Thursday, September 15, 2011


Glitch, bug, deviation, defect, error, are all synonyms of failure. A glitch in function or a bug in working, causes deviation from expected behavior, resulting in defects in output, and an error in decision making, that causes failure to accomplish the task. These are are all products of human mistakes, which are inseparable from humanity. As long as they are humans performing, we cannot eradicate errors. Not being perfect is one thing, but not striding towards perfection, yet another. Not making those little progresses, completely inexcusable.

See any field or activity of human life, though humans always err, mistakes was never made the norm. Mistakes are not to be tolerated, and not just corrections but preventive measures were built in to counter them. These are ingrained into our lives right from the childhood. A doctor leaving his forceps in a patient's stomach is made to dearly pay for it. If a building collapses, the builder is sent to jail. If you supply faulty material, you completely compensate. These are ways human society has ingrained into us to disincentivize carelessness and build reliability.

Everyone was accountable for their deliberate actions, as well as held responsible for their preventable errors, with few notable exceptions. In olden days, only the kings had such exemption. In modern days, they are a full breed, called software engineers. Whatever they do, they can get away with it, in the name of intrinsic fallibility of human nature. If such errors were to be tolerated, would a driver be let go for blinking for only few seconds on the highway. Or, such leeway made available to manufacturers of faulty clothes that fall apart on day one. Or a pilot be excused for reporting late and delaying air traffic while he was having a nap. This is not even a lethal mistake, but only a monetary one. If they are all made to pay for their mistakes, software engineers are let free. Tolerance to a bug, is the first step in enduring and encouraging mistakes, and the foundation for rampant unreliability.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Multi Level Marketing pyramids; beware!

Wikipedia (as of Apr 29, 2008) has interesting articles showing clear contracts between legal & sustainable
multi-level marketing schemes and illegal pyramid schemes.

In short, pyramid schemes just transfer money from large section of participants to a small group of top ones.

MLM schemes on an average sell you the products at retail price minus the advertising costs. All else in it is pyramid.

Federal Trade Commission, US, advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically.

Since many are still falling prey to these, esp. in the "free" market world, we owe it to spread this info and forewarn others.

Keywords: ACN Inc., Agel (MLM company), Alticor, Amsoil, Amway, BioPerformance, Cobra Group, Deutsche Vermögensberatung, Equinox International, Excel Communications, Forever Living Products, Freelife, Fuel Freedom International, Fund America, Inc., Herbalife, Holiday Magic (Company dissolved in 1974), Juice Plus, Kleeneze, Mannatech, Mary Kay, Mini IQ, Monavie, National Safety Associates, Neways, Nu Skin Enterprises, Omegatrend, Oriflame, Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., Primerica, Quixtar, Shaklee Corporation, Stream Energy, Sunrider International, Tahitian Noni International, USANA Health Sciences, World Financial Group, XanGo

Friday, January 11, 2008

Most Disorders Are Learned

There are people. They are all different from each other - physically different, levels of intelligence, aptitude, behavioral style, etc. Here, using myself as an example and analyzing deeply, I intend to explain, how many behaviors that we term as abnormalities, are learned, and not genetic.

Multi-personality Disorder:
Many times I plan for something, but do otherwise. At that moment, I'm not in control of myself, and don't realize what I am doing. Sometimes I have experiences, I consider as best forgotten, and put them behind myself. Has a different personality of mine overtaken me at that moment? No.
It is like what i do when i cross the road. I decide whether to cross or not - either-or. Never do i take a middle path of crossing patiently, if a vehicle is approaching. Is this what should be done? yes. You can't stay on the road obstructing it. You have to either cross, or wait. There is no partial solution. So also in behavior. Either i do it, or wait for others to do.
When i make a decision, i follow it. I don't reevaluate my decision at every stage. I put any other options behind me. I drop them or try to drop them from my conscious mind. This is just normal behavior.

