The batmobile

When I learnt of this news, I felt like a piece of shit, from within.

Then I googled, only to learn that over 3000 people die of car accidents every single day.
Now I feel even more like a piece of shit, because someone I knew had to die, before I’d care enough about this problem.

A first question is: can we solve this problem? To which, the short answer is ‘yes’. Driverless cars have been around for just a couple of years now; but I believe that if we had employed as much energy behind this research as we probably did for developing weapons, then we could’ve had easily been there a long while ago.
In short, technology isn’t the biggest challenge in solving this problem. It hasn’t been for a while; and isn’t so, even now. The real challenge is a socio-economic and culture one.

Hence, a more important question is: Are we as a society, poised in a way that makes us even want to solve this problem?

The fact of the matter is: We live in a society where consumerism fuels the whole economic machinery to keep running in the first place. It has much more importance and value than the lives of a few people.

One may see why wars could be considered good for the economy: because someone can then ‘create wealth’, as economists may put it, by manufacturing weapons and rebuilding infrastructure. Why would car accidents be any different?

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but the fact is: we as an economy, benefit more due to car crashes than we probably may by preventing them:

Auto repair in the US alone is an industry worth 60 billion dollars, and employs more than half a million people there. ( )
As many as 50 million people get injured in car crashes each year ( ). They are a source of livelihood for countless people in the medical establishment.
There’s the entire traffic police system, traffic signal manufacturers.. road maintainence firms..
Then there’s accident insurance policy agents, as well as for car insurance. I’ll now have to google up their stats as well.. but you get the point.

Driverless cars could totally solve the problem of car crashes, but they would also instantly make all the above jobs redundant. How insane of us to not think about all those people, and the source of their livelihood!

Isn’t it clear as daylight, that we as a society are designed to battle inherently conflicting interests? It’s like trying to smash a car into itself.

So long as we live in a socio-economic model in which the importance of consumerism is so deeply rooted (over and above life itself); we’re never going to prevent wars, or car crashes. (Not willingly, anyway). And we’ll keep losing dear friends, and countless strangers.

We can choose to live in a different kind of society, and the technology to do so is already available; right here, right now. The biggest obstacle isn’t the one presented by technology. It’s only made to appear big by those who are unwilling to face the real hurdles: the socio-economic ones; and the cultural ones.


Siddharth Bhandari

The collectivism cipher

It’s always a delight to indulge in the kind of entertainment that has some beneficial side-effects in terms of self-development (although someone could argue that all entertainment passes this criterion). For instance, I have been recently enjoying this Android app called “Cryptogram”. The name is fairly self-explanatory to those familiar with the word: it’s a letter substitution puzzle (think Holmes’ “Adventure of the dancing men”). Over the last few weeks, I’ve solved about a hundred of them (and to my credit, didn’t require a single hint :D Although a handful of tough ones did require nearly an hour to crack)

The beneficial side-effect, in this case, is that the sentences are thought-provoking quotes by various famous personalities across the ages. For instance, Mark Twain’s classic: “I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.” and many more. And a nice thing about this is the way it gets presented: Each puzzle, by the very nature of cryptograms, starts off as a jumble of random letters. Then as the letters fall in place, and words becomes clearer.. the wisdom of the message slowly dawns upon you.

Today I came across one such quote:

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.Oscar Wilde

And sure enough, after I’d completed the puzzle, staring at that sentence for a while did set some mental wheels in motion. For one, my thoughts turned to a common argument used by people against the post-scarcity world imagined by The Zeitgeist Movement and others: that it is a model of communism, and there is a fear of losing one’s individuality; the freedom to take personal decisions, and so on.

Well, in a way, that above quote suggested to me the exact opposite possibility: that a post-scarcity world could present each of us with the opportunity to be truly ourselves, more than ever before. Not only would it mean the freedom to express ourselves freely, without the censorship of media and social taboos; but also on the technology side, advances in manufacturing such as 3D printing would allow one to customize our “personal belongings” (whatever that means in a post-scarcity world) to a very great detail, instead of just choosing one from whatever spectrum that other designers have created (although, that option does not necessarily become obsolete, either.. think Steam Workshop)

And regarding the freedom of one’s choices? Some people say that if it is their choice to travel by a polluting vehicle, the current system allows them that choice; whereas in a post-scarcity world, such decisions would be centrally taken and uniformly enforced upon everyone. To which, here’s one possible response: A post-scarcity world, at its core, would only facilitate the genesis and propagation of good, accurate knowledge, which we have to interprete for making sensible personal decisions. The policies would be no more enforced, than is the knowledge of gravity currently considered an enforced deterrent to us jumping off a cliff.

And despite all the good knowledge, if some people do like to jump off cliffs, and produce energy via polluting means.. well, I would like to let them have that option, but admittedly, this requires some further deliberation.

In short, collectivism may appear like a hard one to decipher. But as Holmes would say: we have to eliminate the impossible; and let whatever remains, however improbable, lead us to the truth.

