Digital singularity and the way of a cyber punk reality

I don’t think we ought to worry about a future where Digital singularity is a reality. There is no point to mull about it. That’s because it’s already here.

Singularity, the term has many definitions as it sits smug among many contexts. The crux of any Singularity is the convergence point of a collective conscious. Many , grouped and represented as one.

Lets take a look at how we’ve managed that singularity in the past. I always go back to the dude with a funny moustache. To my mind, he represented a point in time when there was a singularity. Anti Semitism, racial purity, a 1000 years of reich, they weren’t necessarily the unanimous individual voice. It was a single collective voice. The voice of the individuals were either silenced or oppressed. Murmurs were present in discrete pockets. The dude with the funny moustache had managed Singularity. For a while, it existed.

Lets rewind back to the usual modern times. Xenophobia is a collective singularity. It also does not represent individual voices. It is an accepted collective voice. The way social media reacts to many triggers also represents those many moments of digital singularity.

We aren’t talking about bits and pieces of such a singular existence. We are talking about full blown societies where natural scientific evolution would have taken us to adopt a collective conscious. We are getting there with each day passing. The trouble with such a collective conscious is that it does not take into account the individual voice. The greater good is a sentiment that directly conflicts with the most basic human need. That need to be unique. We , currently, feel offended to be tagged as average and normal. We are ok with it , as long as no body points out that mediocre existence. We are ok with ignorance.

I do think that, strike that, I do believe that we would eventually adopt a collective conscious for our society. We’d have gone through the usual iteration of corruption, oppression and politics and opt that technology ,which is both transparent and focused on delivering social good, as the right alternative. The biggest challenge that such a singularity would face would be along the lines of harmonizing multiple voices and opinion.

The simpler view of that conundrum is that in today’s world, we are not free enough to do good. There are many vested interests that deter us from doing good. Poverty and hunger. If the world wanted to eradicate them both, it could have. It exists because hunger and poverty serves vested interest. The essential conflict of interest has always shaped up the political picture of the world.

The deal with a digital collective conscious is that it would easily expose the conflict of interest. The interest would stick out like a sore thumb, the collective hive would eliminate it and plan ahead by bull dozing through it. That’s the bright happy picture.

As long as we identify ourselves as humans, we embrace disruption. The human desires of acceptance, acknowledgement, recognition, these are meaningless without an Identity. Ego, it’s not a bad word. Ego sketches an identity for us. We embrace it. Through it, we announce ourselves to the world. Resentment arises when we eliminate the need for that identity. That identity is the line that separates the men and the women from herds of sheep.

We are witnessing an interesting age of compliance. Take a good look at the usual activity. We do what others are doing. We play the same games, we forward the same posts, we voice out for the same causes, we click, like, share alike. We , as a species, are the closest to compliance. We live to standards without recognizing that we are aligning ourselves to established templates. Take a good look at your instagram photos. Same filters. Different places and yet everything looks similar to everything else.

And so, this wonderful Friday, I do sit amused at the compliance conundrum. We are a conflicted kind. We crave to be unique and do whatever it takes to fit in. Singularity is here. It’s where we all would eventually end up being a part of. It’s a scary cyber punk future and I’ve already started crying Wolf.

Karthik

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Book Review : Lord of the flies

Coverpage of the Lord of the Flies

Lord of the flies, William Golding

In many ways, the book Lord of the flies can be compared to a fantastic experiment to understand collective psychosis. Psychosis, according to wiki, is the fracture of the mind because of a disconnect from reality. Collective psychosis is a reflection of how a group of people , who are confined to a space, display a hive mentality. This hive mentality usually amplifies the common outlook. A society with enough good intentions will garner a collective good intent. A society that thrives on other motives will generally oscillate towards that. Hence the phrase, it’s only human.

