Thursday, June 22, 2017

Artificial Intelligence [AI], natural language processing [NLP], and natural language understanding [NLU] will enable digital services to build detailed behavioral profiles of people based on detailed past communications [COMPACTIDEA]

Those hundreds of emails, Facebook Messenger messages, WhatsApp chat messages, SMSes, comments under news stories, etc., that we're all creating daily, we just forget those, but those chats/emails/messages don't disappear or become useless. They just get hidden from our eyes. They're there, waiting for advances in artificial Intelligence [AI], natural language processing [NLP], and natural language understanding [NLU]. In the near future, when these technologies reach a very high level of maturity, all those old chats/emails/messages will come back to life. The old stuff will be analyzed deeply again to build a detailed and accurate profile of the person [the way a human can today]. So the value of this otherwise useless stuff is in the future.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The myth of government-provided subsidies, and its relation to cross-subsidies

  • Till some time ago, petrol and diesel used to be subsidized in India, "by the Indian government". First of all, I don't think it's proper to say that the government was subsidizing it. Government officials were's paying for the subsidy from their pockets. It was the public's own money, collected by the government, which was being used to provide this subsidy.
  • This leads to the question of whether there can ever be a true subsidy. Any subsidy that the "government" provides seems either like a cross-subsidy, or like a compromise. The former, if prices are raised for one class of people [say the wealthy] to provide subsidy to another class [say the poor]. The latter, if the provision of a subsidy results in a reduction in government spending on some other priority/sector [e.g., if the government allocates less amount for building roads because it provided subsidy on diesel].
  • In case of a compromise [the latter situation], does the public "save" anything overall? I don't think so. The public sure got that diesel subsidy, but it didn't get those extra roads. Sure, some people or a class of people reaped the benefits, while some other people or some other class of people continued experiencing suffering, but there likely wasn't any net benefit on an aggregate/overall basis [like vector sum in physics].
  • So when a story on FT reads "India to forgive billions of dollars of farm debt", one must remind oneself that while it might be tempting to give credit to the Indian government for "forgiving" this debt and doing a sort of huge favor to the farmers, it's really the overall Indian public that's paying this bill in the form of reduced government benefits. Any praise showered on the Indian government is undeserved. The politicians and the ministers, however, will of course try to milk the debt waiver for their own benefit ["In a note to clients this week, BofA Merrill Lynch predicted nearly $40bn in farmers’ debts — equivalent to about 2 per cent of GDP — would be waived before India’s next general election in 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes to secure a renewed mandate for the following five years."] ["Mr Modi opened the floodgates for a series of costly farm loan write-offs during the recent Uttar Pradesh election campaign, when he promised that the BJP would forgive nearly $5.6bn owed by more than 21.5m small farmers if it came to power."] ["The farm-debt waiver was one of the key campaign promises that helped prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party win a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh’s recent state elections, seen as crucial for Mr Modi’s own re-election prospects nationally in 2019."]. The government, it ought to be remembered, is only managing the public's resources.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

West - England, France, Italy, US, etc. - is expert at stealing money from people of poor nations by selling them expensive stuff under the guise of premium brands

For example, this Vertu Signature Cobra phone at USD 360,000 or INR 2.3 crore is little more than theft. But it's made to look like a premium product that "sets you apart" from others.

West and Western companies have, over the centuries, perfected the art of brainwashing people in the general public into getting deeply attracted to their "premium" brands. Fashion, accessories, fragrances, footwear, fashion jewellery, watches, etc., of these so-called "ultra-premium" brands are sold at such exorbitant prices that it can only be termed as massive transfer of wealth from the buyers to the sellers with little actual value flowing to the buyer. A heist. Daylight robbery.

