Friday, December 13, 2013

Thought (less) experiment

This is an interesting thought experiment I've come across recently. If you lost all your senses - sight, hearing, smell and what have you, would you still know if you existed? Well, the answer is yes. Even if I can't sense anything outside my body, I can still sense my body in certain ways. I can feel physical exertion, I can sense if I am upright or otherwise and so on. Now what if even these are taken away from me? Now all I am left with are my thoughts. Cogito ergo sum said Rene Descartes. What if I am rendered thoughtless for a while by an electric shock (which I can't feel)? Would I know I existed? Not as a thought obviously but as a sense?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Propagation


Propagation of one's line is a way of trying to achieve immortality. We continue to live on through our children (and theirs and so on), is the oft repeated rationale. But this line of reasoning is cyclical. It does not end my quest for a purpose. Merely extending life whose purpose I am questioning in the first place cannot be the answer. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be learnt from the cherubic. Babies aren't persons since they are not born with a personality or an ego. In fact they aren't even born with a body, one might argue. Ever seen an infant flailing its limbs uncontrollably and trying to eat its own hand? A baby doesn't know that the body it seems to occupy, is its own. Even its identity, which grows and mutates with its changing circumstances, is created.

The baby 'knows' it is a separate entity because we treat it that way. Like a piece of ferrous metal becomes magnetic in the presence of a magnet, the infant becomes a person in the presence of other people. Very gradually and with a lot of interaction with others (the analogy still holds), the child acquires an ego of its own. It then goes on to live its life viewed and acted out from the point of view of this ego which gathers weight as it rolls along. All our desires and fears in fact belong to this creature. So in a way the rationale that we live on through our children is correct. But who is it that lives on? The problem with this question is that the very phantom whose solidity we question here, offers answers. Perhaps then, we need to look rather than theorise. Perhaps we need to realise that anything perceived is not the perceiver. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

By the people. Of the people. For the people.



India is not catching up. It is falling behind. The reason for this is mindset rather than capability. In the mad race to get ahead, we block each other. We try to win by competing among ourselves rather than collaborating. This is evident in the caste/religion based politics popular in the country. For the gain of a small subset of the population we believe is our own, we vote into power; ruffians and criminals. But alas if everyone votes for their own narrow interest, no one party is left with enough power to bring the required change. We can't be divided and hope that the polity we vote into power be united.in pursuit of a better future for the country. What country? some might ask. It is true that the diversity of India is mind boggling. Impossible to manage, some might say. The only way for the country to function as one is true democracy. Let the people decide what they want. Divest power from the centre where it is not necessary. Let people decide what is the best use for tax payer money. Their demands will be unanimous. Better infrastructure, rule of law, security and ease of doing business. It is time for us to completely break away from Nehruvian socialism towards a freer, more open society. 


Friday, December 02, 2011

Free fall

There is a self destruct button in me. It presents itself whenever I fear for too long, upsetting the equilibrium of my perfect little life. A voice surges forth challenging me to defy convention and destroy all that I call mine. It begs me to see if, beneath all the layers of sophistication and psychological bullshit, there is anything solid. I have been on journeys of unraveling all that I've painstakingly gathered as my own. But every single time that I have come close to cutting the last few threads between safety and free fall, I have recoiled. I think it is the fear of finding nothing but an endless abyss. Yet strangely I crave the silence of that boundless emptiness beyond the last layer of mortal cloth.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ineffable

There is something about poetry,
I know not what.
It is a way for you to say,
what words cannot.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Fraud - Part I

I had noticed early in my life that this entity called money had a huge impact on the quality of life of people. It could get you what you wanted and make life a little easier for you. I couldn't help but notice that people with money seemed to lead comfortable and luxurious lives while those without seemed to live like beasts. So when I was young I decided that I would make for myself a lot of money. As I grew older, I noticed that people with money seemed to make all the money while those without seemed to do all the work, So not only was money an Jinn that got you what you wished for but it also got you more money. Only money can make more money. This seemed quite unfair to me of course, since I was not born into a wealthy family.

My parents were very moral and conscientious people who always taught me to do what was right and eschew the wrong. This is important because to understand me, you need to understand where I come from. I come from a typical middle class family. God and Government fearing, constantly concerned about the reputation of the family and a strong belief that education is the answer to everything. I had a
pleasant childhood and lots of friends. My mom made me work had at studies and dull as I was as a child, by the time I was a teenager, I became a good student. Good enough to get into IIT and then into IIM. By the standards of the small society I belong to, I was a success already. After all I had a wonderful education, what else could I want? Precisely because of the wonderful education my parents nudged me into, I was exposed to a whole new league. I saw money like I never did before. I saw what rich really meant. And I was uncomfortably conscious of the fact that I had none. I had prospects, I knew that, but money I had none. I knew that if I went down the path my parents had taught me, some day in the distant future, I'd be rich. But I also knew that there was no point in being rich after losing all my teeth and getting arthritis. I wanted to get rich fast.

Once I made up my mind that I wanted to get rich fast, I got to planning. I started off by listing all the ways I was aware of, by which a person could get rich fast. The good morals imbibed in me were strong enough to make me list out the legal ones first but not strong enough to prevent me from listing the illegal ones later. The first way I could think of making money fast was betting on the stock market. Trading I knew was like gambling, at least in the short run. And gambling I knew from the theoretical concepts of probability had a zero payoff if repeated enough number of times. So continued intra-day trading was out of the window. Investing in stocks I thought had future was another option. But though I could get rich this way, it wasn't fast enough. So on my thoughts went exploring all the legal options of getting rich quickly but either they had no guarantee or they needed a huge initial investment. Setting up a company of my own and selling it quick was another option but that was not easy. I had seen a lot of the ventures that my friends started go belly up and it was not a pretty sight.

I started to list the immoral/illegal options just for fun initially. Marrying into money seemed to fall somewhere in between. It was immoral but not illegal. But then I loved my girlfriend too much to think about it more. I loved her more than I loved money, so that was that. Stealing other people's money seemed a very good option but there were complications involved. Firstly people no longer kept a lot of cash or precious metal at home. It all went into the banks. Whatever little was kept at home was not enough to make me rich in a few hauls. I'd have to rob a lot of people over time and accumulate the money, maybe even invest it until I have enough. This was not attractive to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I did not like violence, or even the possibility of violence. When you go to rob a house, there is always the possibility of violence. People are good creatures until they join together to form groups and I had no intention of physically harming anyone. Secondly, when you start robbing houses, the police start looking out for you at least after your 5th robbery. And robbing people was a lot tougher when the police are alert. What I was looking for was one quick haul that would set me for life.

But I was missing something here. There was one option I had not thought of as quickly as I should have and that was the suave smooth talking swindler. I had all the qualifications necessary, I wouldn't have to manufacture fake certificates to convince people of my pedigree. My record was impeccable and people somehow seemed to be able to trust me with responsibilities even those that I wouldn't trust myself with. The more I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make and finally after a great deal of deliberation I decided that this was the best way.

Now all I needed was a fool proof plan. I was already working for a bank which was very fortuitous. This was not the regular kind of a bank you and I would go to but a boutique bank. It served the excessively wealthy, who were also usually excessively overweight I might add. I was in the business of wealth management for the very wealthy who were either too lazy or too stupid to invest their money themselves. Our bank usually took a good cut from the profits we made for the clients but blamed the markets when we lost them some money. As an employee of the bank, I served both the client and the bank. To put it succinctly, I was at the epicentre of the corporate greed. Now I'm not saying all this to justify what I would go on to do but am merely stating the facts. I have no moral qualms and I never said greed was bad. In fact it was my greed that led me to such a position in the first place. I belonged there.

To be continued...

