Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yes, but I have lost weight since

Yes, I have a few extra pounds on me in that picture but you ought to know that I have lost weight since. After my meeting with Prof. Kobilka, I was so inspired that I decided not to postpone my planned diet+exercise program any longer. I call my diet the Classical Sanskrit Diet. It is based on the idea that you only eat foods that have a name in classical and post-classical Sanskrit. Nope, you are not allowed to look in the dictionary.

In the Classical Sanksrit Diet, you end up eating lots of fruits and vegetables since in the beginning, all you are able to eat under the diet are a number of fruits like bananas and apples. This is because you learn the names of these foods very early or already know the names of these items. Also, specific vegetables like kale, broccoli and edamame are okay to eat since those have been added by me to the English-to-Sanskrit dictionary I have created for the diet. It is a primarily plant-based diet, and has a number of health benefits. Our motto :  "Learn Sanskrit, live well".

I am also on a walking program where I am doing a 5K walk every week for 50 weeks - rather, it is a 5K nearly every week for 50 weeks with a 5 week cushion for those extremely busy times. I call it "50 5k's in 55 weeks". Onward!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ask The Delphic Oracle meets Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka

A few earlier posts of mine (here, here and here) discuss a new writing system proposal for the Tamil language. In order to bring attention to the issues with the current Tamil writing system and in order to generate some measure of awareness for my Tamil writing system proposal, I sent an email to Prof. Brian Kobilka, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford, to ask if he would be able to meet some time. Prof. Kobilka has directed research resulting in many discoveries of great importance and these have led to many drugs in the field of Medicine. He also happens to have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this year.

Before I continue with the rest of this post, I should mention that Prof. Kobilka has requested that this post not be read as an endorsement of my writing proposal for Tamil, and I want to make sure that that disclaimer is there up front. I had come across Prof. Kobilka's work as part of my work for this blog, and his accomplishments are many, but I must say that meeting this man was a humbling experience for me.  In fact, one of the medications that I used to take targets GPCRs, one of the discoveries of Prof. Kobilka's that has resulted in his winning the Nobel Prize his year. And so, I was really quite excited. It was very generous of Prof. Kobilka to give me the opportunity to speak wth him. He struck me as very modest about his accomplishment. I consider myself very fortunate in having the opportunity to meet Prof. Kobilka.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Scrooge of Internet debates

'Anand Manikutty Smackdown Watch' alert. As part of this blog's mission to provide only the best quality opinions, we have now decided to include a Blogger Smackdown Watch. The particular thread on the mailing list silklist linked to in my previous post on the Singularity on silklist turned out to be one where a bunch of people tried to do a smackdown on me. Thankfully, I was prepared. I will describe how I did it below - it is part of my short online lesson on Internet debating.

But first, as part of this blog's 'Anand Manikutty smackdown watch', I would like to alert you to a few facts : (1) the Singularitarian(s) on the list did not provide a set of hypotheses that could be taken as the basis of this theory. This was the case even after they were pressed to do so; (2) the 'innovation is not programmable'/'innovation requires humans' argument was never refuted; (3) each and every single counter-argument (*including* the procedural issue on not linking to the Wikipedia page) was demolished by me on the List that I used to maintain (linked here); (4) I am stingy (in fact, extremely stingy) in terms of the amount of intellectual capital I am willing to spend (that is, I won't spend any intellectual capital by agreeing that I am wrong in Internet debates unless I really am). As it happened, I refused to spend any intellectual capital in this particular debate, but still ended up coming out ahead.

In fact, thus far, although I have debated with a lot of people, even with Nobel laureates, not on a single occasion have they ever been able to prove me wrong. I almost always win debates. Except with the Nobel laureates and such where the debates are just a tie. So, I am just stingy, stingy, stingy all round. Also, note that despite what you might gather from just reading the thread on silklist, I was actually extremely nice to  all the people on silklist, even those who were not nice to me. The silklist is one of the few places left on the Indian blogosphere/forums where civil conversations on topics related to India can be had. You don't see any angry outbursts from me on this silklist thread and if you had read my List, you would have seen a lot of well researched and well thought out comments and, equally importantly, comments that were considerate and thoughtful.  Anyway, given that it is Christmas, I feel like calling myself the Ebenezer Scrooge of Internet debates would be appropriateSo in the spirit of Christmas, I will ask that you take everything I say in good spirit and that my comments should be taken in the spirit of 'giving' and 'shedding light'. I do intend to continue to remain the Ebenezer Scrooge of Internet debates since I believe I shed light on issues on many an occasion. Of course, I have been parsimonious in acknowledging defeat in Internet debates, and I believe that that is an excellent strategy. You should never have to apologize for any Internet comment as long as it was intended in the right spirit and as long as you are right.

