Living in a city

Just by living in a city, it feels as if I am adding more extra carbon into the atmosphere. City forces a certain life style on us. While many parts of such imposition seem like a choice, I wouldn't blame myself if I lean towards choices that offer more comfort than otherwise.

This is just an example: Working late night? Want to make a visit to a friend's place late evening? Well, now I have to take a cab, given the state of roads and public transport.

On the other hand - in this city, simple pleasures of life are expensive. Want a quiet, calm place to live? Need clean air? Would you like plenty sunlight into your house? All these simple pleasures, however natural they are, will cost a heavy price.

Now if I consider the climate crisis that is unfolding around us, I can't help but think that living in a city essentially is a silent consent and acceptance that I am a part of problem. If I continue living in a city and yet complain about environment degradation, I am living a hypocritical life.

Pushing the limits

Our reality is a collection of our individual intents and imaginations. These individual intents and imaginations drive us to our future as well.

There seems to be an inertia that holds us back from acting on these intents and imaginations . Our imaginations and intents convert to action only if they are strong.  

History is full of stories about how a single person's imagination and intent created our past.[ note: history is also perceptible to narrative fallacy and survivorship bias heavily. ] 

Strength of our collective imagination and intent plays a major role in the probabilistic nature of our future reality.

If our current reality makes me go "wow it is nice" feel, then perhaps time to push the boundaries of my imagination and intent. If it makes me go "what a clusterf***, then time to attract other people towards my personal intent and imaginations.

That is the major reason behind why we should "Push our limits" every moment.

Silence of the night

It is late in the evening.

Suddenly I am aware of the silence that has taken over.

Very typical night here at home. I hear some dog howling far away. Background noise is mix of sounds from Cicadas and crickets. Few occasional croaking of frogs from the paddy fields in front.

Raju, the neighbourhood dog is waiting patiently for me to feed him some biscuits.

If I listen carefully I can hear the wall clock making tick tick sound. When I pay attention to it, I hear many other strange noises too.I don't know which insects are making such sounds.

I hear no other sounds.

I've grown fond of this silence. It is calming, strengthening. Silence sounds very permanent. 

I saw fireflies tonight.

I saw fireflies tonight.
I can not recall the last time I saw fireflies. Its been so long. 

It is an immensely satisfying experience. Especially when you see one unexpectedly. 
I've been thinking of fireflies for last few weeks. Every time I stepped out in the night, I was paying extra attention to notice fireflies. 

Tonight, very unexpectedly I saw one. In the distance, in the garden in front. Such immediate, immense burst of joy

Its totally dark out and I see tiny speck of light. On, off, on off, each time the speck keeps moving around.

Soon, I noticed that its very hilarious to predict its path and fail utterly. Firefly is so smoothly random in its path, that it always surprises me.

Why do fireflies make such light?

Some millions of years ago, an insect's DNA went through a mutation that caused the insect's bum to light up? And that helped the DNA to propagate better? 

Such absurdity.

It has to be a prominent mutation, because to survive such colossal randomness and still survive is an astronomical chance. If it survived that long, it is very possible that this 'bum light' must help the insect to mate. Thus helping the DNA propagation. First step of the whole mating process, perhaps.

Some such logic.

Much easy to say "Its magic" and just enjoy the firefly show. 

Default settings

Just like computer programs, I have a lot of default settings. These settings are good enough to get started to and run with program, but not necessarily optimal or efficient. 

More often than not, I act and react to my thoughts and emotions on an autopilot setting.

Once I am aware of my default setting, fun starts when I play with it. Change the configs, test out, deploy etc. 

I can change my default behaviour to many day-to-day interactions, life events. It takes a bit of practice, patience and acceptance to failure. I can rollback the changes if it causes more harm than good. 

These days I seem to looking for short cuts and 'best practices' but that already seems dangerous. Like Morpheus says "There is a difference between knowing the path & walking the path"

Oh also, my default actions and reactions makes me more vulnerable. Given these are well known behaviour setting, it is easy for someone to exploit them. Just like exploiting unsecure IoT devices with admin/admin username-password combinations!

The above thought is inspired/copied from this talk/video

How do things happen?

