transcendence

Transcendence

I am a geek. In that aspect I share Sheldon’s quest for learning when the technological Singularity is going to be achieved. If I have lost you, then perhaps you need to watch this clip from The Big Bang Theory (Season 4)

Technological Singularity

My family was appalled when I shared this with them.

Why would you want to go away from the physical world?

Followed by,

What about relationships?

Let’s think things through. A technological singularity happens when a human conscience is transferred into a machine or a robot. What that means is that the human body is no longer the limiting factor of life, and the conscience can continue to live even after the body has died.

In effect the conscience has transcended the body or the physical realm. This is what the movie Transcendence is about.

The Plot

Dr. Will Caster (played by Johnny Depp) is a brilliant researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and is working on a government project to build a sentient machine. However, he is targeted by a anti-technology extremist group (most likely scared because of movies such as this one and The Terminator), and they try to kill him. Their attempt succeeds as Dr. Will Caster is poisoned and has only a few weeks to live.

Seeing him slowly loosing his life, his wife (Rebecca Hall) and his friend (Paul Bettany) help him transfer his conscience into one of his neural network prototypes. What happens next is a good movie that you have to watch.

I do not want to share the spoilers, however if you do want to read ahead, go to IMDB.

The Aftermath

Watching the movie which vibed so much with my thoughts, made me think afterwards.

What is the essence of life? Is it a soul, or is it being aware of being alive? The minute you abstract the physical self, you can also replace the physical self. So what is being?

The minute this technology is available, everybody would be forced to migrate to this system … even if they dont want to!! Since being human is based on being equal, and this technology gives an unfair advantage to anyone who adopts it, any rational person would want to adopt it. Just like any other technology, without regulation and finer understanding, it is rift with dangers and potential disasters. This also means that the time it would take for a technology such as this to hit mainstream would be far more than anticipated … Sheldon (and I) would have to wait another lifetime to get to this Singularity.

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Inequality can still be fair

I know Mahul through CrazyEngineers (CE), and was in touch with him recently with regards to changing the link to my blog (was getting a fair amount of 404s!). During this time, I chanced upon one interesting post he had written on Inequality and Fairness.

In fact, to a certain degree, I agree with Ayn Rand’s theory of objectivism, and agree with the concept of the  free market in principle. I am the firmest believer that people should not be given anything for free, because it acts as a deterrent to motivation to work hard, which, at the end of the day, is what creates value in a society. In principle, everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed in a free market, and whatever product holds the greatest value should be the one to succeed.

Here’s an excerpt from the post, I (go on, read the rest of his post in the link I provided, then come back and read this counter post!).

In real life, there are no ideals. There are no whites and blacks … there are 50 shades of grey :-)

People do not get equal opportunities, because those opportunities are the fruits of their predecessors. Mr. Anil Ambani is living in such an abode, because of the efforts of his father (who came from very humble beginnings). How he managed to get there is a different story … but lets not write-off those efforts which ensured that his children get better opportunities than the common man.

The beggar on the street is getting no opportunities not only because of his circumstances, but also because of his lineage.

In a real free market however, this is hardly the case. Because the humble 5 rupee lemon soda, though holds more value, is significantly less likely to succeed.

The humble 5 rupee lemon soda does not come with an international FDA approval. Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other pesticides do :-)

Sometimes, it’s the overheads which have to be set off. It might be true that the concentrate costs INR 1 to produce, however if you add the advertising, marketing, inventory and distribution costs on top of it … not to mention the corporate salaries … then INR 10 does not seem that high. What’s more important that people are willing to purchase it at that price point.

As a service/commodity provider, I would always go for value based pricing! Which is what a true real free market would behave like. However, we are in no real free market … there is a regulatory body and the price is capped at the Maximum Retail Price (MRP).

Life is not fair, people are not equal.

Your efforts will pay dividends for your descendants … and other people will say that they are lucky and life is not fair :-).

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Move on

I still remember that day in 2007. It was the 17th of September. It was evening and I was stuck at the airport, waiting for my delayed flight at Hyderabad; making one of the biggest decisions of my life.

I had been offered a meaty role in a start-up firm, and internally had decided to take the jump. However, the lizard brain was nagging me and urging me to not go ahead.

I made two phone calls. The first was to my parents, to let them know about the switch in my life. They accepted my decision and told me that I was going to rock :)

The second was to the only man approachable and who had operated in several organizations in that role. He was and is a role model; Thomas Sir. I had not spoken to him in the past three years, yet he immediately recognized me and asked me what he could do for me. I told him my background and told him that I was thinking about joining a start-up. Pat comes his reply, if you want to work in Cleartrip, I can see … all said and done, the amygdala was quitened.

At the end of the conversation, he told me one thing –

After this, there is no looking back

I did not fully understand the depth of this. I think after 3 years, I am getting it. After that jump from the corporate wagon, I don’t think I will be going back to a large corporate. Ever.

However I am only human and when I go through a rough patch in my life, I make the mistake of looking back to the day I made this jump. The moment I do this, I remember that one piece of advice … I move on.

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What’s your ideal?

I had written about Purpose and also how Perspective can be used to change the society, well … what does one do if one has neither? I did not have an answer for that now … if a person is devoid of both, then is his life a wasted time? Does he not achieve fulfillment??

Today, I get to throw one more term in this quagmire of confusion. If one has neither, then one need not worry … one simply needs to choose an ideal and uphold it. Simple. Pick an ideal of your choice, and live by it. I know its an axiomatic way of life, but imagine a world without living by any ideals.

