Alphabets – By Google

I wondered, what if Algorithm and Commerce alone were to instruct our future. Using Google as a proxy, I typed the letters of the English alphabet to see what was returned. Results below. My thoughts at end of list.

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A for Amazon

A for Amazon

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B for Best Buy

B for Best Buy

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C for Craigslist

C for Craigslist

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D for Dictonary

D for Dictonary

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E for ESPN

E for ESPN

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F for Facebook

F for Facebook

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G for Google

G for Google

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H for Hotmail

H for Hotmail

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i for iPhone5

i for iPhone5

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J for JC Penny

J for JC Penny

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K for Kohl's

K for Kohl's

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L for Lowes

L for Lowes

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M for MapQuest

M for MapQuest

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N for Netflix

N for Netflix

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O for Old Navy

O for Old Navy

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P for Pandora

P for Pandora

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Q for Quotes

Q for Quotes

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R for RedBox

R for RedBox

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S for Sears

S for Sears

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T for Target

T for Target

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U for USPS

U for USPS

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V for Verizon

V for Verizon

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W for Walmart

W for Walmart

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X for X-Factor

X for X-Factor

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Y for YouTube

Y for YouTube

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Z for Zillow

Z for Zillow

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[clear]

Highlights

  • All entries for letter G are Google properties
  • iPhone is the only product on entire list
  • Dictionary at D is either insatiable curiosity or utter ignorance
  • Love at L is 4th, after Louis Vuitton at 3rd
  • And A for Amazon?! WTF?

How to become susceptible to creativity

My post on a Frost quote about ‘right reader of good poetry‘ helped me understand that ‘susceptibility’ to the ‘immortal wound’ of receiving poetry is key.

Can creativity be taught?

Thinking on the same lines, I asked myself, can creativity be taught? But what would one teach? Would it be the Kubrick-ian ability to conjure up and frame human dramas? Would we teach the mechanics of cognition and the roots of thinking itself? Or would we learn about human failure fueling study and reinterpretation of epics? Or should we do the in thing and do a Freud on Steve Jobs?

The methods seem to be many. The question remains – can one be made susceptible to creativity? My answer would be yes, creativity can be taught. But teaching is just one part of the equation, the learning side is often skewed with difficulties. There is a curious mixture of tenacity, focus and some unknown alchemy that goes into creating and creativity. I have attempted to capture some basic principles that should help get someone be more creative.

Disassemble

Learning from what has been done before is the quickest way to seed your head with basic ideas. It could be a piece of software code, a toy or a poem. Dissect it into its components and learn what role is played by every component, how it interacts with other components and how it all fits together to become a whole.

Better it

Once you are done dissecting and understanding now try to better it. What would you improve? Which aspect would you change? What consequences would it have on realizing the end goal? It does not matter if you don’t actually do it. Imagine you will and work out the details. This stage is all about possibilities. Capture these possibilities as UX mockups, design sketches or scribbles in a diary. It does not matter if you do not pursue it. What matters is that you churn out possibilities.

Seek feedback

After possibility generation is the crucial step of gathering feedback. Choose the right judge, do not ask a poet to critique your proposal to revolutionize fuel consumption in turbo engines. In this step you will realize the awesomeness of the human mind. What you mulled about for ages and thought it impossible to add or remove from, another mind will pick apart in seconds. This assumes you have a competent circle of acquaintances. While disappointment is inevitable, what should not be done is to self-critique yourself. The journey you took is essential for yourself.

Continue producing possibilities and getting feedback. At a certain point in time you will find the feedback being restricted to superficialities or turning into admiration. That is when you realize you need a bigger goal and/or a better judge.

Seek diversity

There comes a point in time when you can create but it does not have that something unique which makes people admire or want it. That is when you know you have been focussed too long. Diversity or variety of topics is essential for a healthy creative mind. If you are a programmer, wander around the philosophy aisle of your library. If a poet, stick around in a mechanic’s shop for a day. Walk around your neighborhood, observe everything. Think about why things are so and not otherwise.

Slowly you will see similarities between the most divergent of topics, patterns will emerge. Translating or extrapolating patterns from one domain into another always yields new insights. This way you could raise your game without being bored ever.

Allow conflict

Creativity is not just a function of the skills acquired. The worldview of the creator plays a very big role. A very popular example is that influence of Zen on Steve Jobs and his design aesthetic. But a firm worldview does not usually allow for other views to seep in. This must go. Allow conflict. You need not be steamrolled by every opinion that passes you way. Consider a conflicting view, assess it for its merits. Take what seems appropriate for your goals and leave the rest. Handling conflict is a key trait that will make you a better person and help grow character.

Nurture Angst

The one I don’t know how to explain! Angst to me is that inexplicable thorn that propels all creative individuals. This is a thorn that eggs them to create and change the world. To mould the world into something it is not. If you do not have this angst perhaps you have not thought enough. If you do have it, then good. Nurture this angst, foster it. From that fire will emerge all that you would spew out in this world.

That is a brief list. Now its up to you, what would you add to this list?

Where will you be swept off to?

