It is close to 2 am and I am totally sober, and rather sleepy. These are actually borrowed minutes in the sense that I chose to create time to code at the expense of some sleep time. I am therefore not going to linger at the keyboard for too long.
Age old wisdom has it that we must learn to listen. There are many many flavors to listening, and I will lay it before us that in this context, we refer to listening as listening to one's own inner voice. In this day and age of action, how much time do we spend on the action of pondering, and introspection? As I sit here with the mechanical keyboard and giant 1920x1080 monitor and the tablelamp, I can hear the pleasant humming of the laptop's fan when I am not typing away. It is a comforting sensation, sort of like the very pleasant silence we feel when we are calculating variations and sizing up the positional impact of accepting opposite colored bad bishop endings as favorable, as happened last Thursday at the chess club.
People talk about the virtues of meditation in facilitating happiness. I would like to extend the scope of meditation to general scenarios where there is 'thinking' involved; of a type that calls for extended and uninterrupted stretches. How, might we ask, does this classify as 'listening', for one is merely 'doing' thinking here. I cannot answer this clearly, but I suspect that when real insight is produced (sigh, I've introduced another variable - insight), it happens only when we absorb the matter in question completely and can understand it from within, and for this, we must 'listen'. I am conflating these to claim that we must have a 'feel' for whatever we are doing and that is not possible without meditating upon it. Enough of these ramblings for now. I am off to bed.
During all these years of pondering and obsessing over various trivialities, it appears that I may have stumbled upon a truth concerning the psychological equivalent of Gauss' theorem. Lest we flatter ourselves into megalomaniacal gloating as doubtless occurs - or, shall we say, has already occurred and that we are therefore posing by denying it, and that all protestations to the contrary are futile, and ineffectual? - let us place before the unseen reader the clause that we do not endeavor to do so. Psychological treatises might disagree, but we do not hold degrees in psychology, nor do we claim credentials. Tom Sharpe, in his very absurd book "Ancestral vices", which I would enthusiastically recommend for the uproar it causes, uses the word 'lopsided' in describing lord Petrefact's smile. Perhaps this figment of a late perverse novelist's imagination has a ubiquitous echo in all of humanity in that there are lopsided elements in us all, or that, perfection, in itself is a lopsided conception because the one thing that pervades humanity is the lopsidedness that it denies. In that sleep of imagination, what dreams may come, puzzles thy will, if you will. The truth is much more prosaic. T. S. Elliot knew that when he said that things ended with a whimper and not a bang. The psychologics know this too, for they speak about the need for 'drama', while most things are bland. And then, we have the zen monks who have realized that bland is beautiful.
The afore-typed curious segway of demented saboteur thoughts aside, I would like to present my treatise fortwith, for I know that failing to do so will result in a much diluted offering of the same, essentially, arising from having run out of steam which was expended upon verbiage on tangential (if not entirely meaningless) ideas. And so here we go. I shall fetch a glass of wine to aid in the thought processes momentarily. We know all too well that focus(s)ing on a topic causes the mental faculties to recoil. The innumerable cases of writers block besetting the theses writing intelligenstia would corroborate.
I propose - between episodic swirling of the cup that is now half full - that in terms of psychology, there are two approaches to dealing with issues, paralleling what the god Gauss had to say about conservation laws. The first approach is through the surface, by looking at the boundary conditions. It is the way someone would make connections with an alien race by exploring interaction terms with its own universe. The boundary conditions, or flux terms would give clues on what goes on within. One asks questions on what this externality means to them, or to anything else. In my (perhaps loaded) interpretation, founded perhaps on practical use cases, invariably leading to an appraisal of stock for profit, although I concede that this adds bias to the untainted surface interaction idea alluded to here. Nevertheless, in itself, it is akin to what might call brainstorming, or posing questions about the thing. To present an example, if one were a stockbroker and one came across a stock to solve all problems on earth, despite one's interest in humanity as a whole (and general support given to such endeavors), one's motivation as an investor would be to ascertain how well this stock would do. One will ask all the standard questions that one usually asks - what are the investments, debt, revenues, profit, future outlook, etc. etc. Likewise, let us say that a software engineer announces that a certain debugging tool is the best thing since sliced cheese, to an audience consisting of contented telephone sanitizers. What, might we expect would be the outcome? The group would not only suffer from befuddlement (eh, aren't they, well .. dense?) but might also be given to exhiting various shades of hostility, apprehension and boredom (depending on the shade of greenish white, or brownish yellow, as the case maybe)? This translates to the case when the flux terms are zero. This might be viewed as the edge case. I am, of course, seeing (in this mildly enhanced state) the divergence terms going to zero, and the basis functions being totally orthogonal. People have ways of arriving at a viable interpretation of a 'thing'. Among them is to ask questions. If these questions mean nothing to them, they cannot relate. "Pigeon holing" is an artifact of this. We pigeon hole because we need a basis to understand another reality. And how do we pigeon hole? We match patterns, and classify them. A corrosive thought now occurs that machine learning is a pigeon holing exercise, but we will let that go. Unfortunately, pigeon holing people seems like violating some kind of sanctity. For example, we say, "Oh, this person does not 'like' this type of movie", or, "This is not his or her style". The surface interactions ask the what, when, how and why of things and do not concern themselves with the thing itself. As we are limited beings with limited resources to think about the 'core' of these matters (and are therefore only, by extension, concerned about how they relate to us).
