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Notes to Myself

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Food for Thought

Something significant has happened around us last week!

Few weeks ago I wrote about Misha Osipov – the new chess prodigy. That was an amazing feat by a human in chess!

This week something equally or more significant has happened in chess. Google’s AI, AlphaZero, developed a “superhuman performance” in chess in just four hours. After being programmed with only the rules of chess (no strategies), in just four hours AlphaZero had mastered the game to the extent it was able to best the highest-rated chess-playing program Stockfish.

In a series of 100 games against Stockfish, AlphaZero won 25 games while playing as white (with first mover advantage), and picked up three games playing as black. The rest of the contests were draws, with Stockfish recording no wins and AlphaZero no losses.

This is a very significant development in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning!

Chess programs and softwares so far used to work as a combination of “Huge database of Chess games + Rules/Analysis Engine +  Brute force of computing power”. So the programs were “fed with” chess games and rules; they didn’t “learn” chess. Of course that was also a tremendous achievement. You should read Garry Kasparov’s book Deep Thinking to read about his match with Deep Blue and the future of Man vs Machine chess.

But Google’s AI is altogether different! Few months ago Google’s AI beat the best human in a Chinese strategy game called Go. Watch a short video explaining Google’s Deep Mind here.

Google AI is trying to develop a general purpose machine learning software that can learn things on its own and then excel. In the recent game of chess the Google AI learnt the game of chess in just 4 hours; not just learnt, it mastered the game of chess in 4 hours! The program AlphaZero then played with another strong program Stockfish in 100 games and destroyed it 64-36!

Look at reactions of some of the best Chess players in the world today

https://www.chess.com/news/view/alphazero-reactions-from-top-gms-stockfish-author

You can read an academic paper on this Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm

The world around is us changing rapidly! Driverless cars, Drones, Hyperloop, Self-learning AI, Machine learning, Blockchain, Robots performing human tasks and posing threat to jobs…disruption is inevitable in all spheres of life!

One can only imagine how these changes would impact us in year 2030 or 2040! Embracing the technology and facing disruption is not an option; welcoming it and adjusting ourselves, and keeping ourselves up-to-date is the only option! Gone are the days when you could leave University with a degree and spend the rest of your life without upgrading your skills, learning new things. You must earn all your life just to keep pace with the world around you! Because now the threat is not only from other humans, but from machines as well!

Remember the Red Queen quote from Alice In Wonderland?

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 1.15.26 PMprint-alice-in-wonderland-lewis-carroll-characters-visit-w-red-queen-in-forest-f196c728a1f22e74f229b0eb7d83ace6

 

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Good Read – Example of Second level thinking and principle of Inversion

During World War II, lots of fighter planes were getting hit by anti-aircraft guns. Air Force officers wanted to add some protective armor/shield to the planes. The question was “where”?

The planes could only support a few more kilos of weight. A group of experts were called for a short consulting project. Fighter planes returning from missions were analyzed for bullet holes per square foot. They found 1.93 bullet holes/sq. foot near the tail of the planes whereas only 1.11 bullet holes/sq. foot close to the engine.

The Air Force experts thought that since the tail portion had the greatest density of bullets, that would be the logical location for putting an anti-bullet shield.

One of the experts named Abraham Wald said exactly the opposite; more protection is needed where the bullet holes aren’t – that is – around the engines.

His judgment surprised everyone. He said “We are counting the planes that returned from a mission. Planes with lots of bullet holes in the engine did not return at all”.

Einstein had said: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.

😇


I got this interesting story as a forward. It is a very good example of second level thinking.

In his exceptional book, The Most Important ThingHoward Marks hits on the concept of second-order thinking, which he calls second-level thinking. Here is an interesting blog on Farnam Street on the concept. You can also read a Memo by Howard Marks on this here.

One of the important tools in second-level thinking or second-order thinking is Inversion. I briefly touched upon Inversion when I mentioned Charlie Munger’s story and quote of mathematician Jacobi. You can read the reference here.

Inversion

The above fighter plane story is another example of second-level thinking using principle of Inversion. Others were looking at planes that returned safely and trying to identify which are they should protect. Abraham Wald rightly applied the Inversion principle and thought: “We should focus on the planes that didn’t return, and think why they didn’t and protect them from getting gunned down!”

