Monday, April 14, 2008

Collective Intelligence going where?

I reiterate, individuals shall store lesser and lesser information in their own systems over a period of time. All information shall come into the 'social' sphere, intelligence being only the ability and the speed at which this information can be processed.

The construction of this social sphere is a completely differently perspective: Electronic or physical, the source of its energy, the form of information transfer from humanity to this medium, everything would be questions for which there are no answers. The only question as of now, is that is such a shift going to happen? What are the reasons

My brother contends that it is primarily consciousness, evolution being driven to an "omega point",at which the interests of all beings are aligned in a singularity. Think of it, the amount of information that we have stored in our lifetime is much lesser than what the generation before us did. The next generation seems to be storing (as in remembering the exact details) even lesser and seem to be focussed on specialized information. (Textbooks are the crude form of this example and Wikipedia possibly the most enlightened form). But, slowly but surely even without the apparent lack of decrease in mental storage capabilities we are choosing to store lesser and lesser information, almost as if there is a concerted effort to strip us of the information we hold.

(At a macro level, control of information, everything being reduced to information finally, represents 'civilization', this control is being slowly freed up, with tremendous repercussions for society. Control of information has always been a problem, history is always from the winner 's side)

What is the true nature of information itself?

And I (we) thought I (we) knew what we were going to eat!!!

Groaan!! That's how my friend,NK reacts whenever you move him from his blissful existence (yes included one headed monsters and more often than not him taking over the world with the help of machines) , but I have to do it, because for me deciding where and what to eat is the most difficult thing to do in life (or whatever I am in currently). Differential equations, stochastic calculus, philosophy, sociology I am fine with, but where to it is a question which overloads my senses... you can actually hear the circuitry cracking up...

But courtesy David A Shiang, I am forced to believe that somebody is actually interested in what I eat and that is the reason my decision takes so long. NK has achieved Nirvana already (he was born that way according to me) and agrees that I am doomed in life. The problem is this: If you look at the outcomes of decision, it is what it is, i.e. if you consider the problem in terms of the throwing dice it is pretty simple: It has been drilled into my head that unloaded dice has a 1/2 probability of getting a heads, that apparently is the wrong logic, because only the long run probability of getting a heads becomes 1/2 ( that is if you toss the coin a lot of times), but the when the coin is tossed there is but one outcome. It could not have been anything else. There goes free will into a toss.

If you were to think of future, it is but the past in some memory, so there is no other way it could have happened. So the future is deterministic, yes, yes I can totally feel you thinking its not possible. Actually, if you go down the deterministic path there is no logic, because whatever you say there is but no other way to say it.

What is the solution to this? The answer itself is a game of loaded dice.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Why building a skill will be useful for you right now

Lately, i have begun to realize that a lot of intelligent and smart people I have known over time have ceased to use their creative abilities. Surprisingly the trend seems to start a short while out of college. Most organizations, the large ones especially seem to have the ability to mask less than optimal usage of resources. Firstly most of work on some sort of documentation. Want to understand a sector? Read a report prepare model and explain using a presentation. Since a lot of firms have tried to standardize this process what we have is the systematic dumbing down of mental resources.

What has all this got to do with skill? My basic proposition is this: as we move more extensively towards information application as the primary mode of employment, the people who can physically create something will automatically end up getting a premium over others.

End of learning?

Is collective intelligence better than individual intelligence. There is no question, this is the age of the group. You learn in a group in college, work in a group in b-school, work in a team in office, share and maintain contact through collective platforms what the hell, you even party in a group. Group success or failure is determined by the need to find a common cause.

Traditional fields such as science economics or even design for that matter are under the onslaught of the need to work under groups. The basic premise being that group dynamics would ensure that the output dynamics are controlled. Fields such as science have always been collaborative, all the great scientists of a time speak to each other and share problems and solutions.

What if groups are only mode of thinking left? Outrageous not exactly-when was the last time you referred to a textbook or journal? What we regularly do is to rely (veracity is not the point of discussion ) on information that is widely available. Lot of people are putting the time for you to access that information, but the question is can the world wide web (meaning users) can ever use their collective intelligence to work on problems at the forefront- aids, sustainable development, understanding the universe et all?

Or will these problems always remain the purview of the lone warriors?

Why didn't I ask some of those questions?

Warning: Sweeping generalizations follow. Please avoid if sensitive.

I just finished reading 'The Elegant Universe' by Brian Green and its one of the best books that I have read in a long time.

Apart from the theory itself which I shall save to another post what really caught my attention was the lack of references to Indian or for that matter any Asian names. Is it that we do not really work on such cutting edge research or we don't bother ourself with such work when there are matters of feeding oneself pending or quite simply among other things we just lack the basic faculty of asking the right questions?

There are lot of Indians in the US, both as citizens and students, this somehow seems to indicate to me that our innate ability to learn is more hard wired towards rote than anything else. The answer for this could simply be our traditional method of learning or this could be ingrained as a function of economic mobility.

By economic mobility I mean that innovation/thought always tends to gravitate towards the basic instincts of survival first and then to higher pursuits later. Different parts of India are perennially under a race, some a race for social mobility and others a simple race of survival, in such a scenario can cutting edge innovation occur? Sure it does, but it would be more likely to solve problems of everyday life rather than advanced theoretical physics. No offense to either.

Of course this is a rather simplistic view to take, characterizing a population with traits of an individual. The other explanation is probably more compelling, the learning by rote allows India to produce the worlds largest pool of 'English' educated labor, but does it mean that this pool can really work on all aspects of cutting edge technology?

My own personal sense of this is a firm no, the learning style it always occurred to me never gave me too many options of asking 'Why?'. It never prevented me ( thats why there are so greats in the country, its despite their training not because of it) from asking questions but does not really encourage it.

We are good, but we may not be good everywhere.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Reliance - going fab!!!

Reliance, the petrochemical behemoth shall invest $7.55 Bn in building semiconductor fabrication (Fab) units (and from the news report I get an idea of polysilicon too).

Fab's worldwide are losing money and in India we dont exactly have the expertise (Taiwan has been doing it for almost an eternity now) . National Semi has shown what can go wrong of TSMC has always lead the pack with what can go right.

The rationale:
1) Its capital intensive, time consuming project: Reliance domain
2) Worldwide polysilicon shortage: Build spectacular capacities while there are none, again typical Reliance
3) If solar energy really becomes cheap, it could provide thousands a source of cheap electricity in India. It falls right in Dhirubhai territory, make the 'aam aadmi' dream

What could go wrong?
1) Global overcapacity
2) Silicon shortage
3) Shift in technology away from Silicon (the real challenge for both solar/semi's)
4) Environment!!

I am still skeptical about the news per se, but if its right somebody please get me a job in Reliance. I want to build this!

Attacting party workers, Desi Style!!

Any particular choices? Man would the population be impressed or what?