Monday, June 25, 2018
Great gallivanting in Greece
Athens, Crete and Santorini
Food, shopping, people, language
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Yin Yang pairs I've caught in the wild
3. During R&R (rest and relaxation) Stand and stare vs. immerse yourself into some high energy activity
Edit 1: Removed "1. No regrets (YOLO) vs. Reflection on past mistakes" basis input from SS who said that these are not really opposite.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Google Assistant requires some anthropomorphism- how about Jeeves?
Good conversation is like a good cricket pitch
- Pace: Rapid exchange of information
- Bounce: The other person reacts to your stimuli, and adds his or her own nuggets. Refinement from conversation with RR- the person need not only "add" a nugget- the other person may be an active listener, too. A genuine murmur of understanding may also count as legitimate bounce.
- Lateral Movement: Offbeat inputs and topics should come into the picture instead of the straight and narrow- conversation should not be along "predictable lines". Bold new angles and new perspectives to make the conversation move in interesting directions, such that where you end up is different from the 'line' on which you started.
Labels: Random Ramblings
Saturday, March 03, 2018
Facebook usage plummet coz it's like Hyde Park Speaker's corner
I have 1000+ friends on FB- inevitable after UG + PG plus work at a few companies. But I am barely in touch with many of them. Therefore, talking to this crowd increasingly seems like putting up a mike and talking at Speaker's corner in Hyde Park. And observing their posts increasingly seems like being a peeping tom and prying through the window into a neighbor's home. And because I have 1,000 + friends, posts from my hostel room neighbor (room 243) of 4 years are lost in the noise of my 'wall'. So I do not see 243's post, do not put a disparaging and tawdry comment, and therefore room 244 does not have a chance to react to my comment with an equally tawdry put-downer. This passing of the conversational baton between room 240 (me), room 243 (AA) and 244 (VP) is what was the initial charm of FB. Now that's gone. Further, for Hyde Park speaker corner effect, there is Twitter anyway. Where I can listen to Elon Musk and Anand Mahindra and PM Modi.
However, I have both room 243 and room 244 in a common whatsapp group. Therefore, Whatsapp is doing what FB initially used to do. Good for FB, that it owns whatsapp, and has therefore not lost all 3 of us users.
Physical friendships are like layers of an onion- you are a different person with the innermost layer, and obviously there is the outermost layer. The way FB is now, it's squished that onion and all its layers completely, and made onion juice out of it. And I don't think people like to drink onion juice.
My modus operandi for FB usage now is only to connect back with long lost friends (used recently with VP and a couple years ago with SRT). And in that case, I use the messenger anyway, and avoid the community square.
Most of the new activity on FB I think will be from the new internet generation- the 100 millions of 'Bharat' who will be new to this cycle. FB start with being the cosy dorm room for them, then it will become impersonal Hyde park, at which point, they too will withdraw, only coming out infrequently. VR etc may help, but then again, it will be for a closed group setting like Whatsapp, and not the community park model.
Sunday, January 21, 2018
In Hit Refresh, Nadella scores runs all across the park
First heard about the book when I read about SN doing a presser with Kumble as a book launch. So I picked it up during some time at Mumbai airport. Frankly, the book did not get off to a great start in my head, because the one book Testimonial on the book is by Bill Gates (I mean, no reviews such as this: "Nadella's story is remarkable, prose is captivating, and vision sees far - Financial Times' , or this: 'From Cricket to the Policy framework for the future, Hit Refresh is a whirlwind tour of the world today' - NYTimes. Such stuff you'd expect would grace a book by the CEO of the 3rd biggest market cap co of the world) Also, the first quarter has an overdose of how Microsoft is revolutionizing everything, which I thought was advert-like. However, now that I think of it, Microsoft is right up there with Apple, Google, Amazon in the league of tech heavy hitters, but I feel it gets much lesser mention in the press - atleast the press I see. So it's probably OK, that the book has an element of PR.
