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.


 

5E Plan for Social Media

For a startup, I was working on developing a plan on what content to post in a week so that it doesn’t amount to “spam”. I call it the “5E Plan”. Do share your comments / suggestions.

Any company seeking to communicate and connect effectively with its clients must follow this recipe:

1. Engage – something that’ll keep the readers occupied with the content of post and keep them hooked beyond the “scroll time”.

2. Enrich – provide information that the intended audience might not know of / would help them understand about things that you care about. Remember, social media updates needn’t (shouldn’t) be just about one’s own work / business.

3. Entertain – viewer engagement can happen through entertainment too, but the idea of having this as a separate entity of interest is to emphasise the point that one post, at the least, must have an entertainment value. It may be fun polls, or questions of sorts or anything you might think of creatively, but it must be something that doesn’t feel like a survey or taking up the viewers time profusely.

Educate – posts talking about what goes into making the product / service, what differentiates it and so on.

Empower – posts talking mainly about company culture, inspiring growth stories, CSR and so on.

Do let me know what you think.

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.

Pick and Speak – 1

I love learning new concepts and ideas, and I manage to capture a few of them each day. These concepts help us put a title to thoughts we already have or learn something that we might be able to use in our day-to-day activities. So, whatever I learn each alternate day, I will write a brief about it and post links which you can see if you find it interesting.


Dan Pink’s Talk

In the Puzzle or Motivation, Dan Pink talks about how incentivising creative work can be counterproductive and how companies need to evolve their management practises to leverage more creative work from employees / partners. Checkout the talk on the link below

https://youtu.be/rrkrvAUbU9Y


Filene’s Basement

The place that revolutionised supply chain practises and created an innovative concept for selling products at heavily discounted prices, prices that even makes people plan their wedding around the time of Finene’s landmark wedding gown sales!

https://youtu.be/rrkrvAUbU9Y


Survivorship Bias

A concept through which we always talk about the talked when we should actually be talking on the unspoken. The video talks about how airplanes were remodelled by the Allied Powers during WWII and extends it how we always look at the winners and make our decisions, giving way to survivorship bias

https://youtu.be/ZyLVIvBidIA


Bounded Rationality Concept

According to this concept, the decisions we make are limited by various factors, including time and emotions, and so we don’t always make the best possible decision, rather we consciously make decisions that might not be the best for us, though there is a possibility of us having access to the whole information. Can this be also why we choose certain politicians with even criminal background / narrow mindsets to be elected as our leaders?


Cannibalisation of Humankind

As the pilot announced the final descent, the credits started to roll on “The Murder on the Orient Express”, and so, the thoughts of Hercule Poirot still on my mind, I switched to the live feed from a camera placed on the plane’s wing, which showed that it was snowing outside. I finally understood why people outside of India obsess about the weather so much, because it is way too unpredictable by humans, warranting and even justifying the use of the first supercomputer for weather prediction. I was in a talk recently where the speaker told us the best way to break the ice was to start talking about the weather. That finally made sense and it happened involuntarily. I walked out of the warm airport and felt as if I had crossed the Wall (Game of Thrones).

I dragged my suitcase, but I could hardly feel my hands. I longed to see a store that sold gloves, and almost a walk of 1km, during which time I switched the hand dragging the luggage from left to right and gave each some pocket time for warmth. Finally I saw a store selling gloves and coats, and without resorting to our inherent feature of bargaining, bought it and breathed a sigh of eternal relief. I then went to the hotel, where I was told that I had to wait for about 3 hours before I was checked it and I waited, updating my Instagram and Facebook and so on.

At 2:45 I met a troop of people at the lobby and we got to talking, to start with about the weather. All of us – 2 from India, 1 from Pakistan, 1 from South Africa, 1 from Ghana and 1 from Zimbabwe, have all been used to temperatures of 30, and probably the lowest we’ve experienced is 15, so yeah, that broke the ice (as righty suggested by the speaker) and we decided to meet at the lobby in about an hour so we could go out and get some coffee.

