Friday, 30 October 2015

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

This  362 pages long book  with the title What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly  gives a fresh perspective on the  present and future role of technology in human life.Is technology good for us? Can we or should we minimise technology in our lives?Is  the progress of technology evolutionary and  inevitable?How technology is related to culture?Is life getting better and better through technology?What does technology want from us?
                  Kevin  asks us to select technology for the empowerment of individuals.(Page 5).     Technology creates choice and  enhances our  potential for self realisation.So,on the whole ,technology is good for us.
                                        In chapter 8,"Listen to the Technology" ,Kelly gives an optimistic picture."Digital technologies will roughly double  in performance every two years for the foreseeable future.That means our most culturally  important devices and systems  will get faster,cheaper and better  by 50% every year.The optimism of our age rests on the reliable advance of Moore's promise:That stuff will get significantly ,seriously and desirably  better and cheaper tomorrow"
                           In chapter 11:Lessons of Amish Hackers,Kelly  describes  how Amish people adopt technology after years of carefully observing its effects on  their guinea pig neighbours.
Technology is evolving incredibly fast.We need to understand and deal with the changes.We need strategies to get the best out of technologies, and out of ourselves.That is what technology wants.Technology also wants mindfulness from us.
                 Technology wants what life wants.In chapter 13,Kelly   describes thirteen  trajectories life and technology tend towards.
What technology wants is understanding.Its purpose is to create structures that organic  life cannot. Life is trying  to discover different  possible ways to evolve.  There are possibly minds in the universe that biology cannot  evolve , but technology might be able to create them.We are making minds that biology can not make.The long term trend will be to make as many different kinds of mind as possible through technology.This trend needs to be understood and supported.This is what technology wants from us.
         This book  tells us  exciting possibilities  which technology is headed towards, especially in the area of artificial intelligence and making of minds.Despite its large size,I recommend you to read this fascinating book.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Quest for Personal Mastery . ..From Patanjali to Peter Senge

One of the five disciplines ,which Peter Senge has included in his list of Five Disciplines in his famous book(The Fifth Discipline) is  Personal Mastery.I have not tried to find out the sources of Senge's   ideas.But every time I  come across  his writings, I  am reminded of Yoga Sutra of Patanjali .Both Yoga Sutra of Patanjali and The Fifth Discipline of Peter Senge  have personal mastery as one of the ideas  in common .Personal mastery is personal growth and learning.
       Is it possible for every one or any one to  achieve  personal mastery? Yes, though the  goal is not easy to achieve .It is not correct to expect grand and instant character transformations.Any such expectation will be a mistake and will breed cynicism.The goal of personal mastery is a life long goal.One has to take this goal seriously , if one wishes to achieve it .Peter Senge  describes in his book  strategies to achieve personal mastery , some of which are:
3.Telling the truth.
4.Remaining connected to others (compassion)but simultaneously  retaining  one's own individuality.

Yoga Sutra   describes  five ethical disciplines (yama) for personal  mastery:
5.Non -coveting and non-possessiveness.
Yoga Sutra also gives five Rules of Conduct (niyama):
1.Purity and cleanliness.
4.Study of the Self.
5.Dedication to the Lord.
To  the above list of Patanjali . certain additional  yamas and niyamas have been added  by latter thinkers after Patanjali.
 Additional  ethical disciplines(yama);
7.Fortitude ,non-giving up in adversity.
9.Non-hypocrisy or sincerity.
10.Measured diet(Neither over-eating , nor under-eating)
Additional  Rules of Conduct(niyam);
6.Belief in God.
7.Charity ,sharing with others.
9.Thinking and reflecting to understand.
10.Religious and social ceremonies.
In addition to  the ethical disciplines and Rules of Conduct ,Yoga Sutra also prescribes the  other six  parts of Yoga:
1.Control of breathing.
2.Withdrawl of mind  from senses and external objects.
3.Concentration .
5.Super-consciousness-being one with  the object of meditation.
If we  compare carefully , all the strategies of personal mastery mentioned by Peter Senge are  included in Yoga Sutra.In fact , Yoga Sutra tells us many more  methods to  attain progress in  personal mastery.
We  should  not only pursue in our quest for personal mastery , we should also encourage  others in our neighbourhood and organizations  in their quest for personal mastery.It will help in making our own self,our  society and our organisations   stronger ,more prosperous and peaceful.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Dark and Desperate State of Uttar Pradesh by Ramchandra Guha .. . ...Taking it further

The column by Ramchandra Guha with the title "The Dark and Desperate State of Uttar Pradesh" published in  the Hindustan Times  on  Sunday,October 11,2015  is thought provoking.Anyone  connected in any way ,with Uttar Pradesh , needs to ask himself or herself a few questions.
1.Do you agree that  three decades on ,while Bihar,Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan   have shown some (modest) signs of progress ,UP has become even more sick ,whether reckoned in terms of  economic development ,education , health or social (and especially communal) peace, it is absolutely the worst governed state.?
2.The political class in UP-even by Indian  standards-is excessively prone to corruption?
3.The most important  reason why the state of UP is so depressing  is its large size?UP  should be divided into four smaller states for more focused and fairer governance?
                Having worked in UP as an IAS officer for 35 years and experienced the above problem continuously ,I  can say without any doubt  that I agree with  questions 1 and 2  above.
But I am not sure if the solution lies in dividing the state into four smaller states .While I agree that smaller size is easier  to monitor  , both from the point of view of development as well as law and order. But  smaller size alone will not help.The real remedy lies in rooting out the endemic corruption  in the governance apparatus(political , bureaucratic,police, judiciary) at all levels.The cancer of corruption is so chronic that a major surgery is needed.The  questions are:Who will do it?How will it be done?And when?