Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Some potentially severe negative implications of a cashless society that's fully dependent on digital wallet services as storehouses of value and for electronic payments

If societies become cashless, or more appropriately free of physical/printed currency, there will be some positive and some negative implications. A major negative implication is that at all times, your money will be with someone else [be it a bank or some digital wallet service such as m-pesa or Paytm or MobiKwik]. It’ll never be with you. Your money, essentially, is your only as long as the service holding your money is solvent and benign. If it becomes insolvent, it could, at least theoretically, confiscate some or all money of some or all of its customers [especially if some nefarious, special-case clauses are hidden deep in its terms of service agreement]. If the service becomes malign – say due to a corrupt/rogue employee – your money could get partially/fully lost.

Further, a rogue government could act outside the law and could force a digital wallet service provider to debit the account of someone without his knowledge and/or consent, on malicious pretexts.

In essence, with digital wallets, you’re trusting someone else with all of your money at all times, and hoping that your money is safe. The probability here is not 1.

A related prediction by me [from February 2011] on the future of paper-based currency is here.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Printed versions of newspapers act as free advertising for the newspaper and are thus more valuable than mere revenue collections

Newspaper companies which ponder whether to discontinue their print editions and go digital-only shouldn't forget that the print editions of their respective newspapers also perform free advertising for their newspapers. When people read print editions of newspapers at airports, inside airplanes, at cafes and restaurants, or inside metro trains, etc., they're advertising the newspaper for free - others watch these people.

Secondly, the type of people who are publicly seen reading your newspaper helps to establish the image and standard of your newspaper. If suited guys, for example, are seen reading The Wall Street Journal, it helps to establish that corporate folks read this newspaper and thus pulls in others of the same type who aren't reading WSJ already.




Saturday, December 19, 2015

Protectionism, without making it look like protectionism

Overt protectionism is difficult to do many times, because of international laws/politics/treaties, such as WTO rules. But protectionism can be useful or necessary [or both] for nations at times. If you can announce to the public credible-sounding concerns/reasons for taking certain steps [basically a pretext that doesn't sound like a pretext], and it you can tell a story in which your grave concerns/reasons logically require you to take those difficult steps, then you can pretend that you're not doing protectionism, and you can plausibly deny that any protectionism resulting from these steps is purposeful; you can instead argue that any such resultant protectionism is merely incidental, and that you're in fact forced [by circumstances] to resort to taking these tough steps [and have no choice], and that you're not taking these steps out of will or wish, but out of necessity.

Examples:
  1. If Indian government wants to reduce its import bill, and wants to give a boost to domestically-made automobiles/automakers, then it can use the environment/pollution excuse to ban the sales of high-end luxury cars that run on diesel [since most high-end cars that sell in India sell in the diesel variant], claiming that these contribute to high pollution levels. Such a ban will appear benign to everyone, allowing India to quietly and covertly help its domestic automobile industry and also to reduce national imports.
  2. Edward Snowden has given countries around the world - and especially the adversaries/rivals of US - fantastic cards [which are actually quite familiar] in the name of national security and privacy of citizens using which these countries can use strong protectionist measures without looking bad on the world stage. China, and to some extent Iran/Russia [link 1] [link 2] [link 3], are already reaping the fruits of the NSA exposes to promote homegrown technology products/services over Western ones. India can and should do the same. Let's not becomes slaves of Western technology companies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Short-term memory loss could be one of the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder

People with OCD repeatedly check whether a door or a car or a drawer is locked, even though they might have done the same check just moments back. This indicates that maybe these people do not feel sufficient assurance from their memory recall of their last check [which was done moments back], and so they feel the urge to check the lock again to again get full assurance that it has indeed been locked properly, only to quickly forget this assurance [partially] moments later, thus coming back to do the same check yet again, and so on.

If, suppose, these people could see a short video of they having checked the lock properly some moments ago, maybe then they wouldn't feel the need to check it again.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Certain mortality is a key reason why people don't worry as much about environment, non-renewable resources, etc.

People consciously or sub-consciously believe that they all have limited lifespans, and death after a few decades of life is certain, so why should they discomfort their limited lives in order to prevent things which they themselves certainly won't face? The term future generations doesn't worry people a lot, since people believe that technology will eventually find a way out of every problem. Had lifespans been very long [or perhaps unlimited], then people would've worried more about the pollution they're creating, the landfills they're heaping up, the garbage they're littering, the poisons they're letting into the oceans, the species they're making extinct, and so on. Because then people would know that they would themselves face the unfavorable consequences of their own past actions. People don't see any consequences for themselves now.

