A case for the showcase

Clever tees have been an attraction for quite a while now. Less generic, and more fun mashups. This one is an example from a few years ago.


Once, when I wore this while out in a group, one kind soul complimented the design. Another person in the group immediately commented that people wore such tees to send a “look how smart I am” message. My views was that at least for me, it was less vanity/personality and more a means of expression and identity, which served as a conversation starter, given my less-than-gregarious nature. But it did stay with with me, and make me wonder whether he had a point. More

In a world of abstractions…

It was in Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus that I first became really aware of how much of an abstraction money is. Just to clarify what ‘abstraction’ is in this context, vegetables, meat, human labour etc all have clear, tangible value. Money is a transactional device with many advantages but it has no inherent value. Its common acceptance is its value. The exercise on 8th November 2016 is a great example to illustrate this –  those pieces of paper we thought were valuable until a minute ago suddenly became worthless. In fact, at one point, there was a chance that after Dec 31st, they would even be harmful!

At some point, I started thinking of abstraction with respect to consciousness. At a very broad level, I think of consciousness as having three basic fluid forces at play – sensations, emotions, and thoughts. We tend to use the adjacent ones (sensation/emotion and emotion/thought) interchangeably but if you think about it, nuances separate them. They all have a role to play, but I also see them as a hierarchy with respect to their influence on consciousness – thoughts at the top. More

Cult of impersonality

Koramangala rarely disappoints. This time, it was the Uber ride, and the thoughts it sparked. From Whitefield to Koramangala, I repeatedly watched the driver refusing to learn from his mistakes. e.g. sticking to the right lane and getting stuck behind cars waiting to take a U turn, when we had to go straight. Advice was futile. This (the behaviour, not the driving!) took me in a couple of directions.

First, our species’ (generalising, of course) refusal to rethink belief systems even when new data presents other possibilities. In the last few weeks, I have seen two levels of this. One is at a (public) personality level – from Modi to Tata. While I have little reason to doubt the Prime Minister’s intent in the entire demonetisation exercise, I see the absolute lack of empathy (no, crying and listing one’s sacrifices doesn’t count) and the failure to course correct as arrogant and cruel. When multiple sources indicate that Ratan Tata’s governance wasn’t really spotless, shouldn’t he be attempting a better route than allowing the spat to be drawn into something as silly as Twitter hashtag wars, especially when the claim is that the organisation’s legacy (and not his own) is paramount for him. In both cases, ego could be the barrier. More

Dealing with the revolution

At the end of last week’s post “Understanding the revolution“, one of the points I wanted to emphasise was our individual role in dealing with it. I had mentioned two factors that I believe have led us to this point – rising inequality, and intersubjective realities. An attempt to fix also needs to begin here.

When demonetisation first hit us, I tweeted this


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

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

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.

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

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

Please find detached

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl

This quote has been a favourite since I first read it, and creating that space is something that I not only constantly try to work on, but also write about – the challenges and the learning. However, this post is on a tangent – what if we delay the stimulus itself? Yes, I admit it’s quite impossible to do that with people, but what about consumption in general? Given that we are now debating the direction(s) of the ‘arrow of time’, there’s no better time to discuss that space. After all, in my consumption, I am what is called the ‘observer’, and I’m the one creating the moment of interaction.

That wouldn’t be a problem, except for the increasing dominance of the urgent over the important. Seth Godin had a very interesting post titled “Spectator sports” about how we have taken the discourse around things of significance to the level of spectator sports because we can “vent without remorse.” A longer read in context is Helen Boaden’s commentary on the state of journalism as she retires from BBC Radio. The devices, features and services popping up around me indicate that ephemerality is trending upward. Think about the cycle – watch something live on TV, tweet about it/post on FB/Whatsapp, someone has a comment, a discussion ensues, and somehow inexplicably reaches generic areas of conflict like religion or liberalism (a variation of Godwin’s law, if you will) before the next cycle starts. Rinse, repeat. Did we have a discussion aimed at understanding each others’ perspective and expanding a worldview? More often than not, not!  More