I am unique

Standard

“A child is the father of man”, they say! Indeed, there is truth in it.

We are so occupied in trying to imitate others that we forget our unique identity. We forget what we are? Who we are? What we have come here for? We can’t define ourselves, our purpose and our existence.

Ask a boy what he wishes to be in life when he grows up. He pulls out a list with names of some of the great men who have gone down in history for having charted out destinies for themselves and others. That boy is admonished by his parents to appoint an idol for himself who would influence his path.

Kids have a fertile mind. So long as they are on their own, in thoughts, they follow natural logic. We mend their imagination according to our fancies and experiences – most of which are actually flawed and concocted.

Sarah, 6 years, my niece, was once sitting with me and having apple. I asked her what will you be when you grow up. She said, “Sarah”.

I was astonished! That was unexpected!!

I was hoping to get an answer such as, Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, or perhaps Queen of Jhansi or maybe some other personality. But, Sarah? It took me totally unawares!

 I asked her about it. She said, “I am Sarah. So, I will remain Sarah when I grow up. It’s so simple! Isn’t it?”

It was indeed simple! We don’t have simple thoughts as grown-ups. We have complex thoughts. We like complex things. Very complex. So complex that we can’t recognize it. Can’t understand it. Can’t follow it. Can’t explain it. We need an idol. An idol that is history. An idol that will never be born again. Einstien will never be born. Newton will never see this world again. Edison is history. Mahatma Gandhi will never be seen in flesh and blood.

Yet, we search for an idol. An idol that is history. An idol that can’t talk. Can’t guide. We are dependent. We are not ourselves. Cast into an idol.  The cast is old. Of history. The cast is imperfect. We come out imperfect.

Great men walked this earth before. They had unique problems to tackle. They resolved those by their ingenuity. By their hard work. The problems are gone. The people are gone. We are faced with new problems. New problems call for new solutions. New breed of minds to tackle and resolve. How could we attempt to resolve new problems with old solutions?

Well, the kid wants to grow up as Sarah. Live as Sarah. And, perhaps go as Sarah. Unique. Never born before. Will never be born! Rare! Absolutely!!

Do we understand?

Advertisements

Blobs of color

Standard

What happens when water spills on your expensive navy blue shirt?

Imagine, you are about to be called in for an interview for a cool job. You are waiting outside for that nice break. You are thirsty. You drink water. Ouch! The water spills on your shirt. An ugly blob of dark blue shade.

It’s your turn to get in. What do you do?

You get tensed. You get nervous. You curse everything; the water, the shirt, yourself, the dog on the street, just about everything. The dark blue blob looks dirty, ugly, bad! Why is it bad? Is water bad? Is dark blue so ugly? Is it the shape? Who did it? You did it. You spilled the water. So, what? No explanation. You just hate the ugly sight!

Flow of emotions. Nothing rational.

What happens after few minutes of cursing, feeling sad, feeling disgusted? What happens to the dark blue ugly blob? It disappears!

It just disappears into thin air.

These blobs of colors then paint our emotions, and shape our behaviour. We grow with these. We give due (and undue attention) to it. We make it a part of us. But, in reality, they are just blobs of color on a shirt spilled with water. We get scared, at the same time, we are sad. Is there a reason? A justified, rational reason?

These blobs of color don’t stay on you beyond minutes. But, these drops of water do change our moods, our day and finally, our destiny?

Think about it!

The next time you feel lowly, remember, what you feel will not persist beyound mintues!

Knowledge as raiment

Standard

Humans dress up. Animals can do without.

Other things that differentiate us from animals are creation, acquisition, expression and propagation of knowledge. Animals learn by observation. But, they cannot express or propagate knowledge the way we can. We call ourselves at least superior to animals.

Our outfits not only help us protect ourselves. They help make us look dignified. We dress up to look good. We dress up to feel good. We do it because it is natural for a human.

A man of knowledge is the one who sits dignified in the company of friends and strangers. It is like beautiful raiment worn. But, possession of knowledge alone is like a sealed bottle of perfume. When a man of knowledge speaks up and expresses his thoughts the real magic blossoms in air. Their words have exceptional power and ability not only to raise thoughts, transform minds and change altars, but move thrones and seats of power!

Words coming from a knowledgeable person are more valuable than value – they are invaluable.

Knowledge has hardly got anything to do with intelligence and genius. Men of knowledge in the past and present had average intelligence and mediocre genius. Men of knowledge in the future may not be any different. It is the purity of their words and thoughts that created magic. The application of what they said to their lives. Walk the talk. Without prejudice. Without expectations of things in return. True teachers. Able humans. Wore knowledge as their best raiment. Dignified!

Our raiment’s are branded. They belong to others. To the originators. Just like our thoughts. Not our own. They belong to others. We belong to others. Slaves. Need urgent emancipation. But, we are not ready. Our minds are emancipated from us. Our minds don’t belong to us any more!

Where is the dignity we expect from our raiment? But, where is the raiment of knowledge, which we can call our own – the unbranded one, the original, ours?

Was Charles Darwin right in his assumptions about humans? We really can’t answer that! Sadly, we don’t have our raiment which we can call our own.

The cutting edge

Standard

Not the comedy film directed by Paul Glaser. Iam serious about this one. What really is the cutting edge?

My friend and I were having a small chat over coffee in our cafeteria? I listened to him when he talked about novelty devices flooding the market with ‘cutting edge technologies’. I asked him an obvious question, ‘What is meant by cutting-edge?’ He said, ‘Well, new and futuristic technologies!’