I am Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports, and prone to motion-sickness.
I have difficulty putting thoughts into word, with severe communication handicap.
Despite a lot of rereads, there is little comprehension. Also, possesses strong sense of justice, and strives for perfection. These are all typical strong symptoms of dyslexia across various function areas.
Can it be attributed to any reason other than dyslexia? yes.
I never played ball or team sports in my childhood life. I was an extreme introvert, always in my den, and rarely interacted with people, resulting in later life difficulties in communication. At the same time, i'm pretty good at spellings due to a devoted & focussed primary school teachers.
I'm also exceptionally good at Maths.
These are complete coincidental skills that i learned in my childhood. Any Learning happens best in Childhood. Anything learned in that period, you are strong at, and learnings missed out during that period are difficult to catch again. This is the single largest reason for learning difficulties of people in particular areas. It is not something baby is born with, rather acquired since.

I never feel too attached to people. I never feel having to do anything for others' feelings. Is this Autism a problem? I feel No. It is a purely rational behavior by motivated people.

So most abnormalities or disorders are acquired behavior, rather than based on hereditary.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Tool IT

It is not just Science and Technology, but the Tools that empower Modern Man.

I woke up one fine day, to the redness of the sky. The sun was not yet up, but I dragged myself out of bed. It was going to be long and tiring day ahead, just like any other day. My workplace is a good 10km from my residence. I had to hurry to meet the 10o clock deadline. I had already been twice late in the month. Once more late, and I would not be left with enough leaves to visit my village during Holi next month. It takes 2-weeks for a visit, and I had been saving up for it without taking an off even during illness during the last 6-months. I just couldn’t afford to waste it now. One more month, and the New Year would start, with new leaves allocated.

Due to the moonless night, I couldn’t figure out the time, and now I see the sun rising along the horizon. I skipped my breakfast, as hurried to work, as I had no horse, and it took around 2 hours to cover the 10km distance on foot. By the time I reached office I was already panting. Then I finally got down to hand copy a thousand prints of my article for the coming edition of our magazine.

No, this is not the description of the world today, thanks to our ancestors who had the hindsight to build upon existing technologies and left us a wide pool of tools we make use of. This is the description of the days gone by, the era that was and the era that still could’ve been. Now we have automobiles to travel, a watch to track time, and trains and even planes to make visits to hometown on the weekends, and printing machines to make copies.

Our ancestors left us a strong legacy of highly potent tools built with advanced technology. They learnt science, made advances in technology and innovated new equipment to solve old problems. Tools are the culmination of all their work. Tools are the reason why modern man achieves much more than his ancestors. Common man today covers much more distances in his life than navigators like Columbus could ever do. He enjoys so much of technological luxuries which Newton or Edison did not. Take away the tools and he would be no different from his ancestors. Have you witnessed the fright of a man left unarmed in a jungle. He would simply panic in front of a wolf. Provide him a gun and some armor, and he would hunt tigers and lions.

It is not just Science and Technology, but the Tools that empower Modern Man. Tools also make his life easier and more productive. It differentiates his era from the pre-historic. In his short lives, he accomplishes much more today than his ancestors. Tools give him the means to execute without actually toiling for it.

The more you employ tools,
The easier your life is, and
The more competent you are.

While Tools empower those who command them, they hinder those who don’t. They increase the level of competition to such great extents that those devoid of tools simply perish. Only fools, not even fools, attempt to race against motorbikes. But when it comes to software development we do exactly this. We manually code, debug and test. Agreed, that tools might not have developed enough to write good software on their own, but they have developed enough to aid many phases of software development. Conceding that you might already be using an IDE and a debugger, but there are much more advances than these. And the generic logic holds even in software - the more you employ tools, the easier your life is, and the more competent you are.

