Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A philosophical discourse..

I don't know if its my intelligence :P or my innate desire to pick a fight that I seem to get into flame wars on almost all the social networking sites I am on.. Here is the latest pearl of wisdom from a google Buzz conversation I had with a friend Elan.. (I hope I don't incite another flame war by posting this :) ...

God - The Outdated Theory WARNING: The following essay might sound like ATH101: Introduction to Atheism. Agnosticism is Meaningless If you know me well or if you have not hidden me from your Facebook...
Sridhar Iyer – now you are just being rude to agnostics :P   Nov 1, 2010
Elanchezhiyan Elango – :P just trying to push the envelope.. You guys should just makeup your mind one way or other.. Agnostic towards God is like saying you are agnostic towards 'a flying teapot' :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell's_teapot   Nov 1, 2010
Sridhar Iyer – Atheism= believing in "no god", Agnosticism= not believing in god, but keeping an open mind..
Believing in something that you cannot prove or disprove (existence or non-existence of God..) is just as bad.. doesn't make a difference if you follow the Bible or the God Delusion..   Nov 1, 2010
Elanchezhiyan Elango – Nope.. Atheism is 'not believing in God'.. You don't believe in any form of personal god and don't pray to him.. if you don't believe in a personal god you are an atheist.. Even Richard Dawkins will never say there is no God.. He just says 'there almost certainly is no god'. Agnosticism is the state where you believe there is possibility for a God.

"Believing in something that you cannot prove or disprove (existence or non-existence of God..) is just as bad"
Not always and not for God. Just because you cannot disprove god does not mean there is a equal probability for the existence or non-existence of God. Just because you cannot disprove the existence of a 'Flying Spaghetti monster' or 'Pink Unicorn' doesn't mean that you need to be a agnostic towards them. No one is agnostic about them. You don't have an open mind about their existence. The God followed by all humans is as improbable as a 'Flying Spaghetti monster' or a 'Pink Unicorn'.   Nov 1, 2010
Sridhar Iyer – Well.. there is always a non-zero probability for everything unless proven otherwise. Flying Spaghetti monster or Pink Unicorn are probable unless proven otherwise.. I guess we have our own definition or Atheism/Agnostism. God might be like the complex number 'i'.. every mathematician knows that it is not a real number, but that doesn't make its existence any less important for solving complex equations.. and all related fields...
I strongly believe that Atheism is believing in "no God".. why? Because you always see atheists and religious people preaching about their beliefs.. be it God or !God.. its just as faulty.. How is your writing a blog post any different from a Bible thumper you meet on streets? .. you both are prisoners of your own beliefs.

Agnostics are cooler and don't really care which team wins :).. Mathematically speaking unless life is turing complete, it will not be possible to explain life using life (or any living being).. not matter how advanced the life form is..   Nov 1, 2010
Elanchezhiyan Elango – I do agree that the semantics of Atheism and Agnosticism overlap.

But comparing religious fundamentalist to atheist is just a gross error. This is tiresomely often repeated statement especially by agnostics. It is like saying a blog post vigorously supporting/preaching 'Slavery' and one vigorously opposing slavery are the same. To quote from my bible, god delusion :P

"when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal force, the truth does not necessarily lie midway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong. And that justifies passion on the other side"

Agnosticism from this perspective is not cool.. You are just being lazy and apathetic.. :)   Nov 1, 2010
Sridhar Iyer – ok.. lets establish one thing.. whether or not you believe in God, do you like the concept? if you do.. then concept of God is not the same as concept of Slavery.. all the hatred in the world is due to the conflicting concepts of God and "my daddy strongest" complex in humans..
And if you think that concept of God is worse or just as bad as slavery.. then you have sunken to the same levels as religious fundamentalists..

I never said that truth lies midway..I'm just saying that neither can say what the truth is without being any kind of a fundamentalist.. Agnosticism is just not drawn to the polarizing forces..
You are right in pointing that I'm apathetic.. I could care less about what is the truth here (existence/non-existence).. not sure if that is true for all agnostics..
For me it is similar to vi/emacs, windows/linux, canon/nikon flame wars.. I don't care which is better .. I'll continue to use vi, linux and canon because they get the job done and if you use emacs, windows and Nikon.. I won't write a blog article writing why your choices suck.. I just don't care as long as you get the job done..   Nov 1, 2010
Elanchezhiyan Elango – yes the religion followed by many humans is as bad as slavery, if not worse.. If you don't think so then you are misinformed.. Let's make clear what God we are talking about.. I am not talking about the God that Einstein refers when he says "I am convinced that God does not play dice". I am talking about the god followed by major religions like Christianity, Muslim and Hindus. I don't like those GODS! This whole fight is because religion motivates people to do some terrible things and gives a false world view..