Hence the propensity to exploit the environment and the planet as much as possible for private gains. This is somewhat related to the tragedy of the commons, although not completely.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A comprehensive list of attributes and features that together make for a perfect on-screen keyboard for touch-based displays

  1. Keys shouldn't necessarily be shaped as rectangles, but can/should have shapes that better fit with the shape of human hands/fingers and also how humans type.
  2. The color/texture of keys shouldn't be flat, but should be three-dimensional to give the impression of real, physical keys. Also, the color/texture should be soothing.
  3. The distance/division between keys should be proper and sufficient.
  4. Keys shouldn't be too large or too small. The size should be appropriate. Also, some keys can/should be larger or smaller than others for better on-screen typing.
  5. When any key is touched, there should be an immediate and full highlighting of that key in a contrasting color to give the feeling of the key being pressed.
  6. Any key that's touched should pop-up to give the feeling of a physical keyboard.
  7. A strong accompanying clicking sound [one that mimics sound of physical keys] and optionally a small-duration vibration.
  8. Numeric and alphabetical keys visible simultaneously in the same keyboard [to avoid switching to numeric keyboard].
  9. Context-relevant special keys visible as needed [e.g., when typing into an email address field, the @ symbol key will also show up, and so on].
  10. Quick response time of the keyboard, that is low lag between key press and display of the intended character [so someone who types fast doesn't feel that the keyboard isn't able to catch up with him].
  11. Algorithms that recognize and ignore accidental touches to the display.
  12. Intelligent Caps Lock, that is the keyboard intelligently automatically switches to uppercase or lowercase whenever it can be confidently determined that a particular character case is most likely to be used.
  13. Auto-correct common spelling errors. Also, the keyboard should quickly learn the words the user uses most, as well as any foreign language words that the user frequently types using the English alphabet [and do auto-correction for those foreign words too]. Same with abbreviations.
  14. Auto-complete [again, with learning] that suggests automatic completion of frequently-used as well as long words. The system should also learn those word pairs, triplets, quadruplets, etc., that are frequently used, thus suggesting the third word when the first two have been used, for example.
  15. Finally, a special keyboard page with the special characters that the user uses most frequently [special characters or currency signs]. This special page should be accessible through a dedicated key called FSYM [frequently-used symbols] or MYSYM [visible at all times] and pressing it should switch between the standard keyboard and the FSYM page. Similarly, a special smileys page with the most-frequently used smileys, accessible similarly through a dedicated FSMI or MYSMI key visible at all times. Of course, regular special characters pages [with all special characters] and smileys pages [with all smileys] can be accessed via their own dedicated keys [or regular and frequently-used can be combined into one key].
The BlackBerry 10 on-screen keyboard [seen here on a Z3] is, in my opinion, one of the best on-screen keyboards out there, and meets several - although not all - of the characteristics outlined above.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Suddenly, the explosion of massive data centers has commercialized cold temperature and thus made cold places valuable

And all of sudden, in the 21st century, cold temperatures and cold places have gotten a newfound value, thanks to the advent of data centers to power industrial-scale Cloud services such as Facebook, Amazon's AWS, Microsoft's Azure, etc.

Cold regions - such as some parts of Sweden-  which were previously scorned [as far as doing business is concerned] for being too cold, have now become ideal for natural [that is free] cooling. Who knows, some day technology companies might find the business case right for building massive computing data centers in the coolest parts of our planet, such as Greenland, Antarctica, Siberia [Russia], northern Canada, Alaska [USA], etc.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"We're based in Ireland" is an illegal argument that technology companies use to circumvent local laws and regulation of other nations

Facebook uses this argument frequently, but it isn't alone. Technology companies frequently claim that because they're based in some other country, only that country's laws/regulations hold. This is an illegal argument.

By virtue of "supplying your goods" in a country, you are automatically bound by the local laws/regulations of that country. That the "delivery mechanism" in this case happens to be the Internet doesn't in any way reduce or remove the fundamental applicability of this aforesaid principle. Not having headquarters or a local subsidiary in a particular country - say Belgium - doesn't mean that direct delivery of goods/services from the Irish headquarters implies that only Irish laws apply.

