Dec 062016
 

 

 

 

#AmazonGo – Amazon’s latest offerings. A shop without check in and check out, where your amazon wallet and enhanced AI, allows you to pick up what you want, and walk out of the door. The system, takes care of everything from entry to the shop, to counting picks, to calculating totals, and deducting it from the amazon wallet. The first store has already been in operation for a year. They are planning to roll it out.

And while the consumer in me rejoices at the thought of no queues (no, i really loathe queues, but that is another story) I can’t but help think, how many jobs will be lost to this. It is only a matter of time before others join in to create a more efficient shopping network, that yields higher profits, and better return to the shareholder. But, the question remains what about the jobs.

With more and more automation, and this is impacting services too. You hear about teams of 150+ systems engineers, being reduced to a dozen. AI is taking over many of the jobs, that don’t require complex decision making. And, give it time, it would do that too.

So what do you do with so many people sitting at home. Or loitering about. Or waiting in queues to find jobs. Where there are no jobs to be had. What do you do?

You could be a benevolent (and prosperous ) system, and pay everyone (i mean every single person) a minimum living wage, so that people not only don’t starve to death, but have something more. But, the planet has 7 billion people. And, you are talking about a fair amount of money for a minimum living wage. I am not sure that countries or economies possess that kind of money to pay people to sit on the bench, unless robotic efficiency is so great, and corporate taxation so fair, and all off shore tax loopholes are abolished and companies pay tax – to be able to deliver this.

There are no consistent estimates for how many people work in the world, there are estimates of as high as 70% of the population is occupied with some work or the other, mostly informal, others talk about a “global labour force of  3.2 billion”  in 2030; and, there is an estimate of 1.3 billion people in full time employment by Gallup. This is a 2013 figure. And, I seriously don’t see the figure going up drastically. Gains in one part of the world, would be off set by losses in another. About One fifth (19% if you want accuracy) of the population is in formal employment. And, the rest is in informal employment. And, more of the 1.3 billion jobs will be lost.

I quite like robots. They are good. efficient. They don’t ask for holidays. You don’t have to counsel them. They don’t go on strike. They don’t need to be paid. Or fed. Or clothed. Or be listened to. I am sure 50-60 years from now, they will be writing news and scripts, and making films – but, I will be long gone by then (hopefully) 😀 I can completely see why a large assembly line will replace 800 workers with an army of robots – it is efficient.

But, is efficiency everything ? Should corporate profits be at the expense of social stability. Think of India, 70% of the population under 35. There are large plants that i have visited, that have less than a dozen full time staff. It is all automated. And, they get in contract workers (no benefits) when demand goes up. The rest of the time it is only machines. What happens to the jobs? What happens to the adjoining areas of the factory? Very often land and other tax breaks are offered to companies to set up in the hope it will bring in jobs. Highly skilled jobs.

There are 7 billion people on earth, 7 million mouths to be fed. And, with ever aspect of the market place becoming more and more automated, there are fewere and fewer jobs. . And, while technology is great and good, and i love technology – this aspect of it is also very real.  Those jobs gone, will never come back. The ATM is not going to be replaced by a human being (even though a human being doesn’t need to be calibrated to give out Rs 2000 notes),  The new jobs that are being promised, are highly skilled jobs. Or require very high levels of decision making. And, you cannot have 2 billion of those.

Should governments, especially in countries with huge populations like India and China, give companies tax breaks not to automate. But, that will make the industries inefficient. How do you trade off technological strides with social stability ? Can states even attempt to do this?

What will states do with all the unemployed ? And, they are all worried about this. Not just because of Brexit and Trumpet, but also this –   one of the things that you have when there are large numbers of young people unemployed, is either a war or a revolution . Just look at the middle east, would radical Islam have taken a foot hold if the young were bone dead tired from working all day ?

Do governments even have a plan for future jobs (i am hoping they are discussing with industry and figuring what these jobs are)  ? for training people from now on. I don’t know the answers to this. I wish I did. But, i would be very curious to know whether you think your job (not personally but the function that you perform) will be taken over (or not) by the machines. Why is all this important? because if a world with 1/5 people in full time employment is scary – because there are raging fires where ever there are no jobs (crime, riots, rebellion, civil war) – a world with even fewer jobs in even scarier.