Extreme examples: 911, Ayodhya dispute, genital mutilation on children.
Not-so extreme or violent but still terrible: Girls wearing Burkha, people thinking earth is few thousand years old, people building creation museums saying that evolution is totally false and giving alternate explanations from religious texts.

These are all serious issues, comparable to slavery, to the society motivated in the name of God. I don't think these are okay and I will present my opposing honest opinions against these believes.

I don't mind you calling me a staunch or fundamentalist atheist as long as you don't say I am as 'bad' as the religious fundamentalist. My intentions are to inform people about the more realistic view of the world. I can never do anything harmful, in the name of non-existence of God.

And come on.. the God problem is definitely not same as emacs/vi problem although I would say emacs is better. :)   Nov 1, 2010
Sridhar Iyer – Now now.. you are confusing God with Religion.. I'm referring to Einstein's god (as you mentioned above).. Religion is a whole different ballgame.. I just think that religion would have evolved as sort of teams in gameplay.. having teams fosters team work and feeling of belonging.. then somewhere down the line you got rowdy fans (football/cricket etc etc.. ) who throw trash at the other team.. it is the same concept.. Religion can be a google group for all I care.. and given enough time, people will fight over which google group is better..
God is a concept.. it is an idea.. Religion tries to give it a shape.. might not be a good idea..

Agnosticism/Atheism has nothing to do with religion.. it has to do with God.. the concept.. not a version/manifestations of god put forth by humans..

Acc to some article, religion might have given us evolutionary advantage by using human psychology against human to help in the evolutionary growth.. concepts of adultery/murder/theft/greed etc are deemed as sin by the religions.. by doing something that is not hardwired in human brain, we made sure that we lasted longer than other species.. Also if the concept did not serve humans well.. it would have been outdated and dead eons ago... of course we have examples of all the bad things religion has done.. but what about all the good it has done ,lokmanya tilak and ali brothers used religion to unite people in India to fight for independence.. it gives hope to tons of drunks, drug addicts who need some mental support..

I'm not saying that the concept of religion has done more harm than good or other way round.. I'm just saying that rather than rejecting the concept outright, it should be left alone. Taking religion from people would mean taking hope from a lot of people and leave a void in their life... even if there is no god and all the religions are bullshit.. doing that is not a noble deed. Unless you have a better idea to replace religion/god with, there is no point bitching about it.. then aren't you as bad as religious fundamentalists who think their belief is superior?

Would you rather tell a 2 year old kid that there is no Santa or would you just let him be happy and later tell the kid about it when he grows up or realizes it himself?.. Most of the people on the planet are like that 2 year old kid..   Nov 1, 2010
Elanchezhiyan Elango – Dude you just butchered the definition of Atheism.. Atheism has everything to do with religion.. And religion has everything to do with God. Without the religious God there is no scope for something like Atheism to rise and people like Richard Dawkins to write a book like 'God Delusion'.. They don't care about the Einsteinian god that you like.. that is just a metaphor.. And no one follows such a god religiously..

You just oversimplify by calling a religion as football team or google group.

And regarding the evolutionary advantage of Religion there is a field called Evolutionary Psychology. Richard Dawkins being a evolutionary biologist does discuss about it. The fact that religion has survived so many centuries doesn't mean that it has a survival advantage. His theory is it could be a evolutionary by-product of something else that has a survival advantage like being 'obedient to your elders'. He gives the example of a insects that seem to willingly fall into fire and die. Obviously this behavior does not have a survival advantage. But investigation shows that the insects have evolved to use the light from celestial objects like (moon) to travel in a straight line and hence they mistake 'candle fire' for celestial light, fall into them and die. Anyways he doesn't argue that this theory is true or false and neither do I. These are just interesting theories.

