On Feedback and Perception

Swami Gulagulaananda quoted:
"Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it"

I have been a huge hater of auto-rickshaws for a while - Not because they are noisy and unstable, which they are (like their drivers), but because of the irritating quality of the auto-drivers - Price haggling. The drivers often refuse to go where you want, act like they are doing you a favour and continue riding along. And in the rare chance that they agree, they demand a fare over and above the meter charge - Sometimes spouting random numbers which is more than twice the actual fare.

I have captured my frustration in several cartoons, two of which are added here. Here's a comical account for your reading pleasure.

Clearly, citizens who are irritated by this incessant torture of the auto-drivers are going to look at ways to avoid them. Many choose to use their own vehicles while others travel by buses. I had taken an oath of sorts to never board an auto (Unless I was with someo…

Hierarchy of Needs

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"I thought. I shouldn't have..."

I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and looking at pictures posted by friends. Happy photographs of couples driving down to view sunsets, posing in front of lovely beaches, new homes that they had bought, fancy cars - You get the picture.

As I looked at these, I had a strange thought. A philosophical thought. A thought that I should not have had, now that I look back.

Most of us are working in some company - an MNC, a start-up or something that we are running ourselves. We work with the intent of earning money. We earn money so that we are able to lead a good life. But how do we define a good life? A life where we live in a comfortable house with amenities like a TV, refrigerator, air conditioning, washing machine and other gadgets like a home theatre system, computers, tablets among others. A good life also means that we own a car, travel to various places, eat out...

But we aspire for more. With a d…

Wealth of Nation

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The herd is powerful when they are together. They can be an army or a mob..."

I am reminded of an old story where a king decided to run a charity drive where all citizens were requested to donate some milk. A giant vat was placed in the centre of the capital and citizens were requested to pour a glass of milk into it. A miser decided to pour a glass of water, for who would notice a glass of water in a vat of milk? The citizens arrived one by one with their vessels and emptied the contents into the vat. The miser was jubilant that he had gotten away with it.  The king checked the vat in the evening and was baffled when he saw that it was full of water...!

I had an interesting conversation with a cab driver recently. The driver was explaining that he only runs airport routes and prefers it to rides within the city. He told that it was economically preferable and was less of a headache. During his elaboration on his expenses, he revealed that the sig…

The age of data

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"If you like this post, perhaps you will like this post"

We live in an era of data. We use technology every day - To make phone calls, to navigate, to check our email, spend time on social media, read the news or get that weird query answered. The interesting aspect though is that almost all of these services are free. And we know that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

How do these companies make money? We know that companies such as Google and Facebook are primarily ad-driven. I wonder how many people would use Facebook if it was a paid platform. Ads have been driving these businesses for a very long time. But ever since machine learning has taken the world by storm, companies have been steadily working towards the collection of data. If you want to know someone's likes or dislikes, you need to know more about them. A person who likes Harry Potter is likely to enjoy Lord of the Rings.

But just knowing what someone likes isn't adequat…

Madrasi vs Bihari

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Generalisation is wrong - unless you are building a machine learning model."

An incident prompted me to write this post. I happened to read this article where two cars met with an accident on Marathahalli bridge. One of the drivers inspected his vehicle to check if there were any damages and proceeded to drive away. Suddenly, the driver of a water tanker (completely unrelated to the accident) held him and started beating him. This driver, who was not involved in the accident, was agitated that a North Indian driver was creating a traffic jam in Bangalore.

At the outset, one might be keen to dismiss this incident as the actions of one lunatic is inconsequential. However, I started reading the comments and was astounded by what I saw.

There was a barrage of comments from two groups - North Indians and South Indians. There were some South Indians who were asking the "Northies" to return to their home states. The "Northies" said th…

Of Geopolitics and Games

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Life is a game in which only the fittest survive"

I have always found geopolitics to be a fascinating subject. The world is composed of groups of people who have divided the Earth into various chunks. Peaceniks like to say that the world is one family - "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". However, the world doesn't run on such idealism. Many countries, in reality, are trying to increase their spheres of influence while trying to undermine their rivals. Some countries vie for regional dominance while others try to be superpowers.

Any country that is seeking to be a dominant player in the game of geopolitics tries to subjugate their competition by adopting a few tried and tested techniques. One of them is the use of financial pressure. The US, with her dominant position as the world's largest economy, is able to pressurise other countries such as Iran, Korea and Russia through sanctions. By imposing trade embargos and preventing other partner…

Natural Factories

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Nature loves symmetry. I wonder why? Did all asymmetric ones die out?"

We have to consider various aspects while trying to develop a complex system. Take the example of a car. We first start by defining what features and qualities the final car needs to have. Then, we move to divide the car into logical subunits. We think about the design of each of these subunits and how they will interact with one another. The subunits should perform their tasks efficiently but also be economical to produce while looking aesthetically pleasing. We've to think about the energy source or fuel, rate of consumption, rate of recharge, wastes produced and how to eliminate, etc.

Once we're ready with this, we move on to develop a prototype, run various tests, iteratively improve the design till we reach a design that's meeting all the goals sufficiently.

We then proceed to mass produce them. This, of course, requires capital for land, factories, workers, ma…