I stepped outside the door last week of August 2011. After 15 odd years of relentless running I had the opportunity to step back and consider the runner, the running and the race.

The Hobbit

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Am yet to be ‘swept off’ but the journey so far has been exhilarating, surprising and challenging. Below I share a little of what I have realized and learnt so far.

  • Context changes everything. Including what you know of yourself and others.
  • What remains after labels are stripped away is character.
  • Not every relationship sprouts.
  • Serendipity does happen!
  • Full-time employment or startup is a question of which challenges you wish to take on.
  • Power unveils character.
  • There is generosity in unexpected places, seek it.
  • Conventional wisdom on anything breaks down at the fine-print.
  • Complete freedom is harder to handle than it appears. Empathize with men who elect to be constrained.
  • What you do when you can do anything is driven by character.

All considered, I feel I should have walked out the door sooner. And yes I do have things other than aphorisms to talk about 🙂 I shall do another update on my startup, progress so far and thoughts on next steps.

And am curious, what did you learn last year about the world and yourself?

Note: The picture above is of The Hobbit.

Hear Voices from Colonial India

Bharath as it was

The British undertook a linguistic survey of Bharath, as it was before the partitions. Recordings were made as part of the survey. Hear these voices, preserved in Gramophone records. The recordings were lost since then but were recently found and digitized.

The entire archive of recordings are nothing short of splendid. Grouped by region and language family, it has people recite common stories, parables or episodes from the epics.

I, for obvious reasons, listened to the languages I know or whose sounds I am familiar with – telugu, tamil, malayalam, kannada and bengali. But the real surprise is listening to languages you know nothing of. Without knowing the words and their meaning, you get to savor just the modulation of sound. Its beautiful, trust me.

You can find more coverage here, and hat-tip for pointing goes to LanguageHat.

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Web Is What You Make Of It

Web is a blank canvas on which we can narrate our story. Watch this Google Ad that captures this sentiment.

On the iPhone, the Alien Monolith and Descent of an Avatar

Nature proceeds in her seemingly purposeless circles. Until nudged to a higher orbit. Where does the impulse to this nudge come from? As esoteric as this topic may sound, I believe we could better understand evolution by looking at a few parallels in technology, literature/art and Hindu mythology.

Mobile Industry and the iPhone

iphone

The mobile industry was a fairly docile world. You had phones with increasing in-built memory, cameras with larger megapixels and larger screens. Forms of clam-shell, flip-phones and the works. In this calm market entered the iPhone. There was nothing in it that was not known earlier-touch interface, accelerometer and the suave graphics.

Yet the tying together, the overarching superiority of the coming together of these elements made it seem almost alien to our common perceptions. Everything, even the usually lumbering telecom providers, yielded to the vision of the iPhone.

Ever since, the mobile industry has not been the same. In trying to emulate and better a competing product, the entire industry is under a evolutionary pressure to up their acts.

2001 Space Odyssey

monolith

Moonwatcher, the pre-historic simian protagonist, leads a sedentary life in this unique novel/movie. Hunting for food, defending his pack of simians from another tribe of simians and so on. Until IT arrives, the monolith. Inscrutable and unlike anything Moonwatcher has ever seen. While monkeying around the monolith he touches it.

Nothing outside has changed. He is not hurt or burnt. Yet, imperceptibly, he has changed within.

The docile simian has learned of aggression. And in the next encounter with those of another tribe shows he means business. Until then death was an immutable reality, but now he knew and understood that death could be conferred by the strong.

Here again, the introduction of another principle, rendered artistically as monolith, determines the course of evolution. The presence of danger in the environment alone could not cause Moonwatcher to gather the skills necessary to survive by aggression.

An, as of now, unknown causal agent triggered a change within Moonwatcher.

Descent of an Avatar

PitchingTent

The evolution of life proceeds in its Darwinian pace. The dinosaurs and the reptiles all. Some chosen for continuation and some for cessation. And then comes the impulse, that higher order and harmony which lifts life to the next level.

The first fish that peeped out of the water to breathe air. That transmuted suffocation into breathing. The first simian that stood up to gaze upon its environs. The mind that stumbled upon introspection. The first question. The first poetry. The first perception of anguish. Everything. Each was a push of our evolutionary impulse.

After each impulse we did not remain what we were just a moment ago.

The environs supported these but the Hindus believe that the cause for these high changes, these spurts and bursts of evolving life was the Avatar, a manifestation of the Supreme Divine who descends for a purpose.

There have been many Avatars. The popular ones are Narasimha, Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, with the detailed list available here. Follow the history of each and you find the evolutionary impulse working from the level of gross forms towards the subtle forms of Dharma.

A Common Theme

In each of these cases there is the steady progression of normal progress, until impelled by an element that exceeds our current common perceptions.

This impulse is named variously as genius, evolution and even called an Avatar by subtler perceptions.

Each is a facet of the one master impulse. And in that impulse will be the key that answers this manifold becomings of our individual selves and the Universe.

Institutional Hypocrisy

Sometimes, well oftentimes, India, my beloved country, seems to be a nation of hypocrites. If you just nodded in sage understanding, you can stop reading right away.

