closed, proprietary kind, which is compared to that of a cathedral – meticulously picked team with hierarchical structures, tight specification of objectives, systems and set processes, long interval between launches owing mainly to testing and making sure the best possible software is launched.
  2. The open, peer-peer, decentralised, market like style – The bazaar, where there are short release intervals and constant feedback who are mostly outside the project, intense peer review and so on, which enables more and more developers to participate openly and build great softwares, together

Click here to read the full essay

The Bitcoin

Bitcoins, the ground-breaking currency system created by Satoshi Nakamoto, are like the castles with gold in the Hobbit, only no one dared understand it fully. So I thought, why not I give it a go too, so here goes.

In agreement with the idea of Richard Stalman, the Bitcoin protocol and software are openly openly and any developer around the world can review the code or make their own modified version of the Bitcoin software. Bitcoin can only work correctly with a complete consensus among all users, hence all users and developers have a strong incentive to protect this consensus.

“Value” of “bitcoins” cannot be “created” out of thin air or by the whims of governments / financial authorities, which have proved disastrous in the past and have led to hyperinflation and numerous other problems. Bitcoins, unlike the Dollar or pound, isn’t a form of fiat currency that depends only on the willingness of people to use it and put their trust in it, it has an intrinsic value.

Joby Weeks, in a documentary, says that in creating gold, work is involved in mining refining, getting it in the crucibles, polishing and so on, which generates a scarcity value and gives it an intrinsic value. Similarly in Bitcoin, work is involved in hashing, solving math problems, electricity and so on. In addition, the former Vice President of J. P. Morgan, Tone Vays, says that Bitcoin has multiple levels of Intrinsic value – like being unconfiscateable, free in the sense that no one can stop anyone from sending it to anyone, and it depending on the productive capacity of the brightest developers who choose to work on an open source protocol. The decentralised structure coupled with the advantages of Blockchain, makes it impossible for any transaction to fail, get hacked into or shut down. The peer-peer network without any third party governing it makes it more reliable and put the control with the user.

Thus, we can draw parallels with the idea of Eric’s Bazaar, where, freely and without any restrictions, a group of peers work on crafting something great for all. As of now, the only regulators for Bitcoin are Mathematics and Cryptography, and the boom of Bitcoin can be attributed to the level of trust made possible by Blockchain. Divisible into a hundred millionth (called a Satoshi), the bitcoin blockchain enables distributed consensus and builds trust in the system so that any transaction of any type can happen without a central authority regulating and monitoring it, making the it universal and scalable.

Also refer: An Open Source History: from Linux to Bitcoin BlockchainFirst look at the Bitcoin Source CodeBitcoin FAQ

However still, many such “coins” are coming into circulation, each one delving more into technicalities that cross between the finance sector and technology, both of which are tricky and hard to assimilate at once, making it a speculative asset class, leading thus to the next topic of interest.

Herbert A. Simon

A Nobel Prize and Turing Prize Awardee, known best for his work on “Bounded Rationality” (I have written briefly about this in Pick-and-Speak-1, Click here to go through it in case you haven’t yet or want to jog your memory).

In short, even consciously and with all information available, we might not make the best decision. It might be because of shortage of time, which leads us to safely say that too much information will cripple the decision making ability. On the other hand, less information too is bad for making decisions. So, how much if just about enough? I think only those who can decisively tell the ending of Inception can get an answer to that (I’m hoping none).

At this stage, with regards to our topic of discussion anyway, some of us have too less information and some have too much, the former either has skeptics or over-enthusiasts, and the latter has dreamers or again, over-enthusiasts, and then there are those who exploit the best (or worst) of both and profit from the Greater Fool, which leads us to the next concept.

Greater Fool Theory

The greater fool theory states that it is possible to make money by buying securities, whether or not they are overvalued, by selling them for a profit to a Greater Fool, a Fool who is willing to pay a higher price, at a later date. Many practise this and in has past, it has manifested in dire consequences such as the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Similarly, Bitcoin and the whole cryptocurrency, which even though is backed by computing and developing making it possess an intrinsic value, people still have to believe in it, making it both (in my opinion) an intrinsic and fiat currency. With no-one to regulate and the lack of accurate knowledge to many, the number of options and investments in variants of cryptocurrency might increase, and this can go terribly wrong, and if Murphy’s Law has to be believed, it will go terribly wrong.

Robert Schiller – Irrational Exuberance

Irrational exuberance refers to an investor’s enthusiasm that drives asset prices up to levels that aren’t supported by fundamentals. Irrational exuberance is believed to be a problem because it gives rise to a bubble in asset prices, and when the bubble bursts, investors engage in panic selling. The panic can also then spread to other asset classes, and can even cause a recession.

Hence, Cryptobubble, a “speculative” asset-class, can cause a recession, and again, Murphy says, it will cause a recession.

__________________________________________________________________________

However, with the world moving more towards digital payments and slowing weaning from cash usage, with apps like Tala, m-pesa, Paytm, Google Pay and so on taking massive people in developing countries online, the next step might not be as difficult as the first step.

I do not know why, but I am reminded of three lines from George Orwell’s seminal novel – 1984, which goes.

