Friday, August 23, 2019

What risks scare or terrify us?

Since I am also a believer that natural is not necessarily better, this article was nothing new. However, the point about how different people rate different risks made me wonder, what do I regard as risky?

The first was obvious, the highest perceived risk for Nuclear Power by most people, has very low risk for me. I would be happy to live next to a nuclear power plant as I expect that the quality of life around it will not deteriorate. The likelihood of an accident is negligible. Furthermore, and this is just a hope, that should there be an accident, it would be fast and furious :)

Then there is the risk of driving or even walking down the road. I do both but always wishing for a safer option. I would love to see auto-driven vehicles take over. I would love to see only electric carts within towns and no private vehicles. This is a hope that it will happen one day, though not likely in my lifetime.

Now the risk which terrifies me. Manipulating the human brain using technology. The only personal experiences of the damage people can do to each other are related to property disputes between brothers and sisters. The passion, viciousness and self-destructiveness defies logic. Hence, it makes it easy to extrapolate to events like riots and even genocide.

I can easily imagine bots learning to create and spreading ever more effective messages which will be spread using messengers like Whatsapp. The utility of messengers is so great that they will be around like cars and roads. I don't see how the messages can be stopped except, of course, by an even worse solution like 1984.

Postscript: Saw this about the spectacle of Chidambarm's arrest just after writing about my fears

Monday, March 4, 2019

Walking around Chandigarh - still not too smart

Returning to Chandigarh after almost a year, Rose Garden is a bit of a shock. There is huge section dug up for the underpass. I assume it is meant for cars as I find it hard to comprend that this large a space could be needed for pedestrians alone. A few days later I come across this article on the same underpass calling it a waste of money.

The markets have barricades along the sidewalks. They may have been intended as a way to save pedestrian spaces but I find them a nuisance and ugly. Barricades may be useful for crowd control but hardly the tool to prevent encroachment of the sidewalks. Are we as a people so insensitive or not able to learn that we have to install such ugly and inconvenient options?

Pedestrian crossings, especially in 17 sector, are blocked by metal railings on one side or both sides. Either jump over the railing, which is becoming harder and riskier as I age, or walk along the road from an opening and cross and again walk along the road till an entry can be located.

Did anyone design or authorize this? Will that person ever accept credit for this weird solution?

At least it made me blog after a long time!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Courteous Driving Resolution - will the effort last even till the new year?

Traffic rules in India seem to be against our social norms. My grandsons make me acutely aware of the cultural difference between the west and our environment. They do not let me even start the car till every person has tied his/her seat belt!

A couple of days ago, the 3 year old was complaining after I used the horn a couple of times - "Mommy never uses the horn". I explained to him that the people were driving in the wrong direction on a one way street and I was upset by them. Yesterday also I used the horn on the same road, which is narrow and very steep.

Today, he and his 5 year old brother were playing and I heard them blow horns and say, "What are you doing? You are on the wrong side!".

I decided that I must start practicing courteous driving, whenever it is "safe" :)

I let people merge or turn at least half a dozen times today. The only minor fear occurred when I let some pedestrians cross. Just as I started, a man ran in front of me. Fortunately, I could stop in time but it gave me a scare.

The courteous driving did not delay me at all as the brief delay hardly mattered given the flow of the traffic.

I, though, still have to retain my composure when a two lane road merging into a single lane for a bridge turns into a 3 lane road. I become a bit aggressive and try to prevent the 3rd lane from merging.

It seems obvious that the optimum solution is that alternate vehicles from the two lanes move into the single lane. Yet we don't do it. Each person from the, now three lanes, tries to squeeze in. Why - even I find myself doing it for fear that I will be stuck and people behind me will blow the horn :(

Need to practice meditation at least on such occasions :(

Monday, July 23, 2018

Am I Stingy?

A recent incident made me feel guilty and question my avoiding taking gifts when visiting people. My rationale has always been that the people have so many possessions already that our token gift is  not going to be of any value. Gifting cash seems vulgar, except for social obligations like weddings and birthdays.

