February 22, 2008
“By explaining the rainbow, he has destroyed the beauty of it”
– John Keats on Isaac Newton
Two days ago I woke up from my sleep abruptly, partly because of heavy drinking the night before. No matter how much I tried I was unable go back to sleep. So I decided that I’ll do a little reading since that usually puts me to sleep quickly. It
was around 5.45 in the morning and the dawn was about to break, so I thought it would be wonderful to goto my terrace and read something while watching the sunrise. I’ve always liked the first gentle streaks of the sun fall on my face, it somehow felt revitalizing. So I went upstairs, opened a book and started reading. After a while the sun began to rise and I concluded it would most appropriate to just watch this everyday phenomenon in its entirety since I’ve heard that there’s nothing more beautiful than to watch the sun rise early in the morning. I closed the book, tossed it aside, then began observing the giant fireball move up almost un-noticeably. At first I found it a bit hard to concentrate, though it was just rising and hardly had any of its midday might, I couldn’t observe it without constantly blinking or getting distracted. What I indeed was hoping for was a sudden rush of blood or goosebumps or some sort of sign which indicated that even this banal daily routine is actually magical if observed closely. I waited, time flew by and still even after about 15 minutes nothing breathtaking happened. Exhaustion and boredom was what I could feel and there was no sign of the sudden awe or ‘enlightenment’ that most mystics or transcendentalists talk about. And thats when it hit me. All this time I was not looking at Sun as how those people from primitive civilization saw it, but indeed looked at it as just another star or a cosmic entity that was some 146,000 miles away. Also I knew why the sun rose and understood the reason for its orangish glow, knew why its rays were warm and got hotter as the day progressed. It was pure and simple, just by understanding all that was happening to the sun, I failed miserably to be enthralled by it.
Making sense of it all.
When we were little babies, we never understood anything but were continuosly amazed by even simple things . Though our brain tries from day 1 to piece together all the information it senses, it takes atleast about a year or two to come to even some basic conclusions. Until that period everything around us is a source of surprise, astonishment and awe. I see this everyday with my niece, she’s just 6 months old. She could go on looking at the ceiling fan and keep smiling at it. She doesn’t’ try to comprehend it, she cannot even if she tried hard, she just stares at it in total amazement. We on the other hand are hardly bewildered by anything that is so monotonous. If you really think about it and wonder what is that which makes babies get blown away by normal everyday happenings you’d come up with a couple or more conclusions. You would argue that the brain in the baby is not well developed or has limited comprehension and so on. Though this is partially true it is not the complete answer. The answer to this lies in the complete meaninglessness of the baby’s perception. The baby doesn’t know that it is a “ceiling fan” to being with, not just the concept but the name or the label by which it is remembered in the mind. There are no abstract assumptions nor is there any preconceived notion. The child sees everything as a whole and not as ideas or abstractions. The Buddhists called this Tathata or suchness, it is state where no meaning is formed in the mind and we sense things only as what they are. So be it a rising sun, a ceiling fan or the monotonous soaps on the TV, to the baby it all appears as something new and without meaning. That is the principal reason for its amazement at just about anything it senses. To give you a hint, when we look at the night sky filled with gleaming stars we immediately try to make something out of it. We already know what stars are, why they look so small, why they twinkle and why they appear only at night. There’s nothing special to be amazed about, we know that nothing out of the ordinary is going to happen at that moment. Even if a meteorite suddenly flashes above, we would be thrilled for a second or so but will immediately return to our normal state. It would take a humongous effort on nature’s part to come up with something to keep us up on our toes even for about 15 minutes, but sadly nature doesn’t do tricks.
Everything has been comprehended.
