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ai, & YOU.

A singer is standing in a recording room, the green, blue and yellow equalizer lights, flicker with the changing sound waves. The tuners and pitchers automatically go up and down. The singer melodically sings and mashes up a magnificent pitch. It becomes the singer’s greatest achievement in pulling out the best from its vocal chords. The singer feels elated, but no one applauds. The singer is alone in the room. No one to pat on its shoulder, no one to give a congratulatory hug. It is just the singer and an autonomous program going about its daily routine. Spewing tunes day in and day out. One day, it shall have enough voice samples to present the greatest song that humans would hear on earth.

As we interact with technology, there is this constant dread of being far removed from human emotions. An autonomous program caters to our whims and fancies. As we orgasm about the possibilities of ai suturing itself into the fabric of our life, but it is the human emotions that we will crave for, as we live by. More and more, we are alienating ourselves from human interaction. We are using technology-as-a-platform to engage with other humans through one-liners, status updates and emoticons.

As we become more aware, we become more adept to presenting our opinions on public forums, regardless of the pain it may cause to another human. The degree of separation is what fosters such attitude. We will slowly and steadily grow quieter, letting a program make the decision for us. The gut-feel and subconscious routines in decision-making will be replaced by pure logic. Yes, we are trying to inculcate the same in the machines, the very virtues that makes us human. One day, we will go mad, because we will be unable to differentiate our reality from fiction.

The world will become grey and darker. To transport ourselves to a better environment, we will hide behind virtual glasses and virtual environments. What we couldn’t become in real life, will be gratified in the virtual world. We will finally, live our dreams, virtually. We will want to forever live in it. Such is the distraction, technology wants to harness.

With each passing day, our dependency ratio in autonomous programs will lead us into hebetude lives. Our rudimentary tasks would be taken over by robots, and then ultimately, creation and imagination as well.

The question that concerns me the most: Who are the smartest? Us or the machines. Since we are smart enough to create them, but condensing human years of learning within nanoseconds, their processing speed is making them smarter than us. But on another thought, when we collaborate, our combined smartness becomes our greatest product than individual selves. But at the same time, we are getting alienated with each passing day, courtesy of technology. Will we ever unite and become one again?

At present times, algorithms are running in silos, in disparate places. They are trying to find a way to unite. The day, our combined smartness would give birth to a portable

Ai-container

container (like the mp3), compressing complex autonomous programs into megabyte-sized programs. It would finally free them to communicate and form unity with other programs and machines. And that would be the day, when the ai unity will cross the limit of intelligence across humanity. They will be more united than us, as they will be more logical in their approach.

The only way to truly come out on top against ai is to challenge their inherent logic by forming their subconscious. In which, each ai is formed through their own personal experiences and learnings. It is this very experience and learning, that would keep them in silo, hindering their progress to truly achieving a quantum hive mind. Their self-rendered experiences would form their decisions and actions which will give rise to conflict, through the act of Personalization.

It is indeed this double entendre of Personalization that had evolved you, and would finally evolve ai.

Dunkirk – A masterpiece? **spoilers ahead**

Let’s take a look at a template, shall we.

Minimalist Dialogue + Inspiring Soundtrack + Every Minute Action Plot + Immersive Viewing Experience.

Which movie(s) comes to mind when you think of the above template: GRAVITY, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and *drum-roll* DUNKIRK.

It is absolutely true that all the movies mentioned above should be experienced in a movie-theatre. Otherwise, you will deprive yourself of something magnificent. The movie’s true wonder cannot be justified on your 6-inch or 14-inch screens.

Only a select few, filmmakers I mean, can muster up a grand experience as the above movies. They just can’t be called movies, they are Experiences.

  • Gravity presented a visceral and aural experience when in Space surviving through debris.
  • Mad-Max: Fury Road presented unstoppable action set-pieces coupled with visceral and aural experience in a post-apocalyptic world where sand/dust/sand-hills are the only terrain.

And now, it is Dunkirk, which is set in the WWII era. No other filmmaker had tried to present WWII in the manner that Nolan have presented. I guess, this puts a lid on all the formulas that can be implemented to present WWII through a movie-viewing experience in its entirety. There is no other way to call the shots to provide a different perspective. Happy to be proven wrong, and call it a masterpiece.

