mPhil

A devious self

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These days when I think of the self, I am regularly reminded of this. I use ‘ego’ interchangeably with ‘self’. Ego as in egotism, not the Freud definition. The inflated view of the self that most of us refer to when we say ‘ego’. While the scientific-philosophical perspective is something I am very interested in, it is more the day-to-day reveals that are more frequent.  More

Empathy & Extinction

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari explains how we’re the most dominant species on the planet because we’re the only ones able to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The ‘funny’ part is that the things we cooperate on usually exist only in our collective imagination – religion, nation, money. Intersubjective realities.

But it gets funnier. When I look around now, I see these intersubjective realities actually causing more divisiveness between groups than unity. Offended because Spiegel allegedly called it a poor nation. Offended because Katy Perry used a Hindu goddess to describe her mood. New day, new reason to be offended.  More

That passion – profession debate, again

In many beer fueled conversations, I have heard the sentiment of “quitting my job and doing something I am passionate about.” While I see merit in that line of thought, these days I also end up playing party-pooper by asking if he/she has a business model in mind, especially since the ‘passion’ is more often than not from the usual suspects list – digital photography, cooking/baking, writing, travel and so on. To clarify, unlike funded startups this model doesn’t even have to scale, but in the medium-long term, the revenue has to be greater than expenditure. That’s a requisite for survival in the world, unless one has alternate sources of income.

I saw a meeting of worlds when I noticed yet another job listing that demanded the person to be “passionate about digital marketing“? As someone who has been working in the domain since 2004, I have seen a version of this phrase appear in many job descriptions. I could replace digital marketing with startups, consumer insights, programming and so on, the question remains the same. More

Free* Will

*Conditions Apply

The first documented appearance of the subject on the blog is in 2011, and I seem to have posted on the subject every alternate year, the last being in 2015. But it’s sheer coincidence and not really pattern following that led me to think, and write, about free will now.

Across my life, I have moved from having a faith and believing in predestination (will of God), to being agnostic and believing in karma, to being an atheist and believing in the influence of luck (random chance) in all the plans I make. In the last version, the view is that my free will is dominant – I make my own choices which dictate my future and nothing is predetermined. The luck explains the good and bad out-of-ordinary things that change my future, but it is random. Karma stories are a forced narrative based on hindsight. More

The bang & the buck

A decade ago, while working with a newspaper group where our small team managed three brands, we had an interesting situation. One of the brands, a vernacular broadsheet, was at an advanced stage in its lifecycle where it had to be made relevant and exciting for a newer set of readers who were native to the region. Another brand, an English compact daily (we didn’t like to be called a tabloid!), was an absolute newbie aimed at what could broadly be called an ‘immigrant’ audience. This was made interesting because research showed that the ‘triggers’ for the two sets of readers were quite at odds with each other. To elaborate, but without nuances, the positioning of the vernacular brand would be around showcasing pride in local language and culture, laced with jingoism, and that of the English brand would be around a cosmopolitan outlook. Holding both these diametrically different ideologies and doing justice to both was quite an exciting experience.

That nostalgia bout was triggered because I’m increasingly seeing this friction between different parts of the population escalate. A certain angst that seems to flare up on various seemingly unconnected issues. So here’s a thought. I am not really a Javed Akhtar fan, and a lot of people dissed him when he connected the Bangalore New Year molestation incident to social segregation and economic divide, but I strongly believe that many of the horrors we witness today – from terrorism to road rage – have economic disparity at its heart. I had written about this in the context of our convenience attitude towards injustice during the Nirbhaya incident. To note, this is not a right-wrong commentary, because I also strongly believe that moral objectivity is an oxymoron. More

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.

viva_la_evolucion

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


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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