Human made things happen because someone badly wanted it to happen. Buildings, wars, politics, business, wall-street etc. Bigger things happen when the critical mass for something to happen reaches, and gets executed.

This 'want' could come from any reasoning. Religion, money, fame, love, hunger, survival. Anything, really.

Individually, things happen because we want it to. Lets say I want "X" to happen. Once I (really) badly want "X" to happen, I will start creating the reality around it such that the thing I really want, "X",  can actually happen.

Start ups are one such example.

But, when I start constructing the 'reality' ie, making the probability of "X" happening higher, I should be aware of flaws in thinking about it such as logical fallacies and cognitive biases.

Also, I should be aware of the threats and risk for making "X" happen. 

Being 'mindful' helps a lot for this, on a day-to-day basis. Also, there is a huge difference between knowing and actually doing.

"Do or Do not, there is no try."

This is one good summary:

Privacy is a currency

We barter personal privacy for predominantly two benefits — convenience and security. Convenience is provided by commercial corporations whereas security is promised by the country where we live in.

In the pre-digital era, we would discover services and goods via the means of advertisements, word of mouth, or just by happenstance. It was very much a broadcast system, more often not tailored for individual preferences. In the digital era, we exchange our privacy for the convenience of personalised discovery. Many such digital services are free and trade purely in the currency that is our privacy.

The data we share with these institutes is not just the hard facts — like our location, contact details, our social graph — but also our behavioural and intellectual preferences.

Facebook can customize its news feed based on our personal choices in events, politics, science or brands (content we ‘like’ and ‘share’). If we let Google track browsing behaviour, it can personalize search results for us. The more we tell Amazon about our shopping choice and reading habits, the better its recommendation engines get. The more we exchange our privacy, the more convenience we get from various service providers who can tailor their services to our personal preferences.

More often than not, these corporations are in the business of advertisements and are capable of crunching all this data themselves. Other smaller corporations collect and sell our data either as a commodity or as a service. In many cases, we receive free, no-cost services from these corporations as long as we share our data with them.

In terms of security, the sharing of our privacy has much more complicated effects — not just in terms of commercial benefits, but equally the socio-political aspects of our life.

Unfortunate events in our recent past have caused us to be increasingly more fearful. This fear coupled with rise of technology has lead to many unintended side effects.

National security and protection from ‘spray and pray’ terror attacks have taken importance. Mass surveillance is seen as necessary. We are willingly giving all our data to governmental agencies in the hope that they are capable of finding the needle in the haystack.

In pre-digital era, we paid money from our income in exchange for convenience and services. We paid for security to our governments in terms of tax, another form of real money. In digital era, we pay for convenience and security by the means of sharing our privacy.

Privacy has become the new currency. Unlike traditional money, we have unlimited supply of privacy. We can share our location data with many services and products at the same time and still not run out of it. This creates the problem of not keeping a tab on where, when, and with whom we share our privacy. We receive no centralised monthly “Your privacy statement”.

Digital content that we create, share and expose online is not just a supplement to our life; our living has turned digital. Just like money and banks, we give our privacy to various institutions — often without realising — for safekeeping. However, once our privacy is compromised, we can not trace it, collect it back. It is gone, forever.

We cannot perceive privacy, and systems that use privacy as a currency take advantage of it. We rarely — if at all — read End User Licence Agreements; we rarely ever worry about the permissions that we give for myriad of digital services that we consume.

No commercial institutions have any incentive to protect our privacy. Unless privacy turns up as a slide in board meetings and quarterly earning statements, it will remain an afterthought. Privacy theft, lousy safe-keeping practices, and inherent flaws with digital systems aren’t too promising. The core components of Internet and other communication systems have been infiltrated by criminals and states alike. These actors have capabilities that allow them to eavesdrop, tamper and modify our data even before we give explicit permission.

Upcoming new technologies like driverless transportation, collective human intelligence, and AI all rely on us sharing our most intimate digital footprint with more and more corporations. Our current national security systems rely on running mass surveillance.We are in need of a de-centralised, public owned system that carefully barters our privacy for convenience. Until then, we are the only ones who can control our privacy. There is no doubt that privacy will be the currency of the future — it is already becoming one.

{My thanks to many friends who helped me in structuring this way better than how I had written in earlier versions}