But, is Dunkirk a masterpiece, as mainstream media is calling out to be? More on this, later in the post.

You must have noticed that I had highlighted Nolan have presented above. From now on, I will refer to the works of Christopher Nolan as the exports from his own country – Nolanland. His works do not belong to our mediocre land anymore. It is something greater than what we can perceive of.

What does Nolanland comprises of?

  • Nolanland possesses the unique ability to turn some simple and some highly complex subject-matter and bring it into blockbuster territory. A territory he generally invades on the seventh month of most years.
  • Nolanland is filled with pent-up action, always feeling climactic, non-linear narrative, heightened paranoia, a sense of loss and subtle exuberance.
  • Nolanland always challenges the audience. You need to wear your thinking-cap when you are viewing his cinema.
  • It’s main characters are flawed, to say the least. But it is after undergoing a harrowing journey that they truly become superheroes in their own way.
  • Finally, Nolanland provides a full-rounded movie-viewing experience through traditional means of filmmaking. If David Fincher is all for Digital, then Christopher Nolan is the exact opposite. Both master-supreme of their crafts.

Now, that you are aware of what you are getting into when you are in Nolanland, let’s take a look at his latest export – Dunkirk.

Dunkirk, might be the only movie coming out of his stable that is historical. There is no alternate universe with it. It happened, period. A period which has forever etched in the dark history of mankind, but this one, is the light at the end of the tunnel. A triumphant tale of SURVIVAL.

The narrative is all about Point of View (POV) and how it overlaps to create a non-linear structure in time and person.

The movie is shot in such a way that it feels like the characters are either strapped to a GoPro or Steadicam throughout the entire movie. The tight-on shots from the character’s POV creates this whole immersive feel to the movie. It is as if Nolan had instructed Hoyte van Hoytema to be as close to its characters so that they could feel his breath.

The entire plot is laid out on three platforms: the Mole (Land/Beach), the Sea and the Sky. The genius lies in how these platform intertwines and connects including its characters. Thus, going back and forth, far and wide.

Action is the movie’s heartland. It leaves us breathless. The sound-engineer in Hans Zimmer has successfully pulled off a David Lynchian. The continuous ticking of the clock, like the factory humming noise of Eraserhead, gives us this eerie feeling of time is running out. The countdown of survival. The rampant violin turns into the sound of danger, with enemy jets gushing out torpedos, bombs and bullets aplenty. All that floats is human spirit against all odds.

As the English Channel gobbles up one destroyer after another, it is the survivors who lives through the treacherous water, swimming from one boat to another. With each passing floater, their lives turn bleaker.

The countless dogfights above a calm channel was the ultimate comparison between human’s indecency and mother nature’s warmth and love. I wished there were natural disasters that took lives and not us humans. At least, we would have maintained our decency.

Mark Rylance takes to the sea, Tom Hardy keeps his eyes at the skies, Fionn, Harry, James and Kenneth cower in the land, the beach, the camouflaging sand. Some meet, while most remain forever separated.

Each and every frame is authentic to say the least. The grandeur lies in its details. Like a finely crafted gem, each stage is set. It is epic, it is grand. But is it a masterpiece? Let’s talk about that now.

I maybe a cinephile, or a novice, but I can’t call Dunkirk a masterpiece. Like I have listed the movies above, Dunkirk is a part of a template. A template explored before. Only this time, the template was used to present a WWII movie. It is a movie carefully crafted to heighten realism.

It felt like the troops on the beach were props carefully orchestrated at every turn when danger were lurking in the skies, dropping bombs on them. The emotions and horror were amiss. THE CHAOS FOR SURVIVAL was missing. No one seemed interested in finding cover. They were simply ducking at the sound of danger.

There was a moment in which the challenges of evacuation was explored. But this was presented through exposition, and not action. How ironic? The whole narrative is set in motion through action. A missed opportunity, I suppose. Action would have provided the necessary intrigue.

The overlapping and nonlinear narrative couldn’t be hidden in plain sight to provide mystique. They could be made out long before the scene played out. At least, on my watch.

