Archive for the Rant Category

Both sides

Posted in Rant with tags , on February 4, 2012 by Rohit

Parents of the world, when you teach your kids morality, also teach them about the cost. Children need to know that being moral will mean not getting many things they want in their lives. I feel that this disclaimer is often too small a footnote. The earlier they know this, the more reasonable they will get with their expectations. Deep down, life decisions are a safety vs. satisfaction optimization problem*. And at least according to me, it is better to know about the trade-offs than to believe that one is better than the other.

*More on this later

Aukaat, I’m coming

Posted in Annoyance, Rant, Social Reform on November 4, 2011 by Rohit

I realized recently that the Hindi/Urdu word “Aukaat” does not translate very well into English. Aukaat is a sphere of limitation imposed upon a person by virtue of his socio-political standing. A person is often warned in India, to stay within his Aukaat.
Conversely, “Liberty” does not translate into Hindi/Urdu very well. In essence, Liberty is the absence of Aukaat based limitations.
If you think about it, a culture decides to reduce an idea to a word when it appears frequently enough to warrant a shortcut for it.
It is really sad that in India, we have no word for Liberty, but have one like Aukaat.


Posted in Annoyance, Rant with tags , , , on February 5, 2010 by Rohit

You know how people say that you should do what you most love doing, for a living? I say fail. You should never try to make a living off something you truly love doing. That way you will never have to bastardize it for money or for the Man. Get a job you can live with, but not love too much. You can walk away easier in the evenings and secretly feel warm in your underpants because you’re the smart sonofabitch who can make a living out of even something you don’t really care about.
The only real goal should be to be good at what you do for a living and find time for what you really love doing.

Nine zeroes

Posted in Rant with tags , , on February 1, 2010 by Rohit

India has a billion people today. And that is proving to be quite a handful. But I was checking up some numbers and it turns out that the Indian population is a remarkable story of human spirit. In 1901 India had only about 250 million people. In a hundred years, Indian mothers have carried another 750 million babies for nine months each; Indian fathers have toiled to feed these mouths and the Indian socio-cultural system that today looks suspiciously like it has little value for life, has proved, like a pudding in its eating, that it values life. A billion people did not die in the sweltering heat and ravaging disease. A billion people did not kill each other in spite of how little they have in common. A billion people shared scant Indian resources, and survived together on it. I need not emphasize on the fragility of life. We all know how little it takes to die. But be it in unjust situations, be it in cruel violations of rights, be it in ignorance and lack of restraint or contraception, be it with stifling customs, cultures and superstitions; a billion Indians lived to breathe this air. South of the Himalayas, surrounded by salty waters lies nestled, the second most fertile ground for the cultivation of the Homo Sapien, widely and in unbridled vanity considered the pinnacle of life on earth. Even if the majority of them are ignorant and lazy and filled with flaws any Indian can whine about, this super abundance of people is a definite wealth. Here are two billion hands with opposable thumbs. Here are a billion machines that will function perfectly with little more than input from naturally occurring flora and fauna. Here are a billion sophisticated brains that can memorize, learn and create. Here are a billion organic workhorses that leave no trail behind and decompose fully with no environmental damage. Here are a billion consumers for ideas and goods. Here are a billion hearts that will pump blood relentlessly while small bodies inch in unsophisticated ways towards more comfort, security and productivity. Here are a billion minds that wake up in the morning and set out to end the day better than they began it. And they can all make more of them. And quite well, as shown already. India’s real wealth is our people. All we need to do is get our people to value mediocrity less.

Only two

Posted in Rant with tags on January 12, 2010 by Rohit

I believe in the basic goodness of people, i.e given zero or negative costs of doing the right thing, most people would do the right thing. (By negative cost of doing the right thing, I mean a reward). But that has now led me to conclude that, in essence, there are only two questions that need answering:

  • What is right and wrong?
  • What needs doing?

