Tuesday, 22 July 2014

It's collaboration, not competetion

No ones knows who invented the wheel...but we always try not to re-invent it!

Somebody in ancient China was clever enough to invent the printing machine while another discovered the formula for gun powder. But they didn't file any patent for that!.

Some brilliant mathematician in India came up with the idea of using zero and built the foundation of mathematics; yet s/he fell short of protecting its intellectual rights!

Yet there are billion dollar law suits being fought all over the world over "a rounded cornered rectangle" or a tiny-winy change in the chemical composition of a life saving drug.

Sometimes these corporate houses win and sometime they lose. But what I abhor is the very idea of hogging and hiding the knowledge and related benefits.

It's not for the benefit of the inventors as these big companies often claim. If anything, it protects the interest of lawyers and shareholders in expensive suits, rather than the actual "inventors" who often work in their R-n-D labs for a modest salary.

Knowledge is for sharing, not for hiding. But today's immensely complicated patent laws and fierce corporate battles for minuscule "inventions" seem to differ.

How the world would look like if the real important theories and inventions were well hidden? If Ohms law and Lenze's law could be "patented" to be used by a privileged few? Or the method of Pasteurization, the penicillin, the semiconductor? I could go on for ever with this list....

Most actual scientists and inventors don't like or want such hedging of knowledge. Evidence is Wikipedia, Linux, Java and the numerous other open source projects!

With all their money and PR power, these big corporate houses have successfully created an atmosphere where the common people think that the intellectual property right is a fundamental right. It nurtures a culture of so-called healthy competition which would, according to many today,  enhance intellectual capabilities of human race.

Even if we discard the fact that these competitions are never healthy and are always heavily rigged in favor of big players in the field; this whole philosophy is wrong. It's collaboration, not competition which made today's human civilization the way we know it.

As the raspberry pie founder Eben Upton pointed out so rightly, we've become alienated from the technology in last 20 years. There are ever more users but so fewer innovators in technology.

And all these patent laws, legal complexities and ban on sharing and collaborating in the name of protecting the IP rights, deter the very spirit of innovation.

Instead, all the focus is on branding, packaging and doing mild tweaks to create another business channel selling to those ever increasing tech users.

This might very well suit the big corporate houses and their pet lawyers, but as the only intelligent species of this planet, we've a thing to worry!

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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Fair Play

It was such such an refreshing site to see Dilma Rousseff and Angela Merkel in the VIP box of World Cup final!

No, I'm not a fan of either of them. But at least they brought some balance to the otherwise hopelessly male dominant gala fest of power, money and muscle!

From players, to coaches, support stuffs, FIFA officials, even the vast majority of reporters and photographers....it was such an overwhelming male dominance to everything that were important!

It's not the World Cup Football for men...it is THE World Cup.
All women's sports of course always comes with the tag "for women".

If aliens had watched the clippings from the prize distribution arena, they would've thought us to be a species without sexual dichotomy! Other decorative elements such as those Emirates hostesses standing behind with plastic smiles fixed permanently into their lovely lips....could easily be mistaken as aesthetically designed robots.

Two other middle aged, bald, male politicians would have blended so well with the scene, if not for these two ladies! May be I'm too optimistic, but at least to me it symbolized an world where the power dynamics are changing...slowly, but surely!

You can no longer ignore the "weaker sex" even in high testosterone activities such as the world cup football final; where traditionally the "fairer sex" would only be used as show piece elements like those bubbly-bouncy cheer leaders.

Now suddenly you have two feisty ladies at the center...with the power and importance to actually distribute the mega prize! And they didn't even have to be any important man's daughter/wife/widow to be there; they earned it themselves through years of professional rigor.

Surely the world is changing! Just wait till Ms. Clinton joins the gang!

Once again, I'm not a Clinton supporter; yet the prospect of having an woman at helm of the most powerful nation makes me a little excited.

Some people believe that an world led by women will be a much better place to live in; as women, according to them, are more compassionate and nurturing. This I find almost as stupid as any other stereotypes like "men have aptitudes for technology and women for fine arts".

I don't believe that women leaders...as a generic category....will be any better than their male counterparts. You just can't attribute characteristics...good or bad...which will be true for all the members of any gender.

There will be good woman leaders and bad ones; possibly more bad than the good ones; just as we have had with male ones.

It'll not make the world any better;just a little fairer!

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Thursday, 8 August 2013

We the people

Who would have imagined that Vladimir Putin would look better at least in one single human rights issue, than the Nobel peace prize winner Brack Obama!

Yes we all know that Putin is no saint, has many skeletons in his cupboard and has his own axe to grind in this whole saga of asylum to Snowden.