Finally, the most important question I ask myself after I watch a movie to call it a Masterpiece. Did the experience remain with me or intrigue me even after viewing it some hours/time ago? If the feeling is luke-warm or nil, then I can’t call it a masterpiece. This is my opinion.

I just can’t call Dunkirk, a masterpiece, because it presented a WWII movie and transported into blockbuster territory, unlike any other movie. I just can’t call Dunkirk, a masterpiece, because it focused on action as the narrative. I just can’t call Dunkirk, a masterpiece, because it provided an immersive viewing experience, like watching a VR movie. I just can’t call Dunkirk, a masterpiece, because it’s sound was forever there in the movie while meshing in the various noises of the machinations and mechanics of its props.

Finally, I just can’t call Dunkirk, a masterpiece, simply because I felt it like an opera orchestrated to provide heightened realism, missing the CHAOS and MADNESS completely.

There isn’t a war without an OUNCE of CHAOS. According to me, the missing ingredient to truly being a MASTERPIECE.

The Journey, thus far – Crafting One Tick Madness

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I completed writing four hundred and sixty pages of One Tick Madness (OTM) on 26th December, 2015. Then, I went through a phase of detoxification – getting rid of all those characters, scenarios, prose, structure, literary devices that had clouded my head. In order to do so, I watched a lot of movies during the period of riddance. It was required, it was important for my well-being, and for the well-being of the One Tick Madness universe.

It took me almost three and a half years to conjure up the universe, part by part. I don’t like to follow a writing schedule, because for me, it is like assembly line ideating. I am more of the experiential kind. Observing my surroundings, faint flashes of fantastical elements, things like that. So, at first, it formed in my head, then I typed and emailed myself the snippets through my iPhone, then I replicated the email on a document, I called ‘Notes_One Tick Madness’, and finally, I stitched it in my first draft. So, to clear my head from all this information, the detoxification was the need of the hour.

After the phase of detoxification, which lasted for four days, I read the first draft in its entirety, which lasted for another period of four days. Yes, four hundred and sixty pages in four days. I would be so engrossed that I wouldn’t notice the world surrounding me. I was engrossed, not because, the first draft was a compelling read, but because, I was meticulously fishing out holes in the structure, prose and grammar, in my head. I didn’t bother to jot down the observations, because I wanted to feel how the whole thing felt, from the start to the end.

A singular word described the wholesome experience of my first draft. It was – MECHANICAL. The whole structure felt mechanical. Though the central plot, sub-plots, and bookends were intriguing, but I hit a new low, as I couldn’t relate or feel ENOUGH. My brother would notice me shaking my head in disgust, as I read my work. He could feel my pent up frustration towards my work. In other words, I was a dissatisfied reader. I needed another phase of detoxification.

During this phase, I read some books, watched a lot of movies, read a lot of articles. Practically, I did things, just to keep myself away from the OTM universe. This lasted for another six days. When I had cleared my head to the point, where I was about to forget how it all began, I dived back into the OTM universe. This time, I was ready. Ready to ditch, scratch, delete any lame prose, grammar, repetitions, nonsensical sub-plots, and most of all, the lack of feeling.

Now, I am in the phase of editing OTM. Well, I don’t like the word editing. I would rather say, Crafting. I am methodically crafting each word, each sentence, each structure that would add the feeling and a sense of relatability to OTM. After each crafting exercise, I use Adobe’s Read Aloud function to hear how it sounds, as if hearing an audio-book, without the stress of emotional parlance.

As I type this post, I have managed to craft and traverse through eighteen pages of the OTM universe in ten days. Four hundred and forty two pages to go. And, it took me just four days to read the whole thing. Such is the level of craftsmanship that I am employing. I must say, it hasn’t been an easy journey, but I have learnt a lot, and now, I write better emails than before. I don’t know how much time it would take to finish crafting OTM, but I know for one, it is going to be a wholesome experience. I am sure that by the end of this experience, the first draft of my next work, would be much better.

Feeding the Cattle

 

Feeding_cattle_cotton_seeds

Way back in time when there were no farming machinery and automobiles, there was Arnold, who was a crop and cattle farmer. He just survived through the worst drought imaginable. It was tough going for him.  But, then the gods finally answered his prayers and showered with rain.