Another example of principle of Inversion which many of you would know if you are fans of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. When asked about what is the purpose or goal of life, most people would give answers which could be summarized as follows:

  1. My goal is to be happy in life – pursuit of happiness is the purpose of life
  2. My goal is to do justice to my potential – achieve the maximum that I am capable of

Jeff Bezos was asked similar question about his goal and what motivated him to found Amazon; and his answer was very interesting. He applied principle of inversion and said: “My idea was to minimize regrets in life when I am 80 years old!” This is a “Regret Minimization” approach as opposed to “Pursuit of Happiness” approach. Jeff said that giving Entrepreneurial instincts a shot was one of his life goals. If he had failed at Amazon he would have happily gone back to his previous career and would have scaled up there. But he wouldn’t have regretted at age of 80 that he had aspirations to start his own venture but he didn’t.

This is such a novel approach! It frees you from the burden of pursuing your dreams and fearing failure and enables you to just enjoy what you want to do and not have any regrets. Many things could be turned into success if we approach life with this philosophy!

Warren Buffett has often said that his biggest mistakes in life were not errors of commission, but the errors of omission. That is, Buffett regrets the opportunities he missed far more than his investing bets that went wrong. Because, according to him, in many cases of omission he had enough knowledge, insights, wisdom to make a right decision and yet for some reason he didn’t and then the missed opportunities turned out to be multi billion dollar “errors” – which never show up anywhere in the Books of Accounts.

quote-errors-of-omission-lost-opportunities-are-generally-more-critical-than-errors-of-commission-russell-l-ackoff-82-82-37

Hope this highlights the power of second level thinking and principle of inversion as tools in thinking and decision making…

 

Try This Personality Test

I took this personality test and got following result:

https://www.idrlabs.com/18-82-55-45-55-45-45-55/result.php

I have seen similar tests before. In my opinion what these tests do is that they try to gauge your present state of being – and not the personality.

For example, if I write the same test again tomorrow when I could be in a different state of mind, I might answer few questions differently.

I would like to try such tests at different times and then see if they can go beyond the present state of being and can really dig into personality.

Maybe they can.

P.S: Just wondering if these tests can identify (in a single run) people with a split personality 🙂

Good Read: The Power of Compounding Small Daily Decisions

If you invest in stock market you would have heard umpteen times the importance of “Power of Compounding”. It is a basic mathematical function – exponential – which leads to huge numbers as the compounding frequency increases. And the same is true about decay function, or negative compound as well. However, the world of investing is always in complete awe of power of compounding.

The principle has some value, but I think it is now one of the most misunderstood concepts. Some true stalwarts have quoted compounding, which are often used to sell the concept. For example, Albert Einstein famously said:

Einstein-Quote on Compounding.png

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

— Albert Allen Bartlett

This is very true – mathematically. It is also true in case of personal finance. That is how all Mutual Funds sell their Systematic Investment Plans (SIPs).

Then the same principle is used to create “inspiring” or “most motivational” message such as follows:

compoundposter

And this is where the misunderstanding of power of compounding lies. The message says that if you give your 99% everyday – for 365 days – you would end up at 0.03. If you give 100% everyday – for 365 days – you would end up at 1 (the message doesn’t mention it, but that’s the baseline case). And if you give “a little bit extra”, 101% everyday – for 365 days – the result is staggering! You would end up at 37.8! That is 37.8 times more than what you would achieve by giving 100% everyday! Just 1% extra effort and such a huge reward! Really motivating! But only for people who don’t understanding mathematics properly.

It is all good in pure numbers, but it doesn’t work in that manner in real life. CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) is a derived number – based on what you achieved over a period of time. It is not something which you can “chase” or “set as target rate”. Most of the life happens in non-linear manner and it would be foolish to chase a rate of compounding.

Also, “giving 1% extra or 1% less everyday” is all good in theory – what does it really mean? How does it translate into actions? It doesn’t make sense. It may motivate some people to start something but not to sustain it forever.

Does it mean that the idea has no utility? Absolutely not. It helps us understand that

  1. Starting early and sustaining it for longer period has huge advantage
  2. Having a trajectory is important. Purpose of CAGR should be just as a guiding path, not as a target. You will have to continuously monitor and revise the trajectory to achieve goal. Because things don’t happen in linear manner as planned

Here is another chart that is often cited by long-term investment community and advocates of “patience” and “power of compounding”

WB Net Worth

This is how Net Worth of Warren Buffett grew exponentially, after age of 50 or so. Yes, graphically it is true. And if you have read Buffett’s letters, he would talk of CAGR of ~19-20% for 50-52 years!

But that’s the backward-looking calculation. You cannot start today and say that you would earn 19-20% returns every year. That’s plain wrong. You cannot chase target in that manner. You’ll have to earn 30-40-50% returns for many years and limit bad years to lower returns (0-3-5%) or even occasional negative return years (-5 or -10%).