The Fraud - Part II

Now all I needed was a client who trusted us with enough of his dough. During my three years at the bank I had learnt enough ass-kissing to help me in my quest. Five asses and one year later I had landed my big fish. He was big alright. A 240 pounder who was in the construction business and had a net worth of Rs. 125 Cr. He wanted us to manage cash of Rs. 30 Cr. But he wasn't the clueless investor I imagined him to be. He did a thorough background check on me. But with six generations of employees in my family before me and the absence of even a parking ticket in my record, I passed with flying colours. He knew enough about investing also and didn't trust me with anything more complicated than money market funds. But my diligence and bespectacled servile look paid off and soon he was on friendlier terms with me.

One day, I hit the jackpot when I took him out for drinks on the bank's expense account. He spoke to me of the travails of the construction business and how tough it was to make an honest buck. I replied with fake admiration that it was always hard to make an honest billion. Once his proud laughter subsided, I suggested that it was always possible to convert the black into white. I had learnt enough in anti money laundering training at the bank to interest him. Channel some of your white money through an offshore special investment vehicle and you can simply add your black dough to it and show as profits. One can worry about tax when repatriating the cash. In the meantime, it is solid white money which can be used as leverage to borrow from the banks.

He seemed interested but I didn't expect him to remember our conversation when his body was done metabolizing the Ethanol. But during his call the next day was when I realized that I had a real shot at his money. He wanted to know more and I told him. The deal could not be done through our bank but I had enough connections to help him set up the SIV. I asked him if he had anyone he could trust with the proposed outfit in Mauritius and he said he didn't. After years of working in a cutthroat business, he had few friends. His family was not educated enough to help. So when he asked me to front his outfit in the Mauritius, I did all I could to sound afraid. But fifteen minutes of convincing was all I seemed to need.

My plan wasn't very complicated. I take his white money to Mauritius through an SIV and front a business. I make up fake bills and receipts to show that I am running a business. When he sends me his black money, I show it as profit after showing that our business had more in fake receipts than in fake bills. After a few small lots of black dough, he would trust me enough with one big lot. Now I show more in fake bills than fake receipts, take the large lot of black money plus a few bucks extra and vanish.

My plan seemed fail-proof until I started thinking about my getaway. Here is where most crooks get busted. I started my research while doing the paperwork for the SIV. I found out that India did not have an extradition treaty with many countries but it was Denmark that interested me the most. This was a small Scandinavian country where English was commonly spoken and scored on the soft side on almost all of Hofstede's dimensions. Though the chances of my client going to the police were miniscule, I was not willing to take any. There was another factor which I needed to consider. There is a parallel alternative system for those who can't go to the police but they are costly. They charged Rs. 12 Cr for all international assignments. So I decided to limit my greed to a little under $2mn to be on the safe side.

Soon the SIV was up and I was on my way to Mauritius with my wife. The fake business was up and thriving. I suggested to my boss that I needed to travel a bit to add to the authenticity of our business and he agreed. He wanted me to go to France and then it hit me. If I argued for Denmark and travelled there, what would stop the police from tracking me? Each time my passport gets stamped, the government will have a record. And my frequent travel to Denmark will be a very easy clue. So I agreed to France.

I spoke to a guy in the docks at Mauritius who agreed to help me get fake passports. Within a month, I had fake Mauritian passports. We were now Mr. and Mrs. Shastri, second generation NRIs on the island. There were quite a few Indians who lived in Mauritius. Enough to prevent suspicion. Once this was done, we began travelling to France and then by road to Denmark. I had learnt enough to make a copy of the French Visa and paste it on our fake passports. In Denmark, we were Mr. and Mrs. Shastri. After a few trips, we got to know a few people in Denmark and soon we had a small circle of friends who believed that I was a Mauritian businessman who dealt in interior decorative items. Carpets were my specialty. Soon, as I hoped, my guy brought in a big lot. Unsurprisingly the business made a small loss and I had my $2mn in unmarked cash. Apparently cash is easily hidden in carpets a big consignment of which was delivered to our friends in Denmark for storage.

In two days, Mr. and Mrs. M flew to Paris and then to Reims where their passports were found in a lake after a boating accident. Mr. and Mrs. Shastri then emerged at Brugge in Belgium with French Visas on their Mauritian passports. They then went on by road to Rotterdam. After a week of space brownies the couple was on their way by road to the island of Sylt in Denmark via Bremen and Kiel. At Sylt, Mr. and Mrs. Shastri found steaming cups of soup and their carpets in pristine condition waiting for them at their friend's home. The pangs of guilt that I expected never came. Now after ten years and one little boy, I am rich and Danish.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The greatest con

The mind is a powerful obstacle between us and that. It initially tries to divert us but when we don't relent, it turns into a 'friend'. It says 'OK. Lets go look for it'. This is a trap because the only thing that it can offer us is itself. In fact in a simple way, anything we want is but a substitute for the projected state of bliss when we get the object. Is it possible that the source of bliss is simply the absence of a projected state we are yet to reach? Is it possible that the only reason we are unhappy is that we believe we are not where we are supposed to be. Not only this but the very state we are trying to reach is but an idea in the mind which exists only in us. So are we really looking for something we already have?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Canvas

The Phenomenal World is but an image on the Canvas we call Consciousness. The question whether there exists something outside of this canvas is a baffling one, for the very idea that there exists something which is outside of our consciousness is also an image on the very consciousness whose boundaries we are questioning. The only other question analogous to this one is whether there exists something outside of the Universe. There can be something outside of the Universe we know but the moment we find something outside our Universe, it becomes a part of it. The answer might seem trivial but it is probably the question that needs looking into.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

'What do you really want?' is a very tough question to answer because what the question implies subtly, is that inherently there is something unique in each one of us that expresses itself as our idiosyncratic desires and choices. 'Is there anything uniquely YOU, independent of the social and environmental influences?' is a much more interesting question. The Genetic is then thrown into the discussion in an attempt to answer the peculiar question. But it only confounds the situation instead of alleviating it. Genes, I agree are something that we are born with, something that were not fashioned by our society and environment. But they did not come into being randomly without any causes or history. In fact if the allegation that we are mostly products of our society and environment, seems disturbing, how would you react to the allegation that our Genes are a product of millions of different environments and societies experienced by organisms right from the first unicellular organism to the more recent apes (Remember Darwin?)?

Yet we can't help but feel that we are in fact unique, that we exist independent of the few strands of DNA or the socially induced behaviour that are used to define us. And it is this unshakeable feeling that I think is closest to what we truly are. For awareness and curiosity are not the result of something but the beginning of everything. That we have this in common with others is not reason to believe it is not inherently us just as Laplace did not copy differentiation from Newton but merely invented it at the same time as him.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Freshness

Humans crave freshness. We crave new experiences because in the transition between states we can experience the stateless. This is what we look for. This is why we go on.

Monday, February 01, 2010

On Enlightenment

I have always been attracted towards enlightenment and enlightened people and as a result, have spent a lot of time reading about them. From all that I have encountered on this subject, I have learnt 2 things almost unanimously agreed upon around the world;

1. Enlightenment cannot be communicated by words or actions
2. Enlightenment cannot result from anything done in an attempt to gain enlightenment as a result of it

These 2 axioms confused me a little bit because if they are true then why do;
1. Enlightened people try to explain it through their words?
2. Enlightened people tell others the right way to lead their lives?

I went a step back to try to understand what these people were looking for in the first place? Almost all of them started with a problem that they desperately wanted to solve (It was universal suffering in the case of the Buddha) and in the process of solving it, they reached a point where they had to define themselves. Their search simplified into a search for themselves.

Now let me digress a bit and use a little anecdote from my experience of marriage. I would first like to point the distinction between 'Wedding' and 'Marriage' first. A 'Wedding' is an event to celebrate the beginning of a 'Marriage', which is a process and not an event. Now when you are married and love your wife like I do, your perspective of your life slowly but markedly changes. With time, your definition of your life becomes increasingly incomplete without your wife in it until after a point, it becomes impossible to define life without her. After this point, no one has to tell you to take care of your wife because taking care of her is natural and spontaneous because she is now part of you.