For writing code, besides the well adopted IDEs, there are a huge number of predefined libraries and frameworks. There are advances in programming languages with newer constructs to ease your lives. There are a number of reasons to dump C and use C++, and no counter-reason that cannot be avoided. I’ll leave those for another article. Plenty of tools have already flood the market for reviewing code and finding bugs, that employing people to do it is a waste of effort. Automated build environments have come up to do the testing as well.

The adoption of these ready made systems is quite low in the industry. It can be said that only because of a highly fractured software industry is such incompetence being sustained. As was seen in all mature industries in their transition periods, when a few players adopt new tools and become more competent, all other minnows are wiped out. When a farmer brings in a tractor for ploughing, manual ploughing in the neighbourhood no longer remains economical. When Babur invaded India with his highly equipped army, all fragmented states fell like a pack of cards. It is yet to be seen which software players pioneer the adoption of the advances in Tools and Technology and consolidate the market.


As India steps onto the ladder of globalization, the divide between urban and rural India is continuously increasing. While the rich are laughing their ways to the bank, villages are crumbling under tremendous economic pressure. While many IT companies are competing to set up shop in its buzzing cities, villages are creeping in underemployment. Even as India fills its coffers with foreign exchange, local farmers are committing suicides. One India is shining, the other is moving deeper into the clutches of Maoist extremism.

Economic reforms have failed to move are expected and wanted. Along with an economic growth rate of 9.5% and a per-capita rise of 7%, comes the deadly inflation following close on heels at 6.9%. In real senses, while the urban IT workers are accumulating more and more wealth, it is not penetrating to the rural poor, and in fact receding from them. That is, the real earnings of almost all sections of wage earners, agricultural workers, women workers and casual workers of all kinds have fallen since 2000. The real economy remains stagnant, with a mere realignment of wealth from the poor to the rich, increasing economic imbalances and putting more pressure on society.

The per-capita income of the farming community increased ... a meager 12% in the last 42 years.
Unhappiness and dissatisfaction is evident over ‘India Shining’. Governments are tumbling and parties coming to power on the promise of distributing the new found wealth. Finance minister visions of completely eliminating poverty by 2040. Do any of those politicians actually have to solution to cure our poverty, or is all the rhetoric to remove poverty a mere gimmick to attract voters. Do they put their efforts to not just accumulate wealth by creating special laws to promote exports, but also a means to percolate that wealth across the country.

The problem needs to be analyzed not in terms of RBI issued paper currency, but in real value terms which explain most macro-economic phenomenon. Let us consider the cost of a basket of items, incl. a person’s daily meals, a liter of petrol, etc. be taken as a unit. During inflation the cost of this unit rises. Now, what is happening to India is, with rising export receipts, Indian exporters and IT workers are earning more. The earnings trickle into the market, shooting up demand and prices equally. The price in rupees of the economic unit increases. Inflation rises. While all this ensues in urban India, the poor farmers continue to earn the same for their primary goods, but are now faced with stiffer prices. While the average rise in salaries of 7% is un-uniformly distributed, an inflation of around 7% affects uniformly across rich and poor. The purchasing power or the real wealth has not grown, but merely relocated. If it is flowing to the urban India, it is obviously slowing from the poor.

Most of India lives in villages, mostly employed in farming. According to recent census, 70% of livelihoods are dependent on farming. The figures were even higher at 80% in 1965. When we talk of the deprived class, it is mostly this community that we speak of. Let us analyze the macro-economics of their situation.

Do them a favour;
Drag them out of farming.
Let us consider the value of farm product consumption of an average human being to be 100 units of economic value. Across the sections, be it rich or poor, food requirement remains same, and they each require and consume this same value. 100% population consumes 100 units each of farm product. As the amount of import/export are insignificant in terms of the whole demand, especially so in primary sector, the demand and supply match perfectly. So, the 100 units of farm product for 100% population have to be grown by 70% involved in farming production. The average farm value they would thus manage to generate is 140 units (=100*100/80). I repeat, only 140 units of farm production. Of this, they would themselves consume 100 units, leaving only 40 units to satisfy their other wants, insufficient even to comfortably clothe themselves. Leave education, even shelter can’t be afforded. If they need a new hut or have to repair their house, loans are the only option, for which they have no means to repair. An already deficit earning, burdened by un-repayable loans, drive them to suicides.

