Author Archives: foolswalk

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Fructus et Virtus : UK Cricket Tour for World Freelancers

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Freelance Foundation is organizing a daylong Cricket Tournament for World Freelancers entitled Fructus et Virtus – the matured fruit of Virtue as ancient Greeks understood to be the end of all their sports. The Art of Becoming.

In their finest hour, Britons, the inventor of modern Cricket also considered games as not some mere game of virtuosity but profoundly higher in scope and practice. It was the principle of being fair – strength with honour and of being a Gentlemn’s Game and the definition of a gentleman in Victorian era was something so sorely needed in our time – “A Gentleman (and Lady) is always above money.”  In other words, the ideal of a “gentleman / lady” was a Way of Life which is incorruptible by money.

We need this spirit so much in games of all sorts where more time in keyboard is spent not about the match being played but how the match could have been “fixed” after monies changing hands and sometimes these hands are the same hands that carry the National Flag !

It is these values which we want to uphold and as a symbolic act, we have organized a Cricket Match on 22nd September 2018 at the following venue – 10 am to 5 pm.

The Ground :

Aston Manor Cricket Club, The Colin Smith Memorial Ground, Church Road, Perry Barr, Birmingham B42 2LA 

Entry as a Guest or Player is free. But registration is needed and you can register here : 

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Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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WORCON INDIA TOUR 2018 for Freelancers |Bangalore | 28th July 2018

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WORDCON INDIA TOUR 2018 was a sudden “bulb-lighting” event. Since were were accompanying Infosec Foundation’s Cyber security CISO event in multiple cities, we thought of organizing an informal meet for freelancers in cities in Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta on the next day.

Our “freelance team” worked in tandem and we informed freelancers – email, phone, social media, word of mouth and also told them this sentence directly verbatim from the Chairman’s opening address : “..I come as a Chief Listener. We would like to listen to the city-specific challenges and solutions being devised by you. We are not here to sell motivational snake-oil, membership, mantra to increase income 1000 times overnight, some mircale or as such. We are here to listen – gather direct field data and then after the Tour, compile and keep it in public domain as a shared corpus for freelancers, those who buy services from freelancers, those who aspire to be and those will be forced (what was called “Bangaloreed” in the West some years back).”  

On Friday 28th morning where very senior members of Infosec Team were present, we encountered a counter-intuitive phenomena : Corporate professionals were too eager to ask : “How can I be a freelancer ? ” or more un-packed question – “Is there a chance to survive as a freelancer after so many years of corporate work?”

Then the debate and deliberation started. It was intense, very engaging and visceral including inter-generational face to face discussion on “transformation of values of work-ethic – between loyalty and freedom, responsibility and sentiment, self-worth and market-worth, net-worth and life-worth.

We also had an objective of connecting and building relationship with our next wave of Leaders in the millennial generation and we learnt a lot by direct interaction and then over lunches with few such Bangaloreans.

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What we Learnt on behalf of the Foundation ?

  • Freelancers face high risk from deadbeat clients, i,e, those who do not pay for legitimate work and there is not much of practical framework. Social shaming may be a method.
  • Senior and established freelancers / professionals must take the role of guide – not the fee seeking motivational gurus and Life coaches who have made a business out of the vulnerability and innocence of young and less experienced professionals. They must do this as one attendee told – “to give back to the society. not to take anything.”
  • The “romantic” view epitomized in the sentence – “be your own boss” is now almost equally pervasive among students (at the threshold of job) and corporate workers (at the middle of the journey) and that shows that the uncertainty and un-stability in Work, Mode of Work, Payment from Work are all under flux.  Chairman Pritam Bhattacharyya reminded the audience that this view is not the full picture – “being your own boss” is not sufficient motivation to get going, at the first stage. When you are a serious freelancer and just started, you not only have one boss but multiple bosses (read clients) to please. The ego-driven “I am my own boss” should be re-phrased as – “I have more freedom to decide how, where and to whom I sell my professional time.”
  • Mr. Subhasis Chatterjee, Tour Manager and Senior member informed how he started as a freelancer as a youth and then this made him visible to people who wanted his services and eventually offered a job. Or in other words, freelancing is not something one does leaving a job but can be a cornerstone of a job.
  • Bangalore media – both print and electronic surprised with their interest. With a small team based in Calcutta ( Communication and Control) and Silchar (Research and Guidance), we could reach a considerable number of media outlets and we hope to see their valued channels spread our message – a message not for profit or gain but to create a “garden” – unwalled so that cross-pollination of ideas, actions and best-practices can happen.

The TOUR led by two journey man of Calcutta Pritam Bhattacharyya and Subhasis Chatterjee and supported by many will call next port of Call : New Delhi – 9-11th August 2018.

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The Freelance Journeymen of Bengal – Gupi and Bagha from Satayjit Ray’s immortal work on an art medium called  film

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Infosec Global Multi-city CISO Summit

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Wordsmith’s associate Infosec Foundation, in association with Enterprise IT World has been running a multi-city CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) Summit for Enterprise Level Cyber security.

