Indian general election, 2014: Stability Vs Chaos?

Indian General Elections are round the corner. The heat is on. Here goes my first apolitical post on politics in my blog. 

So it seems to me that the upcoming 2014 elections has brought to fore the age-old debate between stability and chaos. Leaving aside the individuals and their ideologies (or the lack of it), how do we choose between stability and chaos? 

What is "failure" anyway?

What do you consider to be your greatest personal failure? Why?

At first blush, It seems like an innocuous question. It seems to be designed with a well meaning intent to evaluate the person based on his reflections of his choices and actions. Such questions really amuse me though. When I was asked to answer this question within 50 words, I wrote this,

Failures are labels of unwilled perceptions arising from the fear of seeing the choices we have made and its unimaginable consequences. What is "failure" anyway?

My recent presentation at Big Data Innovation Conference - The return of the narratives

I recently gave a presentation on "The return of the narratives" in Big Data Innovation conference organized by Unicom Learning. As a blogger and consultant, I've been fascinated by the way narratives tend themselves to the meaning we seek (and manipulate) from information. 
"Meaning is irrelevant to the engineering problem [of information]" -Claude Shannon, Father of information theory
"Consulting, a profession grounded in building narratives and naive rationalization"   - Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
At first blush, it may seem ironic to talk about narratives in a conference dedicated to leverage the surging enthusiasm around Big Data. "Don't give me stories. Talk numbers" is the familiar cultural imperative in which we grew up, discarding our inherited traditional beliefs with scientific beliefs. As we move from data-scarcity to data-ubiquity paradigm, it's intriguing to see this old cultural gene mutating towards "I have numbers. Give me a story".

The crux of my argument is that in a world awash with data, narratives play a critical role in providing the dynamic contexts by which we would make sense of the Big Data we would breathe in the near future.

My deck used for the presentation has been embedded below. I would be writing detailed blog posts on these topics in my blog. I would love to hear your views and join the conversation.

I owe a lot to Venkatesh Rao for his work on narratives which provided me a fertile base to look at consulting narratives deeply.

Conversations with a miracle worker

Baba Amte needs no introduction to the socially conscious Indian. Here is a rare interview with Baba reflecting on a lifetime of social service and love. An edited transcript of the interview which was conducted by Rajeev Mehrotra of Doordarshan. 

Special thanks to Avinash for discovering and transcribing this conversation
Rajeev Mehrotra (R.M.):Despite physical infirmity that prevents you from sitting because of the problem with the base of your spine, you have really, in a sense,transcended the body and the limitations of the human form with the enormous energy and enthusiasm that you are able to generate in so many people and the enormous self confidence that you are able to inspire in them. What is the philosophy that has given you this altruistic thrust?

Baba: I always accept my illness with faith and peace of soul. I always remember Him for what is left rather than curse him for what is lost. That is why I could live for four decades with physically handicapped people and children of darkness at Anandwan.

R.M.: The main philosophy that you have perpetuated, while your activities at Anandwan have extended many folds beyond, has really been that ‘It is charity that destroys and it is work that builds’. Where did this idea come from? Where was it born? How did it germinate?

Deep focus - Reflections on cinema by Satyajit Ray

In his passionate lecture at the 2013 Jefferson Lecture, entitled Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema, Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest director of our times, muses on the nature of movement:

"The desire to make images move, the need to capture movement, seems to be with us 30,000 years ago in the cave paintings at Chauvet – as you can see it here, in this image the bison appears to have multiple sets of legs. Maybe that was the artist’s way of creating the impression of movement. I think this need to recreate movement is a mystical urge. It’s an attempt to capture the mystery of who and what we are, and then to contemplate that mystery"

Could it be just a matter of coincidence and a shared passion for movies that another legendary film director of his times, from a continent far away in the east, talked with equal gusto, many moons ago, on the nature of movement?

On food, information and metaphors

I have been wrestling with a gnawing sense of uneasiness, whenever I ponder over "Information is Food" metaphor. Everyday, as I take my routine stroll down the manicured, digital gardens of the web, I often see this metaphor gaining currency among bloggers and writers, spawning book titles such as The Information Diet: A case for conscious consumption, curated knowledge lists such as Brain pickingsBrain food,(which advertises itself as "a free weekly digest of nutritious brain food"), doctors pondering if food is information,and other adventurous  intellectual excursions. 

A major part of my unease arises from my experiments with food over the past few years, weaning from processed, industrialized food sources to healthy,natural alternatives. My biggest beta learning insight in these experiments has been the need to facilitate a real-time, direct conversation between my body and the food I eat, as opposed to relying on any external knowledge source or authority.  It's rather better to consult my body (and not mind) on food and nutrition matters than any nutritionist or dietitian or their books.  To use a familiar metaphor,to fix your car, is it not wiser to rather consult the manufacturer  instead of the local mechanic?

McEducation for all: Guest post by Manish Jain

Manish Jain is the founder-coordinator of ShikshantarAndolan which has been significant in shaping the larger unschooling movement in South Asia. His passion is in the areas of organic farming, healthy cooking, zero waste living and community media.

The reflections in this article are a result of my explorations with rethinking education and development over the past 20 years. My work in essence is about strengthening peoples’ knowledge systems and cultural imaginations, and regenerating the larger learning commons that is necessary to move from a schooling society to learning societies. 

My essay has two deeper objectives: 1) To raise the bar of courage, dialogue and imagination required to think beyond the global monopoly of Education for All (EFA) which I believe needs to be exposed for what it really is, that is, McEducation for All; 2)To help reclaim and revitalize what is commonly called ‘informal education’, basically all of the natural learning that happens in everyday life that does not fit neatly into institutionalized categories of formal and non-formal education.