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Showing posts from October, 2010

TED Video: Joseph Nye on Power in the 21st Century

Journal Entry: Things That Flow

Another week: These days, life is far too busy and far too fast for me to keep tab of everything that I am doing. But I try - because this should be the time when I finally managed to take control of my life (so I hope) and this narrative will help me remember the little nuggets that I shall invariably overlook when I look back at this time at a later date.

I wrote such diary one other time: When I first fell in love. That was twenty years back, and I did write about my daily experiences - did she notice me or did she not kind of stories - every day in a diary. I was an awkward teenager then; I spoke no English and dressed strangely, and could barely speak in front of strangers or girls. But I was deeply in love, and knew then that I have to overcome myself to get anywhere in that relationship. So, I tried, only to be spurned repeatedly; the only reason I kept persisting is my imagination that I was making progress. Indeed, no one was that optimistic, and being a rather shy and introve…

Revisiting Maslow's Pyramid

Aldous Huxley's point was that while Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it can not serve truth very well. Life's issues are often so complex that they need nuanced, detailed understanding. Executive Summaries are often too reductive, too naive, and our reliance on those often lead to lack of false understanding.

Maslow's model, I shall argue, is one of those neat, well argued models which may lead to wrong conclusions. For the uninitiated, Maslow's model is insightful, breaking down human needs in five neat blocks - Physiological Needs, Safety Needs, Social Needs, Esteem Needs and Need for Self-Actualization - stacked up in a pyramid shape. Everything about it is useful and understandable: The categories seem clear and distinct, there is a philosophical implication of a man's journey to be a better individual and stages are quite clear. It is one simple model which tells a lot.

The model was deservedly successful, becoming gospel truth among managers of men and mark…

Emerging India

As you step out of Mumbai airport, India meets you at the door. This is not the India you saw on movies, chaotic and poor; not the one you suspected it to be, from the slums you saw from the sky. But, neither it is the sleek Dubai-like feature which it should have been, if you just trusted the analysts above all else: After all, this is where the next game of Global Capitalism will be played.

The experiences at the door, on both counts, are bound to be anti-climactic. With the new shiny Mumbai airport coming into being, the disorderliness of beggars and scavengers of the past are gone: In its place, now, are security barriers, taxi counters and glass doors. The noisy crowd waiting for homecoming relatives and friends are now spread over a large area rather than a tiny door front: The scenes of emotion are therefore much diffused. It is rather a quiet experience, compared to whatever you have heard about Mumbai from those who have gone there before. But, one thing will still strike you:…

Educating for the Keeps

Innovation is important as the world is not enough. We can feel happy and smug with what we have achieved, but then returns this sinking feeling almost inevitably that all's not well. And, it is not: There is too many anomalies in our idea of progress. With most of people on the planet too poor to eat and the resources fast depleting, our prosperity feels like stolen, not earned. The innovation talk helps us feel better: In a way, innovation is the basis of our morality.

But it is still easier said than done. The enemy of innovation is not any hidden monster, but steady state, which we are so eager to achieve. The final frontier forever features in our thinking and drives us: We aspire to stop and stay, therefore we move. It is only fortunate that some of us aim so high that we never finally reach that steady state. It is that Utopian aspiration, rather than rational thinking, which drives innovation.

However, while we were good at innovating physical contraptions to extend our phys…

John Wood on His Personal Transformation

Renewing Myself, Yet Again

I have given up on being a businessman, finally. It is not for me. It never was, indeed, but I did not know till I tried. It was one of those things - I am far too idealistic, that is unreal - for business. The only positive thing I had that counted was my never-say-die optimism, but that is more a liability in certain circumstances. The biggest problem was perhaps my essential idea that men are honest and want to do better things, a rather naive assumption that somehow stuck with me. So, I was far too careless, indiscreet almost, in all the businesses I got involved in. Besides, I was taken for what I was - naive - and ended up losing money and friends in the process.

Time now for taking the world for what it is like. I am now reducing my commitments into things that matter. I have become aware of my mortality, in a way. I realize I don't have endless time in hand. I am still optimistic, I still want to do things that I like, and I am still looking forward to life. But, I realized…

Larry Lessig on Law & Creativity

Being Subversive

I am having loads of fun being subversive.

I am a bit of a non-conformist. That bit did not change since my school days. What changed is that I usually kept quiet, kept my head down and accepted the way of the world over mine. No longer: I have lately become aware of my mortality - that I am old and don't have much time left to let the world go by - and now refuse to give up and go quietly.

Being a non-conformist has its own problems. You become sensitive to the fact that everyone may have an opinion - a different opinion. Since you expect your opinions to be heard, respected, you start respecting everyone's points of view too. This makes you an indefatigable learner. This opens your mind, stop you from being a bore, forever. However, at the same time, this may drown you down, and crowd you out. I must admit that this has happened in my life quite a few times, particularly in my life in England: It is a masculine world where you must push your views around to be heard. I paid th…

On Books

There are many reasons why we should not be reading books any more.


First of all, they are bulky to carry. I could not shift house for last six years, despite feeling the necessity, because I have to find a way to move my books. I have paid excess baggage and lived a cramped life, and had numerous arguments with others, because of my books.