 

The Summit started its Journey on 26th July at Marriot Hotel, Fairfield on 26th and witnessed a galaxy of cyber security professionals touching academia, policy, business, government, technology experts and CXO level people representing corporate houses from all over India.

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Infosec Chairman Mr. Sushobhan Mukherjee delivering the Welcome Address

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Mr. Sanjoy Mahapatra, Editor, Enterprise IT World at the Lamp Lighting ceremony along-with other dignitaries 

In his speech, Infosec Chairman Mr. Sushobhan Mukherjee posited a dilemma in cyber-security landscape – should we blame or take the challenge upfront and create a vibrant platform so that this can be collectively confronted. Here comes the significance of CISOs of Enterprise who should not only be competent but communicate and enrich not only their organizations but the industry. Mr. Mahapatra, Editor of Enterprise IT World narrated the rationale behind conducting such events with CISO at the centre and thus pointing towards IT industry’s focus on security of digital infrastructure.

Infoquest – A Journal of Information Security was launched, under the publishing umbrella of Enterprise IT world – a New Delhi based specialist publisher in the domain.

Key takeaways from the Summit :

  • CISO warnings sometimes fall in deaf ear but when a breach actually happens, then reactive response happens. There is something organizations need to know : security, like health is best when pro-active and the highest level of organizations must understand this facet of our digital lives : security breach is not an event – it can be collapse of a brand.
  • Enterprises must communicate and collaborate in this area. The more our lives are digital, the more collaborative responses will work other than silo-based solutions. Some enterprises are actually implementing such a design philosophy.
  • 25 CISOs across the country were awarded and one of the dignitaries reminded the audience that these officers must be honoured and recognized for their services, especially in today’s world when they bear a grave responsibility and custodian of data / information of an organization
  • There was an exhibition pavilion displaying products and services and CISOs were keenly attending these stalls

We wish all the best to Infosec Foundation and Enterprise IT World for this very relevant and useful multi-city tour and we shall see them in Kolkata on 3rd August 2018.

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Teaching English – a method (questionable)

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I graduated into a freelancer in 2006 and by 2011, I graduated into something I call – “time-rich cash poor gentleman”, i.e. just enough cash to take care of the essentials but plenty to time for oneself.

I thought of using this surplus time to teach English (Bengali being the native and mother tongue) to my elder son, then 7+ years old. The method followed was this :

  1. I started reading from the great classics of English language – he did not understand most of Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley and Dickens  but something touched him. How did I know ? He had questioned about them.
  2.  Then I had him watch The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in you-tube (Jeremy Brett as Holmes) and that mesmerized him. Some 30 hours of exposure to the videos made English language (and the greatest consulting detective) and its capital city intimate to him. Mr. Holmes became a friend – a curiosity, a neighbour perhaps, mentally speaking.
  3. Slowly, as we traveled in Calcutta streets, he started uttering sometimes sentences and words like – “Elementary”, “My dear father”, “Singular”, “Moriarty” – I understood that the intoxication is becoming intense.
  4. In next six months, he started reading the Adventures in English and I could see that he was in a position to discuss the textual deviations in the TV serial because of dramatizations.
  5. In parallel (just antibiotics are given along with antacid), I prescribed him to read Great Expectations of Dickens which describes London of the same time where Mr. Holmes famously said as a justification for existence  – “London air is sweeter because of me.”
  6. In 2013, in a blessed day, he started writing a detective story in English.
  7. In 2017 while playing for first class under 13 cricket in Calcutta, he was promised a visit at 221B, Baker Street.
  8. On interrogated, he confessed – reproduced verbatim in English – “…before I read Holmes and Pip, the English language was very foreign. But Holmes are Pip were not foreign to me – they are like friends and how a friend’s language can be foreign ? There was slight distance but then it all melted away.”

This young man will play in the British soil on 22nd September 2018 – Fructus et Virtus Cricket Tour UK and will also pay his tribute to 221B, Baker Street and will also meet his Great Expectations in the London museum that is honoured to carry the name of the creator of Pip, Oliver Twist, Fagin and so on…. ”

p.s : I may venture to add that this model may work for other languages also. And my definition of classic work of literature in any language – “...these works have poetic dust. Poetic dust is non-material matter that Time cannot completely subdue and lack of qualification cannot completely deny. Poetic Dust is also that glue which can bind any heart with any heart – however divided in space and time. 

[I hear with mortification from some quarters that in some of the English speaking world today, one can be a graduate in English language without getting immersed, exposed and drowned in such classic works. Instead, non-subjects like Women Studies, Black Studies, South Asian Writing, Sub-Saharan Writing, Victim of English language studies and so on.

