Time, Chaos, and Organisational Change

The first chapter of The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzweil, is titled The Law of Time and Chaos. The law has two strands- The Law of Increasing Chaos and The Law of Increasing Returns, and together they dictate that in a process, the time interval between salient events (i.e. events that change the nature of the process, or significantly affect the future of the process) expands or contracts along with the amount of chaos.  In the book, this is used to explain evolution. Evolution draws upon the chaos in the larger system in which it takes place for its options for diversity, and evolution builds on its own increasing order. Therefore, in an evolutionary process, order increases exponentially, time speeds up, and the returns accelerate.

It becomes very interesting when I put this in the context of organisations and the business environment they operate in. The business environment consists of various other organisations (exactly like life forms in evolution) and therefore the time interval between salient events (a new ‘disruption’) is becoming shorter. On the flip side, the organisation (akin to evolution of a single organism) is becoming more complex, and thus the time interval between salient events (their own breakthrough developments/innovations) increases. More

Mamagoto

In the war of cuisines on Indiranagar 12th Main, Asian is very close to complete domination! I chanced upon Mamagoto when I visited that part of the world and decided to drop in for dinner the same day. We reserved a table and that turned out to be a good idea, judging by the waiting crowd. It’s on the ground floor of the same building as The Humming Tree. (map) I think they have valet parking.

Apparently, the conspicuous yellow door, (which seemed a little resistant to push) is a sort of signature across its outlets in Delhi and Mumbai. The decor inside is bohemian hangout meets underground pub. I quite liked the graphic art that adorned the brick walls, especially a tiny one that I think was a take on The Last Supper. The chairs we sat on reminded me of the ones in government offices – Breuer chairs, though there are some plush sofa options as well. I could smell lemon grass, though I also caught a whiff of sea food, probably because I am extra sensitive to that! More

Loneliness and the AI evolution

In a post that I found extremely poignant and true, the Guardian calls it out as The Age of Loneliness. It lists out the structural shifts causing this social collapse. “The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our timeWhat counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.” Seems we are but slaves of a ‘hedonic treadmill’, in denial.

In earlier posts (The Art of Live In, Emotion as a Service) I’d written on how (IMO) even the micro-unit of society – the family- is ripe for disruption. At both societal and familial levels, I think the related fallout is an increasing lack of compassion and empathy, something that I notice a lot on Twitter, for example. Irony that the more connected we are, the more disconnected we are from each others’ emotions, and what impact our actions/inactions have. But guess who is coming to the rescue? Quite possibly, robots, that care! (12) More

Empire of the Moghul: The Tainted Throne

Alex Rutherford 

The fourth and (I think) penultimate installment of the ‘Empire of the Moghul’. The book begins with Jahangir quelling Khusrau’s rebellion and ascending the throne. This episode, as well as his machinations to get back Mehrunissa, give us a sense of the ruthlessness in him.

The book also brings out the chequered relationship between him and Khurram, who was also a favourite of Akbar. Though the main protagonists appear to be these two, the book is brought to life by Mehrunissa, portrayed as an intelligent and shrewd queen who will stop at nothing to make sure that she is a relevant force in the scheme of things. As Jahangir succumbs increasingly to opium and alcohol (possibly encouraged by the queen) she takes control of the running of the empire and then tries to ensure that Jahangir’s successor would also be her puppet. The narrative also features Europeans in fairly prominent roles and is a representation of their increasing presence in the subcontinent. More

For Charlie to tango

The interesting question is, just because something thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking? We allow that humans have such divergences from one another. You like strawberries. I hate ice-skating. You cry at sad films. I’m allergic to pollen. What does it mean to have different tastes – different preferences – other than to say that our brains work differently? That we think differently from one another?
~ The Imitation Game (via)

I watched the movie last weekend, and this was one of the scenes that stayed with me. By sheer coincidence, the book I was reading then was The Age of Spiritual Machines, which dwells on the progress of artificial intelligence, and therefore, its impact on humanity. Humanity will be forced to reckon with AI sooner than later, (an earlier post) but long before that, we will need to learn to deal with ourselves. Have we really learned to live with our divergences? Take this as an example :