The "goods" are delivered in Belgium to Belgium citizens, and the fact that Belgium allowed - or did not disallow - Facebook to deliver certain goods/services directly to the citizens of Belgium means, implicitly, that the company delivering those goods/services is automatically bound by local laws/regulations of Belgium. Any twisting of this is merely an attempt to get around the laws and regulations of other nations.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Real-time video streaming from war zones using miniature drones can help to counter America's carefully controlled and falsified reporting of its wars

US doesn't allow independent reporting from the war zone in any of the wars it wages. The world gets to hear and see only the incomplete, distorted, controlled, falsified, abridged, misleading, self-serving and altered version of events that actually take place, to suit America's military-industrial complex and its foreign policy objectives. For example, the drizzle of reports about America's use of napalm and depleted uranium radioactive bombs in Iraq is most likely just the tip of the iceberg, and the world may never get to know the complete truth because America never allowed the truth to be recorded and reported. And this helps America to an astonishing extent because whenever allegations are made against America, America asks for evidence, knowing fully well that there wouldn't be any!

And the same story can be applied to all other wars waged by America - in Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Vietnam, and elsewhere.

Can we reveal to the world the true extent of the atrocities and barbarism conducted routinely, systematically and prolifically by the United States on other nations' peoples as a part of its official policy? Yes we can. Miniature sized camera-laden drones can be covertly deployed to the battlefields where America is waging its illegal and repulsive wars, in order to record and transmit video - in real-time - and thus reveal to the world the true extent of its genocide on innocents, bypassing the current controlled flow of information.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

An illogical obsession with introducing touch-based controls everywhere

When should mechanical/physical controls be eschewed in favor of touch-based controls? When:
  • You want to change the functions, layout, number, size, etc., of the control buttons [like in smartphones].
  • When you want to protect the controls from dust, water, etc.
  • When you want to eliminate/reduce the effort to push the mechanical/physical buttons.
Some automobile manufacturers [e.g., Honda] have introduced touch-based controls in some cars [e.g., Honda in City]. I think this is a ridiculous and backward step. Why? Because:
  • The functions of these touch-based buttons remain fixed. They don't need to be changed.
  • There's no extra need to protect the controls from dust/water.
  • There's no compelling need to reduce physical effort to push physical buttons.
  • A user must look at the touch based buttons in order to operate them [to correctly place his fingertip on the correct button], unlike physical buttons/controls that can be operated quickly and correctly without requiring us to look directly at them.
  • Many times, touch-based controls accidentally get pressed, leading to undesired and unintended operations. Over time, a user subconsciously starts being extra careful, creating unnecessary extra mental load.
  • There's a certain kind of live feedback we get when we're, for example, rotating a knob to set the fan speed to the correct level. This feedback is quite satisfying and helps us to stop at precisely the most satisfactory point. This feedback is completely missing from touch-based controls.
  • In a physical rotating knob, you can continuously vary the level of the setting that the knob controls, and feel/hear the changes in real-time, and stop at exactly the level that you deem fit. However, in a touch-based system, you need to repeatedly touch the button to move the setting in one direction, and in order to move it in another direction, you need to move to a second button and repeatedly touch it. This setup is far more cumbersome compared to a physical rotating knob where you neither need to repeatedly touch nor you need to shift between up and down buttons.
In summary, car manufacturers and other companies shouldn't mindlessly employ touch without giving thought to its need and usefulness according to circumstances. Touch should be employed where it's going to be genuinely useful.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Clothing is, in many ways, similar to civil engineering

When I looked at the below French Connection [FCUK] shirt today, I felt and realized that the business of manufacturing clothing - such as shirts - and the clothing products themselves bear similarities, in more than one ways, to the civil engineering discipline.