And all the good things that you said about religion is refutable.. You don't need religious scriptures to have morality, for mental support, etc. The religious texts are just outdated.. There is still some morality left in the world because majority of us don't follow the morality from religious scriptures literally. So if you pick and choose morality from religious texts our morality should be coming from somewhere else! Same way one can give numerous arguments that religion is causing mental stress instead of giving support.. Instead of me giving all points it would be better if you read 'God Delusion' :)

I am okay with my 2 year old playing with Santa. But I am not happy about 20 year olds in the world thinking like 2 year olds. It is NOT OKAY. And when my kid is old enough I would be careful enough to give him scientific literacy without imposing any belief system on him. The problem with the majority of religion is the kids don't have a choice. The terrible thing is a kid is born as a 'Hindu' child or 'Muslim' child or 'Christian' child. He is taught that his GOD is better. By the time the 2 year old becomes 20 it is too late.. You don't need a replacement for religion. People can live a happy fulfilling life without religion if they are educated and if they can think the right way. Religion is not a necessity.   Nov 1, 2010
Elanchezhiyan Elango – "Unless you have a better idea to replace religion/god with, there is no point bitching about it"

I can't believe you actually said that!!! So you mean to say I don't have the right to bitch about 'genital mutilation on children', 'girls wearing burkha', 'people calling earth as 6000 years old', etc All these are directly derived from people believing in their GOD. I don't care if there are 1000 good things that can come out of religion. Just give me on valid good outcome which cannot be achieved without religion which can justify the horrific deeds I have listed above. Only way to refute these stupid things is to tell people that "Your religious texts are bogus.. Your god is bogus.. Just throw away your religious texts and start thinking!!" The only way to eliminate slavery is not to search for a replacement.. just reject it..

"then aren't you as bad as religious fundamentalists who think their belief is superior? "
YES.. How many times should I say you.
"when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal force, the truth does not necessarily lie midway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong. And that justifies passion on the other side"   Nov 1, 2010
Sridhar Iyer – Yes.. more or less I agree with you.. religion does have everything to do with god.. but god has nothing to do with religion.. ok.. so we have just established that you hate Religion as an institution.. (and I agree with you)

Your last paragraph can be summarized as :"People should be sensible and should get along and not use God to fight with each other".. people are not sensible, they never will be, they will never question god/religion..
Human brain is not that evolved yet.. nobody is taught that their God is better.. they are taught about their god.. they just don't know anything about the other gods.. this misunderstanding causes conflicts.. Religion is not the problem here.. people are..
People have killed for money, love, real estate, power.. doesn't mean that these are bad..people are..

This topic have been discussed by tons of philosophers over the centuries.. I doubt we will find a solution in a book or on google buzz :) ..

Let me clear in saying that we have similar opinion and that concept of religion is dated.. I just don't know whether taking it away from people is such a good idea.. (this has nothing to do with atheism/agnosticism). If I were to eliminate religion, I'd do a study of controlled group of individuals who are brainwashed to believe that there is no religion and then comparing the before/after happiness index. ..

>"then aren't you as bad as religious fundamentalists who think their belief is superior? "
>YES.. How many times should I say you.
then..my friend.. we have nothing to discuss :)   Nov 1, 2010
Sridhar Iyer – BTW.. do you mind if I cut paste this discussion on my blog?   Nov 1, 2010
Elanchezhiyan Elango – "People have killed for money, love, real estate, power.. doesn't mean that these are bad..people are.. "
Like I point in my blog, people have killed based on race, language, etc too. That is no excuse for religion. And I don't agree that people are not evolved yet to live without religion. It is not that complicated. When people can be taught to follow religion, they can be educated to not follow religion blindly too. We just need some revolution in education systems and the way we bring up our kids. I can totally imagine a society whose kids were not labelled with any religion, no religion imposed on them, no religious text taught literally and taught good science where people live happily without the religious gods. The concept of God will always be there. People will just stop believing in some stupid gods. Everyone will be invoking Einsteinian God which is totally harmless and 'God Delusion' will become irrelevant like the 'Bible'

"BTW.. do you mind if I cut paste this discussion on my blog?"
Sure.. It's a honour! :P   Nov 1, 2010
Sridhar Iyer – haha.. good luck with this revolution.. forget other people, we can't even convince our parents :P   Nov 1, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A new era in technology..

If you have tapped the pulse of the tech industry, you would have smelled the winds of change. This is an exciting time to be in the bay area.. rarely does anything makes me come out of my blogging slumber (blame it on twitter). 

