Life Ordinary

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

A life less lived..

Quite a while back, I remember writing about people who, despite their circumstances, continue to plod on through life, not giving up on it. I ended it with a quote from ‘The Hurt Locker’ by James ‘Everyone’s a coward about something.‘ I added that sometimes it’s life, and sometimes it’s death.

I was reminded of this when I read about the Goa couple‘s suicide and another one closer home – a person I knew, if only for a few months – one which came as a rude shock. In the first case, Anand Ranthidevan and his wife Deepa took a very deliberate and seemingly well thought through decision to end their lives, planned down to the last detail. The label I’ve heard several times in conversations – real and virtual – is disturbed. I don’t subscribe to that, it’s probably the reaction from a society which just cannot accept that people without any troubles could really make a conscious decision to end their lives. I can actually identify with it because in conversations with friends, I’ve toyed with the idea of driving off a cliff at say 55-60, when a life has been lived fully.

But just like the question in the earlier post – why people continued to plod on, I am interested in the flip side too. Why do people choose to end it? In situations where the individual is troubled by something – physical/emotional/under the influence of a drug, there is probably a point where he/she feels the problem cannot be solved, and chooses to end the journey.

The Goa incident is different because the individuals were in their prime, at least in terms of age. When sports personalities, actors etc retire at the ‘right’ time, they sometimes use the ‘Why retire now vs Why don’t you retire now’ line. Can one think of life that dispassionately? Probably, if one knew what lay after, or if one didn’t care, or thought it wasn’t worth the effort. Or when one felt that one’s existence didn’t matter to anyone but the self. Or maybe there when there was no problem worth solving. What do you think?

until next, life </span>

Gamification – Level 1

Yes, it is quite the shiny new object in the marketing/enterprise conversations around the web. One of the positives is that there are always new and updated resources in addition to some well thought out perspectives from advocates as well as naysayers on its applications on the consumer facing side, as well as the business side. For starters, I quite liked this ‘Gamification and its discontents’ deck (via Tom Fishburne’s post on gamification) that is meant to serve as a primer before marketers set out to apply ‘gamification’.

But though it’s very early days in terms of a structured approach to the concept of gamification, I’m quite upbeat on it. One of the primary reasons for that is its inherent application that has been happening throughout my life so far. The education system’s ranks and grades (performing x task well earns you y points) not only decide entry into schools, colleges, universities and the progression there abut also gets to dictate a lot of ‘real’ social experiences within (standing among peers, popularity) as well as without. (the varying reactions to the answers to ‘Where/what do you study’? in a social gathering) Many systems have even learned how to factor in different kinds of activities – say, sports and academics, as well as types of pedagogy. A constantly evolving ‘rank’ is built over time and the badges earned and the places they’ve been earned at also have a hand in the work stage that happens immediately after education.

From landing the first job to designations that happen later, we continue living in a world of points and badges. In fact, I had tweeted some time ago that gamification already existed in the enterprise in the form of designations. The badges also continue to affect real life through the other reward -the salary we get, which is a function of what we have done so far as well as what we are doing. Other acquisitions from that (car, house, vacations, contacts in the phonebook) decide social standing and open further ‘game’ opportunities. I can visualise life as one gigantic gameplay with said and unsaid rules. The badges and rewards were a system unto itself, until our own evolution made us rethink this. The result has been a linkage to a larger life purpose for many of us. Some of us do this within the existing structures, while others make their own niche/walled structures and rules. But that’s a different post. Meanwhile, unlike most other games, there’s only one life, and that’s what probably makes it more exciting. :)

When social networks came into our lives, we first had fun connecting with friends and potential friends, and then immediately sought to apply gamification by comparing number of friends and followers, #ff, recommendations, lists, circles and so on. Also arrived continually evolving systems to measure our activities – as a factor of presence, reach and credibility across networks – Klout, PeerIndex and Kred, for example. Increasingly, they will impact and even integrate with our ‘real’ game. My point is that we seem to inherently understand gamification and more often than not accept this. Hence, my belief that well thought out applications – consumer or enterprise, have a good chance of succeeding.

I just realised that the ‘introduction’ itself has been a long drawn one. So I’ll wait till next week to share my thoughts on application.

until next time, game on

A small matter of life and death

There’s this wonderful scene in ‘The Hurt Locker’ in which James talks to his baby son who is fully engrossed in playing with his toys

You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don’t ya? Yea. But you know what, buddy? As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. With me, I think it’s one.

Its probably a generalisation, but I’m sure many people can identify with that. Figuring out at some point, that all the things and people they cherished, or they themselves, have moved on. In fact, there are many who might be even more unfortunate and realise that have nothing to love, going through the motions of life, as a job to be finished. But it could be even worse.

Quite a morbid line of thought, but one that I felt compelled to share, because it made me think about so many things we take for granted. Sometime back, I had written about the ‘alone’ people I see in many places. Well, there’s another kind of people I have seen – sometimes during daily commute, at other times, when I travel.

The kind of people who make me wonder what it is that makes them hold on to their life. The easiest example I could give are the beggars – no, not the ‘professional’ ones who haunt our traffic signals, but the ones that frequent obscure places, where there’s hardly a chance of them getting anything, the ones who don’t even ask. They sometimes look too old or invalid to move out of there. There are other examples too, ones that need not be at such levels of despair, but you probably get the drift.

So what makes them plod on? A hope that things will become better? A dogged belief in the sanctity of life? A dull notion that life has to be lived on unto its natural conclusion? Or maybe they are in a state where they’re okay with what they’ve to live with or what life will dish out next? Or maybe they’re afraid that the experience after death will be worse.

I’ll end where I started from – ‘The Hurt Locker’. To quote James again ‘Everyone’s a coward about something.‘ Sometimes it’s life, and sometimes it’s death.

until next time, alive and clicking :)