About manu prasad

Posts by manu prasad:

Understanding the revolution

No, I don’t think I am exaggerating when I call it a revolution. Relatively, it’s not a bloody one yet, but we’ve only begun. As individuals who are part of it, it is difficult for us to acknowledge, let alone grasp its consequences now. (read for perspective)

To deal with something, I first need to make an attempt to understand it, and this post is just that. To begin with, I have noticed at least two parallel forces that have worked to get us to this point. The first is privilege and increasing inequalities in society, on which I have written quite a few posts. The second is a subject on which I’ve only written a couple of posts – intersubjective reality, but its influence is equally important. Let me elaborate.

“But that’s the truth!”, I often hear, and for a while now, my response has been “Whose truth?”  For an absolutely mind bending perspective on it, read The Case Against Reality. (thanks Gautam) To massively paraphrase, we build “realities” based on the stories we tell ourselves, and this is completely shaped by our perceptions and biases. Everything we perceive is a mental representation and there is nothing objective about it. The closest we get to reality is by experiencing something ourselves, and that is inherently subjective. As Scott Adams brutally but succinctly put it, “Humans did not evolve with the capability to understand their reality because it was not important to survival. Any illusion that keeps us alive long enough to procreate is good enough.More

Delhi Highway

My first brush with the restaurant was more than a month ago, when I noticed its construction happening on 12th Main, Indiranagar. The style immediately made me think of Mughal architecture, and thanks to the jam I was stuck in, I had this morbid thought of a memorial for someone who had given up on life while waiting for the traffic on the road to clear! Because c’mon, there was no way another restaurant could be opening on this road! But I was wrong, a few weeks later Delhi Highway opened its doors, (map) and promptly deceived me again – the smile on my face as my mind conjured up the vision of a Butter Chicken was wiped off when I saw the green dot next to the name.

collage1 More

Prisons of happiness

I read a few articles recently debating whether the purpose of life is happiness or usefulness/leading a worthwhile life. The Aztecs as well as contemporary thinkers favour the latter. I am not convinced though. For starters, I think ‘purpose’s is something our consciousness insists on. The world will go on without us, it is for us to derive a sense of meaning for ourselves. And since it is subjective, I’d optimise for happiness/avoiding discomfort (I’m bunching it together for now) simply because my usefulness/being worthwhile to others around increases when I am happy.

This is a topic I have been circling for a while now – There is no middle path? was a take on happiness vs avoiding discomfort, for instance. A favorite line of thought from “And the Mountains Echoed” has been coming back to me in various forms from various people in the last fortnight. “..but most people have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really what guides them is what they’re afraid of. What they don’t want.” That is essentially avoiding discomfort. More

The Remains of the Day

Kazuo Ishiguro

I was a little biased before I started this book. It is impossible to escape the hype – it is a Booker prize winner! But two points – the ‘slimness’ of the book, (!) and the overall premise – a butler’s reminisces – made me wonder about how good it would be. Silly me, I realised long before the book was finished.

The premise is indeed that – Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall sets out on a ‘motoring’ tour at the suggestion of his new employer Mr.Farraday. In addition to some leisure time before he implements a new (and much reduced) staff plan, Stevens also looks forward to meeting and recruiting the mansion’s former housekeeper Miss Kenton, who had left the service to get married. He is hopeful of achieving this end thanks to a letter he has received from her which hints at some dissatisfaction in her life and a desire to be back at Darlington Hall.

The year is 1956, and this is as close to a roadtrip I have read of in that era. :) The narrative, in the first person, is as revealing of the perfect butler qualities of Stevens as the actual stories he shares. This is actually the triumph of the author – the masterly control over every said and unsaid word of the protagonist. The book takes us through the events of the trip itself as well as anecdotes from the past – when Stevens was still serving Lord Darlington. These tales bring to light the political intrigues at Darlington Hall as well as Stevens’ relationships with those around him – primarily his employer, and Miss Kenton. Hindsight gives Stevens (and the reader) a much different perspective of events from the time they actually occurred. We are able to see things much more clearly, something Stevens failed to do then. More

Interfaces : body and beyond

About a year and a half ago, in An Ambient Future, I had written on how our interactions with the internet will move from switching it on (on specific devices) to an always on ambient version powered by objects beyond mobile devices (IoT) and inputs beyond touch. In the last few months, I have seen more indications of this movement.

