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Notes to Myself

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Notes to Myself

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…

 

I Teach. Therefore I Learn…

I resumed my journey as a Corporate Trainer last week when I conducted a training on “Business Excellence” at Adani Power, Mundra, Gujarat.

I liked teaching even when I was young. I remember teaching my siblings/cousins Mathematics and other subjects when I was 10 years old. I enjoyed the process then and I enjoy it now – whether or not I am getting paid or getting any appreciation or any kind of reward.

It is said that when one person teaches, two learn! I completely agree with the thought based on my own experience.

To borrow from René Descartes (and twist a little bit): “I teach. Therefore I learn!”

All civilizations have valued teaching as one of the noblest professions. Indian civilization is known for putting the educators (the Brahmins) right at the top of social hierarchy (BTW, the hierarchy was not based on birth. There are plenty of examples of the same). A Chinese Proverb says “Give me a fish and I eat for a day.  Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.”. Aristotle said: “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” Albert Einstein said similar thing in more colorful manner – “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Another Nobel laureate Richard Feynman had interesting take on Teaching. Since it is not a one-liner quote I’m sharing the link here – Richard Feynman on Teaching.

The best way of understanding something deeply is by teaching it. You are forced to think; to get your concepts right before you present.

I had asked my MBA Professor what they look forward to in teaching. Didn’t they get tired of teaching same Case Studies, same theories/models year after year?

The Professor said that he would look for that “Teachable Moment” which would bring Aha! moment for him and would help him learn something new. Every time it is a different experience; can be made into a unique experience and that’s what all good teachers aspire for. I can totally connect with that thought now. The search is for “Teachable Moment” and the joy of pursuing it.

Remembering my grandfather…

17/11/17

Today is Birth Centenary of my late grandfather…he was one of my first and major influences and remains so till date. Remembering the fond memories and good lessons from the time I spent with him!

आज माझ्या (कै.) आजोबांचा १०० वा वाढदिवस आहे… माझ्यावर प्रभाव टाकणाऱ्या अगदी सुरुवातीच्या आणि महत्वाच्या व्यक्तींपैकी ते एक होते…आजही आहेत. त्यांच्या खूप चांगल्या आठवणी आणि शिकवण आजही माझ्याबरोबर आहेत…

willow-tree-grandfather-grandchild-figurine-root-26058_1470_1Grandfather

 

अजूनही… दाटून कंठ येतो…

colors marathiSur-Nava-Dhyas-Nava-Colors-Marathi-Musical-Show-Title-01

झी मराठी सारेगमप आणि कलर्स मराठी सूर नवा ध्यास नवा – दोन्ही संगीताचे कार्यक्रम एकाच दिवशी आणि एकाच वेळेस सुरु. Interesting! हे collusion शिवाय शक्य नाही. कारण आधी बरीच तयारी केलेली असणार. बहुतेक वातावरण निर्मिती साठी दोन्ही कार्यक्रम एकत्र करणेच फायदेशीर असेल…

 

बरोबर १० वर्षांपूर्वी २००७ मध्ये झी मराठी सारेगमप लिटिल चॅम्प्स हा कार्यक्रम झाला. तेव्हाच्या खूप चांगल्या आठवणी आहेत. कारण ती माझ्यादेखील एका रम्य अनुभवाची सुरुवात होती.

 

आत्ता हे कार्यक्रम बघताना त्या अनुभवाची, व्यक्तीची खूप खूप आठवण झाली, होत आहे!

 

Feeling choked… 😦

 

विसरायचा अनेक महिन्यांचा प्रयत्न…एका आठवणीनी कोलमडून पडतोय.

 

खूप खूप आनंदात रहा… stay blessed! You deserve all the happiness and smiles!

 

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Demonetization anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of #Demonetization in India. And the nation is divided vertically on whether it was a disaster or it was a divine act. You cannot be in the middle, you have to have a position. And based on that you will be labelled and attacked/trolled/criticized or revered/hailed/saluted.

Here are few articles I am reading currently:

The Economist Article

Demonetisation’s Economic Impact: $15 Billion On 3 Vital Sectors

A year after demonetisation, its effects have still not been quantified

But black money is not kept under the pillow: Pronab Sen of IGC India

An Account Of India’s Attempts To Curb The Black Economy, And Why They Don’t Work

The stated objectives of #Demonetization were:

  1. To curb black money – unsuccessful. Because all cash is not black money. And black cash is a flow and not stock. We should have focused on Black Wealth.
  2. To stop terrorist funding – unsuccessful. It may have reduced terror funding for a while; but during last one year new currency notes were seized from terrorists
  3. To move India towards less-cash economy – only partially successful. Because of very low base, there was initial jump in Digital transactions (when expressed as %, it looked even bigger), but that has stabilized or is slowly declining.
  4. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the union minister has invented another illogical and nonsense “benefit” of demonetization yesterday. Check below news reportDemo5

 

On downside, there was tremendous chaos. Almost 150 people died while standing in queues. Standing in queues was hailed as a badge of patriotism. This caricature summarizes that thought well.