Yet he deserves some respect as the only one having the guts to stand firm against the monumental intimidation from US.

Let's  have a stock of the reactions from world's big players around this issue:

The "conscience of the world", Scandinavian countries, chickened out citing technicalities.
France and Austria meekly succumbed to US dictates against global protocols.
Germany cried foul-play without having any impact on the issue whatsoever.
UK once again shamelessly wagged it's tail behind the almighty US.
....at least Putin's Russia had the courage to do ONE right thing.

That one good act doesn't negate hundreds of blatant civil rights breaches, but at the same time those blemishes can not tarnish this one heroic defiance.

After all someone had to support this courageous young man...and I welcome it even if it comes from Putin. With their medieval treatment to Bradly Manning, handing him over to US for a "fair trial" would have been totally inhuman.

We are all hugely indebted to Snowden, not just for exposing NSA's Prism; but also for tearing off the fake moral cloak that US and European countries pretend to wear.

It reinstates our faith in humanity. For every secret court they form and every lie they spin in NSA (and alike world wide), there would be a Manning or a Snowden...bearing a legacy of Daniel Ellsberg.

Their acts might be illegal but not unjust. And it certainly does not condone the bullying and witch hunt US had been engaged into ever since.

"when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty".

It's neither the alienated lawmakers nor the big corporations who would decide the fate of 8 billion inhabitant of this planet.

At the end of the day democracy will triumph as "of the people, for the people, by the people".

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A different yardstick

The Indian government finally got into action after the double whammy of a massive domestic protest together with a surmounting international pressure after the Delhi gang rape. However, it is still not convincing how much of it were triggered by the urge to "stop the bad press" as opposed to an honest intention to protect it's women!

Otherwise how do you interpret the trial of one of the accused in Juvenile court with a maximum possible sentence of three and a half years?

They are claiming it is the law of the land; well it is not. At least there can be exceptions to that law, such as for the terrorist activities. A special court upheld the life sentence of one of the accused from 1993 Mumbai blast who was minor at that time.

The sentenced terrorist Qureshi was deemed unfit to be tried under Juvenile Justice system as "It is clear that Qureshi from his conduct referred to above cannot by any stretch of imagination qualify as a child in need of care and protection as the acts committed by him are so grave and heinous warranting the maximum penalty but the designated court after considering all these factors awarded him lesser punishment when the co-accused who accompanied him to fisherman's colony and committed similar acts were awarded with maximum punishment for heinous acts committed by them along the co-accused."

I fail to understand which one of these arguments are inapplicable to the minor accused in the Delhi rape case. Is his crime not grave or heinous enough? Are his co-accused not likely to get maximum punishments?
Most importantly, which part of his conduct "by any stretch of imagination qualify as a child in need of care and protection"?

If terrorist acts are heinous so are such horrific gang rapes. And this "minor" accused was reportedly the most brutal.

So clearly the yardsticks are different when it comes to crime against women in India. Even when there is so much mass protests and international pressure is involved!

This is just the tip of the iceberg; this was not the first rape nor will be the last rape in India in any time soon. Everyday women are getting raped, molested or being subjected to domestic violence. The society just refuses to change!

From low level police constables to commissioner, from politicians to spiritual gurus, every one think the victim "must have instigated it to some degree" when it comes to rape; perhaps the only crime where the "fault" is seek in victim, rather than in accused.

Society won't change overnight. But government must treat the crime against women in the harshest possible way, if they are sincere about bringing the change. If it can pass a special law to counter terrorism, then it can do the same to clamp down rapes.

This particular incident terrified a lot more people than any terrorist group can ever dream of. Every Indian woman's fear to board a late night bus has intensified. A billion people are afraid of the safety of their female family members when they are out and about for regular business. Foreign tourists are afraid to visit the country. In immediate aftermath of the incident, the women employees were leaving the office before dark in Delhi. In some organisations they were even advised to do so by the authorities themselves.

A whole society is paralyzed by terror to function normally and even began to forget what normalcy is. Indian government must change their outlook. And the international community should keep their pressure on as it involves one-fourteenth human beings of this planet!

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Packet Loss

Just came back from (yet another) project "postmortem" on what went wrong and  I can't think of anything more apt than the picture bellow:

(I had seen an earlier version a few years back...but seems it had improved over the time...surely from the contributions of some witty volunteers!)

You'll really have to appreciate the baby-like innocence and naivity of some people:

from day one you start cutting corners everywhere...in budget, competence, time and definitely on quality...where you don't cut corners, but just leave (some of) the corners; whistle blowers are sick and tired of blowing their risk-sirens loud and clear to everyone's deaf ear.

Yet you headfastly go ahead to deliver the half (or quarter or even less) cooked things to the customers without caring a thing about the underlying technology. And then you're utterly surprised to see the resulting mess and innocently asked why!

