Astonish

Daily prompt : Astonish

Life never ceases to astonish. I ‘ve had my share of good and bad.

I won some battles but lost many wars. I’m not sure how but I’ve come this far.

Sometimes I gave up, sometimes I fought back. Sometimes I lost control, sometimes I held back.

Many times I have been confused, not knowing what to do or where to look. But the faith inside ensured the situation itself got diffused.

I’ve made mistakes, made amends but always managed to get through with the best wishes of close friends.

Looking back in hindsight, I reminisce. Wondering how much more or how much less did I miss.

For all its troubles and and all its worries, there are some angels and some fairies.

For all its glory it’s not without its blemish, Life never ceases to astonish.

Daily Prompt: Tantrum

Tantrum

Tantrums

When my daughter was just out of infancy, she threw her first tantrum. She was being fed a particular kind of baby food and she just spit it out. With each attempt, her reaction got stronger, she would move her head left and right and violently kick her feet with a shrill cry of protest.She was not obviously liking the food and that was her way of conveying the feeling. Welcome to tantrums!

Tantrums are one of nature’s most effective ways of conveying displeasure, mostly. Though tantrums are largely associated with kids and teenagers, adults too display them in a more manipulative way.

Infants and young kids are simple and pure at heart. The seed of ego is yet to sprout and the ‘ways of the world’ are not yet ‘cultivated’. Hence the reason for the tantrum could be as simple as a toy, a food item or a desire to be taken out somewhere. These tantrums though not difficult, could be tricky to handle.

When it comes to teenagers, the world has just started to open up. The ego has started to manifest itself and last but not the least, peer pressure is starting to build up. Accordingly, based on the reason and situation, the display of tantrums could range from shouting, arguing, throwing things or simply shutting themselves up in a room. Handling a teenager’s tantrum is lot more tricky and difficult.

Tantrums in adults can have an entirely different dimension or meaning. Adults would use tantrum more as weapon or a tool to get certain things done. Or to convey certain message which cannot be done in a conventional way. Or to divert attention from some other thing that they do not want highlighted. Or to plainly get something done while conveying something else!

Bottom line, tantrums can get as simple or as complicated as the user wants them to be. They can also bring out the ‘innovativeness’ in whoever is throwing them. It goes without saying that tantrums are the most effective ways of expression in the repertoire of human skills. Just that God wanted us to spice up our communications.

Overwhelmed By Technology

 

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Few years back when I was with my earlier organisation, an IT major at the cutting edge of technology, we used to have a monthly meeting with team leads of different projects. Every meeting, one of the team leads had to talk briefly on a particular technology or a technical aspect. After that the Director would wax eloquently about the upcoming technologies like 4G/5G, Connected cars, Digital life, Big Data, AI etc. and that how lucky we were to be in the midst of the next ‘revolution’.

Frankly, at the risk of sounding retrograde, old school or plainly out of sync and ruffling a few feathers of the techie readers, I felt the opposite. I felt and still feel that we are going down a sinkhole of technology, too much of technology.

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Seems like we are no longer living in ether space but in a sea of wi-fi. Always connected, GPS’d (located) and updated at all times. We eat and drink data, sleep in the internet and dream in the ethernet. We are stuck on the grid like a prey on the spider’s web.

 

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Ever since the technology has boomed and the internet speeds skyrocketed, we have been sucked into the never ending vicious circle. More the internet speeds, more content or data we consume and the more we consume, the more we pay for the data consumption! Consequently, the telecom and the OTT service providers and the ISPs are laughing all the way to the banks.

They have successfully hooked us on to fancy mobile phones, gadgets and the consequent data consumption. The techies or the geeks particularly take pleasure in wallowing in technology. I know geeks who proudly proclaim that they live their life in the IDEs.

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Of-course, the companies are driven by business and they salivate at every possible business opportunity, no complaints there. My grudge is against too much use and dependence on technology. Let’s run through a few examples here:

 

 

1. AI Assistantalexa

The Amazon Echo uses Alexa, Amazon’s voice control system to listen to your commands and fulfill them. Have we become so busy, lazy or dumb that we need assistants to do our daily routine jobs?? It can play music tracks for you, dim lights, create a to-do list and of-course order some stuff on Amazon! Naturally, it would be connected to the internet at all times and gobble gigabits of data!

Why can’t we see through the game here? The more dependent we become on these gadgets the more dumb and helpless we get and we still pay for it. Why do we need a AI assistant to tell us what to do, create a shopping list, remind us of birthdays and what not….? This beats me.

 

2. Digital Life                    digitallife-none

Another amazing phrase or a concept. It is being touted as if you would achieve Nirvana if you live the digital life. I remember watching this marketing video which depicted the digital life. It showed, you could remotely lock or unlock your home doors, move your window curtains, control the lights, control the temperature of your home, turn on and off the water tap, basically control almost every gadget or machine that can be connected to the internet. Now I don’t want to sound a spoil sport but what happens in the event of a malware attack or the internet simply goes down for a couple of hours?? This brings us to the third and more worrying example…

 

3. IoT (Internet of Things)

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As the name suggests, they are planning to connect almost every conceivable thing to the internet and to have them ‘talk’ to each other as well. The ‘thing’ here means mobiles, gadgets, home appliances, vehicles, sensors, actuators and transplants. According to Wiki, by 2020, the IoT could consist of roughly 30 billion objects. It also estimates the global market value of IoT to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020! Maybe humans too would become one of the IoT if they put transplants in us. Each of us could have an IP address then!

The connected car for example, would turn on the engine and the AC few minutes before you board the car so that the temperature inside is just right. As soon as you are seated, perhaps it could list out the things you need to buy from the grocery, provide you updates on the weather and traffic, remind you of a meeting or the upcoming dates to pay up your bills, the list is endless. Wouldn’t you rather just sit in the car, turn on your favorite music and just drive away instead of listening to irritating endless babble?

