How far is our knowledge up to date?

I guess most of our generation would have this feeling. The feeling that we are working on the frontiers of science and working on cutting edge technology. But how far are we really? If you think the science and technology you learnt in the textbooks during schooling were latest, you’ve got to rethink. It might me even 50 yrs old. Just have a look at the picture below. Does it look something new?



It happens one day that I Google through advances in Physics. And I came to know that these are the elementary particles that make up the universe. Oops I thought. There are new developments as all I knew was atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, photons…. I missed developments in science in the recent years i thought. I browsed through wikipedia to find how many years I am behind scientific developments. Well they were much more than I thought, for the picture above has been around during the year I was born… Add there is string theory, M Theory, 11th Dimension, Dark Matter, Antimatter.. Lot may (Thanks to Angels and Demons for throwing some light!) God!!! Praise my knowledge!!


The Art of Constructing Demons

Published in Corporate Dossier, Economic Times, 29 May 2008 – Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik


If there was no Mahish-asura, the gods would not have invoked the warrior-goddess, Durga. If there was no Tarak-asura, there would have been no need for the divine warlord, Kartikeya. If there was no Ravana or Kansa, Ram or Krishna would not walk the earth. Demons and villains are an integral part of mythology. Buddhists speak of Mara, demon of desire. In Jainism, there is Prati-vasudeva, villain to the heroic Vasudeva. Greeks had fabulous monsters from the bull-headed Minotaur to the snaked-haired Medusa. The Bible is full of the God-rejecting Canaanites, Romans, Babylonians, Assyrians and of course, the Devil.

It is the defeat of the villain that transforms a man into a hero. It is the destruction of the demon that makes a deed noble and divine.  That is why ‘demonizing’ cigarettes, alcohol, narcotics and junk food not only makes people healthy, it also grants them the moral high ground. That is why ‘demonizing’ plastics and urbanization grants environmentalists a smug superiority. And that is why marketers personify mosquitoes and germs as ‘ugly horned monsters’ in advertisements giving children the chance to be heroic as they pester their parents to buy a particular brand of repellent, toothpaste or antiseptic.
Considering the intense emotions demons evoke, one wonders if ‘constructing demons’ can be a strategic tool of management? Politicians have long used this technique to rouse a mob. Typically, the politicians demonize an outsider, an immigrant, a foreign hand, a stranger, any one the mob is willing to blame for its problems.  It has been the favourite tactic used by kings to wage bloodthirsty wars against neighbouring lands. Just brand the opponent as ‘evil’, and before you know it even an imperialist ambition starts being perceived as a holy crusade.

The art of constructing demons stems from an understanding that demons are not natural phenomena. They are artificial constructions, created through clever storytelling, as in the case of Shakuni.

In the Mahabharata, Shakuni is the maternal uncle of the Kauravas. On his advice, his nephews invited their cousins, the Pandavas, to a gambling match and instigated them to wager all their wealth. Playing for the Kauravas, Shakuni threw the die so skilfully that he won every game and laid claim to all that the Pandavas possessed. Later, on his advise, the Kauravas refused to return even a needlepoint of Pandava property, even if it meant war. This makes Shakuni the great villain of the epic, one who deserves no mercy.

What follows now is a little known story based on the Mahabharata found in Andhra Pradesh. Before Gandhari, mother of the Kauravas, married Dhritarashtra of the Kuru clan, she had been – on the advice of astrologers, to avert a calamity – ‘married’ to a goat and the ‘husband’ had been sacrificed promptly thereafter. Technically, this made Gandhari a widow and Dhritarashtra her second husband. Fearing a scandal if this information became public, the elders of the Kuru clan put Gandhari’s entire family under house arrest. They were served just one fistful of rice every day. Realizing that this was an elaborate plan to starve them to death, Gandhari’s father declared that none but his youngest son would eat the sparse food being served, so that at least one amongst them would survive the avenge the death of the rest. This youngest survivor of Gandhari’s family was Shakuni. He swore vengeance. He used the knuckle bones of his father and dead brothers to make the dice with which he was able to defeat the Pandavas in the gambling match, a victory that eventually led to the war at Kurukshetra in the entire Kuru clan was annihilated.