Demo6

Economy contracted drastically – this was further accentuated by poorly executed GST implementation. The cash is back at the previous levels. Instead of 500/1000, we have 2000 rupee notes – so black cash can be stashed even more conveniently. And yes, there is no chip in 2000 rupee note!

Government is going all out and deploying several ministers, MPs and media agents to “celebrate” this day as “Anti Black Money Day”. This is like adding insult to injury. Nobody is favoring black money. But that cannot justify the illogical and ill-planned step that Demonetization was.

And there were rumors that today the PM might announce another “masterstroke” move – against Benami property (illegal/unaccounted property). Well, you can only keep calm and wait till 8 PM today for another “Mitron…” moment. Till then, happy Demonetization anniversary – in whichever way you choose to observe it…

P.S.: Don’t forget that today is also birthday of BJP Marga Darshak L. K. Advani! Born on 8th Nov 1927.

P.P.S: For Marathi people, आज पु ल देशपांडे यांचा देखील जन्मदिवस आहे (८-नोव्हेंबर-१९१९)

 

 

 

 

Remembering Shakuntala Devi

Today is 88th birth anniversary of mathematics wizard Shakuntala Devi, known as the “Human Calculator”.

Google created a Doodle on her 84th birthday to honour her…

 

https://www.beaninspirer.com/shakuntala-devi-amazing-indian-human-computer/

As a child the only source of Mathematical puzzles for me were the books by Shakuntala Devi (before I discovered Martin Gardner, Sam Lloyd and W. Sawyer, Alex Bellos et al).

Fields Medal winning American mathematician of Indian origin, Manjul Bhargava explained in one of his talks the difference between math savant and a math genius. By his definition Shakuntala Devi would be called more of a Math savant, and not math genius; nevertheless she is very popular and inspiring person for lot of young students who love mathematics.

 

I am NOT OK. You are NOT OK.

Our Professor of Organizational Behavior at IIM-A one day asked:

So, how are you feeling now?

Some people said that they were feeling OK. I think the Professor was expecting someone to say that so that she could pick up on that and go on.

Professor told us that we often use words that don’t mean anything. Don’t convey emotions. “I am OK” is not a feeling, she said. Then she asked the persons to elaborate on the “I am OK” response and describe more. Some said they were sad, some irritated, some were joyful, and few relaxed. All these ARE emotions. OK is not!

What Professor was referring to was Theory of Emotion developed by eminent psychologist Robert Plutchik.

Plutchik conducted the initial research which later became full domain of study called “Emotional Intelligence”. He created a “wheel of emotions” consisting of 8 primary emotions. Those emotions can be further broken down into more granular ones which have subtle differences – more like shades of basic colors. Here is the Wheel of Emotions.

Emotion_Spectrum_Large.jpg

While attending the class I realized two things about understanding own emotion or state of mind:

  1. Our ability to perceive and understand own emotion in finer shades
  2. Our ability to describe it in precise word

First is the function of how well you can see through the finer shades of emotions and distinguish one from the other. For example, I might use words “frustrated” and “irritated” interchangeably without knowing the subtle difference from above wheel that “frustrated” is an extension of “angry” and “irritated” is an extension of “hateful”, both of which belong to primary emotion called “mad”.

Does this even matter? Well, it may matter if the recipient can understand subtle difference and interpret your differently. You may tell him that you are irritated(when actually you wanted to say “frustrated”, and the recipient would take it as a shade of “hateful”. In most scenarios such subtle difference wouldn’t matter; but when it does, it would really cause some trouble.

The second aspect of understanding own emotion or set of mind is ability to describe in precise word. The vocabulary – which is a function of your grasp over language.

I feel that is where a lot of people (including myself) would face challenges. It is one thing to express my emotion or state of mind in my native language/mother tongue – very convenient up to 4 or 5 layers of depth. However, if I am doing the same in a foreign language, I would be less confident. So instead of going to 2nd or 3rd layer of emotion I would stick to the first or primary emotion layer – even if I know all words for shades of emotions. And that may lead to unimaginable consequences, especially on Social Media.

Case in point is Shashi Tharoor’s eloquent tweet few months ago:

Farrago

Exasperating = intensely irritating; infuriating

Farrago = confused mixture

So Tharoor took the emotion layer beyond the wheel and made it “intensely irritated”! The public, however, found most of the words incomprehensible and trolled him on Twitter for many days.

Anyways, coming back to main topic, I am OK is not a true emotion, state of mind. You should understand and express true feeling.

So, how are your feeling now? 🙂

P.S.: I am pretending to be “delightfully skeptical”!

P.P.S: There is a popular self-help book called “I’m OK, You’re OK”. I also came across another book titled “I’m OK, You’re NOT OK”.

I think I should write a new book titled “I’m NOT OK, You’re NOT OK” 🙂

 

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

   

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