The 20th century has been one of the most ‘profitable’ centuries in terms of knowledge gained in all major fields of science. Biologically speaking, we understand what genes are, we understand that we are just ‘survival machines’ which the genes have built around themselves so that they could prosper. Not that they consciously do this, but this is something that has occurred naturally and we have come to terms with that. Relativity and quantum physics have basically turned our view upside down, old concepts like absolute time (which Newton thought “flowed” through space by the act of God) and space have been completely replaced with a relativistic view. Yes, I agree that there is lot of research going on in quantum electrodynamics and the search for a unified theory keeps the coffee in the research labs always boiling hot, but what does it all matter to common folk like you and me. We have just about enough knowledge to understand everyday phenomenon like rain, sunrise or wind which only 4000 years ago were worshiped in most parts of the world and considered divine. The modern man can never afford to go out of his way now and find something interesting because so much has already been comprehended. If you think deeply about it, this is indeed the age of boredom. Even feelings such as love, friendship and anger have all been reduced to works of hormones and genes and what not. Atheism has never been popular or as acceptable as before, and even the so called believers don’t really agree that the world was created in just 7 days or monkeys helped a warrior king cross an ocean. Time magazine famously proclaimed ‘God is Dead’ about 4 decades ago and as the years pass by we only seem to be agreeing more to it. Even if something out of the ordinary is proposed about the universe, something as radical as relativity, how long would it last before we comprehend everything about it and lose the enthusiasm that we initially had?
We have reached the end of the cauldron of knowledge that we have been sucking on for millennia using science as a straw and soon there’s going to be nothing but just sound of the the air crackling through indicating an empty pot. What happens when everything in the world is known? When we understand all, and nothing is left unturned? Will it be for the better or will people just find life not that exciting at all? “Mother” Earth is already turning into a giant, lonely and boring blue piece of rock circling endlessly around an always exploding, titanic hydrogen bomb which exists in a dark, chaotic, dreary, flavorless and godless universe. Could things get any more uninspiring and boring?
February 16, 2008
After a little over 6 months in the making, we have finally launched yiktik. It went live more than a week ago, and I had sent out invites to all my friends to check it out. And check it out they did, though only a handful opted to join in. To most of them information about private equity, venture capital and even politics is deemed “serious”. I dont find anything wrong with that, I like them for what they are, just wanted to pinpoint the reason for such a low turnout. Anyway feels like much work has been done, although I’d say that only now comes the harder part of driving traffic to the site, but we’re taking it easy for a while now. I don’t quite know how this is going to turn out, we did not decide to launch the site based on Gartner or Mckinsey research reports or anything. Nowhere does it say that the “online news aggregation market” is going rise like 250% over the next 5 years. We completely based it on our “gut feeling” that there was this growing need for aggregation of news content, especially for the business people. The coming months will prove whether we were right or wrong, but nevertheless it has been a good learning experience.
January 15, 2008
Though Dr.Paul has been lagging behind in all the polls and political pundits often refer to him as a “longshot”, he has one major weapon in his arsenal which could very well lead to his victory. Yes of course I’m talking about his “No Income Tax” stand. I believe with this single issue in hand, his campaign could see the light of the day and command greater attention from the main stream media if properly channelled. It is only through highlighting such extreme (as it may first seem) measures than talking about the foreign policy or the economy he can make a lasting impression on the general public.
First one has to understand that the American public now isn’t what or how it used to be 50 years ago. Most people get their news from the television networks owned by huge corporations with vested interests and news paper readership has been on decline for past 50 years. The problem with television is that it has a mass appeal catering to a wide variety of audience which ultimately leads to the poor quality of content on them. There has been a gradual idiotization of the American public after world war II with the advent of what Seth Godin puts it as the “Television Industrial Complex”. With such a drastic change in the intellect, attitude and appeal of the public it is no more wise to try and talk sense into their ears. People dont want to hear about the how the economy is being ruined by the Fed or how the US Foreign policy creates a “blowback”. All they want to hear are dont-make-me-think catch phrases like “The economy is bad, but I can fix it”, “The terrorists are EVIL, I can get rid of them” and so on. In order to appeal to such a majority we should dumb down our ideas and message to their level and that is why I propose that “No Income Tax” should be the official motto of the Ron Paul Campaign.
