Tuesday, September 24, 2013

the movie Lunch Box is post rock

I watched the movie Lunch Box yesterday. In rock n roll parlance, Lunch box is like post rock. It is sweet, beautiful and audacious without the ostentatious amplification of rock-n-roll.

In a society that calls itself modern, but is still very backward and primitive, Lunch box is truly a very post-modern work of art. Hopefully this movie will herald a new wave in Indian cinema and we will see more quality works of art  The movie very softly speaks about truth without deception, love without embarrassment and is not fettered with stereotypical bollywood shitty cliches.

Contrary to a lot of reviews on internet about the movie being slow, I would completely disagree. I found the movie to be really steady and smooth. For the movie makers this movie must be a gamble but they have succeeded in at least making a masterpiece. 

People go out and watch this movie in theatres near you. You would not be disappointed. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

why does prostitution as an industry stagger in India while it flourishes in US

Today I had an interesting conversation with an old buddy of mine. He watched a program on Nat Geo on prostitution in US. The program discussed how well organized the industry is in major metropolises of US. According to Wikipedia prostitution in US generates over 14 billion USD every year. That folks is a gargantuan number.

Prostitution in US is also a highly matured industry with the role and scope of work for every class of labour and intermediary clearly defined. The pimps role is to recruit "fresh talent" for the job. Once the girls are recruited, their accommodation, food and the occasional greasing of palms of cops lest the girl is caught, is the responsibility of the pimp. In short the pimp becomes the local guardian of the girl.  The pimp might be, but is primarily not responsible for demand generation ie soliciting clients. This is done by the escort agency who serve as demand aggregators. Client requests are passed from escort agency to pimps who send their girls. As is the case in most industries the leaf nodes, in this case the girls, pocket less than 20% of the wealth they actually generate. The intermediaries in this industry- the pimps and escort agencies seize the remaining pie.

All in all, prostitution is a highly developed and matured industry in the US. But prostitution is illegal in US. It is also illegal in India. Law enforcement in US is far more effective and potent than in India. So if prostitution industry thrives so easily in US it should thrive even more easily in India. India is a far more sexually repressed society than US. So the demand for prostitution as a service should be more in India.  Over a period of time disposable income amongst the Indians has definitely gone northwards. So Indians apart from desire also have the money to spend on paid sex. Yet prostitution as an industry does not flourish in India.This is really baffling?

One of the reasons may be why this is the case is rooted deeply in women's lopsided perception of their own kind. In US, woman or man after a certain age is expected to fend for himself or herself. Parents would not support you nor will your siblings. In the west for a poor women with no marketable skills, prostitution is the only way to earn a living. However in India, a woman with no marketable skills can always depend on and stay her parents or brothers till she gets married. After marriage of course she will depend on her husband. So basically there is no need for a woman to go out and make a living in Indian society.

Would welcome readers' comments if you guys disagree or have a better explanation. Finally, pls note that I am neither trying to extol the virtues of prostitution industry nor trying to berate any form of culture. This differential growth of prostitution industry in US vis-a-vis India poses an intriguing academic challenge to me which I am interested in solving.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A new paradigm for law making based on artificial neural nets

I think our society has embraced a very sucky paradigm for policy making. Its complex, messy and the laws made to fight corruption, crimes and promote harmony, peace mostly fail to achieve their goals. There are two main reasons why laws and policies fail to achieve their intended goals
1)Laws get antiquated and fail to evolve with changing times. I
2)Abuse of Law- People routinely abuse laws

Okay so this has been happening with very regular frequency in every society. Where are we as race failing then everywhere?

Making a new law or a new policy stripped of all its rhetoric, deep down is a classification problem. We draw a decision boundary that divides lets says a 2-D plane or 3-D space into 2 disparate, non-overlapping regions- innocents and culprits.

The biggest challenge is then drawing the correct decision boundary. Human's psychology and nature of our misdemeanors are very complex and messy. May be a higher order polynomial function of logarithmic/exponential terms will be able to correctly enshrine this complexity. It has been a well accepted fact in machine learning circles that artificial neural net(ANN) based solutions are best for coming with very complex,  convoluted decision boundaries. Why? Because ANN based algorithms self learn and there is no hard coded algorithm in place to deal with messy idiosyncratic systemic complexities. ANN itself is largely based on how our brain functions.