The book starts with a bunch of kids finding themselves stranded in an island that is desolate. The first of the kid that is introduced to us is a chubby little one. He meets another kid, who has a fair hair and is fitter and handsome. The new kid introduces himself as Ralph. The chubby kid never gets the opportunity to speak of his real name. He goes on to narrate that , back home, the other kids used to taunt him by calling him Piggy. The nick name sticks. So in that island, there is Ralph and then there is Piggy.

The unlikely duo stumble upon a conch. Ralph blows and this attracts the attention of the other kids who are stranded. As the kids assemble, we get to realize the situation. Kids vary in their age. The littleuns are aged around six. The biguns are teens. The prominent biguns are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, Roger , Sam and Eric. There probably are a few more but I didn’t make a note. Mostly because I found them to be a plot filler than anything else.

The littleuns, there is Percival, and there is this other little rug rat who has a purplish face.

Jack , is the leader of a choir and his mates and him are stranded on the island. Since Jack and his mates form the majority of the biguns, Jack does feel a little betrayed when he is not elected as the chief. Ralph is the appointed as the chief. And that’s mostly because Ralph had assembled the kids by blowing through the conch. The conch goes on to symbolise leadership for the rest of the book. Symbolism is a major theme in this book.

Zippa-do-dee, the kids manage to conclude and agree upon the plan that their apex priority is to get rescued. To be rescued, Ralph rationalises that they should be lighting up a fire that would generate smoke. This smoke is expected to be spotted by the ships. The biguns explore the island to confirm that it is an island indeed, and isolate the perfect vantage point to light up a fire.

Piggy’s spectacles is the only means of ignition. School grade science at play here.

Things start off good and then they stop staying good. Jack takes the role as a hunter and his group of cronies, and yes a word that I’ve not had the pleasure of using for a long time now, become the designated hunters. Jack starts off as a lame hunter. His first attempt at hunting a wild pig ends up as a failure. This becomes a significant failure in Jack’s life on the island. His ego hurt, hunting now and hunting successfully becomes a symbol to Jack to assert his credibility. Fine, I tried to sound politically correct. Jack’s manhood is now represented by his ability to hunt. Yup, that suits the tone , as written in the book.

In course of time, the kids entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the fire alive , goof up. The let the fire die. A ship passes by and panic ensues in Ralph’s mind. This creates a rift between Ralph and Jack. To Ralph, getting rescued is the most important thing. To Jack, it’s hunting.

The stark reality is that these are all a bunch of kids who are trying desperately hard to transform into responsible adults. They try and they collectively fail. The littleuns are too little to understand the circumstance. They continue to do the million mischievous and silly things that kids that age do. They miss their mothers and cry, they play in the sun and enjoy getting dirty. They lead a normal life of pointless distraction.

The biguns are caught between two worlds. They are kids and since they are also the elder ones, they pretend to be adults.

As the days go by, there is a talk of beasts that are there in the island. Fear grips the group. The littleuns are the first to be scared witless. Fear propagates through the group. Mass hysteria and paranoia kicks in. The group decides to never to speak about the beasts. The biguns do their part in trying to hunt down the beast and that doesn’t go anywhere.

Frustrations start to press down the kids and over disagreements, Jack decides to take his pack of hunters and leave the group. He creates his own tribe and in his tribe, kids paint themselves in red and white.

The rest of the book is about the beast that hunts in the island, and you’ve got to read to the book to know if the kids made it safe and sound.

This book is a master class on psychology.

Piggy, the fat kid , and yes I’ll call him that. It’s not because I’m insensitive or I feel the need to rubbish a kid on it’s physical appearance to feel a bit better about myself. Piggy, the fat kid, is the one who stumbles upon the conch. He is the thinker in the island. He has the necessary traits to be a leader. He is the lord of the fire, without his glasses there wouldn’t be a fire. Piggy never shines bright through the book. Something holds him back. He gets teased a lot and piggy’s outlook towards life is a line on throwing excuses. He hides his limitations behind excuses.

