Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Will there be hell to pay for?

This post on Overcoming Bias makes me wonder how the relentless onslaught of K-soaps on Indian television may be creating biases and thus shaping relationships!!

Fiction is not only not real, it differs from reality in systematic ways. For example, characters in novels, plays, TV tend to be more attractive, articulate, expressive, and principled than real people. Now we also like to tell stories about ourselves and the events we see around us. These stories are more constrained by the facts we see than fictional stories, but I suspect they suffer from similar biases. That is, I suggest we have a fiction bias...

Overcoming Bias: Tell Your Anti-Story

Picture from: http://starplus.indya.com/serials/kyunki/index.html


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can blogging bring about long term change?

Robin Hanson writes:

The joy of blogging for me is taking just an hour to pen and distribute an apparently powerful insight.  But this joy is illusory if my insights never join a process of accumulation where others build on my insights and integrate them effectively into a larger body of thought.  If I'm mainly the equivalent of a newspaper columnist, rather than a part of a community of modular thinkers, this is to me a waste. 

Overcoming Bias: Blogging Doubts

Blogging can be a part of the "process of accumulation" in several ways:

  1. Bloggers document history in making which can be invaluable for researchers who later try to make sense of an happening or a period of time. Please see: They help the most, who collaborate about the 2004 Tsunami.
  2. Insights from blogosphere, at least in some areas, coalesce into an accepted body of wisdom fairly quickly. For example, the debate about desirability of DRM. Such debates could influence outcomes.
  3. Debates about emotional topics, like existence of God or abortion rights, would likely make people veer to rational viewpoints, as progressively younger population see viewpoints otherwise disapproved by their religion or family.
  4. More nuanced understanding of phenomena like terrorism, that affect large populations whose opinions drive the way their governments or other institutions act.

Together with easily accessible and constantly evolving wiki content or social booking marking, it could well be the most powerful process of accumulation ever seen in the history of mankind.


Predicting Success

Scott Adams says he didn't foresee that Dilbert would be successful as a workplace strip.

When Dilbert launched in newspapers, the response was underwhelming. In the early years, it wasn't a workplace strip. It was about Dilbert's life in general. He just happened to have a job. I was surprised to learn, via my e-mail, that readers loved the relatively rare comics featuring Dilbert in the office. Personally, I didn't think those were my best work. My ego told me to do it my way. My readers told me I was wrong.

The Dilbert Blog: The Loser Decision

However, while discussing hypnosis not too long ago, Scott had told us:

... Dilbert is designed using tricks I learned from hypnosis. The reason Dilbert has no last name, and the boss has no name, and the company has no name, and the town has no name is because of my hypnosis training. I remove all the obvious obstacles to imagining Dilbert works at your company.

Were Dilbert comics carefully designed for a target audience. Or did Scott realize, with help from his audience, that a comic featuring Dilbert at the workplace is the way to go?

Could it be both?

Bloggers, some very successful ones, often admit that they aren't good at predicting their successful posts.

I guess it's the same with songwriters, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, and managers that plan the displays at departmental stores. They must try different things and adopt what seems to work.

In other words, you don't create a successful strategy, but rather discover it.

A lot of intelligence lies in being quick to learn.


Related: Conversation in the digital world

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Do photographs depict the truth?

For a Zen master's way of looking at things, read the article from where this was taken:

The idea that photographs hand us an objective piece of reality, that they by themselves provide us with the truth, is an idea that has been with us since the beginnings of photography. But photographs are neither true nor false in and of themselves. They are only true or false with respect to statements that we make about them or the questions that we might ask of them.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire - Errol Morris - Zoom - Times Select - New York Times Blog


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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Astrology and religion in everyday life

Yesterday,  blogged about 's qualifications to be the President of India in a delightful tongue-in-cheek post:

Consider, first, her spirituality. We are a spiritual nation, and Pratibha Tai actually converses with spirits.

Source: Celebrating Pratibha Patil - The India Uncut Blog

His piece opened my eyes to very interesting stories that seem to regularly appear in the media. Take two recent examples:

  1. The Times of India reports today that Delhi State's Transport Minister, Haroon Yusuf, is going to Ajmer to pray for respite from deaths caused by Blueline buses.

    If we are clueless about how to handle the errant buses, perhaps, it's appropriate to seek the intervention of gods. But what if the spirit at the Dargah got unhappy with the Minister? Will that mean more deaths?

  2. The current issue of Business Today has an item ,"Three out of four", examining an astrologer's success in predicting the movement of bullion and commodities prices.

    Ah! I always knew that astrology isn't so different from  in its methods and beliefs. At least you now have a choice.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is it the Taj or the Indians?

In a last minute rally, Indians voted massively to propel the into the list of the .

Indians voted overwhelmingly in the polls cast by over a million people. The polling picked up drastically over the last one month, to see the ''monument of love'' through to the final seven.

Source: NDTV.com: Taj on list of world's seven wonders

Taj is undoubtedly magnificent. But isn't it on the list largely because the Indian diaspora asserted it voting power?

A community asserts itself when it's politically strong--when it is confident of dealing with the visibility, which inevitably leads to some unwanted attention too.

What does support for the Taj indicate more of:

  1. Taj is truly magnificent.
  2. Indians are now a confident community.

I think, more of 2.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Your Citizenship Provider

Denis Bider reflects upon the founding of the United States 200 years ago as an "experimentation with systems of government".

He blogs about the dilemma of the founding fathers:

You know that there must be some good system of government, but you don't know what it is. So what do you do?

And answers:

You do the reasonable thing: create competiton. Instead of creating one country and enshrining a certain system into law, you create dozens of separate states; you say little about the organization of their internal governments; but you pit them to compete against each other to attract citizens.

That was 200 hundred years ago. Perhaps, it is time for another experiment?

brings certain privileges and government provided services to people in defined geographic area.

But people are now beginning to relocate outside their country of birth for extended periods, if not permanently. Also restrictions on foreign nationals acquiring are reducing the world over.

Then why should citizenship (or nationality) be closely based on a geographical territory?

Rather it should be more like membership to a club, that comes at a price and provides services to its members.

The Citizenship Provider would negotiate with large territory owners (, which may themselves be citizenship providers through their ) for residency rights for its members.

In time a market for citizenship, much like for insurance or credit cards should develop.

And the territory owners would have interest in developing their property in the hope of attracting more residents and charging appropriate rents.

Would it be too difficult to make this market work? If not, we have an alternative to expensive elections and the consequences of living with other people's choices.


Friday, July 06, 2007

When the spouse is hotter

It's rare, but by no means uncommon for a piece in mainstream media to be the stuff that makes a classy blog.

For instance, in the July 9 issue of Time, Belinda Luscombe writes a delightful essay on the perils of marrying outside your looks or "cute-category".

As in so many other areas of discrimination, women face double jeopardy. Guys who marry a few rungs up the looks ladder are rock stars or rich or have, I don't know, beautiful penmanship. Women who marry up, well, they're deluded. Their husbands must be gay or have really bad bacne to even look at them.

When Your Spouse is Hotter than You - TIME

Picture from: http://www.padmalakshmi.com/

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Little Girl Speaking on Environment

Here's video clip of an eloquent speech delivered by a 12 year old girl from Canada at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Brazil some years ago

The most eloquent speech on environment is, of course, the one that Chief Seattle made. I wish there was YouTube video of it, but here is a text link:

Chief Seattle's speech on environment

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