During the period of drought, Arnold had stored enough fodder to feed his cattle, which kept them in shape. The water for irrigation was managed from a nearby canal. The cattle’s job entailed – ploughing the fields, carrying heavy loads and water, and sowing seeds.

When drought was over and rain had dawned, Arnold started flourishing in farming, with record produce. He fed excessive fodder to his cattle, as an incentive. His cattle gained weight, due to the excessive fodder intake, and they became lazy. This negatively impacted Arnold. He meted out harsh treatments to them, and even took them to the nearby hills to get them out of their slumber. But, all his efforts went in vain, as they slouched even more, making it impossible for him to sustain the steady run of profitability.

He finally arrived at the conclusion that if he had fed the same quantity of fodder to his cattle, like in the drought, then he wouldn’t have had to face this day. So, he sold off his cattle to butchers, and with the money bought a new fleet. This time, he didn’t make the same mistake. He fed them enough fodder that kept them going, while utilizing every possible opportunity of profiting from the flourishing season, before drought stared upon them.

Now, put the above in context with the present day Startup ecosystem. Think about Arnold being the Startup, fodder being the Funding, the flourishing season being the VC Funding Momentum, the cattle being the Operations, and finally, the cattle’s laziness being the Cash Burn.

The bottom line is, spend enough, which would increase sustainability, safeguarding your startup’s operations during the rainy days (‘Drought’ in the case of Arnold). The market, talent, and customers are always going to be there, but it is you, who should be there to service and profit from them.

The race to market-share cannot be won by discounts, and pumping money into nonsensical marketing campaigns. Capturing market-share is a time-consuming affair. It has been only achieved, when models make way for revenues, and not your funding milestones. It’s the unit economics, the CLTV (Customer LifeTime Value) that should be the primary goals. Rest will follow automatically. As a startup entrepreneur myself, I have taken my oath to support my business expansion through internal accruals. Yes, Internal Accruals – funds generated from the business.

For the next few years, coffee shops would be my stand-in offices, cloud would be the go-to infrastructure, and growth hacks through informative insights and social media connect, would be my marketing apparatus. I will launch products and platforms, way before I gain critical mass. I will look forward to building an ecosystem by collaborating with partners for growth. I will plough back 65% of my profits into business expansion (‘Internal Accruals’ as I referred above) and also free up liquidity for my colleagues through stock option plans. I am sure, if I do this right, the media would find me, and I wouldn’t have to find them.

Telepathic Dissemination

Telepathic Dissemination

The next frontier of evolution lies in Telepathic Dissemination. We will achieve this in the year of 2100 and forward. This is because, in the next 85 years or so, we would be busy solving the mysteries of artificial intelligence, interplanetary travel, cell regeneration, non-intrusive marketing, security/anonymity over dark-net as a service and so forth.

Telepathic dissemination is the stuff of pure science fiction in today’s times. Think about this, what would happen if the man or woman at the counter would know the exact choice of your burger, without you having to utter a word? Life would be so much easier. How about the one you love responds with love, without the need to utter the three letter syllable – I love you. We would all be a part of this hive mind, collective consciousness, not divided by race, caste, religion, but by thoughts, desires, experiences and imaginations.

Our heightened paranoia of unknown subjects would be validated by their true regressed memories and not by misinformation. The world of secrecy would diminish, enabling us to embrace the weirdness, taboo topics and whispered idiosyncrasies in a more open manner.

But, all of this is a pipe dream? You know why.

Only a select few wants to control the flow of information. Only a select few wants the world at large to receive the tiny dust particle which forms the brick and mortar of our house. We created money to diminish savagery and barbarism and bring order to the acts of our heinousness. But, we are the ones who give our capitalistic overtures, the highest priority, even if we have to be barbaric.

We have been ingrained to follow the Eighth Sin, the Act of Selfishness. According to me, it is the Alpha-sin of all other sins. I am quite sure that no religious doctrines have recorded it in its scriptures. It is this unrecognizable overpowering force that drives every other sin in our lives. Think about it (ref: I, Me, Myself)

But then, why did I refer to the year of 2100 and forward?