Ralph, the chief, is uncertain as hell but pretends to be a wise chief. He consults piggy but there is that confidence in him that makes him a leader. Ralph is a wonderful example of how one can rule the world by feeling wonderful and confident about oneself. It’s that self assurance that makes Ralph a natural leader

Jack, the hunter and a chief of his own tribe. Jack’s ability or inability to hunt manifests as his worth in the island. Whatever that Jack is battling inside his head, he translates that into the skill of hunting. There is so much violence in Jack. That coming out from a kid who sings in a choir!!!! interesting peek into the psyche of such a little boy. Jack expresses violence to compensate things that he lacks or things that he is denied of.

Ralph wants to remain civilized and English throughout the book. Jack descends into savagery. The conflict between culture and primal is evident in the tale. When there is no one to look at us, or to judge and supervise us, do we still remain decent and true to our masks? That is the question that the book poses. Different people are different when there are no eyes on them.

In the context of real life, it does explain the lack of civic sense in our offices and the same folks are at their ‘International Best’ when they are deputed. We are different people when people are around us. This book removes that supervision from the equation. It observes the people in it in that absence. Chaos flies spirited.

Lord of the flies is a wonderful book. I found it hard to read. There were numerous times when I lost track of what I was reading. I found it to be extremely descriptive. Every inch of the island is described. I had trouble sustaining focus. It’s still a wonderful book to read.

Karthik

Literature and project management

Lord of the flies versus Lord of the FILES.

One read of the book, ‘Lord of the flies’ later, it’s not too hard to compare the masterpiece of literature with the master class that is project management. I couldn’t help but spot similarities embedded across the two distinct plots. The book and , on most days, project management both deal with business and the people who constitute that business. To outline the common plot points, lets compare the book and the day to day project management lifecycle.

We’ll start with the book.

Kids stranded in an island. They think things through and then decide to start a fire that would generate smoke. The smoke would act as a beacon that would attract possible ships. Ship would then rescue the kids.

A simple enough plot. A simple enough storyline. For the purpose of comparison, we can structure the book into the different phases of project management.

1. Business case : The grandest if there was one. Get rescued from the Island.

2. Planning : The kids unanimously exhibit the desire to get rescued. They formulate a plan. Plan A , make fire , generate smoke so that ships can spot them. Spotting would lead to a rescue

3. Resourcing and budgeting : The kids then split themselves into teams. One group is in charge of collecting the wood required to make the fire. One group is in charge of hunting. One group is in charge of building shelters to keep the kids. There is no financial spend, but resources are abundant. The island is covered with trees, it has animals waiting to be hunted for game and food. It probably also has animals waiting to hunt the poor little kids. Sunset and the night poses a limitation on the productivity

4. Design : The kids then formalize the means to execute their plan. The point of the fire and the smoke is to attract the attention of ships passing by. By design, the strategic vantage point is the highest point in the island. This also poses a logistical problem. The kids cant camp high up in the hills. It also means that a team has to be deployed ‘Onsite’ to monitor and manage the fire. It’s initially assessed to be a critical 24/7 project.

5. Delivery : The responsibilities charted out, the kids are set aside to carry their chores.

6. Governance : The kids elect a chief. The chief conducts meetings to keep the order in the group.

So far, so good. The kids have a requirement. The kids have a plan. The kids know exactly what they need to make things happen. The kids start to act towards their goals. There is an elected leadership to provide the much needed direction towards the project. And like everything else, the plan goes to hell. Things go south. Cracks run deep and the goals remain elusive.

The problems are many in the context of the book. A, since the fire is maintained far away from habitation, the kids who are entrusted to the task of keeping the fire going, find themselves bored of the task. They start to slack. They distract themselves into other tasks and are more eager to hunt rather than babysit the fire. The job is a demanding one indeed. 24/7 job to ensure that the fire is fuelled properly and always kept alive. Another problem, there is only one way to light a fire in the island. That’s by using another kid’s spectacles as a lens to generate the flame. Should the fire die out, it cant be resurrected.