Imagine, the nation got into a huff about Gandhi’s belongings staying in foreign lands, away from these holy shores. So much planning and expense went into ensuring it was returned back to India. That too for belongings that Gandhi himself did not bother to keep!

If only our people had got themselves into a fit for not following Gandhi’s principles, how much better this country would have been!

Before you think this is a stray incident of oversight, let me assure you it is not. This rot runs deep.

The caste system is one of my favorites. The brahmin, at the top of the social pecking order, the guardian of knowledge chants his mantra and hordes his learning.

The brahmin dwells on the omniscience and omnipotence of his chosen Deity or Principle and yet acts in the real world as if his deity were a holed up only in specific statues and words. Imagine that, confining the Infinite to specific forms!

As if the Absolute would be sullied by dirt and tainted with sin because some time-bound social norm was not followed, or because of the place one was born or color of their skin. What use is knowledge if it does not reflect in ones actions?

To take another case, the monarchy and kingdom states that India had in abundance prior to independence is a another blight on our past. Just see what we have replaced it with, a system of dynastic politics under a democratic mask.

We as a nation and peoples seem to have a inherent weakness and subservience to perceived authority. We grovel, shiver and kneel at the first sign of purple.

Our politicians and family-held corporations seek to bequeath their scepter to their children. Suitability and skill for the task be damned. After all, it must have been ordained somewhere in their karmic past!

The accident of biology is turned into an unquestionable fiat of fates.

One stands baffled at the magnitude of this mess. The heart quakes in helplessness. But hope remains. After all, we have overcome 600 years of foreign rule, at least partially, and have an identity of our own.

What we make of ourselves now will determine the course of what we shall be many hundred years hence.

Are We Indians Any Better Now?

mpindan21

The past is immutable. However bitter, painful and shameful there is absolutely nothing one could do to change what has been. The past is immutable.

Today I had come across a recollection of the past of my nation. The recollection itself was done with a rare empathy and honesty, however brief its coverage.

But pain does not need acres of text to manifest itself. A splinter of memory can lodge itself in the crevices of our self and torment more than any physical act can ever hope to achieve.

A proud cluster of nations, united by a common heritage and spirituality, wanting for nothing, was ruled for 300years by the British and almost double that by the previous Muslim invaders.

Whatever revisionist versions of history is thrust upon us, the truth remains that we were ruled under a foreign yoke for almost a 1000years.

The nation was bled dry. They arrived for our wealth and left us destitute, an under-developed nation reeling in poverty and ignorance, devoid of self-confidence.

A nation of Sages, Rishis, Warriors and Artisans was reduced to this sniveling, groveling mass of spine-less ignoramuses of now.

I have no bitterness towards the actions of these foreign races but reserve my utter disrespect and hatred for my own countrymen who were willing to sabotage the future of this country for their selfish motives.

There are quite few descendents of these leaches still sucking this nation dry.

So you see, I was forced to introspect.

Now to you dear reader, are we any better now?

Those Damned Greeks, Always Get it Right

Rubens_Medusa

In conceiving of Medusa as woman, with snakes for hair, the Greeks got it so right!

But thinking about it, the Greeks did not get science right, so no basis to say that they got everything right always.

Step back for a moment and notice that portrayal of anything in art has a deeper resonance to the truth of things than any scientific representation.

Perhaps it is the perceiving of the subject in the mind’s eye, the deep contemplation in utter solitude within..all seem to guide the artist’s hand with an unerring accuracy.

Now back to my main point for this post. Medusa is a woman. Enough said.

[Note: Take this sentiment with a pinch of salt. As my friends and colleagues would easily confirm..I adore women..sometimes their version of rationality conflicts a little with mine, that is all!]

Sarah Palin and Joan of Arc- Same God Spoke to Both?

427px-Jeanne_d'_Arc_(Eugene_Thirion)

All this talk by Sarah Palin about the “voice of god” and “his will” remind me of another historical character, Joan of Arc.

I deeply admire Joan and think its unjust to even mention her name in the same web page as Sarah Palin!

The movie by Luc Besson, is a favorite of mine. Especially for casting Milla Jovovich as Joan herself, an unusual casting but works to fantastic effect.

The scenes where Milla deals with her inner self, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, has to be a masterpiece of cinematic narration.

The initial rousing triumph of lifting an anonymous peasant to the heights of leading a nation, the blind anticipation of the will of the Unseen Divine, the irrational yielding to Infallibility masked as instinct and the eventual self doubt and soul killing questioning are the traditional marks of a life yielded to the Divine. Besson captures all these moods with as much aptness as practically possible.

Even the series of mystic visions that Joan has reveal an originality of artistic inspiration in portrayal that is rare when dealing with spiritual subjects.

Compare this to how Christ is portrayed in “The Passion of Christ” by Mel Gibson. You will see the Gallic sensibility at work in Besson and the crass sensationalism of hollywood painting Christ’s story with ugly gore.

You ask, what has this got to do with the title of this post? Well, I had to absolve myself from taking the name of SP, a little soul cleansing was in order…hence the rambling on Joan of Arc and heck I even have something akin to devotion to Joan…so why not!

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