The second approach to approaching things is what I would like to term the 'immersive' way. Stephen Baxter alludes in some of his books to a 'thing' that was once a boundary interaction with a ship carrying it (essentially, a passenger in some sort of a ship) becoming integrated with the ship over time. It thus becomes the ship itself. I think this is how I would summarize the case for immersion. Likewise, we also have (from my very limited awareness of these things) actors who like to become the character they portray, as against just simulating a fascimile. Also of appeal are the enigmatic lines from Jonathan Rowson in his nebulous pronoucements in "Chess for Zebras" on "Being vs doing", which I take the liberty of interpreting as the same thing. Gandhi said something similar when he said that we must be the change we want to see in the world. What I mean by all these plagiarised (or shall we say, odified) strands of thought is that this entity attempts to reconcile with this other entity by placing itself in its shoes. This is evidently a much more expensive operation than a cheap boundary interaction, since it involves a volumetric calculation, but in the end, Gauss says that they both amount to the same thing. A volumetric simulation is more expensive, but more realistic in some ways, and certainly more immersive. In this world where we have limited time for immersion (unless you are, say, a ten year old), we are forced to examine all but the most important things from the point of view of maximizing our benefit from alien interactions, and this sets the tone. We cannot hope to immerse ourselves owing to the scarcity of temporal resources. What really counts - I suspect - and what the essence of immersion is, lies in things we cannot rationalize, like love, or the beatific sight of a small child smiling or giving one its temporal share of consciousness.
Depending on one's view of things, it might be that both these approaches are the same (mutatis mutandis!). We are what we mean to the world, and the world that relates to us. We are what we think we are. And so, immersion is determined by the boundary conditions, and the boundary conditions are produced by what happens internally. A poor rationalization of Gauss' theorem it may be, but people fall into both categories, often with overlapping regimes (isn't that the rule?). Gauss' theorem equates to a source term on the right, if I were to recall correctly. The net worth of everything is this source term. Millenia of existence shows that there is nothing more important to existence than to perpetuate itself. Eons of moslty sub-blue collar existence suggest that there is nothing more creative to the common being than to create existential copies of itself which then go on to do the same thing, ad generatium. In fact, I now subscribe to this theory that the greatest creation of our parents was us. Must we then rebel against this to identify with things such as intellectuality, creation and legacy? To take arms against a sea of troubles, or by opposing, end them (no, I don't mean end as in 'end', but end as in end)? It is something to think about.
Here we are again in the dead of the night, posting. It is only 1 am, now that I checked. The eyes are squinting mildly from the excess of light shed by this mildly curved monitor. The fan blares soothingly in the background. I daresay that I am enjoying listening to the sound of my typing on the mechanical keyboard. There is a sort of rhythm to my typing. It is neither bombastic nor ineffectual, but as the author of 'Goldilocks' might have said, it is just right. I am cognizant of the effect that the stentorian waves of my keyboard banging is wont to produce, often with disconcerting consequences to all and sundry. It is perhaps evocative of the primordial urge to connect with our erstwhile selves delving into the myriad intricacies of hyperbolicities and ellipticalities of various wave phenomena. That is what a psychoanalyst might say. We will not divorce ourselves from our psychoanalyst selves - after all, we should perhaps feel entitled to belonging in that club ourselves, judging from all the data hitherto produced herein. I do not quite have anything to post about this time. Perhaps something will crystallize in the coming bytes. Perhaps not. All that said and done, I will again repeat that typing on this mechanical keyboard is akin to sending shivers of delight through one's consciousness. To add some credibility to our ramblings in the foregoing, we refer the torpid reader to the various texts with harmonics on the trhemes insinuated above by George Carrier, who we confess is our immortal idol, although we do not pocess a bust of his to testify the same (it is, after all, an abstract concept).
It may be mentioned that a few tangible moments have elapsed since the time of writing the previous paragraph, and of rerreading it. We have since (to aid our thought process) opened another bottle of the excellent ballast point bier to assist our state of consciousness to harmonize with our act of writing, or rather, typing, as is the case here. The fan hums soothingly in the background. No other sound is heard (particularly so now), Occasionally, one hears the vertical neighbor's trips to the bathroom, felt as audible footstep relics and flush sounds, or, in its wake, the faint dripping sounds which is the aftermath. I note that in my current highly inebriated state (is this what some people refer to as the stream of consciousness?) that I feel nothing, save for my own inebriatedness and the buzzing fan, and thoughts, thoughts, self-induced oscillations from the rocking chair I am sitting on and more thoughts. It is delightful. In some ways, it is write only code.
