Ask me anything: I am always amazed edition.

This ad is probably from the mid-1980s. A massive 26MB hard drive for only $5K. As the ad points out, that’s less than $200 per MB. Now that’s a deal you couldn’t have refused. We should note that $5K in those days is equivalent to $10K in today’s dollars. Imagine, paying $10K for storage just enough for a few mp3 songs!

The advances in computing, storage and communications have been beyond imagination. What’s yet to come cannot also be imagined. I am always amazed.

Anyway, what’s on your mind?

13 thoughts on “Ask me anything: I am always amazed edition.

    1. I have watched a few Youtube videos of Jaggi Vasudev’s talks. My preliminary assessment is that he is glib and shallow. I am not impressed. A lot of these “wise” people share a common feature: they believe they know more than they can possibly know. The truth is that individuals are not all-knowing. It is also true that everyone does know something. Even I know certain things. So when an “all-knowing” person strays into the domain that I have some knowledge about, I can generally figure out if that “all-knowing” person is bullshitting or not. When it becomes clear that they are bs-ing, it harms the person’s credibility. If he is bs-ing about something that I know about, how can I be sure that he is not bs-ing about the things that I don’t know about?

      In every talk by SJV, I found sufficient bs that I am not persuaded that there’s much in what he so confidently asserts. If you insist, I can go into the particulars of some specific instances but is it worth wasting time on that? I am not sure.

      Just by the way, I should mention another “guru” named Alan Watts. I put the guru is quotes because he always insisted that he was an entertainer and not a teacher or a guru. It was not false modesty but that’s how he considered his role. Since at his time videos were not as common as they are today, his views are mainly available in books and audio recordings. I have been unable to find him bs-ing, although I have approached him with a critical but an unbiased mind.

      As is true of all people and things, quality varies over a wide range. That is true about cars, computers, food, scientists, doctors, teachers, music, whatever. We have a limited amount of time to experience/consume/enjoy/learn etc. Depending on our preferences, our knowledge, and our cognitive abilities, we have to select from the vast store of stuff what suits us. One size does not fit all. From my point of view, I would not waste time on SJV. I am not claiming that I have access to some universal yardstick and therefore my judgement is valid for all humanity. My claim is restricted to me alone. As car ads usually caution, “your mileage may vary.” Different stokes for different folks, as the American adage has it.

      Thanks for asking the question.

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      1. Thank you sir.
        Can you suggest some books on spiritual stuff ,in English, by someone you think will come under the classification of guru?

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      2. SJV has legions of minions who will defend every drop of precious bs that oozes out of him. You will be hounded by them for your irreverent and blasphemous utterances, just as you were done by the Rt. Hon. Nobel-applied-for Sri(^infinity)RS’s followers.

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      3. I can well imagine that SJV has those legions of minions you mention.

        Note that so does Deepak Chopra. DC is a fountain of nearly unending BS. There’s even a paper titled “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-profound Bullshit” in the journal “Judgement and Decision Making” (Vol 10 #6, Nov 2015) that refers to Deepak Chopra’s pseudo-intellectual BS. I kid you not.

        The fact is that most people are not too well-endowed in the critical thinking faculty department. They are easily satisfied with pseudo-profound bullshit. Fortunately for them, excellent purveyors of first-quality pseudo-profound bullshit are not hard to find. b

        Truth be told, I wish I could pull off that sort of stunt because it pays handsomely. Alas, I am not talented at all in that respect.

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    1. I learned a meditation technique called Vipassana. It is also called “mindfulness” or “insight” meditation. The institution I went to was, in my opinion, seriously flawed. I don’t say that to denigrate the technique, however. The technique is fine though I cannot say the same about the institution.

      I do meditate but it is my own technique that is somewhat similar to Vipassana. I wrote a brief note on it some years ago.

      Is meditation effective? That depends on what one is trying to effect. In my case, I am interested in understanding how the mind works. In sitting meditation of the kind I describe in the note, after a period (which varies from person to person) one eventually gains insight into how one’s mind functions. If you want to know how your mind works, you have to observe it. At one level that idea is silly: how could the mind be the object of the mind’s attention? It would appear to be as impossible as lifting oneself up by pulling on one’s boot straps. But the mental equivalent of that is possible. It’s an experiential thing. You just have to try it. (We computer scientists do “boot strap” — or boot up — machines all the time.)

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  1. @u: “SJV has legions of minions who will defend every drop of precious bs that oozes out of him. You will be hounded by them for your irreverent and blasphemous utterances, just as you were done by the Rt. Hon. Nobel-applied-for Sri(^infinity)RS’s followers.”

    I agree and confirm the sentiments. To look at America, we have Deepak Chopra and celebrities like Oprah, Dr. Phil,etc. who fall in the same category. They sell something that at best can be described as “nothing” and that is mostly against the existing human knowledge base. But very successful in amassing wealth and followers. Think of it, Oprah has no qualifications, in terms of any life experiences or achievements in life to attain the societal status she has. PS: Perhaps the one life experience was she was raped as a teenager.

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  2. Atanu, if it happens to be of interest, could you please share your thoughts on bitcoin? Not the cryptographic angles, but whether its widespread use can promote economic freedom. Not being an economist, I don’t think I’ve appreciated the role of the Federal Reserve and the way it controls money supply. Is that an appropriate thing for it to be doing? If not, is there a case for the growth and wider adoption of bitcoin? https://deeshaa.org/2011/11/10/keith-hudson-on-how-the-western-economies-will-be-saved/

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    1. Vrooh, I don’t know much about bitcoin except that it is a different kind of money than the one issued by central banks. To that extent that bitcoin (or any alternative currency) provides competition to government fiat money, I believe it is a good thing.