A second point has been that I never remember the gifts except the ones we did not want and did not know what to do with them. However, I valued each visit of relations and friends for making the effort and time to meet us. I remember the cousins who visited us in Goa. I, especially, valued their visits to my parents in Chandigarh in their last days. (There is a lingering hurt of people who promised to visit but didn't. Showing up for the funeral was of 0 value to me.)

I suspect that possibly because  of the birthday party in my childhood when no invitee showed up, I have valued showing up so highly.

I have welcomed a cake or a bar of chocolate and am happy to share them when visiting. Anything else seems like a probable waste of money. Does that make me stingy?

There is one gift I will never forget - Information :)

Over 40 years ago, a friend suggested that I may enjoy The Outsider by Camus.  And later, he suggested Crime and Punishment. This has been a gift of unbelievable value. It has led to everlasting pleasure I have got from the European literature. Were it not for his suggestions, I may never have explored it.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Does a culture of mis-trust encourage and reinforce corrupt behaviour?

The current fraud at Punjab National Bank highlighted the fact that Public Sector bank employees are typically transferred after 3 years and that did not happen in this case. The message is clear that there must have been collusion even if no one will ever be able to prove it.

I have felt that the policy of transferring was counter-productive. It is nice to go to a branch and be recognised and there is a comfort in dealing with familiar faces.

It does not matter that much anymore as I hardly visit the branch and prefer an email response to any query I may have.

However, it seems to be a part of our (Indian) corporate culture as well that we mistrust employees. There is no issue in having checks. However, should the first impression be that it is assumed that an employee will misuse any privilege given and that must be prevented? Isn't the message we are giving to each young, new employee that misuse the privilege but in a way as not to be detected?

I used to feel that software folks will change our culture. The working environment in these companies was so much better and my hope had been that once the older folks were replaced by the younger ones, who had a lot more exposure to working with US/European clients, we will keep getting better.

From what I can gather, that has not happened. Processes have become more like in the rest of the companies, except with greater reliance on tech-tools.

It is unfortunate as a culture of trust would have helped create software companies that could have been the seeds of a new Indian work culture and a hope for a better future for our children.

I just can't get over the failure of our generation to create processes that we trust you unless proven otherwise. How hard should it have been?

I believe very hard in a society convinced of and obsessed by presumptive and notional losses. So, it is a delight to read the likely winding up of the board for
advising the government on enforcing “a code of conduct and ethics for managerial personnel” in these banks, will expire at the end of March. It is unlikely the government will look for a successor to Rai,

Monday, February 5, 2018

Voting Option: Not This One or Anyone But

I keep wondering if the outcome of elections in first-past-the-post would be any different if we had the option to vote against a candidate instead of just for someone.

There are times when one would find it hard to vote for a candidate though the idea of another candidate winning may be even more worrying.

Even in a binary election, the result may not change but the message to the winning party and the moral strength of victory can be very different.

I hope some psephologist would take that up and we can have a better understanding of people's voting intentions.

The goal, of course, would be that can it succeed in politicians avoiding polarising voters and creating a more just society for all.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's a wonderful life and suicidal thoughts

"It's a Wonderful Life" has always felt like a corny film and, yet, it's message of optimism has been unforgettable. I was reminded of the film by the impact a silly act had on me years ago and I wish I could thank the two involved.

It was the start of spring and I was walking home - depressed. Progress in research had been very slow and seemed hopeless. I used to walk through the city forest near Helsinki railway station on my way home. I was fantasising about jumping in front of the train going from Helsinki to Leningrad.

My thoughts were interrupted by a pre-teen. It took me a while to understand the broken English and Finnish words. She was asking if I had a pen. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Sorry, no". Suddenly, she kissed my cheek and rain away.

It was a strange experience even though my looks aroused curiosity even in Helsinki in those days. Suddenly, I heard two girls giggling away.

It changed my mood. I felt I was taking me/life too seriously. I have never contemplated suicide since.

So, I hope those two anonymous girls have had a wonderful life.