About the Blog

This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

August 29, 2009


This week & one before has been tough for me, I have been going through excruciating pains of body induced infirmity. And I have been trying to take my mind away from it by watching endless sessions of brilliant presentation of ideas on TED. Now what’s TED? Many people may have not heard about and many more may not have fully comprehended this 3 letter phenomenon called TED. I’ll give an interesting analogy; Everyone must be aware of the smash hit movie of the early 80s called Superman. In the movie there is this glowing green crystal that magically builds the Fortress of Solitude resembling the architecture of Krypton on earth. Activating a control panel inside the fortress, a vision of Jor-El (Superman’s father) explains Clark (Superman, originally Kal-El) on origins, educating him in his powers and responsibilities and finally empowers him to save the world. Now imagine if there ever was such a green crystal in reality what would it do? Ofcourse it would build a fortress of wonder & rediscovery by enabling visions of some of the most talented & intelligent people on earth doing things that usually occupy the outer reaches of fiction. They may not be Kryptonites but their ideas certainly border on Möbius Strip, much like its mathematical origins, blurs boundaries and they are out there to suspend people’s beliefs & imagination and to educate them just like in the movie. TED is equivalent of that green crystal because that’s exactly what it’s set out to do.

TED in short for technology, entertainment and design is a small non-profit devoted to ideas worth spreading and was the brainchild of Richard Wurman but now run by Chris Anderson. It may have started with three disciplines 25 years ago but has become the meeting place of the greatest minds from across disciplines today . The Quality of the speakers & their crisp 18 minute and thereabout talk addresses just about everything. Sample this
• Do you know just in time or as it happens mapping of brain is possible? Christopher deCharms demonstrates a new way to use fMRI to show brain activity -- thoughts, emotions, pain -- while it is happening
• Want to know why the Osama Bin Laden’s or the Pramod Mutalik (of Pink Chaddi fame) of the world do & act the way they do? Blame it on dangerous Memes that Dan Dennett explains
• Are you aware of the 4 sets of Ideas that are impacting India & its implication on the world at large ? Delve into Nandan Nilekani’s mind for answers
• Do you know that the search for cosmic company till now has been equivalent to scooping one glass of water from an ocean and we are already expecting fish in it? SETI's Jill Tarter explains..

You could watch this & many more at www.ted.com and be a part of the growing list of 100 million plus lucky viewers to date.

August 17, 2009

Levitt’ating Economics

Economics , can be a subject vacillating between extremities. Atleast that’s the way I found it to be. On one hand you’ll find tonnes of theories propounded by John Maynard Keynes, Adam Smith and their ilk and among the reams of such theories lay ideas of on how Market forces interact at macro & micro level. Esoteric as it may be , on the other hand you have economics lay buried in Complex mathematical equations, and awash with numbers spewed by statistics. It therefore required someone like Levitt & Dubner to have done economics a great favour by taking it to middle ground and demystifing it in this book ‘Frekonomics – A Rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything‘. That they have done it admirably in this book lies in no doubt, but more importantly during this process, they have succeeded in relating Economics to a layman and his common sense.

Using various case studies Levitt & Dubner, unravel Economics with a basic hypothesis that it operates at a fundamental level on an elaborate scheme of Incentives (or disincentives) as one would call it. And in many a ways they use Economics to explain missing links between seemingly unrelated phenomena. Like the commonality between School teachers & Sumo wrestlers ; how they conveniently bend the rules of the game to incentivise themselves. Or the striking similarity in the way Drug Cartel organise themselves and operate like any corporate entity say McDonalds (their analogy) makes interesting reading.

They also show how Economics can also make strange bedfellows, however jarring it may be, for instance they elaborately make a case out of how abortion was one of the greatest crime lowering factors in American history contrary to popular wisdom. In another instance they show how the Internet has flattened the ‘Information Asymmetry’. The book goes to add “Information is the currency of the Internet. As a medium, the internet is brilliantly efficient at shifting information from the hands of those who have it into the hands of those who do not”. Bad news for all those experts; Doctors, Lawyers, Insurance salesman or the Real estate agents.

In a nutshell it is a wonderful compilation from someone self described as “ an economist who instead of thinking grand macro thoughts, favoured his own list of offbeat micro curiosities”.

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