Reverse Engineering

Kind Attention: Hon. Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi

Sub: Reverse Engineering


Reverse Engineering is the process of creating a similar device, object or system after examining the original and discovering its technological principles. This is the process of Import substitution of parts which are currently being imported. We import lots of spare parts for various types of machines, systems, assemblies etc. which are required for manufacturing products in India. If these spare parts are developed in India, we can save a lot of foreign exchange and give work to small-scale and medium-scale industries.

This terminology was introduced by an eminent RSS/BJP leader a few years ago, with RSS think tank groups for developing parts in India. But there was not much success in this regard, due to the unfavourable atmosphere back then. Hon. Prime Minister is very much anxious for developing industries in India, and has given the slogan ‘Make in India’. Spare parts being imported till now will be made in India by Indians.


Spare parts/assemblies can be made in India and save lots of foreign exchange. Further, these parts can be exported to manufacturers abroad. This will create job opportunities in India.

China, Malaysia are some examples. They were making electronic spare parts for Japan and now they are exporting electronic goods made in their countries.


In order to organize these activities, it is essential to form a dedicated and result-oriented cell/commission, under the control of Ministry for Industry, which will report the progress periodically to Hon. P.M., for better results. This cell/commission may be named as ‘Make in India’ cell.

The spare parts and other items to be developed as mentioned above are only mechanical parts. However, others parts from any engineering discipline should also come under the scope of this cell. This cell should consist of administrative as well as technical staff.

Import/Export Dept

I & E dept will play a vital role for this cell. All the information regarding import and export of items, which are under the scope of this cell should be given to this cell for further action.

Commitment from Industries

Industries which import machineries and spare parts thereof, should develop parts in India, through their R&D section in two years’ time; and they should be given permission to import parts for this period only. Industry may take help of this cell, if required.

Training and improving skills

To meet challenges of reducing import and increasing export, it is necessary to improve the skills of workforce. IITs and good engineering colleges are taking care of technical staff. Work force is being trained in ITI institutions. These institutions need improvement by hiring good instructors, and by providing training on latest machines. HRD section should take care of these problems.

This ‘make in India’ cell will function better, in reducing import and increasing export at a later date, with the help of Govt at various levels.


Madhukar Sohani

[ Retired Deputy General Manager (Foundry) of a well-known automobile manufacturer ]

Prashant Sohani

[Systems Engineer at a multi-national corporation]

Giordano Bruno and Lord Kelvin

What do Giordano Bruno and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? And what do Lord Kelvin and Nathuram Godse have in common?

[ I was just writing a comment on a friend’s post that linked to this article; but soon it seemed to be running long enough for a post in itself; so here goes.. ]

Reading the article; I find Godse to be brave at heart in following wherever his reason led him. Ultimately, both Gandhi and Godse did what they considered right; so all is fair and forgiven (and certainly by Gandhi’s own principles).

Godse’s reasons to justify “an armed resistance to aggression”, effectively making the argument “if they’d kill us we better kill them first”, are quite crystal clear:

.. it is nothing but a mere dream if you imagine that the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles [of truth and non-violence] in its normal life from day to day.   – Godse

But at this point I feel that we must turn to history and learn some important lessons.. about what the human mind may or may not be capable of imagining with reasonable accuracy. Let’s jump into it right away, to see the connection:

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – Lord Kelvin

Who was this Lord Kelvin? As it turns out, apart from his well-known accomplishments, he was also the President of the Royal Society of England.. and the above statement was apparently made in 1895. Seems like he might have just been an over-confident person; but his views are representative of what most of 18th century mankind thought:

We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time, and the money involved, in further airship experiments. Life is short, and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly . . .   –  The New York Times Editorial

Well.. a mere 8 years after Kelvin’s statement (and 3 days before that editorial!) was the dawn of the Wright brothers’ flight; and today a century later we are much more optimistic about inhabiting other planets in the near future.

So.. in light of this history of our deep-rooted and totally misplaced belief in the impossibility of flight; doesn’t one wonder how Godse’s stance on the impossibility of ever eradicating violence continues to gain popular acclaim? Not to jump to the conclusion that Godse is also necessarily wrong; but to say the least, stranger things have happened.

Speaking of stranger things.. consider Giordano Bruno. Bruno made his appearance just before Galileo; and to be sure, his ideas were considered even more heretical than Galileo’s observations regarding the Sun being the center of the solar system. To Bruno, all the spots in the sky were star systems of their own; with their own planets and.. yep you guessed it.. possibly even life! This latter part is something that even we have to come to terms with; but at least we may not consider it to be as entirely impossible as those who had him burnt at the stake did. At any rate, there’s little doubt today that his former observation about other star systems (based on very little solid evidence back then, maybe) is now proven to be more than just right; it’s actually inescapable!

So.. what is it that Bruno and Gandhi have in common? And what do Kelvin and Godse have in common? Connect the dots anyhow you want!

Perhaps Godse hadn’t quite ‘internalized’ Gandhi’s vision for non-violence; nor have we for the most part (yet). In a way it might even be an irrational vision in today’s world; i.e. beyond our acceptable logic of “If they’d kill us we better kill them first”. And indeed, today who could object to the sanity of that logic? Not Godse when he justifies the actions of Shivaji among others; and not me either. But let’s not lose sight of the possibility that the seemingly impossible today, may become unavoidable tomorrow.

