Monday, December 21, 2009

funny no more?

I was reading some of my earlier blog posts.

I was funnier then.


Friday, December 04, 2009

The Fermi Paradox: Peeing in the gene pool!

Did I just answer the Fermi Paradox?

To summarize - the Drake Equation is a calculation of the likelihood of existence of intelligent, non-human life in the universe. A lot of assumptions, a lot of guesswork, but considering that our galaxy alone has over a hundred billion stars, very, very likely.
The question therefore was - if they're out there, why haven't we met them yet?
The Fermi Paradox is the addition of one more factor to the calculation - an unknown quantity as of right now - which prevents the existence of intelligent life.

And I think I just got what it is. It's evolution.
Or rather, de-volution.

Think about it. Right up till the Industrial Revolution, people would die of stupidity. The environment was hostile, and resources were limited. If you couldn't take care of yourself, and weren't an asset to the community, you would die and nobody would be able to - or want to - save you. Your stupid genes would leave the gene pool. Humanity would get a little bit smarter, evolve some more.

This made us all so smart over time, we became the the masters of the planet. The process took three billion years, but here we are.
And since we're the masters, we control everything. We can kill lions, great white sharks, rhinos, elephants, blue whales. We even kill them by accident, without meaning to and often without even noticing. In hundreds and thousands. It's genocide, an extermination all the more criminal in it's being accidental. If an animal competes with us for a resource, god help it. It's already extinct.

And with all the resources we now have, what do we do?
We create ideals.

Ideals of altruism. Of helping those less fortunate. Of charity. Social security.
All this makes people who were otherwise scheduled to be chucked out of the gene pool, are now allowed to hang around and contaminate it.
Think about it. How can you ever deny someone the right to breed, no matter what circumstances they are in? It goes against every ideal of liberty, equality, fraternity, democracy, enlightenment, emancipation, and personal freedom. It creates stupid children of stupid parents who are allowed to survive and breed. It creates a world where higher levels of intelligence marks you as different, strange.

Intelligence = success? In some ways. Short-term ways. Success in your own lifetime, maybe guaranteeing your children's. But long-term success? Like preserving ecological diversity, not poisoning the oceans and filling the atmosphere with carcinogens?
It's just not good business sense.

So we continue to get dumber and dumber. Intelligent content dies, starved of audience and thus, money. Content gets dumber, making people dumber, and it's a vicious cycle that ends with an idiocracy.

And that's the missing link, the answer to the Fermi paradox. Any civilization which is smart enough to be the masterclass on it's planet creates in the process a situation which leads inevitably to it's own stagnation and destruction.
A few generations down, someone will hit a nuclear button and some of them will still fly. Not enough to kill all life 22 times over. Maybe just once.

And sometime, somewhere, yet another someone else will look up at the silent, starry sky and wonder why they're alone in the universe...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

almost 4 months.

nothing to say? not really.
too busy to say it? kind of.
bored of blogger? maybe.

maybe I owe an update. 2009 - a look back - coming in 29 days.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Meditative Motorcycling

Biking is an experience deeply similar to meditation.

Think about it.

When you meditate, the most critical thing - the essence, really - is to empty out your mind completely, let go all the thoughts buzzing around in circles over and over again as if on rails, and give those tracks a chance to relax from the load, rejuvenate, free-associate again. I developed a technique - as every thought appears, I would just imagine it whooshing away into the background behind me, leaving my head clear again. Once you've treated it that way, it's easy to take everything as it comes, and literally leave it behind you. After a while, nothing new comes, and there's just the sound of your breathing and a warm, deep-brown empty room.
When you're on a bike, it's like that. Everything comes at you from the vanishing point, roars past in the reflected echo of your own engine, and disappears forever. Nothing is permanent except the road, the hum of the engine, wind and sunshine. Riding is automatic; you don't need to see. Everything happens by touch and physical memory of control positions and sequences. And it's ingrained, not needing thought. Reflex. It's like breathing, like heartbeat.
The road is Life. Events come and go, but you steer around the blocks and bad spots, slowing down and speeding up, looking for that break in traffic, those smooth stretches. Friends keep pace with you on their own bikes, sometimes coming near, sometimes far away, on the same road and the same journey but entities by themselves. If someone crashes and burns, he's left behind very, very fast, the pain forgotten in surprisingly short time. If someone skids and falls, he loses a little time, but catches up again soon. Sometimes, if necessary, you interrupt your own journey, stop and help... but in the end, we all move on.
The past is visible, but it takes an effort - of thought, of that impulse to look down at the rear-view mirrors. Mostly it's automatic, just to judge things coming from behind... but sometimes you want to look back. Don't look back too long, though, or something coming up ahead will smash you into pulp, unaware.