So the way compounding can help is by setting some intermediate milestones, say 5-10 years and setting different compounding return targets for those milestones. Remember, it is very easy to grow $100 to $200, but extremely difficult to grow $1M to $2 million (and far more difficult to turn $1 Bln into $2 Bln).

And yet, the idea of compounding is very appealing in investment world and lot of people try to apply it in different domains. Here is one interesting article I read today:

The Power of Compounding Small Daily Decisions

Intelligent Fanatics is an interesting initiative and you can read some interesting articles on their blog. It is also available in Book format.

Another interesting website you should follow for worldly wisdom is Farnam Street run by Shane Parrish. Farnam Street is the address where Warren Buffett lives. Though it is named after Buffett’s home, the blog is largely influenced by Buffett’s partner Charlie Munger‘s concepts of mental models.

Do check some interesting articles there and share more of such resources if you know.

What I learnt from Software Programming

oops-concept-basic-cpp

I came across this interesting article “10 Basic Programming Principles Every Programmer Must Follow” and it made me write this blog which I had been contemplating for a long long time. The article talks about best practices in coding, but what I want to write about is what I learnt from Software Programming in general and how I related those concepts with outside world or other real-life matters.

I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer and was placed in a leading Indian software company through campus interviews. The interview process consisted of solving mathematical puzzles during a written test, and solving more puzzles during interview! I couldn’t have asked for more! I did fairly well and was happy that I got to know few new puzzles. I also thought that that’s what they did in software programming – solving puzzles using a computer program! Well, not in the places where I worked later on…

Since my joining was few months away, and I had no background in Software Programming, I joined a prestigious course by C-DAC called Diploma in Advanced Computing. The course was rigorous and well-designed (was at par with Computer Engineering or more advanced, in some areas) and the faculty was really good!

We started with “C” language and learnt about Data structures and database queries and implemented using C – usual popular exercises such as sorting a list (Bubble Sort, Quick Sort), finding prime number, palindrome, creating a calendar, basic payroll processing etc.

The first learning was that C was a procedural language and not Object-oriented i.e. C program would run sequentially – the only way to jump the control was by calling a procedure (or a function or a routine), in which case the control would jump to that procedure, finish execution and then return back. But the flow was always fixed and only 1. This was a serious limitation – because real life things (or “objects”) are not sequential or linear in nature. Events don’t take place one at a time, many events happen “at once”. And events are inter-dependent on each other. So C was useful for doing a task or activity (e.g. calculating the compound interest, given rate of interest, number of months and principle amount) but it was not capable of “simulating” the real-world objects; and it was not capable of parallel processing or multi-tasking.

This led to learning “Object-oriented” programming! I learnt C++ and Java. But before that I learnt “Object Oriented Programming” Concepts. In nutshell, everything in the world consists of Objects – which have Properties (attributes or characteristics) and Methods (functions or behavior). For example, if you are reading this post you belong to a class = Human Being (hopefully you are not a machine or a humanoid!) and you have properties such as Age, Gender, Height, Weight, Date of Birth, IQ (hopefully!) etc. and you have methods such as reading, smiling, scratching, frowning, sitting, standing, running, drinking etc.

You are an “instance” of class “Human Being” i.e. you are one living copy of the template called “Human Being”. There are 700 billion such instances! Then there are other classes such as “Cat”, “Dog”, “Donkey”, “Tree” etc. You interact with other instances of your class or other instances of other classes.

Remember, you cannot interact with a Class directly, because it doesn’t exist! You can interact with an instance of a class i.e. manifestation of an abstract concept called class into a real-world object. Does it sound like God (Class) and God-man or reincarnation of God as human (Object)? Well, it is…

Once you establish that the entire world is Object-Oriented, it seems so obvious that it is difficult to imagine why it was not thought of in the first place. Well, the answer again lies in a phenomenon you can observe in real world – evolution! Necessity is the mother of invention. Early programming languages were developed to add numbers and calculate interest amount and sort a list. They were meant to do stand-alone “tasks”. When you are at that level, you don’t have to have object-oriented view. And that’s how it was. As purpose and utility of computers expanded to solving business problems and automating business processes, the “object oriented” view emerged.

Then there was another revelation from the real-world understanding of Evolution – that species evolve from other species – or classes morph into other classes. Homo Sapien (today’s human) is a “descendant” of “neanderthals”, which in turn is a “descendant” of “monkey”. In other words, class Human Beings inherited genes from Neanderthals which in turn inherited genes from Monkeys. Inheritance! Another learning from the world which was adopted to Programming. The world is not only object-oriented, it consists of classes which are “inherited” from ancestors. You cannot exist as an isolated entity in this object-oriented world. Nothing can. Everything is in form of Class and Object.