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(image from here )

Dec 012016
 
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I finally got to see Dear Zindagi.

A story about a young woman – a cinematographer – who has everything going for her. She is confident, talented, good looking – and yet feeling completely out of sorts. Nightmares. Insomnia. A sense of being on the edge with everyone in her life. A sense of not belonging. we have all been there.

But, she does something, most of us don’t do – she visits a counsellor for help to take charge of her life again.

Alia’s character, Kaira, does not have any dark demons. No child abuse. No abusive parents. None of that. And, that is what make’s Gauri Shindes take on mental health so interesting. The fact that seemingly ‘normal’ people can have problems. That you can cope with your everyday activities, have fun, laugh, smile and all of that, while you are crumbling from the inside. Alia’s vulnerability and brittle strength are played well. SRK as the counsellor is outstanding. The sheer empathy, decency, and that his character does not judge situations or issues in the young woman’s life, or her choices, makes him a poster boy for popularising mental well being. I am not sure anyone else could have pulled off the role as well – there was, unlike in most of his films,  no SRK superstar in this film. There was only Jahangir Khan (Jug), and you wish you met someone like that when you were going through your own shit (without outside help). And, it is not because of the way he looks. It is because of the way he is. SRK, is infinitely better when he plays his age (or close to it).

A bit talky, maybe 15 minutes too long . But, beautifully cast. well acted, and a lovely little slice of life. I would definitely recommend it to watch in the theatres – preferably with BFF’s, an extra large box of tissues, and some pop corn.

Nov 282016
 

Sometime last year, I figured one thing about my life. That my brain was going to rust, metaphorically speaking, if I didn’t do things apart from work. A news role, placed serious dampeners on my meeting interesting people, and doing interesting things – both of which i did extensively in my earlier life. Everything i did, i tried to bring back to the work space – how does it fit here, or there – and my personal space, and interests were getting squeezed. And, i had begun chaffing (at myself).

One of the things i do enjoy is photography. And, walking around Mumbai and just shooting buildings, street life, and life in general, was something i toyed with. But, I have tremendous capacity for personal inertia — do nothing apart from have a happy thought. The thought of the photo walk made me so happy, and a few weeks passed by without me doing too much about it. It was also a bad time for me personally and professionally. The reasons don’t matter – all i know was that i felt like i was in an Indiana Jones film, and the walls were closing in on me (very rapidly).

It was at this time, i came across Khaki Tours (via a kind soul on twitter, when i asked about walks around mumbai). And, i have been attending a fair few walks since i first discovered the group.

My love for history, my love for my city, and my love for photography – have all gotten satisfied – on these trips.

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This is from the first walk at Gamdevi – literally the village goddess. Gamdevi as an area of Mumbai, is brimming with history. It is the seat of Mani Bhavan – the Gandhi Museum. There is the Theosophical Society in the area. It is also the seat of modern Hindustani music. IT is also where the Indian National Congress was born, where the Quit India Movement was launched, and where many progressive men (and in those days it was men) decided that they wanted to help their fellow countrymen to not just gain independence, but also help them to become equal.

Right now, like the rest of Mumbai, there is a tussle in progress. Vertical Growth or conservation of heritage. There is a lot of brown heritage in the area. The Goregaonkars and the Rauts who helped build the city. The old temples and homes. Unfortunately, it is not seen as heritage.

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And, one of the things I do really like about this particular walk, is the focus on the Indian part of it. Indians who helped build this city. Indians from all over India.

There is a lot more to gamdevi than two photos and 5 lines – but, i did mention the inertia part. I have my notes. I have my photos. But, i have to still put them together. I did a series of other walks – the Banganga Walk, the Parel Walk, the Bhuleshwar walk — all of them not just great fun, but extremely informative and engrossing.

Bharat Gothoskar, whose brain child this is, loves the city. And, that comes through during the walk. This isn’t about dry numbers and dates, and events. This is about exciting human beings, who pushed the limits of their era, to succeed. Recently, Bharat and Khaki tours have moved beyond the walkabouts, and added an open jeep ride to the menu. Saturday, last week, i went on an Urban Safari (it is called that) that took us on a Fort Ride.