The first rule of Internet debates is that there are no rules. The main problem is that in Internet debates, you just don't have that sense of organizational process that makes this sort of thing impossible in business settings. There is no phone number to call and no management hierarchy to resolve things via.   The other thing about Internet debates is that in game theoretical terms - and this is the most useful mathematical model here - they can be zero sum games. Once the debate has gone past a certain stage, one party must win and the other must lose. When a debate looks like a zero sum game, things dramatically change. You have to try really hard to either win or get your point of view across. It is almost like you have to be a sort of One Man Army. You can't rely on anyone else, you have to try hard to block everything and you have to improvise constantly based on what you subjectively see. Now, the big problem is this : if the debate is in a prominent source (also known as an Authority in technical circles) or is in a place that later becomes a prominent source, that particular debate from four years ago might start ranking very high on Internet searches. That may not seem fair, but then life isn't fair. (Just Google for my name and you will find that this particular thread that was practically inconsequential in terms of what I got out of it has only caused me a lot of pain. The benefit was zero.). Also, debaters are often not fair. Not only aren't debaters fair, time is also of essence. You can easily lose an Internet debate in a matter of minutes. Lose you might not only that debate but also your online reputation.

In fact, it is just like war in another way. Different strategies are called for in different situations. In a not-quite-fully-moderated mailing list-type forum like silklist (where there is at least some trolling and many, many of the discussions on matters of national policy go way off track notwithstanding the presence of at least one professor on the list), you are better off linking to your opinion from your own list because you can never control what other people say about you. All you can do is control your own reaction. Note that in this silklist thread, you need to read my comments in conjunction with the silklist thread. Otherwise, you are likely to make the same mistake as at least one person on the discussion did. He assumed that what I said on silklist was all there was to what I had said (but, of course, that was not true). The strategy I used was simple : realizing that there was trolling going on on silk list, I simply started linking to my own List from the first post on silk list (and it continued with every post from there onwards). This way, I prevented what could have been an utter disaster for me because moderators will sometimes moderate out your replies to a forum but not that of others. By maintaining control of what gets said about me, I got to control the outcome of the debate. And finally, one caveat : do not try this at home or at work. You might make people extremely unhappy. End of Internet debating lesson.

So anyway, Merry Christmas, people. Have a happy holiday season!

Update (Jan 3): Updated post a little to fix typos, etc.

MIT research shows new magnetic state, one that could aid quantum computing

From ComputerWorld (emphasis added by me):
Researchers at MIT and other institutions have demonstrated a new type of magnetism, only the third kind ever found, and it may find its way into future communications, computing and data storage technologies. 
Working with a tiny crystal of a rare mineral that took 10 months to make, the researchers for the first time have demonstrated a magnetic state called a QSL (quantum spin liquid), according to MIT physics professor Young Lee. He is the lead author of a paper on their findings, which is set to be published in the journal Nature this week. Theorists had said QSLs might exist, but one had never been demonstrated before.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cellphone, GPS data suggest new strategy for alleviating traffic tie-ups

From Berkeley's Newscenter:
Asking all commuters to cut back on rush-hour driving reduces traffic congestion somewhat, but asking specific groups of drivers to stay off the road may work even better. 
San Francisco Bay Area freeways colored according to how popular they are as connectors between other roads (bc) and the number of geographic areas that contribute to traffic on a particular road (Kroad). 
The conclusion comes from a new analysis by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, that was made possible by their ability to track traffic using commuters’ cellphone and GPS signals. 
This is the first large-scale traffic study to track travel using anonymous cellphone data rather than survey data or information obtained from U.S. Census Bureau travel diaries. In 2007, congestion on U.S. roads was responsible for 4.2 billion hours of additional travel time, as well as 2.8 billion gallons of fuel consumption and an accompanying increase in air pollution.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A slight miscalculation

Time to look back at all the people who were busily preparing for the Mayan Apocalypse -- and laugh. The prediction that the world would end on Friday, December 21st, 2012 appears to have been a case of a slight miscalculation.
In Moscow 1,000 people who had packed into Josef Stalin's bunker were able to go back home after Armageddon was averted. 
Chinese authorities dismissed outright rumours that Jesus had reappeared as a woman somewhere in the middle of the country, and also denied that they had built an "ark" as a contingency plan. 
At Pic de Bugarach, the French mountain some had believed to be a place of salvation, the sun came out from behind the clouds and a flock of birds flew past as the official end of the world struck after 11am GMT. 
The mountain had been identified as an "alien garage" from where a vast intergalactic flying saucer would emerge to rescue nearby humans.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Drop down menus and radio buttons, two new linguistic constructs for the English language

For those of our readers who survived the End of the World : a big Welcome Back to you.