Now coming back to our previous discussion of enlightened beings. What I believed happened to them is that in the process of trying to define themselves, they found that they were unable to define themselves if they left out even one single spec of this universe from the definition. It must have been quite disorienting to say the least but what resulted was that they became one with the universe, so to speak. When you are one with the universe, it is hard to believe that you would do something with an intention to achieve a result, that you are not content. So whatever these people would do was involuntary, like a reflex action resulting from all the experiences they had accumulated so far. These people were just portals through which the universe tried to express itself, limited of course by their skills.

But this still didn't explain why they would try to communicate the right way of life or the right knowledge despite knowing that these are impossible attempts at communicating enlightenment. My hypothesis is that our sample of enlightened beings is not the universe nor is it a representative sample of the universe. The enlightened beings who were recorded by history are those who were teachers by instinct and hence taught even after enlightenment. I guess there must be many more who are painters, dancers, singers or bloggers by nature and hence go undetected by the spiritual radar but end up leaving beautiful trails behind them.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A call to all women

I want to make an appeal to the women of the world for they have the power to change the path our race takes to its future. Let me elaborate. Most problems of the world - war, hunger, extinction of other species and even financial meltdown have been caused by men. Specifically strong, aggressive, macho men - the Alpha Males, who seem to hold all the positions of power be it in the government or stock trading desks.

Unfortunately it is men with power and influence that women find attractive. This is a vestige of our descent from the apes. So do remember that these very Alphas whose DNA you are helping propagate, are potentially the wife beaters, killers and gamblers of the world. There was a time, I agree, when women needed the support of the Alphas to help their offspring survive the harsh environment but today I don't think it is necessary.

So all you women of the world can make the world a better place by choosing the Betas, who are soft spoken and gentler instead of the Alphas. The nerds and geeks of the world will make it a better place. So filter out the genes of the Alphas and choose the Betas as your partners and maybe in a few generations the world will be a much saner place and just maybe finally, the meek shall inherit the earth.

Open Source

It helps to ask ourselves once in a while the questions, 'What am I doing?' and 'Why am I doing it?'. Human beings find it easy to live by rules. Rules make living easy and efficient, at least in the short term they do. Most animals live by instinct, which is nothing but rules ingrained into the DNA to increase chances of survival. Human beings on the other hand are highly social animals and have created for themselves artificial environments and therefore need to learn non-instinctive rules from family and society. This worked for generations and hence people stopped questioning many of these rules.

Post industrialization we came across a new phenomenon called generation gap. This phenomenon is common knowledge and is widely accepted but in the initial days, the adults didn't understand it, 'How is it that our children can't seem identify with our way of life when we never seemed to have any such problem with our parents?', they thought. It is this phenomenon of generation gap which was instrumental in bringing about the Hippie movement in the USA and almost simultaneously across the world.

This was the first sign of a rapidly changing civilization. Every facet of our lives were changing and were changing fast. Paradigms that seemed pragmatic to the fathers became completely redundant when it came to the sons. Even then we lived by rules, though they changed from generation to generation. A rule based way of life was probably so ingrained into us that when old rules seemed absurd we simply looked for new rules which worked today. But I believe that this habit of living a rule based life has come to its evolutionary cul-de-sac.

Our society today is changing so fast that rules are becoming redundant within a couple of years. The change from pagers to mobile phones took less than a 100th of the time it took us to change from landlines to pagers and now the internet is going to change things even faster. This is just an example with technology as the point of reference. Many more things in our social order have become redundant. The rites and rituals of relegion, the hatred of non-conformists and maybe even international boundaries.

Boundaries of all kinds have only brought problems to the people of the world and maybe some day we shall open our minds enough to be able to conceive a world without boundaries. Open mindedness is going to be key to the survival of our race in the days to come and only time will tell if we shall be open minded enough to understand this and save our race or destroy ourselves in ignorance.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Grace

I've been thinking about the word 'graceful' and what it means. It is a really tough task. I know it when I see it but can't seem to be able to describe it. The nearest I can come to describing the adjective is that there is a certain ease about some people when they indulge in a particular activity. But if you have tried as I have, you'd realize that it is not particularly easy to be graceful. Then how come a select few seem to be so good at it while the rest of us fail?

Though it is difficult to describe 'grace' itself, I can make an attempt to describe the people who are graceful at certain things. One important quality they seem to possess is relentlessness. The activity they're good at isn't just something they do. It becomes an obsession, for a while at least. While they are obsessed by it, they seem to feel no pain, no fatigue. All that matters to them is the activity itself. Not weakness nor social ridicule can deter them from doing what they want. They are consumed by until it becomes second nature to them.

This is what makes it seem so natural when they indulge in the activity. They seem to be born with ability while the truth is anything but that. It is strange that the very quality we identify them with was born out of a selfless pursuit on their part.

Judgement Everyday

Imagine how a world without judgment would be. A world where there are no morals and sinners but only rules and rule breakers. A world where a drug dealer is incarcerated just to deter him from trying to sell drugs again and not out of some misplaced sense of morality. A world where a murderer is executed only because he has proved to be incorrigible and would kill if let loose, not as a form of retribution. In fact such an attitude towards criminals would prove to be much more effective than the laws themselves. If only people would realize that the laws are merely rules formed by the consensus of the majority to protect them from an errant few and not some divine dictum handed down by god.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sanity, Insanity and Madness

Unlike what most of us believe, there is no absolute reality. Reality exists only by consensus. The beauty of it is that there is no way we can verify if the Reality that you and I are agreeing to is indeed the same one but Mankind so far has somehow managed to share a Reality, at least of the world of appearances. The large majority of people who do agree with the consensus view of Reality are the ones that are called 'Sane' and they are the ones whose example is used to define 'Sanity'. There are however some people, very few mind you, who do not agree with the consensus view of Reality and challenge it. These people are called 'Insane' by the 'Sane'. 'Insanity' is defined by their example.

Apart from the fact that the two groups of people do not agree with each other and one is in majority and the other in minority, there is no real difference between the 'Sane' and the 'Insane'. Both have a fixed idea about the world, both see a structure in the way it exists and both are fairly certain about it. Most great artists belong to this minority called the 'Insane' and therefore are almost never fully appreciated for their work until much later when the majority view of the world has changed.

There is another set of people that is much rarer, the truly 'Mad'. These are the people who are neither 'Sane' nor 'Insane'. They neither agree nor disagree with anyone. They do not have a fixed idea of Reality and never feel the need to. We call this 'Madness'. Some among the 'Mad' have taken the pains to explain to the rest of us that Reality is not to be defined but to be experienced and the very act of defining a Reality apart from us only obfuscates it rather than make it more clear. But then again why would we 'Sane' people listen to a madman.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Heat and Dust

The Great Indian Summer is back and I know most of us have, during one hot summer or another, wished India was a country of pleasant climate. We have longed for the cool temperate climes of Switzerland or New Zealand on many a sticky hot day. Who would not? On one such day as I generally mused in such a direction, I realized that we have to consider our colonial history when we indulge in such wishful thinking. India like many other countries, was a European colony. Not all European colonies have hot tropical climates. In fact countries like the USA, Australia and New Zealand have really good climates unlike other erstwhile colonies like many South American and Asian countries.

But wait a minute. What has been the fate of the indigenous people of these colonies with pleasant climates? North America was swept clean in what can only be described as genocide. So was Australia and New Zealand. Only very rarely will you come across a true native of North America, Australia or New Zealand. Just to show how much these mass murderers care about ethnic diversity and how much they respect the natives of the land, they might allow one native, the privilege of running with the Olympic torch. It is during mental meanderings like this that I am filled with for the climate of my country. The 'Heat and Dust' might be a little difficult to tolerate but I sure as hell am glad that the climate irked our erstwhile colonizers, for at least my people were left alive.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Life! Tell me about it.