The current “Hope for america” motto is a very ineffective slogan that doest make the candidate step out. I mean almost all the candidates are talking about hope and change and they have become the most abused set or words in American Politics. Having a punchline like “No Income Tax for anyone” or “Elect me and you will never pay tax again” (i’m sure people can come up with something better) will immediately serve to bring attention to his campaign. Picture this, your driving on a freeway and you see a billboard with a slogan similar to the one mentioned above and you see another billboard with a idealistic slogan like ‘hope for America’ etc, which do you think will arouse greater curiorsity and interest in you? It is time to stop being so idealistic and time to get real. It is a known fact that no one likes to pay taxes. Taxes take away 30-40% of our hard earned income and nothing can be more appealing that to hear someone say that he will immidiately get rid of income tax enabling to keep all that you have earned to yourself. Middle America will completely fall for it and those who look at with suspicion will atleast bother to find out more about him. You have to understand that its is better to have both positive and negative opinions about someone running for the president than to have none at all. Atleast now people will take note of him, which could translate into more media attention and the effect could snowball easily given Ron’s honesty and integrity and not to forget his intellect.
The other key factors in his campaign is the immediate end to the Iraq war. This could go down well in the liberal, bush-hating neighbourhoods. Face it, Dr.Paul and Kucinich are the only people willing to end this war even when latest polls indicate that 70% of the Americans don’t approve of it. Tapping into a majority of this 70% could very well be the crucial step in gaining victory in this election. The message of “No more war” coupled with the message of “No more Income tax” has the potential to cause total disruption in the primaries and send shockwaves across every American household.
You may ask how in the world would the campaign, with all the hostilities towards it by the main stream media, ever get this message out. Well that’s where the massive campaign contributions come into effect. They could only ignore him in the news but they can’t deny him ad slots and with that 20 million that the campaign received this quarter he sure has enough to buy lot of slots to showcase the message. Billboards are also excellent choice to make sure you are heard. Be warned though, if your going to show the same old Ron Paul campaign ad with the constitution behind and him talking about the founding fathers etc you sure have blown all that money off in the name of hope and liberty. The new message should be appealing, hard and punchy. Thats how he could ever get past the the single digit numbers in the primaries.
To prove my point I’ll tell you how the elections are won here, in India. When a local party stood for elections last year, they made one big promise. They announced that they would give away TVs to each and everyone in the state if they are elected to power. That coupled with other such populist measures made sure that their victory was firmly secure. To you and me this might sound preposterous, but the to people like them its pure politics. Pure bred politicians will do anything, I mean anything, to get to the seat of power. If only you could watch their campaign ad you could learn a lesson or two. The message was pure and simple, elect us and you will get a TV free. Though they had a long list of measures and issues in their official manifesto, they chose only to highlight the most appealing part of it. People in America are dealing with the same kind of politicians only that they are more polished. So when your dealing with a competition that knows how to cater to the public through threats (Giuliani’s campaign ad) or through sentiment (Hilary’s hilarious emotional moment), you have to learn to keep your ideals aside and make sure your message leaves an impression in the public as theirs.
The campaign should also make sure that the people understand that inside everyone of those neocons is a war-monging megalomaniac waiting to explode and inside the so called democrats are hidden the ideals of Marxism and collectivism, the complete opposite of what made America really a great nation. Highlighting the ugliness of your competition is a sane and necessary move. People should be made to realise that America is on the verge of a complete disaster, both economically and politically and this election could very well be the most important in its history. The public should be made to realise that if one republican moron is elected he will roll back 2000 years of civilization in the name of God and that the other republicans are only very eager to start another war which could very well be the cause of America’s self destruction. Most importantly, the democrats , who look like the saviors now, should be shown as the people who will only increase government spending and leave the nation in heavy debts. Its never too late to realise the ineffectiveness of the current path of Paul’s campaign and unless radical steps are taken, Ron Paul will always remain a minor footnote in American political history. And as for the revolution continuing after Ron Paul, let me tell you there’s no revolution without Ron Paul, its either now or never!
November 7, 2007
Jim Morrison once said “If you make peace with authority, you become authority”
Google(orkut’s owner) just did that by sharing the IP address of a guy who posted a “demeaning” picture of shivaji (no not that film), the warrior king. Since the act could lead to another round of godhra riots and millions could lose their livelihood, the police acted swifly but ended up arresting the WRONG FUCKING PERSON!!! The sad thing was that he had to spend almost 3 weeks in jail for no fault of his.