[I can only say, with the same desperate cry like the Roman emperor Augustus in his death-bed to Varus, dead since 30 years  – “Varus, Varus, Give my three Legions Back.” ]

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Contemporary Europe and Darkening of the Shadow of Amnesia

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Personally, I do not command enough nerve while sitting beside someone with some terminal illness in a hospital but strange enough, decline and decay of civilizations fascinate me and since my boyhood (first text I read was Decline and Fall of Roman Empire by Gibbon) I had a morbid interest as how colossal empires declined. How something that seemed inconceivable a century ago becomes something quite ordinary and settled affair. How quickly generations forget the glories of their forefathers and it has humbled me.

Contemporary Europe makes me shudder – a citizen of the Indian Republic, previously a colony of the British Empire and before that, an Eastern off-shoot and extension of the Ottoman-Persian empire, before that – in its classical period, coinciding with late Roman period, before that it repulsed Alexander’s Army and before that history’s light is dimmer and we pass from the twilight of the myths to a time where the highest birds of or Memory cannot reach.

My previous generations were exposed to Europe via the British Empire. As the descendant of the subjects of that now vanished Empire, may I remind contemporary Britons who have something of living inside them that it is un-Aryan for them to have only some guilt about that Empire. It is this un-Aryan *klaibya* in Sanskrit that is at the root of the present condition where Europeans find themselves, including Britain to be displaced from their own homeland – not by some blitz, not by some external enemy with overwhelming force but due to losing a sharpened consciousness and with that loss, the soul is lost.

Men and women of Europe, hark, from the descendants of  one of your Colonies in the East, even though your leaders of politics and leaders of mind-space teach you to be “diverse and nice”, “race-less and sex-less”, “guilty and seeking punishment”, “responsible for third world poverty, climate change, ice melting in the Antarctica”, “suspending all kinds of basic human instinct while encountering outre orientations in terms of sex, gender and what not:, “studying non-subjects like Gender Studies, Women Studies, Black Studies, Transgender Studies and such while not studying or not studying carefully enough your classical writers, true writers”, I, qualified by nothing but the Debt a Man owes to another Man, tell you this :

  • The world as we know today is pre-dominantly a creation, in seminal sense by European White Male lasting for last 400+ years.  This process was neither wholly bad or wholly good but EWM should be proud of, not guilty because the alternative was infinitely worse. Don’t you observe this in most places of the earth ?
  • Women of Europe, let me tell you this : 200 years ago in Bengal, an eastern province of India where I reside and speak the language as mother-tongue, there was a “culture” ( repeat now : all cultures are equal) where widows were burnt in the funeral pyre of their husbands after an elaborate ritual. No one knows how long this “tradition” lasted or about its “heritage”. In 1833, under the Governorship of a British white male called Bentick and with support from Raja Rammohan Roy – the first  modern Indian, this was abolished by law. Please note that it was in 1806 and then in 1826, slavery was abolished in all forms by British Parliament. Please understand that Slavery was going for thousands of years before British Empire and it was British Parliament that was pioneer in abolishing this “scourge of mankind.”
  • Europe – something miraculous happened in your continent some 500 years back and something equally miraculous is happening now – in its negative sense. An amnesia of spirit that has no known parallel in recent history.

Contemporary Europe and Classical Period of India : a mirroring analysis of the Culture-Soul

Post Buddha and Jaina period in Indian history witnessed a refinement of culture and civilization that has not been rivaled since then in India. It was the “peak” of Indian classical civilization.  The period was fortunate to witness relative calm in the borders and Hun threat long gone, North, Central and Western India enjoyed a prosperity and peace that will wait a thousand years when Mughals will consolidate in India by 14th century.  Architecture and painting of that period attest to the great refinement of that civilization.

Something happened within which was slow but continuous. The peace, affluence and prosperity, couples with Buddhist philosophical stand on Life made the higher classes inward looking, narcissistic, self-congratulatory and ideology driven rather than by facts. In India’s North west frontier, powerful forces were gathering and in next five hundred years, what was some mercenary raid became outright invasion because it was understood by the more vigorous outsiders that the target has a soft-underbelly – in all aspects.

In terms of civilization quality, there was a drastic difference between those who started the raids and those who were defenders of the classical world that nurtured them but as A Pacino says – “Desire Trumps Talent” and what I think is the re-statement of Schopenhauer’s Will in retail format, the outsiders overwhelmed the classical civilization and by 10th century the classical age gave up its ghost. The initiative totally lay with the vigorous outsiders.

Lesson for Contemporary Europe  

To my assessment, the same is going to play-out for the Old Continent. The migrated elements are coming with low civilization quality but that will not hinder them. Desire will trump unless this is met by an equally raw force – of continuation of one’s genetic code – of raw physical survival.

Europe is fading away – the Great Movement that started in 5th century with Germanic Tribes, who made the new Europe from the bones of the Old Roman Empire – the same Germania has opened Her Gates to forces whose true impact none knows  – I hear the tunes of Bach’s “Final Movement from Brandenburg” – the Compassion of the Weak has triumphed over the Magnanimity of the Strong.