So inheritance means copying. Or passing on the qualities (properties and methods) from Parent class to a Child class. But then what use is it if we are just copying the qualities from one generation to another? In real-world we “adapt”, we “mutate”. i.e. we “inherit” some qualities but then we give a new meaning to them! We retain some qualities as they were. And we may also drop some qualities if they are useless (the way humans dropped a tail).

This was incorporated in Object-oriented programming as “Polymorphism” – something existing in many forms. So a child class would not inherit certain quality from parent but would give new meaning to the same quality. For example, monkeys would use nails to protect themselves. Humans use it for nail painting! Same attribute, different meaning/use – that’s polymorphism.

Hey, but there is another interesting thing programmers learnt – that you can “invoke” parents’ quality whenever you want. Most of the times you would use nails for fashion – but on rare occasions you would use nails the way your ancestors did – for safety, or even for attacking! Programmers quickly figured out that it is a useful mechanism – which we give new meaning to inherited qualities, we should also have access to its old meaning, if need be! This is achieved through “overloading/overriding”. You override the current meaning/utility of nails and invoke ancestral utility (Animal Instinct!)

That’s brief learning from Object-oriented programming.

Then I learnt about Databases and database structures. Relational databases and structures/unstructured data, and database query. In early days of Software Programming the focus was entirely on structured data and somehow trying to fit everything into structured data. You tied to classify everything as multiple structured data tables and created a “reference” or some unique identifier across these tables so that you can run database queries and fetch records. The emphasis was entirely on keeping things sorted or “sorting” things at run time. But the effort and time taken to achieve it increases exponentially as database grows!

This was another big learning for me. And the vague learning, understanding I had was cemented when I recently read a book called “Algorithms to live by”. I briefly mentioned it during one of my earlier blog post.

The sorting time and computation effort increases exponentially when the data size increases. This understanding needs no proof. It is inculcated on us to be “organized”, to keep things neat and clean and always in sorted manner. And we do try hard (some not so hard, but they do try). The problem is, it is simply impossible to do it as number of objects to be sorted increases. Mathematically, effort increases exponentially.  So after a point we tend to give up (even the best ones who really want to keep things tidy).

The same was the case with early years of programming. Computing power was increasing rapidly (Moore’s Law) and it was outpacing the increase in data by huge margin (because the records were generated manually – through data entry). However, with advent of Internet the “good sorting boy” broke down. All of a sudden, the entire world became data entry operators. And to make matters worse, they were generating unstructured data – a kind of data which cannot be fit into structured table (Key-Value pair) – for example, free text or text and and image etc.

And that is when programming world turned their attention to “searching” rather than “sorting”.

Searching is for lazy people. If you don’t keep things sorted you would end up searching for it when you need them. And that was considered as a bad quality. You would be considered unorganized, lazy, inefficient if you didn’t know where was your car key or mobile charger. And simplest way to overcome that was to be organized, be process-oriented, follow some structure and rules – exactly like “structured database and sorting” approach.

But what if you had an amazing knack of “searching” anything that you wanted in almost zero time? You need not be organized, or follow a process/rules. You can leave things anywhere and retrieve any time you want! That’s what “search algorithms” did! With Google search and other search engines you could leave things unsorted and search when needed. And you could search on unstructured data as well!

When a tidy, organized, careful person suddenly becomes untidy, unorganized, care-free, that’s called paradigm shift in his personality. You can no longer apply same rules/constraints. In programming world, it is called change of Architecture!

In last few years the architecture has completely changed – what started as Standalone (everything on same machine), then Two-tier (client-server), then three-Tier (Client-middle ware – server), has now evolved into multi-Tier and multi-component based Architecture. And this has transformed the programming languages as well. Core Java knowledge is still necessary; but not sufficient. Because there are so many layers built upon the core languages which deliver the programmes needed for current applications.

This brings me to my last learning – related to language and literature – and culture.

Before software programming I had learn Chess “notation”. I was also aware of musical “notations” – be it Tabla notation or synthesizer. But I had never paid attention to the word “notation” (as opposed to language).

Notation is used to describe the subject matter and to communicate within a limited scope. I can read notations of a Chess game and reconstruct or re-play the game. Musicians can read notations of a music peace and recreate the music. So notations can completely address the communication needs for that domain or subject. However, they are not meant for extending beyond their domain; and are thus incapable of expressing any other thought or emotion or message. In chess, “!” is used to describe an astonishing move. That’s it. You can not express “After this more the opponent was really taken aback and started sweating and went into depression”. Chess notation is not meant to do that. That’s job of “Language”. Language is the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.

