Sep 1, 2016

Happy Happy

via Instagram

May 22, 2016

The Day a Computer Blogs

The prospect of a novel written by a robot winning a literary prize (as it happened in Japan late March this year) should be worrying us. This can mean potential ability to write & publish hundreds of books in a single minute while being consistent in narrative, themes, and plots. Imagine what this would do to the human attention - which is faced with the prospect of filtering out thousands of books to select a particular book. Apart from the effects on the attention, this will put human authors (never could imagine using this phrase) in direct competition with a robot.

If the sources for content for a human to write a book include experience, imagination, observation or some level of constructs in the mind, what would be the sources of content for a book written by a robot? As the current case is, it is from some inputs from humans on key words and phrases or storylines (perhaps).

Keeping the potential problems aside, this is a big step for human race and there are many similar developments that aims to make life easier. Take Gmail's smart reply feature for instance. The intention is to save time and that life will become simpler if you don't have to type out replies to every email you receive.

Then, there are solutions such as wordsmith that will create - not just articles - but personalized articles given a data set. When the intention becomes 'to make what is possible', then objectives like 'making life simpler becomes miniscule'. 

With these, imagine the news industry - all they would need is the editor. Then, just like that, that's all we would need - an editor who would screen, filter and separate - not what is good from what is bad - but, what suits the taste to an individual creating personalized books, newspapers, magazines etc., 

With services like Flipboard and even Facebook delivering the same, you just have to see your phone for the personalized news & magazine that is waiting for you. The day will not be far when you have to fire up your device (whichever that is) to find the new book written exclusively for you. That day, it will not matter who writes the blogpost. The day the computer writes a blogpost will not be noticed by humans and may become a data point.

May 8, 2016

We First Met on Uber

I tried the Uber pool option and was amused at the enforced socialization one has to go through.  Please note, enforced.

If having a stranger on the same seat as you in a closed space like a car - a vehicle meant to be private - is not scary enough, not knowing who it is you're sharing the enclosed space would be even more scarier.

So, in my first such ride, I was forced to speak to the stranger, more to allay such fears and less in order to socialize. In about 10 rides I have pooled, I have seen my co-passengers immediately look at their phones or take a book out to immerse themselves in possibly to avoid conversations. It is quite easy to get on the phone and finish your calls, but, you'll not be able to talk so freely either.

It changes the way you introduce yourself: Remember, the co-passenger knows your name as it shows on the uber app. Your introduction would be akin to an elevator speech as you'll have less time talk about yourself. One would require to find common ground (or shared interests) quickly as these are the ones that will help reduce the fear of the unknown stranger next to you. Also, the in about 15 - 40 minutes that one would spend in the car, I found the time too short to comfortably ask the other person if I could add him/her on social media.

This would only mean that one should learn to make small talk that would enable one to connect to people faster. A case of the rapid change in technology requiring etiquette to evolve?

No, the co-passenger in a bus / train / aircraft is not the same as the co-passenger in a car. When you're in the former, you're entitled to be silent and not speak a word as it is intended to be a public transport and it would perhaps be scary if you're the only one in it whereas the car was intended to be personal transportation and that fundamental premise is challenged through the pooling option.

It could entirely be possible that I am old-school and need more time to socialize and it could perhaps be less awkward for, say, a younger millennial.

Which brings me to the topic of the post. It could well just be days when you hear a couple say 'we first met on uber'

Apr 17, 2016

Coffee Shops: Providing Uninterrupted Personal Space & Time

As I sit in this Starbucks coffee shop here in Connaught Place, New Delhi, I can't help but observe how many people have made this place their office or adda. A couple of days ago, I was in Indiranagar outlet in Bangalore and believe me, that place was overflowing. I overlooked an outlet in the Mumbai airport and there was no place to sit. It is not a different story here in New Delhi either as there is not a free table that you can select. I have had no option but to share a table with a couple of other individuals, who, to my surprise, were welcoming.

As I sit here, I see some people who look like students, studying & making notes. Some people staring on their phones, a few animatedly catching up with their friends. A couple of backpackers replenishing themselves and people like me, typing away into their laptops.

It is amazing what coffee shops have done to providing uninterrupted personal time. One other place I can think of that does this is the library. Apart from the ones attached to the educational institutions, I don't recall any other library that one can go to as of today. Perhaps, a costlier alternative would be to get into a hotel room who charge by the day and the personal time required is in hours.

If there are really so many of us wanting uninterrupted personal space & time, why are more businesses not cashing in on this? 

It is possible that only a section of the population would like this and it is easy to wrongly assume that everyone needs this. It is also possible that more people are here in this part of the year to get away from the searing heat of the sun. 

As far as I am concerned, if I want to get something done and be productive, I head to the nearest coffee shop! If there is none, you can create a virtual coffee shop here: which will provide the sounds that you hear in a coffee shop. There are a couple of youtube videos as well that provide this background noise for us to focus.

Apr 16, 2016

Working on the flight

At all costs this should be avoided. The airport seats unless:

1. You are flying for more than 6 hours
2. You have watched all movies on offer
3. You have just woken up from a good nap / sleep
4. You are done talking with everyone on the flight
5. You are done playing / catching up with everything your phone has to offer
6. You have read everything there is to read
7. The document / workbook / design / ... you have to work on will save someone from dying. 
8. The world will end as you know it in 7 hours or less