Think About It

Binary Code

Facebook is in the process of updating its Newsfeed algo again so that we see more posts from friends and family, and less from ‘Pages’. Great news, except that when every person is media, and there is a limit to the pruning one can do, the feed will still consist of biases, prejudices, hoaxes, paid endorsements without disclosure, and yes, cat videos, Lincoln’s quotes on self driving cars, click bait and baby pics. My point above is less about filter failure and more about the continuing explosion of content and its distribution to set the context.

But now let’s talk about filters. The sheer volume of content means that (in general) the reader will want quickly digestible information before he/she moves on to the highly entertaining video waiting in line. Absolutely connected to ‘the demise of the middle ground in the attention economy‘. The article talks about nuance in political debate getting lost, but I think its reach extends beyond that. As this fantastic Guardian article “How technology disrupted the truth” states, “..everyone has their own facts“. But why do this happen? More

Prosperity’s moral code

A few months ago, TechCrunch had a post debating the role of capitalism in a world that includes AI, where jobs are disappearing at a rate faster than new jobs coming in.  Capitalism has always been played as a finite game, focused on profit for a set of people, largely irrespective of the costs to others or society at large. As I wrote in “A shift in the world order“, its only real foe in the recent past has been the nation state, and its executive arm – the government. A foe increasingly struggling to even defend its own relevance, I’d say. As the dominant system of the world, we will then automatically (whether rightfully, is debatable) begin questioning capitalism’s morality codes. More than what we are doing currently, because the impact will not just be higher, it will also start affecting more people.

Earlier this year, I had written on how if it intends to survive, capitalism needs to expand its scope, and play an infinite game – whose purpose is to continue the flow of the game, and bring in new players. Something similar to what Douglas Rushkoff calls digital distributism (read) a model that aims for the circulation of money rather than the extraction of money. An evolution that capitalism needs to go through, or it runs the risk of imploding. This, of course, is not really in line with the way an earlier generation of corporations, or Silicon Valley operates.  As Maciej Cegłowski writes in “The Moral Economy of Tech“, treating the world as a software project gives us a rationale for being selfish. We pretend that by maximizing our convenience and productivity, we’re hastening the day when we finally make life better for all those other people. More

Informed Renunciation

Around me, I see a few people who seem to have stayed put at a certain point in time in terms of their lifestyle – the clothes they wear, the homes they live in, the gadgets and vehicles they use, the content they consume, and so on. In many cases, I have attributed it to age. Maybe they just couldn’t perceive the incremental enjoyment that the new thing offered, or maybe priorities changed – either in terms of economics or interest. But there are also relatively younger folks who eschew a lot of things I might consider a need. In both cases, I wonder whether it is a conscious choice/ trade off, or something that just slipped in unobtrusively until it became a way of life, or something that circumstances forced.

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(Ben Frankin, via) More

The divide and the rules

It has been just over a year since I wrote “A responsible meritocracy“. My view was that meritocracy had indeed played a huge role in dislodging systemic inequalities (e.g. ethnicity, religion, even economic background) but not only is it not an ideal system, it is now widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots, and even creating entry barriers to prosperity. To use an adage from pop culture, it’s a hero which has lived long enough to see itself become a villain. Arguable, yes.

Every system is bound to create two sets of people – those who benefit from it, and those who do not. I’d rate the success of a system on two counts – the ability of its beneficiaries to see the other side, and what they do about it.  The merit in a meritocracy is accrued courtesy intelligence/smartness. Intelligence is a means to creating the universally acknowledged currency – money. In that respect, I’d say that Silicon Valley has been a big beneficiary, and probably the most visible. More

Life menus

In last week’s post, I had referred to this excellent post – “How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds…” in the context of Google/Facebook/Amazon. As I had mentioned, I liked it because it had a direct connection with the can-want-need framework I (try to) use in my personal consumption. Specifically, his first point on the ‘menu’ and the illusion of choice. To quote from the post,