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

Pick and Speak – 3. (Happy New year by the way)

This article started with a random stream of thoughts which finally made some sense. This article is divided into 3 parts: Technology. Economics. Motivation. Each of these talks about a few topics of interest and seeks to add some words and ideas into your jargon so you can have a though-provoking “Day 1” of this year.

Technology

Snapshot of what this section has to say about the…

  • Increasing investments and belief in the potential of integrated technologies such as the Internet of Things. (This article highlights SoftBank’s Acquisition of ARM)
  • Potential problems with authentication / encryption of data from multiple IoT devices and the adoption of protocols to help minimise the risk (This article highlights Single Sign On and Kerberos)
  • Promise of unprecedented security through concepts of Quantum Cryptography and the inferences from the No-Cloning Theorem

1. SoftBank’s Acquisition of ARM

The Advanced RISC Machine / Acorn RISC ARM is a world-renowned chip architecture development company whose architecture helps in rendering processors more cost-effective, reducing power consumption and ensuring effective heat dissipation, making it most suitable for smartphones, tablets, laptops and various such devices. With over 100 billion ARM processors produced as of 2017, ARM is the most widely used instruction set architecture and the instruction set architecture produced in the largest quantity.

ARM was acquired by SoftBank in 2016 for $32 Billion, and the “Why” behind this is truly interesting and is rooted on the idea that IoT will spread / explode as much as smartphones and tablets, and in addition to being the best “architecture designer” currently, ARM has the potential to disrupt the whole IoT space, making SoftBank invest heavily in ARM. Read the article below for more.

http://fortune.com/2016/07/18/softbank-arm-iot/


2. Single Sign On and Kerberos

SSO is a session and user authentication service that permits a user to use one set of login credentials (e.g., name and password) to access multiple applications. The service authenticates the end user for all the applications the user has been given rights to and eliminates further prompts when the user switches applications during the same session. On the back end, SSO is helpful for logging user activities as well as monitoring user accounts.

Of course the security issues of the entire array of data being compromised if the SSO credentials are compromised exists, however this problem can be avoided by proper coupling with identity governance, authentication (shared secret) and protocols such as Kerberos, which is used to authenticate service requests between trusted hosts across an untrusted network.

The video below talks about how Kerberos works, do give it a watch to appreciate the “simplicity in complexity”


3. Quantum Cryptography and No-Cloning Theorem

Cryptography is a truly interesting field and has been, throughout history, used in sending the simplest of messages between siblings, classmates, best of friends to even secrets involving national security. Cryptography essentially involves encrypting a secret message (making it really secret and available for access to one the intended parties) and decrypting it. However, with the advancement in technology and the computational power of computers, figuring out / intercepting a message and trying numerous combinations to crack the code takes but a few hours at max, (or seconds, according to a few TV shows, if you were so inclined to them), giving rise to the validity and necessity of Quantum Cryptography, One-way Functions and so on. Click here to have a look into what No-Cloning Theorem States and reinforces the power of Quantum Cryptography.

What is Quantum Cryptography?

Will Quantum Computers break Encryption?


Economics

As we advance on the technology front exponentially, with investments reaching the skies, there are millions who are increasingly unemployable. Though technology breaks barriers and build bridges, technology hasn’t been yet seen as a “creator of jobs” or taking link from my previous article – “a regulator”, or any construct that looks at an “impact” angle (on a large scale). I was looking into the relationship between unemployment and the economic growth of a nation, and I came across Okun’s law, Misry Index and so on. Here is something to get you start, and hopefully trigger you to find out more.

Okun’s Law and Misery Index

Okun’s law pertains to the relationship between the U.S. economy’s unemployment rate and its GNP / GDP. It states that when unemployment falls by 1%, GNP rises by 3%. However, the law only holds true for the U.S. economy and only applies when the unemployment rate is between 3% and 7.5%.

Misery Index helps determine how the average citizen is doing economically and it is calculated by adding the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate and inflation rate. Various economists like Robert Barro and Steve Hanke have added elements of interest rate, percentage GDP surplus / shortfall between actual and trend rate and so on to help better integrate elements of employment, inflation, GDP among others and aid concerned stakeholders in making macroeconomic decisions.

If you are interested to know more, click here.

However, it is my personal view that the relationship between unemployment rates and GDP wouldn’t be so clearly relatable with technology replacing / displacing jobs, world growing more connected and skills required to be employable growing ever so difficult. With increasing threat of being people unemployable as opposed to unemployment, how then will governments, policy makes, corporation and other entities ensure that unemployment rate is kept in check? That’s a question you can ponder on and I can probably write about another day.


Motivation

Sometimes, what sounds good might be too good to be true, and what sounds too good to be true becomes the truth. All my articles have an inherent theme – “Embracing technology growth on one hand, while trying to emphasise that it isn’t sufficient on the Impact Front”. Here are 2 examples to substantiate it.

Concord Flight

From 1976 to 2003, we had a commercial supersonic passenger plane, which literally broke the barriers of technology and engineering, and soared higher than any other, only to soon face the forces that brought it down to the bottom.