In that sense, programming languages are not languages. They are merely notations meant for writing a program and converting it into executable. Words “script” or “code” are often used in computer programs. I feel those are more appropriate words. Anyways, we still call programming languages – be it C or C++ or VB or Java or .Net.

Here is my more deeper understanding. A language must evolve. It must adapt and adopt new words, new constructs and be relevant for the current need of communication. It must enable complete expression of thought/feelings. And we also need a “script” which can completely support the language. Sanskrit is supposed to be a rich language and Devnagari script is supposed to be complete and well-rounded. However it did not have the script or letters to express the pronunciation of words such as “water” or “match”. Devnagari script adopted or invented new characters to address that. वॉ in वॉटर and कॅ in कॅच are not part of original Devnagari script and were added when the need arose.

The same has happened and is happening to software programming. C was procedural, hence object-oriented languages came (C++, Java). They were not capable of addressing new Architecture, frameworks so new technologies (Web 2.0) emerged.

Some languages become popular among one particular community because they are good at the purpose the community is looking for. And it also shows how “evolved” these languages are, or how culturally relevant they are. For example, my mother tongue Marathi is really a rich and beautiful language! But it has not evolved or culturally fit with many new world objects, references. Do you simply adopt and embrace the established words or artificially create parallel words in your own language/script?

I recently read following awkward words in a Marathi article on Finance.

  • Fiat currency = आदिष्ठ मुद्रा
  • Negotiable instrument = पराक्राम्य दस्तऐवज
  • Counterpart (e.g. UK counterpart of India’s Finance Minister) = समपदस्थ

The Marathi words are really odd and tongue-twisters. Even for people who do not know either Marathi or English word, it is much easier to find and memorize English word because it is already commonplace. What’s the point in fabricating some far-fetched Marathi words? Just accept that your language has not evolved in this domain (Finance) and adopt what is a norm.

Thus Language also shows richness of culture in that specific domain. Marathi language, spoken by 75 million people stands at 19th most spoken language in the world. Hindi language spoken by 260 million people would be among top 5 or 7 in the world. Yet, both languages are very poor in terms of vocabulary for Medical Science, Advanced Finance and few other such subjects. It is better to learn them in English. Rather impossible to learn them in these languages.

English language has a prototype of words for many relations – “…in-law”. Father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, daughter-in-law, on-in-law, sister-in-law etc. When I learnt the English words I thought how individualistic and narrow-minded these people would be. In Marathi (and all Indian languages) we have different words for each of these relations. In fact we also have unique words for complex relations such as “your son’s wife’s father” (व्याही) or “your wife’s sister’s husband” (साडू).

This doesn’t mean that we Indians had nothing significant to do and we kept on inventing words for such odd relations. It only means that our family structure was so rich and close-knitted that there was need to have unique names for all such relations and identify and respect them separately. “In-laws”, in comparison, looked to me like a “catch all” exception! Shows the cultural bankruptcy of English family system.

The point is, it is nobody’s mandate to keep the language fresh and relevant (even if it is made mandate of someone or some department, it won’t happen). It can happen only through constant participation and contribution from the entire community; the need for adaptation and sense of belonging!

I no longer do “coding”, but the things I learnt from programming are immensely useful even today. It taught me to look at the world through a different lens!

P.S: There were couple of occasions when I remembered programming principles again – (1) while watching a movie and (2) while discussing a Marketing concept and a key Social issue in India. Will try to write about them in a separate blog some other day.

P.P.S.: Just read this wonderful quote; one more learning!

“We build our computer (systems) the way we build our cities: over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.” – EllenUllman

   

संस्कृत / Sanskrit: Fake supporters vs Real students

Advent of Social Media has “transformed” (Using this word sarcastically. Everything that is being done these days is Transformation!) people from “dumb and lazy” to “dumber and lazier” lot. It is so easy to click a “Like” or “Retweet” or hit “Forward” and propagate (or make “viral”) any non-sense propaganda without bothering to validate, authenticate or even proof-read.

I have thought of a Social Experiment which I will write about in detail some other day; but it essentially involves sending two slightly different messages in Social Media and then seeing how they propagate and how they traverse and come back to me 🙂 A kind of “velocity of Social Media network”. Anyways, I am digressing.

The reason for writing this blog is my intolerance for fake and bull-shit propaganda, as opposed to real, genuine and meaningful content that deserves to be viewed, read, shared and appreciated.