I feel that we are still to realize how far ahead of their time Gandhi and Bruno really were.. maybe in the future we will, someday.

Quine, quine again

Well.. the AAP did it! Wherever I go online to read comments and opinions on the AAP; all I tend to find is: “you did it Mr Kejriwal; I hope you can change this nation” or “you did it Mr Kejriwal; hope you don’t turn corrupt now and ruin our dreams” or “you did it Mr Kejriwal; though I doubt you have the skills or expertise to form and run an actual government”.. and so on..

But if this is all the reaction we can muster, then funny enough, I think we’re all missing the point.. yet again. I cringed when we elevated Narendra Modi to super-Jesus status; and here we are at it, yet again.

If anything, the AAP’s biggest success was to show that if anybody, only we the people can accept and fulfill the responsibility of solving our problems. And that if we make no progress, it would be only because we didn’t make enough of this opportunity to effect a positive change; and not due to any failure or incompetence on the part of some AAP leader/member.

The AAP symbol is the broom! If you’d listen to Dr. Vandana Shiva, she often mentions why Gandhi’s symbol was the simple spinning wheel: because it symbolizes that every commoner can afford to take action in the movement. The wheel in a nutshell, captures Gandhi’s message of being the change you want to see in the world.

So.. what change can we effect, apart from adding to comments traffic on random news sites, and just feeling stupidly proud of an AAP that we at best may have merely voted for?
Starting with some random thoughts:

  • Pick up a broom! I’m not kidding.. who knows what it’ll do to our psyche; what I’m sure of is that it can’t hurt.
  • Plant a seed! Again, not kidding.. the most trivial yet non-zero effort may start a potted plant, if not a garden! I plan to try my hand at it myself pretty soon.

But something more concrete:

Protect the ultimate quine! Namely the seed. The BRAI bill is an alarming instance of our slowly-loosening grip over several control layers in our environment; often masquerading as scientific, inclusive growth.
The AAP have voiced their strong anti-BRAI stand; so we should use this opportunity to

  • inform ourselves first;
  • support strong anti-BRAI movements and campaigns such as those led by Greenpeace and AAP;
  • spread awareness among family and friends;
  • leverage the support of such a strong political movement such as the AAP, to suitably influence the swing of the political debate on BRAI

< You can help to expand upon this unGuide stub; please start by leaving your inputs and thoughts in the comments below. >

Why is money so valuable?

[ I just answered this question on Quora (my first one) here , seemed generic enough for a post ]

Quoting from a document called Modern Money Mechanics released a few years ago by the Federal Reserve Bank:

Money, like anything else, derives its value from its scarcity in relation to its usefulness.

Aside from the traditional ‘barter’ viewpoint about money as simply a medium of exchange, today it also serves as a method for tracking the scarcity or availability of resources, goods and services, as indicated by their market prices.

Thus, if money has to correctly represent the value of resources that it represents, it follows that it is necessary to maintain the value of money itself. As ModernMoneyMechanics suggests, the present approach to this is by using scarcity, which by design, is built in the present day monetary system. To briefly describe what is called Fractional Reserve Banking: when new money gets created today, it comes into existence as a token of debt that in most cases, has to be repaid with interest. Hence the constant illusion of the scarcity of money.. one can never seem to have enough of it!

There are severe limitations to this system, in my opinion; the biggest one being short-sightedness. Abundance might be just round the corner for so many life-essential resources and services; in fact, we might already have surpassed that mark in the past, somewhere around 1970 as determined by futurist R. Buckminster Fuller a long time ago. But as long as we keep using a yardstick of scarcity, we are going to find it tough to locate abundance.. #elephantInTheRoom

To robots

Robots, steal our jobs!

We are heading into an era of rapidly increasing aid of technology in doing all our work. Is it so far-fetched then, to suggest that the machines are going to displace us as the primary work force in many sectors?

Why the robots? Because we are capable of higher functions. What is ‘higher’, exactly? A partial answer to this is given by Bucky Fuller in one of his lectures: Prospects for Humanity . To paraphrase: this is about the efficiency of two fundamental operations: differentiation and integration.. more on that in a separate post; for now let’s just say that the human brain, having accumulated numerous interferences over the course of evolution, is much better at asking original questions than present-day computers, which in their own right, are more efficient than us in classification [ as opposed to comprehension ].

But that may still leave the question: what about all those jobs? Aren’t they necessary for people to earn their living?
Well, the socio-economic model that we decide to agree upon and accept, is the outcome at the layer of social systems. What does that depend upon? Looking at the heirarchy of layers, one would realize that the energy/inputs form the very basis of all further ‘metaphysical’ constructs such as mathematics, science and.. you guessed it, economics.

You cannot violate causality. For instance, if you have a serious objection to a particular crime, you cannot simultaneously not care about the preconditions that are leading to that crime. And so, it follows that if the robots are going to change the very nature of resource availability for us, then the rest would also appropriately adjust over time: value education, economics… and social structures as well.

Hello world!


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