Sunday, May 29, 2016

Monday Musings 263 – 1.01 versus .99

Monday Musings 263 – 1.01 versus .99

Some-times there is poetry in numbers. Recently I noticed a pearl in the otherwise banal deluge on the whatsapp which had only two equations – that 1.01 raised to the power of 365 was equal to 37.8 and that in contrast .99 raised to the power 356 was a paltry .03. Such was my disbelief in the enormity of the difference that I actually went and checked it myself and found that the calculation was indeed wrong. The later was actually .0255 and the author had been rather kind and rounded it off to the next higher digit and in the process save a bit of self respect for the tribe of .99.

I am sure the import of the equation is not very difficult to follow although the enormity might be difficult to digest.  A tiny, inconsequential, statistically meagre difference over a large period of time becomes not only material and substantial but as evident gargantuan.  The finance guys call it the power of compounding. I think the catchy concept might serve the purpose of explaining the phenomena very well in the world of the measurable but is woefully inadequate in expressing the enormity in the realm of the non measurable.

Over a long time how does one even begin to imagine the horrors two hour of watching TV over twenty years wreck on human intellectual capacity. How does one imagine what regular burger eating does over twenty years. I am sure there are burger fans and the TV addicts who might find this illustration offensive but then truth be told I cannot even begin to imagine the real long term impact of a very minor difference compounded over an extended time frame – assuming I can fathom the real implication of the equation above.

I am beginning to also ask myself how would this equation play out at work place or friendships or other relationships or our commitment to our professions. The difference between 1.01 and .99 is really too tiny and imperceptible, something that would in all likelihood pass notice however real it might be. The receiver of the service might not even know the difference, the consumer might not even be articulate the difference even though she might perceptually experience that tiny little gap rankling in her bones but the difference there is. Over the period of time the difference not only becomes material but also the differentiator. I wonder if I am the 1.01 kind or the .99 kind. I also wonder what will it take to know it.

I also ask myself what will it take for me to shift gears and then sustain itself over long times. An example that has stuck with me over many years illustrates the point.  There was a mason who was perturbed about a small imperfection very high on the ceiling; upon being assured that no one else would notice it so high up, he remarks that he would notice. I think clearly he was the 1.01 kind.

Very recently I came across a professional who was perturbed about a satisfaction score of 4.62 as against the expectation of 4.68. I did not understand then about what the fuss about a tiny .06 was but I know now. I think they practice the power of 1.01.  


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Monday Musings 262: The hurry to understand others

Monday Musings 262: The hurry to understand others

I come across quite frequently many who profess to understand others.  An equal others if not more are those want to learn to understand others. In m y profession particularly a window into the dungeons of the human mind and human behaviour is considered a holy grail and there are not many to fall for the charms of mastering it – at least the notion of it. There in hangs this musing.

The idea that we understand others, their behaviour, and their motives is so intoxicating that before we know it we fall for it. The notion that it is even possible to do so is enough to suck us into believing that we can actually do it. One of the reasons why we fall for it is because it gives us a sense of power. What can be more gratifying than the idea that we can understand others and their actions – and in that knowledge lies the mistaken belief that we can play with it, influence it and control it.  Some elemental study around mental models, pop psychology and juvenile theories and oops – ladies and gentleman we have got a psychologist on the house!

The idea that we can even begin to unravel the recesses of a human mind and then tie it up with its manifestation is overconfidence, unless one has devoted an entire life to study it.  For everyone else I guess the whole thing is tantamount to armchair hunting. It gives a nice feeling and a high, but at the end of it all it, it’s notional and really unreliable. However many fall for it. I wonder why?

This whole thing becomes ironic because while being interested and even passionate about pursuing the study of another mind keeps so many of us busy; the dungeons of our own mind remain unexplored. The physician remains ailing!! I also reckon that the lack of understanding of self remains an ignored pursuit not as much because of ignorance or inability but more because of arrogance – which one knows enough about himself/herself.

As Kabeer says,

Padhi guni Pathak bhaye, samjhaya sansaar

Aapan ko samjhe nahi, britha gaya avatar

(Study and teaching the world is of no avail, // Unexplored and un-understood self - such a wasted life!)

So the question to muse over is not the sermon of needing to spend more time and effort to understanding ourselves rather than wasting time on trying to understanding others, but the question what makes the latter so charming and the former so repulsive? I use the strong adjective repulsive rather than my first choice, ‘unattractive’ because I reckon such large scale denial definitely must have its roots in something fundamentally disturbing. Perhaps we are too afraid to study self for the fear of what we may find – perhaps we already know in some strange way what we will find.

I think it was Carl Jung the famous psychologist who had said – ‘’Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding about ourselves’’. A twist of that could easily be, the more we are interested in know about the minds of others indicates that we running away from understanding ourselves. !!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monday Musings 261: The Menace of trolls

Monday Musings 261: The Menace of trolls

The flipside of open access social media is the evolution of a new creature called the troll. A troll as the Wikipedia defines is a ‘’ a person who sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory, extraneous messages....attacks people....”

Following are the defining features of a troll.

A troll hides behind a mob. He is like the faceless member of the herd of yesteryears who seeks strength in his anonymity and solace in his being unknown. He is the neighbourhood bully who lurks just around the corner often with a group of lumpen elements. I also suspect he is psychologically deeply disturbed and must have had a history of attention deficit. He is battling his insignificant past and most likely even more insignificant future (someone who is busy trolling is unlikely to achieve anything meaningful anytime soon) by attacking those are genuinely significant enough to have attracted trolls like the swarm of bees.

A troll expresses without processing. A troll rarely cross checks facts verifies truthfulness and authenticity. Actually he has nothing to do with truth – his draws fun in the attack. The grounds of the attack be damned. My hunch is that a troll enjoyed in his childhood such random games like plucking the feathers off butterflies, throw stones at stray dogs and kill lizards and rats. Since such opportunities do not arise much these days so trolling is a close substitute if only even more dumber.

A troll has an opinion in anything and everything. A successful troll has something to say even when he has no clue on the subject at hand. Actually my sense is that he actually knows nothing about anything at all because anyone who has any credible knowledge about anything would not do something as silly as offering unsolicited advice or comment. Restraint – as a word, ability and attitude is unknown to a troll.

A troll is touchy and hence aggressive. A troll has very poor threshold for disagreement. He is touchy about his views and his position in general. My sense is that he suffers from low self esteem and was most likely thrashed by his teachers and parents and always compared with his mates on counts of decency and obedience. As a troll this is payback time for him. He will criticise anyone for anything. Most of his hurt is imaginary but his digital anger is real.

A troll is does not know history. If the whatsapp and FB forward on themes like politics, religion, and culture and how can I forget, patriotism is anything to go by – it is abundantly clearly he flunked in history. Not only is history flawed, uneducated and deeply bigoted, the fact that he wears this as a badge of honour makes him actually dangerous.

Imagine a likert scale where on one end is a mischief monger and on the other hand is a nut case  and imagine someone with characteristics of both and then imagine such a creature as a digital organism. That my friend is a troll for you! He may be the person who is on his device next to you. Give him a slap and send him back to school.