The defence here is that the buying decision is a conscious choice of the buyer. However, it is the duty of governments, especially of developing/poor nations, to educate their people that obsessively buying products of these expensive European/American houses is highly wasteful - not only at individual level but also at national level. Spending 10-20 times more on a handbag doesn't give you 10-20 times more value. You're not getting something that's genuinely superior at the product/operational/functional level. You're paying for the logo, for the name.

Your brain has been programmed by these companies to lust for their products. It's this programming that drives you to literally throw your hard-earned money towards these companies. These companies know that people in developing nations are aspirational. They further feed/fuel these aspirations via carefully-crafted advertising on TV, in magazines, etc. They spend millions for understanding the human psychology in order to produce marketing campaigns that are so influencing that you quickly get trapped.

This is one of the ways by which these barbaric Western nations get rich by "legally" stealing the hard-earned money of people in other nations. And other nations get poor/poorer because they're left with logos alone. And not with functional/productive products and machines.





Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cheaper Chinese microprocessors will democratize productivity [COMPACTIDEA]

It's no secret that Intel's profit margins are outsized. Whether it's a poor fellow from Angola or a rich man in Switzerland, both have to make contribution to Intel's billions of dollars of annual profit. And why just call it Intel's profit? It's the world's people contributing to American profits with their sweat and blood, thus making Americans rich. The significant price different between AMD - also American - and Intel chips is proof already that Intel takes an exorbitant amount of profit on the chips it sells. I not only want this but also believe that a few years down the line Chinese-designed and Chinese-manufactured microprocessors [Godson/Loongson, ShenWei, etc.] meant for mass-market consumption will pose a successful challenge to the dominance and outsized profit margins of American firms such as Intel and AMD, based largely on significantly lower prices. The current prices of many of Intel's so-called "higher-end" CPUs are simply outrageous. If you want to be productive, you need a fast machine, but Intel wants you to pay a lot if you want a computer that doesn't irritate you with its slowness. Not good. Must be solved. Everyone has the right to be productive without having to pay a lot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Just try to imagine the sheer bigness of India's potential! [COMPACTIDEA]

Excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article: 

"...India is almost ready to implement a tax code that unifies more than a dozen separate levies, effectively creating a single market with a population greater than the U.S., Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Japan combined."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Some thoughts on our Universe, time, space, length, Big Bang, God, etc.

  • I don't think it's either correct or complete to talk about the origin of only our "present" Universe [the post-Big Bang Universe that we live in and observe]. I strongly feel that we can't correctly understand this "current" Universe without simultaneously asking what existed before Big Bang [and also why].
  • Is space infinite in the real sense? It seems so. After all, there isn't going to be a wall to mark the end of space. Even if there was a wall, there would be something beyond it. But trying to imagine a "really" infinite space gives me a sort of headache. So much space? How can there be so much space? Is the word "so much" even correct? Because no matter how much space I talk about, it's surely 0.0000001% of some other, larger volume of space [which would itself be a minor fraction of an even larger volume, and so on]. Easy to get headache imagining this.
  • I do get this one thing quite clearly. The Universe cannot be finite. It has to be infinite [saying this without defining what is meant by being infinite], because if it's finite and measurable, then there must be something beyond this demarcated box.
  • However, it isn't necessary that being infinite must/should mean that if we keep going in one direction in the space, we must be able to continue endlessly. The latter is maybe possible but it shouldn't be essential. Why? Because it's possible that the shape/structure of space is such that if you start in one direction and keep going, then you eventually return to the same spot, much like revolving around a circle. But if this were possible, wouldn't it make space finite? Because we would be able to measure the total distance traveled? Seems wrong. Unclear.
    • Is it possible that this issue gets resolved if it turns out that when we start in one direction and ultimately end up at the place of origin [or "space" of origin], the distance travelled comes out to be what's known as "infinite"?
      • Or is it the case that once we leave the place/space of origin, we can never return to it?
  • Why is there anything at all, we must also ask? Why is there nothing/nothingness. No Universe, no us and no space. Now, as much headache the thought of really infinite, endless space gives, that much headache the thought of nothingness also gives. Now that we are here and we can think and observe, it becomes impossible to imagine this absolute nothingness. It seems like there has to be something [at least empty space].
  • And here's the trillion dollar/euro/pound/rouble/yen/yuan/rupee question. Why doesn't anyone talk about the trillions, or trillions of trillions of years before the relatively paltry 13.8 billion years that has been calculated as the age of our Universe? Why do scientists call Big Bang the beginning of time? Was there nothing, say, 500 trillion years ago? Or is it correct to say that time indeed resets every once in a while, and that it's correct to say that time indeed reset to zero - again - about 13.8 billions years ago? Such resets must've happened infinite number of times previously too [not any finite number of times, but infinite]. No scientist seems interested in tackling this question. What about a trillion quadrillion years ago? Something must have existed even back then, unless the very nature of time needs alteration. So like the space is endless, time too is endless backward [as well as forward]. You can keep thinking back and whatever largest number of years you come up with is but a tiny fraction of an even larger number of years, and so on endlessly. Another headache.
    • Now this point appears related to the first bullet point.
  • God?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