Arunamina Sinha

In 2001, in India, a group of chainsnatchers snatched a woman’s chain and threw her out of a moving train, and no one on the train did anything to stop that from happening. She hit another passing train, fell on the tracks. The train ran over her legs, having one of them totally severed and the other severely broken.

However, in less than 2 years after, out of her sheer confidence, will power and inner drive, she reached the summit of Mount Everest at 8848ft, and proved that even when all odds are against you and the possibilities of success look bleak, you can reach the top.


 

Pick and Speak – 2. Technology as Regulators

This is an article of the nature, “Well, one thing led to another…and here we are”. So, here we go.

One of my professors told in a passing that a short-story titled, “The Golden Bug”, by Edgar Allen Poe, talked about ciphers and set some interesting ground rules on the basics of deciphering. So I decided to give it a read. Like all Edgar Poe’s stories, it did manage to start with a chilly setting and slowly put everything right its place. The story gained pace soon enough and I happened upon this paragraph, at which point I broke the read and stepped from the Fiction world into the Google world.

“Circumstances, and a certain bias of mind, have led me to take interest in such riddles, and it may well be doubted whether human ingenuity can construct and enigma of the kind which human ingenuity may not, by proper application, resolve.”

“Bias” of mind led me to open another window and search for it, when I came across Behavioural Biases, which says that rational and logical thinking on relevant facts are necessary to make any winning decision. However, ideas and opinion guided by the mind and formed by either recent events (Recency Bias) or anchor points (Anchoring Bias) and various other extraneous factors, all of which combined doesn’t necessarily help one in making the winning decision always.

I then happened upon the concept of Deterrence, which says that an inferior nuclear force, by virtue of its extreme destructive power, could deter a more powerful adversary, provided that this force could be protected against destruction by a surprise attack. Thomas Schelling, the Nobel Prize winning economist, says about deterrence – “The use of the power to hurt as bargaining power is the foundation of deterrence theory, and is most successful when it is held in reserve”. However, when everyone has that power, it is pretty much useless, however, Deterrence is a powerful play on the mind. Click here to see a video on Deterrence.

Mind games have always existed and I believe there sure is no way to go around this inherent / hardwired biases, however, for those decisions that aren’t of “fight or flight” nature, or for those decisions where one has time to study, weigh, process and decide, I think keeping tab on the existence of such biases (both internal and external), and trying to separate out the effect of those biases might help make the best decisions.

As I closed these tabs, I was thinking – “I can write an article on this with the heading – How to never make a bad decision”, when I recollected a friend talking about this at the Drucker Forum. I also recollected a professor of mine talking about it in a talk recently, where he spoke about Shivani Siroya. So I googled her and came across a wonderful TED talk, where she speaks about using people’s contact list and call logs to determine their credit worthiness to lend money in under a few minutes. Here, Phone-Behavioural Analysis was used to grant a loan that could well change the lives of people. Again, emphasising on the point that biases in our behaviour, even when no one is around, can influence others’ judgement about us, so today, being true to yourself is one thing, but working towards making the definition of “True” same across the length and width, with room for as less subjectivity as possible, can sure help chart a successful course. Click here to see Ms. Siroya’s talk.

At this point the title of the article changed to “It’s not about what you think they see, but about what you don’t see that they see”. I felt that whether for the good or bad, the inherent biases in humans are good, these biases help balance the scales, help leave things up for chance and give rise to factors of motivation, persistence, empathy and so on. However, people always strive to minimise their losses, leave little room for pilferage and ensure that it is both convenient and conducive to be as close to perfection / success as possible. The app “Tala” by Shivani Siroya, that focusses on lending money in exchange for data are accepted by people because on a tipping scale or money vs. privacy, in most cases, the scale tips in favour of money, or whatever one might be trading off. Tala is soon to enter India too, and this is what Ms. Siroya have to say, “We are excited to bring our globally proven, customer-driven product to India, where there is high demand for consumer credit and a significant underserved population. Tala’s speed, fully automated borrowing experience, and empathetic customer service will be an advantage in a fast-growing sector”. Click here to read more about Tala.

However, data can be entirely counterproductive, as in the case of the Nigerian Scam, which has taken various forms and evolved over the years. That isn’t the only scam out there, however this example is well known to people and most people have come across these personally at some point, hence the example. The play of heuristics and biases on people’s mind, on even tempting the most stable with the promise of grand reward with a minimal expense and effort is daunting. Even from before the Internet was used as a channel, these scams existed via post, telegram and so on. The problem then was that the number of people taking bait was lesser (to a single / unit of scammer) because of the potential reach and the probability of success (to scammer) was low as the target pool was small. The internet made reach very easy and the scam easier. However, data security assured protection against data theft and, firewalls did a good job at blocking attackers, now with the evolution of data science, and with so many choices that make people’s lives convenient, people are either willingly giving away / trading away their data or making it really easy for manipulations. Click here to check out the scams in Australia this year (not particular to Australia, I’m sure every country has loads of these, it just happened that for my search, this was on top). To know more about the new versions of Nigerian Scam, Click here.

People, who are built with biases are exploited by many with the aid of the all-pervasive technology, is it then imperative for some regulatory authority to step in?

