Posts Tagged ‘Imagination’

The Feynman Algorithm

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 11:58 pm

There was this boy who wanted to solve many interesting computer science problems. He had a lot of ideas. They were sometimes simple, at other times complicated.

He had a friend. He was a good friend and was very learned. His name was called Google. Whenever he thought about something interesting, first thing he did was tell it to Google; and they talked and talked, whilst strolling endlessly through perpetual landscapes, where direction and orientation have limited meaning. Life was good!

One day, after walking for sometime, the boy’s shoulder started to hurt carrying his ideas around. So he decided to keep it in a neat corner, near a picket fence which marked the end of a meadow; and he along with his friend continued to wander and wander; deep into the forest.

But alas, the boy man did not notice the falling night and the brewing storm in the non-distant horizon. A powerful thunder startled him, and he fell down. Down he went and got stuck in a thorny bush. Whereas Google who was as light as a dried & crumbled leaf, (apparently due to the lack of soul), was swept away by a powerful gush of wind. His idea, which was solute, dissolved in the rain; formed a narrow stream and flowed away. However, one of the droplets, on its way down hill, got stuck in the eye-lash of the trapped man. The petrified man took the droplet, and stared into it; partially because he was scared and partially because the droplet was pretty and mysterious as a new born child. He was first overcome with sorrow and then a extra-ordinary sense of beauty.

The droplet started forming strange shapes; it was a free-form being with a mind of her own; a gelatinous fluffy substance. She teased and mocked him by making strange faces at him. He was perplexed, angry, but nevertheless grateful for her company. Then unexpectedly, she took the form of a pair of wings and attached herself to him. A strange sense of divinity started to glow across the newly formed combined being; akin to an arch-angle with a good-news message to share. In one elegant stroke, they flew out of the thorny, uncomfortable bush and took refuge under a tree. Exhaustion had overcome him by then. He went into a peaceful slumber. He dreamt about good things; chocolates, love and passion.

He woke up next morning, but he couldn’t find his droplet anywhere; but he realised that they have merged into a single being; like lovers do in their deepest moment of intimacy.

“It is much more easier, productive and way more fun to think things through; rather than running elsewhere seeking for inspiration.”

So traversed this thought through his mind in a path which exactly adhered to a Fibonacci spiral, devoid of any imperfection (at least to the measurable limits). Suddenly from the corner of his eyes he saw his old friend Google. Though a bit battered, he seemed to be in good health. The man told Google about the magical experience he had the previous night, but Google didn’t seem much interested. Then he told his friend about his post-script thought.

“Hmm.. Interesting!” Google said

“Do you know about the Feynmann algorithm”, Google continued:

The Feynman Algorithm:

1. Write down the problem.
2. Think real hard.
3. Write down the solution.

“Ha ha, that is interesting”, the man said.

The friends starting talking again; and they wandered and wandered. But the fragile spirit inside him who had gallantly rescued him, cut off from her much needed solitude, got squeezed from all sides by the endless and squeaky chatter. She slowly reformed her wings and flew away silently, unnoticed by the man.

An Endorsment for Barack Obama

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2008 at 2:29 am

An Endorsement

A PhD thesis to write, five years of acquired procrastination skills, a profound fascination towards web 2.0 and social web and an election looming in corner. You don’t need much eloquence to describe to others (or to myself) the circumstances that has forced myself to put my thesis writing (supposedly unknowingly) in the back burner. I find myself reading all the op-ed of the prominent Liberal press, partaking in discussion forums, and having my share of frustration realising the futility of arguing with a hard-core right-winger

And yes! I am a big Obama supporter and like many others in the world feel it is unfair that I cannot cast my ballot! (Take about Americanization of the world!). However, let me pen out the specific quality of the candidate which has made a profound impact on me.

I had only a very vague idea or interest about American political system till a few months ago. The general notion was that Democrats are better than Republicans. More specifically, Clinton was way better than Bush, Al Gore would have made a way better president than Bush (at-least we could have had a slightly more greener planet). However, I was ambivalent to the internal dynamics of the Democratic party, hence for a long time the democratic primaries did not interest me much.