I get a lot of forwards which spread nonsense messages about great Hindu history, Sanskrit, its acceptance by NASA and all that. I don’t get tired of shooting down such bullshit and show how fragile and hollow such claims are. However, I also try to find good aspects of our history, things that we should cherish and spread and be proud of (although that’s a dangerous territory – to be proud of something to which we have made ZERO contribution).

So here are 3 utter nonsense videos on how or why Sanskrit is great etc.

Why Sanskrit is the most Scientific language and loved by NASA?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC-XseI-HWI

The Science of Sanskrit Language Explained by Rajiv Dixit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oQ2LMp17qs

Shri Narendra Modi speaks on Sanskrit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Cf35wQB0QU

When you do something as a show-off, all you can do is give such speech – and claim that you are doing a great service.

Smriti Irani’s speech in Sanskrit

No wonder that someone who started her career reciting someone else’s dialogues can pull off a Sanskrit speech without bothering if she would remember even one sentence after a few days. They would accuse opposition leaders of reading Hindi speech written in Roman script. This speech is worse. At least, in case of Roman Script Hindi the person would know the meaning or message (only that he/she might not know the Devnagari script). In this case, it’s the reverse. The person would at best know script – nothing more.

Such hollow talk, empty praise and false pride does nothing for the good of Sanskrit. Mostly these are false claims, blind faith and irrational pride.

However, people who really mean well, do something about it. They pursue the cause and if possible, contribute. Here are two examples (and I have intentionally chosen these examples to highlight contrast – Sanskrit scholars who happen to be Muslims)

Muslim scholar who converses in Sanskrit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1zvOEiZNFI

Vaartavali: Special interview with Sanskrit scholar Mohammad Hanif Khan Shastri

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkGfvquqihU

What is the meaning of Hindu Rashtra by Dr. Hanif Khan Shastri

You don’t need Social Media propaganda, umpteen Likes and Retweets and army of fake supporters to keep Sanskrit alive, make her thrive again. All you need is real students!

By the way, the mention that there was no Sanskrit news broadcast on radio is a complete lie. It has been there since last 40 years

In fact there used to be a Sanskrit edition of kid’s magazine Chandamama (Chandoba in Marathi/ Chandrama in Sanskrit) My friend had subscribed to Sanskrit edition when we were kids (in early 90’s).

Yes, Sanskrit has declined steadily over decades/centuries; however, that is not because of “Macualay Putras”. I will write my thoughts on this in a separate blog post. Till then do watch the Muslim Sanskrit Scholars’ interviews and share if possible.

 

 

Demonetization – Archive

Yesterday (8th October 2017) we completed 11 months of #Demonetization; and now we are into the 12th month. We’ll complete 1 year of Demonetization on 8th November 2017 and there is bound to be a lot of debate on whether Demonetization was successful or not, and to what extent (and at what cost).

I have been following many discussions, debates and articles on Demonetization during last 11 months and have also blogged a few times. So I thought of creating a thread – an archive to start compiling all such links related to Demonetization at one place.

Will keep on adding to it and you are also welcome to contribute.

Blogs I wrote:

Magnitude of Demonetization

Demonetization and Fiscal Deficit

Interview with think tank behind Demonetization – Anil Bokil

One Month After Demonetization

Audio/Video on Demonetization:

My Professor at IIM-A Satish Deodhar discusses on Demonetization

 

Raghuram Rajan on Demonetization

Amartya Sen on Demonetization

Economist Arun Kumar on Demonetization (in Hindi)

Arun Kumar on Black Money and Black Economy (on backdrop of Demonetization)

Arun Kumar on Demonetization and Black Money

(Marathi) नोटाबंदी खरेच फसली का? अनिल बोकील यांची एक्स्क्लुझिव्ह मुलाखत

S Gurumurthy on Demonetization

Subramanian Swamy on Demonetization

P Chidambaram on Demonetization

Demonetization – A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Hindi – Ravish Kumar on Demonetization

Arun Shouri on Demonetization (in Nov 2016)

Arun Shouri on Demonetization (in Oct 2017)

Early View on Demonetization (in Nov 2016)

Raghav Bahl on Demonetization (Sep 2017) – through lens of Human Behavior rather than Economics/Finance

One of the best takes on Demonetization is by Morgan Stanley Investment Management’s Chief Global Strategist Ruchir Sharma where he called Demonetization as a misguided step.

