What replaced Oil as the most valuable commodity?

We are not even a quarter way into the 21st Century and our basic necessities include, Food, Water, Shelter and WiFi! Our internet usage has increased seven folds from 2000 to 2015, i.e. 735 million to 3.2 billion! In addition to that we are adding more electronic devices in our everyday activities. Replacing phones with smartphones, TVs with smart TVs, Analog watches with Smart watches, fitness tracking apps and what not. Now we even have Google assistant, Siri and the like, to make our lives even more convenient. What do we do with all this?

Generally speaking, we gather data for ourselves, we gather data about other people’s lives (thanks to social media) and we ask questions. Yes you guessed it right, it is not the internet that has replaced oil as the most valuable commodity, it’s data.

funny-picture-duck-facebook-real-lifeDon’t we love updating about our lives and expressing our views on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms? We want to tell all our friends about all the good we are upto and of course sad, sarcastic and funny memes (that’s an absolute essential).

Well, truth be told, we basically make ourselves look a whole lot better than how we actually are, don’t we? We have the incentive to lie on social media. Because we want to look fun and desirable to everyone. On Google, on the other hand, we have the incentive to tell the truth. We open up about our deepest desires and insecurities. On the internet, we sometimes even search for most ridiculous answers. For instance, once I asked Siri, “Do you think I am crazy?!”, to which she responded, (rather her programming made her say), “I don’t know how to respond to that”. Although I am certain my psychiatrist would say “of course you are crazy”! But asking Google and Siri such questions is funny and also quite revealing. Imagine millions of people like me asking Google or Siri such question! Is that Data recorded? Who is recording it and what are they doing with it?

Fact check: even if you are just passive observer on social media, the pages you like, the picture you view the most and the duration for which you are viewing it, is also recorded.

 

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Obviously Siri cannot do anything about my sadness. But I confided in her. Is this data recorded? Yes! Why? Who? What?!! 
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Hilarious as it is, but again, I couldn’t stop confiding in her in the middle of the night. What happens when millions of as ask Google and Siri such questions?!

Unless you have been living in the wilderness, or another planet, or don’t use any electronics, you won’t have much difficulty in guessing the answer. The companies use it to better understand their consumers! This data has been such a game changer, that now it has replaced oil as the most valuable commodity in the world!

Imagine you are starting a new company and need to understand consumer behaviour in order to breakeven and eventually make profits. Imagine you are standing in the local elections, or even the highest post in your Country, how do you plan to win and make the right policy changes for your Community/ Country without really understanding it. This is where big data comes in!

 

What is big data?

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Big Data is usually information gathered from our online activity. The fact that someone (many companies) is tracking our lives will sure make anyone uncomfortable. Even if such data mining is done ethically and keeps safe the anonymity of individuals, there is always a scope of infringement of privacy. Kudos to Edward Snowden for giving us the real picture of what is really happening in the name of administration in some parts of the world.

81tgb3AaT7LKeeping aside this legitimate fear, for the sake of understanding, one can see groundbreaking  impact Big data can have on our lives. The book Everybody Lies revealed that, when big data is used to understand human behaviour, it unveils shocking truth about ourselves. It discusses a many of topics, from racism in America; to what porn data tell us about us; to our politics ideologies, crime rates and much more. Big data can help us understand and predict human behaviour.

“Collecting rich data toward’s world’s problems is the first step towards fixing them”, says the Author. And in the end adds, provided it is used with the right intent and manner. This is the pivotal point where everything rests. Big data if used with respect to it’s limitations and the spirit and intent of the Law can truly fast track the improvement of our lives, otherwise it shall be a purely corrupt system, where the joke will be on us!

Author of Everybody lies

UCSBSeth has a star-studded academic career. He received his BA in philosophy, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford, and his PhD in economics from Harvard. Seth has worked as a data scientist at Google and a visiting lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times.

His 2017 book, Everybody Lies, published by HarperCollins, was a New York Times bestseller; a PBS NewsHour Book of the Year; and an Economist Book of the Year.

Here is Seth talking about a part of his award-winning research:

Mind blowing, right?

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Can we unlearn things that we learn at home?

One doesn’t always learn from books; some people don’t even like reading! Our primary way to learn is from our experiences. One such priceless experience happened with me recently.

A few weeks ago, my fate took such a turn, that I landed up in a kindergarten as a temporary teacher with no prior experience. My only relevant credentials were that many people, including my family members, close friends and younger people have told me in the past that I am a good teacher and I should seriously consider pursuing it.

Considering my zero experience in the field, I wasn’t assigned direct responsibility of any class of students. I was to merely assist the teachers with the daily work, like checking notebooks and giving exams. Sometimes, I would be assigned some of the lesser interested students a.k.a “weaker” students, where I would personally help them learn and cope up with the class work better.

Within a month my experiences with the children changed my outlook towards them forever. In order to share the same, I would like to share with you two noteworthy anecdotes.