Shipments of mobile phones are trending downwards (via) Has the potential of paradigm shifting upgradations on the mobile device peaked? It does seem so. The value, as Neil Perkin says, is shifting towards service, powered largely by AI. A word on wearables – nah! (at least not in its current form) I think it will most definitely have excellent application in sports/health/fitness, but I find it difficult to see it as a mainstream UI successor to the mobile device in terms of scale. On the other hand, Google Home and Amazon Echo (and Dash) are significant advances on alternate interfaces.
More

Biergarten

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Whitefield might have its share of infrastructural woes, but in the meanwhile, the number of microbreweries opening up in the neighbourhood means that someone is at least raising hops! The beer would be available only in early September, we were told when we visited Biergarten, (map) but we are used to waiting in, and for things, in Whitefield, so we weren’t surprised. Sooner or later, things will hopefully get bitter. The place covers a fairly large area – at the centre is an alfresco section, with long tables that are perfect for the shared table concept of a conventional biergarten. Surrounding this, but a level above, is a mix of seating options – bar stools, plush sofas for lounging, and functional seating. The bright lights and the green glow give a lively feel to the place, the music is upbeat and the overall ambiance is quite relaxing. The courteous and accommodating service also helps.

collage1 More

Building Slack

(no, not the product!)

Towards the end of Life Menus, I had mentioned how I have quite a ‘scarcity mindset’ when it comes to money and time. I don’t think there will be enough, and many of my thoughts and actions are influenced by this. As explained very well in Scarcity, (highly recommended book, and thanks @shefaly) this is related to tunnelling, and my ‘inability’ at a certain point in time to see the larger picture and the broader consequences of my immediate actions.

One of the ways I have tried to beat it (and the book also has a term for it) is to create what’s called slack. [Remember the space between stimulus and response quote I keep using?] The reason I’m very interested in slack is because it can not just help me maintain equilibrium within myself, but also enable some sort of control in my relationship with others.  More

Capital : The Eruption of Delhi

Rana Dasgupta

Much has been written about the Maximum City – fiction and non fiction – and it continues to be the muse of many authors. But other than Dalrymple’s City of Djinns, I have not really read a book on Delhi. Add to that Rana Dasgupta’s superb play on the title itself – Capital – and this was a book I had to read. I am really glad it didn’t disappoint.
There are many Delhis, as Dalrymple brought out in his book. The city has existed in many forms across centuries, and many of them live side by side – Mughal, British, post-partition, post 1984, and the one that the author stresses most on – post 1991. It is easy to see many parts of the commentary as a standard impact of globalisation, but if you have lived on both sides of the 90s, you would know what an enormous impact liberalisation has had on our lives. But I get ahead of myself!  More

Growth, Prosperity & Infinite Games

One of the things that struck me in Douglas Rushkoff’s “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus” was how much the line of thought on growth resembled the “infinite game” philosophy of James P Carse. In the former, the author explains how, as money becomes an end to itself as opposed to a means, a system built on a central currency gets into a growth trap. i.e. growth for the sake of growth. To frame it in the second book’s context, this tends to be a zero-sum game for all involved. There is a clear winner, and that winner takes all. i.e. a finite game.

Rushkoff explains how at this point in time, platform monopolies, (e.g. Amazon, Uber, AirBnB) and businesses in general, are playing finite games. And that is how growth has become the enemy of prosperity. In the second half of the book, he calls for more sustainable (and inclusive) ways of growth. This has much in common with Carse’ definition of an Infinite game, whose only purpose is the continuation of play, and sometimes, bringing more players into the game.  More

The Whitefield Arms

Another microbrewery in the neighbourhood is always welcome, but hold your horses, the brewery will only open in October is still not open. We couldn’t, so we visited back in August, one Sunday afternoon. The place can be accessed from inside the mall as well as through a tiny path between VR and Phoenix City Malls. There’s outdoor and indoor seating. The theme is colonial – the crest, and the dishes in the menu – though the seating is a little more modern. Wood is the primary element in the seating – benches and chairs – though the section inside does have a few plush sofas. The weather was pleasant, with a nice breeze, and the inside seemed like a refrigerator, so we chose to sit outside.

collage1 More