At it's core, it's being completely free. Your body, your machine, is doing what it's supposed to do. Your higher mind is at liberty to think, to dream, to go down whatever mental lanes it wants, explore uninterrupted trains of thought. To enjoy the pleasure of pure, uninterrupted thought, and no-thought, just sensation. Disturbing elements literally get whipped away in the slipstream.

A car, now... a car is different. All along, you're aware of the metal shell around you, the controls in front of you, in your field of vision. Wind is cut off, sounds muted, sun dimmed by the windows, smells lost in the air-conditioning. You're always careful, avoiding scratches, bumps, and dents. It's too overt a reminder of your own body, your mortality, your place in life. Traffic is a limiting factor, not a minor obstacle easily bypassed. The rat race, with all the other strugglers around you, physically limits your journey. Sure, you can carry a larger load - luggage, co-passengers, music, all the other paraphernalia of life - but there is a price you pay. The soul will always be aware of the body it inhabits and the pathways it must travel.
It can't ever fly, free in the sun, alone and one with the world around.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Time Travel. It's possible.

But the traffic is always one-way. introduced a feature that they're downplaying - maybe unintentionally - as a simple boss-impresser and never-forget-a-date-again feature only - the delayed send feature on their email. But Futuremail had it right the first time - it's possible to send a message across time.
Unfortunately, everyone wants to talk to the past. They remember all the wrong choices, bad decisions, all those times when, if only they knew then what they know now... but think about it. Would you want a stranger telling you how to live your life, all the time? Not just any stranger, but a patently loser-type stranger, stuck in a life he hates? Telling you to take choices for reasons you don't believe in, or - and be honest - have already decided about, one way or another, and resent having these decisions questioned?
Manu drew an interesting analogy with life as a tree - read it here.

On the other hand, it is possible for you to talk to your future self. Every mutual fund you buy, you're effectively gifting some cash to your future (lock-in period plus) self. And every credit card swipe is cash borrowed from that future self, with questionable returns. No wonder most of us want to rethink decisions. Every photo album, diary, forgotten trunk in the attic, is a message.

Why not use this? Let's talk to our future selves. The people that matter. There are things we want to tell them. Remind them about what we want them to achieve. Remind them of the time when they were young, and had dreams. Let them realize those dreams are achievable.
Send a mail to yourself for your next birthday. Say what you want to do. See how it feels.

Friday, June 26, 2009

So long, and thanks for the all the memories

The evil that men do lives on after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."
Not always. Sometimes, the good is stronger.
The flesh is weak. It falters, makes mistakes, falls short of living up to the immortal perfection of the soul.
The flesh dies.
The soul lives on.
The soul is what gave us the music. Gave us the memories. Gave the background score to some of the best times of our lives. The music is something that will always be with us, will always be remembered.

The music will always live on.

Rest in peace.

Monday, May 18, 2009

still down with the sickness

the body works in mysterious ways, it's adjustments to perform.
will someone please tell me what does a healthier lifestyle have to do with an excruciatingly painful blocked ear? New cilia growing in the esophagus decide that the best way to celebrate their existence is to forcibly shove all possible phlegm from sinuses into the nearest Eustachain tube? Is this some kind of internal Pink Chaddi campaign?
This happens every time I try to go healthy; catastrophic breakdown. It's like how BC's body reacts to holidays and half-days, or even leaving from office early. I don't get the message.
I need some Blood Music noocytes. Existing systems for internal performance management and KRAs have gone for a toss.
Or maybe I have them already. I wish they'd get a move on, then. This intermediary crap is buggy.

The weekend's score -
C: C-
W: D
F: C+

Monday, May 11, 2009


be careful what you ask for.
you just might get it.

yesterday's score:
C: C+
W: B+
F: B-

Sunday, May 10, 2009

if you don't succeed the first time...

try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try...
I'm trying to kick it again. And this time it's not a phase-out; let's try going hardcore. Complete cold turkey. And a generic health / food / workout program as well. Crank it up. Go quantum.

Now I just need to find a motivator...

yesterday's score -
C: F
W: D
F: C-

Thursday, April 23, 2009

thinking it through...