So one morning, a three year old girl, lets call her, Tia, stated to cry unstoppably. It was most shocking for me because she is the quietest girl in the class who always aces her exams and all class work and assignments. And I, on the other hand, cannot bear to see someone cry, especially a tiny beautiful girl like her. I immediately started trying to calm her. I made her drink some water and rubber her back and said some comforting words, she calmed down a bit but she continued to cry silently. Trust me, by now my heart was literally aching. But before I could do anything else, another three year old girl, her classmate, lets call her Pia, came to Tia, held her hand, wiped her tears, and said, “please don’t cry” and to my utter surprise, she immediately stopped crying. And they left smiling hand in hand. Even till this date I don’t know why Tia was crying, but every morning I see Tia and Pia holding hands and playing, which by the way, they never did before that incident. They are inseparable. This incident taught me how simple and unadulterated love and friendship is, and how we complicate it as adults.

Contrastingly, a few days later another rather terrorizing incident occurred. So here is what happened- it was a bright sunny day and the children where practicing writing English alphabets. As usual in every class, there are a few students who are intelligent but moody; and that particular day, for whatever reason one girl, lets call her Rita, wasn’t writing properly and as soon as her class teacher discovered that, she slapped her about ten times for being lazy. And although I was right there, I couldn’t do a thing but stand and watch that heinous incident petrified. My childhood ordeal came back to me. I wanted to undo everything, but I couldn’t! But thence on, I made sure that she reports to me to get her classwork and homework checked. A few days later, a boy from the same class, let’s call him Dave, was punished at the assembly for pushing and hitting his classmate. It was not very difficult for me to discern from where he was learning these things.

Aren’t we adults paradoxical? We as adults practice questionable things and once these impressionable children pick that us from us, we in turn punish them for it.

I have often heard movie lines saying “I don’t teach kids, I go to learn from them.” And I always thought that to be a phoney line. But these two incidents taught me that it’s true; children are born with love in their heart and they are very intelligent, it is us adults who in the pretext of education, in so called educational institutes, instil immorality in them.

My only question is, what if Dave grows up to accept violence as normalcy? Can he unlearn things that he learnt at school and at home?

Rather than us being ablate teach them anything, they could teach us

I would also like to share an excerpt from one of my favourite books, ‘The Idiot’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky- “I was always astonished at how wrong adults were about children, mothers and fathers included. Nothing must be concealed from children under the pretext that they are too small to be told. What an unfortunate and wretched idea! … The grown-ups don’t realize that even when faced with the most difficult problems, a child  may make a very important contribution. … rather than being able to teach them anything, they could teach us.”

PS: Dear Teachers, Please don’t be just another brick in the wall!

The views expressed above are of the author’s only, and are the simplified (not oversimplified) versions of the numerous incidents that occurred.  So different opinions, your thoughts and experiences are welcome 🙂 

I urge you to share share this thought provoking post with your family and friends.

I time travelled!

Do you remember that book shop owned by William Thacker (Hugh Grant) in the movie Notting Hill? It sold only travel book. When I first saw that movie, I thought “Wow! How many Lonely Planets does he have?” and “Of course he isn’t making profits”! Back then, little did I know about this genre called travel literature and it’s magical powers!

image1A few years later however, on my last birthday, when my brother and his wife, gifted me my very first travel memoir, From Heaven Lake, by the one and only, Vikram Seth, I felt like I discovered a way to escape to any place I want to. In this book, I escaped to Eastern China and hitch-hiked across my way back to India. I felt, I was practically transported to 1982 China and to all the places Mr. Seth visited. I didn’t read the book, I experienced it.

The the diverse landscape of China, the dry  and the cold desert, and the transformation of one into another, the finding of an oasis in the middle of unending inhabitable landmass, and finding unconditional help all along the way; sitting in the comfort of my home I  experienced it all.

A noteworthy fact about this book is that, it hardly contains any pictures and the ones that are there, are in greyscale. Despite that, the author has been able to paint a vivid picture of his travelogue in my head. And wait till you web search all the places he has been to, they are all unimaginably beautiful. Yet, amongst all the literary merits and interesting subject matter, it is the author’s wit, that makes this book extraordinary and worthwhile.  I couldn’t stop myself from grinning, giggling, chuckling and sometimes breaking into a roaring fit of laughter.

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Vikram Seth, beautifully wearing that radiant smile and those sparkly eyes. (an old picture)

He goes on the explain the geographic diversity of China as well. Since the world climatic zones are arranged in latitudinal bands, a longitudinal journey, i.e. North-South, is likely to be much more varied than a latitudinal one, i.e. East-West journey. In western China the main topographical features are so latitudinal, and this enhances the variety of longitudinal journey. Hence, the sandy deserts, cold plateaus, arid land, pastures, glaciers, rigged mountains and passes. Sounds exciting? Now imagine hitch-hiking your way through it!

Mr. Seth has not only made an account of the physical surroundings, but also succeeded in showing the irony of two neighbouring countries India and China, so close to each other, yet culturally and economically so distant and disagreeable. It makes me wonder how the present-day China is like, maybe I’ll find another more recent travelogue.

In the end, if you want to travel and don’t have the resources or the time to, read a good travel memoir and escape to lands as inaccessible as it may seem; and come back rejuvenated. 