This, on an extreme scale, is something that gives rise to programs such as China’s Golden Shield Project, which is the Chinese nationwide network-security fundamental constructional project by the e-government of the People’s Republic of China. The Golden Shield Project manages the Bureau of Public Information and Network Security Supervision, which runs a sub-program called The Great Firewall of China, which is a censorship and Surveillance project project that blocks politically inconvenient incoming data from foreign countries. The site censors content from news sources that often cover topics that are considered defamatory against China, such as Tianmen Square protests of 1989, Freedom of Speech, Democracy, and sites linked with the Dalai Lama, his teachings or the International Tibet Independence Movement. Click here to read more on this. And this is just the tip of the iceberg,

Projects such as “The Social Credit System, a “National Reputation System” built by the Chinese Government, with an aim to standardise the assessment of citizens’ and businesses’ economic and social reputation by 2020, are really setting an unprecedented real life example of George Orwell’s Thought Police and their way of thinking:

War is Peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is strength

With the stated purpose: “To help Chinese people trust each other again”, China is on a rampage to control anything and everything on its soil.

At the Global Peter Drucker Forum 2018, Dr. Philip Kotler emphasised the point that most nations in the recent past have exhibited traits of growing “inward” and more and more “nationalistic”, which is a bubble waiting to be bursted. So, with this kind of approach, the world is sure to collapse under the weight of the Leaders like Demi-gods and their inward growing ideology.

So, the title in my mind changed for the third time – “Bad decisions made independently is better than someone watching over you”

The ultimate question now is: Humans are biased, which makes exploitation imperative. Governments can turn toxic if given the power to regulate. At what expense then can our decisions, which aren’t just in our control, be made better? Or was it never meant to be any better?

Can technology, which has always acted as a tool to quicken production, enhance service quality or boost revenues, technology must be used to “Regulate”. Can, with the aid of Quantum Cryptography, Blockchain and so on, such “Tech-ulators” be insulated from the dark web? Particular to this article, to Regulate the content posted, in a way that doesn’t curtail the freedom of speech and the right to information that people have, but detect scams, frauds and such toxic elements, while negating the asymmetry of information in order to make people make great decisions.

Thus the final title – Technology as Regulators.

Where?

Vir opened her eyes – trying to remember if it was shut this whole time – to face the majestic Eiffel Tower, as lights like fireflies danced on the wrought iron structure.

“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower…” voiced a tour guide passionately, narrating the humble yet controversial beginnings of the Eiffel Tower.

eiffel-tower-lightsVir stood where she was and went round in a circle, observing among other things that most people around her were wearing shrugs, scarves and jackets; she saw a mother wrapping her son with a second coat, a souvenir salesman rubbing his palms for heat and could almost hear the chattering of teeth of a mid-aged Indian man. “How am I feeling so hot? Am I sick?” she thought, when more than the majestic sight in front of eyes the heat under her skin took precedent.

Vir touched her forehead and fixated her eyes on the canal in front of her, when suddenly she felt the cold metal of a handcuff caress her wrist, while an American Officer yelled, “Ms. Elle, you are under arrest for driving under influence, destruction of public property…”

Vir turned back in shock and the Eiffel Tower was no more. Instead she saw her car, stuck in between the pavement and a retail store, the name of which she had no recollection of. “I don’t know how this happened, I’m not under an influence officer”, she yelled, as she heard a bottle of Black Dog shatter against the wall, and then she saw next to her a man in tears…

1652972_1280x720

 

smashing-beer-bottle-slow-motion_41hnuwiel__F0000

Vir pressed her head tight and yelled, “Make it stop!” as the wailing of the siren slowly vanished, and Vir opened her eyes to the sight of the Majestic Eiffel Tower again, feeling the cool wind against her skin and finding herself reaching out for a shawl from her bag…as her friend yelled, “Vir, wake up”, “Vir, wake up”, “Vir, wake up”…

PS : All images have been taken from Google and it is here just for visualisation purpose and does not intend to pose any other relevance or meaning to this factitious storyline.

 

 

 

Nexus Workers of the Digital Age

This is an essay that I recently wrote. Just read through it and share your views.                                                                         

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

– Murphy’s Law

                     


                                

Human-Machine Paradigm

Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he’ll have to touch to be sure.

Peter Drucker once said that a knowledge worker isn’t one who does the next thing right, but one who does the next right thing. In this age of rising machine intelligence, managing humans alone is a concept of the past, and so is the concept of knowledge workers managing themselves in accordance to values, optimal work aesthetics, skill enhancement requisites and such other ambient conditions.

Human Resource (HR) Management has, through the years, been compressed in its scope and compelled to accommodate the idea of Machine Resource (MR) Management. The current age isn’t about just interpersonal relations, but about machine-personnel relations. The synergy is one that people had longed for and the relationship is one that pose the greatest threat to our future, the “our” here referring to the humans as a society of interdependent species.

This essay looks at exploring the various choices that confront the human-machine paradigm by stimulating the regions of intuition and curiosity of the readers. Various inter-related cyclic scenarios that explore deep into the minds and emotions of people are presented here and it is left for the reader to decide on whether Artificial Intelligence is a necessity, a luxury or the reckoning of the human society.

Unless you first come to the church you will never find the Gate to the Kingdom of Heaven.