Old Europe is withering away…. I do not know what lies store in long term but in the short term, it is inconceivable to believe that those “migrants” – predominantly Islamic men of young age will appreciate the “refinements” and “historical gratuity” of the host culture. History says otherwise – no culture has survived while taking radical change in policy especially regarding its “gates” in space called geography and time called historical time.

Let me advise you, men and women of Europe – a story from the Empire that was the foundation on which you had built Christian heritage to Enlightenment and modern science and then all technologies and finally – your social media where you try to be “virtuous” and “welcoming”.

While Rome was in its death thores, Valens was the Western Emperor and a nomadic tribe was asking to be given land in Italy proper.  Since Romulus, no tribe was allowed within the mainland of Italy to be settled – it was a policy that was at the heart of Roman statecraft. Valens went against this policy and allowed this ramshackle, poor and wretched tribe to be settled within the mainland of Italy – the Eternal City.

In next five years, Valens was brutally assassinated by the same tribe and with this Rome bade farewell to history and Europe’s light went out.

Lights are fading out in Europe – light that Men and Women burn in their hearts and consider Life sacred and beautiful because this Light passes on.

This is the Light for which one of the oldest prayer in Sanskrit – the language of the Vedic Literature and also the language in which Malqades of One Hundred Years of Solitude wrote the prophecy of a family which to me resembles so much of Contemporary Europe.

Defeated Love is greater than what Defeats it – I shall leave with this consolation for me and for Europe of the Living.

 

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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A Bengali Gentleman’s engagements with America – Part III

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Part I and Part II of this series of works were more personal in nature and to provide a context of the individual who was writing about the on-going engagements. In this final and the longest part of the series, I shall deliberately de-personalize the relation between the text being written and the person writing the text.

This will discuss issues related to Immigration, Business, Cross-Cultural Interaction (Indian at the narrowest and South East Asian at the broadest), Habitat, Technology, Religion, Beauty and Aesthetics.

Religion 

Blaise Pascal, one of the greatest scientists in the true sense of the term and also an observer of human situation of the highest order, was historically and temperamentally placed at the greatest event of last five hundred years : the ideas of science impacting ideas of religion – Christianity  in Pascal’s time and in Europe. His genius of both of the head and the heart and sensitivity of a poet could foresee the vacuum that was being created by the discoveries of science and something invaluable was getting lost.

He could foresee that Man needed consolation – consolation of finding itself alone and orphan in a world which he claimed to have understood better but was suffering a bottomless nothingness inside. Hence Pascal could say – Man is a reed, a thinking reed and the triumph lies in self-awareness.  This self-awareness issue is more relevant today – when computers are becoming smarter and smarter.

The worldly activities and morals and man’s very purpose of Life  depend very strongly on how he thinks of the mortality and after-life. From Pascal till our time, powerful thinkers tried to grapple with this problem of “meaning” in life and we have a super-market of meaning :

  • Discard the question. Let us pursuit happiness in an equal and fair society.
  • Morality without God. Man is the measure, not only of architecture or of created things, but of Moral. French Revolution – where a new religion was tried to be established where Man was at the centre. The Great Human-centric Utopia at its most-eloquent articulation and also with devastating consequences.
  • We are progressing and Technology – a human created product will solve all our problems. However, as late as 1928, Oswald Spengler demolished all such hopes in his Decline of the West where he hammered on the idea and on its ambit – “if Man is on decline, its created product – Technik will not save him.” This is a re-statement of the doctrine – “Man is the measure of all things.” All relativism after sufficient number of iterations will end in nothingness and the only distinction that will remain is the bare physical survival. Hence continuous war without any higher purpose will drain such a culture of its vitality and the culture will go back to its baseline – tribalism.
  • High Art will replace the vacuum left by Religion. This may be possible for a minority but by its very definition, in a democracy and equal society, median taste will go downwards (and nobody dare to speak it as it will be considered unfair and unequal) and materialism will be the call of the day. In private sphere, this will mean “more stuff” and in public lives, there will be un-ending debate on crushing any incremental or imagined injustices whereas monstrous inequality nobody will notice.  So, in such a society, monstrous inequality will be tolerated as nature of things but any individual claiming “higher dimension of being” will be “cut to size.”. Such societies, in due course, with its unanimous agreement on not tolerating any infinitesimal “imposition”, “elitism”, “high culture” will consider, again for some finite time, baboons and imbeciles as “great artists.” Nowhere but in modern painting this is more clearly demonstrated.  The best defense of an idiot is to propagate the idea that intelligence is a construct by intelligent people and such an injustice can be only remedied by making “intelligence” as some kind of “phobic” word.  If you see a typical modern painting, especially those that are “famous” – if you put the work of art in the left and the description of the work in the right, you shall come to the conclusion that the work is mute – the description is of some value. Can this be said of an old master’s work ? Say of the Girl with the pearl erring by Vermeer – the painting, as if removes some stone inside us and meaning, words, images, poems come of which we were not aware of.

