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.

  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.