However, my opinion is well and truly changed. It's a great book in terms of the 'what' it talks about and the 'how' it does it. In terms of themes touched upon (the what)- right from an interesting story of his school days in Hyderabad, to his times - both professional and personal in the US, his life story is interesting to read. His story of transformation at Microsoft is an interesting blueprint for any large company which is treading water. He has given a good perspective of the key acquisitions of Microsoft over the past decade- LinkedIn (I had forgotten) and Minecraft (I did not even know about Minecraft) And lastly, his take on the world at large from the august chair he sits on (as CEO of one of the most global MNCs) is quite enlightening. And the way he does it (the how)- his literary references add a dash of color, and he calls into the living room an impressive array of experts to add credence to his conclusions. He has written out so many clean 'frameworks' to address big questions- it's almost like a slide deck we might use in a Strategy case at my current employer. He actually says MS loves making huge decks for every topic, and when I told a friend he reacted saying- 'Of course, it's the maker of Power Point we are talking about!' . Apart from the 'array of experts', also like all the material he has referenced- reading through all of that will be fun and a worthwile activity. For example, just a few minutes ago I chatted with MS' chatbot 'Zo' , and read about this Indian start up co. called Enlightiks which does health care analytics.
Aside: There's also this interesting QZ piece on how Silicon Valley's new wave of leaders are much more of 'listeners' than the more take-no-prisoners first wave.
Here is a whirlwind tour of some of the frameworks in the book I alluded to in the previous para:
3 'missions' for MS outlined in his speech at his first MS Global summit as a CEO- 1) Reinvent productivity and business processes, 2) Build intelligent cloud platform, 3) Move people from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows.
3 Principles of culture change at Microsoft: 1) Need to obsess about customers, 2) Actively seek diversity and inclusion, 3) One company and not a confederation of fiefdoms.
3 principles of leadership for anyone leading others: 1) Bring clarity to those who work with you, 2) Need to generate energy, 3) Find a way to delivery success and make things happen.
3 Cs framework from Steve Balmer for building a robust Org culture: 3 concentric rings: 1) Outer ring is Concepts, 2) Capabilities, 3) Culture
4 ways for companies to participate in Digital transformation : 1) Engage customer base by leveraging data, 2) Empower own employees by enabling mobile and collaboration/ digital world of work, 3) Optimize process and 4) transform Products and services . SN says 'every company is a digital company'. This also ties in to what Ram Charan said in his book Attacker's advantage- any company that is not a 'Math House' (a term he has coined) will go extinct over the coming few years.
Way a large companies could avoid being trapped by The Innovator's Dilemna: Look at investment strategy across three growth horizons: 1) Grow today's core business and tech, 2) Incubate new ideas and products for the future, and 3) Invest in long term breakthroughs.
3 breakthroughs that are accelerating AI from Sci-fi to reality: 1) Big data, 2) Computing power, and 3) Sophisticated algos.
3 layers of AI: Bottom layer is Patter recognition, Middle layer is perception, and highest level is cognition.
3 levels how AI will scale: 1) Bespoke (in the hands of those atop ivory towers), 2) Democratized (in the hands of everyone), 3) Learn to learn.
MS' approach to building AI, on the lines of Asimov's laws of robotics: 1) Build AI that augments human abilities and experiences, 2) Build trust into tech, 3) Inclusive and respectful to all.
Skills which kids today should prioritize:1) Empathy, 2) Education, 3) Creativity, and 4) Judgement and accountability.
Managing his time as a CEO: 25% each towards Employees, Customers, Products and Partners.
3 leanings from sports to business (from his days in the school Cricket team): 1) Compete vigorously in face of uncertainty and intimidation, 2) Importance of putting team first ahead of personal stats, and 3) Bolster the confidence of the people you are leading. This really resonates with me because i really like the alternate world of trust which is built up in team sports, better than any other activity in the world. In fact, more than cricket, it's in games like football, where every individual contributes much more to the end product (than in cricket). All said and done, Cricket still is a highly individual game, based on my experience.
He's also put some great quotes and literary references: 'Technology is nothing more than the collective soul of those who build it', from Tracy Kidder's 'The soul of a new machine'. SN later ties it to his grand framework of how AI should be built (not just the conception of ivory towers of Silicon Valley but also incorporating the sensibilities of say the bustling bazaars of Cairo). I loved how he referred to the 'metaverse' from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, since I've read it. FB is more and more becoming the 'metaverse', and now if you add a layer of Hololens or Oculus to FB, that's what the metaverse was, after all. Nietzsche- 'He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how'. Goethe- 'He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own'
There's a good tour of the cool new stuff happening at MS and in the industry at large. MS: The Holo lens, and the story of the founder of it and his mission (to make machines that perceive the real world), a babel fish (from Hitchiker's guide!) - a real time language converter, Cortana, Zo, Minecraft.... While all of this is of course MS marketing, it's a good peek under the hood. Industry at large: reshoring of jobs due to robotics. The example he gives is Bicycle Corporation of America bringing back mfg from China to US- read here . Apparently the robotics aided manufacturing is getting 2x the productivity of offshore manufacturing, which probably offsets the cost benefits of low labor. I read somewhere that India's nascent gains in car manufacturing could also be curtailed due to this wave. On the optimistic side for India, he's talked about 'India Stack', a stack of tech building from Aadhaar which can enable transition to cashless and to more broader digitzation of Indian citizens.