Our stupor has added a few more dilated moments to our state of dubious consciousness. And yet, the fingers seem to know the spots. They type away with a gusto that belies our ocular capabilities at the current moment. Somehow, I am now reminded of Sathy, of my visit to the ancestral home. I recall breaking down (assited, of course) to my uncle. It was one sided, since my uncle, who may generally be regarded as the superior partner when it comes to matters regarding assistance, was in his lean three month period of self-induced abstinence at that time. Nevertheless (ah, how we love that word)., one must confess to a certain mutual well being and empathy, regardless of assistance. The ancestral home is no longer a datastructure epitomized by concepts termed 'constant'. I have been told that it will remain no longer in a few months owing to practicalities that we are all doubtless aware. In other words, all that will be left will be a metaphorical entity that, for various members of this select so called cabal, will be a relic, a remnant of a past with which we define by our connectedness, by our experiences to it. SathyDiaspora will become a purely metaphorical entity since our last ties to Sathy will hence vanish.
Ten years ago, I recall leaving Gobi for the last time, onward to start the great life journey and promise embodied in grad school. The defining moment was when my grandmother looked with that indescribably beautiful face of hers to convey doubts of our ever being able to see eachother again - and she was right, as it turns out for she died six months after that meeting. That was a taxi ride that will foreve remain etched in memory. I wonder what the gods might have to say about my paternal grandmother (who was undoubtedly the more fun grandmother of the two) fabricating tales of thair Shadam!
I have spent the last hour and a bit reading my own posts over the last several years. We all do this from time to time, I am sure. I suppose there is some reason why we might want to spend our precious Friday evenings riveted over the fossilized remains of our deranged outpourings. If that were not enough, it seems that we are going to add to the strata with more text, and an indeterminate amount of time. It is past midnight here. There is no comforting supply of alcohol ready at hand. And yet, here we are typing away.
In the last six or seven days, I have managed to read two books. 'Vacuum diagrams' by Stephen Baxter was finished last Sunday, and I re-read Agatha Christie's 'The big four' during the week. Treating the week as a time quantum, I would remark that its quality was of very high order. Vaccuum diagrams is a particularly heavy book. Apparently, it is a patchwork of various works of the author put together as a sort of review paper. It spans several 'epochs' all the way to the end of Baryonic matter (extinguished very slowly, asymptotically perhaps, by the Photino birds). There are many many life forms, all subservient to the creature that he calls Xeelee - which, for some reason, does not get any treatment except as viewed from the eyes of the other, inferior creatures. The collection of short stories is very expansive in its temporal breadth and character of themes, making for the heaviness. It is also quite a fat book, and our life nowadays seems to find little time for reading. Nonetheless, the stories leave a very strong impression.
The names are powerful (a great author chooses the names of his creatures well) - Dr. Larionova, Leisserl, Qax, Squeem, the Sink Ambassador (shimmering), Pool Wormholes, Xeelee (it actually deserves a !, but by now, the name has become quotidian thing to me) and the photino birds. Likewise, the concepts too. I recall being slightly blown away by the chapter on mercurics wherein despite evolutionary devolution (of the inhabitants of a crashed space ship), there still remained vestiges of a will to return home in the devolved remanants. I read this chapter a very long time ago. Here are two other earlier chapters that stand out. There is one with the bizarre tree train controlled by some buoyancy like forces and fueled by a coal like feed, if memory serves right. Another - and this has connections that goes all the way to the very end - is the Sugar lump creature Paul (humanoid, but deals in wave functions) being able to interact with antiXeelee. I use interact deliberately in the sense of neutrinos interacting with matter, or, putting it in language that I actually have a slightly better understanding of, as non-local radiation might interact with a flame, or as a smoother might interact with the high frequency components.
The chapters towards the end (Photino victory, etc.) are told from a human perspective. Rather like an adventure tale (it is, too), humans are trapped by the Xeelee in a world well supplied with necessities (like a bunker hide-out full of tin can supplies) so that they don't make a nuisance of themselves in ruining the more important Xeelee projects - of getting away from the universe. However, some deviant human beings figure this out and try to break free, with varying success. The names of the creations here smack of genius. Since they are very fresh in memory, I would like to spell them out - cow trees, meat fruit, mummy cows - huge, furry, block headed benevolent animals with sentient insides whose sole purpose is to serve human beings. The mummy cows are very wise, and can speak too, and they do that with laborioussss difficulty. Two mummy cows are given some character - Orange, and Sand. And yet, this part is not unlike an old adventure novel (say, the count of Monte Cristo?) where there's some running away from danger theme involved.