We then added our numbers on Whatsapp, made a group and coordinated our met at 5:00 PM, and precisely we did. 4 of us walked through the Icy cold city, where we formally introduced ourselves. We first went to a Market, where we got our hands on a few hot potatoes and slowly started talking about the focus of the Drucker Challenge – “How to stay Human in Robot Society”. Talking and debating on each others’ essays, we reached a nice little cafe that screamed “cozy”, so we went in and ordered many types of Lattes. Once we got settled and continued talking, the discussion took an unexpected turn. From technology, the discussion went to society, and then to religion, cast, sect, then to politics, then to gender parity, then to how across the world there exists a class system and the massive increase in difference between them. It was a wonderful discussion that took us to the bedrocks of the Society – Balance is everything, for every yay, there is a nay, for every intelligent initiative, there is a counter-intelligent insurgent, for every ounce of growth in the society, there is a fall somewhere. However, the cause-and-effect isn’t immediate. For every imbalance, it may take days, months and even years for the balance to be restored, during which time the imbalance might totally topple the entire construct. Take for example allowing Walmart in to India. Though it is a sign of progress, growth in Indian FDI policy or globalisation or whatever, Walmart in India would mean the end of a million small industries, grocery stores and various people, who would all be dumped out of jobs. So, what’s keeping that from happening – Regulations. One can see regulations as being counterproductive, however, we can either see that roses have thorns of thorns have roses. Perspective and the idea of “greater good” matters, so, the point now then, is that there needs to be greater efforts to bring in a third part that would ensure that balance is restored, which is the inevitable law of nature. Regulation combined with Accountability then is of core importance.

Who should be accountable? As he broached this topic, we looked at the time, and it was time to meet the other Druckerians at the Hotel, so we walked back, our various ideas bubbling. At the hotel, we met 4 more people amazing people, and 8 of us together walked in search of a Viennese restaurant. A half of walk later, we finally settled into a nice fancy place called “Cafe Museum”, where we ordered a couple of things (none of which were to our satisfaction by the way), and started talking. The others too contributed their views on gender, class, caste, religion, politics and it was really enlightening. It seems that in South Africa, women are more educated than men now, thanks to the efforts of the government they said, and there are men who pay the women’s father for marriage, as a sign of saying thank you for raising her so well. The balance shifting again might lead to Men-centric acts or initiatives to restore balance, but the idea again is to show that change is possible. Now, contrast that with India. We then talked about how In Greece the economy is terrible and there exists a large disease of corruption, and exchanged ideas on the Demonetisation in India. We talked briefly about linguistics, about AI and talked about how in Zimbabwe, everything is going cashless and how it is great for the country.

We talked and talked until we reached the Hotel, where we retired for the night, thinking at how wonderfully aware people are of their country, society and more. And how this generation finally will bring change much needed to tackle problems that are much greater than yesterday.

So, to end this entry, who should be accountable, according to you, to ensure that there exists the needed balance, that there is no abuse of power and all the social elements – gender, caste, religion, class and politics are kept in check so that nothing can grow beyond control, leading to cannibalisation of humankind.


Looking forward to more discussions and talks with the Druckerians today:

Hello, World. Nearly 500 days Later

Hello, World. Nearly 500 days Later

After a break from creative writing for almost 2 years now, I have decided to get back on the horse and share my stories with you all. During these 2 years I have been successful in setting up a dream enterprise of mine – Desiadda, sustaining my first ever venture – Project ReachOut and steering it through volunteers, through 5 years, setting into motion another venture – Chalk and Slate, launching my fiction novel – The Dominion and taking up Business Studies at MYRA School of Business.

On a lighter note, I have interacted with over 100 artisans, 500 clients, struck numerous deals and partnerships, faced the ups and downs of the business world, delivered numerous talks, worked with various startup and corporate enterprises, watched a whole lot of TV Shows (almost 52 as of now) and movies, read umpteen number of books, presented papers, attended conferences, found friendship and more, nemesis and more, and learnt the act of balancing between doing businesses and studying business, family and friends, passion and reality and so much more.

I feel that I am better equipped now to continue from where I left, as the passion I share towards writing is the one constant that is hardwired and one thing that I cannot afford to distance myself from, no matter how much life gets in the way.

My writings this point forth will mainly focus on delivery of pertinent content, ideas and thoughts, and not entirely on the depth of language. However, I would love to have your feedback and your kind inkling to the Scion.

Cheers!

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.