Here's how:
  • Both entail the choice of correct materials, with properties such as the right strength, flexibility, etc.
  • In both, the concept of finish applies [in clothes, it means how cleanly and properly has the stitching being done, etc., while in civil it means the same for construction finish.
  • In both, the concept of design applies, albeit with a bit of philosophical difference. While design in the context of clothing refers primarily to the look of the product [and a bit less crucially to aspects such as "proper" covering of the body], in the case of civil, design refers to both the structural specifications/strength and to the look of the structure.
  • In both, joint/stitch applies. In civil, this means securely joining the various sub-structures, while in clothing it refers to properly stitching the various parts of the cloth.
  • Fit applies in both too. For clothing this crucial aspect refers to something properly and smartly fitting the designated customer segment, while in the case of civil the term capacity is somewhat analogous.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mankind's fixation with numbers that are multiples of ten is irrational

"The United Nations will be celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2015. That event must be grasped as an opportunity to advance the idea." [source]

Mankind has a certain fixation with multiples of 10 [and also 5]. We celebrate 10th, 20th, etc., anniversaries more than, say, the 4th or the 17th anniversary. This is not rational. Just because a number happens to be the multiple of 10 doesn't make it any extra special or significant or meaningful. 10 itself is just a number like every other number. Just because the number of digits increases at 10 doesn't mean that it is any extra wise or logical or useful to celebrate the 10th anniversary of something more than celebrating, say, the 8th anniversary. Similarly, it isn't any extra wise or helpful to plot and analyze the profitability of a firm over a 10 or 15 year period, than it is to perform the same activity over, say, 12 or 17 years.

There's nothing any extra significant about the 70th anniversary of the UN than it is about the 69th anniversary.

Update [11-Nov-15]: Leahy's statement that "year-end is essentially an arbitrary point" is just another way of looking at the above thought.


Update [11-Sep-16]: Similarly, the "great" 700 score barrier for GMAT is rather arbitrary. Why did this so-called "important threshold" have to be a multiple of 100? Why wasn't it 690 or 710? This is because we're just obsessed with thinking/working in terms of "easy" numbers that are multiples of 10, 100, and so on, rather than working with exact values which will most likely be "weird" numbers.

Similarly, the claim that 150 hours worth of preparation is ideal for GMAT is another example of our fixation with clean, simple numbers that are multiples of 5/10/20/50/100.

Similarly, the claim that chewing food 32 times results in complete/proper digestion seems fake, because why would the right number of chews have to be 32, the number of teeth in an adult human? It just seems like someone picked the number of teeth and assigned the same "easy" and "related" number as the optimum number of chews. Easy doesn't necessarily mean the best.

Update [17-Oct-16]: Vehicle manufacturers ask you to get the vehicle serviced at 5,000 or 10,000 km [VW asks at 15,000]. Why did these numbers have to be multiples of 5,000? Couldn't these have been "weird" looking numbers like 6,000, or 9,000, or 13,000?

Update [24-Mar-17]: Why are estimates about number of stars or galaxies expressed in terms of powers of 10? Why aren't these expressed as powers of 2, 3, 5, 7 or 8? Is the number 10 something special compared to other numbers? Is it "simpler"? Does expressing as powers of some other number make the estimate less accurate?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Firms' accounting entries in India are gradually moving to the Cloud - albeit indirectly

Imagine what would happen if every delivery of goods in a commercial vehicle was supposed to carry a form printed from the government's website after entering the corresponding invoice details [currently there are regional versions of this concept - e-TRIP in Punjab, DVAT DS2 in Delhi, etc.]. This implies that every vehicle which is not carrying such a form can be assumed by taxation officers to be moving without complete covering documents [in this case the government form corresponding to its invoice] and can thus be impounded.

From a technology standpoint, what's essentially happening in such a setup is that, for all practical purposes, one's accounting has moved online, into the Cloud, on to the government's website. Of course, one continues to have an accounting software on one's computer in one's firm, but the government trusts and requires the equivalent of an invoice that has been generated from its own website. One's own invoice is thus less important.

People's accounting, therefore, practically moves into the Cloud, into the hands of the government. So if everyone records all their accounting transactions in a single, Cloud-based service, one wouldn't need a separate accounting software on one's computers and all firms can rely on the online service alone. This online service won't allow deletion/modification of invoices, and will thus solve - in large part - the problem of illegal movement of goods without complete/proper covering documents.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Web application loads in two parts - the browser loads first, and the application loads thereafter

One of the benefits of Web applications that's touted quite frequently is that these applications always stay updated. That's true in the sense that the application is loaded from the server each time it's used, thus ensuring that the freshest/latest version is pulled and used. This fact is touted as a benefit of Web applications over native applications. While this might appear fully true at first, close examination reveals that there are some important fine points which merit a look.