Baxter often alludes in his books to a connection that life forms do not lose even across these super massive time spans and spatial extents. It is, putting it in a hazy way, a universal constant representing consciousness, in that all life forms share an empathy that somehow differentiates, or rather, unifies them as animate. I cannot put my finger on it exactly.
I had propounded, rather uselessly some few months ago, that the construction in our heads of reality is an approximation, which is of course, upon some slight reflection, obvious. I am given to fanciful thoughts every now and then, and I will take recourse to the same now as may be made out by the late hour. Nevertheless, brushing that aside for the moment (even, the sublime Nattukurunji of GNB's, now playing) I will asseverate that there is some truth in that statement. Our minds distort reality ever so slightly. We need to make sense of our universe to fit into our model, which has some notions of the same. These models are somewhat corrupted (well, GNB is now corrupting delightfully some of the gamakams, clipping them if one will to his model of gamakam reality) by various input conditions such as our moral canvas. This all makes sense. The reality that we envisage is now approximates somewhat reasonably what we might like it to represent, suitably filtering out what we would not like it to represent. However, sometimes, we go a step further. See below.
The flow of information so far has been one way only. We have some data of reality, and we try to make sense of it by fitting our model of reality to it. At a lower level, I suspect that we are trying to find our place in the universe, of our morals and beliefs and so on and so forth. I may be in soft ground here and will not in any way claim anything other than that this is only a plausibility. So far, it seems that the sperm whale is still looking forward to meeting his destiny with enthusiasm, finning it for the great unknown atmosphere and lithosphere and whatnot.
The conflict arises when we go one step further - pundits that we are. What if, instead of trying to fit our model of reality into reality, we fit reality into our model of reality? This, I believe is what some of us lazy people do, possibly because the other alternative is a bit too futile. Reality is a bit unromantic. What if, god forbid, reality does not really have a model that we could fit to at all, and that everything is just, if one will, random? This would be a devastating thing to contemplate. And so, like faithful soldiers whose lot it is not to ask why, or to make any reply, we make the bugle charge, insisting on the virtuosity of this act for all posterity to read. That it could also be interpreted as a ridiculous act of foolhardiness is irrelevant. And thus transpires that an entire future goes about believing that acts of self-preservation are akin to cowardice and that the charging of the life brigade was a heroic act of self-sacrifice, and that the latter is to be eulogized while the former is to be deplored, speaking as a moral commentator.
Aaron Copland had created a great piece which he named as in the title of this post. I wonder what he meant by that though. What was his intended audience, and what does he mean specifically by 'common'? Also, who would be an uncommon man, by extension? There was also some snippet in a humorous novel, the exact title of which eludes me at the moment. I believe this might be Wodehouse (what else?). This was, if I recall hazily, the son of an American filmmaker who his father believed reasonably represented the common movie watcher, and hence became the - giving it the air of respectable formality - first use case for movies that he created. I happen to love Copland's piece and am in fact going to turn it on shortly, thanks to YouTube.
We are making proclamations about our proclivities and ideological idiosyncrasies (sigh, a bit heavy there) all the time. Moreover, speaking for myself, affronts taken or given seem to happen at an ideological level rather than at a lower, cheap, insignificant, frivolous, quotidian level that happens everyday. For example, one might more readily forgive the earthly folly of an overly diluted cup of filter coffee at an Indian restaurant than the more subliminal, perhaps imaginary indication of cheapness perceived by a superabundance of potato in various items in a buffet lunch in the very same Indian restaurant.
There is something offensive about the commonness about the common man. The common man comes across as the consumer of all things tawdry, as though he (actually, she, if we are to use current language) is the lowest common form of existence. There is nothing ignoble about the common man, of course. Life is not a pleasure trip for most people on earth. People have to work for a living and this usually involves mind and body numbing labor which we should thank them for doing, for things won't happen without that. At the end of the day, all that one can do is to let go.
I claim that this whole edifice of servicing the common consumer at the end of his or her drudgerous day (or existence, if we stretch it a bit), is a humbug. The problem, it appears is not just the entertainment or consumable good aspect, but a more pervasive, internalized belief that what is common must be universal. Creating instant appeal is a marketing tenet. We extoll such traits as exhibiting confidence, firmness and sure footedness. Crisp, quick, easy courses are appreciated by the masses, stratified according to their individual positions. Being a sellout is a skill and an art form that probes some lower level of human psychology where these attributes seem to be important.
There is usually nothing exalted about life, and (as mentioned in some of the other posts) as Alexander McCall Smith argues, it is for this reason that we obsess over things like tea, a microscopic essentiality which we know forms a most important part of our lives. It is an exemplification of the principle that if we cannot control our destinies, we might as well control our tea. It is a microcosm, a small part of our universe, one where we can delight in our solipsistic excesses which we feel so totally in accord with, such as I am doing by penning down my (for what of anything more apt) thoughts.