 

 

 

Mysuru Memories

Mysuru isn’t just about the beautiful palaces or the serene hills or its famous festival, Dasara. Mysuru is all about the people, the love, the tranquility and the simplicity. Boys and girls, men and women strolling, jogging and chatting at Kukkarahalli kere and on K. D. Road, students hanging out at Big Bowl and Downtown, and Cubs and SJCE Downs. The serene environment, the almost-constant temperature, the dysfunctional street lights, the quietness of Emerald Enclave, the clatter at K. R. Market, the fixed-amount-go-anywhere bus tickets, DRC and Rangayana, MOM (Mall of Mysore) and BMH (B. M. Habitat Mall)…Mysuru is heaven on earth, a paradise that welcomes all and disappoints none. And I almost forgot, the place with prodigiously great food!

Now, speaking of food, there is a particular instance from my stay at Mysuru that I’d like to recall. It was the 29th of October, the eve of uncle Vikram’s birthday. Uncle Vikram, auntie Sunaina, Ma and I had dined real nice at the Roost and, we had gone straight back home. We had all quickly changed into our pajamas and then curled up on the couch, all set to watch a Kannada movie that uncle Vikram loved – Lucia.

Halfway through the movie, as the clock read 11:50, I felt really drowsy and I was all set to close my eyes straight for nine hours, but I fought very hard to stay up and sleep after I had wished uncle Vikram. Each ensuing minute ‘paraded’ very slowly, just like the elephant carrying Goddess Chamundeshwari at the Dasara Procession. My mind drifted toward the thoughts of Dasara and I began to think about the tableaux, the crowd, the welcome sign on the Chamundi hills and the colorful spectrum that Mysuru had turned into. Meanwhile, the clock had advanced seven minutes and stood firm at 11:57.

Without warning, the front door of the house flung open and five of uncle Vikram’s college friends busted inside the house with hands full of covers and boxes. ‘Happy birthday, Vikki!’ they all yelled in varied styles and rushed straight towards the dining table.

‘Vikram, we got you Methi Parata from Tina’s Cafe, Pepper Chicken from Top Stuff, Death-By-Chocolate from Corner House, Cold Coffee from DRC and a Cheesecake from Cubs,’ said Ragini, as she placed the 5 dishes on the table.

‘Achari Kabab from Jewel Rock, 65 from Biryani Paradise, Zinger from KFC, Chocolate Truffle from Regaalis and Grape Juice from RTO circle,’ added Raksha and placed another 5 dishes next to those that Ragini had placed.

‘Hazelnut latte from Coffee Day, Dry Gobi from Usman’s on Chaat Street, Bajji’s from Chamundi hills, Ice-cream sandwich from Kafé Biryani Paradise, Kids Crunch from Big Chicken,’ continued Swaroop and pulled out another set of 5 dishes from his bag, as Suhas placed a Masala Dosa from Mylari, Pulliogare from Vontikoppal temple, Cold Badam Milk from Bombay Tiffany’s, Manchow soup from Nan King, Biryani from Hanumanthu’s and Lemon Tea from Down’

’21 – Golgappa from the University, 22 – a bottle of KF from Gusto, 23 – Shawarma from Lemon Tree, 24 – Churmuri from Water Tank and 25 – Mysore Pak from Guru Sweet Mart,’ narrated Farah, as she placed the final five dishes on the table.

’25 dishes for the 25 years that we have known and loved you,’ said uncle Vikram’s friends from his days at SJCE, who had all travelled from various parts of the country – Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad – to wish their friend a very happy birthday.

I was so elated on seeing so many dishes on the table and looking at all of uncle Vikram’s friends. 25 years after college, they still knew each other so well and I couldn’t but wonder what kept them all together?

I pondered for a while and then deduced that they all were tied not just by memories, but also by places. The time they spent together in Mysuru (It seems that it was called Mysore back then) and the memories that were associated with each place here really did keep them linked. They recalled so many humorous while stupid stories of their college days and they cracked jokes at the expense of each other, as we all sat at the table and munched on the midnight snacks.

Almost an hour hence, Aunties Ragini, Raksha and Farah, uncles Swaroop, Suhas and Vikram, and I climbed inside uncle Vikram’s Duster for a drive around the city.

As the song I Would Walk 500 Miles played on the stereo, uncle Vikram drove real fast on Hunsur road, then on J. L. B. Road, then 100 Feet Road, then M. G. Road and then finally, we went up the Chamundi Hills.

I put my head outside the window, like a dog you might say, and felt the cool air run through my hair and the sweet aroma – its origin I couldn’t figure – crept up my nose and made me feel whole. I closed my eyes in peace, as the voice in my head said, your passport might say that you are a foreigner, but in Mysuru you are at home.

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!