 Lets do a though experiment (actually this has already been done in case of animal brains). Your eyes capture images and send it to a specific part of our brain for image processing. Likewise for our ears.Now let me rewire the circuitry of axons, dendrites, neurons that send images captured by eyes to the part of brain that processes auditory signals from ears and  rewire the circuitry of axons, dendrites, neurons that send auditory signals captured by your ears to the part of brain that processes images from your eyes. Do you know what is going to happen? Nothing (though there might be a period of disorientation). Brain cells will "train" themselves to handle and process new kinds of signals. What this means is that there was no in built algorithm or code to process only a set type of signals. Brain as a system learnt on its own to make sense of new kinds of signals. Pretty cool, right ?

Our present model for framing laws or drawing decision boundary is very similar to linear regression. Nirbhaya rape case occurred so we tweaked the existing "predictors" in model or may be added a few new predictors. Lets make even more stringent laws- please read this as adding more weight to some of the existing predictors. This was the rarest of rare case. So lets come up with really stupid anti-stalking laws like if a bloke stares at a chick for more than 15 secs its an FIR worthy crime. Please read this from the prism of linear regression as adding "add new predictors" in the model. The problem with linear regression is that it can never come with a good decision boundary for complex systems. Also adding a lot of predictors in linear regression model causes problems of overfitting and can lose its predictive power. Read this as over abuse of laws.

I normally don't berate people but I have a question for lawyers. May be machine learning and artificial neural nets do not come naturally to them but shouldn't this intuition come naturally to them? I think law profession does not really attract good talent.Guess this profession needs to attract better talent. This profession needs a major overhaul in their approach to solve and address problems plaguing our country

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What is the secret sauce to change

May be lack of political apathy is not the reason or at least the primary driver for the pathetic state of our nation. The average level of angst and disillusionment with bureaucracy is pretty high in India. What is the secret sauce to bring about change?

Mark Granovetter, a sociologist from Stanford University has done extensive research on how fads are embraced. His research was further popularised by the book Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. So his model is pretty simple. So lets assign a numerical value to an individual's tipping point before he jumps on the bandwagon and joins a fad. In case the tipping point is 1 then the individual needs just one other person in his network who has already joined the bandwagon. Lets say in a group of 5 friends, the first bloke has a threshold of 0, the second 1, third 2, fourth 3 and fifth 4. The first one, is the "instigator" and will introduce the fad to the group. The second friend will join the fad as one friend in his network is already a part of it. Once two persons in the group have already joined the bandwagon, the third one falls for it. Likewise the last two friends who actually had very high thresholds to join a new fad ultimately ended up embracing it. The average group threshold to join a new fad in this case is 2. Contrast this with the case when we have a group where everyone's threshold is one ie every individual in the group just needs one "instigator". The group average threshold in this case is also one. So what happens to this group. Nothing. They don't embrace any new idea, don't affect any change as a group despite low threshold and consequently higher level of intentions for doing so.

I believe India today or may be always has been plagued by lack of "instigators". The distribution of threshold in a society can vary but we need people with absolutely zero tolerance, not low at an aggregate level, to bring about positive change. The Anna/Kejriwal movement is a case in point. Anna and Kejriwal played the role of "instigators" and Indians joined the "fad".

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why nothing changes in India though we want changes

We all are super- miffed at the appalling dystopian state of affairs this nation has been pushed to. Raja Bhaiyya allegedly, kills a cop and stays scott-free. Everyone I know has decried this travesty of justice. My friend from Bangalore was recently moaning on the complete lack of Cauvery water supply to his apartment. He and his apartment-inmates investigated the problem and to their utter astonishment found out that Kagdaspura-BWSSB was allowing private vendors to siphon off Cauvery water and sell the same, at a hefty premium to the same apartment where my friend resides.

When people criticize and lament on the accountability, integrity and honesty of our ruling class, it basically is proof that in general Indians indeed do have a 'threshold' for tolerating misdoings of our elected leaders. At micro-level there is a motive for affecting positive change  However the disaffection with the current system, at micro level does not scale and aggregate nicely to produce desirable outcomes at macro level. Also this is pretty much a global phenomenon. Americans decry whenever successive governments curb their civil rights in the name of counter-terrorism measures. Europeans are disgruntled with their leaders.