The segregation of the team also leads to people problems. The hunters are perceived to have a cool job. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a hunter. The other kids want to be hunters. The hunters themselves are novices and struggle to exhibit proper competency. But they try and get better. With the social status of the Hunters now elevated, this also results in dissatisfaction across other job profiles.

As a direct result, the blokes in charge of the fire ignore their task. A ship comes and goes and the kids remain stranded.

The chief, aka the lead, doesn’t take this lightly. With their survival on the line, the chief loses it and his feedback is blatant. Constructive feedback is a fantastic thing. Actual failure is a fantastic thing. Actual failure challenges the mind and inspires a crude , rough leadership. A lead is measured through how they react under adversity. The not so constructive feedback later, the kids are left with their egos bruised and extremely hurt. This breeds resentment. The foundation of a democratic leadership starts to crumble. Another kid eyes for the spot. Conspires and manages to attract a few supporters. The inevitable happens and the team of kids, now are separated. They are separated in ideology, they are separated in their goals. There is an unhealthy cut throat competition to survive.

The actual goal of getting rescued is diluted beyond recognition. Distraction takes precedence and there is no viable direction left in the kids. As chaos ensures, there is a systematic breakdown of process. Interestingly, a process is only as good as the people following it. If the folks find the process redundant or useless, the process loses its charm. Any and all effort invested into ratifying such a process , doesn’t really inspire compliance. The output of work narrates the state of things.

This book is not very different from the way projects get executed. We all start on an optimistic note. Unless we are driven , at all times, by the end result, chaos ensues. Without a steer, different directions are pursued and these might not always align towards the actual goal for which the project was created. The skills of the people, the availability of resources , the utilization of the resources and the skills of the people involved, the individual motivations that inspire people to deliver, challenges along the way, all of these are a part and parcel of the daily IT way of life.

Much like how the kids realized that keeping the fire all through the night would have been useless because the smoke wouldn’t be spotted at night. This resulted in their project moving away from a 24/7 engagement to just about 12/7. An earlier forethought would have minimised resentment from the fire team.

In retrospect, everything makes sense. We are able to spot where things could have been done better. In retrospect, the book is a fine example of individuals and their behaviours, the way that impacts the overall collective behaviour of the folks. The book also predicts the things that are inevitable. Motivations are usually short lived. One mustn’t expect a motivating factor to persist for as long as one lives. Logistically, that cant happen. We stay motivated when we see such factors. Then we ship into an autopilot mode. When we feed jaded, we find another driving force. When nothing works, we look for a change in scenery and the cycle kicks in again.

The hardest gear of a business is its people. Rest , are only a tried and tested thought process away. Literate and Project management indeed. Who’d have thought!

Karthik

Holy Christ and Strings!

I do like drama in real life. I enjoy the drama , mostly because I see them when they usually don’t even exist. This perfectly places me between two states of the mind. The one where I’m naïve and the one where I’m a suspicious skeptic. Through a few iterations, a baggage of lessons learnt, I’d like to assume that I’ve grown a bit wise. I’m not sure if I’d ever be wise enough.

The fantastic part of telling a fabricated story is the treasure hunt phase. The other beautiful part is the execution of the idea itself. I could have made this a tale. I chose a different approach this time around. Leaving this in the realm of fiction would have diluted the seriousness to the tale. When I talk about strings, what do you think of? Strings could be the ones from a musical instrument, like a guitar or a violin. Strings could be the emotional ties that keep us anchored to something. Strings are also the ones that the ‘Master of the puppets’ pulls. We’ll be talking about such masters of the universe. One sentence that pays its tribute to both Metallica and HeMan. I like that.

It doesn’t take much for one to understand the nature of written and verbal communication. Very similar to forensics, every time we leave a trail of words (written or spoken) around, we also leave behind an imprint of our truest nature. I call this a reflex honesty. There are times when our minds work faster than the speed of our thoughts. It’s precisely at these moments when people exhibit their natural self. It’s not all that very difficult to pretend and put on a show. It, however, does take a lot of effort to sustain that show. Putting on a show, indefinitely, forever, without inconsistencies, and always staying in a make believe character is hard. It takes a lot of conscious and subconscious effort to maintain that façade.