A Web application - like Gmail - isn't just the Gmail running inside a browser tab. It's Gmail plus the Web browser [taken together], since Gmail can't/doesn't have any existence without a supported browser. This idea can be extrapolated to all Web applications; all depend on a browser.

Which implies that all the aspects along which Web applications are compared to desktop applications must include the browser in the equation as an inseparable component of Web applications.

When the browser is added to the mix, the scales start to turn against Web applications, since browsers have their share of high memory consumption, delayed launch, version updates, etc. When we launch a Web browser, we're basically completing the first half of the total process of launching a Web application. This step [of launching a browser] is no different from launching a native application such as Microsoft Word.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The world needs lean courts that quickly rule on small-sized issues which "clearly" violate public interest

For example, in 2013 Microsoft released a YouTube app for Windows Phone, which received praise from reviewers/users. However, Google blocked it, raising certain objections. In the world of Microsoft, the objections were addressed and the app was re-released, only to be blocked again by Google because the new app was also built using native code rather than Google-enforced HTML5.

Prima facie it appears that Google's demand that Microsoft's YouTube app be built using HTML5 [while noting that both Android and iOS have YouTube apps built using native code, and also that Google itself isn't willing to release a full-fledged YouTube app for Windows Phone] is unreasonable and burdensome, not to mention clearly against the public interest.

The regular route of filing a lawsuit, etc., is quite lengthy and bureaucratic, and so I believe that we need sort of lean or fast-track courts that speedily deliver judgments on small-sized issues where the public interest is quite clearly harmed. Such a court, for example, wouldn't interfere in issues such as Google's advertising being displayed in an improper way in Microsoft's YouTube app. However, it would deliver a judgment that Microsoft has the right to develop and deliver a YouTube app to Windows Phone users that's built using native code, using the argument that the Android and iOS apps for YouTube are both built using native code.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A manager should ignore sunk costs during decision-making - and also sunk time

I wanted to withdraw some money a few days ago and so I reached my bank's branch. There I saw a long queue and estimated that I would have to wait around 15-20 minutes in the queue for my turn to come. I wondered if I should return and instead withdraw the same amount from an ATM.

Just then the MBA learning - sunk costs should never be considered in managerial decision-making - occured to me and I decided to stay at the branch and wait in the queue. Why? Because going to the ATM and withdrawing money from it would've cost me about 20-25 minutes. Staying in the queue would've cost me 15-20 minutes. The better decision is obvious, since the time I have already spent to reach the bank branch is now sunk and thus shouldn't affect my subsequent choice.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Who could've thought this - WhatsApp is competing with TV! And the Internet!

It is fair to say that today, WhatsApp is properly competing with TV, albeit not intentionally and more as a side effect. For many people, the jokes, photos, videos and other stuff shared on WhatsApp are replacements for similar entertainment consumed through TV [and also the Internet]. Who could've thought that a communication/messaging service would start to compete with the behemoth called TV?

Perhaps more importantly, the way stuff is being shared and consumed on WhatsApp is groundbreaking in itself. The WhatsApp model of content consumption is based on small, atomic pieces of content being forwarded/shared by one's friends, and is thus different from both traditional cable TV [watch whatever is playing at any moment] and the traditional Internet [visit a portal/website and choose among what's available, or use a search engine to look for something specific]. The WhatsApp model relies on friends pushing content that they feel is shareworthy, along with instant comments/feedback/gossip about the same, something not easily possible with TV [unless you're watching in a group]. Billions and billions of atomic pieces of content are thus moving around each day, completely devoid of ads, and a groundbreaking new model of content distribution and consumption has been accidentally pioneered.

Couple this with the inevitable ability to quickly mirror the display of one's smartphone on one's large-screen TV, and you'll have serious entertainment competition for both traditional TV as well as portals/websites.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The success of some types of advice is dependent on everyone not following that advice