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

  • “what’s not on the menu?”
  • “why am I being given these options and not others?”
  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”
  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)

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Making sense of nostalgia

#nostalgia-quotes-1

(via)

The other day, when discussing brand communication, we noted how nostalgia was such a broad platform that it would appeal to almost everyone.One moment you’re in the present, and sometimes, even without the slightest provocation, you’re off with a reconstruction of events that transpired. For instance, just a week before that, when I learnt that Kammatti Paadam was releasing, a lot of my excitement was because it was set in Kochi from the 1970’s onwards. Until 2003, that’s pretty much my life. Before and after I watched the movie, quite a few hours were spent recollecting my life in my hometown across a couple of decades.  More

We, the storytellers (2)

There is a quote that has found its way into many posts on this blog – “Judging a person doesn’t define who they are, it defines who you are.” I still subscribe to that. However, motivated by the daily outrage on social platforms on everything ranging from a Coldplay video to a newspaper calling the city by its old name – Bombay, to each other’s political or religious belief systems, and by the behaviour of people around, (and myself when I introspected) I decided to go further along that quote. The result was this tweet

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Knew you, again

Jon Westenberg wrote on a subject I too have been mulling over recently – It’s Sad When Someone You Know Becomes Someone You Knew – on people who have become footnotes in one’s life. I could relate to it, though I do think that many relationships have a context-based shelf life. I have written about this before – way back in 2007.

My recent thoughts on the subject, however, are on a couple of tangents. It’s about how people change across time, and the way we react to it. I’ve noticed that I tend to ‘freeze’ people at the last set of close interactions we’ve had, and be very surprised to realise they’ve changed. Silly but true! In some cases, it seems I have expected them to remain as-is even after a couple of decades, and get annoyed because I find it really hard to relate to their current version! [posts in 2008, 2009 (3rd para)] In other cases, I come across a person’s published work, or opinion, and ‘refuse’ (in my mind) to accept the excellent thought/nuanced perspective because I find it to be incompatible with my view of the person I had known! Someone I know had become someone I knew. More

Work, Parenting & the Monoculture

Sunday morning gave me a fantastic read, via  multiple shares on my timeline – “Why do we work so hard?“, in which Ryan Avent traces the evolution of work (hours) from the time after the second world war, and wonders why a trend was reversed and we started working more hours. She considers her own as well as her father’s experiences, and explores whether it is the treadmill effect, the satisfaction of work, or a combination of both. She sums up one of her answers thus –

It is a cognitive and emotional relief to immerse oneself in something all-consuming while other difficulties float by. The complexities of intellectual puzzles are nothing to those of emotional ones. Work is a wonderful refuge.

Something about it gave me a sense of deja vu. I realised that this has also been my hypothesis about parenting! Back to that in a bit. Meanwhile, she ends the article with

..precisely why what I’m doing appeals to me. They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.

It reminded me of a short conversation with S recently, where we agreed about how (many) people follow up their introductory “Hi, I am XYZ” with their designation and/or place of work, irrespective of the meeting context.  More

Convenience & Choices

It’s difficult to accuse Mashable of being thought provoking, but I have to admit that “After Harper Lee, will there be another literary recluse?” made me think. The article also brings up JD Salinger. Both the concerned books are personal favourites. Bill Watterson immediately comes to mind in this context of people who did not care for an encore. I can relate more to him because it seems more recent. I discovered the works of Harper Lee and Salinger decades after they became the classics they are.

It is indeed tough to imagine creators of this era shying away from the public eye. In fact, I’d be surprised if they didn’t do exactly the opposite. Most of the world would consider that silly! After all, if one is pragmatic, it is easy to see that most art is business. And even if the business is niche, the select target audience needs to hear of it. Even in the cases that it isn’t a business, they are a method of self expression, and in the era of social media, sharing that point of view and starting a debate on it is easy and cheap. Just to clarify, this is not about being  judgmental about it, after all these are choices. More