But Cynisim apart, it's just amazing how much information is lost in transmission. As any  text book will tell you...performance will significatly be improved if you can reduce the number of hops.

May be getting rid of those Project Managers could be a good start!

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Tuesday, 2 October 2012


I met J- in a summer school in Denmark. She is doing her masters in physics in a university in Finland. When I casually asked her what brought her there, little did I expect the answer: it's the women-friendly soceity in Finland which prompted her to chose the place!

Now this is rather unusual. I have heard people opting to go for a post graduation abroad for brand names (Harvard, Yale or OxBridge), better research facilities and labs, chance to meet the frontiers of the field, to see the world and know different cultures. Even the potential for money or lucretive employment in future play important roles in such decisions. There could also be some personal reasons like family or boy/girl frieneds.

But a move steered by feminism? No, I've not heared it before. Esspecially when she had many other popular options like US or UK. She has done her bachelor's from IIT Delhi  and any institute in the world would be happy to have her as their master's student.

So I probed a little and what I discovered left me decidedly blue.

During her entire stay of 4 years in the Delhi IIT (or perhaps years before that when she was growing up in Chandigarh) she was discriminated against because of her gender. India is a secular country where the constinution vows to treat people equally irrespective of their race, religion or gender. Yet an elite institute like Delhi IIT imposed a rule that every girl returning back to the university campus after 10 pm would have to sign a logbook detailing why they " had to" go out. Obviously no such rule for boys returning back any time of the day!

Such arbitrary rules....just for the sake of the girls' "safety".....were all over the place and I can't blame anyone feeling suffocated in that atmosphere.

There  was even an incident of rape, not very far from the girls' hostel. The victim was not a student, but that is hardly comforting.

Everytime such a thing occurs, authorities come up with some more " rules" to ensure girls' safety, which essentially means some further restrictions on their basic liberty.

Probably this is not unusual in a country where the police chiefs and minsters publicly say that it is upto the women to prevent the rape and molestation; they should not go out in a provocative attire!

Of course there is no statistics showing girls in bikinies get molested more than those in sari!  Then since when the bigots care for facts!

So at the end of her final year, when she had to chose prospective places for further study, J- googled for the country with best records in feminism. Finland came first and she applied there!

Actual criminal cases can be statisticised, but what about numerous such incidents where young, active and intelligent girls are scarred for life? J- fled to Finland, not everybody can or is willing to take such drastic steps; but they live a life of continuous fear that something might happen to them if they are late at work or spend a couple of hours extra at a friend's place.

It is the competent and capable young Indians like J- who propelled the colonially destroyed country to the front row of global importance within 60 years of independence; and it'll be utterly stupid to lose potentially half of them due to mediaval mindsets of a vocal minority in the Indian soceity.

But most importantly, it's a question of civil liberties and basic rights of half a billion people which no one can ignore.

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Monday, 6 August 2012

Bad Loser

Losing crown is a horrible experience and there is barely anybody who can take it gracefully...be it a person or a country.

The reigning supremo of the present world, is just going through this, and Boy, the process is long and painful! So no wonder the reactions are so pathetic at times; like US coach's reaction to the spectacular gold wining performance from the Chinese prodigy Ye Shiwen at the London Olympics.

The girl was probably still in the pool, when he proclaimed she was on illegal drugs to achieve this fantastic feat! What happened to sportsmanship, admiration for excellence or celebration for the Human achievements no matter where they come from? Aren't these the values Olympics is based on?

Using performance enhancing illegal drugs in big sporting events like Olympics is well known. US athletes are no less guilty of resorting to doping than Chinese or anybody else for that matter. That is why there is so many well organised tests which each athlete in the games has to undergo.

So what made John Leonard to jump into such a big accusation without waiting for the dope test results? Has jealousy and failure has taken over all decency and commonsense?

When it is Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps then it is awesome achievements by mankind, but when it's Ye Shiwen, it is doping without proof! If this is not racism then tell me what is!

Flo-Jo's 100m record has been left untouched for decades even in today's highly competitive athletics. So by Leonard's "unbelievable-and-hence-doped" argument should that be discarded as well? Or would he bring "Americans-can't-cheat" logic (!) then?

And where does it end by the way? As the IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said so rightly that the sports will be in danger if  surprise performances automatically provoke suspicion.

I am no fan of China and I would probably dislike the next superpower as much, if not more, than the present one, given China's appauling records on human rights and freedom of speech.

But what this self proclaimed messiah of liberty...the great US...is doing is just ridiculous. And their bad sportsmanship extends every sphere...from sporting arena to global economic summits;

US is just being a bad loser!

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