No, until you first look for the Gate to the Kingdom of Heaven, you don’t belong in church.                                                                                                                     

   – Peter F. Drucker


Outcomes, Means and Core Constitution

If there are only so much firewood left in the world that can either be used to power up a machine or be used by a farmer to prepare his food, for which of these two purposes would you want the firewood to be used?

How one arrives at a solution to the posed question depends on one’s ability to factor into the cerebral blender a value system that manages to produce an acceptable result by comparing the relative effectiveness of the outcomes of direct allocation of the resource under consideration either to a human or to a machine.

Most people, when posed with this question, based on their values of morals and codes of ethics tend to ask, “What is the machine being used for?” This very question suggests that we, as a society, like to believe that a task undertaken is only as meaningful as the outcome of that task. Further, it can be postulated that if the outcome of a task is that which is desired greatly, then the means taken to provide an ambient condition for producing that outcome is accepted irrespective of its legal and ethical statuses. Meaning, outcomes determine the means, so when the means are conflicting, often the nature in which the decision maker is nurtured determines the path chosen.

The outlook subscribed in this essay is one that is based on the idea that machines are tools used to enhance human life, make work easier and help produce greater and more beneficial results, whilst keeping in mind that machine intelligence can never equate to human conscience. Any development in the intelligence of machines should thus be directed towards the betterment of people and not stray from this design at its core constitution.

So, in regards to the question, if human life is allotted a higher priority, then the firewood under purview must be directed to the farmer and the machine must be let to shut down.

The power to prioritise and to allocate resources accordingly must ultimately vest with an entity that has conscience, bound by values and capable of processing factors that aren’t in the form of true or false / 0s and 1s.

Can such a machine be designed? If so, what is the difference between a human and a machine? To put this in a simpler construct, “What are the implications of a successful Turing Test”? And do we really want it to be successful?

This essay is one that roots against the success of the Turing Test, which is used to determine man-machine similarity, and upholds the idea that the conscience of men will always outweigh the intelligence of machines.

The following argument further sheds light on this assertion.

Priorities, Growth and Naturalisation

Adding to the previous question, If the machine is turned off, the lives of two people who have been living under the support of a ventilator would end, and if the farmer doesn’t get to make food, his life would end.

Such situations where priorities between the numbers of human lives have to be asserted, what scale of comparison must be employed?

This essay, in addition to valuing humans over machines, also ventures in the direction of the law of nature. That is, when priorities have to be set between human lives, that which is natural must be adopted rather than that which is artificial or forced.

In this case, the allocation of resource must thus, again, be made to the farmer, the rationale being that without the intervention of technology, the natural course of events would have, most likely, led to the demise of the two people supported by the ventilator and so the farmer would have ended up with the resources necessary for his living.

Leaving this assessment at the hands of a machine would imply programming into the system or constructing boundaries and thresholds that would, in times of crisis, put its very existence in jeopardy. Under such situations, since humans are to have an upper hand or the ultimate control of the machine, technological growth or adaptation must be restricted in its growth and must be curbed or cut-off once the threshold is reached. The threshold being the point where human lives would have to be parlayed for the functioning of the machine.

One point to be noted, however, is that the word “natural” here doesn’t refer to non-existence of any machine. “Natural” refers to those technological entities that have been naturalised over time and that which have been proven to aid people and have the best interests of such a people programmed into their core philosophy. Emphasis must also be laid here on the word “aid”.

Consider a smoke detector or a hurricane alert system and such. These systems can detect the possibilities of threat to lives and offer means to take action in order to avoid catastrophe. However, entities like that of ventilators that replaces human intervention and takes into its hand the act of being “in-charge” as opposed to “aiding” must be, in times of crisis, rejected and humans must be prioritised.

Ancillary Support and Synchronicity 

Further, consider a case where an automated car is cruising on the street. Now, assume a case where the mechanical brain of the car is confronted with two possible scenarios. One, the car gets hit by a truck, putting the driver in potential life risk. Two, the car runs over a man who is crossing the street, in order to avoid getting hit by the truck.

Of these two situations, which one would likely be chosen? If the car is programmed to avoid collision with passers-by, then the passenger would be at risk and if the vehicle is programmed to prioritise its passengers, then the passers-by would get run over by the vehicle. Unlike humans, the machine cannot understand the concept of humanity, of instinct, of sacrifice or fear. One person might choose to get hit, another might choose to run over and yet another might choose to jump out of the car. Humans can always rely on intuition and arrive at a decision at the moment of impact, unlike machines that run simulations under fixed conditions of constraints.

So, while automation is welcome across all field, true automation that can compete against the conscience and intuition of humans is close to impossible, even after having the machine digest infinite amounts of big data from across the globe and learn through assimilation of such data.

Now, in a lot of cases, technological advancements in the digital sector can lead to improving human intuition and enhance his/her abilities. Mathematical concepts to predict the occurrence of crimes by predicting hotspots is currently being used by the Los Angeles Police Department in addition to various other law enforcement entities and research scholars. This utilisation of technology might prove constructive to the law enforcement authorities in order to keep special watch on areas of prime concern and prevent major crimes. The technological growth in this regard can be deemed fit, for the system is merely predicting the trend based on facts and is not taking the issue of solving the problem itself. This is aiding the law enforcement authorities in its mission to protect and serve and this approach is one that signifies man-machine synchronicity.