Without the absolute standard imposed by all true religion – the vacuum sucks in everything like a black hole and the first radicals who have all the dust of the classical age sprinkled over them at least retain the respect for the skill of the past. However, it remains the tragedy of their lives to see swarms of imitators and upstarts whose only claim now remains how much un-tutored and banal they can be.

Immigration 

Immigration has been the reactant and catalyst of all racial and genetic (plus and minus) evolution of the United States as a nation. This is a fact and not an opinion. I am directly aware of a particular human group in this Immigration Cycle into that country and that is the people of Indian origin born in the seventies and eighties of the last century. They belong to my generation and they were all, almost to the last man and woman were economic or intentional migrants. They have clocked close to fifty years in this country and the day Rajat Gupta, ex-McKinsey CEO (immigrated in the ’70s) was convicted for Insider Trading, I was shocked like most but the historian in me was delighted to find that the assimilation process  of this particular human group has now reached the level that of the immigrants some century back – Italians. Conviction of Rajat Gupta was the signal act where, I quote myself when the news broke, thinking of Marquez’s Macondo and its earliest settlers : “..a land does not become one’s own till some people are not in the grave” and then my own – “..when the human group does not produce irregular sons and non-regular daughters and some thieves and criminals who finally participate in the drama that is bound to the soil – local jailhouses and local madhouses. Nobody exports criminals or mad people once they are detected either by courts or by courts of community whispers.”

I did write my own observation – a mystery with a damning conclusion where I had asked why this human group – some million strong was not able to produce an enduring, classic piece of art (the mysterious process of self interacting with the universe). I was younger then when I dared to write the indictment but age has mellowed me and now I am more patient. I believe, it will take some time and we shall surely see some classic work of work by this human group. It was 30 years between the actual events happened in New York in the 1940s – Cosa Nostra and Art waited this time and then in 1970s, a 24 year old Italian-American Mr. Copolla was gripped by something which is pure genius and he produced The Godfather.  If Art or the Universe respects some pattern, it will be perhaps in 2042 (some 30 years after the conviction of Mr. Rajat Gupta and few more immigrants of Indian origin), we may wait to see some enduring classic in any art form by this human group. The wait starts now.

Why am I harping on Art ?

An Art of Enduring Beauty alone has the potency to connect dissimilar things. How ?

Nostalgia of the Forgotten Home  – America as a Continent of Circe 

Circe was a mythological demi-goddess who used to attract seafaring men by her siren song and once the sailors landed into her island, she treated them well, fed them, gave them wine but with all these, she mixed some herbs and potions that made those men forget their own land and that of their forefathers.

For all immigrants, America has been a continent of Circe sort of. For Indian immigrants, the magic potion worked better in terms of the forgetfulness. A whole new set of business – of enormous proportion was developed by Bombay film industry in 1990s – coinciding exactly with the time when the first wave of immigrants were having their children entering adolescence and whole new viewership emerged of the films of Bollywood. These films, artistically very mediocre addressed one thing, I paraphrase from the film Casino’s  invocation – “.. just as the Lourdes was for the hunch-backs, these films shot in the new home but controlled from India – these became the purgatorial exercise for those who were aware of being the victim and the suitor – both at the same time of the new land which had become the Continent of Circe for them.”

Technology

I lived my life mostly in India and one group whom I have observed incessantly is the so called “Indian middle class” – being a member of that class myself. These observations with suspended judgement provided me some insights which allowed me to be courageous enough to generalize two key pillars from which we can not only build a vantage point but even something useful for other human groups.

  • The less seminal contribution a human group has on some enterprise, the higher the chance of the same group being more fascinated and irrational about it. Note the word seminal.
  • The more seminal contribution a human group has on some enterprise, the less it will be fascinated and being irrational about it.

The world of technology to which India is beholden was created some five hundred years back in the small landmass called Western Europe.

Our times have witnessed the full flowering of these ideas and also its decay without the moral compass. Rather having no compass of moral or beauty, the whole enterprise finally boiled down to mechanistic exercise and the only measure was the measure of something which was a reductionist unit of convenience – money and its making.

Contemporary India is a major consumer of these technologies and the products the seminal contribution for whatever reasons is very less. Hence the spectral fury of interest and so much hope and faith bestowed on its redemptive value. Redemption, of course from relative, real and imagined poverty.  Our political class and leaders also believed on this and on this, in this divided land appears to be at least no disagreement. That is very strange indeed !

I shall perhaps write after a week once again the next part where two themes of contemporary lives will be discussed – Debt and Livelihood.

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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A Bengali gentleman’s engagements with America – Part II

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In 2006, something very radical happened in my career – I had “retired” just as cricketers do in India while they “peak”. Before I was 30, I left my corporate job for no other reason that that of becoming apathetic of going to work. I was not aware at that time but it was something taken not kindly in our environment. I was a married man with a child of one year.

