Friday, May 26, 2017

From 'Phir Subha hogi' 1958


The book that uncovered 'wealthfare'
"Their assault on military spending also included this quote from President Dwight Eisenhower: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” (In contrast, President Trump wants a new defense budget of $603 billion. That’s a year-over-year $54 billion increase, to be paid for by $54 billion in non-defense cuts.) 
In 23 scathing chapters, Zepezauer and Naiman listed and estimated the costs of everything they considered “wealthfare”—from preferential taxes on capital gains to agribusiness subsidies, from the 30-year savings-and-loan bailout to the Social Security tax break for high incomes. For good measure, they topped it off with a chapter titled “WHAT WE’VE LEFT OUT (untold billions every year).”
Specifics aside, the book’s real finding was the upward flow of income. After decades of shared prosperity in America, the sharing had ended and the prosperity was moving solely toward the already prosperous. “Wealthfare” presciently saw the rich getting richer, the middle class getting more middling, and income inequality rising to record highs."

Future mining?

Goan mangoes

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Intermittent variable rewards.

Stopped reading a book

I do not think that I can go on reading Sapiens. There are some interesting points, one of which Ramarao pointed out, but there is too much rubbish. I will look at reviews for interesting points. Here is one from The Guardian "Much of Sapiens is extremely interesting, and it is often well expressed. As one reads on, however, the attractive features of the book are overwhelmed by carelessness, exaggeration and sensationalism. Never mind his standard and repeated misuse of the saying "the exception proves the rule" (it means that exceptional or rare cases test and confirm the rule, because the rule turns out to apply even in those cases). There's a kind of vandalism in Harari's sweeping judgments, his recklessness about causal connections, his hyper-Procrustean stretchings and loppings of the data. Take his account of the battle of Navarino. Starting from the fact that British investors stood to lose money if the Greeks lost their war of independence, Harari moves fast: "the bond holders' interest was the national interest, so the British organised an international fleet that, in 1827, sank the main Ottoman flotilla in the battle of Navarino. After centuries of subjugation, Greece was finally free." This is wildly distorted – and Greece was not then free. To see how bad it is, it's enough to look at the wikipedia entry on Navarino.
Harari hates "modern liberal culture", but his attack is a caricature and it boomerangs back at him. Liberal humanism, he says, "is a religion". It "does not deny the existence of God"; "all humanists worship humanity"; "a huge gulf is opening between the tenets of liberal humanism and the latest findings of the life sciences". This is silly. It's also sad to see the great Adam Smith drafted in once again as the apostle of greed. Still, Harari is probably right that "only a criminal buys a house … by handing over a suitcase of banknotes" – a point that acquires piquancy when one considers that about 35% of all purchases at the high end of the London housing market are currently being paid in cash."

My next misadventure will be reading 'Behave' by Robert Sapolsky. I have read some very sharp pieces by Sapolsky earlier and they are usually dense, revealing and entertaining. I have doubts whether he can achieve any thing similar in a long book. But Sapolsky is Sapolsky and with prior experience, I do not mind spending some time reading him. Just got the book today. Behave at google books.

Story of a school

i came across Bruce Court School while trying to find about Peter Medawar's cooloborator Leslie (Lothar Baruch) Brent. Peter Medawar said half jokingly "His Ph.D task was to discover immunological tolerance and win me the Nobel Prize for Medicine"

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Troll armies

"“If you accomplish tasks everyday during the month, the total MAVRO growth makes up 100%. You will double up your money,” reads the marketing material.
Tasks include liking a YouTube video, joining a Facebook group, sharing news on Google Plus or creating a Pinterest group. All of these have the capacity to skew online statistics, counters or data and mislead popularity and marketing metrics to the troll army General’s advantage. The tasks are also pyramid self-serving, inasmuch as they help to propagate the scheme itself in the style of a virus." from 
On the economic weaponisation of troll armies by Isabella Kaminska at FTAlphaville ( may need registration)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

News from India

Karl Marx goes mainstream

The way forward-4?

I came to know of Achyuta  Samanta through a post of Vadrevu Ch. Veerabhadrudu. From a quick browse: At some stage, he became an entrepreneur with a sum of 5000 rupees and started an industrial training institute now known as KIIT. This seems to be for profit institute and there seem to be even investors. But soon after, instead of using the profits for himself, he started a free school for 125 tribal children which now caters about 25, 000 children; this is KISS. There seem to be some subsidies from the government and philonthropphists. But it seems to be mostly the effort of one person. The story also reminded me of Dr. Subbaraju who passed away recently. Is this replicable? Perhaps it depends on the local conditions where you can start some thing which makes a bit of profit so that the profits can be used to help the more underprivileged. Or variations of the model might work. Another takeaway for me, it is kind of integrated local development though attuned to the market. Perhaps some sort of local self sufficiency as well as awareness of the market needs seem at work . More about him herehere  here and here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Right to repair