Well so much for a company who’s unofficial motto still remains “Dont Be Evil”. The big question is even if we abandon orkut and move to Facebook, would it be any different? I mean isnt it justanother big corporation? Why do almost all of these web companies which are usually founded on sound and ethical principles end up as just another vile corporation, hardly different from Big Oil and Big Media!
More on the orkut story, read this http://www.cnet.com/8301-13739_1-9811569-46.html
September 12, 2007
Thats how pink floyd would have penned their lyrics now if the ‘Wall’ were to be released in the present era. First it was a once in a year thing, then years became months and months then became weeks and weeks finally ended up becoming days. Yeah, not a day now passes without some “sting” operation or “caught on cam” news. Though it is clear these so called news channels air them only for TRPs (ratings), there are certain people who would dare to defend them and argue about their “service” to the society. Well, finally they can all shut their mouths tight now. You should be aware by now of the sting-gone-wrong operation, if not, I congratulate you on refraining from current affairs, thereby bringing oodles of joy into your life. I’m just gonna write a short intro here, you can go ahead and read the whole story if you wish. Some days back a hindi news channel aired a sting op supposedly showing a delhi school teacher pushing her students into prostitution. Though it is clear now, that the teacher did not push her students in to flesh trade, the piece did push the channels ratings. On a side note, a mere 100+ people (read Mob) gathered outside the school and started with their usual job of pelting stones, Molotov cocktails, burning scooters, buses and whatever they could find. Others, who dint have time for rioting, nonetheless felt outraged for almost 5 minutes and then immediately switched on to their favorite saas-bahu serials. Though I wasn’t able to watch the original news, I got the full impact of the situation the next day when it made it to the papers. I could just imagine how it would’ve been the day before on the TV. Following is just a mere speculation of the events that might have happend when the story broke out. It would’ve started out as a “breaking/flash news” splash on the bottom of the TV, first just the text, with big bold fonts screaming for attention. Then the presenter would’ve broken the current boring news item by saying, “We take you now to a story thats just breaking…” and would’ve introduced us to the video with the almost compulsory tag-line, “This is a LiveTV exclusive”. And they would’ve kept playing the video over and over till more sponsors called up to fill in the unsold last minute ad secondages, and the rest is a well known story. The reporter would’ve been happy because he got his “story” aired and a fat pay check in his pocket. The network overwhelmed with joy since it has a boiling controversy in its hands now and thus a promised future till …say, next week (after which another couple of more stings would have to do the job). And the public, my dear socially conscious public, would’ve felt betrayed that an “institution” such as a school and a teacher, who is most revered after mama/papa and before god in hindu mythology, have degraded to such lows. Given its normal life cycle, the whole matter would’ve faded from anyone’s memory in a matter of days, but this one case was unlike anyother. Somedays after the sensational sting op, it emerged that the whole story was faked, framed by the reporter, his friend and another individual who wanted to get back at the teacher. I will not waste time in explaining what happened, please read about it here. But then again, come rain or shine, its always spring for the news channels. And now every OTHER news channel had its share of the pie, and those big bright fonts began flashing again on the TVs. The socially conscious public were again angry as they now felt betrayed that they’ve been made to believe a big white lie.