This folk story transforms the villain of the Sanskrit epic into a victim and an avenging angle. So who is Shakuni – a hero or villain? It all depends on the story we are told, and stories we choose to believe.

During all his departmental meetings, Ravi has been hearing stories of Jaideep, head of another department. He has been hearing how cunning Jaideep is, how he exploits his team, undercuts the competition, manipulates the figures, poaches the best candidates, takes credit for other people’s work, does not share his contacts, pulls people down during evaluations, and uses his political connections to get his way in the industry. In the past eight months, Ravi has come to believe that Jaideep is indeed a horrible man, someone he must stay away from.

So it was quite a surprise for Ravi when he actually  met Jaideep during the National Conference. During their interactions, Jaideep came across as a very gracious soft spoken man. “Don’t be fooled by his table manners,” warned one of Ravi’s friends during the tea break. This confused Ravi. He realized that everything that he had heard about Jaidep was negative, yet his own interaction, and his own gut feel was positive. So is Jaideep really the demon every body claims he is, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing perhaps, or is that all propaganda? Ravi does not know whom to believe because all he has is stories.

We live in a world of stories. Some stories create heroes, others villains. Some sprout horns, some bestow halos. Few have a 360 degree view of the world. A master strategist knows this. Hence he exploits the art of selective story telling to transform all his competitors and hurdles into monsters.

People are eager to believe in monsters and thoughtlessly destroy them because monsters provoke the most primal of emotions, bypassing all rational thought. They trigger our deepest fears, threatening our well-being, making us so insecure that we refuse to invest any time or energy in trying to understand them or reason with them. Who knows what Mahish-asura or Tarak-asura actually did that they had to be killed? No body bothers about details. Demons are pre-judged. They exist to be destroyed. In fact, we consider any attempt to argue their case as treason or blasphemy. Fear of demons, hatred of villains, unites us, organizes us, empowers us to direct every ounce of our energies towards destroying the monster with extreme prejudice. That is why, however unethical it may seem, ‘constructing demons’ is and always will be a powerful arrow in the strategy quiver.


Reliance Netconnect Broadband+

I always felt the need for a high speed wireless & portable internet device. The Reliance netconnect CDMA 1x I was using was really dead slow with a maximum speed of 15 KBps that too only at rare occasions. The normal speed is usually 4-5 KBps. I was plaaning to switch to Tata Indicom Photon but have to pull back due to it limited coverage. I was very excited when I came to know Reliance Netconnect Broadband+ which claims speeds of about 3.1 Mbps. Tough not sure if it could provide that speed I still opted for it coz I didn’t have a choice. The coverage is only in major cities but it still has the option to fall back to CDMA 1x if HSD is not available in the region. I bought the device on Sunday and got it activated in Tuesday. The speeds are really amazing. It reached upto 2 Mbps during downloads. But still the of availability of speed in the long term is doubtful.


Technology Thrills…

Last year before I bought my HTC Touch I was researching if I would need a phone with GPS if at all it would be useful. After feedback from most of my friends I decided not to go for GPS as it is not worth the cost. I was really thrilled with the Windows mobile experience that time as it made PIM very easier. I used to install lot many applications to utilize it to the full benefit. One year after I do not use it more than a phone and contact management system.

Recently as I was stuck in Delhi looking out for an address I chose to run Google maps in my mobile to see if it can help.

Wow! Even without GPS it was able to provide the location where I was and from there I was able to reach my destination. The driver seemed very amazed as if it were a James Bond movie gadget. Technology thrills!


How Economic Bubble builds up (Nice Story!)

A very simplistic explanation of how a “bubble” builds up.If you could read patiently and understand, it’s a great knowledge! Once there was a little island country.The land of this country was the tiny island itself. The total money in circulation was 2 dollars as there were only two pieces of 1 dollar coins circulating around.

1) There were 3 citizens living on this island country. A owned the land B and C each owned 1 dollar.

2) B decided to purchase the land from A for 1 dollar. So, now A and C own 1 dollar each while B owned a piece of land that is worth 1 dollar. The net asset of the country now = 3 dollars.

