Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two Laws

Law and economics go hand in hand and both affect our lives tremendously. So much so that the basic principles of both these subjects should be mandatory, if not in school, then at least for graduation. (I am one of those unfortunate ones who is close to illiterate in both these life sciences.)

The Political Brain mentions two very interesting laws. Both are mentioned in the American context but can very well apply to India as well. As a novice reader i thought both the laws made sense (one more so than the other). Of course, the devil is in the details. But do you think these laws make sense, at least in principle? Will there be any improvement due to them? Do they break any key economic principles? Would you support these laws if they ever reach the Parliament? What riders, safeguards, improvements would you suggest?

Speak up people!

A Parent's Bill of Rights. When a corporate executive flies his private jet to meet with a client, that's a business expense, and it's a tax deduction. But when working parents take their children to day care, or when they invest in their children - and their country - by paying school or college tuition, that's their problem. That isn't right.
Child care expenses, tuition for children with working parents who are trying to get the best education for their children, and college expenses are not disposable income, and they should not be taxed. At all. We don't tax business expenses, and putting your children in day care so you can go to work is a business expense.

The Fair Salaries Act. The average income, bonus, and retirement packages of CEOs have skyrocketed in the last decade. CEOs are receiving annual pay increases of 15 percent on top of additional perks, whereas their workers are receiving salary increases averaging about 3 percent a year, which doesn't even keep up with inflation.
Corporations can't simultaneously argue that they don't have the resources to pay workers a higher wage or as much of their health benefits while lavishing huge salaries and bonuses on their executives. The performance of CEOs is directly related to the performance of those who work for them.
So we will reward companies that close the income gap between workers - from the assembly line up to the middle managers - and senior management with tax breaks, and will impose strict tax penalties on companies that continue to escalate the size of the packages they give their CEOs. 

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

अंधाराचं बेट

Theatre म्हणजे एक घनदाट जंगल असतं. काही वेडी लोकं आयुष्यभर त्यातून वाट काढत बसतात. पण शेवटी असं लक्ष्यात येतं कि हे एक बेट आहे. उंच लाटा आणि फेसाळणाऱ्या पाण्यानी वेढलेलं बेट.

Most of us are not full-time or professional artists. Our passions, be it theatre, music, trekking or something else, always come second to our profession. But this play, अंधाराचं बेटgives a glimpse of what it might be like to follow your dream till the end. To go on an island with no hope of coming back to safety and security. You can be a spectacular success or a tragic failure. What you cannot be, once you step on that island, is normal.

How do you balance your work and your passions? This age old question again comes down to your relationships. The close ones i mean. The protagonist of this play constantly fought a battle between his parents and this theatre, the love of this life and his theatre, and ultimately that tore him to pieces. But why does it have to be so? Can't we let people close to us do what they like?

I asked this question to myself, and the quick impulsive answer that i got was; ofcourse! Why would i not let the people i love do what they want? I am not that evil. But the truth is, we look at each person from our own perspective, never as a whole.

प्रत्येकजण राख्याचे तुकडे करत होता. आणि राख्या ते तुकडे जोडून जगायचा प्रयत्न करत होता. कारण जगायला तर पाहिजेच.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Where Good Ideas Come From: Book Review

Where Good Ideas Come From - The Natural History of Innovation is a surprisingly fast read. The title makes it sound like it is one of those books which try to explain everything under the sun, but actually this book is not that self-obsessed :D
When i read books which are trying to establish a new theory or a thought line, i try not to approve or disprove it. I like to appreciate the author for bringing about a novel idea, for seeing a pattern that has not been seen before. I also try not to get into the 'how will this new thought ultimately help me' loop. Because that loop is endless.

This chapter makes a wonderful observation that we get more creative when we are more connected. Connected to other people, people different from us, to diverse activities and what not. Charles Darwin realised the same in the natural world when he was visiting coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. Coral reefs house roughly a quarter of all known species of marine life and yet, occupy only 0.1% of the earth's surface. That is remarkable density of diversity, so to say. Likewise, we humans got a bump in our innovations when we started living in cities, which expose us to diverse people and cultures every day. And the Internet is taking things to a whole new level now.

We are not born with Ideas, we collect them from the people and places that surround us. So naturally, our ideas are also limited by them. When people say: Damn, how does she think of such wonderful things? That's most likely because she is living a very interesting life with diverse experiences. Routine will only get you thus far.

The computer scientist Christopher Langton observed several decades ago that innovative systems have a tendency to gravitate towards the "edge of chaos": the fertile zone between too much order and too much anarchy.
 and this one
Dunbar's research suggests one vaguely reassuring thought: even with all the advanced technology of a leading molecular biology lab, the most productive tool for generating good ideas remains a circle of humans at a table, talking shop.
need i say more?

Discovering something new is an amazing experience. We remember that moment of realization (tube-light moment) long after its gone. But this chapter suggests that great discoveries (about yourself and the world) start as slow hunches. We need to nurture them, cultivate them, give them time and attention. Tim Berners-Lee (the creator of the Internet) had a hunch about information being connected like a web. It took him 10 years to realized that idea. Charles Darwin and a feeling that species adapt for survival, years before he published his most famous work On the Origin of Species.
Because these slow hunches need so much time to develop, they are fragile creatures, easily lost to the more pressing needs of day-to-day issues. But that long incubation period is also their strength, because true insights require you think something that no one has thought before in quiet the same way. Flash judgements are often that - judgements. Is the guy trustworthy? Is the sculpture fake? A new idea is something larger than that: it's a new perspective on a problem, or a recognition of a new opportunity that has gone unexplored to date. Those kinds of breakthroughs usually take time to develop.
The shower or stroll removes you from the task-based focus of modern life - paying bills, answering e-mail, helping kids with homework - and deposits you in a more associative state. Given enough time, your mind will often stumble across some old connection that it had long overlooked, and you experience that delightful feeling of private serendipity: Why didn't I think of this before?

There are more chapters and many intriguing anecdotes about the great discoveries and inventions in human history. For those interested in such matters, i would recommend a quick read.