Virtual assistants like that of Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now and Windows’ Cortana have all been built into smartphones, which greatly aid people in accomplishing their tasks. However, emphasis must be giving to the fact that these applications are only aiding the people in accomplishing their goals and not doing the work itself. Similarly with the search engines and the internet in general. Technologies that offer ancillary support to human’s activities, with the due consent and authority of humans, which are designed accurately with predefined protocols that inspires faith, confidence and stability can be considered and used to amalgamate man and machine, and help achieve a symbiotic synchronicity between the two entities.

Extrapolations, Productivity and the Nexus

Sampling all the mentioned cases, extrapolating it, mapping it across pools of interest and applying it to companies, it can be seen that humans make better decision-makers when it comes to cases where multiple scenarios of interest are presented and where judgment from a purely cerebral and emotional purview is needed. However, in cases where mundane repetitive work is needed and where decisions aren’t of catastrophic nature, machines can be made to replace humans and this change is much needed. It is an essential part of evolution and it cannot and should not be curbed.

The people, whose jobs were replaced in the said process of evolution, however, must be offered alternate jobs or must be trained to an extent where they can get alternate jobs. This training help make a competent person a star performer. Also, this training must also be from a purely knowledge centric point and it must be achieved by keeping current with the trends of society and derived from pools of globally collaborative knowledge societies.

Also, when cases where a CFO is challenged to invest funds in procuring advanced machinery in a quarter and paying wages to employees, the condition of payment to workers must be offered priority over the procurement of machinery.

The point of focus always being that machines must be used to enable the betterment of human life and make work easier, but not do all the work itself and pose threat to human survival. Productivity isn’t and shouldn’t just be valued only in terms of revenue outcome of a company, but also in terms of effective utilisation of its man-power, developing a conducive and aptly defined Human-Machine work environment and forward-thinking cum dynamic mission and vision of the enterprise. This will help keep people away from purely technocratic mindsets, and this approach will drive an enterprise and the people in it towards true progress.

To aid in this pursuit, the people in decision-making entities must overcome intellectual arrogance and be equipped to solve conflicts between values and strength, thus driving the enterprise towards harmonious productivity. This conflict resolving ability in humans differs from machines in that it is acquired and not defined in terms of clear-cut boundary conditions. Thus, the rationalisation, realisation and implementation of decisions based of well-nurtured values stands as the ultimate test in deciding the characteristics of a leader, and the credibility of his/her judgement.

This leader, who will this point forth be called the Nexus Leader (N-Leader), must maintain healthy communication on his/her decisions to adopt newer technologies in industries, ensure that the human resource is effectively managed to work with the machines being deployed, direct or train the human workforce to secure jobs in alternative departments/sectors, and give the employees/knowledge workers the freedom to learn and choose how they can effectively contribute to the enterprise in furthering its vision.

The employees of an enterprise must also be continuous learners and implementers. The knowledge gained must not pertain to just one particular sector, but must be in synchronisation to the changing knowledge environment. Each employee must be able to recognise his trends and weaknesses, focus on improving the strengths and concentrate on areas of high competence. This Nexus Worker (N-Worker) must develop an indigenous feedback system that will help him realise his position in the enterprise and then set targets to meet the contributions he must make in order to be considered an asset to the enterprise.

Feedback, Strength and Leverage

The feedback criteria that must be used by the N-Workers is unique to each individual and it depends on whether one chooses to perform either as decision maker or an advisor or a worker, which is in perfect tune to that of Drucker’s principles. Also, the employees’ preference to work alone or as a part of a team or his/her stand to take up stressful work or work in a subordinate-like manner as opposed to a being in-charge manner, must be given due consideration.

The N-Worker must be able to dynamically communicate his opinions/decisions with their N-Leader and choose to work in a more rewarding, stimulating and socially stable environment. This communication must involve information on the workings of a machine being used in a particular sector, the pros and cons of upgrading such system, the ease of accessibility, opinion of the human workforce, market response to the produce of the sector and so on. This information must in-turn contribute a significant part to the leaders’ feedback analysis, thus enabling him to take reasonable stand on conflicting issues.

In addition, the N-Leader must also assess his/her ability to lead and drive the enterprise through turbulences caused by ever dynamic trends of the society. If the result of this self-assessment is one that would pose counterproductive to the productivity of the enterprise, then he/she must make an informed decision to delegate his/her office to a worker who can perform in the capacity of a leader, for, as Drucker postulated, sustainable organisations are increasing built on on trust than through force.

These leaders, are a democratic minority, who in-turn do not have another leader. The task of an N-Leader might involve informing another such Leader to assess his/her credibility, however, the informer isn’t in-charge of taking decisions as to the validity of his/her leadership. These N-Leaders of tomorrow are what knowledge-workers were yesterday. Informed, forward thinking, self-aware and pragmatic.

Such leaders must leverage digital technology to connect people across borders, promote a viable democratic structure in choosing work environments and encourage collaborative innovative efforts in knowledge sharing, learning and creativity.