And so our tale takes us to the realm of manipulators. I find these folks interesting. They make a wonderful character to explore and add elements to a said story. Manipulators are an Archtype persona. They pull strings to either keep themselves satisfied, or do it because doing so servers their purpose. Such Archtypes are impressive because uncovering the motivations that drive them , is often the hunt that takes us, both the readers and blokes in real life, on a journey of discovery.

These Archtypes have always existed. Right from Mahabharat, the earliest known Manipulator that I can think of, the Bethal ; which also manipulated in the interest of it’s preservation and vested interests, this archtype is one that transcends time and stays relevant to the modern context. I think it’s also pertinent to note that we, as folks; as a herd; usually don’t mind the manipulation as long as we are not told that we are being manipulated. As with most things that govern life, being manipulated could be a good thing or something to regret later on.

Since manipulators are an Archtype, they do exhibit a specific type of modus operandi! I made that sound more sinister than it usually is. But , you get the general idea.

1. The Jeebus Syndrome – Or as science calls it, the Messiah complex. Most manipulators enjoy playing the compassionate god. If you remember my works on Carl Jung, the archtype personality is that of a Wise old man/Wise old woman. The underlying ploy is to fuel trust and faith in the victims, but posing as not a threat but as the designated chosen one who is put on earth to serve all humanity :)))))

2. All ears, all guilt – Most manipulators are great listeners. I’m not sure if the vice versa is true enough. Their ability to listen, to throw light on our misgivings, also feeds their status as the Wise old bloke. They are prone to deflect questions that try to expose their intent. They usually deploy guilt to sneak out of tight spots.

3. Victim card – Most manipulators , always and I mean ALWAYS, play the victim card. They exhibit a certain charm that accompanies the fact that they have been there, they have suffered and hence can understand what you are going through. If you start to connect the dots, point 3 feeds into Point 1 and therefore Point 2 is the way they run their business.

4. All in, all the time – Most manipulators go all in and all the time. It is human to have skeletons buried deep in the closet. It takes an enormous effort for us to open up and share our deeds to others. Manipulators usually rapidly accelerate that phase. They go all in. It’s a tease and a gamble of sorts. By feeding us personal , all too secrety secrets, they A : Obligate us into opening up trust B: Obligate us into reciprocating with a few nasty secrets of our own. And bada boom, feeds into the victim card

The dynamics between a manipulator and their prey is also interesting thing. It banks on TRANSFERENCE. Transference is similar to a Stockholm syndrome, just without a Stockholm in place. There is a symbiotic relationship at play here. Victims are kept in that stasis of misery and guilt so that the manipulator stays relevant and in context. Manipulators really do look for their victims to remain miserable because if folks are not miserable, they’d not go about painting their lives to such manipulators. It is a vicious cycle. They both need each other, they both feed into each other and as long as the victims and predators co-exist, neither would fizz out.

I am but amused at this cycle of prey and predation. Things used to be different before the dawn of the age of 24/7-365 social outreach program that the Internet is. We do make it easy to get manipulated. In ways, we also do manipulate/influence the course of the lives of folks that we are connected to.

Emotional manipulators are real. They walk among us, they talk to us everyday. They are not monsters who hide away in shadows. In fact , they are not monsters at all, till we start making them one. That said, it’s nice to recognize the world around us. Staying observant and staying sceptical is a survival skill that comes handy. At all times.

Karthik

Oh young Jung!

There is something so fascinating and mysterious about the way the people are. The sight beyond the sight, the game of cat and mouse played in the mind. The petty satisfaction derived from guessing what others are thinking and the joy of making ample correct guesses. That’s the game of poker. That’s also the game of entertaining psychology.

