Saturday, May 26, 2012

27 Things I Have Learnt As I Turn 27...

1) Quantification is a belief. Numbers lull us into a false sense of precision. The real trick is figuring out what lies behind those numbers.

2) The Digital age is spoiling us into thinking everything is seamless, instantaneous and customizable. Many important things aren't like that.

3) Some categories of people whom we hate - politicians, bosses, policemen, cab drivers - are more or less like us, with a disproportionate ability to impact our lives because of the positions they are in. Hence the hatred.

4) It is a waste of energy to try making optimal decisions. Picking an option which meets all your criteria and which you are reasonably sure you won't regret is, a good thing to do, rather than trying to figure out the best one all the time.

5) There are no good or bad decisions. What matters is the willingness and acceptance to live with their consequences.

6) Being clear-cut, on the whole, is beneficial.

7) The more you understand people, the more you will be misunderstood.

8) Managing life's risks and our perceptions of them is a tough job. A state of perennially heightened alertness wears you down. At the same time, complete ignorance can be fatal.

9) You will act with indignant righteousness at some points of time, and grovel for mercy at others.

10) Sympathy needs to be prioritized.

11) Deviations from routine are painful because we have preset expectations about the future. We don't take things as they come.

12) At times one may start anticipating things so much that the actual happening of those events goes unfelt.

13) People are short-term. Most people just want to move forward to capture the next available gap that they see in front of them. And there's nothing right or wrong about it, that's just the way they are.

14) Beliefs that people are being vindictive towards you or are deliberately making your life miserable, are overstated most of the time. More often than not, things happen to work that way randomly.

15) The ability to anticipate all future possibilities is bounded. Hence, it is better to simply leave a cushion for the unknown - to accept that unforeseen things will happen.

16) We possess a remarkable ability to exaggerate the importance of our own decisions in shaping our lives. That is not to say that we don't have any control or choices, just that we may be overestimating their impact. 

17) Money is important, but it can rarely be an end in itself. It is needed as an enabler or hygiene factor for pursuing other ends, and in this it is important.

18) Goals need not necessarily be defined as end points. In fact, goals are better defined as processes, a template for how you want to lead your life.

19) It is easy to be dismissive of the idiosyncrasies of others, but difficult to acknowledge one's own.

20) People are afraid of exercising judgment and discretion. Many would prefer mathematical rules to make their decisions for them.

21) Life exists in shades of grey.

22) Getting people to commit time, money or attention for something is extremely difficult.

23) Search engines and all the other tools can destroy our ability to expand our horizons if we are not careful. They are all based on more of the same; Highlighting similar stuff; Making the popular even more popular. Which search engine tells you "No dude, you already tried pizza the last time, this time around try sushi"?

24) We are incredibly inconsistent

25) While some people can have an overriding passion in life which they want to dedicate themselves to, for most of us its difficult. Its better to figure out a few things which interest us, then see which of them interest other people who would be willing to pay us for it. Or, we pursue what we want to, without bothering about what we are getting for it.

26) Relationships change. People aren't always around. They all have their tracks to run on.

27) Don’t live life, before you have lived it. Wait for it to pan out, to flow. Your time will come. Welcome it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Cost of Information

To use a cliche, the world is changing rapidly. Really rapidly.

Or put another way, the granularity, detail and depth of information that we have about the world has expanded manifold, creating the perception of rapid change.

I don't know if it's just me, but the cornucopia of data, news and soundbytes with which we can bombard ourselves these days is mind-numbingly enormous. Some big changes, and several smaller ones, in the wide realm of technology, have enabled this. Gadgets, websites, software - you name it. 

Our methods of seeking and sharing information are increasingly customized, push-driven and self-reinforcing. The modern juxtaposition of technology and information allows us to freeze our preferences, prejudices and judgmental shortcuts with alarming rapidity.

Our reliance on systems has increased to levels where slight deviations from our routine (or the expected path) cause us severe heartburn.

At the same time, too much information is being churned out, much of it increasingly useless. Information, at such levels of accumulation, seems to have negative returns to scale.

Additional information crowds out the mind without adding anything of value to comprehension, enjoyment or decision-making. More information actually impairs them, affecting judgement and making us feel helpless.

Worse, prioritizing the flow of information itself becomes a challenge. 

The mind seems to have reached its natural limit in its ability to process, retain and make sense of information. The analytical reasoner is bound to wear himself out, trying to comprehend all of it.

We are in the age of the information treadmill, running just to stay in the same place. The pace of information flow leaves no time to stand still; Comprehending and understanding it takes up all of our time & energy. And unless we learn to actively cut down on our information consumption, we shall continue to be slaves to the flow.