One question has haunted me ever since I was a kid - 'How do we know that stones are not alive?'. I can hear the laughter but hold on a minute. Try to recall how we were taught to recognize life in school. There are certain characteristics of living beings by which we are taught to recognize life within them like growth, reproduction, metabolism etc. Scientists have come up with an elegant way to recognize life which is a decrease in entropy compared to the environment. Now entropy is the degree of disorderliness but to measure it we need to define it and the classic measure of entropy is temperature. But what if there are paradigms of order which do not involve temperature. Think about it, aren't these qualities anthropomorphic? Human Beings like most other animals build their model of the world by comparison and the first thing they compare their environment with is themselves. So obviously our model of the world will be defined and hence limited by us. To be able to really understand and know the world around us, we need to be able to view the world through glasses uncoloured by anything. We need to be able to look at the world as if for the first time, time and again.

Coming to the question of life, I believe that the most common characteristic of life should be not entropy but consciousness for we are easily capable of creating machines that may appear to be growing, reproducing etc. A living being first needs to be conscious of its environment to be able to display the characteristics of life as defined by us. But defining life as a presence of consciousness presents us with the problem of measurement and detection. Therefore we probably need to revert to the aforementioned characteristics (growth et al) to detect life. To those that think all we've done is go on a wild goose chase and ended up at the place we began, I say nay. What we've done is unclog our vision and allowed ourselves to see the world, not as we believe it is but as a possibility. No one can disprove that stones are conscious and hence alive and that is enough for me to imagine a world where every single atom is conscious and the experience of the organisms we call life is only the collective consciousness of all the matter contained within them. Adios and keep dreaming.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Remember Remember

This is the season of entrance exams and admissions. The anxiety and tension hang heavy and are clearly visible on the faces of young boys and girls as they await the result of all the work they put in, toiling for years to get into the best colleges of the country. When the results are declared, the successful will be ecstatic. This is one of the earliest successes of these young kids and they will go on to face many more challenges and will win some and lose some but this first victory is the appetiser that causes them to seek more and more goals to achieve. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and achieving them, the only thing I'm against is losing sight of the reason why this goal was set in the first place.

If we try to understand why getting into a good college causes such happiness among people, we realise that getting into a good college is an indication that he/she, on successful completion of the course, will get placed well and earn a lot of money. Money can be exchanged for things that are useful to us or are pelasurable to us, money in the bank account is just a number and cannot, in itself, be a cause for pleasure.
Let me first mention that man can only experience pleasure only through his senses and in no other REAL way. The capitalisation of the word 'real' in the previous sentence is to counter the obvious objection that happiness need not arise only out of pleasure, contemplation of abstract things can also make us happy. This objection I refute simply by saying that ideas are not real, they do not exist outside your mind. Any thought in our minds is a fabrication memories of sensory inputs of one or more of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Jump

An Ant is a fascinating creature. Fascinating in its simplicity. For, human beings are capable of creating a mechanical shell that looks like the body of an Ant but even for an Ant as it is for all other creatures, there is a mystical jump from the machine to life. What is amazing is that life which is so ubiquitous on our planet... so miraculously self-generating, is least understood by human beings. It is this ephemeral phenomenon that we show least regard for.

Friday, December 12, 2008

To be human and more

Imagine a man born in the wilderness, away from all members of his species. Will he be closer to a wild animal or a human being? Can a man realize his potential in isolation, away from all human society? Those who answer in the negative would agree that it is this quality that separates us from other animals which develop more by instinct than by society. This means that a human being is only human in the presence of other human beings. It is this idea which is succinctly encapsulated in the ancient African philosophy called Ubuntu which says 'To be human is to affirm one's humanity by recognizing the humanity of others'.

Nietzsche believed that our species is a bridge between the beast and the Übermann. He like most of us do sometimes felt the presence of two distinct beings within. One, the primitive creature which is characterised by greed. Greed for more food, more sex, more life... The other is that which is aware within us. It is characterised by curiosity, a desire to reach out and connect to others and most importantly a yearning for freedom. It is this which is dormant in other animals and awake in us. All human history has been a struggle between these two and today more than ever we see the extension of the bridge towards the Übermensch being threatened by the beast within.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Schizo-Phrenia

RS1: You know, sometimes I wonder.
RS2: About what?
RS1: About myself. The classic questions, ‘Who I am, where I come from and what I am doing here’
RS2: And what have you figured out from all this wonderment?
RS1: Not much, considering the infinite possible answers to these questions. But there is something I have noticed. I only seem to be able to find what is not the answer to these questions rather than an answer.
RS2: So I guess all you need to do is to chip away all those that are not answers to your questions and finally you will be left with answers.


RS1: Therein lies the rub, you see. I don’t think anything will be left at all. Take the question, ‘Who am I?’ for instance. After eliminating, obviously the possibility of me existing outside my body, I can start eliminating parts of my body which I can survive without. Eventually I am left disembodied, so to speak, and yet I am no closer to knowing who I am.
RS2: I think you are going about it entirely wrong. The very question ‘Who am I?’ is absurd because the moment you are asking this question, you are trying to split yourself into two. The subject and the object he is trying to pursue. This is the fundamental fallacy which is troubling you. In the case of this question, the subject is identical to the object he is pursuing.


RS1: Are you suggesting that there is no answer to this question?
RS2: Yes, there can be no answer to this question. The very act of enquiry is purely intellectual and proceeds by thought. The medium of thought is language which is a logical construct based on the assumption that the subject is always separate from the object.


RS1: So all the people who have claimed to have found answers were lying?
RS2: No. No Buddha ever claimed to have found ‘answers’. Those were the words we used to describe their state. All that those mystics and ascetics ever said is that it is possible to know oneself and that state of knowledge is ineffable. What they mean obviously is that you can only experience yourself as an irreducible subjectivity which cannot be expressed by objective language.

RS1: But aren’t we all experiencing ourselves all the time? What is so special about their experience?
RS2: Are we really? Think about it. What we experience normally are perception, conceptions and emotions. Perceptions are the sensory inputs to our brains; conceptions are the mental projections and manipulations of perceptual memories and emotions, the hardwired responses to perceptions and conceptions. All experience is a combination of one or more of the above.


RS1: So all we have to do is to change our focus from these experiences to that which underlies them and then we shall know ourselves, right?
RS2: Maybe. Some people do recommend it but I think that would lead you back to where you began with all the frustrations. There is however, one more way, rarely preached and even more rarely practiced. All one has to do is to slowly stop seeing the world as a differentiated experience, until finally all differences merge and one is left with a single subjective experience. Practicing this is as difficult as it is easy to understand. The theory behind this is that what we are, is not just what underlies all experience but also the very substance which constitutes these experiences.


RS1: Isn’t that contradictory in a way? I mean, what we set out to do is find ourselves and we end up losing all identity and this is the way you say we can know ourselves?
RS2: :)
RS1: I mean what does that imply? If we accept that state as our true self then what are we now?
Doesn’t that mean, you and I are illusions now? You know, like a unified electric field separated into two complementary Random Signals.
RS2: Hahaha


Random Signal 1: What’s so funny?
Random Signal 2: Who do you think you are talking to?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Detecting Life

When we send missions to other planets like Mars, there are multiple objectives like studying the chemical composition of the surface soil, the physical structure of the planet etc... The most important of them being detection of life. Though there is communication between the Probe and the command centre on earth, the signal is not strong enough to stream video. Hence, the machine will have to be given rules based on which it can detect life.