In terms of the 'way forward', he's talked about four landmark cases which have posed deep questions about the role of government in technology- Snowden's expose of vast governmental snooping, The government co ercing Apple to reveal data from the iPhone user behind the San bernandino attacks, North Korea's hacking of Sony as retaliation for the movie 'Interview' which satirized North Korea, and lastly the US govt's order to obtain files stored on a server in Ireland, despite Ireland being another country and thus the order violating sovereignty.
In the last section, he's also talked about how 'the bigger a company is, the more responsibility its leader has to think about the world, its citizens and their long term opportunities'. Yes, I think in this borderless corporate world, the CEOs of Microsoft, Apple and so on are as powerful and responsible as Presidents and Prime Ministers of big countries.
He's talked in depth about events in his life and himself as a person, too. He talks about how the multi cultural background in Hyderabad Public School and the hostel shaped him. I also felt the multi cultural background at my undergrad hostel in Bombay was quite illuminating, for me. I feel that there can be much more appreciation in India for the diversity factor which we inherently possess as a country, and there can be much more cross learning from the vast cultural gaps there exist, between say a Kannadiga and Delhi ite- the unfortunate spat bw Kumble and Kohli is an example, and is covered in R Guha's article here. Kumble's tenacity and background in sports analytics (a company he formed) combined with Kohli's aggression and visceral desire to win could have helped India really become a world champion team and prevent the debacle in South Africa we are witnessing. In India, we need to appreciate diversity instead of mocking it, as I feel is the norm. Nadella's paras about life in HPS hostel offer a good example on those lines.
His descriptions of cricket are fun, including how he was in awe of Jaisimha's on-field presence- his fashionable upturned collar and distinctive gait. I remember having a discussion with VB when he said Azhar left a similar impression on him; VB- Jaisimha is probably the inspiration for Azhar! Actually, Hyderabad seems to have declined as a cricket powerhouse. Anyway, Badminton and Olympic medals have replaced it, which I feel is totally fine. By the way, he's creating a full size cricket stadium in the Microsoft campus, which is good for the game. Cricket needs to be an Olympic sport.
He's given an account of his love story, which is heart warming. He later talks about the travails of having a kid with severe disabilities, and how that experience has shaped him to be much more empathetic to people with different needs.
Summing up, some of the points of resonance for me:
Literature (references to Snowcrash and Netherlands, books I've read!)
Technology meets human meets government
Diversity in India
A few small things, like his life in Mussoorie in the company of Nanda Devi- a month ago I too shared the company of Nanda Devi!
Saturday, January 20, 2018
A post post the Post
The Post saw the Supreme Court in its 6-3 ruling, and a united Media (NY Times+Washington Post), come together as one - involved in a show of strength for the 'check and balance' side, in the democracy. Good job, yo, media and jury.
In the US consciousness, this movie probably comes at a good time- the zeitgeist of the press bashing from Trump and the Metoo movement being represented in the movie by the attitude of Nixon towards the press (his sentences on the white house silhouette shots mirror those from a certain famous twitter handle), and Meryl Streep's rise.
It was also interesting for me that the lawyer team of two in the movie stars two actors who I recognize from some of my infrequent dalliances with Sitcoms- Jared from Silicon Valley and Robert Daley from 4*1 Black Mirror 'USS Callister.
Oh and this was the first movie I've gone to a theater watched alone. But, in my social self's defence, the theater was 750 m away from my house and I booked it just an hour in advance, and I did reach out to a large-ish whatsapp group.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Deoriatal lake and Chandrashila summit (4,000 m) - a walk to remember
Base camp Chopta, with Blue being dining tent and White being kitchen tent. In the background looms our constant companion, Chaukhamba
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