Counterintuitive as it may sound, it seems to me that what is implied by the title of this post is actually true [in at least some cases]. Some examples will make this clear:
  1. Brokerage recommendation to hold a stock: Many times stock brokerages dish out a recommendation to hold a stock, and to wait for it to rise, and to sell it when it reaches a certain, higher level compared to the current price. This recommendation will work only if not everyone follows it. If everyone follows, and hence holds, the stock price will not change at all, and hence will not rise ever, thus defeating the recommendation to sell it when it rises.
  2. Avoid traveling on an all-new aircraft for a few years until its software matures: The idea here is to avoid, for its first few years, an airliner which is a clean-sheet design, and to let a few years of commercial flights pass before you travel on it, so that any bugs in its hardware and/or software are ironed out, thus increasing your safety. However, if everyone follows this advice, the baking/maturing of its hardware/software will come to a halt, defeating the advice.
  3. Update [Feb'16]: Look at only the sections listing the Most Read/Most Viewed/Most Shared/Most Emailed news stories on websites, instead of wasting your time sifting through all of the articles, many of which are expected to be lame or shitty [this way you can supposedly increase the return on/utilization of your time - instead of having to check out all articles on just one website, you can check the Most Popular articles on top ten websites and thus consume content of better importance/popularity/quality in the same amount of time]. But if everyone follows this, the Most Popular lists will stop changing/refreshing/updating.
Update [17-May-16]: The following thought seems related to the above idea. If in an area every house is pledged to a bank as a collateral [for a credit line], then if one of these borrowers goes bust and the bank wants to sell the house pledged by this borrower to recover the money lent to him, then who will buy this house [since everyone has already pledged their own houses to banks and consequentially cannot afford to buy someone else's house]?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Every man for himself versus a centralized mind for traffic management

Currently traffic on the roads is channeled/optimized individually by each car driver. Each driver uses his experience/knowledge to guess what to do in order to reach his destination faster. This approach where each man optimizes his own driving might appear to be effective; it does not produce the most efficient outcome for the system as a whole. To optimize the entire system, taking into account each of the members of the system, requires a central brain that looks at the current state of the system as a whole and computes optimizations that produce maximum net benefit overall [net, because it's possible that by disadvantaging some members, the overall output gets higher].

One question that could be raised here is that when the current state of the system is recorded and is sent for analysis to a computer, the system itself changes its state in the meantime, since its members are moving all the time. However, this concern isn't material since the time required to compute optimizations on a decent computer is so small that the changed state of the system is identical enough to the analyzed past state to an extent that the optimizations produced by the computer can be applied to the changed state as well.

P.S. Just realized that this whole thing sounds quite similar to the famous dialog of John Forbes Nash in the movie A Beautiful Mind:

"Incomplete. Incomplete, okay? Because the best result will come from everyone in the group doing what's best for himself … and the group."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Marriage bureaus and matchmakers in India can use matrimonial portals such as Jeevansathi.com, Shaadi.com, etc., to complement their profession

These days we're talking to several marriage bureaus and matchmakers about my shaadi, and one consistent complain that these bureaus and matchmakers make about the current state of their profession is that online matrimonial portals have given their business a tough competition. This is understandable - using portals such as BharatMatrimony or SimplyMarry, people are now able to look at a large number of profiles at a fraction of the cost compared to the traditional methods.

That being said, I believe that bureaus and matchmakers can actually use these portals to bolster their profession. Here's how - paid/premium accounts on these portals allow the user to view the contact details of a profile. Matchmakers should take a premium subscription on these websites and should identify profiles that seem relevant to the requirements of their offline clients. They can then view the phone numbers, etc., of these profiles and initiate contact with them on the behalf of their offline clients.

Online marriage portals are without doubt a serious and disruptive competitive threat to traditional matchmakers, but this cloud too has a silver lining.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Talks must eventually convert into transactions

Talks don't bring profits. Transactions bring.

Many people around us talk "big" things. The condition of the economy, emerging markets, the "potential" in China or India, the fall/rise of commodities, employment, the government, profits/losses of conglomerates such as Reliance Industries or Google, rise/fall of the US dollar, and so on.

But at the end of the day, none of these broad-level talks lead to any transactions - more specifically, financial transactions [buy or sell, trade, brokerage, rent, barter, etc.]. And unless there are financial transactions, there aren't any profits. These broad-level discussions/talks aren't easily convertible into business - they're interesting for gossip, but not much more.

Lesson: We must remember that while such superficial talks are good for general gossip and entertainment, real money will be made by fulfilling narrow and specific customer needs.

Exceptions: There are certain cases where broad-level talks can directly lead to business transactions and income/profits. For example, a vague statement such as "China has huge potential" can be converted into a transaction by investing into a China-focused mutual fund. Similarly, if you're in the consulting profession, you can make real money by giving these broad-level lectures/presentations to your client [assuming he is satisfied with broad-level talks].