I started working on my business – a business I had started while I was a Master’s student in the UK. The business provided me with ample leisure and I passed my time by reading and then writing a narrative history of my native province, Bengal, entitled An Intimate History of Bengal.  It was in this period, Democracy in America by Alex de Tocqueville came in my hand and I started reading the 700 page book with utter fascination.

The book was written in 1833 and wonder of wonder, the book started giving me underlying reasons of the contemporary  society’s reaction to my philosophy of life – “un-examined life is not worth living.“.  I was very delighted to find that in a democratic and equal society where all privileges of birth, lineage, pedigree, caste are theoretically made irrelevant and this vacuum will be filled by the sole identification of what one does (job) and what one earns (money). The more  society moves from aristocracy to democracy, it will amplify these trends. Interested reader may see a whole summary of the book here.

Hollywood

Hollywood also had its influence in my growing up and three films that stand out are The Godfather Trilogy, The Untouchables, Once upon a time in America. I do not remember any other film having any trans formative influence  on me. Most of the other mainstream films were more or less thoughtless like our Bollywood films but with better production and more disciplined acting.

Meeting my first American in person 

I met my first American in person in 2001 while  I was on a cable laying ship laying submarine cable across the seven seas. He was a big Texan man – 6 feet plus and a belly to match. I had found his English difficult to understand initially but after some training, the ear could be accustomed .

The Indian Immigrants in America 

The next interactions I started having was from Indian immigrants or those who worked for few years while deputed by their employers – large Indian IT companies. These people were in the age group of 25-32 years – predominantly male and it appeared quickly to me that being economic migrant and that too working very late hours, they had less temperament and more less opportunity in terms of time and money to have comprehensive cultural experience. Except one, I could not have any commentary of individuality and hence although such people were too many but influence was very insignificant to me. In short, they had fixed expectations and more rigid and fixed ideas and being operational workers looking for opportunity and nothing else, their commentary and observations were bound to be limited, selective and interest-driven.

I wrote my commentary on this theme and posited a devastating thesis on the absence of any first order work of Art by this population. 

Credit Crisis of 2008

It was in 2008, my interest in America got intensified. By that time, many new technologies appeared and that made the global village appear more and more vivid in images and videos. Something was lost in this barrage of information and that was penetrating the obvious.

In the last and Part III, I shall cover the next 10 year period when I worked as a business owner and in my own assessment – “a Time Rich Cash Poor Gentleman.”

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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A Bengali gentleman’s engagement with America – Part I

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Bengali Gentleman : Author

America : the geography as well as the “myth” and stories interwoven collectively by Indians from 1970s. Also the New Rome of our times – the new Rome is told as an approximation and as a shorthand.

Engagements : Mental and in-person collisions / interfacing.

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I have never stayed more than 45 days at a stretch in America though I did come many times – first time as a Federal Government of India officer and later as visitor, business or combination. I did visit many cities and many locales although all these can be considered fleeting, fragmented and highly selective. The first visit was in 1997 – a different world perhaps and a different man, some 23 year old.

I first became aware of America while I read , an adolescent boy residing in Silchar, a small-town in Assam of North East India, a short story by a Bengali author Mr. Shankar called ” Milk of New York” where an immigrant mother was irrationally pursuing her daughter to drink a glass of milk while she was going out for a date. On being asked by the author for such such insistence, the Bengali immigrant mother replied: “I mixed birth control pill in the milk. ” The story timeline was somewhere in 1970s and I read the story in 1980s.

Then I read dispatches of Ms. Alolika Ganguly in one of the leading Bengali newspapers where she described the life very nicely and in a simple prose. It provided a small-town boy the idea of the goings-on of a far away land.

Then when I was 16, I read Buddhadev Basu’s travelogue in the United States – somewhere in the 70s when he was as scholar visitor and stayed in New York with his wife for few months.  Mr. Basu, being first and foremost a poet could communicate more essence of the land to me and it was also the time, I was getting ready to enter into the hyper-competitive Indian Entrance Systems.

In my engineering college, I met Mr. Mathew who was my class-mate and room-mate and he introduced me to the novel The Godfather. I was hooked by the English prose and the prose itself told me how American soil and the environ took Queen’s English and produced something utterly different and individual. The Godfather left in me a lasting lust for New York. Even after I had watched the trilogy, the charm of Puzo’s prose retained its freshness. One of the images that haunts me is Michael Coreleone’s escape in Italy from New York harbour at the same night, he killed Sollozzo and Captain McLuskey and his watching the New York skyline with its lights and the image of a Greek hero watching some funeral fire at the coast of Carthage or that of Byron greeting English coast or I myself finding the palm trees of Dumdum airport when I was leaving for England after leaving my job for my “tryst with destiny” in England. The imagery is old but it is so portable in ages when uncertainty is embedded on a moving vehicle.