There is something about the tendency to feel in control of one's destiny. I do not know whether it is just a token act of resistance to the rather unpalabale truth that we are in fact not in control of anything, or that we truly delude ourselves into hallucinating that we have created this perfect universe obeying laws that we have fabricated. Nevertheless, I say (no, point out) with facile conviction that there is a subspecies of some considerable statistical significance that lives and dies by (the strengh of these doctrines might perhaps be greater than the most concrete versions of Newton's laws) these principles.
I shall add to the existing canons of literature denouncing ADD in its manifestations in the modern era. Not that it will be of any use because one never learns. History, as it were, repeats itself. Putting it a little differently, the psychological machinations of our brain favor the hedonistic side of things, whereas the downsides get conveniently wiped out of our mental landscape, to be dealt with later.
Naturally, the message here has harmonics in addictive-compulsive behaviors and the effort-reward-blame attributes. One never learns.
The existential problem figures somewhere in the soup. Bereft of a cause, life starts to take on a pale blue cast of staleness, of regurgitation and diminishing entropy. I would surmise that our ADD is not entirely unrelated to a creative urge somewhere that seeks to edify by entertaining itself. But then, for whatever reasons, entertainment tends to become a circular thing and eventually just spirals inward until it implodes.
For some, this is the way of life. They continue to trudge along until the end this way. The banality of existence might in some ways be relieved by banal celebrations about banal nothings. Take, for example, the tendency to celebrate birthdays. Subscribers to the theory of universal banality will violently repudiate these rituals. Marking time with tawdry colors is not the way to exist. More sympathetic souls might shrug and say that we do these things because our lives would otherwise become meaningless, and these acts of insignificance are in fact acts of rebellion to remind ourselves that not everything is lost.
Great people find causes. Life then becomes a journey to discover and marvel at the wonders unearthed during one's course through it. I suspect that the creative mind suffers great unrest when it finds nothing to be creative about. To (inaccurately) metaphrase Holmes, "Give me great problems, and I am in my proper element". And yet, we become mired in the existential bog, where all manner of things in the world connive with each other to remind us of the practicalities. It cannot be such an uphill battle, can it, to look beyond the role of the janitor?
It is very rare nowadays to find moments of quiet where one can literally hear the sound of silence. Indeed, our lives have evolved, seemingly, to condemn being alone in some ways. A case in point is of people looking at their mobile phones during those moments when one is at the traffic light. We go to great lengths to create phone reminders. We place before our loved ones the obligation of telling us that they are alive by expecting text messages affirming the same when they travel. I view this as a way of claiming emotional ownership by making one feel beholden to soothing one's anxiety by such burdensome affirmations. Again, this may be viewed as an illustration of our ADD culture and the glorification of the trivial. We choose to make mountains of the useless because there is nothing else in our lives to do.
Alexander McCall Smith mentions that we obsess over little things like tea because we can only control the little things. The big things are beyond us. I might be conflating and confusing two different issues here - that of a need to feel in control of our universe, and that of giving meaning to our lives by giving it a cause. These ideas might be food for thought for the future. It may well be that the total perspective vortex will consume us if not for these mild (and I aver, futile) idiosyncrasies when people fuss about things, such as fussing over fairy cakes. But there is also something to be said about owning a universe such as Zaphod Beeblebrox did (in essence). Disregarding arguments against solipsism, there is at least this to be said that it has the merit of assuring one of one's place in the universe.
There comes upon everyone's life a time when they question why, if they were a sperm whale, they were a sperm whale. They thrash about based on the observations, deductions made and the individual faculties they may possess for these tasks. These enable them to arrive at working models to conceive of the universe in some light, and their place in it. Some would dismiss this as intractable. Some others would advance some theory and then call it intractable. Others might try very hard to create an ensemble of theories to account for various types of scenarios. This all sounds quite plausible and systematic, and the scientist in us would formalize the matter a little, make it available for the body to peruse and then move along to the next problem.
In recent times, I have been occupied with this and other ocean boiler problems which we know through an entire humanity (clearly, a subset of some larger set) of existence as being an entirely fruitless undertaking. I daresay though that I have taken a liking to this habit, and it promises much in the years to come. We have heard of the great thinkers who think of great problems and arrive of great answers which only great people can (or even care to) appreciate. It seems that I mock myself here by appealing to greatness. Petrosian (one of my greatest heroes, I will confess) apparently exhibited wariness when it came to the use of annotations in Chess scores, attributable to the bias they would introduce upon the mind of the (little) reader.
Let us take a first shot at it now that the pourparlers are finished. My own view (should I asseverate that I know it is everyone's at some deep and labyrinthine level?) is that we do not have any reason to exist. There are no laws here. Man (for the modernists, I will replace it with 'Woman') exists for no reason other than the biological perpetuation of himself. It would suffice if he would just clone himself. It might transpire in a future reality that the ethical framework for this will be erected. This is exactly how one might view an ant, for instance, disregarding anything but evolution - admittedly, a fly in the ointment, for that would give admit some superhuman, godlike thing making ants of us all).
