Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Delhi is a dimly lit parking lot masquerading as a city

[This is a ridiculous news story]

Delhi: The complaining voices are getting shriller. Cars are increasingly annoyed by the usurpers called humans who are encroaching their territory. It is a bad time to be a car, many say. They look back to a time when a car could go 10 feet without having to break (legs of pedestrian humans and dogs).
A visibly upset old Ambassador was shouting "Get off our roads" picketing in front of the gate that separated the largely parking lot city that belonged to cars and the small ramshackle settlement earmarked for humans and dogs.

"The mindless humans keep on throwing themselves onto us" barked a young Swift Dzire, eying an opportunity to be in the limelight of my esteemed journalistic magnificence. "They very well know that roads are for cars... along with any open space, footpaths, potholes, alley ways and the first few steps to any house. Yet they keep on treading on our territory."

The weaker section of humans have been trying hard to lobby in  UN for recognition of their rights to the holy land, but so far cars have thwarted any such attempt with sanctions and frequent road rage. The holy land in question has historically been inhabited by humans. However, with the setup of offices of major car companies a few decades ago, cars now assert their ownership of the holy land by virtue of their Uzi, Jericho & Glocks.

A young human across the fenced border braved toxic car farts to get across his story to me, but his voice was drowned out by car horns and revving.
Yet, it is amusing that many humans still believe that they are in control of the capital city. That they can walk to places - not having stepped out of their 'conveyance ki convenience' in last 30 years.

Only traffic jams would tell in due course of pile up, whether Delhi is a holy parking lot or a city for humans.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A farce called representative democracy

3 reasons why democracy as we know today is a waste of intentions, time, money and opportunity. It is a costly mistake that needs to be corrected.

1. Rule of the elite
The word Democracy is an antonym of Aristocracy - the rule of an elite. Yet, the elected representative turn into elite the day he/she gets elected. For a true representative democracy, the representative must remain a representative of the constituency - socially, morally, financially... What is the point of this charade if the representative goes and sits in the capital and leads an entirely alien life to that of the constituency he represents. For a representative to be a 'representative' - he /she should share enough common traits, concerns, social condition with his/her constituency.
There must be rules regarding the validity of candidature and his class & geographical mobility. For eg. if the candidate becomes x-times richer than the average enrichment of his constituency, his candidature must automatically be reviewed.

2. The wrong arithmetic of house
The representative represents people - not a region, or an idea or interests or pockets. PEOPLE.
So shouldn't the number of representatives increase with the increase in population? For a representative to not become alien to his constituency, it is important for him/ her to be easily accessible, communicable and available. Smaller the constituency, smaller the distance between the leader and his people. Larger the constituency, the leader would be more alien to his people. Science tells us that there is an upper limit of people for whom we can truly care. Perhaps the size of constituency should be based on this.

3. Distribution of power

Kanye West says 'No one man should have all that power'. Perhaps he is quoting someone smarter than him.
The whole point of democracy is giving power to common men. But instead what happens in real life is a re-distribution of power between the elite few.
Egypt revolution is actually a good example of the futility of revolutions - People keep on toppling one absolute power after another. They are forgetting that absolute power is corrupt - not the individual per se. As long as you keep on vesting supersized powers into few individuals, you are perpetuating your own subjugation. 

Real revolution will be with true redistribution of power. The best example I know of a true revolution is the Bhudan movement started by Vinoba Bhave in 1951.

What is a 'vote'?
Apparently, an exercise in choosing between limited alternatives. In representative democracy like ours, the limited alternatives are truly very very limited. Take this year's elections - what have we got? an idiot versus a despot.
And should a true democracy only be about choice of representative?
If the issue of water scarcity affects me a great deal, and I know a thing or two about the subject, shouldn't I have a say in the matter?
 Do you think the representatives passing bills that affect us really have the competency or a stake (apart from the possible kickbacks) in the decision they are affecting? (and imagine the impossibility of corrupting a whole constituency as against a single representative. the efficiency of representative democracy is geared for the lobbyists and corporates, not for the masses.)
Shouldn't referendums amongst public be the tool of democracy, instead of the farce of ballot boxing every 5 years? 

21st Century Democracy
In today's connected age, information flow is truly ceaseless and its reach is almost equally distributed (well, not really. but quite commendable nevertheless) than any other technology's reach in the history of mankind.
Wikipedia and countless other free sources are helping people learn things that they could never earlier learn outside the precincts of the very classicist university structure of education.
Digital technology can theoretically reduce the cost of a 'vote'.
Democracy 2.0 should allow for referendums among people who are being affected and who understand the complexity of the issue. The mechanism can be that of electronic test to gauge the individual's grasp of the subject matter who wants to vote and then an electronic vote.
Also, the process needn't be time bound.. it should be determined by the need.
Instead of elections every 5 years, lets have referendums every time a bill is to be passed among the people who are affected.

There are so many amazing ideas that can inform the design of governance - open source, wiki, kickstarter etc... democracy of tomorrow can be so much better than what we have now. here's an example from Sweden -

 to be continued...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Inventing indulgent future for the rich

Saw this promotional video for Bosch's automated driving system. There are similar efforts being attempted by other corporates too, notably Google.
But here again, I feel corporates are trying to answer the wrong question

'In the future' - we shouldn't need to travel unless we desire to travel (that is to say, travel only for leisure and not because you must to earn your bread). Our scientific endeavors need to be geared to completely remove commutes from our lives. In which case, driving would become an activity largely undertaken for leisure.
But the fact remains, the way our economy is geared, people must leave there homes and travel greater and greater distances to bigger and bigger cities to earn. In China alone, 120 million youngsters leave their homes to find jobs in a year.
Why is globalization only aiding economy and not human will? (Jobs migrating to cheaper and cheaper venues, forcing people to migrate towards jobs. As against, people moving to different places on their own volition without economic coercions facilitated by globalized economies that only aid mega-corporates.)
In the age of cloud-this and cloud-that, why do we still need to commute to earn? Why are companies not trying to reduce commutes and are instead are trying to automate commutes? even Google, which is in the business of cloud this-that.

We need our best minds to focus on the way we are going to work together, live together; not on the way we indulge ourselves.

Also, where are all the new cars going to go? the virus like expansion of cars on our roads will make it astronomically costly in future to own/ operate one. only a few would be able to afford mobility. Drive around Delhi and know what a dystopian future of road looks like. there are no more roads for more and more cars! We will be forced to de-incentivize individual driving.  
why invent for a future that is not going to present itself ever? why invent for indulgence of the rich?