Let me list a few facts to start with and then we'll extrapolate the trends (just google them to verify):
  • Intel bought Infineon's wireless division.
  • Newer Android smartphones sport 720p hdmi ports, 1GHz processor, 20GB memory (more or less), 512MB memory, some have a separate graphics processor. A phone with a dual core processor will be a reality before the end of this year.
  • Google is pushing forward on web apps, use case of these is still not obvious.. they don't really believe that someone will open a browser and then click on a button rather that type the web address. 
  • Google is working with Verizon and Motorola to push out new android phones.
  • Google worked with Verizon to support net neutrality *excluding* wireless networks.
  • IP TV/Hulu is becoming more and more popular.
Clearly all the big wigs are in on this (whatever this is).. everyone except Microsoft that is. Google has positioned itself as the next Microsoft.. not by coming up with a new OS and trying to displace Windows from the computers, but by just making Windows irrelevant. Android is now what Windows was 20 years ago.. By making Android freely available to the hardware vendors as the kitchen sink mobile OS that can run on any hardware (by totally leeching off Linux, but that's not the point here), Google has made sure that Android will go farther than what WinMo or iOS can ever dream of.

Most of you reading this blog will agree that the phones we have now are more powerful than the first computers we owned (even if that was just 10-12 years ago).. ofcourse we don't need a 1GHz processor to make phone calls or play small games.. where is this all going?

I believe that smartPhones ( or lets call them just phones because single purpose phones might soon be in museums) are set to displace our computers and even our cable connection. Why would we need a cable connection if we can view all the content online? and if we can view the online content on TV?! Why would we need an internet connection if our phones are connected via 4G(in a not too distant future). What if when connected our phones to our television sets and desktop environment were to magically appears?!

Let me describe a device that has been cooking in my head (not too radical). This device is an android phone.. just a run off the mill evo or droid. As soon as you connect it to your TV (via some micro usb dock), you desktop automagically appears.. running android or some variant of chromeOS. You can run android apps or some apps that are not suited on a cellphone like google Docs, photoshop etc. I'm guessing Google will be releasing a web app store just for this platform. Open the verizon Vcast app or some app from one of the network houses to watch streaming television (maybe via some sort of "tv" mode).. Throw in a bluetooth keyboard/mouse if you wanna use it like a regular computer. Once 4G becomes prevalent, this sort of device can easily be as pervasive as a toaster.

Google has positioned itself well.. It owns the whole content delivery mechanism and if Google and Verizon's recent proposal is accepted, it's own content will get preferential treatment. In one fell swoop it would have monopolized multiple markets.

Intel knows this very well.. it also knows that majority of its revenue comes from desktop market, so it acquired Infineon to get itself in the mobile game. It went a step further and acquired McAfee. If android's market penetration reaches the same level as that of MS Windows.. it will unfortunately suffer the same fate.. which is.. become the main target for malware/viruses etc. Acquiring McAfee was just a logical step to ensure that it has a safe ride when android has its "Windows 95/Windows Me" phase :) .. plus since more and more of our data is moving onto the cloud, cloud security is still a new and emerging market.

Well.. all you can do now is grab some popcorn and enjoy the ride.. some day you'll be telling your kid about computers that just sat on a desk or that needed a separate bag.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Picking a bone with google buzz

Love it or hate it; people are using Google buzz... mainly because they don't have a choice (or are not aware of it). For the record, I like it, but mainly because I'm an egotist..
Google came up with Google wave couple of moons ago. Even though based on a solid concept, it failed to generate any traction because people were not really interested.. well they might be interested, but if they are anything like me.. they were mostly lazy and didn't want to build up a circle they can wave with separately. I've tried couple of social networking sites; hi5, 360, orkut, facebook.. they only cater to the people who are interested in social networking, and even if something new came along, which is much better than say facebook, people won't switch because all their contacts are still on facebook.Google seem to acknowledge this fact.

Google has employed gazillion PhDs, but what a waste it would be to not have the products they designed be used by the public. Gmail user base is waay bigger than facebook's, so it makes sense to pork down the products down the existing user's throats... whether they want it or not. They might add a disable button once the media hullabaloo dies down and stupid bloggers stop blogging about it :P. Although the strategy is nothing short of genius, it is somewhat similar to forced labour. The end user is forced to beta test their products, whether they want to or not. (In Google's defense,  they own you because you use their awesome free email service).