I will now propose what I think is the central argument, or contradiction in this hypothesis. It is that man is intelligent. Somehow, I reckon that this intelligence compels him to create for himself a reason to exist. Haven't we seen various examples of these in such pronouncements (to answer the above) in nouns such as 'love', 'service' and 'pigs'? The last of the above is an unpoetic, Emsworthian license to add a little bit of frivolity to the mix.
One might also speculate rather piquantly what Rudolf Hoss might have said here.
In Chess, it is not entirely practical (not that samples do not exist) to form plans spanning the entire game. We can look at the individual moves, and depending on the variables (see beginning) create a possible plan of action. We call this breaking it into bite sized chunks. Similarly, people break their lives into small pieces. A college student might want to go to MIT, a pregnant mother might be occupied with the event concerning the completion of her immediate most recent attempt to discharge her evolutionary responsibility. We can go on and on. To extend upon this, she could argue, borrowing from assembly line wisdom, that her whole purpose in life is to produce as many successful offspring as possible. This is most certainly true of the bee kind of life form. I am getting many delightful detour ideas from Stephen Baxter's hive books. We are made of stuff stern enough to look askance at these unhelpful, albeit tempting ramifications.
I suspect that human psychology tends to be built conceptually, in that there is some structure to it which is amenable to reasoning. I have (unconsciously at first) managed to examine this based on data. If I were to use my own case as a sample point, I can detect a very perceptible undercurrent in many of my life's phases. It had broadcasted itself pointedly somewhere that one was looking for one's 'legacy'. I haven't quite been able to give the matter the most probing scrutiny. The intuition suggests that (mule events including), we can create a picture that is consistent, and scalable!
Notwithstanding the Seldon poppycock, we would be most pleased if we could discover that the human psychology is deterministic in some way.
Despite the obvious contradiction in the entitling of this post, I am hopeful that it piques the senses of the reader (we will just assume that they exist) in some way. In my own magniloquent universe, I predict, perhaps even delight in, a severe correction to occur, in the software universe. Having existed (insignificantly, if I may add) in the tech mecca (two years in the hinterland, or the greater heartland, if you will, in Walnut Creek and Berkeley), and two years in the heartland right inside Silicon valley, in what has to be the most overpriced land in the world, something intuition tells me that this is all going to collapse very soon. There aren't too many solid facts that I can present that would demonstrate the point, but there is considerable evidence that we are in the midst off a "bubble", and this goes beyond my deep seated distaste for the Silicon(e) valley start up culture and enterprise.
Let me organize my words to comb through my disorganized thoughts, leaving aside the emotional component for now. I work in a company that manufactures chips - a real product. The current watchword is energy efficiency, or performance per watt (what?). This is real technology which can then be used to create devices that are energy efficient. Moving down the pipeline (yes, we use that word often nowadays), enterprising software people write software to do things with this hardware; some great things, some not so great things, and some useless things. Then there is another phenomenon called social networking that appeals to the commoner. The great social networking sites have enabled millions to connect with the other millions. Coupled with the advent of mobile technology, the wave has swept everyone away so that it might now not be possible to envisage how we existed in more primitive times. People write web apps that allow us to do ever more useful things with these things. For instance, we can access our bank account from our little mobile device - an excellent innovation. Social networking sites can generate revenue by hosting advertisements (you now get to watch mandatory 15 sec pieces of bilge if you yield to the craving of listening to Chopin's Fantasie impromptu on youtube - not a social medium in itself, but I can't help mentioning it).
Smaller tech companies get bought over by bigger tech companies based on promise. People tell us all the time that we must look beyond employment towards eventually creating a start up oneself. America is the land of opportunity and Silicon Valley is the headquarters. What I do not understand though is how these start ups have improved our quality of life. Just the other day, my wife was showing me pictures of cute dogs from peeinterest, which I totally did not react to in an enthusiastic way. The same goes for many of the text heavy jokes that I have trouble parsing - maybe I just have ADD in these matters. The buzz surrounding them seems a little unreal. People seem to be reacting the same way they did during the 99 tech stock bubble (yes, they were fascinating times) where any mention of tech stocks would generate mass hysteria. Well, I am getting ahead of myself since I do not understand the mechanics of how the web and technology 'ecosystems' work. My premise is that venture capitalists invest based on promise, in the hope that if some of these investments go big, they make a ton of money. The same goes for the big firms that buy them out.
It is only natural that any new, useful technology creates interest. Nevertheless, at some point this interest transforms to irrational exuberance. The markets are now at an all time high (local maximum maybe?). Ad revenue is king; the common consumer is fodder (in the nuts and bolts space); markets reward volatility and hype fuels it.