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From the steps of the Asiatic, the journey begins that takes us through the last 150 or so years of history. From the Opium traders, to the modern bankers. That part of Mumbai is quite fantastic. If this is your kind of thing, the do look out for the walks, and the rides.  The story of Bombay (as it was then) is quite something. She is quite a character, our city … 🙂

 

Nov 272016
 
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My absolutely favourite piece of music. Bhimsen Joshi the most masterful rendition of Miyan Ki Todi.
The bada khayal is the single most enticing piece of music I have heard. Change Nainon Waali… It is almost as though he is enticing the beautiful eyed one — and, i am guessing here, it is the Devi, to him. 
and, then the absolutely jubilant Aeri Maayi aaj Shubh Mangal Gao. She heard his music, and came to him. And, the joy in his voice of attaining her. 
This is bhakti rasa at it’s peak – you don’t know where the human ends, and the divine begins.
Everytime I hear this piece, my heart sings with joy.
This is part of the Siddhi collection – possibly the finest collection of his live concert performances.
#SundayMorningListening

Listen to this interview of Pt Bhimsen Joshi with Shekhar Suman …

 

Nov 062016
 

From yesterday’s news, this

Police at Kankroli in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan have registered a first information report against Hindi film actress Rakhi Sawant on charges of indulging in obscenity by wearing a dress with the pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi printed all over it. …. The FIR has cited offences under several sections of Indian Penal Code and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and the police have launched investigation.

From a few days earlier

The pub, located in Oberoi Mall, had a church-themed decor–Bible quotes and stained-glass paintings–that Christian activists found ‘blasphemous’ and protested against. As the protests took a serious turn, the pub’s management pulled down the decor to appease the infuriated Christian community…..filed an FIR at Dindoshi police station under Section 295A.

These are just the one’s i can easily find. There are more. Lots more. Many of my fellow citizens like being offended at things that they see and hear in the media, or experience in real life. Films, books, bar decor, clothes, people, photographs and more. Each week, i am amazed at people dedicated to finding offence at everyday things, then having the energy to act on that ‘feeling of offence’ … go to a cop station, file a FIR, talk to cameras, post on social media about the sense of being offended – create tiny little communities of the offended. And, keep those communities together till, nurturing the ‘sense of being offended’.

I am afraid, that while these people are exercising their constitutional rights – to being offended (section 295 of the IPC deals with this), the system is letting them down, by getting the same over worked criminal justice system, that is overloaded with completely mundane things like murder, rape, domestic violence, robbery etc.

Section 295, for the not normally offended, is this

Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defile­ment as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

 

Which just about covers everything from the Good Lord Almighty (in any religion) to your favourite film star, your favourite animal, colour, hill, drink — anything you hold to be sacred. For example, i won’t be terribly surprised if one day, the association of Old Monk and Thumps Up drinkers, gets offended at Old Monk and Pepsi drinkers, and accuse them of offending deep held beliefs and practices.

The police, i believe, are not particularly adept at handling touching feeling subjects like offence. They are trained for other things — evidence, people, paperwork, etc etc. Loading them with abstract tenses, not to mention belief sets, is just beyond their remit. And, they will fail, and in doing so deprive justice for those who have been offended.

Therefore, i would humbly suggest the setting up of a new department, that can both investigate, question, and adjudicate on offended feelings. The newly created Department of Offended Feelings will also be staffed by pass outs of the administrative service. And, here i propose a special exam — the IOS exams– the indian offence service exams. There can be lateral entry from distantly related wings of political parties, from people used to protesting ‘being offended’. Students unions, trade unions, and stone pelters can be given special consideration.

This does two things — one is it reduces the pressure on the police to investigate ‘hurt feelings’ and lets them finish their more mundane tasks, ie, fight crime; and second – more importantly – it opens up a new avenue of employment. If the government chose to charge per complaint investigated, it could be a self sustaining model. More over, i see an entire business ecosystem grow around the department of offended feelings– social media activation, ground events, social networking and even dating sites — imagine being able to bond over being offended.

It just requires all of us to marginally shift gears and think about the possibilities. What we need to realise is that people being offended is hear to stay. People whining about being offended is only going to grow. And people, bonding on ‘being offended’ is possibly the new killer app. Given that ‘offended feelings’ is a growing market, it is about time that the Government took proactive action and set up this new department.

 

 

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(image, from here)