Thursday, April 9, 2020

The lockdown will have to continue. There is no choice anymore.

Thinking about the inevitability of the lockdown being extended, I vaguely remembered a line from Kafka's Investigations of a Dog - Dogdom went down a path, feeling that they could always turn back.

Searched on archive.org and the part I recalled :

I can understand the hesitation of my generation, indeed it is no longer mere hesitation; it is the thousandth forgetting of a dream dreamt a thousand times and forgotten a thousand times; and who can damn us merely for forgetting for the thousandth time? But I fancy I understand the hesitation of our forefathers too, we would probably have acted just as they did; indeed I could almost say: well for us that it was not we who had to take the guilt upon us, that instead we can hasten in almost guiltless silence toward death in a world darkened by others. When our first fathers strayed they had doubtless scarcely any notion that their aberration was to be an endless one, they could still literally see the crossroads, it seemed an easy matter to turn back whenever they pleased, and if they hesitated to turn back it was merely because they wanted to enjoy a dog's life for a little while longer; it was not yet a genuine dog's life, and already it seemed intoxicatingly beautiful to them, so what must it become in a little while, a very little while, and so they strayed farther. They did not know what we can now guess at, contemplating the course of history: that change begins in the soul before it appears in ordinary existence,

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Exponential Growth and Lockdown

The lecture by Prof Albert Bartlett had made an immense impact on me. I vividly remember the discussion on running out of oil based on Hubert peak. While shale oil may have delayed the disaster and alternate sources of energy may prevent a collapse, but had we reduced our growth, we may have avoided the climate change issue!

The main lesson though is:
"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

What worries me about the current strategy is the same as in this article from Israel. I am not even sure if they have the parameters for the models right, in which case the predictions over the weeks can be way off.

Worse, it may create the illusion of having avoided the catastrophe which was never going to happen!

Applying a blanket lockdown over all the country implies that the authorities have no information about the potential spreaders, which is clearly unreasonable while claiming that there is no evidence of community transmission!

I am surprised at how scared people seem to be of even the shadow of Coronavirus, No wonder, the workers in farms are scared of working in the fields!

Meanwhile, the normal, routine illnesses are untreated.

The new normal?

Monday, April 6, 2020

What are the possible exit conditions of the Coronavirus Lockdown loop?

Being locked in is not pleasant. There is also a little guilt of going out of the house, especially for walks, even if there is virtually no one around. Could we be increasing the duration of the lockdown by being careless? Uncertainty about the duration of the lockdown is stressful.

So, I thought that if I were writing a program for the lockdown, what are the conditions which would determine the exit condition for the lockdown loop for a particular region with no person entering or leaving the region:

  1. There are no new cases emerging.
    1. The virus stopped spreading for no known reason. This is the way The Plague by Albert Camus ends.
    2. The virus has disappeared from the community thanks to the lockdown.
  2. The community has developed a herd immunity.
    1. If the lockdown is perfect, how can the community ever develop herd immunity?
If the region has not developed herd immunity and the borders of the region are opened, we will need to make sure that no infected or potentially infected person enters the community. Hence, testing and quarantine of each visitor will be mandatory.

If in spite of all efforts, an infected person enters the community, the lockdown will need to be imposed again.

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.