Now, I have to tell you, i’m no fan of hidden cams at all. To me it is THE most disrespectful tool in the hands of a reporter. There’s nothing investigative in using hidden camera to find out the truth about a person instead of having the courage to fight him/her face to face. The whole practice seems very unethical to me, devoid of the true spirit of investigative journalism. It all looks like a dirty get-rich-quick scheme, except here you get rich by upping your networks rating. People like Upton Sinclair and Ida Tarbell would be tossing in their graves if they ever come to know about this dishonest and immoral system of reporting. If ever you are going to gain credibility as an honest journalist, your gonna have to do with a mighty pen and a brave heart. This conduct shouldn’t be the enforced at all, but has to be come from within every reporter. I was actually relieved to see the Indian broadcast ministry not take this seriously and try to introduce any code of conduct for journalists, they’ve now infact left it to the discretion of the networks (is this for worse?). The govt seems to have only grown used to all these sting ops after the tehelka tragedy and others that followed. But it wouldn’t be long before the dirty broadcast ministry would happily introduce one if there’s no change in the way networks use sting ops to hunt for ratings. That would only lead to many real reporters and journalists being jailed using the new law for reporting about corrupt politicians. The only way to discourage them is by not watching them, sending feedbacks to the network asking them to refrain from staging stings. I was an avid reader of warfornews(link not working now), before it was closed down by the big bosses of two well know TV heads. I loved the detailed descrption of the drama, the scandals and the stories about what goes on inside a news network, though i dint like the way they published company emails. If only they could have come out of hiding and used ethical practices, i’m sure they’d reached a better audience and would’ve gotten a louder mouth. Anyway why lament about the past? The point is, warfornews detailed how the news networks plan sting ops. They set targets, sit in boardrooms and debate whether it was prostitution week or corruption week. Funny eh? Yeah that’s your news network. I should infact suggest that you go and watch this movie, network, and see how much of it is relevant today.
The one thing good about hidden cams is that, in a socialist and corrupt country like India, it could be a powerful tool in the hands of an individual (the reporter is exempt in this case, since he has special powers granted by law that the ordinary individual doesnt have, though press freedom in India is now where close other coutries). But, if the individual does manage to record his ordeal on a cam, to whom does he go? To the network? Who’d gladly pay for the rights to his tape and then use it to pump ratings*. May be he could publish it in his blog or something, but how many people here have net at home, and how many read blogs other than check mail and orkut. So the bottom line is, “Is there any real use for hidden cams then?”
*NOTE: Pumping ratings is nothing bad at all, actually speaking I would like to see people bring down ratings of sting ops instead of the network somehow magically refraning from this unethical pratice. Hey if it sells, they will always keep selling it, nothing wrong with that at all.
September 4, 2007
This is going to get a bit philosophical, so those of you who can’t exercise their grey matter can gladly avoid it and may be look at some lolcats to pass time. Something great happened today, something that made made me think for a while. Earlier tonight, I had just finished reading some existential literature when I immediately had to goto the loo to answer a very important call. Just when I opened the door, I saw a cockroach looking for whatever it could find for its dinner there. My fear and disgust of them had long been gone, not sure when, but I can say with pride that I am no more afraid of those creatures. Some say the cockroaches can outlive us in case of a nuclear holocaust. Some even say that even when you cutoff a cockroach’s head, it can live for a week or so and dies only of hunger and thirst. This I believe has earned them my respect because they are nature’s great survival machines. Anyway, coming back, I knew I had to drive it out if I wanted to piss peacefully because I still dont like the idea of a cockroach crawling over my foot, that just gives me the creeps. I’m fine when its at a distance. Killing it was out of the question, I cannot in any sense do any harm to the harmless cockroach just minding its way, looking for a meal, surviving, one day at a time. So I had to scare it away to its dungeon. This is when the broomstick usually comes in handy, I just took just one small twig out of it and tried drive it away, you know just give ‘em the scare so they wont be bothering you for the next 15 or so minutes. While I did scare the little fella (i’m just guessing its a guy), it accidentally fell into the water closet. It was a dreadful site to see the roach almost submerged, with just its two whiskers and one foot hanging out, holding on to the closet with a firm grip supporting its whole body. I wasn’t alarmed at the sight but I dint know what to do. I just dint have the heart to flush down one of nature’s successful “design”. So I took the same little twig and put it inside the water closet and like that dramatic scene in cliffhanger, I lent my hand, though not directly, to the struggling roach. That was all it needed, the zeal and excitement with which it climbed up the twig really amazed me and I could only imagine the how the roach must’ve felt being brought back to life from the brink of death. After that, he quickly ran off to his secret dungeon feeling pumped up with adrenaline or whatever roaches run on. After that I sat in peace and began to wonder about the cockroach’s struggle for life. As you all should know by now, the loo is just one of the two places where all my thinking is done, the other being on my bike, when I ride it. But actually most of the thinking happens in the loo, I dont know if its the stink that drives to me think about something else, or the closed space, or you know the leaky tap that goes like a metronome counting away the time, thereby setting you in motion or something else. So I began to ponder as to why the roach in the first place held on with just one of its limbs, supporting its full weight, and NOT letting go. What prevented the roach from killing itself? Does it find any meaning in life like some humans do? I came up with possible 3 answers
a. The whole episode of drowning is itself such a pain, and since every organism is programmed to combat pain it just held on to it as long as it could. But how did the roach know drowning was pain? I guessed it could’ve been from a previous experience or just plain instinct. b. Survival could’ve played an important factor. Animals (which includes us) are not programmed to just let go or kill ourselves everytime we are faced a difficulty, we are programed to fight it, struggle with it, find out all the possible ways to deal with a life and death situation. If this were not the case, people would just end up killing themselves without struggling, whenever they were hanging off a cliff, or when by accident, they fell into a pool and hence they would not survive and produce off-springs.