Without an ideal, one may not know what is good or what is bad (think about this before you dismiss it). We talk about work-life balance … well, we choose work because we have career success as an ideal, we choose life because we choose being a good son as an ideal (or a good husband, a good father … the list goes on). \

The best part is that, there are no rules once you choose an ideal and live by it. Choice making is easier. I know a friend who lives by integrity as an ideal. Even if her job depends on it, she will choose to go take the path of integrity.

So what’s yours?

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Purpose needs to be actionable!

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A friend’s cousin approached me recently. He wanted to enter the gaming industry and was essentially clueless as to what to do next. Since this career stream was startlingly similar to what I had started out with (this was at the age of 10 for me though), I decided to make his quest my personal crusade. Where I had taken up games as a form of entertainment, I decided to take up his case.

So I asked him as to what had he done to get closer to his purpose. Other than playing different games, he had done absolutely nothing. He was starting from scratch, towards a journey less travelled. Imagine sailing in an uncharted sea (non-mainstream career), without a look-out tower (lack of visibility) and without the sails (lack of skill-sets) to drive you ahead. Tough journey right? I pointed him in the right direction and gave him some actionables that would get him started on his path. I also asked him to build the right set of capacities before makes the jump to gaming as a career. There is a vast difference between playing a game and making one, between having an interest and pursuing one, between having a purpose and acting on it.

I ask myself and you, that is mere purpose without action enough then? I might have lofty ambitions and a strong purpose driving me … but am I acting on that purpose?

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Alumni Meet

3986014805_17c34bdae8_b Last weekend was IIM-Indore’s alumni meet. Unlike the older IIM’s, we at Indore have this event every year for all the batches. And generally its one huge event in the calendar of the institute. This time was no different. For me, it was a whole new experience altogether.

My first alumni meet was in 2006, when I was a newly graduated “distinguished” member of my alma  matter. I knew everyone of my juniors, and even quite a few of their juniors. I knew all the seniors as well, so for me the meet was one big jalsa. I have fond memories of that meet … until this year.

Due to some reason or the other, I was unable to go to the next three alumni meets. During that time the institute had grown, it had doubled the intake of its students, teachers had changed, traditions had changed … and so had the culture. A young IIM does not have it’s fair share of P&G’s and BCG’s. Now we are not the youngest anymore … needless to say, things have changed.

I was aware of this, yet I decided that it’s time that I pay the alma matter a visit. As always, this involved talking to a lot of friends and rounding them up for buying tickets to Indore … some agreed straightaway (notably Amit Sharma amongst them), some complained that they already had other plans, and some said they will make it. Nevertheless, I had decided to go … and go I shall.

So off we go, October 3rd saw Amit and I in Indore going towards the mole hill. Lo behold, from far off, it looked still the same, a little bit weathered, but still the same old mole hill. I had big plans laid out for the weekend, in a nutshell it involved friends, loads of nostalgia, liters of booze and some good music and drunken dancing on the Melting Pot. Registration was fairly quick, there was some minor hassle about getting clean rooms and some beds and bed sheets … but that’s okay, we weren’t supposed to sleep anyway!! We were here to dance the night away!!! Except for one teensy-weensy hitch … apart from us two, no one else form my batch of 2006 had shown up … and the same for the batches of 2005 and 2007!!

By evening that day it was apparent that we were the most senior alumni there!! Brrr … I still get a shiver up my spine when the realization strikes me again … and again. All the traditions that we were a part of, were suddenly no longer being followed … the feeling instead of being one coming back to one’s home changed to one intruding someone else’s home. The alumni committee and the students were a welcoming lot though, all credit to them. But as someone has said, the people make the place … I couldn’t agree more. Just that those people were no longer there, the place wasn’t the same.

The feeling of loneliness in a throng of people was even more pronounced when we were asked to inaugurate the event. An honor generally kept for the most senior alumni, the oldies. OMG!! That’s me right there … lighting the lamp. In a tumult of emotions I realized that this was one thing which I would have relished doing had I been some guru in management, or atleast with enough grey hair on my head. Not when I am in my late twenties!! At least let me deserve it before I get to claim it :-)

I do not have the guts to go on, possible Amit can tell you more on this experience. Or I might come back and finish off this post some time later. Yes, and the photo that you see above is the academic block’s main entrance taken by Amit.

PS – The world’s best phirni is still available at Nafees, Indore :-)

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Reality Shows

If I have to go by the entertainment shows on TV these days, then I think the society is slowly going to the dogs. So many of them, and all of them are just so wrong … they involve celebrities, big and small that people worship. That people want to emulate, that people look up to … and all of them so fucked up in the head.

Sadly my wife watches all of these brain-dead shows. (Sigh!!) Sitting at home can kill those grey cells. So one of the shows currently involves one small time celeb emotionally harassing a German girl who happens to be one more small time actress. The guy has gone on a pseudo-satyagraha until the girl doesn’t say that she loves him!! The nation which laid the foundations of non-violence and proving your point by sheer will power is now stooping to these tactics? And, the media is broadcasting this?? And people are lapping it up???

Then you have MTV and other youth channels who bring together idle and adrenaline charged youngsters to come together and scheme against each other. Are we as Indians really that idle and shallow that we derive entertainment out of watching all this?

- a sad and dejected Indian

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