Another issue the GBuzz exacerbates is "parallel posts" (a term I just made up). To get more visibility, people typically plug their contents on various websites (facebook, Buzz, twitter etc). When I post my pictures on flickr, they are pulled by Buzz and facebook automatically, and sometimes I post links to them on twitter too. People leave comments for the same content on flickr, twitter, facebook and Buzz; I have to follow 4 threads of conversation, which is more or less redundant. Same issue with my tweets that are pulled by Buzz, Orkut and facebook. All these websites have their own API, why don't they use the api's of the other websites to post back the comments to the original source (more work but better for the users).

People have been shouting about privacy issues in GBuzz (and for that matter in any famous webapp).. here's the truth, if you care about privacy, don't log in... and nobody really cares what you do in your basement. You can always disable your profile, filter "label: Buzz" directly to your trash/archives if you don't want GBuzz..

That been said, Google, if you are listening, here are few feature requests:
  1. Some sort of a RBAC (Role based access control), at the very least let me separate my contacts into groups and make my buzzes public to only the group I choose. I want to discuss my weekend at Vegas with ONLY my friends and my cousin's report card with ONLY my family.
  2. The buzz page is a mess right now, I have no idea which buzzes are new and which are old and which are the old buzzes with new comments. Some sort of color coding would be great.
  3. Add a Gbuzz pane to the bottom of Inbox and have the buzz notification skip the inbox by default.
  4. Integrate twitter/blogger/wave/facebook/orkut/flickr api so that the comments on the original site and buzz are always synchronized.
  5. Send me that Nexus 2 you've been working on.
You know what Google, even if you choose to ignore these requests/gripes, I think you are gonna be alright.. don't worry.. the force will always be with you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What does the new year promise me?

It is pretty late to post a new year post, but.. meh..
I made tons of resolutions last year. Of course, I didn't follow up with all of them, but some of them did stick. Notably I read 4.5 books, made $3K in the stock market, started cooking regularly, hiked regularly and backpacked across Europe. And few of them I failed miserably to keep up (got two speeding tickets :P). So all in all, 2009 was a good year for me.

I have been blogging alot less lately, mainly because I'm tweeting more and because I have to censor some contents (politics, culture, religion etc). To vent it out, I've been maintaining an anonymous blog where I can bitch and moan about all the issues I want.

This year I just have one resolution: to make 2010 more dynamic that 2009, to grow more, to do more, and to be more. Growing up is a strange process; people tend to develop tunneled vision (they see what they want to see and shut everything else out), become more cynical, throw their ideals for something more practical and short term.. needless to say, I hate growing up. In 2010, I promise myself to keep open to ideas, stay optimistic about the future and never ever compromise on my ideals for any sort of instant gratification.

Does that mean I'm not putting anything concrete on paper for 2010?.. Absolutely not. It means that my 2010 resolutions are the same as my 2009 resolutions. I'll just learn from the mistakes I made in 2009 and attack the list with new found experience.

2009 was also a year of profound realizations. Over the years I've gradually been turning into an atheist/agnostic. My belief system is somewhat closer to what Deepak Chopra preaches, which simply put, says that if God is divine, humans can't imagine what God would look like or even want, so there's no such thing as "acting on his behalf". Since religion is so closely tied with "culture", I had dismissed it as another construct used to divide human society... I was mistaken. Culture is snapshot of the society; loosely put, it is just an average of the phenotypes. If you think of cultures as states in a state machine (human evolution), you can almost plot the evolution of the human society. There are hundreds of cultures on this planets, which are constantly evolving, effecting each other and in contention with each other. This will always be the case and is some what necessary for cultural evolution, but at the very grass root level, all humans are the same; they hate change, want to be loved, and want to be happy. As long as we accept these facts and not care too much about where the culture is heading or how "cultured" we are (which seems more like the std deviation now :P ), we'll be fine as a human race. If you don't agree with me, I'd suggest that you travel more :).. Once you break your cultural boundaries, it is easy to see that everyone is the same. I've been really lucky to have experienced it first hand..

So 2010, here I am with an open mind, free of prejudice, knapsack full of dreams and a list of what needs to be done this year :).. help me become a better, more accomplished man.