This shift from open, interoperable communication standards and applications to closed and proprietary services like WhatsApp and Skype is not good at all [COMPACTIDEA]

Phone calls, SMSes, and emails are open, in the sense that anyone using any device, service, application or hardware platform can send and receive communication/data/information over these protocols. Messages and calls made using WhatsApp or Skype, on the other hand, aren't open. The protocols are closed, proprietary and secret. The apps for these services are available on select operating systems only. So Facebook can decide, whenever it likes, that it won't develop WhatsApp for the BlackBerry 10 OS anymore, and kill the beautiful BlackBerry Passport phone in an instant. Giving such absolute power to nefarious private corporations is not good at all. We cannot and must not let ourselves be at the mercy of these greedy companies to do such fundamental activities as talking and messaging. Nor should we let these firms decide which hardware/software platforms are going to survive and which not. Open protocols and standards are an absolute must for all of us, a non-negotiable right which we must never cede.





Monday, April 10, 2017

Drawing a parallel between the composite material GLARE and different job roles in a company [COMPACTIDEA]

In BBC's program "Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections" [link] on the Airbus A380 [link 1] [link 2] [link 3], he says that a composite made of fibreglass and aluminium [GLARE] was stronger than either of these two materials alone [even when each material alone is used with the same thickness as that of GLARE]. Also, these two materials served different purposes within the composite [thus providing the composite with both sets of benefits, albeit with only half the magnitude each]. For example, cement takes the compression while steel taken the tension. Better together when facing the same situation, simultaneously. Makes me feel like this is the way in companies, where different employees are given different job roles [finance, marketing, operations, etc.]. Neither is sufficient by himself, but together they're stronger than either by himself. Each "material" in a company serves a specific purpose when facing the same overall situation.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Style must never trump functionality or safety/security [COMPACTIDEA]

VW is adamant about putting only one reverse light. Bad decision. Creates safety risk. Looks bad/broken. Shows Volkswagen's arrogance. They're prioritizing their convention/habit over functionality and safety/security. Implies they can do the same elsewhere [maybe they're already doing this manywhere]. Dangerous. Creates an opening for competitors that can be exploited [customers can be told how VW is being arrogant and is giving inferior functionality and putting people at risk].


Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Middle East doesn't have only three big airlines - it actually has four [COMPACTIDEA]

It's rather silly that almost every article/report out there talks about only three large Middle East airlines - Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad. Wrong. There are four, and the definitive fourth one is Turkish Airlines [if only fleet size is looked at, even Saudi Arabian Airlines could be included as the fifth one]. How in the world can any aviation expert worth his salt forget or not mention Turkish when talking about Arab/Middle East/Muslim airlines? Turkish Airlines is for all practical purposes identical to the "big three" Gulf airlines [in terms of size, ambition, and effect].



