Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cyprus Crisis and the Realisation that we are Poorer

A tax on bank account savings seemed so strange that I was wondering who could have thought of it.

I then had the opportunity to send a gift to New Zealand. I would not have noticed the exchange rate except that we had received a gift from New Zealand just a year ago. And how I wish the sequence of events was inverted. The New Zealand dollar was worth about Rs. 35 then and about Rs. 45 now :(

So, effectively, I am poorer by almost 30% and I wish I could swap places with Cypriots and pay 10% but only  of my bank deposits! But I am sure that paying the 10% would have hurt a lot more than the Indian rupee going downhill :(

Monday, March 11, 2013

Robots will do the work but who will own them?

In the good old days, the Noblemen had a great time. Their serfs and slaves did the work while they appreciated the good things of life.

We won't need slaves. Robots will do just fine. There is just one little hitch. Will we be the owners of the robots. Not likely if we look at these statistics.

So, I suppose without any job or the wealth generated by the robots, we can spend our time creating content for youtube or facebook and, even better, consuming the content.

This brings up a contradiction. These sites need enough of us to click on ads and SPEND money. Unfortunately, most of us may not have any!

So, is the future bright with robots removing the drudgery or bleak with most of us surviving on dole - even if we are very well educated.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Robots are coming. Are we safe?

Computers and robots are taking over many of the jobs. This is very nicely and positively presented by Andrew McAfee: Are droids taking our jobs?

I was reminded today of IBM's Watson becoming a chef.

In the 60's, the Avengers had a lovely episode in which the computer churns out romance novels with just a few parameters. It wouldn't be a surprise today if it is revealed that the computer software is already assisting a prolific author.

While digital version of Audrey Hepburn may not match the original, I may prefer the digital Audrey to many real life alternates :)

But one thing is still assured. Most organizations want us and not robots to consume their content. Watson may create the recipe but we will need to eat the outcome. Computer programs may create books or videos but we will be needed to read and view them.

We seem to be safe. Robots and computer software will need us to give relevance and meaning to their creations.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Waiting for Streaming TV Options

It is very disappointing. I look forward to 6:30 to 8:30 on weekdays to watch TV5 Monde's fiction programs. Today, the channel disappeared.

I had been surprised to find that the local cable was broadcasting TV5 Monde and DW after switching to digital cable. I was worried that the cable operator may have been sending these signals out of ignorance. My fears for these channels may have been correct.

It is particularly painful to realize that better television exists but we are stuck with 100's of un-watchable options :(

I wonder when we will have streaming options available in India. 

Update - The channels have re-appeared after 3 days. I hope they will stay :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Shouldn't society be more helpful to victims of crime?

Two crime news items struck my attention, especially with a show I saw on TV5 Monde this week. 

The first news was about a person accused under the IT act possibly because the police did not know that the American date format is mmddyy and not ddmmyy :) A fairly obvious case of mistaken identity creating havoc in the life of an ordinary person.

The second news was the arrest of a landlord for not getting antecedents of his tenants checked! The tenants got into a fight and murdered a neighbour. As it is, getting someone to give accommodation on rent is very-very hard. I am sure filing papers with police will make it even harder and it is very doubtful if it makes the city any safer. I would be inclined to look at the landlord as a victim of the crime. His life is bound to be affected by what his tenants did.

The show on French tv was about victims of crime. In this episode, it was identity theft. One woman discovers that she is supposedly married when she tried to get married! Some woman had used her identity to get married. Why would one need to do that? Anyway, the victim has been struggling to get her past cleaned up.

In another incident, someone had defrauded a lot of banks by overdrawing on accounts by using the identity of a person. He is now stranded without any credit cards and is trying to clean up his fake past. He has to suffer little indignities like his clients looking at him strangely when he pays a large restaurant bill in cash!

It is easy to find that huge sums of money are spent on fighting crime and punishing criminals. Usually, few object to spending even more for these activities. Yet, I am not sure if any money at all is spent by the society in helping the victims.

Wouldn't it be more reasonable to accept that given human nature and our knowledge of biology, some crime will happen. Shouldn't we balance the expenditure - spend less on hopelessly trying to eliminate crime and spend some money on helping the victims cope.