Nations Die — Will Durant

“Nations die. Old regions grow arid, or suffer other change. Resilient man picks up his tools and his arts, and moves on, taking his memories with him. If education has deepened and broadened those memories, civilization migrates with him, and builds somewhere another home. In the new land he need not begin entirely anew, nor make his way without friendly aid; communication and transport bind him, as in a nourishing placenta, with his mother country. Rome imported Greek civilization and transmitted it to Western Europe; America profited from European civilization and prepares to pass it on, with a technique of transmission never equaled before.”

Will & Ariel Durant. The Lessons of History (1968). Pg 94.

Bonus: Download the brief book epub, pdf.

Government Bureaucracies are Dens of Incompetent Retards

Here’s a concrete example of something trivial that, in the light of general principles, explains why governments of some countries are quite terrible in governing. This is a follow-up of  the previous post, First Principle Explain a Lot.

Around 1.2% — 3.8 million — of the US population are of Indian ancestry. I am one of them. I estimate that around 1 million of us are US citizens and therefore need a visa to visit India. I also estimate that at least half of us (around 500,000) so-called “Non Resident Indians” visit India every year. The point to keep in mind is that the number is in the hundreds of thousands.

The Government of India recognizes some of the Indian diaspora as “Overseas citizens of India.” It’s idiotic to do so because the Indian government does not allow dual citizenship, and therefore it contradicts itself. But I will pass on that matter for now. Idiotic, illogical, and contradictory rules and regulations are par for the course when it comes to the Indian government. Continue reading

First Principles Explain a Lot

Hickson Compact Group 92, a group of five galaxies. Composite image created from pictures taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Click to embiggen.

Examining very closely even something quite trivial in the light of general principles helps in understanding the world. It’s a way for us ordinary humans to explain, and to understand what is and why it is so.

For extraordinary humans — say a Newton or an Einstein — close observation of something trivial coupled with clarity of thought lead them to explain not only the phenomenon at hand but the discovery of general principles that explain the non-trivial and the unobserved.

Newton examined the fall of an apple, so the story goes, and figured out that the reason it did so was the same that explains the orbits of astronomical bodies. Now that I know the laws of motion and gravitation, I too can understand to some limited extent natural phenomena using those principles which I could not have discovered. Continue reading

Moving out of the Google Ecosystem

I have been using Google products for over 20 years now. Google’s search engine was quite an amazing tool. Then came gmail — and that too was great. And then the rest of the many dozens of services such as maps, VOIP calling, cloud storage, photos, docs, etc. Many of them were quite bad and had terrible interfaces, and they got canned. But search, mail and maps — they continued to be great.

Then gradually the company got huge. And gradually it began to change. It forgot its warning: Don’t be evil. Nietzsche warning was being realized: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster … for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” Continue reading

Happy Pi Day & Happy Birthday, Einstein

Albert Einstein was born on 14th of March in 1879. Happy birthday dear Albert, happy birthday to you.

In the US, March 14th is 3/14. Since 3.14 is an approximation of π — the mathematical constant of the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — Americans celebrate today as Pi Day. It began in 1988 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Continue reading

Dr Jacob Bronowski

There are a great many people I admire immensely. Some for their erudition, some for their immense contribution to the human condition, some for their enormous contribution to our understanding of the human condition, and some for their extraordinary ability to explain the great ideas of this world we live in. Thanks to the wonders of modern technologies, we are fortunate to be able to make their acquaintance even though some of them are no longer with us.

Dr Jacob Bronowski (1908 – 1974) was a great soul, a mahatma in the true meaning of the word. Here’s Michael Parkinson of the BBC interviewing Dr Bronowski in 1972. Watch, or listen, to this and you’ll know why I admire him. Continue reading

The Change

My interest spans a wide range: music, philosophy, science (primarily physics and cosmology), technology, history, mathematics, poetry, literature, the visual arts, culture and religion. Within each of those topics, I have broad interests. For instance, I really like a wide variety of music. There’s Western classical on one end and there’s Hindustani classical on the other. In between there’s world music, modern composers like Philip Glass, trance, rock, pop, Hindi movie songs (only the old ones before the 1990ies), etc.

My main professional interest is economics. I continue to learn the fundamentals of economics. I have very little interest in economies although the basic question that motivated my study related to the Indian economy and what was the major barrier to its development. Now I believe I know why India is poor. So I no longer have to think about that. Now I just focus on continuing to learn the fundamental principles of economics — and to help others learn what I consider to be important principles so they can work out for themselves the answer to questions they may have about economics and economies that interest them. Continue reading

How to Think about Climate Change

Last week I posted a poll about climate change. Around 40 people voted. Here are the results as of right now:

Given such a low number of respondents, very little can be concluded about how concerned people are about climate change and what they expect the government to do. But it is still a bit worrisome that half a dozen people responded that they are “seriously concerned” and that they want the government to take dramatic action.

The problem I think that a Swedish teenager who is given to hysterical harangues gets more media attention — and therefore influences public opinion more heavily — than the reasoned, data-driven, sober writings and presentations of experts who have spent decades more time studying climate change than the teenager has been alive. Continue reading

Time to Say Goodbye

“All things must pass. All things must pass away.”

That’s what George Harrison sang all those many years ago. I agree. All things do, and must, pass away.

I started my first blog in 1998 or thereabouts when I was a grad student at UC Berkeley. It was called “Life is a Random Draw.” That blog has since been deleted.

That’s understandable since the internet is ephemeral. Impermanence and change are the defining characteristics of the internet as much as it of the universe, as the Buddha realized about 2,700 years ago. Continue reading