Second, because there is an alternative. The electronic format is catching up on resolution etc. One can get books under 60 seconds, almost anywhere in the world (not in Iran though, one of the countries where book reading is so popular), as Amazon claims for its Kindle. What can be better to be able to 3500 books in your hand within a tiny, slim device: for all of £150. Someone reminded me that you will need to spend five times as much to buy bookshelves that can hold so many books.


Third, with newspapers and vinyl gone that way, book reading remains an ugly twentieth century habit. For all romanticism, it is limiting, not liberating. It is a lazy t…

Diary: Things That Changed

The key reason this blog exists is that this is my scrapbook of ideas. Sometimes, I tend to forget this, trying to mould this into a shape, as if this is a magazine or a newspaper, primarily because I think this will help me get more readers. But, at regular intervals, in the rare lazy Sunday mornings with nothing serious to do, I discover the enjoyment in being chaotic, in chronicling the chaotic and messy tale of my life, with the inconsistencies and all. The blog, after all, records everything in a most recent first structure, which is counter-intuitive, in fact, directly opposed to our obsessively sequential sense of order. That way, this is the right tool for my wandering about: I am what I am right now.

My life is changing quite fast. I am truly out of my depressive frustration which would have showed up in the posts only a few months back. My life now is a lot more predictable, even a touch boring. The variations of my mornings now limited to which train I take and which coach I…

On Being Creative

If one change I wish to make in my life, it will be to be able to give more time to my creative pursuits - primarily my reading, writing and efforts in photography - than I manage to do now. The reason is straightforward: I have realised that I am not a bureaucrat or a businessman at heart, and the one thing that gives me pleasure is to do something truly new or creative, including encountering a new idea or meaning of things that I never came across before.

In a way, I have always sought to live a creative life, but never managed to. The primary reason is that I defined what is meant by success wrongly. Like most others in my suburban neighbourhood and inner city school, success for me variably meant a car, a glamorous girlfriend, being able to travel outside my country's borders and having my own house. This last one, having own house, joined the list only later in my life, but this is more representative of the problem that I faced: It is one straight road from mortgage to medio…

The Trouble with The Labelled Generations

This post refers to the Guest Post made on this blog by Angelita Williams, but also more broadly to the public discourse on generational labelling, in particular Kenneth Gronbach'sThe Age Curve. I have always thought Generational Labelling to be a bit mindless, particularly as generational wars are being fought around them. Disliking Generation Y, undermining Generation X, admiring Baby Boomers etc are necessary for newspapers to sell copies, but not necessary for us in our family and work lives and friendships that we form.

There are three clear problems with generational labelling.

First, it stereotypes: How can we assert that someone born on the 1st of January 1985 will be fundamentally different from someone born at some point of time in 1984. Going by Mr Gronbach's categorization, 31st December 1984 will be the dividing line between Generation X and Generation Y. One can indeed argue that the person born on or after a certain date may have a fundamentally different life, b…

In Defense of Generation Y - Guest Contribution by Angelita Williams

In August, the New York Times Magazine ran a rather lengthy article entitled What Is It About 20 Somethings?, which received quite a bit of buzz on the Internet. The article was essentially a proclamation of what's wrong with the so-called Generation Y. The article came amidst a slew of related opinion editorials in which young adults have been pigeonholed as addicted to technology, spoiled, and directionless.

While the article did accurately describe those who are now just finishing school, it seems that the cause-and-effect reasoning behind it is off-base. The implications that so many so-called "experts" are making is that young adults are changing jobs more frequently, traveling more, and putting off commitments like marriage and having kids simply out of a desire to stave off the responsibilities of adulthood. In other words, 20 somethings are being cast as immature.

However, instead of looking at the decisions of Gen Y as intrinsic, why don't we consider how tren…

The Question of God

I usually step aside debates with no end, and the question of existence of God is one such thing. However, this is one debate very difficult to run away from, particularly in today's world where God is making a comeback. In every debate he keeps springing up, everyday news and big debates of the day centre on him and he definitely has the full support of almost all governments in the world. So, if I am asked whether I believe in the existence of God, it is very difficult not to have an answer.

The answer could be quite straightforward. Most people who know me will know that I am quite a 'practising' Hindu, reading up some of the ancient texts and sprinkling my conversations with references from what I learnt in my childhood. I am not the temple-going kind, neither do I pray much publicly; but then there is a temple I go to if I am feeling restless and downbeat. This inevitably makes me believe in the existence of God, surely.

However, like everything else with me, I am afra…

Being A Londoner: Humanity and Hyde Park

There is one thing about being in London: You can't call the difference between freedom and slavery. Like, not being able to tell whether the glossy tabloids mark the freedom of opinion or the complete subjugation of heart, whether it gives or deprives us of opinion. It is a bit like not knowing whether it is pleasure or pain we get catching the morning 7:45 train to come to office; it gives us the daily bread, but not the way the Lord would have liked (if he was kind).

For me, the struggle is many dimensional - considering that the reason why I want to stay in London is to keep my freedom. To keep reinventing myself, to be the king of fresh beginnings, to pursue my dreams as they come without having to bother about what people will say. There is whole web of things around money: After doing a few years (as in Jail), it dawns on you that even the money can be equally liberating and subjugating.

The particular place I like about London is Hyde Park. Indeed, speakers' corner is le…

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