But wait, there is something more scarier coming our way…

 

4. Artificial intelligence (AI)      AI2

An obscene amount of data is being collected and crunched every day by the social media sites, search engines and the ISPs. The creative techies have written and continue to write awesome algorithms that enable the computers or the devices they reside in to constantly learn and improve on their own. They call it machine learning. The algorithms find out patterns in our behavior, find out likes, dislikes and traits and accordingly present us with suggestions on what to buy, what to eat, which movies to watch and so on.

The problem with AI starts when the machine starts developing its own logic and judgement and down the line there are chances that it would simply get out of hand. As an example, if you need to go to the airport to catch a flight in an autonomous car and for some reason you start late and instruct the car to take the best possible route and speed up, you could end up  with a siren blaring police vehicle on your back.

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On the other hand, if it decides to obey the traffic lights and rules, effectively means it is developing its own judgement and logic. Think about it, as it develops on that logic one day, it would start arguing and ultimately override you. Still worse, if the AI technology falls into unwanted hands, you have a sure-shot recipe for Armageddon.

Now am not completely against technology. Let us use it on need basis like weather forecasting, diagnostics, research, simulations [or WordPress blogs  🙂 ] etc. But when it comes to our personal lives, shouldn’t we be better off on our own deciding what to do, what to buy, what to eat and what to watch? Shouldn’t we be driving our own cars and riding our own bikes? Why do we need some smart alec  machine to subtly influence or dictate our lives?

I haven’t even touched the topic of ‘privacy’ here. Would be happy to know your thoughts.

Can’t help but sum up the addiction and dependence on technology with these apt lyrics from Def leppard’s White Lightening:

You wanna leave but you can’t let go
You wanna stop but you can’t say no
You’ll never laugh about it
You just can’t live without it
You had enough but you just want more
You never get what you’re lookin’ for
You’ll never laugh about it, never…

 

 

Abstract Writing

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After my last post few weeks back, I had been thinking, procrastinating, reminiscing, waiting, forgetting and finally forcing myself to write a new post. Well, here am I trying to put together words but still struggling with them. It is 11 p.m. after a not so pleasant day at office, I am shuffling in my chair partly fighting fatigue and partly the ghost of writer’s block. I have got no clue what am going to write, I cannot think about any topic, subject or phenomenon to write. I do not know from where or how am going to get that stimulus to write. I am panning my surroundings trying to catch that elusive clue, that thin thread to pull out the ideas from the subconscious, that spark to fire up the thought process. However, am still at the starting block, seemingly frozen and locked up.

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By now, I have downed one cup of strong coffee hoping to clear the cobwebs in the mind and coaxing the amygdala to throw up some emotions but in vain. Few minutes have passed, I venture out in the balcony. The outside world seems to be peacefully disappearing into the night. The gentle breeze blowing off a few dry leaves off the tree is adding the necessary special effects. Although my conscience is coaxing me to write, my mind refuses to oblige.

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Now I change my tactic. I calm down, settle into my chair and take a deep breath. I close my eyes and try to focus inside, trying to rein in my adamant brain. No am not meditating though it may seem so. Sure enough the first thought that strikes is why doesn’t  the medical research fraternity make a pill to generate thoughts and ideas? Just pop a pill and voilà….you’ve got a nice bunch of ideas. But it’s of no use if the ideas just pop up randomly and overlap each other. As it is, the mind is a chaotic being. To be able to do or write something constructively, we need to reach that ‘ordered mental condition’.

Most-valuable-skill-Abraham

And to reach that condition, the psychic energy has to be channeled in a particular way so as to generate ‘the flow’. But we hardly notice how little control we have on our thoughts unless we are involved with some external stimulus like playing a game, watching a movie, reading a book, driving on a challenging road and so on. But as soon as the external stimulus is taken off, the mind wanders off to who knows where. It has the uncanny ability to fill itself with trash and gibberish. According to well-known psychologists, to control this chaos, we have to practice habits that facilitate control over the thought process. One of the simplest techniques is daydreaming, playing out pleasant and interesting sequences as mental images.

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Jerome Singer, a Yale psychologist who has studied daydreaming and mental imagery perhaps more than anyone else has suggested that it can help create mental order and reduce frustration and pain of unpleasant past experiences. Sounds interesting, if only we could spend a better part of the day – daydreaming! The entropy in my mind kicks in….how do you study daydreaming? By studying other’s daydreams and daydreaming yourself? Not bad for a job. Now this has got me thinking, what did the great philosophers and thinkers used to do? What was the motivation for thinking when there were no incentives like the Nobel prize or monetary awards?

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It is said that they just enjoyed the process of thinking more than anything else. Democritus, a pre-Socratic philosopher would sit for days immersed in thought. His countrymen, the Abderites had no clue what he was doing and thought that he was acting funny or was plainly ill. So they sent Hippocrates, a great doctor that time to check what was wrong. Now Hippocrates was not only a good doctor but also a wise man. After his discussions with Democritus, he immediately understood that he was merely lost in his flow of thoughts. Some of the retrieved fragments of Democritus’ writings prove how much he enjoyed the practice of thinking: “It is Godlike ever to think on something beautiful and on something new”; “Happiness does not reside in strength or money; it lies in rightness and many-sidedness”; “I would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia”.

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Democritus

Suddenly, the entropy in my mind again kicked in, I wanted to write on a particular topic but ended up on a roller coaster of random thoughts moving between the present, past and generally the abstract. Now I do not understand much about abstract painting which to me looks like random brush strokes of colors but I would liken whatever I have put down so far to abstract form of writing.