Most of us associate psychology to Psychos. And then the conservative ones think of shrinks, Psychologists, at the mere mention of the word. There is also the massive negative connotation. All things psychology point towards mental instability and the feared fracture of the mind. Most of us usually don’t realize that we all exhibit such analytical skills in judging and predetermining motives of others in our day to day lives. The step into office and we try to put ourselves into many shoes. We think like how we think others would think. Workplace and business is usually a brilliant and yet such a subtle game of picking psychology hues. It helps us understand things better. It helps us plan for things better.

Different people are different and our ability to adapt and know the right set of things to say to keep the folks happy, is a skill that differentiates the ‘Go doers’ and the coveted ‘Go Getters’. Business has a different name to it. It’s called a soft skill. A soft skill is a million square miles beyond just the ability to string a few sentences together in a different language. This people skill is the one that we tend to call ‘Leadership’ skills. The wonderful ability to influence, manipulate, steer, inspire a wider team in order to meet common objectives. The average day is littered with evidences of Psychology 1-0-1.

I have many vested interest into this area. I like talking to people. I love meeting new people. I enjoy imagining the life they’d have lived. I like writing fictitious tales of such characters, leading such lives. As a story teller, I enjoy the many nuances to how people are, how they interact with their world, how they react to given circumstances. I love framing tales around the rise and fall of heroes and villains to add that drama to my story.

This curiosity led me to the works of Carl Jung. While the authenticity and the validity of Jung’s works can be disputed, I’m fascinated by the fact that I have tools to model my characters and give them a personality. I remember writing a bit about Anima and Animus. The masculine and feminine side to us all. This time around, I found myself stumbling deeper into the rabbit hole called Archtypes.

Personality, as the word stands, is derived from Persona. It’s a bit funny because Persona is something that we use so that others can spot us, identify us, categorize us and subsequently either accept or reject us. Persona and by implication, a personality is a mask that we put on display to appease to the world around us. It’s a fad. It’s a fashion statement. It’s a lifestyle choice that’s put on a public display.

The self, and along other contexts(examples include self discovery, spirituality and arm chair philosophy) which is referred to as the soul, is the way we are to ourselves. The self , quite often , is very different from Persona and the personality.

Got a bit of a time. Google – > Jung Archtype personality test. I don’t remember the link, but yeah, I took one. I happen to be a Joker. That’s two levels of joker. I see myself as one and it’s my choice of persona. Apparently, the tests reveal how you see yourself and what show you put for the world to see. Yup. It’s pseudo-science official.

Before we step into the details of the Archtype, the term archtype itself is a definition of traits that are exhibited by most people. We have the Joker. There is the Wise old man, The wise old woman, the Lover, The Devil to name a few. Archtype itself is a part of the collective unconscious that most people are aware of but indifferent towards. Collective unconscious, the words do suggest that we acknowledge the archtypes without even realizing it.

To quote an example, anyone dressed in orange, peaceful enough face, long enough beard. We equate them to God-men/women. Associate honesty, truth and purity towards them. And bada boom, scandal a few months down the line. Archtypes do play a pivotal role in shaping up history. All leaders, who have managed to capture the attention and hearts of people, exhibit this trait. They are successful only because we put our faith in them. We do that, also because unconsciously, we feel compelled to form a favourable opinion.

So back to Joker. The Joker takes the life easy. Fun. Contemplative. Thinks a lot. Acts when necessary. Uses humour to win the day and doesn’t care about the heroes and villains of the tale. It’s the journey that fascinates the joker. Call it a confirmation bias, but yeah, I can lead myself to believe that I fit the bill.

Another interesting thing about such Archtypes is the existence of Shadow. Shadow is a darker influence. Every archtype has a corresponding shade of a shadow. The deeper the manifestation of such a shadow, the stark opposite becomes the Personality and identification of the self.

Friday, that today is, go on and indulge a little curiosity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson-Marr_Archetype_Indicator_(PMAI) and google Jung and Archtypes to learn a bit more about yourself.

Just thinking about Archtypes and Shadows has made me restless enough to want to sit and breathe complicated characters to life. Sweet sweet pleasures of life 🙂

Karthik