Something has been lost

Dear someone of great importance who has lost something of terrible significance. You will be glad to know that all your recruits are immersed diligently in the search for that IT. And they are earnestly following your three commandments.

  1. Be relentlessly dedicated: Any free time one gets must be devoted to this search. And if one ignores the other things might seem of more importance (like your work, interests or family), the reward maybe higher.
  2. Remain Inconspicuous: One must conduct this search in such a way that no one raises as eyebrow should they discover that you are searching for IT.
  3. Focus the search area: Once must search for the IT in one place and that one place only. If you are found searching elsewhere, you will be out of this race.

Somehow the IT seems to have remained elusive so far, but that should not be a cause of concern to you. Anywhere one looks, everyone can be found immersed in the search.

All over the world, a typical day now roughly looks like this. Millions of people start their day and immediately begin the search. They are at it while walking, waiting for their train or the bus, while travelling, while eating, sitting in their office/home or doing any of the mundane things that life demands. When something or someone interrupts them, they look up with a grudging sigh, give that interruption an evil eye, reluctantly abandon their search to quickly deal with that irritating interruption, and get back to the search. This interruption could be any of these things –their train or bus arriving, which is also filled with people also engaged in the search. Or when someone talks to them or while walking, they bump into someone who is also conducting that search unaware of his or her surrounding. Or when they drop the food they are eating while conducting the search. The list of these interruptions is endless, so I will not bore you with the details.

And that one place that you asked everyone to look for IT, is still the same – those little Glowing Rectangular Screens that you have given to everyone.

But can I ask you why is so hard to find that IT? Inspite of everyone continuously staring into these Glowing Rectangular Screens (which we mere humans call smartphones), this IT has still not been found. Do you think this search will ever be successful?

Maybe you have not really lost anything, and are just fooling us. Maybe this IT was something that was ours all along, which you wanted. And with this search that you deceived us into conducting for you, is nothing else but a way for you to take that IT from us.

I think I now know what this IT is – this is our time, our intelligence and our ability to harness it fruitfully elsewhere. And looks like you have succeeded in your venture.

I hope that we can somehow abandon this search, and take back what rightfully belongs to us. It’s going to be hard, but I know we will.

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Singularity – Who wants it ?

So what are the odds? You start off the day by visiting the doctor to take an allergy shot for a very convenient modern medical malady – allergic reaction to pollen spread by the birch trees. Ironically, this most ancient form of spreading life devised by nature, threatens the life of the modern-day man. Okay that’s stretching it a bit, but it does cause mild discomfort to thousands to people round the world, who rush to the swanky clinics of their doctors to alleviate the medical industry from the deep wounds inflicted upon it by the financial crisis (another modern malady).

While you are it, you spend your time at the waiting room, discovering the solitary english magazine hidden among the plethora of german language gibberish about celebrities, fashion, cookery, travel and luxury lifestyle. This magazine happens to be the latest issue of ‘Time’ in which the main story is about the possibility of life on earth achieving ‘Singularity’. This according to Mr Kurzweil, the world’s foremost expert on this topic, is a point in time during the evolution of life on earth, when technological computing power will overtake the combined intelligence of all human beings on this earth. At this point in time, computers will have the ability to create technological advances without the need of messy and dumb intervention from carbon based life forms – us Humans. He also goes on the predict that this will happen around 2045. The fact that this calculation is done on a today’s computer, using yesterday’s data makes it immensely questionable to my mind. Plus, combine it with the fact that the Mayans predicted that the world will end anyway in 2012, makes all this postulating pointless anyway.

Well … when and if  this happens nothing will be impossible – instant gratification will be the norm. If the computers allow it (who knows what they will be up to then) it will be possible to create medicines that reverse the ageing process. Even a 2 millisecond old baby computer at that time will know that it is just a simple act of replenishing the Telomeres at the end of every DNA strand, which are lost or depleted as a result of cell reproduction. Child’s play isn’t it? And it took the stupid humans their whole evolution history of some million years to figure it out!