Ruchir Sharma on Demonetization

Updated on 11th October 2017:

Yashwant Sinha on Demonetisation ‘Our worst fears have come true

 

 

 

 

Samuel Johnson Doodle on Google: Irony?

google-doodle-samuel-johnson_759

Today’s Google Doodle honors Samuel Johnson on his 308th birthday. Johnson is regarded as a great Lexicographer.

Today some of you might Google to know meaning of lexicographer; however, few years ago you would have reached out for a dictionary – only to know that “lexicographer” is a person who compiles dictionaries!

Irony, isn’t it? Yes, and there is more. But in a while. Before that here is something interesting about Samuel Johnson.

A Dictionary of the English Language

Johnson, who grew up in Staffordshire, did not create the first English dictionary, but those that preceded him were poor comparisons, often stiff and dry.

It took Johnson nine years to complete (he rarely got up before noon), although he had originally promised to complete it in three. Once finished it was as much of a work of art as one of reference, full of witty definitions. Here are some examples:

  • Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work
  • Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words
  • Mouth-friend: Someone who pretends to be your friend
  • Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people
  • Pension: An allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country
  • Stockjobber: a low wretch who gets money by buying and selling shares

It was hardly comprehensive: the first edition contained just 42,773 entries, compared to more than 250,000 words in the English language.

Here are some of his good, witty and thought-provoking quotes:

  • Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise
  • Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful
  • It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time
  • The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write. A man will turn over half a library to make a book
  • A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.
  • What is easy is seldom excellent
  • Wine gives a man nothing. It only puts in motion what had been locked up in frost
  • When making your choice in life, do not neglect to live
  • Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned
  • One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.
  • Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.
  • You can’t be in politics unless you can walk in a room and know in a minute who’s for you and who’s against you.
  • There are some sluggish men who are improved by drinking; as there are fruits that are not good until they are rotten.
  • Actions are visible, though motives are secret.
  • Man alone is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed.
  • I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
  • Paradise Lost is a book that, once put down, is very hard to pick up again. (Amazing! My type of sarcasm J)
  • Worth seeing? Yes; but not worth going to see. (Deep! Still trying to peel many hidden layers)
  • It is not true that people are naturally equal for no two people can be together for even a half an hour without one acquiring an evident superiority over the other. (Deep! Profound!)
  • Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult. (Very original view on why Poverty is bad – not because of material things, but as a threat to liberty and virtues)
  • Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which cannot apply will make no man wise. (Sharp! And so relevant in today’s world of Social Media propaganda)
  • The two offices of memory are collection and distribution.
  • Disease generally begins that equality which death completes (Equality is a myth! Except when you are dead)
  • Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. (Classic insult!)
  • So many objections may be made to everything, that nothing can overcome them but the necessity of doing something. (Perfect for perpetual nay-sayers and fault-finders)

And the three which I like most are:

  • “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
  • Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity (that’s why I am economical in my praise J)
  • The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. (I heard it from Warren Buffett first. Later got to know that Samuel Johnson said it)

 

Now the Irony – Part 2:

The rise of Google – the search engine – has been partly responsible for declines in dictionary sales. Garry Kasparov in his book “How Life Imitates Chess” has written about how Dictionary, and Encyclopedia were made less important, if not redundant by search engines – mainly Google.

And this happened not only to print version but also to the digital version of Encyclopedia – such as Microsoft Encarta – digital multimedia encyclopedia created by MS in 1993 and which they had to close in 2009.

Dictionary, and Encyclopedia are not dead. But the way we access them have been changed completely. And for those who have not yet figured out the difference – it is Sorting versus Searching!

Dictionary is based on sorting principle – you organize words in a sorted manner so that you can look-up later based on a particular technique (algorithm). A Search engine such as Google is based on searching principle. It doesn’t sort information continuously but searches using an efficient algorithm as and when needed (actually this is not completely true – Google does sort to some extent – called indexing).

Enough on the topic for now, but I’ll follow up with a post on this interesting topic – Searching vs Sorting – that will elaborate more on the irony of Google celebrating birthday of a lexicographer!

 

Critical Thinking and Analysis Case Study: Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project

shinzo-abe-narendra-modi_1d5b3072-990d-11e7-baba-4acd69b87684Bullet Train

I have had the privilege (or curse?) of pursuing full-time MBA two times. And if I had enough wealth, I would pursue it again, or maybe some other higher studies such as Ph D or Masters in Economics, Masters in Policy Making etc. I enjoyed the process of learning about Critical Thinking and Analysis and honing ability to study various subjects, evaluate opinions, data, facts and form a view.

And MBA is all about “application” – through Case studies. So, let’s pick the most recent and most interesting case study – that of Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train.

