30 Dec 2012

Fawning over erstwhile opium dealers

There is an article out at Firstpost which has had a indignant reception: Parsis are right on top as the finest Indians

I have not come across such a blinkered, biased, sycophantic and downright divisive article for quite some time. The readers' comments below the article more or less sums up my personal view about the Parsi community.

But the article itself rankles... Here are some of the author's views - and my observations.

"If one is observant and looks around, the most civilised things around us are usually not our own contribution."

Interestingly, almost all these 'civilised' institutions - including the author's own school - were probably financed with money made from the opium trade that wrecked India's economy and devastated Chinese society between the 18th and 19th centuries. (Read about the Opium Wars.)

The author admits: "Parsis made much money on opium, and some still hold against them (I don’t)."

I don't hold it against the entire Parsi community but... prior to their despicable economic arrangement with the British East India Company (of forced opuim cultivation in India and forced import into China), India and China together accounted for about 50% of the world's GDP!

The author goes on...

Like Carnegie, like Rockefeller, like Gates, like Buffet, the Tatas knew to what end they were creating wealth.

To improve society.


If the creation of wealth has a purpose, as Andrew Carnegie explained it did in his writing, Indians haven’t learnt it yet.

I sincerely hope the Tatas (despite their opium-financed background) are not in the same league as the rest of those sinister High Priests of Mammon. (Read about the Dodd Commission that investigated nonprofit foundations in the US in the early 50s.)

The overarching influence of oligarchic agendas on governments is known all too well. Remember the Nira Radia tapes? That nonprofits, charitable trusts, think tanks and lobbyists are added to the list is not not something to crow about.

The author come across as an drooling imbecile - but if he is not - and there is another "purpose" that put him up to publishing the article, we have every reason pay very close attention. Indeed, he ends with the words that the "higher purpose is more secure in the hands of a Parsi."

Higher purpose. Civilised institutions. Improving society... I am not a betting man, but I am willing to wager that what the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Buffets, Gates or indeed the Tatas have in mind has very little to do with the general public's interpretations of those words.

26 Dec 2012

Is Linkedin changing for the worse?

I've noticed lately that Linkedin has stepped up its game of catch-up with the other social networking platforms – by becoming increasingly pushy, intrusive and diverging from simple profiles (and external links) into a sprawling tangle of embedded media.

As part of this plot, Linkedin seem to be concealing or eliminating external links on the Profile page.

The "new & improved" Linkedin layout has hidden blog ids and websites, which earlier appeared immediately below one’s name and designation on the Profile page. It is now relegated under the ‘contact info’ dropdown panel. This makes a big difference to people who maintain a blog or website as the primary repository of their work and thought. Instead, Linkedin now offers the option to upload images, videos and documents directly onto Linkedin. And I feel the new ‘endorse skill’ option does nothing more than building tighter links within a network.

Personally, I don’t take kindly to being locked-in to any platform – perhaps I am cyber-claustrophobic. (By the way, the Amazon-sponsored Reading List has vanished as well.)

Linkedin’s game-plan is possibly two-fold: one, encourage richer profiles to create narrower and more niche audience segments for marketers / advertisers to target; and two, increase dependence and frequency of engagement by corralling more of one’s professional life onto a single platform.


This is the age of the Splinternet – where “ownership” of the Internet's most valuable content is consolidated between giant corporations with elitist shareholders.

Between the various technology platform owners, the lives, likes and thoughts of Internet-users are being aggregated, divvied up, packaged and sold in the cyber bazaar of our Brave New Digital World!

23 Dec 2012

The Rise of the Machines; the Fall of Man

Techo-worshippers and iGadget-devotees believe that technology will solve many - if not all - of the society's ills. In this techology-enabled utopia, no one would have to work - because robots will do all the production for us, and software programmes will take care of all public services. Poverty and inequality will be eradicated, with everyone having access to more or less the same standardised levels of goods and services. And when everyone has everything they need (or want) there will be ULTIMATELY no more reason for wars!

Humankind would be on a sort of perpetual vacation expanding its collective consciousness or experimenting with new art-forms.

That technology will make many, if not most jobs redundant soon is nearly indisputable... (Even the "creative" domains like Advertising will not be spared the algorithic takeover.)

In my opinion, it would be 'economics' rather than 'technology' that impels automation. Because after large-scale immigration and outsourcing, automation is the only avenue left (other than outright slave labour) for corporations to drive cost down further and increase profits.

Looking back at history, we can be fairly certain that the fruits of an automation revolution will not be evenly distributed. For example, the industrial revolution in the British Isles was powered by steam, child labour and the fear of debtors' prisons.

In all likelihood, THIS is kind of automation that will take place...


In 1978, one of the earliest "shooting video games", Space Invaders was designed and launched by a Japanese video game developer, Tomohiro Nishikado. By 2010, warfare took on so many features of shooting video games that we had drone operators ostensibly suffering from PlayStation Mentality while killing men, women and sometimes children in a warzone on the other side of the world!

Human history is replete with instances of the strong exploiting the weak. Unfortunately, there may have never EVER existed a completely fair and equitable society on Planet Earth. What may come next in this technologically-interconnected world could be the ultimate failing of mankind... Prepare accordingly.

12 Dec 2012

Barefaced titillation for wordmongers

Much of the 'information' on Web 2.0 is visual. Despite the dominance of word-search engines, it is largely an imagery-centred medium.

I suppose this has to do with the fact that the Internet today is geared for making connections rather than sharing knowledge -- and to paraphrase that frayed adage on communication: A picture can tell more about you than a thousand words!

So it is a special feeling to come across the occasional blog-post that unabashedly celebrates the written word and its eccentricities.

Do you belong to the breed of wordsmiths who find poor punctuation in a pornographic novella positively scandalous, misspelling in a restaurant completely unpalatable, or errant double-spacing in an propaganda piece thoroughly distracting?

If you do, you may relate quite well to the sentiments expressed in this article from the blog of The Granta magazine, which was founded by students of Cambridge University in 1889 -- the magazine, not the blog.

P.S: If you find hairsplitting over split infinitives and spirited discussions on the propriety of certain hyphens fascinating, do not miss the 'Comments' section.

10 Dec 2012

This blog post does not exist

According to some interpretations in Indian philosophy, everything's an illusion. There is no absolute reality - or truth. I buy that. Even this blog post is a mere illusion - it's just a visual representation of thoughts conveyed through lines of software code and light emitting hardware.

However some illusions can be more thought-provoking than others. Take this pair of videos for instance...