Apple Spends Big to Thwart Right to Repair in New York and Elsewhere with Apple India update:
"The bill, called the “Fair Repair Act,” would require electronics companies to sell replacement parts and tools to the general public, would prohibit “software locks” that restrict repairs, and in many cases would require companies to make repair guides available to the public. Apple and other tech giants have been suspected of opposing the legislation in many of the 11 states where similar bills have been introduced, but New York’s robust lobbying disclosure laws have made information about which companies are hiring lobbyists and what bills they’re spending money on public record."
Older article 

Another quote from Harari's Sapiens

""Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We must open ourselves to a wide spectrum of emotions; we must sample various kinds of relationships; we must try different cuisines; we must learn to appreciate different styles of music. One of the best ways to do all that is to break free from our daily routine, leave behind our familiar setting, and go travelling in distant lands, where we can ‘experience’ the culture, the smells, the tastes and the norms of other people. We hear again and again the romantic myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life’.
Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible."

A conversation with Ramarao Kanneganti

It started with this post on my wall:
I have been reading Sapiens by Harare against my better judgement since children and others have been recommending it. I am upto 25 percent of the book do far and it seems to be a just so story so far though supported by some sort consensus knowledge. This quote from the book suggests that I am a cynic. 
"It does not take much to provide the objective biological needs of Homo sapiens . After those needs are met, more money can be spent on building pyramids, taking holidays around the world, financing election campaigns, funding your favourite terrorist organisation, or investing in the stock market and making yet more money –all of which are activities that a true cynic would find utterly meaningless. Diogenes, the Greek philosopher who founded the Cynical school, lived in a barrel. When Alexander the Great once visited Diogenes as he was relaxing in the sun, and asked if there were anything he might do for him, the Cynic answered the all-powerful conqueror, ‘Yes, there is something you can do for me. Please move a little to the side. You are blocking the sunlight.’ This is why cynics don’t build empires ....."
Ramarao responded:
Ramarao Kanneganti . That is the perfect example of how lack of shared myth creates incongruence in interactions. If two people do not believe in the sanctity of samethings, how can they reason together? That is what propelled the conquerors to either adapt the existing religion, or force a new religion (or, set of aesthetics or whatever). 

For instance, what do we do with money? In our collective myth, we made a virtue of it -- how we can do things with it: giving it to the poor, the brahmins, children. That created necessity of money, keeping the society tethered. [Not sure if we need it still ...]. If people stopped valuing money, the existing structures collapse -- such is the power of shared myth.

We read dystopian novels, (like say, Night fall). What happens when the civilization falls? There is no shared myth that all the people believe in. It is not immoral, it is not illogical -- but it leads to chaos. People question the shared myths, because they create structures of hegemony. People write books, prophets cite God to change the existing myths. 

I think it is more about what we read into the book. For instance, when he talks about shared myths -- taking a look at your note on education -- don't you think the purpose of education is propagation of such shared myths? Strictly speaking, almost all the arts do not describe physical reality, but shared myths. 

Objectively speaking, there is no poetry -- we are not biologically born liking poetry. But, education makes us like poetry, which creates bonds with other humans, which is "good" for the collective, I suppose. 

For some reason, this book helped me clarify how I would see, moral relativism, purpose of education, arts, and structures of hegemony. I am curious to see how you would interpret it.

My responses:
1) Anandaswarup Gadde Ramarao garu, Your thoughtful comments will make me read the book carefully. My initial reaction is due to my background, or what I think is my background. I remember I was 13 when I finished school and was already suspicious of shared myths. I did not want to go to college, I wanted to be a farmer. One thought I remember that stayed with me since then is that 'ambition is a sin'. Anyway, I was persuaded to attend college and then to study mathematics. Then discovered mathematics and felt that they were teaching rubbish and was thrown out of college since I did not attend classes. I went back home with a couple of mathematics books on modern algebra and Russell's introduction to mathematical philosophy but I found that I was not good enough to do mathematics by myself in a village and went back to college loosing four years in the process. Then on, I studied what I liked choosing a subject in which I could not be guided. So there is this mixture of suspicion of shred myths but at the same time using structures built on shared myths. And similarly with other shared issues like money. I still do not save money but use the pension system to get monthly payments.
2)Anandaswarup Gadde About poetry, my long term view is that education is not really necessary. It works by images, sounds , idioms and shared culture and myths and we have a lot of poetry from folk poets like Vemana to Gorati Venkanna. But I did not really read much Telugu poetry, most of my exposure is through a few books in which Telugu is not difficult or from film songs. At one stage, I took a bit more to English poetry particularly John Donne, Auden and Marianne Moore. That was long ago in the fifties and sixties and some of it stayed with me. But recently I came across a 1995 article by Dana Ciola in which I found this quote which I found stimulating but have not thought through the consequences: "A society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it—be they politicians, preachers, copywriters, or newscasters. The public responsibility of poetry has been pointed out repeatedly by modern writers. "
Ramarao Kanneganti I agree with you what you said about poetry. My statement is clumsily made. By education, I meant -- training -- either through classroom, or through cultural conditioning. I know that we all are attracted to alliteration and such poetic forms -- is that innate? is that a primal understanding? Or, is it a learned behavior? That is, is liking poetry biological? 