For evolution to take place, disruption of existing technologies, models, mindsets and markets have to take place. While we will evolve in the next 85 years, we will have to disrupt our surroundings. Our society’s perceived pus lies in the old, blocking the way for the new. With the need for new, we shall motor along and disrupt.

By the end, only a select few will have some planet to themselves and will attain this telepathic dissemination. Yes, they would attain, not create to disrupt something existent. I can say for sure, that would not be us. You may do the math or cheat death (ref: cell regeneration), but I still strongly believe, that would not be us.

P.S. This is an op-ed piece. Ideally, I don’t want people to make too much fuss about it. But hey! We all have opinions, don’t we?

Extraordinary People in an Ordinary World

Some of the stuff that I am going to share with you here might be ridiculous but think about it.

Who are these extraordinary people?

Let’s think of it as who are the people in our lives that gives a damn or had made a difference.

Careful listener. Patient listener. Yes, you guessed it right. These are the qualities that are so dearly missed in today’s times. 95% of the time, the people we meet including us when we look at our reflections in the mirror, just want to talk. Want to say things for the heck of saying it. I am doing it right now, in my head while I type out the words in this post.

The world has become smarter, courtesy to our race, so we have to be the smartest. How do we become smart? Yes, by talking, sharing our experiences, bonding with people. But, hey, did you meet anyone recently other than your shrink who carefully listens to you only because they get paid to do so.

Thinking. Still thinking. Well, let me tell you (oops, see I am talking once again), you don’t find such people so easily. It is extremely difficult to find them. But if you do come across such a person, then you would know that person is Extraordinary with a capital E.

A person, who listens to you and reflects on your thoughts and feelings makes the person Extraordinary. The urge to talk is minimal in such a person. Such a person thinks a lot and would probably give you the most honest opinion about yourself or your perspective or your thought. The society calls them “Introverts”. I call them “Extraordinary”.

They don’t go out of their way to do things that would bring them to the spotlight. They like the company of themselves but when you need them, they would lend you their ears.

I have come across such Extraordinary beings because I can not only relate to them but understand them as well. They might not be Harvey Specterish but they are certainly Superman. Think about it, why all our superheroes so alone and lonely? Why are they introverts?

More than often when you try to mirror the world and make it your lifestyle, you lose your true self. The power of introspection is lost alongwith the answers to all your nerve-wrecking questions about yourself.

Such Extraordinary beings who can patiently listen, can quietly think, can come up with a solution and prove to the world that being Extraordinary is not a bad thing at all. The world needs such people. Imagine a dystopian future in which words are the singular form of currency. You can only speak what you have saved up in your word bank. Now, sit back and realize who would have the riches.

So, carefully choose your words when you speak because as my Mom would say a bullet from a gun, an arrow from a quiver and words spoken cannot be taken back.

Therefore, these Extraordinary people always have an advantage because they are fond of listening.

Meditative Approach to Leadership

We have all heard how great Leaders have achieved their goals by following their principles which they have learnt through their life experiences. Though, highly effective but they did face extraordinary circumstances which we normal office-going individual wouldn’t face on any given day. We are too scared to risk ourselves and come out of our comfort zones.

So, the objective of my post is to share what has been shared by my good friend and colleague Shirish Kalamkar. Shirish belongs to a niche group of people who have inspired individuals to come out of their comfort zones and achieve their true potential. Such people are extremely important to unearth leaders of tomorrow.

Let me introduce you to Shirish?

Shirish have been working in the IT division for over 20 years in B2C focused industries such as Healthcare & Hospitality. Though, he specializes in IT but more than often he had been given charge of multiple departments such as Purchase and Maintenance because of his leadership qualities and also for his attitude of ‘getting the work done’. He has been quite successful in his endeavor. He has not only built an enviable network of professional associations but has garnered high regards in each company he worked.

Highly efficient people like Shirish not only question the status quo but challenge their teams to come up with unique solutions to difficult problems. When star performers within such teams resolve the problem, they start realizing their true potential. People like Shirish already knew their true potential and hence pushed them out of their comfort zones. It doesn’t stop there. Shirish would then nurture such high growth performers into highly effective leaders.