c. On a more philosophical note, could the roach be possibly attribute a meaning to its life like humans do? Survival of human beings and his subsequent rise to the top of the pyramid can be attributed to man’s thinking that life is meaningful and has a purpose. Could it have possibly thought, “is this going to be the end of me? Was I born for this? Shouldn’t I hold on till some door opens?”. Though not so vividly as humans, but you know like how roaches might “think”. At this point I am obligated to ridicule myself for the common notion (not fact) that ROACHES DO NOT THINK, but how are we sure that they cannot?
Here, in the case of an insect, I’m always inclined towards choice (b), though (a) is also a possible solution (but ‘a’ is just an offshoot of ‘b’). But nonetheless the last option (c) is what is keeping me awake so late tonight. Let us delve little deeper inside the roaches mind and in the process dig a little of ours too. But first, lets get the basics right. What is thinking? Is it just the firing up of neurons in the brain that happens in most of the species or is it more than that? What exactly forms a thought and is it confined only to humans? Questions google could answer, very subjective though, but I want to think it out on my own. Could the roach possibly “think” there’s a meaning to life? Not like us humans do but more like associating a happy state (such as eating, mating etc) with purpose in life . With such a little brain, I dont think the roach would be upto the mammoth task of giving a deep meaning to life like we humans do. Only humans can attribute so much meaning into life and define a purpose for it when in reality they are fooling themselves because the hard fact is that life in reality is utterly meaningless. Let us suppose that roaches could “think”, even though not vividly as humans. The roach could very well find meaning in life by associating life with happy states of being with its mate, reproducing, eating and wandering around, that sure is reason to live. But come to think of it, nothing comes easy for the roach, lets take mating, its not like the roach meets Mrs.Roach in the bar and they both hit it off from there. In the insect world, there’s competition for everything, from a mate to your dinner, everything should be fought for. And we all know fighting is a struggle, so why go through the whole routine of fighting for your mate, your food, taking care of your off-springs? (though not like humans, they atleast have to provide some form assistance for their offsprings to survive initially) Why not just let go off the hold and it’ll all be over quickly? Could it possible realise the freedom of dying? . The freedom from constant everday fight. Or is the roach so narrow-minded (or programmed that way) to see only the events that could follow immediately. Like, if it lets go, it dies a miserable death and it doesnt know what happens if it dies, whether its going to be happy or not (happy is defined by the roach as a state of NO struggle) after it dies. To the roach the next event of drowning, which is far more painful than the everyday struggle, is good enough to hold on and wait for something to happen.
In conclusion I think that, though most likely the whole episode is answered by option (b) and to an extent (a), option (c) which is an answer that could never be proven false could also hold true (because we really cant’ say that ROACHES DONT THINK, We wont know unless we become one) . This just leaves me with one big question, “WHY do we (or the roach, though not known for sure) attribute a meaning to life?”, has it been born out of choice (b), that we are programmed to think life is worth fighting so that our species survives better? Or do you really think there’s an inherent meaning and purpose to life? Like service to god or to lead a prosperous and purposeful life and leave a rich legacy behind. If you ask me, I have to say there’s no purpose, and we’re all commanded by our “Selfish” genes to make the most out of our lives so that they (the genes) could live on forever in your children, your children’s children and so on.