      There was a time when a central bank was necessary. Now that we have different technologies, new kinds of money is possible. But we won’t know what kind would work best for which applications. I hope that different systems of money will be tried out and as usually is the case, the most workable of the lot will be adopted.

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  3. Have you completely given up on modi yet? Sanjeev posted some good stuff reminding us how he is just running an UPA3 right now. But it’s shocking he didnt even go after something like air india, pvtising that should have been an easy reform to sell but here he goes:

    “Modi bailed out Air India at a whopping Rs.30,000 Crore cost to the taxpayer, when he should have just scrapped the airline once for all. He then squandered away Rs.70,000 Crores of our tax money by bailing out the corrupt public sector banks when he could have used it as an opportunity to privatize them.”

    And in between that he has finally registered http://swarnabharat.in/manifesto. The party manifesto is a holy book on capitalism and all that. Do you think a new party can finally come and win some seats in the lok sabha, and with that modi and bjp will probably take the space of the liberals like congis and aap and we will actually have a real right wing fighting for liberty etc.

    In between that I see you were active with freeabillion, I went to one of their meetings, the crew all looked like liberal clinton supporters lol, I don’t really think they understood the ideas they were selling.
    How was that experience?

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    1. Almostasristotle: “Have you completely given up on Modi yet?”

      I was a supporter of Modi because he was in my judgement better than the alternatives. Before he became the PM, he did talk about “government should not be in the business of business” and other fine sentiments. But it seems that that was just cheap talk. As it turns out, Modi is a statist — a person who believes that only the state can solve economic problems. This is patently false. Sure the state can solve economic problems but it usually fails in its attempts. There are good reasons why states usually fail, primarily among them is that the state is not equipped to do so. Your plumber could conceivably solve your medical problem but he is not likely to because he is not equipped to do so.

      I too have said this in the past: the Modi government is just UPA3, and the UPA is just British Raj 2.0.

      All political parties (and governments, if the parties happen to constitute governments) solve the same problem under the same given constraints. It is therefore not surprising that the solution arrived at by different governments appear to be the same. The British did what they did. The Congress took over from the British and did what the British did. The NDA took over from the Congress, and did what the Congress did before them. Then the NDA came back in 2014 and it is doing what the UPA had done.

      As the French epigram puts it, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

      Modi had the mandate to make dramatic, and much needed, changes. But he did not make those changes as it would have reduced the power of the government — and therefore his power. More grist for Lord Acton’s mill: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      Interesting that you mention Air India. Air India is a “public sector undertaking.” That means, it is not owned by a private corporation (with private people holding shares of the firm). Therefore it is owned by the “public”. However, that means that it is the private airline for the use of the politicians and bureaucrats, and the employees and families of the airline. Modi would be as inclined to sell his “private” airline Air India as you would be to sell off your car and give the proceeds to random strangers. You would be insane to do that, and Modi would be similarly insane to sell off Air India.

      Do I think a new party can win some Lok Sabha seats? Yes. It happens all the time. The BJP (which was formerly known as the Jan Sangh) was once a new party.

      Will a truly liberal party — one which values individual freedom — ever succeed in India? Yes, that’s possible. But it is not probable until a certain segment of the population understands the value of liberty. Liberty is valuable both as an end and a means. As an end, freedom is valuable because freedom allows us the opportunity to become fully human. As a means freedom is valuable because it creates wealth. Freedom, therefore, is valuable because it gives meaning to life, and also provides us with the material means to live a good life.

      FAB — Free a Billion — is a good movement. I’d be interested in knowing why you say what you wrote (“the crew looked like liberal Clinton supporters”). Please email me atanudey at gmail in case you don’t wish to write it as a comment here.

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      1. Thanks for the reply.

        My comment on FAB was just more in the spirit of a joke, from what I could ascertain from just one meeting.

        But I think to expand on it—most people did not join the anna movement because they read the jan lokpal bill and understood it well(i was one of those idiots then). Just like most people did not join the communists of the world because they read and understood the das kapital.

        And from whatever experience i have had with people in real life on topics like pvtising the railways or air india, they have been hostile to the idea for some reason. I can’t really put my finger on what is it but people seem to just get angry on such ideas and probably think i am being a snob about something i read on the internet and acting like a know-it-all etc.

        So if those are the ideas FAB talks about then it’s a little hard to imagine that the young people in their 20s at FAB meetings really agree with what FAB stands for. They are probably there because it talks about “making bmc accountable” like the anna movement was “against corruption”. It’s the emotional plea of things which brings people out to morchas.

        I made the “clinton supporters” comment because isn’t that the cultural trend on the whole. Die hard fans of modi india are clinton supporters, saw this ideological mismatch a lot here. Oh and of course a lot of modi fans are ok with the railways being run by the govt too. They support the RW person but believe in leftist policy.

        Apologies if this all makes me looks like a snob of some sort, that’s not what i am trying. I am sure a lot of people at FAB are very committed to liberty etc.

        Just some more questions:

        On reforms is it that modi just nervous about failing politically if he goes ahead with major reforms or he’s a plain statist now?

        Would you voice your support for swarna bharat party in anyway? Just a blog post if nothing else perhaps?

        You say FAB is a “good movement” but i don’t really see how it can play any role without getting into real politics. Maybe join with swarna bharat party. Is something like that even a possibility? Any such future plans?

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