As I write this post, the Indian Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Abe laid the foundation stone of the 508 Km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Bullet Train project, a few minutes ago.

Here are key details of the project (Case facts):

  • India’s first Bullet train is being built in partnership with Japan
  • The government has set an ambitious deadline of starting the bullet train on August 15, 2022 – the day that India marks its 75th year of India’s Independence.
  • The gigantic infrastructure project that is going to cost India approximately Rs 1,10,000 crore (~17 Billion USD)
  • he Japanese government is providing a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a “miniscule” interest rate of 0.1%.
  • The loan can be repaid over a time span of 50 years, with the repayment beginning 15 years after disbursement. The loan interest ranges between Rs 7-8 crore a month and the government claims it will not put any strain on existing financial resources.
  • The bullet train will run at an operating speed of 320 Km/hour and a maximum speed of 350 Km/hour! The 508-Km journey will be completed in 2 hours and 7 minutes and cover 12 stations
  • Japan’s Shinkansen E5 series of bullet trains have been identified for the project.
  • The bullet train – with executive and economy-class seats – will have 10 coaches that will be able to seat as many as 750 passengers.
  • Later, Indian Railways proposes to add 6 more coaches to take the seating capacity to 1,250 passengers. Initially, 35 bullet trains will be operated.
  • By 2053 this number is likely to go up to 105. The bullet trains are expected to do 70 Ahmedabad-Mumbai sorties in a day. While 24 bullet trains will be imported from Japan, the rest will be manufactured in India
  • According to the government, the project is likely to generate employment for about 20,000 workers during the construction phase.
  • Safety: The train delay record of Shinkansen is less than a minute with zero fatality, says Japan. Not only that, the technology for disaster predictions and preventions will also be acquired.
  • This would make sure safety is maintained in case of any natural calamity such as an earthquake etc. Modi government hopes that with this technology, India will leapfrog to the cutting edge of latest train developments.
  • One of the biggest benefits of the bullet train project will come from the fact that Indian engineers and labour will gain knowledge and skills to ‘Make in India’ the parts and rolling stock. This, in turn, would be beneficial for future high-speed rail projects that are being planned for other routes in the country – and as Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said – we may even start exporting!
  • The Maharashtra government is still undecided on where the bullet train will end in Mumbai. The state government this week agreed to spare 9,000 sq metres plot for the station at the Bandra-Kurla Complex on the condition that the railways assess suitability of an alternative site.
  • At their summit talks today PM Modi and Mr Abe are expected to focus on bolstering defence and security ties. They are also expected to discuss cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. The recent nuclear test by North Korea will come up during the talks, officials said.
  • Benefit for Gujarat: An agreement between the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Gujarat Maritime Board for developing the Alang shipbuilding yard, besides the establishment of two industrial parks, will be on the table during Abe’s visit. According to Gujarat Chief Secretary, JN Singh, 15 Japanese companies are keen to invest in Gujarat and will be signing agreements with the state government. Some of these companies include Moresco, Toyoda Gosei, Topre and Murakami.

Here is a good 2015 article about Economics of Bullet Train written in connect of Mumbai-A’bad Bullet Train proposal then.

https://capitalmind.in/2015/12/the-economics-of-the-bullet-train-and-whether-it-makes-financial-sense-to-take-a-0-1-loan

Now you must keep in mind “What’s In It For Me” (Link: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=WIIFM ) question and apply it for different stakeholder groups.

For example, WIIFM from Japan’s perspective. Why would they provide loan at such low interest rates of 0.1% and provide technology? What do they get?

Think about WIIFM from different stakeholder perspectives – some of the key ones are: PM Narendra Modi (the individual), BJP Government at the Center, BJP Government in the state of Gujarat (remember, Gujarat state elections are due in few months), BJP-Siv Sena state government in Maharashtra, the commuters (who can take slow and cheap train or a fast and expensive flight, as of now, to travel Mumbai-Ahmedabad), business communities in Gujarat (Surat, Ahmedabad etc) and business communities in Mumbai (again Gujaratis?), the Indian Railways (getting technology know-how, developing skills in operating High-speed trains), the social and environmental groups (massive displacement due to land acquisition and some part of the route is submarine), the new commercial opportunities along the train route/stations (malls at and around the train stations), the public at large (tax burden, cess, toll?).

The more you start thinking, the more you can identify stakeholder groups. And different aspects how they are linked such as – Economic, political, sociological, environmental, international relations (Japan as an investor and ally – to counter China threat).

For now, I leave it up to you to think about this case study from various angles. Will write a follow-up post on this in due course. Maybe my analysis, or just updates about the project.

 

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