People say that music is innate and liking towards it is biological. I must be inhuman for not resonating to music . But, there is some truth to it. Kids respond to music, not meaning.

I am reminded of a funny book కంఠాభరణం "అర్థ బ్రహ్మం కంటే శబ్ద బ్రహ్మం గొప్పోయ్". Does it mean that we are biologically programmed to respond to music? 

If we find feral children, do they respond to music? I wonder.

Anandaswarup Gadde A quick search shows hat there is no consensus except that Darwin thought it was music first.

Darwin's theory of musical protolanguage

Musical protolanguage: Darwin's theory of language evolution revisited by W. Tecumseh Fish in Language Log 2009
"Darwin also adopted an empirical, data-driven approach to the problem at hand. In particular, Darwin exploited a wide comparative database, exploiting not just his knowledge of nonhuman primate behaviour, but also insights from many other vertebrates. Finally, and most characteristically, he resisted any special pleading about human evolution. He intended his model of human evolution to fit within, and remain consistent with, a broader theory of evolution that applies to beetles, flowers and birds. Unlike Wallace, who remained a human exceptionalist to his death (Wallace, 1905), Darwin aimed to uncover general principles, like sexual selection and shifts of function, to provide explanations of unusual or unique human traits. While gradualistic, his model does not assume any simple continuity of function between nonhuman primate calls and language, and he clearly recognized the uniqueness of language in our species. In many ways, then, Darwin’s model of language evolution finds a natural place in the landscape of contemporary debate concerning language evolution, and it is surprising that his model has received relatively little detailed consideration in the modern literature (for exceptions see Donald, 1991; Fitch, 2006).
In this essay, I aim to redress this neglect by considering Darwin’s model of language evolution in detail. After discussing Darwin’s main points and arguments, I will briefly review additional data supporting Darwin’s model that has appeared since his death. I will also discuss the issue of meaning, about which Darwin had too little to say, but which can be resolved by the addition of a hypothesis due to (Jespersen, 1922). My conclusion is that, suitably modified in the light of contemporary understanding, Darwin’s model of language evolution, based on a “protolanguage” more musical than linguistic, provides one of the most convincing frameworks available for understanding language evolution. The timing of my writing, on the 150th anniversary of the Origin, and the 200th of Darwin’s birth, is also appropriate for a revival of interest in Darwin’s compelling and well-supported hypothesis."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A quick introduction to algebraic topology l

TIFRsummer school courseAlgebraic Topology byM.S.Narasimhan, S.Ramanan, R.Sridharan, K.Varadarajan available online. One of the quickest introductions to the topic.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Flammable ice from ocean floor

China and Japan are harvesting "combustible ice" from ocean floor "
"Mining this combustible ice will either accidentally release methane gas into the ocean or atmosphere, or it will be burned to produce fuel, whereupon it’ll turn into carbon dioxide. Neither of these options are good, but it seems that the abundance of the fuel is too tempting for either China or Japan to ignore.
Basically, this is fracking, but with a new twist. Natural gas on ice. Ho hum."RT on the prospects of selling along the Maritime Silk Road
Branko Milanovic is enthusiastic about the Maritime Silk Road(OBOR) But many others are not, the principal problem seems to be funding.

Two from Branko Milanovic

Liberation from shackles of space, a book review from last year:"There are several aspects of Baldwin’s book that are worth emphasizing. The first is a novel and persuasive way of defining the three historical eras of globalization as made possible successively by the reduced cost of transporting (i) goods, (ii) information, and (iii) people. "
Is "neo-imperialism" the only path to development?:
"It is directly relevant for the understanding of the rise of new capitalist economies in Asia. Richard Baldwin’s recent book (reviewed here), even if Baldwin does not make any allusions to either the classical Marxist position or to the dependency theory, clearly shows that the economic success of Asia was based on the use of  capitalistic relations of production and inclusion in the global supply chains, that is in active participation in globalization. Not passive—but a participation that was sought after, desired. It is thus no accident that China has become the main champion of globalization today. Therefore, Asian success directly disproves the dependency theories and is in full agreement with the classical Marxist position about the revolutionary impact of capitalism, and by extension of “neo-imperialism”, in less developed societies."