Privacy Paranoia

Swami Gulagulaananda said: "I know what you did last summer... And thus can predict what you will do this summer."
In the popular TV series "Person of Interest", a genius software programmer writes an incredible piece of software that penetrates all networked devices, accesses data, compiles it to create profiles, connections and predict future events. The series shows the ease with which hackers can penetrate our handheld devices like cellphones and laptops to access even the camera and microphone. Considering the rate at which Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are advancing, the story is not necessarily far-fetched.
There is an old saying that talks about the business models of free software service providers like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and others - If you are not paying for it, you are the payment. In other words, the data that you are supplying is substantial enough. If you think hard about it, the amount of data that you have provided Goog…

Of Companies and Customer Obsession

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
Working from a customer backward makes businesses successful

Customer service is one of the most important pillars in an organisation and can play a significant role in the success or failure of a company. Amazon, one of the largest multi national companies in the world, has put customer delight into their core by making it their goal to be Earth's most customer-centric company. To achieve that, Amazon has 14 leadership principles that form the company's core tenets and is taken very seriously when it comes to hiring. Customer obsession is their first.

I'll give you an example to illustrate this point. When running my own startup, a one-man show, I used Amazon's AWS as my cloud provider. Apart from the fact that Amazon AWS was (and still is) the market leader in cloud infrastructure, it was the only service that I'd used. I'd experimented a little with Google cloud, but it hadn't quite reached the stage that I needed. One day, I…

The American Dream

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Greater the risks, greater the rewards..."

The withdrawal of American troops from Syria has been in the news for some time now. It got me wondering what the Americans were doing in the Middle East in the first place. But more importantly, it got me thinking about the ability of the US to project its power in an area hundreds of kilometres away from their homeland. What is it that makes a country stay significantly ahead of her rivals? Similarly, Israel is always ten steps ahead of her neighbours. The answer, of course, is technology.

Why then is India lagging behind her rivals? Doesn't India have enough smart people? In my opinion, there are two main reasons for this. The first is the mentality of people, and the second is the ecosystem.

The mentality of people is more obvious to observe. For example, software engineers in the initial stages of their career should be focussing on developing good software to excel in their field. I pick softwar…

The Ride Back Home

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Walk the path of righteousness, walk the path alone if you must"

"You really didn't have to drive me back home, you know", she said looking at me. I was squinting my eyes to look through the drops that had accumulated on my windshield. It had been raining heavily and my wiper blades seemed to be performing the perfunctory role of sweeping over the glass without doing much in the elimination of the water. "That's not a problem. It's quite late and autorickshaw drivers love the combination of rains and nights. It's rabbit season for them." As I threaded my car through the traffic, guessing half the time, my phone blared out "In 500 metres, turn right". I was wondering what I'd have done if it wasn't for my phone. "Stop the car near that yellow car over there", she pointed. I brought my car to a gradual halt in front of her house. "I had a great time. Thanks. When are we catching up…

On consensus

Swami Gulagulaananda quoted:
"One can wake a sleeping man, not a man pretending to sleep."

"Consensus" is an intriguing concept - It is difficult to get a group of people to agree to something. People who have tried to organise reunions or get-togethers will be familiar with the concept. It's incredibly hard to get people to agree to a date, a location, time - and eventually, some people will backoff nonetheless. Driving of consensus in a group is hard - and it becomes exponentially harder as the number of people increases.

It is the same with debates where the two teams have different opinions, and each tries to convince the other. Historically, scholars in India used to travel across towns challenging various schools to understand which school of thought was the best. One of the well-known contests is between Adi Shankaracharya and Mandan Mishra, where the defeated scholar had to follow the philosophy of the victor (Shankaracharya won). What is more important…

The Unchivalrous Traveller

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Fight injustice... And not (arm)chair fights"

The metro train slowly came to rest and the doors opened. Passengers alighted and others boarded. The doors slid shut. The train wasn't particularly crowded, but none of the newly boarded commuters got a seat. The train had started gaining speed. The construction worker next to me looked out of place in a train full of middle-class. He clutched his hard hat tighter as he looked around uncomfortably.

Looking at him feeling slightly out of place, a rather rotund woman waddled up to him, and demanded a seat. The poor worker sheepishly proceeded to stand up. I caught his shoulder and pulled him down.

"The first coach is reserved for women. Why don't you go there?" I demanded. "It's common decency to be chivalrous and give up seats to women", she replied. "It's alright" smiled the worker as he stood up. I once again held his shoulder and pulled him back to his seat.…

On Litter

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"A thorough analysis of the problem will help in better, long-lasting solutions"

Bangalore is a city of contrasts. On the one hand, we have multi-billion dollar MNCs and have common litter problems on the other. Primarily, there are two sorts of waste issues in Bangalore. The first is the garbage problem and the second is litter.

I find the litter issue to be easier to manage. I was travelling by bus the other day when I happened to look at the ground at a bus stop. I noticed quite a bit of litter. On looking at the individual pieces of litter, I saw a pattern emerge. The bus began to move, and I started observing litter along the way in all subsequent bus stops. It was interesting to note that most of the litter belong to the following categories:

Gutka and Pan Masala (Pan Parag) wrappersCigarette boxes and match boxesPaper cupsPlastic water bottles
From this, we can conclude a few things. Customers can procure most of these items from the same sho…