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Showing posts from 2015

How do we respond?

This is a question that is on almost everyone’s mind following the horrific attacks on Paris last weekend. It’s a question that most people can’t answer, and neither can I. I will, however, try to make the best sense of what happened.Some gunmen attacked Paris, and left over 150 dead and over 300 wounded. I remember the sense of horror and confusion that I felt at the time of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Yet, during the time of the attacks, I was over two hundred kilometres away from Mumbai, safe in the city of Nashik.With any terrorist attack, there is always the spectacle, the theatrics that are the scariest. Ten people with guns caught an entire country off-guard for three days. Three days of not knowing how many people were responsible, or why we were attacked. And so, I can empathise with the people in Paris.I may be speaking from a position of privilege here, and I really don’t know how it feels to be a person who has lost a loved one to a senseless attack, but I’ve become increasin…

Why I Support Digital India on Facebook

Supporting a cause on Facebook is the way to go, unless of course, the cause is endorsed by the Prime Minister of India, in which case, either you are an angel or a devil, depending on your political leanings.Recently, the Prime Minister met Mark Zuckerberg, and asked people to change their profile pictures to be overlaid with a tricolour and a network representing digital connectivity. As you can probably tell from my Facebook profile page, I changed my picture.Then stuff hit the fan. Apparently, buried in the code was a reference to , a contentious business venture by Facebook to provide ‘free’ internet to poor people in India. Apparently, what Facebook wants to do is provide Facebook for free, which allows Facebook to tap into a demographic that has since eluded it, and which will also prevent competitors from opening up shop in India – we won't have our own Renren.Now, I support net neutrality, but I don't think that internet.org is about net neutrality. A big company want…

What is 'Orwellian'?

Ever since the Snowden leaks – and even before them – we've been hearing the word ‘Orwellian’ to describe the state of surveillance we're living under. But what exactly does the word ‘Orwellian’ mean? What was George Orwell so afraid of and that he cautioned us against?Reading two of his definitive books – ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ and ‘Animal Farm’ – I cannot believe that Orwell was afraid of increasing surveillance. I believe that Orwell was afraid of something more. In the world described in ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’, constant, never-ending surveillance is only tiny part – a means to an end. The end what is scarier.Moreover, I refuse to believe that the word ‘Orwellian’ should be used to describe just one tiny component of one novel written. No, I believe that the description should apply to a broader concept.I believe that to understand the term ‘Orwellian’, one must look to the earlier story – ‘Animal Farm’. Indeed, I think that ‘Animal Farm’ really sets the stage for the ideas…

A Loss of Wonder

At some point, we stopped telling the stories we used to tell.We used to tell stories that evoked a sense of wonder, a sense of the infinite possibilities out there, both for us as persons and for mankind. Now, we tell stories of mundane people involved in everyday tasks.I've been watching a lot of ‘Star Trek’ recently. I started watching the original series two years ago, then switched to ‘The Next Generation’, and now back to the original series. The contrast is stark.While the original series really spoke of the endless possibilities once we reached space, and interstellar travel; TNG really dealt with socio-political issues of the day. In a sense, TNG was really the story of the world in the 1990s, set in the twenty-fourth century.Maybe my wistful longing for the 60s can be attributed to the allure of nostalgia so poignantly described in ‘Midnight in Paris’; however I think this is unlikely.To my mind, the 60s were the epitome of an optimistic thinking that hasn't been see…

Excellent Sheep: A Review

Ever since William Deresiewicz appeared on The Colbert Report, I've wanted to read his book "Excellent Sheep: The miseducation of America's elite and the path to a meaningful life". I finally managed to get my hands on the book (thanks to Cornell's excellent library system, which includes BorrowDirect). Having got my hands on the book, I had to read it, and found myself agreeing with everything Deresiewicz said in the first 10 pages or so. After that, my reaction was rather of the WTF type.Deresiewicz does a good job explaining how the Ivy leagues got to this current level of snobbery that they stand at right now. He explains how the admissions procedure was constantly tweaked to make them an old boys' club. How the SATs were implemented as a method to bring some sanity to the admissions procedure. How admissions committees mercilessly demand higher and higher (and frankly unrealistic) levels of excellence from students, and how the rich boys' club has b…