The fundamental based on which the rules were framed was Entropy or the degree of disorderliness. The scientists decided that one thing which was common across all forms of life on earth was that the Entropy of these life forms was lower than the entropy of the environment. Now for one to detect order or disorder, there must be a definition of order. This is where the validity of the Probe's findings are doubtable because the order which the Probe is going to look for is something we have defined.

There might be forms of order which we might not have even imagined. So in effect we are sending a mission to an alien planet to detect forms of life which are similar to those on this planet. This is an unavoidable mistake because life adapts to the environment and hence a different environment like that of a planet like Mars would have forms of life which display forms of order different from that on the Earth.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Clapton is God

I don't understand how music can have such a profound effect on us. Even just plain music without words can induce an unshakable mood. Been listening almost non-stop, to Classical Acoustic guitar by Eric Clapton. The song just makes me soar like never before. Makes me feel like I am at the end of my life looking back fondly at all the ups and downs I've been through. Smiling with the knowledge that in the end, it's all good... it's all perfect. Fills me with wonder at the phenomenon called life and the sheer beauty of it. All my little worries and quibbles just vanish and in their place I find a vast peacefulness... a stillness permeating the very core of myself with barely enough space left for a tiny little voice whispering - 'It's all good... It's all good."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Abstract

Words try to describe in vain;
the world to us, seemingly sane;
assuming an assumption inane;
that there ain't one but always twain;

Friday, June 27, 2008

Total Internal Reflection

In the fifteen years of his experience as a psychiatrist, Dr. Goldberg had come across a myriad different cases but no one confounded him as much as the man sitting in front of him across the table, waiting for an answer.

Siddharta was an Indian who had recently moved to Los Angeles. He was healthy and physically very fit, so the possibility of his condition being a side effect of a physical ailment was eliminated. He had no stress at work or in personal life. He had had a very happy childhood. As one by one, Dr. Goldberg eliminated all his hypotheses, the look on his face grew more and more confounded. There was the possibility of a defective dormant gene but even that would need a trigger to manifest. Maybe he missed some important detail.

"Could you repeat your story Mr. Sid?"
"Sure"

"For as long as I can remember I've been living two lives. One in Delhi as Siddharta and one in bangalore as Kumar. The instant I fall asleep as Sid in Delhi (and now in Los Angeles) I wake up as Kumar in Bangalore and when I sleep as Kumar after a while, I wake up as if after a nap/sleep as Sid. Neither of these lives has any effect on the other and each goes on continuously and consistently irrespective of what happens in the other. So I have two families, two jobs, two sets of friends, two of everything...

I have told both sets of parents about this condition when I was a kid but they just wrote it off to a hyperactive imagination. My (Kumar's) therapist in Bangalore suggested that I investigate about Siddharta but I couldn't find any trace. I tried it the other way too but failed again. In fact it was he who suggested that I contact you but I didn't want to stop seeing him so I moved here as Siddharta."

"Who did you see in Bangalore?"

"Dr. Sreenivasan"

"I know him. Tell me something you know about him."

"I don't know him personally but I've seen a photograph of him in his office, so I know he has two children, one boy and a girl. He has lots of little figures of Buddha in his office so I know he is interested in Buddhism. I particularly liked the one made from Rosewood."

"OK Sid, I have another appointment so I'll meet you next week"

"OK Doctor, have a nice day."

Six weeks passed by, six sessions of sitting, looking totally dumbfounded. Dr. Goldberg never felt so stupid before. He made Sid repeat his story many times over and one by one eliminated all possible explanations except two, either the monists were right or Sid was lying. He had called Dr. Sreenivasan, who confirmed every word that Sid said. He also vehemently denied ever knowing any person named Kumar. He had thought this was some prank being played by Dr. Goldberg and was annoyed that his personal details were being used. Also Sid didn't seem like a guy who'd make up such a story just for kicks and also pay $500 an hour to do so.

It was time to meet Sid again. He had told Sid that he'd come up with an explanation in six weeks; this was the seventh week.

"Hello Doctor."

"Hello Sid, sit down."

"I need to make a confession.", started the Doctor.
"I have no idea what's wrong with you, if at all anything is. I understand your situation and would like to ask you something before I proceed. In this age of consumerism where everyone wants more, your condition is a blessing. You get to live twice, you get to have double of everything, you are practically living the Epicurean dream. What I don't understand is why is this a problem? What is it that you want?"

"I just want to sleep Doctor... I want a break."

Dr. Goldberg looked at him for a long time but somehow couldn't get himself to doubt the man sitting before him. He had the feeling that this was one of those moments when truth is stranger than fiction.

"Fair enough. I can't help you with therapy of any sort. As far as your problem is concerned, you have come to me to help you decide which of your lives is real. I can't help but remark that to give you advice of any kind I have to affirm the reality of my existence and if I am real then Sid is real and not Kumar. As far as I can gather, your two lives are totally independent and any physical injury or ailment to one does not affect the other in any way. So if you really want to live just one life then I suggest you choose one. As a doctor I cannot be more explicit than this with a patient. I hope you understand what I mean."

"I understand Doctor, I will think about it, thank you."

"Good, I hope you find what you're looking for. Good bye."

"Good bye Doctor."

A week later, Dr. Goldberg found a note on his desk...
"Thank you doctor. I chose Sid and finally slept last night but I'm sure it would have worked the other way too..."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Experiment and Evolve

"Natural selection is the process by which favorable heritable traits become more common in successive generations of a population of reproducing organisms, and unfavorable heritable traits become less common, due to differential reproduction of genotypes."

What Wikipedia means is that, with time the proportion of the population of a particular species which possess favourable traits increases. This is because reproductive systems across species, work in such a way that from among the genes of the two partners, the better ones are selected for the genetic make of the offspring. The organisms themselves contribute to this improvement of genetic pool by choosing their partners based on their Phenotype which is a fancy word to describe their physical characteristics. Each of the physical features indicates the nature of a set of genes which govern it.

Thus as time passes by, the physical characteristics which are the statistical mode of the population become desirable. But as we all know, the Bell curve has two tails. There maybe members of the species whose genes have mutated and are much better than those which are currently the best. As a result of these genes, their physical characteristics or Phenotype might appear quite different from the statistical median or mode. These members might find it a lot harder to find a mate, thus slowing down evolution.

So the more we are willing to be different in our choice of mate, greater will be the rate of our evolution and sooner will we bring into the world the Übermann.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What I am

I am not this. Constantly in flux, ever changing machine. I am not that which drives this machine. For, to drive is to be driven and to be driven is to be part of a bigger machine. I am not that. I am one, not many, in space and time. Neither perception nor thought am I, I am that which is aware of both. My description is elusive, for what description is apart from thought or perception? I know I am but what, I know not.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Live to consume or consume to live?

Only in our species do we observe a deep yearning for freedom from all bondage and an instinctive desire to consume at the same time. It is the interplay of these opposing forces that causes all human action. Most people are unaware of even the existence of such contradiction within them. Of the two, the will to be free is reason we have evolved in all respects, be it science, art or morals. On the other hand, the will to consume has been the bane of human civilization. It is this which causes apathy, cruelty and violence amongst us in a desperate attempt to satisfy the unquenchable fires of desire. It is a pity that the very force of darkness and ignorance which we have fought so long successfully to get to where we are, is what's driving the whole world today. Consumption is king. It is what economies all over the world are trying to increase more and more in a desperate attempt to outgrow each other, oblivious of the impending doom it augurs. Thus we are faced with the obvious question: Do we live to consume or consume to live?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Waking life

Now Philip K. Dick is right about time, but he’s wrong that it’s 50 A.D. Actually, there’s only one instant, and it’s right now, and it’s eternity. And it’s an instant in which God is posing a question, and that question is basically, ‘Do you want to, you know, be one with eternity? Do you want to be in heaven?’ And we’re all saying, ‘No thank you. Not just yet.’ And so time is actually just this constant saying ‘No’ to God’s invitation. I mean that’s what time is. I mean, and it’s no more 50 A.D. than it’s two thousand and one. And there’s just this one instant, and that’s what we’re always in."