So I was on email with David Peterson, the President of ConLang, an organization that I came to know about just a few days ago, and had invited him here to the Bay Area. I was emailing him after I read about John Quijada in the New Yorker. Here is my email reply to him.

Hi David,

Thanks so much for letting us know.

I was just checking with you to see if you wanted to give a talk. Please feel free to refer others such John Quijada via email ids if you think they might {[find our location more convenient|be equally suitable choices|have interested in giving a talk]}.

Best wishes,


I have a typo there ('interested' should be 'interest) but you can something different in my email reply to him. I have used the "{[ ... ]}" construct. This is a new construct for natural languages such as English. Think of it as a radio button choice menu for the English language.

The problem for me was that I was emailing a person I had come to know about only recently. I wanted to tell him to refer other people if they would find the Bay Area more convenient to drive to and/or if other people would be equally suitable choices and/or have interest in giving a talk, but these three choices are a sort of a radio button menu where you can pick one or more of the given choices. Using and/or is unwieldy but more importantly, in mathematical terms, is not isomorphous to the choice set with the radio button menu option. Addressing someone an email like this is totally okay because people receive emails all the time with HTML having embedded links and other GUI artifacts. This sort of a construct is, in my opinion, more elegant.

Another thing I would like to introduce is the drop down menu construct for English. The idea here is to offer greater ability to specify choices. Of course, you can always say - please pick one of the above. But there are advantages to having a drop-down menu such as construct reuse. You could say something along the lines of 'Are you coming for the party?  I just want to know whether it is a{{[ Yes | No | Maybe | Will Decide later ]}}"'.

You could have predefined constructs such as #RE_YNMW which stands for the construct given above. So that email would be abbreviated to:

'Are you coming for the party? I just want to know whether it is a #RE_YNMW'

These two options together form a conlang, a constructed language "built" on English. It would be perfectly understandable to speakers of English, of course, when you use them. That is all for today.

And so finally, before I sign off, people, give yourselves a pat on the back. You guys just survived the Apocalypse.

Update: Fixed some typos. Added penultimate paragraph.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why the World Didn't End Yesterday

From NASA, a Youtube video (title "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday") on the Mayan "End of the World" scheduled for today:

No meteorite will strike us today. No monster tsunami will destroy the earth, people. No hurricane will wipe out the planet. There are fewer things in heaven and earth than may be dreamt of in philosophy. The world won't end today. Of that, I am quite sure. Trust me. We will be back tomorrow.

Update (Dec 22): Updated the post with the title of the video. And yes, we are alive. We made it. Whew!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Comment - Email to William Nordhaus : the Singularity is not near

From the "End is Near" to the "Singularity Is Near". Below is an excerpt from my email to William Nordhaus wherein I expressed my skepticism towards the entire idea of the Technological Singularity itself.


Dear Prof. Nordhaus:

I have been thinking about the concept of a Technological Singularity proposed by some (Kurzweil, Vinge, Yudkowsky, et al.). I concur with Prof. Hofstadter in that a singularity does not seem likely in the near future. It is quite unclear to me that possibly the Singularitarians could mean by a process of 'continuous self-improvement' in artificial intelligence insofar as what has already been discovered.

<... stuff deleted ... >


I also emailed Tom Davenport on the same issue and told him about my reservations about this idea of a singularity. This was in the context of a post in the Harvard Business Review on IBM's Watson computer program. In the context of the Singularity, it is pretty clear what  Davenport's post is implying : innovation is not programmable. This is more or less the same point that I made over on the silk list (see this thread) as well.

When I emailed Tom Davenport about his opinion on the Singularity, his answer was what I expected it to be - that he was skeptical as well. He also sent me one of his articles which gets into more detail on what happens when machines are assumed to be substitutable for humans. That all of us (Davenport, me, Nordhaus) are arguing along very similar lines has convinced me further that the intellectual position against the Singularity is quite strong.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears

From the Telegraph :
In the French Pyrenees the mayor of Bugarach, population 179, has attempted to prevent pandemonium by banning UFO watchers and light aircraft from the flat topped mount Pic de Bugarach. 
According to New Age lore it as an "alien garage" where extraterrestrials are waiting to abandon Earth, taking a lucky few humans with them. 
Russia saw people in Omutninsk, in Kirov region, rushing to buy kerosene and supplies after a newspaper article, supposedly written by a Tibetan monk, confirmed the end of the world. 
The city of Novokuznetsk faced a run on salt. In Barnaul, close to the Altai Mountains, panic-buyers snapped up all the torches and Thermos flasks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Smartphone with second e-ink screen unveiled by Yota