What's happening then? Schelling's Segregation Model might have an answer for us. In the late 70's Thomas Schelling, an American economist, studied ghettoization in cities based on racial lines. Caucasians lived in predominantly white neighborhoods, and so did Chinese and African-Americans. At a macro-level, this observation would give credence to the theory that people are extremely racist. However Schelling studied this sociological phenomenon and found astounding counter-intuitive results. He made a model where-in he associated a threshold- racial tolerance for other communities. Lets say a person is Caucasian has 8 neighbors and s/he will leave a neighborhood in case the the number of other Caucasian inhabitants drops below 3. So her threshold or racial tolerance can be quantified as 3/8. A threshold of 3/8 you would agree  can't be termed at least "overtly" racist. Running a simulation where individuals  have small to moderate racial tolerance, for example 3/8, results however in localities where diversity is almost non- existent. You can run these simulations in your browser too. Follow this link - http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/models/Segregation.  Schelling covered these findings in greater details in his seminal book,  Micromotives and Macrobehaviors.

Schelling's Segregation Model shows that micro-motives don't always add up nicely at a macro-level. Then, extrapolating this result, may be we are not that apathetic as it seems so. The solution to our woes then does not lie in exuding more political activism or showing more empathy.  Actually, we need a new model to study what would inspire collective action for building a better India with our current level of tolerance for corruption. More on this model in one of my next blogs :) .

Friday, March 1, 2013

Narendra Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi

Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi

Next year India gets to vote. We get to choose our leader for next five years who will usher in a reign of economic growth, strive to emancipate millions of impoverished, deal with separatist and terrorist elements with a firm hand- all this and much more without comprising one thing-  the complex, byzantine, tangled social milieu of India. I am not a clairvoyant, but as things look for now, next year's parliamentary elections will be a face off between and Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. In  my honest opinion, I really think this is a clusterfuck of a situation for India. This is sort of battle between 'Ramadhir Singh ka Launda' vs Faisal Khan (Gangs of Waseeypur) - an inept scion vs a misanthrope.

Given that both the choices are total BS, yet next year when its my turn to vote I would choose not to vote for Modi. Consequently I will be voting for Gandhi. And following is my reasoning.

1)I don't give a hoot about corruption in this country and don't consider this as a reason to vote out the incumbent UPA : I seriously don't understand why all of a sudden Indians are so incensed at the incumbent government about rampant corruption in high value deals. Do you honestly believe that NDA would have taken a moral high ground while executing these deals. Also I don't understand why all of a sudden we have become so incensed and livid at our corrupt politicians?  May be we as a society are intolerant of corruption. But empirical evidence suggests otherwise. I see a general lack of work ethics and honesty in every walk of life. I have seen colleagues fudging house rent bills and medical bills to claim tax refunds, office admins mooching off treasury by producing fraudulent invoices, HR recruitment cells from MNCs in India taking kick backs for accepting resumes only from their preferred recruitment agencies. The point my fellow Indian is that we as a society are a corrupt one. People do and partake in corruption and mooch off all the time. May be we are livid because Raja and Kalmadi got away with amassing huge sums of  tax payer's money and we couldn't get any action. May be we are angry because deep down we are guilty of mooching off and try to ameliorate our karma by chastising "corrupt" politicians and getting angry at them. May be we are angry cuz the listless,meaningless daily grind is depressing and getting angry and howling is the only thing to do.

Whatever, but the rant and anger against corruption can never be a part of the decision making process for choosing your next leader.

2) 'Ramadhir Singh ka Launda' vs Faisal Khan (Gangs of Waseeypur), voting for Ramadhir Singh ka Launda is more logical - India is not Lamborghini, fuck its even not a car, its a bullock cart. The system screeches, crawls, is in tatters but you know what the system fucking works. India is more diverse than America, far more diverse than Europe, Africa or any other continent for that matter. Its a miracle how 1.2 billion people with gazillion cultures, gods, customs, languages are cohabiting India. The trick here is to maintain a state that does not seem like favoring one community and belligerent to the rest. A man who promises you Lamborghini but does not believe in egalitarianism in all senses, will not only fail to make India a Lamborghini but also decimate the functional existing bullock cart of a system in India. Someone who openly sponsored pogrom against minorities, burnt citizens simply does not have the necessary and sufficient credentials to lead India.

3)NDA vs UPA historical performance - NDA gets away with political jingoism but its UPA that has introduced progressive reforms in the counrty. In the early 90's when Indian market was opened for liberalization, it was BJP and their cronies who termed the move as suicidal and robbing the country of 'Swaraj'. Right to Information Act was brought by UPA, Adhar will be again a UPA achievement and even now govt is funding mega project to lay fiber optics to connect all the gram panchayats in the country, and with the latest revelation of APJ Kalam Phokaran blasts- (feather in NDA's cap) were planned and also supposedly scheduled during the Narishma lead Cong Govt.

Like I said earlier, this will be a choice between douche bag and turd sandwich but then again the overarching principle should be to choose shit that stinks the least.