Most emphatically yes, if it is within your power to do so. A child accidentally falls into a river and your jump in without a second’s thought – assuming that you can swim – and save the child. But what if there are people who are thoughtlessly or even deliberately pushing children into the river. Should you continue to be fully engaged in saving the drowning children or must you at least tackle the problem where it originates, and go tie up the adults who are dropping children into the river? Continue reading
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a report, “Megacities Threaten to Choke India,” has a catchy but misleading title. Megacities are not threatening to choke India. The megacities are choking already. What is choking India is basically primal human frailties revealed by circumstances that come about through individual rationality but end up in collective irrationality.
I hold firmly to the conviction expressed in John McCarthy’s signature quote that “those who refuse to do arithmetic are doomed to speak nonsense.” Today I came across a set of videos which graphically illustrates the concept: Dr Albert Bartlett’s 8-part series on “Arithmetic, Population and Energy.” (See video below the fold).
Hi from Mumbai. Been here for a couple of days, and tomorrow I go to Bangalore for a few days.
Mumbai is not too unpleasant at this time of the year weather wise. Spent last evening in Colaba meeting with a friend. Best way to get there from my office in Lower Parel is to take a local train and then a cab from Churchgate station to Regal theatre.
People who don’t practise what they preach are not necessarily hypocritical. Perhaps they are merely not sufficiently intelligent to realize that what they do is inconsistent with the logical implications of what they preach. This gap between what they insist to be true while doing something which reveals their words to be false can be attributed to what is politely called cognitive dissonance but more accurately should be termed as stupidity.
Two major threads weave through Joel Cohen’s book How Many People Can the Earth Support? (1995): the insufficiency of our present understanding, and the finiteness of time. Continue reading
The extent of the damage and loss of life due to the tsunami has now become clear. Soumen Chakrabarti emailed me and wrote:
You recently wrote:
That is why I claim that natural disasters like the recent tsunami cannot hold a candle to the destructive power of humans.
I did a little arithmetic that adds support to your statement from unexpected quarters. This sounds very insensitive but is not really so. Each and every person destroyed by the tsunami is irreplaceable. I was trying to comprehend the enormity of the destruction through comparative numbers, when I was struck by a yet more stupendous scale that boggled the mind.
A friend of mine, who was a fellow grad student at UC Berkeley, gave me as a gift Michael Bishop’s How to Win the Nobel Prize [Harvad Univ Press 2003]. “In 1989 Micheal Bishop and Harold Varmus were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery tha normal genes under certain conditions can cause cancer”. I’d like to quote from the chapter, People and Pestilence, because it is relevant to my obsession with India’s population problem. Continue reading
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since my last blog entry. “Where in the world,” some asked, “is Atanu and why is he not writing stuff anymore?” For better or for worse, I am back from a brief round-the-world trip. Among the exotic far off places of the world, I was in Helsinki, Paris, London, Boston MA, New York NY, the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seoul Korea. I flew Air France (which I call ‘Air Chance’), Delta (don’t ever make the mistake of flying Delta), and Korean Air. Met lots of interesting people and heard lots of great stories. One of these days I will write about them. But for now, it is back to the usual business.
The Business Standard of 12th Jan 2004 carries an item on page 3 with the heading 33 million more Indians in poor list in 2001-02. The percentage of people below the poverty line is estimated to be around 25. That is, India has about 250 million people who are so unimaginably poor that they can’t cross the poverty line that is set way below what can be considered necessary for a human existence. For all the progress India is supposedly making, we have increased the absolute numbers of the abjectly poor by 33,000,000 in that one year alone.