And looking around me, I see only four existing solutions:

  • It is up to the individual.
  • It is up to another individual (e.g monarchies, parents for young children)
  • It is based on a, sometimes periodically revised, set of rules that are laid out somewhere. (e.g religions, constitutions)
  • It is based on what the stance is of a group, of which, the individual is a member (e.g democracies, juries)

The above is based on other observations though:

  • An individual belongs to several groups the smallest of which is the individual itself and the largest is the group of all individuals. There can be several groups in between that the individual is part of voluntarily or otherwise, only some of which have mutually exclusive membership.

  • An individual is expected to conform to his groups’ answers for the questions posed above, if they exist.

It is obvious that given human nature’s affection for autonomy and freedom, individual happiness is maximized when the answers to both questions are left to the individual. But the worst case scenario for this approach is a total lack of anything being done and/or n different answers for n individuals. So for enterprise, the better approaches are the less attractive ones. In spite of this, most free and ‘developed’ groups restrict themselves to answering only the first question. Most groups also offer some form of reward for conformance and enforce costs for non-conformance. Only some of the rewards and costs are tangible. Others, most notably in religious groups, are ideas. The fundamental human conflicts arise out of having to choose between differing answers provided by groups that individuals are members of and weighing the costs against the benefits.

When it comes to what the stance of a group is, there are several options, some of which are the same as what is available to an individual. But a breakthrough idea here is a new kind of consensus whereby the group’s stance is a function of the group members’ stances. This function is sometimes a vote for majority; sometimes a vote for a supermajority and sometimes a vote for total agreement on what the group’s stance is. The farther away from the first, the exercised method is, the higher the average group member satisfaction usually is, but the nearer to the first the exercised method is, the easier it is to reach consensus. Democracy, a wildly popular counter-intuitive form of Government, is a result of this.

How do individuals end up being group members? Some groups offer membership by virtue of birth (e.g citizenship, default religion). Some groups, individuals voluntarily join (e.g the organizations they work for). Individuals join groups in the hope that group membership will entail rewards that are more beneficial than retaining autonomy when it comes to the answers to the questions. For example, living in a society gives an individual access to resources he would otherwise have to spend a lot more time and effort, to have.

In many cases, there is distinct advantage to be had when an individual does what the group has defined to be wrong. In these cases, individuals weigh the benefit (sometimes emotional) of the act against the cost defined by the group for non-conformance. Most groups cannot guarantee that a non-conformance will be detected by other members and put to task. Some of the reluctance to conform, comes from the knowledge about this non-zero probability that it might go undetected. Corrective systems, like the judiciary, strive to bring this probability to zero.

Life, then, is a sequence of decisions for an individual about how to answer these questions, which ones to conform to and when is the reward greater than the cost.

The cursed ones, though, notice that everything changes with a small shift in perspective.

Shiny Happy People

Posted in Rant with tags on December 18, 2009 by Rohit

Success = Ambition/Empathy.

Arun Veembur

Posted in Rant with tags on November 14, 2009 by Rohit

One of my good friends, Arun Veembur, died last week. I am saddened by the loss to everyone who knew him; I am saddened that the work he was so passionate about was left incomplete. But the man deserves praise, like nobody else I know, for not resigning to the  comfort of mundane commonplace existence. Arun was a brilliant man and would have done better than me and most people I know, at everything we do today.  But he had the courage to follow his passion at the cost of everything that we hold so proudly as the trophy of our existence; the trophy that nestles us in an empty comfortable warmth. Arun died cold and alone, but he died trying to seek out more meaning out of life, than the muddled version the rest of us are content with. He died trying to live for his dreams, on an untrodden path. Most of us are unaware, but some of us know that the answer to the questons that bog us is not in what we are doing today. But we do nothing about it. We just live our lives, anyway. Arun, always, till his last breath, had the courage to find out if it was in the next thing that his heart said it might be in.

For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy. -G.K.Chesterton

(from Into the wild, Jon Krakauer)

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