Friday, March 17, 2017

The concept of raiding offices of technology companies is becoming increasingly irrelevant and largely symbolic [COMPACTIDEA]

  • Does anyone seriously believe that the most nefarious conversations, deals, strategies/tactics, etc., of modern companies - especially technology companies - are present in physical form in their offices [e.g., on printed paper], ready for analysis/scrutiny for anyone and everyone? No. Such information is stored in encrypted form in the Cloud, or in miniature [encrypted] memory cards whose locations are unknown, or stored in conventional off-the-shelf online services but with plausible deniability [the very presence of an account or accounts with one or more of such services is undisclosed/uncertain/unknown/unprovable].
  • The practice of law enforcement conducting a "raid" on the offices of companies is thus reducing in its relevance. Little, if anything, is to be found in such raids. The information they're looking for is present [no doubt], but it's hidden away and obfuscated in a way that law enforcement cannot even detect or prove its presence, let alone decrypt it.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A quick search on online retail websites such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon, Jabong, Pepperfry, Nykaa, Purplle, etc., quickly tells us what stuff is the "in thing" these days [COMPACTIDEA]

Best explained with an example. I wanted to replace my gas stove [made of steel], but was unaware that glass-top type gas stoves are "in" these days. How does one ascertain this claim made by a shopkeeper or a friend ["aaj kal kya/ye chal raha hai"]? Do a quick search on Flipkart, Snapdeal or Amazon or others and just glance at the top few results. That's the stuff which is "in" and "trending" these days.




Friday, January 13, 2017

I like the idea of universal basic income and I think it'll spur entrepreneurship and risk-taking [COMPACTIDEA]

When food and a basic life of dignity is guaranteed, people will feel much more free and fearless to pursue their dreams [rather than worrying about meeting daily expenses for basic necessities of life - food, clothing, shelter, communications networks, etc.]. This'll make them go after their passions [academic or in arts or in business or in philanthropy] and will also dramatically encourage startups. Whether or not these expected benefits will outweigh the negative effects [some people becoming lazy so they don't work at all] is to be seen.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Better software tools - which are expensive - artificially inflate the capabilities of folks against those who aren't as well-endowed [COMPACTIDEA]

  • Good example is Grammarly. It proofreads a body of text and correct grammatical errors [and also suggests "better" and "heavier" words], thus making a person's writing appear more sophisticated and mistake-free than his or her actual capability. Basically an incorrect and inflated impression of the person. Truth gets hidden. But since Grammarly is expensive, only the rich folks can afford it, thus making them look more intelligent than those folks who don't have as much money. Clearly not good, since this is another way in which difference in economic status leads to difference in academic/professional status [and in this particular case the difference isn't real, it's only apparent]. In this sense, money perpetuates inequality, since richer folks become more likely to be able to score higher, to get jobs, etc.
  • Similarly, someone who can afford Microsoft PowerPoint at school/college is likely to be able to make better-looking presentations in lesser time, compared to someone who, say, can only "afford" LibreOffice, thus perpetuating inequality.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's possible that the 'Comments' section of The New York Times is actively being rigged in order to help Hillary Clinton [COMPACTIDEA]

Based on information in leaked emails, it's okay to conclude that Hillary can go to any lengths to win this election. Any amount of corruption and rigging are okay for her. Why are top/most-recommended comments on NYT articles extremely/unusually pro-Hillary, while comments on other publications [FT, WSJ, etc.], either not so pro-Hillary or outright against her?

FT article endorsing Hillary as well as FT's tweet about it both have extremely anti-Hillary [and anti-FT] top comments.









Top comments on this shamelessly pro-Hillary piece on NYT are also extremely pro-Hillary. They don't seem like normal comments written by ordinary people, but feel like professionally crafted paragraphs composed by experts at Hillary's campaign, with caution about Hillary carefully sprinkled here and there in order to appear balanced and not blatantly fake.