A monologue from Waking Life

Thursday, February 07, 2008

On Freedom

I have always experienced the intense urge to get away from everything... to escape. I have experienced the elevation that one can know only in midst of boundless spaces, be it the ocean or the mountains. I have experienced the revulsion of being bound, the utter depression that the feeling of being trapped brings in its wake. Like a stubborn child, I have refused ways offered by people to escape this feeling, refusing to alleviate my condition with temporary remedies. I cannot get myself to believe that hunger, boredom and inertia are the natural state of our being and that everything we do is an impossible attempt to mask the violence of it. I have been taught that we have needs and desires, while the former are said to be governed by the diktats of reason, the latter have been associated with our free will. I've been told that while the latter are under our control, we are bound by the former. But a need is predicated by another. So my need for money is predicated by my need for food which is predicated by my need to stay alive. Need to stay alive? If we think a little we realize that there is none, which implies that I choose to... that we all do. But then a choice isn't a choice until we are capable of choosing either of the alternatives. This doesn't mean that we become suicidal because any inclination would only serve to bind us, but that we live like we have a choice and then we'd realize that we are absolutely free... every single one of us. It is the forgetfulness of this which causes all misery.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

On the paradox of wanting to be cool

Most people want to be cool but why it is such an elusive state of being is what I intend to explore here. This desire starts when one observes another with this rare quality of being cool. Not only is it extremely attractive but worse, it is even more elusive. It is really hard to describe and the reason for this is that we can describe all that we can describe only in terms of the other qualities we know. We say we know something not when we know the apparent behaviour but when we know what drives it. Hence when we describe a person, we can say he is a swimmer or a boxer, implying that these are the activities which drive him.

The problem people face when trying to describe someone cool is that they are not able to grasp that which drives him. The reason is very simple, nothing drives him. This doesn't mean that a cool guy is a person who just lazes around and finds pleasure in nothing, on the contrary it means that a cool guy finds pleasure in everything thus causing him to appear nonchalant. Since most people do not understand this, they tend to copy the behaviour of the cool guy, which doesn't make them cool and instead only makes them appear foolish. What's really funny is that the paradox of wanting to be the kind of a person who doesn't want anything escapes them completely. Though born of ignorance, this is the first step towards people becoming cool as this desire replaces all others and itself disappears when the paradox is understood.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Primal Desire

All of our desires can be explained as having evolved from the desire to live. 'How about the desire to reproduce?' one might ask. Even the desire to reproduce can be traced to the desire to live and here is how. Life began on earth in the form of a unicellular organism and everything it did, it did to stay alive, to stay as an integral unit and not disintegrate into its constituent elements. What was it then that made it want to reproduce (by splitting itself into two)? How did the desire to live manifest as the desire to reproduce? Now it is perfectly logical that more the number of organisms higher the probability of at least one of them staying alive. But how would that matter to the first organism? The probability of it staying alive wouldn't change, would it? The solution to this seemingly impossible conundrum is fairly simple. The organism didn't consider its offspring as separate from itself. It just saw the offspring as an extended part of itself and was probably conscious of both itself and the offspring and hence the offspring too was same as the parent. So if one of the two cells died, the organism still lived on as the one that remained. This is how that primeval organism stayed alive and still lives on as us...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Vasudaiva Kutumbakam

"Vasudaiva Kutumbakam". These two words encapsulate that which all religions are striving for. The phrase means that the world is one family. All of us would agree that even the most 'evil' man is good to himself. He may be good only to himself because he considers only himself as his family. A man less 'evil' would probably be good to himself, his wife and children. A man even less 'evil' might be good to himself, his relatives and his community. Thus we can continue grading people according to how 'evil' they are. The goal of all religions is to make all men good to everyone irrespective of caste, creed or religion. Where the religions err is in their emphasis on teaching people how to be good. Religions preach practices to be followed which would make people do good to others. Donate to the poor, help people when they ask for help etc... are practices religions demand of their practitioners. One must realize that everyone knows how to be good. All that separates a 'good' man from an 'evil' man is who he is good to, rather who he thinks of as his family. Thus a religion which is able to broaden the perspective of its practitioners and make them see the whole world as their family is one that is truly successful.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Linear Regression

"Could you try not aiming so much?" he asked me, still standing there. "If you hit him when you aim, it'll just be luck." He was speaking, communicating, and yet not breaking the spell. I then broke it. Quite deliberately. "How can it be luck if I aim?" I said back to him, not loud (despite the italics) but with rather more irritation in my voice than I was actually feeling. He didn't say anything for a moment but simply stood balanced on the curb, looking at me, I knew imperfectly, with love. "Because it will be," he said. "You'll be glad if you hit his marble — Ira's marble — won't you? Won't you be glad? And if you're glad when you hit somebody's marble, then you sort of secretly didn't expect too much to do it. So there'd have to be some luck in it, there'd have to be slightly quite a lot of accident in it."

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963)
J.D. Salinger

What was Salinger trying to say? Of course I can only presume according to my understanding and inclinations but following is my explanation. A particular outcome depends on many factors of which some we can control and the rest are beyond our control. We notice that as we increase our efforts in the controllable factors, the outcome comes closer and closer to the desired outcome. Thus we mentally create a linear model where increased effort brings the outcome closer to the desired outcome. We extrapolate using this model to find the expected outcome for a higher effort. But the problem here is that after a certain level of effort, more effort will not bring the outcome any closer to the desired outcome than before thus going against our expectations. So when Seymour asks the narrator not to aim so much, he means that there is no point in aiming beyond a certain limit. Any improvement in outcome when aiming more cannot be attributed to the shooter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Workaholics Anonymous

More and more people around us are turning into workaholics. Whenever we see one, we say to ourselves that ‘I won’t be like that, I’ll enjoy my life’. It begins quite innocuously actually. Everyone likes his sensory pleasures, be it eating good food, sleeping or watching good movies. To be able to afford more and more of these, he would need time and money. So he sets himself a goal which would give him the means to acquire these pleasures. In the beginning the goals are small but to achieve them, he would have to give up some of the very pleasures for which he’s striving to achieve the goal in the first place. But that’s ok he thinks ‘cause once I get there I can have a lot more of these pleasures, and he willingly sacrifices them. The goals keep getting bigger and bigger and the sacrifices too. Soon the guy is gulping down a piece of bread with some milk on his way to get to the office quicker, he’s sleeping just 5 hours a day to work more and be able to bag that promotion and he hasn’t watched a movie in 2 years. After this stage, something interesting happens. Every time he achieves a goal he finds that the elation is very short-lived and he starts getting depressed after every achievement. All the good things that money can buy don’t please him anymore. He’s given up his sources of pleasure for so long that he doesn’t enjoy them anymore. Goal after goal after goal he strives on like a machine, working for the means to acquire things that used to give him pleasure once upon a time. One day he realizes the futility of all this activity and that day he experiences what is popularly known as Burn-Out.

Wake Up

Dreaming is very much like thinking. There is a context to every thought just like there is an environment to every dream. Both are set by the state of our mind. The dream proceeds just like a train of thought. One scene leads up to the next, guided by our desires and fears. What interests me more than the mechanism of dreaming is the process of waking up. One of the most common ways of waking up is by interruption to the dream caused by external stimuli. Another way of waking up is by slowly disbelieving the dream until you know you’re dreaming and then you wake up. There is one common factor in both of the ways of waking up, which is the desire to wake up. It is commonly observed that external stimuli are integrated into our dreams when we are not inclined to wake up. It is also common to continue dreaming even when you know you’re dreaming (This is popularly known as Lucid Dreaming).