From the BBC:
A smartphone with two screens - one of which uses e-ink technology - has been announced by a Russian company. 
Yota says having an added low-power screen will help users keep across social network updates and show critical information that stays visible even if the handsets run out of power. 
It plans to put the 4G Android device on sale in the second half of 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

UCSB Researchers Take Next-Generation Augmented Reality Apps 'Anywhere'

From the UCSB Department of Computer Science:
Augmented reality applications for mobile devices could become smarter and more sophisticated, thanks to two recent grants awarded to UC Santa Barbara computer science professors Matthew Turk and Tobias Höllerer.

While many mainstream augmented reality (AR) applications rely on mobile device sensors and a static dataset layered over real-time visuals or GPS coordinates, Turk and Höllerer envision next-generation AR that is more stable, realistic, and dynamically updated by users. 

“Our research employs real-time computer vision for more stable presentation of 3D computer graphics that appear as if they are truly part of the physical world,” said Professor Höllerer. “Imagine applications, such as a landscape architect experimenting with design by placing virtual trees or walking within the grounds they plan to develop. A tourist at an archaeological site could explore the reconstruction of an ancient temple wh ere it once stood.

Monday, December 10, 2012

IBM chip aims to use light to speed up internet services

From the BBC:
IBM says it has developed a chip that makes it easier to shuttle data about via pulses of light instead of using electrical signals.

The firm says it should offer a way to move large amounts of information between processors in computer servers at higher speeds than at present. These provide computing power and data used by apps and other net services. 

One third-party expert said the significance of the innovation was that it was much cheaper than other options. Details of the development are to be presented at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco later.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A ho-hum sort of weekend

This is looking like a ho-hum sort of weekend with the only excitement coming from the Mindsweep Quiz to be conducted on Sunday at Stanford. There is more information on the Mindsweep quiz at this here link.

Please note that there will be extra office hours this month on December 17 between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Please be prompt on call times because I enforce the time slots pretty strictly. So if you have any questions, please free to call at the usual Skype id.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Comment : the marginal utility of 2000 years of history versus 50 years versus zero years

The marginal utility of 2000 years of history versus 50 years versus zero years. This quantity is hard to quantify. May be it is zero. Maybe it is even negative. Maybe we cannot know what this value is for sure. But it is hard to see why it is necessarily positive notwithstanding Eric Hobsbawn comment that "Nations without a history  are contradictions in terms.'

Historians studying India often make a big deal of the fact that India has 2000 years and more of history. But what is the marginal utility for a country to have a long history? The marginal utility seems small. Below is a comment on an article by Namit Arora on "Three Quarks Daily" :


Nicely done Namit. Some of these Marxist historians are pretty, pretty good. The only trouble is that they cannot always be trusted. Every once in a while, they will say something supremely ridiculous.

Three comments :

1. Regarding the point on historical awareness in premodern India: this is already known. Nothing new is being said here.

2. Regarding the points on Gandhi : this is also already known. Nothing new is being said here. It is useful to bear in mind that we are talking about a fellow form the mid-19th century. Some of those guys were very smart and intelligent, but hardly 'enlightened with a global level of awareness'. Like, say, you and I. :)

3. ‘Nations without a past are contradictions in terms' : It would be useful to think of this in terms of the marginal utility for a country to have 2000 years of history versus 50 years of history. The marginal utility of a very long history seems to be negligible. If, say, there was massive global warming (and this is purely hypothetical) and oil were discovered in Antarctica and they decided to form 10 new countries there which decided to live peacefully and responsibly, they would surely be no worse having zero years of history. In fact, they would be probably be better off.  


Monday, December 3, 2012

Now in Punjabi

Another song video, and this time, a song in the Punjabi language.


@Pontifex hasn't tweeted yet.

The Pope hasn't tweeted yet, but will at Currently, his Twitter page simply reads : "@Pontifex hasn't tweeted yet."
The Pope is to begin sending Twitter messages using the handle @pontifex as his personal account, the Vatican said. 
A spokesman said Pope Benedict XVI wanted to "reach out to everyone" with tweets translated into eight languages. 
The first tweet from his account, whose name means both pontiff and builder of bridges, is expected on 12 December. 
Last year, the Pope sent his first tweet last year from a Vatican account to launch the Holy See's news information portal. 
"We are going to get a spiritual message. The Pope is not going to be walking around with a Blackberry or an iPad and no-one is going to be putting words into the Pope's mouth," Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican said. 
"He will tweet what he wants to tweet," he added, though the leader of the world's 1.2 billion or so Roman Catholics is expected to sign off, rather than write, each individual tweet himself.