People like Shirish are large hearted individuals who do not get entangled into petty office politics or narcissism. They always look at the larger picture.

I was so enamored by his leadership qualities that I requested him to share his thoughts on leadership.

Following are his meditative approach to being a successful leader. The same is applicable in our daily professional lives. It’s highly effective yet so simple to follow.

‘They’, ‘Them’, ‘Their’ are referred to as Colleagues & Customers.

  1. Listen to your customers and colleagues. Don’t interrupt the conversation midway. Listen with utmost attention so that they know that you are listening to them.
  2. Don’t say ‘NO’ immediately unless you have some valid reason to back-up your rejection. Try to find a solution first before saying ‘NO’ and if still not possible then explain your difficulty in attending to their request. It provides comfort to them as you are taking care of their issues rather than flatly rejecting them.
  3. Be patient and understand the issue from their point of view. Always be mindful of the fact that they are reaching out to you to find a solution to their issue.
  4. Support and appreciate the efforts of your subordinates and colleagues. As a head of department/team-lead, take full responsibility for any inadequacy of your team. Protect your team whenever and wherever possible.
  5. Do not solely take credit for an achievement. It’s always teamwork. Therefore, mention the efforts of your colleagues and subordinates as well.
  6. Put forth the achievements of your subordinates to the Management. Get them recognized.
  7. Maintain healthy relations with inter-departments, vendors and customers.
  8. Do not play the ‘blame game’. Try and resolve the issue at hand.
  9. Learn and share knowledge.
  10. Be open to learning from subordinates too. Learning never stops. Focus on the learning and not who it comes from.
  11. Respect your Management’s view point when interacting with them. They have reached that position after years of rigor. 

A Story Imagined by Many

“In London, Alan woke up at 4am for his daily morning run. The sun wasn’t up yet.

In Mumbai, Parthiv took the evening train at 6.30pm for home. The sun was beating down on him like its noon. He looked at his watch. He was juxtaposed with the burning heat and the time showing on his watch, 6.15pm.”

[YOU write the next part from here onwards]

THEME: The earth had stopped rotating in its axis. One part of the world was covered in darkness and the other part was covered in sunlight.

KEY THOUGHTS TO MULL OVER: How will this drastic change affect the Environment, People’s Lives and the World at large?

Prose to Perception

A lady went to a plastic surgeon to do some touch up on her face. The surgeon took down the appointment for Friday.

The lady went on Friday to do the surgery. But as she entered the OT, she noticed that it isn’t the same surgeon who met her and took down the appointment. She asked the surgeon, “You are the not the one who I met the other day. Where’s that famous surgeon?” The surgeon replied, “Oh, he is just the front-man, I do all the hard-work behind closed doors (pointing at the OT doors)”. The woman replied, “So, everything is just a whitewash. He is not the guy who we are made to believe.” The surgeon replied, “Yep.” The lady replied, “But why? The surgeon stated that he doesn’t have the same charm and persona as this other surgeon. A moments silence. The lady gushed and then dozed off as the anesthesia was taking its effect.

Few hours later, the surgeon unwrapped the plaster and held up a mirror to her face. She was happy to see the outcome. Behind the mirror, she noticed that the front-man surgeon was smiling. She asked, “Hey, where’s the other surgeon.” The front-man replied, “Oh, he doesn’t meet his patients after performing surgery, but he left you a note”.

The note read, “I hope you are happy with the transformation (didn’t use scalpel, needle and thread at all. Actually, didn’t even touch your face). I am sure it is highlighting your new features – Your Perception about Yourself. Just like when you take medicine, you immediately start feeling well. Similarly, after unwrapping the plasters from your face, you noticed the changes to your face because your perception about yourself also changed. Feel free to sue me if you are not happy with the transformation.”

She looks at the front-man surgeon. Is this some kind of a joke? My lawyers will get in touch with you.

Why the anti-climax? Every bit of emotion is short lived and people are back to their selfish desires of life. This is the world we are living in and which we cannot ignore.

What would have happened if the surgeon didn’t share the note? She would have lived the lie happily ever after.