In the final year of my college days, I did encounter an acronym called GRE – the entrance test to enter America as s student. I did see many of my classmates preparing themselves for the examination. Curious, I did see the structure of the examination and I discovered how hilarious and grotesque it was when the students were supposed to know very complex, arcane English words and their meanings.

Two American men impressed me a lot – Mr. Edgar Allan Poe and Mr. Whitman. I believe Mr. Poe’s stories impressed me a lot and Mr. Whitman was talking of something that was close to my heart as a small-town boy with wide fields and less crowded spaces.

Post-college, I was working as a Federal Government of India officer in the monopoly international telecom provider and I heard many of my batch-mates were leaving the job and joining “software companies” and then taking a flight to the United States. Curious, I went to visit a “software company” in Chennai somewhere in 1999 and one in Bangalore in 2000. An old colleague used to work there and I entered the office… I did not see the space at eye-level, instead I instantly fixed my eyes in space and it looked like a bee-hive with square boxes or hives. The whole space looked like a factory with matrix of men and women. The artificial light, a hermetically sealed environment and the AC cool air – all made me feel like a prisoner. My “dot com” dream ended then and there.

I started taking more active interest in the United States as a geography when I became a business owner (not an entrepreneur).

I consider, the word a sort of insult while spoken in certain context in India and that story I shall tell in Part II.

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Voice – Future of UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience)

Category : Uncategorized

The Future Landscape connecting Smart Machines, Universal User Interface (i.e. voice – spoken words) and Business Mantra

  • In Sanskrit, the word “mantra” always signifies some spoken words, i.e. sounds with convoluted, complex and encrypted meanings. Something resembling genetic code. It uses matter (vibrations in air in general) but in itself a mantra is “de-materialized matter”. A mantra is a universal interface ranging from calling Olympian gods to that of activating a weapon.
  • The future landscape, I believe will resemble a situation where voice / spoken words will be the Universal User Interface. From keyboard, mouse, stylus, smart-screen, fingers, eyes and hand to completely TOUCHLESS.
  • Spoken words, VOICE or mantra – whatever you call it will use SYNTAX, SEMANTICS, CONTEXT  and SENTIMENT on a framework called – HUMAN LANGUAGE
  • One’s first language (by birth or by acquisition) will always feel like a “biological organ” for a person and being an organ rather automation, it will have all the attributes humans have.
  • Future devices and the ecosystem in general needs to be TRAINED on the huge number of languages spoken by people all over the globe.

LOCALIZATION – 1.0

The historical evolution of machines took a specific route but it could have taken other equally probable alternate routes. Hence, we learnt “computer languages” first to have basic interaction with world’s first computers. The evolution of this phase reached its zenith with the evolution of HLLs or Higher Level Languages.

Localization – 2.0

The parallel stream was computation through multiple natural languages. Then came the wave of localization of content – translation in major languages. Devices came with multi-language manuals and training kits opening a new industry vertical in the function of language translation.

Localization – 3.0

This is the phase we are now where new devices directly process “spoken words” in few languages some basic instructions. It is the equivalent of fighting with parsers and compilers in the era of Localization 1.0 whenever the syntax, semantics and context become subtle and inter-wined.  Handling Sentiment is in its infancy.

Localization – 4.0

This phase will rule few decades. In this phase, devices will be able to handle all natural languages – it will be able to process syntax, semantics, context and sentiment together. It will be also the phase when devices will resemble more like a “human entity” and the value-add will be on the emotive, (functional yet transcending functionality) artistic (functional but connecting to some hidden and intractable aspect of our being) and aesthetic (recall of beauty and our attendant sense of mortality).

These devices will interface pre-dominantly with spoken words – either spoken within the range of speech (sitting on a self driven car) or any distance away (directing a drone).

What will be the most-valued USER EXPERIENCE in this environment?

Of this new world, we have no historical precedent and human nature is our only guide, even if not an infallible one. Based on what we understand by human nature, i.e. our own, we can identify some attributes of this ecosystem:

  • The anthro-morphic principle: Human beings will project its own reflection into things created by him. Example, can you deny that once or twice, you have talked with an elevator or a computer in half-praying, half-playful mood as if the device understands your emotion.
  • The Beauty Principle: Human beings respond to beauty and will continue to do so although definitions will vary and there will be change in fashion but the poet was right – “a thing of beauty is a joy forever” and only this principle and none else can explain why people are ready to pay so much premium for an I-phone although functionally it is same like other smart-phones. Another example – people visit Acropolis, Greece to see a non-functional building like Parthenon but who will pay to see most of our highly functional office buildings?
  • The Intimacy Principle: This principle is founded on our liking for being closer with non-judgmental and “you will err but forgiven in advance” environment.  This is at the root of some of our greatest attachments and friendships. This is the psychological and sexual glue that binds relationships that endure. This is the reason why rather than becoming angry, we find comfortable when devices suggest the corrected string we have typed in a hurry.
  • The Morality Principle: Starting from name written on a grave-stone to that of emperors putting obelisk, the under-lying principle is the subterranean but perpetual presence of the inevitable human mortality. Until every human is immortal, this principle will be the fountain-head of all other principles. The Beauty Principle is the complement of this principle. A thing of beauty is a joy forever only because we know that none are here (or there) forever.