There is yet another conjecture that I would like to put forward. Since we cannot have increasing returns in an economy based on scarcity, all gains made by one sector must be backed up by something else. People cannot invest in technology indefinitely unless their basics are better off than before. Since we do not have any fundamentally life changing changes in other spaces - debt levels are increasing, wage levels are not getting any better, there are no major scientific breakthroughs, oil is getting scarcer and scarcer, and no means have been found to treat the energy crisis. It is a zero sum game in other words. Hotspots generated by silicon valley things have time scales associated with them. There are local, or small time scales (investments, buzz, start ups, angel sharks, etc.) in which all we hear about is how great it is to be part of this revolution, and how some of these youngsters can buy private jets. It is the longer timescale that interests me. At what point do we know that the bubble will burst. How does this locally generated source term travel across the global economy - it is in many ways like a wave problem (hyperbolic?), an instability. One sector cannot indefinitely feed on the rest. Demand for consumer items will fall and there will be a correction.
Silicon valley has some expensive real estate. My apartment management had recently informed me that our lease renewal price was $2200 per month. This is for a 1 BR, 700 square foot thing - albeit except for the size it is truly a luxury space, excellent people and all that. Buying a house in the area - a normal, 3 BR maybe - might cost one something like a million or close. I suspect that this is all fueled by the giants like google and facebook, who are essentially driving everyone else away (wonder where the support staff live?). The countless number of start ups do the same thing.
Some day, not in the very distant future, we will see that the (expected) demand for these software products have fallen. Software engineers will get fired, and this will then cause a correction in general. If you are a young starry eyed wannabe software engineer (let us apply the term globally, for there are all kinds of software engineers, yours truly included), just be warned that there is hell to pay later on. I would also like to posit that unless these software engineers are truly useful they will get the boot. People hired to do unnecessary things will get kicked out. There will be an exodus of Indians and Chinese skilled laborers leaving the country.
I do not envision that the place will be wiped out since we do have real companies making real products with real revenue. But if we have internet companies (okay okay, ad revenue is an old concept; companies living off them have been doing so for a long time) taking (quantitatively) the top spots in market valuation, this is all a delusion.
We should wait for the fed to raise interest rates. This is actually a godsend if you are looking to make a killing by speculating against this trend, and for once, being happy as a result of it. The key point is, 'when'.
A recurring theme that occurs in these posts is that of solitude, and my pointless reflections, divergences and rambling sentences that they occasion. It is my hope that some day, the words flow out exactly as the emotions that they hope to capture. However, the words that we ink them with are usually a poor approximation of what they are supposed to replicate, if replication is even the ideal. In the present post, I will attempt to describe what is ostensibly a very ordinary day, but in its own way, is how I would like every day to be. Today is one day where I have been unencumbered by externalities, so that it is perfection in itself, of the joys of being alone.
In recent times, I have felt that one is never alone, although one is always alone in a material sense. There is always a chord, or rather, a tether, that binds one to the world, shattering the poise, and roiling the calm waters of one's mind. In that sense, being able to get a few moments alone to oneself is a blessing bequeathed upon us for a few precious moments in our lives, and they must be recognized as such and treasured. Yet, as happy as civilization is with in its pursuit of material pleasure and comfort, which our pleasure-reward seeking brain will be trigger happy to pursue - we had noted how I despise social media (it is characteristically exaggerated, caricatured and butchered in a manner far outstripping reality, but then again, I own sole proprietorship over my excesses) in some of the other posts. I feel that nearly all human vices stem from this materialistic side of our minds. Things that bring about real happiness and satisfaction are relegated to the background as being subservient to the materialistic side - that is until we are tired. Of course, there are degrees to these excesses. We draw the line somewhere and call it quits. That, however, does not take away from the diluting of quality that all our needless activities bring to our lives.
I speculate that it is this idea that motivates some people towards seeking monkhood. A mind free of disturbances is a happy mind. It observes everything, but isn't obligated to anything. The fetters are removed, so to speak. Sometimes, we must consciously strive to direct our minds towards that goal, which is perhaps what all the buzz is about with things such as meditation and mysticism, yoga, taoism and what not. Why is it that perfectly normal human beings would renounce their material riches to acquire some nebulous, uncategorizable thing that they call tranquility?
Now that we have let out of our bottle the introductory, mindless, diffusive thoughts, I will now get to the meat of the subject, of the contents of this day. Today is a Sunday in which no activities were planned. I just had a late lunch at Panera, after a pointless drive on 880 and 17. It is early November and the Anand-Carlsen Championship will start in Chennai in a few days. Today is one of those days that are mildly reminiscent of those sublime fall days that I had chronicled when I lived in the East Coast. While it is far from cold (well, you can comfortably step outside without a jacket at 60 F), it is slightly laden with fog - hardly though to the extent that it is in San Francisco, and is a very different beast from the super clear long and endless summer that we see here. We also have a slight breeze that would chill every now and then. You could see the fogginess obscuring the lines of the muscular Milpitas mountain from 880, and as you go down 17, the Santa Clara mountains take over. I then went to have lunch at the mall on N first. We are divided between Rivermark and the N First mall, the latter affording more attractions insofar as food is concerned. It could perhaps be said that it was a perfectly planned outing, since I had also taken with me a book - Asimov's Foundation's edge, which I must say is moving along swimmingly.