Friday, August 24, 2007

KOANalysis

Human beings have a tendency to 'live in their heads'. This phrase covers several facts. First, men have a tendency to overtheorize. Some things are ruined by too much thinking on them, things which are essentially matters of experience. What is more, almost anything can be source of immediate experience, and so almost anything is vulnerable to ruination by too much theorizing. The second fact is this. Such theorizing usually presents itself phenomenologically as internal verbalization, and the internal verbalization often insinuates itself between ourselves and the thing experienced. This is how the thinking interrupts experience and how it leaves us with only our verbalizations. This leads to the third fact: when our theoretical internal verbalization is interposed between ourselves and external things, the object of our awareness becomes ourselves. It is we who are doing the theorizing, and to be aware of the theoretical verbalizing is to be aware of ourselves. This state of mind is undesirable, for it is a commonplace that our happiest moments come when we are not conscious of ourselves, and that most forms of consciousness of self are baneful. It is hard to say why this is so; perhaps the resources of a self are much more limited than the resources of the world, so only an object-directed consciousness can satisfy the human appetite for variety.

The dis-advantageousness of this state leaves us with a problem: how can a man with a propensity for injecting his theorizing between himself and the world be coaxed out of doing this? It does no good to mount an argument about the disadvantages of living in one's head. This would be one more theory, one more verbal construction for the unenlightened to interpose between himself and the world. The activity has got to be halted, and what the Zen masters realized is that it can't be halted by arguing, however subtly and cogently, that it has got to be halted.

There are two kinds of Koans which help achieve this. One is in the form of a question, often one that seems obscure and engages the attention of the student completely. The student is completely occupied with this question and in the process of finding the answer, he is constantly absorbed in thought until finally he can think of nothing and reaches a state of internal objective silence.The other is an answer to the question of a student lost in a cloud of metaphysics surrounding reality, wherein the master turns his attention to objects of immediate experience. The objects are presented in contexts normally reserved for verbal theorizing, since the abrupt shift of context makes them perspicuous.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Root

The most important goal of any company is profits. What does this goal mean exactly? When we talk about profits, we mean that after the company makes a product, it adds to the costs (labour and material) a certain amount and sets this sum as the selling price of the product. Here comes the difference between communist and capitalist governments. In the case of capitalistism the value of labour and material are extrinsic and are determined by the demand and supply whereas in the case of communism the value of labour and material are intrinsic and are determined by some parameters set centrally.

The marginal addition to this cost is the profit which can be considered to be the income of the owners. Now anything is only as valuable as the sum of the costs of making it so why are we selling it at a higher price? Here comes the concept of Opportunity Cost as the economists call it. Opportunity Cost is defined as the cost of the most valuable alternative foregone. Let me illustrate this with an example; if a farmer is cultivating his own field he must add the cost of his labour, according to the highest wage he might have received if he worked for anyone else, to the cost of his produce. This concept of Opportunity Cost is extended to justify profits. Now there is a subtle difference between applying the concept of Opportunity Cost to money and labour. If a labourer is not working for you, he could have worked for someone else and could have added a fixed value to his product because of which he would deserve to be paid a certain amount whereas the money if not used by you could be used by the owner of the capital to probably create some other product but the catch here is that money can only add as much value to anything as its own value and nothing more. So the opportunity cost of an amount of money is the same amount of money no matter where it is used. So when we sell something at a profit we are in effect adding to the cost of labour and materials, an amount greater than the amount of capital invested and are justifying this by calling it Cost of Capital.

Money is basically an instrument which derives its value from the underlying assets very much like Financial Derivatives, the only difference being that money is a composite financial instrument which derives value from anything it can be used to purchase, hence the total amount of money in circulation in the world will be equal to the sum of prices of everything that is for sale. When we add the cost of material to the product, we are basically adding the value of the material. So if the wood needed to produce furniture cost me Rs. 100 then I can add only Rs. 100 to the cost of the furniture. How then, can we justify adding Rs. 110 to the cost of the furniture when the wood is bought using Rs. 100 invested by the owner for profit?

Any person is due an amount commensurate with the value he adds to a product by his labour. Let’s say there is a carpenter X who works for a shop that makes furniture. He gets paid Rs. 1000 for the work he does on the wood (the value he adds to it). If X spends only Rs. 500 and invests the rest in stock he probably makes a profit of Rs. 100 by the end of the day. This in effect means that X makes Rs. 100 more than the value of his work. The concept of interest can be justified by saying that the interest is used to cover the losses incurred when some people cannot return the money they borrowed. The flaw here is that, firstly any loss due to bad loans is purely personal because the money and the decision to lend it belongs only to the owner; secondly interest cannot be justified by this argument because the owner is transferring his loss to another person merely because this person is vulnerable and needs the money to survive.

When a borrower is unable to repay his loan, he is forced by the lender to give something of some value to him in place of money and so he gives up his land and here lies the root of capitalism: private ownership of land. Land and other resources which were previously used only as means to a livelihood, now become personal property.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Conditioned Response

For all of us, it takes a lot of effort to start at least one of the following:-

Getting up early in the morning
Taking a cold shower in the morning
Talking to the girl we like for the first time etc...

Let me point out that it is starting which is difficult and that once we start, things usually go pretty much OK. Now the effort I'm talking about, is because the brain doesn't want us to do the above listed. In fact, in some examples like 'Waking up early in the morning', it comes up with excuses so intelligent that we are thoroughly convinced about the futility of going through with that task.

Though seemingly impossible, there is a way around this obstacle. What we can do is, every time we are trying to do one such task, we can utter a particular phrase or word just before we do it.
The phrase could be anything, from "My Precioussss" to a holy chant (This is just an example and I swear to god I do not say "My Precioussss" every time I'm about to take a cold shower) . After doing this many many times, it becomes a habit and we unconsciously utter that phrase before we do the task.

Now comes the brilliant part... every time you are waiting, trying to get yourself under a cold shower, just utter the phrase and you'll automatically go under it. Try this out and after fooling your brain time and again, you'll surprised that you even manage to feed yourself everyday with such a stupid brain.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tautology is Tautology

The most common opposition to Darwin's theory of "Natural Selection" A.K.A "Survival of the Fittest" is that it is a Tautology. The argument of the detractors is that the definition of the word "Fittest" itself is "One that is likely to survive longest in the worst possible condititions", hence the phrase "Survival of the Fittest" is redundant. What Darwin meant was that, since the Fittest Survive, the genetic pool is constantly enriched with better stock or is constantly relieved of more and more defective genes and hence future generations are always "Fitter" in a way that is conducive to overcoming the detriments of the previous generation. Going a little deeper into the whole Tautology issue, I accept the charge that "Survival of the Fittest" is a Tautology, at the same time I hold that anything we know is only a Tautology and anything we don't know will become one as soon as we know it. Here's my explanation.

"A is A" is the ideal form any Tautology must take to be one. Lets take the statement "A is taller than B", it doesn't seem like a Tautology. We can represent the previous statement as the equation "A > B". Now if I tell you that A is 18 Cms taller than B, the previous equation is changed to "A = B + 18". Now if I make you aware of the fact that A and B are 178 Cms and 160 Cms tall respectively, the previous equation changes to "178 = 160 + 18" or "178 = 178". So as you can see the more information I provide you with, the closer the original statement seems to being a Tautology. All the knowledge we acquire, we acquire only by comparision and comparing two things we already know is a Tautology, that's that and nothing more. My argument is very simple and once you go through it it may seem trivial, it may even seem to be, dare I say, a Tautology.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Metaphysics of being Cool

Most of us have friends or atleast know people who we think are 'Cool'. Some of us might even have asked them what makes them so cool and the answer, I'm sure, inevitably would have been 'Nothing'. While the answer may have disappointed you, let me assure you that the person was speaking the truth. So what is it that makes them so graceful... so cool?