Minor discomforts like allergic reaction to pollen will be so passé. You could be banished to milleniums of aimless loitering in the bitfields (data warehouses on Mars) for even mentioning such a stupid medical disorder (the word ‘disease‘ would have been deleted from the official Oxford dictionary).  The technological breakthroughs of today like the funky Apple iPad, will be displayed in the Museum of Ancient art in the section ‘Doofus inventions of stone age years’ next to the Casio digital watches, battery operated can openers and Flat screen 3-D TVs. The singularity thought movement even predicts that humans could merge with machines to become super intelligent Cyborgs who could live forever. It may look like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator), Marvin the paranoid Android (Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy) and Keanu reeves (Matrix). My only hope is that they don’t get the characteristics mixed up and we don’t end up with the depression and boredom of Marvin, the intelligence of Arnold and deadpan expression of  Keanu. It certainly won’t make for an interesting stablemate.

Another possibility might be that you could have machines that conjure up anything that you think about or imagine. Hey, but i don’t need to wait for 2045 for that, i have it today! Here are a couple of proofs of that.

  1. While coming out of the clinic, i picked up a brochure from an electronic store housed in the same building, which on its front page was screaming about some fantastic price for a LED television. As i entered the elevator and looked up, there were two guys in front of me, breathlessly lugging the exact same model
  2. I walked out towards the tram stop and on seeing an ad about Dubai, my mind wandered towards a couple who had just moved here from Dubai. Lo and behold, 10 seconds later, the lady in question was walking towards me. I stopped and shook her hand and did some small talk. She was right there in flesh and blood – i wasn’t imagining her
  3. My taste buds signaled to my brain, a desire for a chewing gum. I slipped my hand into my jacket pocket, there lurking there was a single stick of gum, brought and forgotten a millennium ago

Mr Kurzweil, thanks for your predictions. I am a big fan of the future and minor futurologist myself, but what you are asking me to wait for another 34 years, i have it right here right now, my all important piece of grey matter sitting squarely in my skull.

So all of you Singularity seekers, don’t fret and spend millions of dollars on research, drop me a line and i shall show you the path. But for all the instant gratification you seek, be a little patient. You see, the cricket world cup is currently on, and the immense powers of my brain are focussed on helping India win the world cup … Amen!

Statue of Confucius on Chongming Island in Sha...

Confucius - praying for Singularity and India's victory in the world cup. Image via Wikipedia

… then why are they telling us?

why

“But dad … then why are they telling us?” said the 4 yr. old boy. An innocent remark, but a profoundly important one.

So let’s put this into context and start again. This remark was in a small story narrated by our very good Swiss/Greek couple friend over a cup of cappuccino, home-made plum schnapps and Greek candied fruit mixed with yoghurt.

Here is the setting: Last night, my friend and his 4 yr. old son are watching TV in their fantastic little house overlooking the best part of the Swiss Alps, and a news report about some extremely heavy snow in China comes on the TV.

Son – “Dad, Where is China?”

Dad – “Son, It is very, very far away from Switzerland – halfway around the world”

Son – “If it so far away, then why are they telling us about snowfall there?”

Dad – “mmmm…….” (No answer that will make sense to a 4 yr. old)

Now… think about this for a moment, for a 4 yr. old, it makes no difference whatsoever what happens in a place called China (at least not yet), why does he have to be told about snowfall there – there is more than enough of it in Switzerland!

And I cannot agree with him more, this is information overload of the highest order. Information is all around us today – beaming over fiber-optic cables, over satellites, TV, radio, internet, smartphones, signboards, newspapers, blogs (like this one J). Can we make sense of all this information? Does it make us any wiser? Are we just addicted to information, like an addiction to drugs? Do we have to check the online status of our friends every minute? The exact standing of our portfolio (which we convinced over selves is invested for the long run) over our iPhone while waiting at a traffic light? Do I have to watch a continuous coverage over Sky news of a ‘breaking story’ about a cat stuck in a tree in small town outside Ipswich? Nassim Nicholas Taleb said in his fantastic book Fooled by Randomness “I don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or parties. If a piece of information is important, it will find you – you don’t have to go looking for it!”