Nationalize Agriculture.
Let us analyze, how much have, the lives of farmers, changed since independence. In 1965, 80% were involved into agriculture. Now, 70% of households are still involved. So, the per-capita income of the farming community increased from 125 units (=100*100/80) to 140, a meager 12% in the last 42 years, inspite of a strong and resurgent India. During the same period, Indian economy has shredded its over-dependence on agriculture and moved closer to manufacturing and services. There has been an influx of goods & modern gadgets in to the market. Those who had a radio in the 60%, now want a color tv. But with an annual 0.27% growth, they can’t even afford a second-hand black & white tv.

India needs forced movement of people away from agriculture. As agriculture is a primary necessity, it can’t push out everyone, and India needs to also safeguard it. The best way to go is to Nationalize Agriculture. Being a huge player, it can not only buffer the uncertainties in monsoons and national calamities, but also leverage high-end technology to improve and safeguard production. As for the farmers pushed out, they would slowly get deployed into secondary and tertiary industries. The completely unskilled can join construction or other labour intensive jobs. As India progresses along the path of development, the economic value of agricultural sector remains same, and the sector stagnates. But, the total value of secondary and tertiary sectors can continue to increase, by creating more economic opportunities and serving them. These sectors in the long run can continue to provide everyone livelihoods and scope for growth.

There are 70 crore farmers! What to do with them? Do them a favour; drag them out of farming before they kill themselves. And, they are literally killing themselves instead of a painful and prolonged death. It is difficult to move such a huge population. China frequently does. But, we are a democracy. Then, China wins, and India loses. China wins better lives for its people, but India actually loses human lives, not just the thousands that die in battles, but tens of crores of farmers.


Regulation exists everywhere, in every country, in so many places. Even the hardcore capitalist thinkers accept the need for it. Governments simply like it, for it gives them power, and fill its coffers. Businessmen despise it for it cuts their profits and restricts them. But how much of it is actually needed, and where is it needed. For that we need to look at what a market is, how it operates, and why regulation is needed.

A market is where trade occurs. A transaction is a give and take of resources between two parties. Many transactions constitute trade. Involved parties seal a transaction based on its individual benefits to each. They both gain value through it. This is how a free market works in the absence of regulation. The net value of the two-party system always increases during trade. But what the involved parties do not account for is the impact on physical and business environment. Regulation is needed to account for it. Trade also removes uncertainties in future trading and self stabilizes the system. In come cases, speculation plays a major part, and destabilizes the system. Regulation is the only way to bring it back.

The market is mostly in a stable equilibrium, as regards the prices of goods and services, in that, any variation in them tends to bring it back. As demand increases, price increases. It creates new opportunities for production, and methods of production previously unviable, now become profitable. So higher prices, increase supply after a small time lag, and bring down prices. Except for this small lag, the correction phase, the system is in a stable equilibrium. The prices self-correct. This holds not only for the market as a whole, but also for individual consumables. This is a typical competitive market, running in a perfect state, and should not be tinkered with any external levies or regulation.

Regulation is needed to account for the harm done to the natural environment. As individuals and groups evaluate the feasibility (if earnings>investment) of their economic activities, they do not routinely evaluate the effect of their actions on the environment. In order to force them to weigh the environmental harm into their decisions, it is essential to penalize them by the amount of harm. Something like a pollution tax on all polluting units and fuels, in proportion to the pollution they generate.

When a market is controlled by a single player, it is called a monopoly. A single stake holder, being party to all transactions, deviates from the regular behaviour. He may not over supply when demand prices have gone up, and harms the business environment. He may sell lower to undercut competition. Also monopoly feeds monopoly, which in the long run may adversely impact consumers in the market. To control such behaviour, regulation is needed. While regulating to curb monopolies, care should be taken for some markets cannot sustain without one.