Watched a very interesting movie yesterday - The 11th Hour. watch it whenever you get the chance. Informative, eye-opening - and very, very scary.

It got me thinking - let's look at the future, logically.
The Earth's ecosystems are collapsing under the pressure of human civilization. We use too many resources, generate too much waste. We do this because our culture has a built-in greed; a desire to have more things. We don't treat clean air, genetic health, fresh water, and a future as things. So, we have our cars, houses, entertainment, possessions, and desires that come at their expense. It doesn't affect us - yet.

Take this to it's logical conclusion.
The first world -
Will we, as individuals, choose a slower, less versatile, and more expensive car because it's electric? Eat premium, organic foods? Probably. Will large corporations do the same?
The developing nations -
No. They aspire to the first world. Making all the same mistakes, but at a scale several hundred times greater because of the populations.

The Earth will continue to warm. Ice caps will melt, forests will vanish, weather systems will collapse.
Flooding. Famines. Natural disasters. Plagues.
Huge losses of life.
Markets for the first world literally die, or slide into such a wretched condition they are no longer viable. Companies collapse.
Food supplies - and natural resource supplies - dry up.
Economic systems collapse in the first world.
As resources get more scarce, large scale wars will erupt over those few remaining resources. The first world will inevitably win, because they have greater technology. The third world will continue to subsist in unwanted areas until they die.
But the Earth doesn't differentiate on economic parameters. Living conditions will worsen equally everywhere. Developed countries may use tech to stave off the worst of it for a while - but that's expensive. Resources will continue to shrink to the point that wars will come to the developed countries. And plagues. And failing health - sterility. Drastic population decline. Coupled with a collapse in Law & Order. Anarchy.

Regression to self-sustaining systems. When large-scale systems fail, in an anarchic system, it's very difficult to rebuild them. But self-sustaining systems - unless seeded and very, very well-prepared - don't really use very high-end tech, or don't need it. A large global one must be technologically developed. A self-contained community need not be.

But even after a complete collapse of large scale systems, the Earth won't heal so fast. A couple of centuries, possibly millenia. Will unused tech be remembered until then?

This is, of course, assuming that life-sustaining conditions can survive. If the average temperature rises to over 250 degrees C, there's not much tech can do, in a failed economic system.

Space habitats? Unlikely. On Earth? Maybe. Sealed communities. Generation ships in the desert. Working on history's second terraforming project, trying to undo the inadvertent first.

And yes - 90% of all existing life on Earth will die. I really don't see any way that can be averted.

The Drake Equation states - mathematically - that intelligent life will arise, again and again, in the universe. Observed evidence shows there isn't. So there's some factor missing - either intelligent life doesn't arise so easily, or dies very easily. And I guess we can see why.

And as they said - this is our finest hour. We know we can beat this, solve the ecological crisis, develop spacefaring ability, and go out there. And find thousands of dead or barbaric civilizations, who couldn't do what we did.
It can be our destiny to be Gods. And if we succeed - but that's another story.

Read this. It's awesome.
Rare Earth Hypothesis
The Drake Equation
The Fermi Paradox

Monday, April 13, 2009


'what's up,' they ask

somebody was biking through snow and hail
somebody was taking pictures
somebody was upgrading
chains and hooks, and a huge rusty weight on the other end
pinned like a butterfly on the board
dust settling, slowly, gently, and always
i miss the crystal air
wings wheeling across a blazing, cool sky
stars come out

heaviness constant
dead zone
stagnant silence

'chal raha hai,' i tell them

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vote for the Vogons

Adsense used to come up with howlers pretty easily, since the only real reason to display an ad was whether someone's talking about the subject, rather than listening to what they're saying.
With SEM, the bar has just jumped a notch higher.

So as of today, the top 3 contenders for your vote (in the digital space) stand before you arrayed thus -

Am I the only one who is actually reassured?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Playing God

This was a completely random post, inspired by a friend's status update.

Why did God place the Tree of Knowledge in such an easily accessible place? Why does He make it so easy for humanity to face temptation? Why does He, to put it bluntly, screw around with our heads with the whole issue of 'Does God Exist?'
The whole concept of Faith - believing in something greater than ourselves, moral codes, denying our natural instincts - raises some pretty deep questions. Foremost among which is that if He really existed, wouldn't it have been all too easy for him to completely and unequivocally answer all these issues once and for all? Why does He screw around with our heads?

