Monday, September 28, 2009

Building bridges

We all want to work in a way we like and these likes evolve over time based on amount of success (positive feedback) one has in it. Typically in an academic career path one has to build either a combination of consulting + research or teaching + research. Teaching + research is a bit harder path and typically requires shiny background like top schools top thesis etc. Consulting + research is more viable for average PhDs (like mine) and not so ivory background. Good thing is transitioning between the two is possible thanks to interdisciplinary and more importantly applied research. It's always nicer to be able to communicate between seemingly unrelated groups of research as it can save lots of redundant efforts. Having strong bridges between spheres of our knowledge makes the knowledge base only stronger. There is lot of opportunity currently in building bridges in research which in my opinion is another crowning impact of Computer Science in terms of actual machines, software and most importantly complexity theory.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Streaks of thought: Streak 26

A while ago I had a post on human rights and money. The point kind of was that our progress can be measured by our affordability of human rights. Well why do we call that progress? It's because it gives more chances to people to spring back from honest mistakes. There might be some abusers of the progress but usually those can be caught. This is because giving second chances to people is inherently rooted in wanting second chances for oneself! It all has to do with estimating empathy in lives. I have been procrastinating to write a post about it. Hopefully I will finish it sometime this year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Animal analysis

For past two nights I was watching Animal Planet before going to bed (to avoid repeats on CNN). One night I saw "Monsters Inside Me" which showed the dangers of parasites lurking around us. The wilder the environment gets the more danger we run into. The show reminded how our "civilization (= rights + responsibilities)" process was not just for sympathy, empathy in the high-functioning sense but essentially a Darwinian process. We had to cluster around to separate other killers and the purpose of clustering is defeated without civilization because we would kill among ourselves. We still do but we came a long way.

Yesterday I watched "Killing for Living" which showed how in many species many babies are born-murderers and kill their siblings and in some cases parents kill their children etc. for food. Males kill each other and get killed by females for mating etc. The show said "Just because you are their kind doesn't mean they won't kill you!" One particular instance was striking: Typically stags fight almost to death for mating with female deers but one specific sub-species just have an "abstract fight" where they decide who the winner is without touching each other just by making abstract fight moves!! That is an instance of using brain more than bran! We probably evolved from such sub-species of apes who loved being alive more than sex and reproduction! This probably was the first instance of questioning the instincts! Of course now questioning is one of the seed pillars of our civilization!

Sometimes when things in our high-functioning world relationships (both professional and personal) are frustrating such animal knowledge can give good perspectives on how better off we are in the race of evolution. Killings in today's societies are still very marginal (except for extreme cases like Darfur etc. where the population is still behind in civilization) and most of us get food and get to mate without getting killed!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Streaks of thought: Streak 25

CNN is a great way to get political news! Being liberal I tried MSNBC and did not like the certainty pitch. I didn't even bother to try Fox not for their rightwingness but because I assumed their certainty! I like CNN's certainty in uncertainty. Watching news gives me some nice streaks for my blog: American democracy is strong because it has strong middle class. But what does it take for a society to have a strong middle class. As a gross oversimplification I had a streak saying that we need people with balls. Then a strong sense of entitlement and a pinch of empathy (added with lot of perspiration to enforce, of course) can produce both world class rich people and constantly strong middle class!