Archives for March 2008

21st Century Style Snake-Oil?

As humans a few ubiquitous limitations constrain us all, regardless of our affiliations. Whether we subscribe to the hypothesis on space and time or the axioms of math or the subjective escape into the rarer realms or the conjuring tricks of sound and light or as a traficker of ideas, Death ends us all.

The problem of Death must have been one of the earliest pre-occupations of thinking man. It can easily be imagined how the very first reasoning animal-man would have confronted a reality that snatches away what he has adored until a little while back.

Here is article from Wired that covers another attempt to do away with Death. It covers Ray Kurzweil‘s pursuit of ‘singularity’, a state in the evolution of humanity as defined by von Neumann.

The notion of what the singularity seems to have been added upon later. From what I understood it seems to be the sudden burst in the advancements in machines, that will exceed the capabilities of humans.

But look at it in another way. Is this any different from the ascetic who isolates himself in the mountain-cave? Contorting his physical and mental self, to catch the rhythm of an existence that allows something of him to pass on beyond gates of physical self, and hence death?

Perhaps singularity wears different masks? Is it the same as Buddha’s Nirvana? Or the Nirvikalpa and Savikalpa Samadhi of the various Yogas? Or more even the supramental state of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga? Or is this all merely a scientific snake-oil? What do you think?

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Programmers with the ‘downtrodden air of refugees’

How many times have you read or heard something and thought, ‘ah, that is what is bugging me!’. Today I had such a moment, while reading an essay of Paul Graham titled “You weren’t meant to have a boss”.

It starts with Paul observing a bunch of programmers on some “team-building” exercise and a hunch that something was not quite right about them. Pursuing that unease he arrives at a set of insights on what distinguishes programmers as founders and programmers as serfs! This is a must read.

I have worked in a variety of organizations, from dot-coms to large multi-nationals. The happiest I have been has been in dot-coms and consulting type organizations. And seldom has a large company surprised me in how it functions.

Just to whet your appetite, I bring a morsel from my scavenging, Bon appetite!

Working for a small company doesn’t ensure freedom. The tree structure of large organizations sets an upper bound on freedom, not a lower bound. The head of a small company may still choose to be a tyrant. The point is that a large organization is compelled by its structure to be one.