Another Gangnam Style video

Continuing the theme of serendhomophony, here is another misheard lyrics version of the song "Gangnam Style".


Sunday, December 2, 2012

n-ary variables

One problem with the concept of binary oppositions is that it seems to imply that Western philosophical thought is concerned only with two-valued quantities. For instance, a coin toss X is an event that may be represented as follows.

X = { H, T }.

Other two valued quantities :

X1 = {"good", "evil" }
X2 = {"on",   "off"  }
X3 = {"left", "right" }

Note that these are all the examples from the Wikipedia article on "binary opposition".
However, some variables can take three values.

Y = { +, - , 0 }

Y1 = {"good", "evil", "neither good nor evil"}
Y2 = {"on", "off", "neither on or off"}
Y3 = {"left", "right", "neither left nor right"}

You could have a N valued quantity for many different values of N. Here are two
examples of seven valued quantities.

Z1 = {"M", "T", "W", "R", "F", "S", "N" } --> for the days of the week
Z2 = {"black", "white", "American Indian", "Asian Indian", "Chinese", "Filipino", "Samoan"}

Western philosophical thought has ben concerned with seven valued quantities as well. As, for instance, in any analysis in which days of the week enters the picture. Also, some of the quantities that Western philosophical thought has considered have been continuous variables as well.

Speed of Zeno's arrow = {x | x >= 0 }
Velocity of Zeno's arrow = {x1 | -infinity < x < +infinity}

The problem of continuous quantities  has not been considered by Jacques Derrida. Note that if the example of 'left' and 'right' given in the Wikipedia article on binary oppositions was intended to refer to political preferences, please note that individual political preferences may be considered multi-dimensional (some varying level of authoritarianism on one axis and another varying level of left-versus-right on another axis - as for example in's PoliticalCompass thing) and so the idea of 'left' and 'right' may be approximations too. The reason I am bringing this stuff up is that it is entirely unclear why Derrida manages to get so much attention when his theory leaves so much out.

Comment : 3QD comment on Derrida

Here are my comments on Derrida posted on "Three Quarks Daily" (slightly edited).


As recreation while preparing for a graduate program at a certain business school, I was reading a bit of Derrida. I was not impressed.

I, for one, continue to be underwhelmed by virtually all of Derrida's 'theories'. It is unclear to me that his contributions to modern thought, and that of the deconstructionists, amounts to anything more than the following single sentence. "A line of text can be amibiguous in meaning."

Other than that totally trivial observation, it beats me what Derrida has really said or contributed to the world of intellectual thought. Indeed, I would term Derrida's work philosophizing for the lazy intellectual. 'Lazy' because a good analysis based on mathematics and statistics would resolve these 'binary oppositions' that Derrida talks about. If there were "binary opposition"s and they were a construction of the "West", then how could the same sort of analytical tools that are used in the "West" are also effective in the "East" - e.g. in countries like India and China?

n-ary oppositions

I am coining a new term in the field of deconstructionism and in the field of Western philosophical thought. It is the term "n-ary opposition". It is, I believe, a new concept for Western philosophy. Below is an explanation of n-ary opposition. To be honest, it is a bit of a cut-and-paste of the Wikipedia entry for "binary opposition". But I am perfectly serious about all of this.


N-ary opposition

In critical theory, an n-ary opposition (also n-ary system) is a set of n related terms or concepts which are spread over a 'spectrum' of meaning. The term, introduced by the columnist Anand Manikutty, is also used to refer to the opposition that exists among the n concepts. Binary and ternary oppositions are common types of n-ary oppositions. A binary opposition is a set of two related terms or concepts which are opposite in meaning. A ternary opposition is a set of three related terms or concepts. A ternary opposition may be a set of three related terms of concepts out of which two are opposite in meaning and the third is a null concept. Ternary opposition, also a term introduced by Anand Manikutty, is the system by which, in language and thought, three theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off agsinst one another. It is the contrast between three mutually exclusive terms, such as positive, negative and zero. Another example : up, down and "middle" (although various other terms may be used in place of "middle" such as zero position). A third example is left, right and "middle". Again, various other terms may be used in place of "middle".

N-ary opposition is proposed as an important concept within structuralism which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. In this extension of structuralism, a n-ary opposition is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture and language.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Office hours for December and January

My planned office hours for December and January are scheduled for Monday, December 3rd, 7:30 am to 8:15 am PST and Monday, January 7th, 7:30 am to 8:15 am PST. If more office hours are needed, I will be adding more times. The theme will continue to be "Religion and politics".