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Tapwater

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Wimpy’s is one of those Bangalore icons that serve as a good indicator of how long one has been in Bangalore. You can categorise Bangaloreans based on whether they were around when Wimpy’s was.  When I gave N the directions (map) to Tapwater, (on Brigade Road) her immediate reaction was “OMG, it’s Wimpy’s!” That iconic outlet no longer exists, I pointed out, and also realised that the new gastropub that has taken its place happens to have a name similar to something that is fast becoming extinct in Bangalore – Tapwater! The name actually seems to come from a key offering – beer on tap, which was yet to start when we visited. The basement location, the wooden benches, the lounge seating in the fringes, the lighting – all attempt a new age hangout ambiance. What kills it quite a bit is the musical hat tip to its underground placement – Pitbull, at volumes – in sound and quantity – to cause permanent damage! It was only fun at some points when the Kabaddi action happening on the other screen seemed to match steps with the music! The most interesting thing we noticed about the place was the crowd – a completely random mix of college kids, elderly families, foreigners, and Malayalis in traditional mundu! We drank it all in before moving on to what we came for – food and beverages.

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Wallet Wars

Recently, thanks to Uber having to comply with RBI regulations, I was forced to introduce myself to Paytm. The entire signing up episode reminded me of a post I had written in early 2014 – “The overhaul of currency“, though that dwelt more on the broad changes and implications rather than the functional aspects. Mobile payment systems have been on a fast evolutionary path for a while now. (a bit dated, but I found this infographic to be a good primer)

I also remembered a Seth Godin post from 2009 that called Twitter a protocol. On the web, the subsequent discussion then was that just as we were transferring links and messages on the platform, we would soon be transferring money too. That took a while coming though – it was only in late 2014 that Twitter released a payment service.  A week before that, a hacked screenshot had begun rumours of Facebook’s Messenger having the wherewithal for money transfer. But they were both late entrants in a market that was already crowded with the likes of Paypal, Google, banks, credit card companies and so on. Apple Pay would join later. More

The Last War

Sandipan Deb

Sandipan Deb’s rendition of the Mahabharata in Mumbai. This is obviously not the first rendition of the Mahabharata in contemporary events – Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel, Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathi, Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti – but this one manages to shift the scene to what seems like an apt arena – the Mumbai underground. Bombay is Kurukshetra and Bombay is the prize.

As with all the other renditions, it is practically impossible to fit all characters and events into the new canvass, so the author has been clinical in removing characters and reshaping events to fit his narrative. On a positive note, the interpretation is not altogether flawed, but is written very clearly on a simplistic level. Many characters have been well etched and can be seen as very close parallels of their originals. There are also contemporary incidents like match fixing, 9/11 etc which have been woven into the plot.

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Happy Tradeoffs

It’s in the nature of thought that it never ceases to exist. In Happiness: The End, it would seem as though I’d found the track I wanted to follow. But it isn’t ever so simple, is it? The books I read somehow seem to have words that phrase my thoughts just right

pos

The first roadblock I have found in the ‘happiness plan’ is sensitivity. It works in at least a couple of ways. On one hand, when I act with my own happiness as the key filter, I find it difficult to ignore the effect it has on other people. Do my actions make them unhappy? On the other hand, I am also in situations when others’ behaviour makes me unhappy but one or more constraints prevent me from doing anything about it. In both cases, I have to compromise.

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Vapour

There’s some sort of race going on between Indiranagar and Koramangala on the number of microbreweries. Vapour has been around for a while, but we had delayed the visit because of mixed reviews. But on a Sunday when we just didn’t feel like having Koramangala versions of craft beer, we decided to check out Vapour. Located on 100 feet Road, it’s actually difficult to miss! (map) It’s spread across four floors, and since we wanted à la carte, we had an option of sitting on the terrace or on the 2nd floor. Given Bangalore’s random rains, we chose a table on the second floor with a view of 100 feet Road. The decor seemed to be industrial. Pop culture wall art under the a/c to add to the coolness. ;)

The menu is pretty elaborate and has everything from North Indian to Chinese to Continental. We first asked for a beer sample set (You can choose 4 from the 5 available) We visited on the week they had launched a new beer – the Gotze Blonde, so we ended up with samples of the Dark, Wheat, Ale and the Blonde. The Blonde turned out to be the best of the lot. Wheat, Ale and Dark in decreasing order of preference. Beef wasn’t available so we ordered a Fish Chilly Pepper Dry, which was quite spicy and went very well with the beer.

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