Two days ago, on a whim, I ran away to Barnes and Noble on Steven's Creek right after work, impelled into action by some internal force that decided that it was time to treat oneself. I recall some of my very happy hours spent looking at the books in the Midland bookshop in Delhi or Landmark just outside the IITM campus. It begs the question concerning what has become of one that these activities, which are profoundly spiritual in their quiet essence without one even knowing of it, are seldom given the place they deserve in today's tawdry daily schedule.
I ordered a spinach salad and soup, together with bread and a double cappuccino (need I say that if you a coffee aficionado, then you might enjoy Panera's offering). After getting the cup of cold water from the dispenser, making sure that the distance to this dispenser was somewhat optimally proximal, for we don't want to walk to far after the small cup runs out, I sat down next to this lady who was busy with her computer. I disregarded an even more conveniently proximate location to the dispenser to avoid a group of yuppies discussing or working on some web project, in which one individual seemed like the alpha male supplying many ideas, owing to the chatter. I was mildly discomposed by my less than focused eyesight - having broken one of the arms of glasses two days ago by sitting on it, I take the glasses out only when I need to, such as when I drive or need focusing on a distant object, for reasons that would upset the applecart of social acceptability and appropriateness. This prompted the lady next to me to look about questioningly, and to let out sympathetic monosyllables when I poured forth my tale of woes regarding the said eyepiece.
The coffee was brought and the the reading was commenced. This book was mentioned by my sister several years ago - something I recognized by the peculiar imprint left by the names of the protagonists Trevize and Pelorat. Asimov had a thing for keeping good names. He has immortalized the Foundation novels by his brilliant naming of the characters. Harry Seldon, Preem Palver, Bayta Darrel - the very mention of these names will conjure up an ocean of reawakening and recall, and the same is true about Trevize and Pelorat. It also struck me that in the Foundation books Asimov has created some sort of a Monte Carlo method (I may add that they are highly GPU friendly) where the individual components (here, they are the people) do not count, but over an ensemble, upon the application of the laws of psychohistory, they start to tell a story. The great Harry Seldon seems to have formulated some kind of Boltzmann equation and the phenomenology of psychohistory is embodied in his laws - one can only fantasize on what these laws could be and what topical research on behavioral science inspired (if it indeed existed) him to put forth his thesis. Likewise, the addition of an anomalous event in time is probably akin to a source term appearing in the equations (yet, they cannot be said to conform to any laws, or maybe it's a boundary condition issue - in any case it's rather a singularity since the laws break down). The mule is the most cited example of such an event. I was again reminded of this source term, when it is reasoned out that the the disturbance caused the mule could not be overcome in such a short period of time. This actually means that we are talking of a residence time, a characteristic time as we would in the Navier Stokes and other equations! Furthermore, I am sure that he was essentially indicating an asymptotic time scale - the state the system settles to eventually, or in other words, what is the asymptotic behavior of that system? Perhaps my speculations aren't exact in that he doesn't really mention how they compute these large systems, which would mean that it is somehow solved in exact or asymptotic form, and is more of a phenomenological formulation, and that the details of the computation are either not important to the point (so no Monte Carlo) or are trivial. In this book, the effervescent Trevize propounds that the system is being manipulated by the second foundation, which we may liken to the acceleration brought about by such schemes as over-relaxation or improving the well-posedness of a matrix by preconditioning it. And then, Trevize and the doddering historian Pelorat they begin the adventure to earth, which is where I stopped. The ending of my reading session was brought when my second cup of excellent cappuccino had been exhausted, and by the realization that I needed to hurry home to deposit my rent check to avoid late fees (we are given a grace period of 2 days from the starting of the month to do so).
Following that, I did a little walk about around the beautiful apartment complex, reveling in the cold air and the early twilight, it being around six in the evening. I went into the pool table room, where an asian fellow was sitting with his leaky iphone earplugs making what must have been a dreadful call to Geico, with all the options that one has to navigate through in these phone menus. But apart from this little detail, there was no one in the room. It smelled wonderful, causing me to shudder involuntarily. I took a few moments there taking some deep breaths and noting the soundlessness, and then walked back to my apartment. I also noted that the swimming pool's lights were not on. Either this means that they had not been turned on yet (we were only transitioning to the evening) or that they don't work. If it is the latter, then I will have to use the facilities of one of the adjoining complexes for the swim and sublime hot tub sessions.
It is now seven fifteen as I come to the end of this post. My point is that quality exists in the smallest things. It appears that the first act in 'getting away' is in getting away from one's own chaotic mind. But we can of course catalyze this by getting away for real.