Sometimes essential goods are subsidized as part of regulation. In almost all cases, this is harmful to economic health. It encourages wastefulness of the resource. It discourages those pursuing to seek alternatives. For example, by providing for free electricity, it increases consumption. It disadvantages people seeking natural ventilation to avoid or atleast decrease use of lights and fans. It hinders penetration of low power devices. It increases consumption to extents that it becomes costlier to source it. Finally, the governments would be forced to put a variety of conditions on these subsidies, but they still remain harmful. Restricting it to a section of people, like below poverty line, would retain the problem to slightly lower extents, but with additional organizational overheads. Sometimes subsidies come in the form of lower price tag, but restricted supply. It deviates from perfect economy by denying to those who genuinely need it and willing to pay a commensurate price, like students needing light in exam days. All kinds of subsidies meant to make goods more affordable, serve to cut from the overall economic value. The best way to make an essential good available to the people would be to let the market run its free course, and equi-distribute the whole money meant for the subsidy. This serves to make the good affordable, reward those who save, and charge those who over consume. It keeps consumption under check.

Another need for regulation is to ensure that the stable equilibrium achieved by the market is sustainable and not by depleting reserves we inherited from our ancestors. If petrol is dug from the ground, it needs regulation, for even in the ground, it was a natural resource and not of zero value. When mobile telecom companies are operating in an area, they are consuming spectrum of that area, and disturbing the ability of others to operate using the same bandwidth. Whenever such resources are consumed, they must to be accounted for. All natural resources need to be ascribed a value, and their consumption for any kind of economic activity be charged. This ensures that unprofitable economic activity does not go unheeded, by destroying large flora and fauna for small profits.

Stock markets trade stocks, which are not consumables, but extract their worth from the potential to generate value. They are purely investments. They are bought for the potential to generate profits, which would come back to the investors as dividend, or reaped back into the company as further investment to yield higher rewards in future. A stock of 100 value that yields a fixed dividend of 5 each year is a 5% stock. This is an unstable equilibrium, for if the stock suddenly happens to earn a profit of 6%, the price of the stock would drastically change from its initial state, without any converging price. A market that generally yields 5%, will value a stock yielding 6 at 120. A relatively small increase in profits from 5% to 6% has shot the stock from 100 to 120. By trading in this stock, an investor can reap in an extra 20 besides the 6. Again, the 5% market would view this as a golden stock as on the rise having yielded 26% in the last year, and would value it at 520, more than 5 fold increase. Price continues to shoot up, till some sane advice prevails and prices stagnate. The stagnated prices cannot yield the same kind of returns, and the stocks fall, completely a bull cycle. It has potential to similarly lower the prices and go into a bear cycle. The bull and bear phases trigger each other, without letting the price to stabilize, and fluctuating at the mercy of investor mood. It is a perfect case of an unstable market which seeks regulation to control pricing.

To come up: How to regulate speculation, and make trading self-correcting

Destabilizing effect can also be seen in currency markets. Say interest rates in the local Japanese and US markets are 3% & 4% respectively. For markets to be balanced, a given amount of sum, held in different countries, should after a year grow to the same amount. So Yen should increase in value by 1% to the dollar each year. But what actually happens is a falling Japanese Yen due to carry trade. Say initially, the rates of Yen and Dollar were stable. Investors react to the difference in interest rates by selling Yen for Dollar, holding Dollar for a year, and then buying back Yen. As many investors follow the practice, it causes rapid selling of Yen across the globe, and Yen keeps falling, till the slide is curbed by proactive governmental interferences. This is another case calling for regulation. And, the governments do regulate by pegging the currencies. But, they can defend the prices only till it pushes within a price band. This is a case where some regulation is needed, a regulation is in place, but it does what was not intended – pegging the currencies.