Before I venture into a possible explanation allow me first to share with you my understanding of the words 'work' and 'effort'.
By 'work' I mean the physical, tangible manifestation of energy, as in walking, running, playing Tennis, swimming, talking etc...
By 'effort' I mean meta-work or the work of work, as in getting yourself into a cold shower on a cold morning, getting yourself out of bed to go to the gym etc...

Rarely will you find a person who appears cool in situations as in the examples of effort above. It is only while doing spontaneous work does anyone appear graceful or cool. Anyone making an effort does not. So the next time you see Federer make an effortless return of Roddick's fastest serve, remember that he had to do a tremendous amount of work to do so but absolutely no effort. So to appear cool doing some activity we must do it without effort and the only way to achieve this is to put in so much effort into it that it eventually it becomes second nature to us. It is EFFORTLESSNESS that makes us appear cool.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cryptos

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, the planet NOFISSY was ruled by a wise and just king. He treated his subjects as his own family and shared the wealth of the kingdom with everyone in proportion to their contribution to the kingdom's prosperity. He did this by giving them tokens called PESOS which they could choose to keep or exchange for money. These PESOS were harbingers of great wealth to those citizens who chose to keep them as the planet prospered more and more. More than general contentment this unique way of distributing wealth inculcated a sense of ownership and responsibility and everyone worked hard to make the planet the most prosperous one in the galaxy of SETI.

After many years, as per the custom of the kingdom, the old king stepped down and a young new king came to power. He noticed that the population of the planet was growing very slowly, but he wanted the wealth of the planet to grow much more quickly. To make this hapen he needed a much larger workforce at the same time he didn't want to share the wealth of the kingdom with the new workforce as doing so wouldn't allow the planet's wealth to grow as quickly as the new king wanted. So the new king abolished the system of distribution of PESOS.

He invited creatures from other planets of the galaxy to work in the prosperous NOFISSY. Soon the population of the planet grew manifold. To control such a large and diverse population, the king appointed his most trusted subjects as PROMEN. The entire population was divided into groups and were governed by these PROMEN. The job of a PROMAN was to guide his subjects and address their grievances if any. For a while this system worked fine, but due to the burgeoning population decision making became a cumbersome process. It was then that the young king came up with his new MANDOR policy. He distributed special coins with the royal seal imprinted on them, to his PROMEN. He suggested that whenever a PROMAN was in doubt, he should make his decision based on a flip of this coin. He was sure that this system was fair because as everyone knew, nothing can influence the outcome of a coin toss. Hence a PROMAN can never be accused of any bias.

The new MANDOR policy became very popular with the PROMEN. They soon began using these coins to make all decisions. Citizens were allocated work not on the basis of their skills or abilities but by a toss of this coin. Whenever anyone argued, he was told that this was the king's MANDOR policy and was unquestionable. As anyone would expect, there was a gross mismatch between the work and skills of the citizens allocated. So for every new allocation, the citizens were trained in a new field. This greatly reduced the efficiency of work as the citizens didn't take their training seriously. Who would try to learn something when they knew it was for only a very short period??? But the PROMEN were happy, as they didn't have to think much. But someone had to be responsible for the work... To address this problem, the King came up with a new solution, called PASSING THE BUCK. The king distributed among his PROMEN tokens called BUCK's. This BUCK was supposed to be passed among the citizens working under a PROMAN. The citizen who was in posession of the BUCK on the day the king asked for a review of the work, was held responsible for any failure or flaw in the work.

Soon it was time to reward the citizens for their work. Even this was decided by a toss of the Royal coin. As any logical being would expect, there was widespread civil unrest. Even then the young king refused to change his policies. His inexperienced mind did not know that civil unrest was only a precursor to Mass Exodus or Total strike or as in his unfortunate case both. Half the populace left NOFISSY for better prospects in more just planets and the other half went on strike and stopped all work. The king could penalise only as many citizens as there were BUCK's and the strike continued till the planet was totally impoverished.

Any ruler reading this story who has learnt anything would do well in mending his irrational ways and realise that a King is nothing without his citizens.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Angst II

From dawn till dusk he'd run...
with the morning breeze,
till the mighty seas,
had doused the burning sun.

In sorrow you'd be drowned...
to see his mighty frame,
in this pointless game,
with anguish emblazoned.

In wait of a hint, he'd burn...
till finally freed,
by death decreed,
from dawn till dusk he'd run.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Serenade II

My listless eyes try to see,
thy beauteous form, ceaselessly.
My restless arms, bereft of thee,
await to hold thee, restlessly.

Enough I've had, of this malady,
whipped and blistered I'd rather be.
I swear upon my melancholy,
whenever next thou art with me,

Tightly shall I embrace thee,
as close as I can possibly.
Until thy entirety,
becomes the missing part of me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Serenade

When I kiss your scented cheek, blithely soft and tender,
don't you see it isn't you but I'm who's powerless rendered?

When ever I bind you ruthlessly, in O such sweet embrace,
don't you see it isn't you but I'm who is possessed?

When I'm caught beholding thee, and am pushed away bashfully,
don't you see it isn't you but I whose heart soars free?

So if, scared out of my wits, I seem,
don't think me a coward, your love redeemed,
for every morning sunlit, gleamed, I wake up hoping you're not a dream.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Burn Out

Fire, Fire burning bright,
consuming everything in sight.

Awe-inspiring elemental might,
the face of fury, inducing fright.

O fire, aren't you scared you might,
burn out one day, out of sight?

Thy enfeebled flame, once furious white,
now flickering, dimming, trying to stay alight.

O fire, aren't you scared, a blight,
may put you out, thy efforts inspite?

O human, rest thy mental flight,
I'm as much the fire, as I'm ashes light.

Names are but names and forms are trite,
change is an illusion I don't try to fight.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Parallel Present

We can think of our lives as a series of events/experiences which we broadly classify as good and bad. This pair of opposites could probably be further classified into two categories i.e. pleasure/pain and joy/sorrow. The difference between the two is that the former is triggered by physical events and the latter by mental events.

We all know physical events, they're basically events that provide us with sensory inputs.
Ex. When we're eating something, we experience pleasure/pain due to input to our senses of taste, smell and possibly touch.

Mental events are nothing but thoughts. Now thoughts don't involve sensory inputs but they do involve the effects thereof. When we think, we usually think about events past, imaginary events or events we expect will come to pass. Made as we are, even our thoughts involve senses though in an indirect way. So when we recall our first bike ride, imagine ourselves sitting atop the Everest now, or try to think how we'd look 10 years hence, we do so only by mentally creating these events/experiences using memories of the same or similar sensory inputs. Since we are not actually participating in these events or having these experiences now, they cannot be said to be real. So whenever we're thinking (Which is almost always), we create and live in a Parellel Present of sorts. Though these mental events/experiences are unreal their effects are very real.
Ex. When you recall the delicious icecream cake you had last night, you see yourself eating it and can even imagine the taste. This image is unreal because you are not eating it now, but as you think about it, your mouth starts watering, which is real.

So we can say that as long as we think, we live in Parellel Present and the only live in reality when we stop thinking and just experience sensory objects. I have an intuitive feeling that this little theory can be extended to the next level, i.e. pleasure/pain, but i don't think i can articulate it now with even as little a semblance of logic as in my words above. I'll post an extension to this as soon as I can do so.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Read Blake

Ever read something and wondered how a human mind could create such beauty with words???
I have, and following are a few fine words by William Blake...

"He who binds to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise. "

"Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance,
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing. "

"Children of the future Age
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time
Love! sweet Love! was thought a crime. "

"To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour. "

"A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage. "

"The ancient poets animated all objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could perceive. And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity; Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of, & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began priesthood; Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things. Thus men forgot that all deities reside in the human breast. "