I think there are 2 answers.
  • The sociological answer: God does not exist. We created an anthromorphic personification of the needs of society, some rules to make sure society can survive, with guilt and fear as the stick and life beyond death and paradise as the carrot.
  • The gaming answer: God does exist. He created the universe as a gaming map, laws of nature as game rules, and intelligence as a collective AI. He then created scenarios that unfold according to those rules, just to see what happens.
    Think about it. Ever played Red Alert? Or any RTS war game? Scenarios, rules, behaviors, certain responses to certain stimuli. Get too close to an enemy soldier, and he will shoot at you. Built-in speeds and firepower. Objectives and goals. But the fun comes from the randomness created when large numbers of these rules interact with each other. When you do a tank rush, are you really controlling each unit? No. You've just unleashed them. You can send a spy into an enemy base, but even though you have the power to make him invulnerable, and the enemy deaf, blind, dumb, and weak as kittens, would you do it? It takes all the fun out of the game.
    When a game protagonist plays with cheatcodes, he knows that God exists. God is stopping the bullets, letting him fly, achieving superhuman feats, untouched by fire, falls, teeth and claws. But is the gamer having fun? No. Fun comes with the unexpected. With setbacks. With risk. When you have something to lose, you feel that you have everything to gain. Winning is a rush. When nothing can kill you, you're just a rat wandering through an empty maze.
Maybe there were super-civilizations, masters of the Earth and all creation, intelligent, aware, kind, caring, responsible, in harmony with nature and with each other. Enlightened, perfect, and utterly, butterly boring. What more is left to achieve? A perfect civilization will never go beyond it's city, it's kingdom, it's planet at the most. Even planet is unlikely; they will be smart enough to control birthrate, eradicate threats, handle all contingencies. A civilization under constant threat of destruction fights, struggles, spreads, creates backup plans, fallbacks, contingency bases. DNA spreads. Launches generation starships, sets up lunar bases and buried bunkers with hibernating colonists. Reaches for the stars because the planet is on the edge, reaches across galaxies in the face of all-destroying interstellar war, slips into parallel dimensions when the fabric of this reality is likely to be torn.
Perfection is stable. Imperfection, combined with intelligence, explodes like a bomb across creation.
Sweden, with social security, order, sufficiency, and all amenities and comforts has a negative birthrate, because people have all they need. India, with it's near-billion starving and barely able to feed itself, has a population explosion.
A perfect, harmonious civilization, at it's pinnacle with no possibility of a fall, looks like a giant bulls-eye from space, with cosmic arrows all around pointing to it marked Asteroid Strike Here.
Innate imperfection. A flawed human being is unhappy, greedy, fearful... and drives ambition. Knows that life is unstable. Knows he is surrounded by other flawed creatures, by frightening randomness and intransigence. Knows he must amass resources far greater than his immediate need to prepare for this randomness. Establish his escape routes.

And for a gaming God, this is entertainment. Not perfection. Not stability. With an entire universe to explore, why would he tolerate a game protagonist who does not go beyond his own self? Wouldn't it be so much more fun to watch how the randomness manifests in extraordinary leaps of intellect, art, beauty, strength, achievement, skill, discovery... beyond even what He may have originally conceived?
When we do leave the planet, we will meet Others. They will be like us. They will be flawed. Galaxies will sparkle with a million wars, extinctions and escapes, dominions and insurrections, and everything else that is this infinitely varied, kaleidoscopic, random, churning, intoxication explosion called Life.

After all, anything else is so boring, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


And while we're on the subject of morals, values, freedom of speech, bully boys and monkey men -
The media talks about what's in the news and advertises what's currently hot.
inadvertently creating - dare I say it? - chaddi-buddies of the two most unlikely partners.

Pramod Mutalik shares screenspace with his greatest enemy, and it's not design or conspiracy; just hot news and ad sales, coming together in beautiful harmony...

First, an unintentional endorsement from cupid...

then begins the search for the life partner...

then the inscription of the initials...

and finally, the happy ending.

Don't it jus' wanna make you cwyyyy??

No screenshots were harmed in the making of this blogpost; what you see is what I got. Photoshop not involved. :)

And now I sign off with another hilarious take...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Discovering Anarchy

Until a few days ago, I was like any one of you. I existed in a cocoon of placid self-belief and faith in my world. I had dreams and hopes, some expectations in life. I had plans.