The first time I realised Barack Obama was in a blog post about his interview at Google. Asked by Eric Schmidt about “the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers,” Obama replied that “the bubble
sort would be the wrong way to go”. That was fancy full. A presidential candidate who has some clue about CS! This was followed by his speech “A More Perfect Union”. I was amazed by his oratory skill (this was made more profound when I compared his ability to articulate to that of the current incumbent American president!). With each of his speeches, notable of them being his Energy speech at Michigan State University and the nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, my admiration for Obama grew. However I still gave adequate weightage to the criticism that he might just be a fanciful orator, who lacks real political skills. Is incompetence and questionable motive getting masqueraded by the sheer glamour and aura of his words and personality.

This blog post aims to detail out how I grew out of the cynicism and moved towards a position of admiration and respect for Mr. Obama. However, I have made a mental note to review my position time and time again (going with the assumption that he will be elected the president of U.S.A).As mentioned earlier, my cynicism had two parts, first – the motivation, second – the skill level (or preparedness). So, I am going to go one by one.

What really struck me in Obama speeches are their clarity, consistency and the ability to say the right things. The juxtaposition of these three qualities are a hard thing to achieve, especially when you are in the media spotlight for an extended period of time. And frankly, this is a breath of fresh air in modern politics, where flip-flopping of stances are ubiquitous and viewpoints itself are ambiguous. I believe, for someone to be this clear and consistent, apart from oratory skills, he/she will need to have extreme passion and conviction on what he/she is speaking about.

One can argue that someone like Hitler also possessed the same set of skills. His arguments and speeches had clarity and to a certain extend consistent. Maybe the extreme nature of his extremist and fundamentalist ideas were not overtly evident in his initial speeches, however Hitler rarely contradicted himself. The fact of the matter is that Hitler also possessed the high amount of passion and
conviction. However, this is where the third and the most important aspect kicks in.

`Saying the right things’. First of all we need to scrutinize whether Mr.Obama is really saying the right things or his ideas are ineffective or even malicious. So let’s do a quick parse on what the U.S Senator is claiming. For the time being let’s keep aside the implementation aspect (for eg, providing Health care via mandatory
scheme or giving tax credits) and concentrate on the intend. Provide health care, make education cheaper, attack global poverty, stop a war, de-polarise a society, protect environment, develop infrastructure. All of them perfectly honourable. No Hitler-like ambition in any of them. I also note in passing most of Mr. McCain’s intention are more or less well placed. Anyway the point I want to raise is that we may effectively rule out malice.

Now let us go back to implementation. Unlike his republican rival, Obama has exhibited a far greater amount of pragmatism. Being, an engineer, my trade is the complicated art of trying to understand and manages trade-offs. Obama has shown far deeper skill and knowledge in the formulation or speculation of the challenges his country is facing. He is also modest in acknowledging his country’s short-comings and limits. And most, importantly he has taken pains in proposing the possible solution (almost always indicating the hardness of the problem) and proposes achievable targets and charts out his action plan in a coherent manner. I would be lying if I claim that there is no optimism in his plans. However, prima-facie most of his plan appears to be do-able, however with a lot of hard work and focus.

So in terms of ideas he is a far superior candidate. This is the most important reason I endorse Obama. If you want to do something (positive) consciously towards a goal, you will have to first imagine it to be possible. You will then have to imagine the process through which you will reach there. You have to build up conviction on your ideas, and you should retain a reasonable amount of clarity. As Micheal Phelps remarked “I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I
think your mind really controls everything.”, first step in addressing challenges and expanding boundaries start by imagination. The thought process seems have gone through. Conversely, Bush administration is a
prime example of the problem caused by `lack of imagination’

This is coupled with his ability as a motivator and mobiliser. <to be continued>

ps: Note, my impressions and opinions on politics in general are based on the Indian political and US political systems and landscapes. My familiarity to former based on me being a (passive) part of the system
and the later from media exposure.