“The machines used to further human productivity must come with off switch that is in the hands of a democratic minority of humans, and not in the autocratic hands of a machine”.

When leaders who understand the essence of the involvement of human element in policy making delve themselves in think tanks and advocacy groups, while networking with the society on various fronts, work towards achieving a symbiotic balance between the appreciating markets, the development of the economically and socially downtrodden, and the creation of a machine-personnel relationship in an enterprise/office, while remaining dynamic to the societal changes with a mindset to deploy into field the products and aids of frugal innovations and research that would help stay being prepared for a newer tomorrow, they transcend into the class ofNexus Workers of a New Digital Age.

And, when employees of today realise and think from the point of view of their leaders, then a complex yet simple symbiotic hierarchy of leader/worker/machine can be achieved.

This class of forward thinking and open minded leaders/workers will be ushered  into tomorrow’s technologically advanced  digital era as glorified global citizens who will have what it takes to influence developmental pursuits and remain in control, while adapting to the ever-changing turbulent circumstances.

Then again, equilibrium is the order of nature and any action towards distorting it can result in things going wrong. And according to Murphy’s Law, it will go wrong.

One-Point-Five Decades From Now

There exists a vast ocean of knowledge on the Internet, and each new second, millions of bytes of data is being added to this ocean. The society and technology are tightly bound in an interdependent construct, and together, both are changing at a nerve-racking pace. The only way for an entrepreneur or an employee to survive the future is to keep track of the market trends and accordingly dip his/her toe in each trending field. One has to learn to be prepared to give up what he/she thinks they are excellent at, and one has to be prepared to switch careers or profiles in accordance to the confronting circumstances.

I use technology extensively to run my company, to research, maintain a sound social profile, blog, study and of course, for entertainment. I have learnt to leverage technology to my benefit without it interfering with the offline affairs of either my company or my non-profit. I still prefer to read the newspaper once in a while, meet people at cafes and interact with people off the net. I would continue to stay on the same trajectory and adapt to changing circumstances, thus giving myself a sense of security and preparing myself well for the coming man-machine era of tomorrow.

My Gita, Quran and Bible

When I’m knee-deep in worries, buried in my fears, touching rock-bottom, at the receiving end of ridiculous doubts and stretching my neck for inspiration to trudge ahead, there is always, always one person that inspires me – Steve Jobs​.

His commencement speech at Stanford is my Gita, Quran and Bible. It is the only tool that drives me towards achieving what I truly want, and to all of those who feel any of the things that I do, watch this. If you have already watched it before, watch it again, it inspires you all over again!

About Moksha and stuff 

I don’t why, but this morning as I woke up, I just felt something really unusual…”What if I lost everything I cared for? Everyone I held dear?”

This got me thinking and I couldn’t but marvel at the thought as to how many people around the universe, whoever had cognitive powers, would be thinking the exact same thing at the exact same moment?

Now, this thought of “losing” made me feel really bad, and I thought, “If there was a way for me to settle midway, or to not lose everything, but something of the extent that wouldn’t make me feel awful, would I take it?”

Simultaneously, if I were at my saddest, would I be happy to jump to that “midway point” from the abyss that I was shammed into?

the-word-moksha-mokeshah-is-an-ancient-sanskrit-sutra-that-means-freedom-liberation-or-release-the-1425912217k4g8nNow, this “Midway Point” is the place where people are content, irrespective of whether you are the happiest or the saddest. When happy, you have a fear of losing, and when you are sad, you have a hope of gaining. So, maybe, when an intellectual person who understands this complex yet utterly simple logic of happiness and sadness arrives at the “Midway Point”, he/she will stop trying or aspiring for “something more”.

The Midway Point is one where one doesn’t have a fear of losing nor hope of gaining. This is where all causal events are welcomed as it comes and accepted in it true sense of reality. And I believe that this is called Moksha.

A compromise between fear and hope of prospects is Moksha

Now, I wondered, what drives a person to get up and go about the day, each new day? I pondered on this question for quite some time and realised that the idea of productivity, which leads to happiness, drives us to a new tomorrow, or atleast that is what is true in my case.

I want to be happier, be it through amassing power, earning money, gaining knowledge or being loved, all I want is, ultimately, to be happy, have that smile in my mind or on my face. Now, I wondered, how happy can one be?

Ruminating on it for 5 minutes told me that one can be only as happy as far as the fear of losing his/her happiness kicks in. Then the idea of preserving the joy inspires further effort, which would be exhausting and fuel the fear furthermore.

So, true happiness can be amassed only as long as the fear of losing it kicks in.

So, what inspires Moksha? The idea of losing everything? Or the idea of just being a little more happy?

Equilibrium is the order of nature and I guess a balance of these emotions and prospects is defined as Moksha.

However, I don’t think I’d ever settle for anything, so I’d rather fight to keep my state of happiness then go to a state where I’d be “meh” about everything.

But conceptually, I think it is a fine state to go I thought and wore a smile on my face.

Anyway, a couple of Happy Friendship Day messages started distrubing my thought process and mom too came into my room and forced to jump off the bed and march into the bathroom, so well, I guess this is it for today.