CONCLUSION

With Voice as Universal Interface, a whole business landscape will emerge and that means there will be new business models. The value concentration will be in the niches. It is not yet clear where will be those niches but we can have some idea about the nature of those niches and the skill-sets supporting them:

  • Artistic
  • Linguistic
  • Auditory
  • Phonetic

Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Data Privacy, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Category : Uncategorized

Introduction

In the latest in the data leak controversy, Cambridge Analytica has been accused of breach of data with inappropriate usage of Facebook data, privacy breaches and psychological manipulation.

Cambridge Analytica systematically and knowingly ran campaigns based on psychological and personality profiles mined from the Facebook data in 2017. The firm has been accused of harvesting private information from the Facebook profiles of over 50 million users without their permission, making it the largest data breach in the history. This information was revealed by a former employee and founder Christopher Wylie to the Observer and the New York Times. Wylie explained how he worked with Aleksandr Kogan, an academic from Cambridge University, to obtain this data and exploit users.

The misuse of data may have allowed the company to build a psychological profile of a large proportion of the American electorate targeting them with specific marketing material and targeted ads, thereby swaying the results of 2016 presidential elections.

Criticality

Most people do not think about the data they share via social media, banking and other large corporate and government, as there is a general level of trust that there are adequate laws and protections, and that by and large there is nothing to worry about, as organizations are assumed to be ethical. While there are growing levels of distrust across the community, taking proper security measures is critical in slowing the decay.

This criticality of the context is not the data issue, but the way data was used. Cambridge used the data records of 50 Million Americans to have a premeditated psychological influence by false Facebook ‘advertising.’ Posts were targeted at potential voters precisely targeting their vulnerabilities.

A data breach is when someone who is not authorized to handle specific information obtains access to that information. It’s a non-trivial failure of the security measures a responsible company or reasonable individuals would have in place. It implies wrongdoing, it implies malice, it implies a victim/attacker relationship.

But when data is harvested and used with the unknowing opt-in of thousands of people, that’s not a breach. There are no hackers here; just people who knew how to use freely-given personal data to manipulate not very technically astute people to some political end.

Data breaches are being revealed for years now. Interestingly, no one hacked into Facebook’s servers exploiting a bug, like hackers stole the personal data of more than 140 million people from Equifax. No one tricked Facebook users into giving away their passwords and then stole their data, like Russian hackers broke into the email accounts through phishing emails.

Facebooks has become a massive data collection machine with 2.2 billion active users, but almost having no guardrails on how they are used. Facebook allowed a third-party to implement an application for the sole purpose of gathering user’s data. Furthermore, Facebook is aware about this issue for more than two years, and only now they acknowledging their mistakes once it has been made public.

The Facebook story rang a similar tune to a story from September about Tinder harvesting user data as well. Judith Duportail requested Tinder to send all of the personal data they have stored for her. They sent back 800 pages containing her deepest, darkest secrets, things she didn’t even know she preferred. It is another perfect example of how social media apps will harvest any personal data they can to sell and make a profit.

Big data breaches are unsettling given the power tech titans now exercise. How to rein them in is a huge challenge. A good example is Facebook, that offers its service free, but people then entrust it with every detail of their lives. It’s a myth that users own the data and content they post on Facebook, and control how it’s shared. The reality differs. Facebook will flog the data to enrich itself, which the Cambdrige Analytica case clearly demonstrates.

Road Ahead

In this context, the laws like GDPR may play a good role. The users can request any large service provider in the world (who has any connection with the EU whatsoever which is everyone) to obliterate your data forever and they must oblige. Or you can request your data to be handed to you in a “portable” format that you can take with you.

Beyond GDPR there is more that the consumer needs to take control of. In the case of Facebook, this is limiting what 3rd party apps have access to. And this can be confusing with apps constantly “complaining” that they will not work properly without access to body sensors, contacts or the camera. And the user needs to ultimately start with a point of zero-trust—turn off all access—and then test for themselves how the app behaves and then gradually turn on permissions as needed.

It is not in reality but hitting the easy button will have consequences of the “analytica” kind. And then we will act outraged when it happens.

We are in a journey where the privacy boundaries are going to be constantly tested. Expecting the platform vendors to suddenly start doing the “morally” right thing is too naïve. Consumers need to be savvier and assume extreme ownership of their own data. GDPR provides the framework, it is our duty to exercise it.

Stay safe, secure and do due diligence before making your personal data public through social media.

Source: sushobhanm.wordpress.com