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What would you like to do with your time? Comment below.

Have you ever time travelled? Please share your experience in the comment section below or write to me on the ‘contact’ page.

Please don’t forget to share this with your loved ones 🙂

Ciao ❤

Never Let Me Go

Have you ever read a classic? It is easier to know if you are reading an older publication. But how do we determine if the newer publication is a classic? I have devised a way! A IMG_1115contemporary classic will have the following few characteristics; first, it will be painful and/or slow read. It will make you question why are reading this book? Secondly, despite it being so, it will push you to read the entire story. Thirdly, it will not at all be dramatic (which means less entertaining!). It will be like our lives, slow and seemingly mundane. Fourthly, it will be devastating in the end. Fifthly, it will change your perspective towards life forever.

Never Let Me Go is one such contemporary pieces of work which won the Nobel Prize in Literature in the year 2017.

Preface of the plot

The book is first hand narrative of an English girl named Kathy in the late 1990’s England. It is about her and her friend’s lives (Ruth and Tommy) who grew up were brought up in a country side boarding school called Halisham for one purpose only- organ donation.

These children’s origin is unknown to them and Halisham. They grow up together in a secluded environment where special emphasis in placed on keeping their internal organs healthy; where they cannot smoke and drink for fun and experiment with their lives, neither can they ever start a family; they are made aware of sex as a physical need, like breathing. Throughout their lives they keep wondering about the strange and mysterious little incidents happening around them, like little remarks by their teachers or memories from Halisham. 

Despite believing their lives have been marred by their fate, they somehow inadvertently carry on until they fulfill their purpose and finally realize the real meaning of their lives.

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Never Let Me Go: Movie scene

In the plot, organ donation does not hold a central position, it is rather in the background. The story, instead, is about the evolution of these three individuals; it is as insightful as it can get; and certainly incomprehensible without contemplation!

Thoughts about the book: Knowledge and Innocence 

The book is suspenseful throughout for the readers and the characters alike. One might feel pretty clueless about the plot most of the time. But considering this is not a drama, that kind of feeling is acceptable.

The book is based on a philosophy and that philosophy can be inferred form the events of the story. That philosophy being, our life has a purpose; everyone has different purposes, and we are to carry them out with or without the knowledge of that being so. When we start our lives, we are innocent, impressionable and completely oblivious of “the big picture of life”. It takes a while to become partly conscious or aware as a person, sometimes it takes a lifetime. However, while we are unwise and naive, we fail  to appreciate what we really have, we fail to see the real nature of things, for the very fact that we are ignorant and naive! Expecting ourselves to be wise and enlightened when we are young is unrealistic. But that innocence, lack of wisdom and naivety itself is a gift that we all are in such a hurry to get rid of.

It is inevitable that we will become wiser by our experiences. But the tragedy is that only when we are on the verge of losing what we have or when we have already lost it, is when we finally realize it’s value.

A word of caution 

There are no short cuts to reading this wonderful book. It cannot be simply read and understood, it demands to be thought over and discussed. The language of the book is simple and devoid of any difficult words, which makes it an easy read prima facie, until you start contemplating.

Neither would it be advisable to watch it’s adaptation before reading the book. The adaptation by the same title is a simplified version of the book, and it goes without say, that the book is always better than the movie!

I would like to thank my very special friend who gifted me this book. I hope you are reading this. Just with this simple book you have completely changed my life and filled my heart with more affection and gratitude for you. Thank you 🙂

Noteworthy Trivialities #5

What should be the aim of Education, job security or character building?

What ought to be the aim of Education- the popular perception is job security. But it’s interesting to note that, when Thomas L.Friedman, a Pulitzer awardee compared Infosys and Al-Qaeda, the answer became quite clear. For both the organizations have, global network, highly talented youth, resources, etc. However, Infosys has constructive thinking, while Al-Qaeda has destructive thinking. Only the character of the organization has changed its impact. 

WHAT SHOULDBE THE AIM OF EDUCATION?

It is evident that character plays an undeniably important role in our life. However, it is fact that we cannot earn our livelihood only on the basis of our character. Unemployment and lack employability is one of the biggest vice for any society. Hence, Education which doesn’t make us employable has no meaning even if it strengthens our character. Job security and charater building goes hand-in-hand.   

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but no morals. … We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” —Martin Luther King Jr., speech at Morehouse College, 1948

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Climate Change Crisis Simplified

There are two kinds of people in this contemporary world- those who believe that our Earth is warming due to human activities and those who think global warming is a hoax. This post is for the former; and for the latter, just ask yourself, “what if human induced global warming is real, and if we do to act now, it will be too late? Will you be able to turn back time to make necessary amends”? Thus, irrespective of your beliefs, I encourage you to read on. Read more

Just Cool it! – Noteworthy Quotations

Just Cool It! is the latest book by Ian Hanington and David Suzuki. It is practical guide in understanding climate change a.k.a global warming. The book is divided into two sections i.e. the problems and the solutions. The initial part was one of the most stressful texts I have ever read, but part two in the other hand provides a relief by giving hope that we can still save our planet.  Read more