Does ‘cutting-edge’ really mean new and futuristic technology? Pretty hard to digest that!

I set out to find it out on my own.

A blade has a cutting-edge. Bleeding technology. I read that somewhere. I heard that from someone.

But, why is ‘technology’ associated with ‘cutting-edge’? Does it have anything to do with a blade? Does it? Pretty intriguing though!

After a lot of Googling, Wikiing and Cuillng I hit several sites and articles and read through reams of pages online. The cutting-edge was cutting through my brain.

One interesting site I visited was known as Anti-Knowledge (http://www.anti-knowledge.com). The way they’ve tried to explain various facets of knowledge was interesting.

It says, ‘Knowledge is not a clean sphere, but is a jagged structure defined by the cutting edge.’

Well, pretty close though to ‘cutting edge’! Sigh!

Further, it says, ‘The cutting edge is advancing at different rates across different disciplines of thought. For example, physics may be progressing at a faster rate than biology, but eventually all must come into ‘one.’

With new knowledge learnt, new questions arise, which in turn needs answers. New questions. New answers. The cycle continues and might eventually get full circle.

At times we, as humanity, are posed with challenging problems. The problems are surely new. We answers then need to be new. The thought processes needs to be new. Imagination must be radical. Out of the box. A small box. More outside. Less inside. Questions rising at a frenzied rate. Answers being shot with equal frenzy. More questions more answers. Less ambiguity. Clear, concise, accurate, sharp, cutting edge!

Did we say ‘cutting edge’?

Yes! We did!

Cutting edge of knowledge. Products are created out of knowledge. Out of knowing what is needed. Out of understanding human actions and reactions.

If human needs is a question, a well thought out product whose use rides purely on human intuition is the answer: A cutting edge product demonstrating a cutting edge technology.

Of mental models and system images

Standard

 

 Each one of us approaches a system with a definite goal in mind. Some approach as ‘designers’, some as ‘consumers’, while some of us as ‘developers’. Each one of us does so with a certain amount of assumptions. Consumers have their own beliefs; designers have their own hypothesis while developers have their own preoccupied thoughts about a system they’ve been working on for a great deal of time. How does it affect all of us, find it out!

 Designers usually have a twisted idea of who a consumer is and his needs. He expects them to follow a certain use case; a definitive pattern. The designer erects a ‘mental model’ of a consumer, which he refers to throughout the development cycle of the system, and beyond.

 On the other hand, consumers paint an ‘image’ of a system and how they ‘expect’ it to work. At times they start taking things for granted. They start to assume that the systems are infallible, intelligent entities and they discount most of the things which influence these. For them, the system is always alive and ticking. Any thing which runs counter to the image they have of the system is met with defiant resistance. No wonder, at times, we have much of banged PC monitors and nearly broken keyboards. Images become realities!

 When ‘mental models’ clash with ‘system images’, we have an explosion of bugs and system flaws. A root cause analysis of a major bug in a system will dig down to any one, or both of these. Lots of assumptions are considered; some with great degree of devotion, so much so that, they start looking like facts.

 Assumptions are the key

 Assumptions can be varied in each of the case, and these very assumptions can cause undesired Usability flaws. Until the designers and the developers come down to the level of the consumers with respect to the approach of the system, I am afraid; we shall see more of those classical Usability flaws popping up all the time. The result: A complicated system which requires hours of painful learning.

 Ironically, not many of those classical Usability flaws are deemed to be classified as bugs, rather passed on unnoticed with nothing more than a raised eyebrow or a subdued murmur by the one who uses it. Those are the very flaws which gives a thumbs-down to an application or an interface in terms of ease of use. We may have the best application on Earth but if it can’t ride with the intuitions of a consumer, it seems to have failed. There is a call to make every application as intuitive as possible and one of the approaches to do so is to design ground up.

 Feedback

 The consumers are the people whom we must approach and ask them to contribute their wish list for an application. They like to do a task in a way they love to do and not the way the ‘technologists’ want them to do. They seek freedom while operating a system but also need guides in a discreet fashion. The technologist must make good use of constraints to help the consumers navigate to their destination, yet make them feel that they are still free. Of course there are clear tradeoffs in this approach, which needs to be considered, but yet again, it is the consumer whom we must get back to. In a way, we are pegged to consumer’s demands and needs.

 A system is designed to serve the consumer, and hence a great degree of end-user customization needs to be provided as optional features, albeit hidden to a certain degree. The system, in a way must be extensible. Discoveries are great as these add to the joy of the consumer but these discoveries must not be for essential features, rather for the optional features, which can easily distract a consumer if placed right on the platter in full view.

 Consumer yearns for improved features and ease of use. To which technologists reply with a system, which is sophisticated, feature-rich, yet, does not go down well with the consumer. They get a white elephant. Unfortunately, the consumer’s overwhelming response to his call indeed overwhelms his response! The result: Islands of great tools but nowhere to reach them!

 The responsibility

 Without any grain of hesitation, I suggest, neither designer, nor developers can be perfect in their scheme of things. No wonder we have innumerable updates and bug fixes as the order of the day in the software arena. Yet, they have a very responsible role to play in this regard. We are witnessing convergence of technologies and the stakes are high. Too much is being expected of the ‘technologists’, yet the very same technology which must be used should be shrouded with simplicity. There are needs for tools as simple as a knife with varied uses and with no learning curves; no user manuals, no indicators.

 The only guide for the consumer to use the system must be his intuition and then he should be able to do his job well.