Increasingly, it's becoming obvious that what I think doesn't matter, doesn't even exist.
All of us are living in a state of collective self-hypnosis. We have convinced ourselves that we have rights, freedoms, privileges. We have the right to dream and the freedom to pursue that dream, and now, in the last decade, we have the resources.
Here's some of the basic myths we all live under. Tell me you disagree.

1. The government will take care of me if I pay my taxes, vote responsibly and follow my duties as a citizen. They will maintain and develop infrastructure, healthcare, education, law & order, national security.

2. As an Indian citizen, I can live anywhere in India without prejudice or discrimination if I do not deliberately offend my neighbors.

3. My children will be safe in school, in a park, at malls and multiplexes, in public transport.

4. If someone hurts me illegally, or cheats me, or robs me, the police and the courts will give me
justice and punish the wrongdoer.

5. My vote counts and my taxes are used properly.

Do you really believe that? Really?
It's all a delusion. I'm beginning to understand now. We live in a concealed anarchy, a state where a semblance of order is carefully laid on top of chaos, and served up to us in media, in opinions, in implicit and explicit education, in socialization.
There are no guarantees in life, and we all know that all of the above may or may not apply to us at random.
Someone with power and connections can do exactly what he wants and get away with it. Whether it is evading crores of taxes or casually raping, killing and throwing away the body of a child on the road.
I can die anytime - by terrorist hand, by drunk driving, knifed by the addict on the footpath, of dengue or malaria, in a collapsing building built with substandard material, in an armed robbery, of fake medicines in a hospital, anything.
I can just as easily die in a genuine road accident, have a heart attack, be struck by lightning, slip and fall downstairs.
And I'm using death as an example - but it applies equally to success and failure at work, in studies, in business, at relationships.
Chaos is everywhere, around every corner. All we do in life is try to limit that chaos, by creating rules and order. By creating certain support for life. That's why we believe in dial-100, in ambulances, the operation theater, in anything.

But the truth is - what we thought was order, structure, rules, isn't really there. We just thought it was. What is there is anarchy, chaos, lawlessness, where the strongest person always wins, and the weaker one is eaten up or dies.
I can choose to be weak - or be strong. Choose which way I want to live. I know what I deserve out of life; I know I can make that happen.
But in understanding that, I'm also acknowledging the death of a dream. It could have been better, it could have been wonderful.
It's still going to be good, but just for a few of us.
And all the rest are going to hell.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Moving Story - moved, shaken and stirred. And setup.

It's over. I Am ensconced in new flat snugly, and wandering around, uttering child-like cries of wonder at every new discovery.
  • Strange, disturbingly vivid, cartoons in rubber all over the walls.
  • More glass and china than produced by entire generations of the Ming dynasty. Considering that there will be a Taurean living here shortly - and 2009 is the year of the Ox - this is not a good idea.
  • A stack of tiles and a twenty-kilo rock in the window seat.
  • Small, six-inch high cane chairs in the loft.
  • A giant roll (six feet across and god knows how long) of bubblewrap.
  • Crystal decanters.
  • A sewing machine treadle.
  • A genuine VCR. Remember, the ones that used to play those rolls of magnetic tape... before mp4, before xvid, before blu-ray, even before dvd and vcd...
  • A giant furry tiger-print blanket.
  • Giant plastic sheeting, lovingly colonized by pigeons.
  • Something that I still can't figure out, but it looks like the pelt of a capybara, or a four-foot orange rat. Shedded so much hair and dust I sneezed for an hour.
  • Stone vases and extraordinarily realistic plastic plants - two of us watered them for a week before realizing something's off.
  • Mysteriously sealed cupboards
  • Commemorative mugs of the Royal Wedding.
  • 3 small ivory balls
  • 25 combs of varying fineness, a hair dye brush, and a pack of morning-after pills. How such small things tell the story of an entire life...
  • A pack of cigarette filters
  • Thirty feet of coaxial cable
  • Wind chimes
  • Forty feet of guano-encrusted network cable
  • 3-disc CD player with speakers
  • An address book populated with Macs, restaurants, and beauty parlours
  • A complete bar kit - corkscrew, opener, tongs, etc - made by Sanyo (??)
  • A set of six full-length thick curtains that don't fit any window or door in the house
  • And finally - The Last Supper, made of plaster, embedded in one wall.

And, as you would no doubt have realized, on top of all this I shall be adding my unique sense of taste and decoration to an already unique foundation. This should be fun.