3) Now C thought that since there is only one piece of land in the country, and land is non producible asset, its value must definitely go up. So, he borrowed 1 dollar from A, and together with his own 1 dollar, he bought the land from B for 2 dollars. A has a loan to C of 1 dollar, so his net asset is 1 dollar. B sold his land and got 2 dollars, so his net asset is 2 dollars. C owned the piece of land worth 2 dollars but with his 1 dollar debt to A, his net residual asset is 1 dollar. Thus, the net asset of the country = 4 dollars.

4) A saw that the land he once owned has risen in value. He regretted having sold it. Luckily, he has a 1 dollar loan to C. He then borrowed 2 dollars from B and acquired the land back from C for 3 dollars. The payment is by 2 dollars cash (which he borrowed) and cancellation of the 1 dollar loan to C. As a result, A now owned a piece of land that is worth 3 dollars. But since he owed B 2 dollars, his net asset is 1 dollar. B loaned 2 dollars to A. So his net asset is 2 dollars. C now has the 2 coins. His net asset is also 2 dollars. The net asset of the country = 5 dollars. A bubble is building up.

(5) B saw that the value of land kept rising. He also wanted to own the land. So he bought the land from A for 4 dollars. The payment is by borrowing 2 dollars from C, and cancellation of his 2 dollars loan to A. As a result, A has got his debt cleared and he got the 2 coins. His net asset is 2 dollars. B owned a piece of land that is worth 4 dollars, but since he has a debt of 2 dollars with C, his net Asset is 2 dollars. C loaned 2 dollars to B, so his net asset is 2 dollars. The net asset of the country = 6 dollars; even though, the country has only one piece of land and 2 Dollars in circulation.

(6) Everybody has made money and everybody felt happy and prosperous.

(7) One day an evil wind blew, and an evil thought came to C’s mind. “Hey, what if the land price stop going up, how could B repay my loan. There is only 2 dollars in circulation, and, I think after all the land that B owns is worth at most only 1 dollar, and no more.

(8) A also thought the same way. Nobody wanted to buy land anymore. So, in the end, A owns the 2 dollar coins, his net asset is 2 dollars. B owed C 2 dollars and the land he owned which he thought worth 4 dollars is now 1 dollar. So his net asset is only 1 dollar. C has a loan of 2 dollars to B. But it is a bad debt. Although his net asset is still 2 dollars, his Heart is palpitating. The net asset of the country = 3 dollars again.

(10) So, who has stolen the 3 dollars from the country ? Of course, before the bubble burst B thought his land was worth 4 dollars. Actually, right before the collapse, the net asset of the country was 6 dollars on paper. B’s net asset is still 2 dollars, his heart is palpitating.

(11) B had no choice but to declare bankruptcy. C as to relinquish his 2 dollars bad debt to B, but in return he acquired the land which is worth 1 dollar now. A owns the 2 coins, his net asset is 2 dollars. B is bankrupt, his net asset is 0 dollar. ( he lost everything ). C got no choice but end up with a land worth only 1 dollar. The net asset of the country = 3 dollars.

************ **End of the story; BUT ************

There is however a redistribution of wealth. A is the winner, B is the loser, C is lucky that he is spared.
A few points worth noting.

1) When a bubble is building up, the debt of individuals to one another in a country is also building up.

2) This story of the island is a closed system whereby there is no other country and hence no foreign debt. The worth of the asset can only be calculated using the island’s own currency. Hence, there is no net loss.

3) An over-damped system is assumed when the bubble burst, meaning the land’s value did not go down to below 1 dollar.

4) When the bubble burst, the fellow with cash is the winner. The fellows having the land or extending loan to others are the losers. The asset could shrink or in worst case, they go bankrupt.

5) If there is another citizen D either holding a dollar or another piece of land but refrains from taking part in the game, he will neither win nor lose. But he will see the value of his money or land go up and dow like a see saw.

6) When the bubble was in the growing phase, everybody made money.

7) If you are smart and know that you are living in a growing bubble, it is worthwhile to borrow money (like A ) and take part in the game. But you must know when you should change everything back to cash.

8) As in the case of land, the above phenomenon applies to stocks as well.

9) The actual worth of land or stocks depend largely on psychology.