For those of you who haven’t read my “Philosophical Musings”, please go through what’s below.

A philosophical musing (part 1) , thanks to Dr. Lakshith Biddappa Malchira

The doctor, his friend and I were discussing about different religions in India and about the existing divide, when the concept that people created religion only so that they could attribute concepts that weren’t comprehensible to an invisible force called God, was floated.

This God or a non-answer answer to unanswerable questions relieved quite a few people of the fear they felt because of the unexplainable happenings of the nature like the occurrences of diseases, floods, earthquakes, famine, apparent misfortune and ultimately, the most feared idea of death.

However, when the so-called God eventually became an unanswerable entity to the various wants of the people, they began to grow superstitious and tried to unburden their burden on those entities that could be easily seen and understood. Thus originated the concept of worshiping water, fire, wind, trees and such forms of beliefs.

However, this again became too generic and people needed something more specific to rely on in times of crisis of dearth of hope. They needed one single entity to give them hope and such, and so originated the whole idea of idol worship.

However, different people idolised different people, and these idolised people idolised various idols. Hence, due to the inherent human need to stand out and outdo others, different forms of worship began, each believing that their’s was the only right way.

Then grew the fanatics, then the divide and then everything just blew out of proportion.


Philosophical musings (part 2)

The doctor went on to explain about the paintings of objects like that of flying saucers at the pyramids in Egypt, Mayan disks of extraterrestrial contact, the evidences of spacecraft like artefacts with the Celts and also certain verses in the Vedas hinting at alien contact. He postulated the possibility of there being an alien life on earth before, actually many such occurrences, and that the people here devised practises in their form, favour and ideal.

Many scholars of yore, who came to learn about such “species”, if you may, made use of these occurrences in their favour and fashioned, through their stories, either gods or devils of these out-of-convention beings. Once again, most Gods were thought about in human form as opposed to demons, thus relieving people of their fear by saying that they have a protector in their midst who would fend these demons (aliens) and such.

Nothing would have gone berserk if these scholars had the idea of labelling their work under “fiction”. However, they didn’t. They wrote songs which came to be called shlokas or gospels or whatever equivalent it is in all religions, they came up with themes for their stories which eventually became rituals and they had brilliant protagonists who came to be worshipped as “almighty” for personal gains.

Also, with regards to the alien entity, a little open mindedness will serve people right if they’d realise that in the millions of years since the earth became an ambient place for survival, behavioural modernity, as we know it, was achieved only 50,000 years ago and the scientific temper has only been in the picture (though not entirely yet) for a few hundreds of years.

When the possibility of the existence of sub-atomic particles, of bosons, of quarks and such sprung into being only a few tens of years ago, when the smallest particle in the much smaller entity of the enormous universe was discovered only a few years ago, the talk of aliens sure brings nothing more than laughter aimed at mockery at the expense of the author.

I want to tell people that we aren’t the first ones here. Our sister species, Neanderthals and Denosovans, have traipsed this land, but whether or not Homo sapiens were derived from these species is a matter of speculation.

Anyway, the point is that there have been many other entities to inhabit earth before us and we are relatively new here. Our cerebral capacity is only recently developing into a deeper territory of cognitive reasoning and well, we still are a long way from figuring out the origins of life and whether or not there was a so-called “creator”.

So, when solutions cannot be found to certain questions, the boundary conditions of observation much be extended, giving room for more data and thus exploring newer dimensions. Accept that you don’t know something and that things just shouldn’t be questioned, considerable stride must also be made to find answers.

So, this part aims at telling you all that there might exist life outside of earth, which might be considered or fictionalised as Gods by people on earth. This is accepting that there might be a far greater power out of the confines of the earth, which had an influence on the people of earth, but it certainly isn’t God as our religious teachings preach us.


As I arrive at Mysore after a tiring three-day visit to Bangalore, here is my Philosophic Musing #3, which I always write on my travel.

Do ignore the typos, if any, and as to the references, ah! What the hell is in a name? I bet Shakespeare would agree well with me on this.

Give it a read.

Gaurav checks-in at DRC with Adarsh at 7 PM, Ramya is having dinner with Adarsh at 7 PM in an restaurant in the United States, Adarsh is driving a limo at 7 PM at U.K…Suresh says Adarsh is muscular, Aarthi says Adarsh is tall and really fat, through various sources it can be learnt that Adarsh has a PhD in math, in English, in Sanskrit, in aerospace engineering, in music, in dance…Adarsh is a politician, he is an entrepreneur, a criminal, a murderer, a cop, a judge…

Does this mean that Adarsh is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient?

Did it occur to you that the Adarsh here needn’t necessarily be just one mere mortal, but millions of people around the world with the same first name?

I believe the concept of seeing God as omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent originated from a very similar concept.

As explained in my musing #1, those who considered “the Air” as their God might have said God is everywhere, those who considered “the Fire” as their God might have said the God can reduce anything into ashes and by extrapolating this theory, we can deduce that there might have been one person who just wrote, “God (#1) is omniscient, God (#2) is huge, God (#3) is very strong…when actually, again, God was just a term used to represent the collective solution for the insecurities of people.

Something to think about, don’t you think?

Adarsh Ramesh's photo.