Think About It

Give & Take

Amitav Ghosh is a favourite author, and I find it difficult to answer in my own head which of his works is my favourite. I hadn’t expected The Glass Palace to be equalled, but The Shadow Lines, which I read recently, is quite the competition.

One of the characters in the book is the narrator’s grandmother, a strong-willed person with her own sets of ideals and ideas. A description of hers that has stuck with me long after the book had been finished is “her fear of accepting anything from anyone that she could not return in exact measure.” I can completely relate to that! Sadly so, I’d add. The corollary to that is expectations from others when one is the giver.  It wouldn’t be right to label it as a transactional approach, because the expectation is not in terms of quantity, but more in terms of thought, consideration, acknowledgement and so on. Yet, the expectation exists. And thus a vicious cycle is born. In many ways, it is a subset of the ‘judgment’ themeMore

The immortality of time

Thoughts on immortality and its implications on personal and societal aspects of life have long been a favourite subject here. It has also been an area of interest from a philosophical standpoint. For instance, if we could live forever, what would be the relevance of time? Would our current existential questions be rendered irrelevant?  There is also an understanding that it is a process – our lifespans would progressively increase – as we replace our bodies (and later, minds) with mechanisms (augmented human) even more robust than the ones nature gave us.

I found an excellent post on Quartz which dwells on the evolution of time management and makes the point that time management is actually making our lives worse. It also brings up something I had written about recently in the context of work, money and AI – the never ending race for efficiency. The article argues that the idea that managing time would get one back in control is a fantasy that only works in a finite world and that our to-do list is actually like the mythological Hydra!  More

The case against cosmic justice

Evolution, as I have already stated sometime back on this blog, is a fascination these days. Fundamentally, I see it as a gigantic A/B testing mechanism operating over large swathes of time, with only one seeming agenda – moving on. A lot of things make immense sense when I accept that as the only framework. Including the idea of God, which has several key roles. e.g. to provide the impetus to move on even when things are not going well (faith), explain the things that science cannot (yet) and so on. If it helps someone, it is a great idea, though as a species we have been consistently been stupid enough to let the practitioners of organised faith take advantage of us for their own needs.


But that’s not what this post is about. One of the offshoots of faith (God/Cosmos/insert whatever works for you) is the related idea of cosmic/divine justice. I used to believe in that until very recently, and it was one of the attributes of being what I called myself – a spiritual person. But at this point, I don’t think it exists. There are at least two perspectives that brought me to it. More

Re-framing employment

For untold generations work was simply a matter of maintaining the status quo.

Across the world, the debates on productivity, reduced work hours, 4 day work weeks, DND after work hours etc are intensifying. Add to this the narratives of “the end of employment” and the “gig economy”, (and therefore the case against full time employment) and the signs of an upheaval of our concept of work seems imminent. I can vouch for that from my own experience as well – expressed to a certain extent in earlier posts –  The Entrepreneur & the Professional, and Re-skill. My posts on AI and its impact on employment are also related to this in a “bigger picture” way.

It is personal in a different way too, because it’s increasingly an application of a broader life framework and worldview. In fact, I was accusing myself of over thinking this, until I read this fantastic piece – How Not to Let Work Explode Your Life. That’s where the quote at the start has been taken from. It traces the origin of the clashes we are facing in our work-life environments now to trends that have been forming for centuries. Long, fascinating read, and a confirmation of many of my complicated thoughts! More

Adaptability & Actualisation

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change“, Darwin had said, in a more long-winded form. I have been in awe of evolution as a concept for a while now, and have rather prided myself on being adaptive, specially in my work context. In terms of hard skills, I still believe that’s the way to go. However, when dealing with people, both in personal and professional settings, I have realised that it is possible to go overboard on being adaptive.

A meta prequel before I get to that. On hindsight, I am seeing an evolution in my thinking on this subject. Back in April of last year, I figured out that I am happier when I don’t judge myself.  Later, in October, I realised that there is a correlation, and probably even a causation, between my happiness and the way I treat others. I decided to fix my happiness as my compass. But when I read this post from a couple of months ago, it seems as though I had wandered off the track I had decided on.  More

Money : AI :: Present : Future


I might have found a remedy for the Mad Men withdrawal symptoms. “Halt and Catch Fire” – that’s where the line is from. While the show has me glued, it also made me really consider the connection between money & AI.

A key factor that is driving the increasing adoption of AI in the work context is efficiency. Somewhere in the equation of calculating efficiency lies money, and how much of it can be saved. I am ignoring ‘time’ for now, because even that, mostly comes down to “time is money”. Jobs increasingly become task oriented and the objective is to make each task more and more efficient. If we continue that way, the pessimistic AI future is easy to imagine – it will happen in a ‘frog in boiling water’ manner, but it will happen. More

Wills and ways

It seems I never tire of writing about choices! Mad Men, and its reviews, is the reason for the latest bout of thinking on the subject. Very specifically, S7E6 and the review at AV Club. As the show nears its end, it is easy to see how each character’s choices have led them to a particular point. Much like our own lives. This, from the review, pretty much sums it up

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The redefinition of life

This article about the man who was one-upping Darwin interested me a lot, because of the question he asked – What qualifies something as alive or not. His paper, currently under peer review, explains theoretically how, under certain physical circumstances, life could emerge from nonlife. Arguably, consciousness is the factor that separates life from non life. However, there’s also a new theory that proposes that consciousness is far less powerful than people believe, serving as a passive conduit rather than an active force that exerts control. The article compares it to the internet, and says that just like the internet can be used to discover, share, buy etc, it’s actually the person on the web/mobile who is actually deciding. It even argues that consciousness is not made to study itself.  More

Dignity Gritty

Amongst stories of soaring e-commerce valuations, this Mint story on Indiaplaza, and how it ran out of cash, was quite a sobering read. But it wasn’t the business angle that stuck with me long after I finished reading it. I somehow felt that all Mr.Vaitheeswaran was seeking, was a little dignity. I have no idea of what really happened, so I cannot comment on whether that is deserved or not.

A few weekends ago, we were visited by someone who is a consultant for some work we needed done at home. She charged us Rs.2000 for a couple of hours, and after business was concluded, she spoke about how, a few years ago,  she had been a VP at a well known consultancy firm. Her current business, born out of her passion, was not doing well. She wanted to get back to work but was finding it extremely difficult to land a job. After she left, I wondered aloud to D, how she must feel, having to go to strangers’ houses on Sundays, and working for a compensation far below what she might have been earning. What would this experience be doing to her sense of dignity? More

Inequality & Technology

A few weeks ago, I’d written about inequality and the role of meritocracy in shaping its future. Another related force, whose influence has been rising rapidly, is technology. I had written about it earlier in a post – Algorithms of Wealth – and my thoughts ended in at least three directions! At least two are relevant here. In the post, I had mentioned the abundance that The Second Machine Age promises and whether the disparity we see now is an inevitable step towards that. But I had also wondered whether any notion of sustained reduced disparity is a lost cause and that as we advance further, the gaps will keep widening.

A recent HBR article titled The Great Decoupling, based on an interview with the authors of The Second Machine Age, indicates that the authors themselves now believe in the second path – while digital technologies will help economies grow faster, not everyone will benefit equally. In my earlier post I had also brought up how I had hoped that the internet would be the great leveller, and my disillusionment since then when I realised that it created its own hierarchies. (on a related note, read) More

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