So next time you are told a galactically important piece of information that you could have lived without – put on the thinking hat of a 4 yr. old and ask the question – “Why are you telling me that?” … Say it clearly, but remember to say it nicely.

Alpine Soundscapes

Switzerland : does it bring to your mind mountains, cheese, cows, watches? Leave these aside for a moment and think of divine tube amplifiers, precision turntables and exquisite speakers than that play music sweeter than Apollo’s harps or can recreate the sound of thunder. These were the images and sounds I experienced when the latest edition of the HighEnd Swiss show beckoned.

 

Read the full entry here …

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Breaking News : This write up has also been published on a leading Audio website – 6moons.com. The first of hopefully many more to come! Read it here

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Swipely

… No i didn’t spell the title wrong, that’s what the guys who are taking digital exhibitionism to the next level are calling themselves. Venture a guess as to what might it mean … what, give up already? No problem, let’s start with their tagline – “We turn purchases into conversations” … but weren’t they already? Haven’t you seen a countless high school kids bragging about the new iPad, the cool new yellow & orange shoes, the new super expensive ED-Hardy t-shirt etc. each a decadent purchase that is currently and will be a topic of conversation for days.

So what can Swipely do that those kids haven’t done already … aha … there lies the trick. As with all things great, it’s preying upon a simple human need to connect and doing it electronically (as if we were not connected enough already with 3749 facebook and twitter ‘friends’). Anyway, if you really must join Swipely, you will create an account using your facebook account, or you can also do the ‘old fashioned way’ (i already like these guys) if you don’t have a facebook account. Then you link your credit card to the Swipely database, and lo and behold all your purchases will be magically displayed on their ultra-cool site. Your friends now instantly know (provided they are glued to their computer screens waiting for the next update) that you had a coffee at Starbucks (by this you tell everyone that you dont know a thing about good coffee). Your friends can review your current purchase, discuss it, send it to other backward friends who are still not on Swipely etc. etc. etc. Since it is the age of e-commerce & these kindered souls at Swipely also need to eat occasionally, they will also display cool deals that you can spend further money, splash them on Swipely, discuss them to death and get more deals & & & …. you get the drift. Oh! i almost forgot, your friends can ‘like’ your purchase as well (i really wish some of these sites had a dislike button)

So that brings me to the million swiper question – Does the world really need another ‘social’ net(shop)working site? Do you really want the world to know where have you been spending your time and money. Does your grocery bill or your underwear purchase need to be splashed over the internet? Aren’t much of our lives already public information in the digital domain? And then their is always the risk of your lies being discovered. Picture this – You feigned a headache to avoid the date with your girlfriend & you are caught on Swipely buying a  couples ticket at the local multiplex, that’s gonna hurt!

I love the concept, it’s quirky, brilliant & audacious. But am i going to join in – no way!

Glowing rectangular screens

Ever wondered how much time we spend in this modern, connected, electronic world staring into glowing rectangular screens ? … ofcourse not, we are too busy staring into them! You are staring into one right now, I was staring into one when I was typing this (my first blog entry by the way) … Why do we do that? Are they more interesting than the people around us, or a good book or just nature. At work I passed by someone’s workstation (By this comment the intelligent among you can guess that I work in a typical modern office with ‘Open Plan’ workplace design that is designed to promote productivity and teamwork – why that’s not true is topic for another blog) … so getting back to that workstation that I was referring to, there were no less than 6 GRSs (Glowing Rectangular Screens) – 3 computer monitors (yes 3!), one laptop, one blackberry and the now ubiquitous iPad! Is he more intelligent, tech savvy and able than the rest of us .. is he just more confused because of the contant data streams that he needs to interpret? While one my way back home in the train, I noticed 100s of people were staring like zombies into the GRS of one of the wonderful creations by the technological behemoths of today – Apple, Nokia, Blackberry

So my muse today .. is there a solution to this modern malady? I think my wandering mind may have the perfect answer – Glowing Round Screens !