General Thinking

Driving Virtually

Nvidia gave a demo yesterday which can only be described as wicked cool! They seem to be working at the absolute cutting edge of technology.

They drove a car completely virtually. It just blew my mind! Just watch the demo video embedded below and let your mind be blown as well! Starts at around 12:40.

Actually, the fact that Apple had an event yesterday and I am writing about Nvidia here, hurts me a little. C’est la vie. When a number guy starts running the business instead of a visionary…

General Thinking

Selling Privacy

The entire social media business has been premised on selling your private data to actors who have the money to buy it. But what happens when those actors are not looking to just sell you goods; but an idea – That your country is going to the dogs!

It creates the possibility that entire elections can be manipulated using the very same data that allows a company to sell you baby wipes because you have a young one that has arrived recently.

For better or for worse we are irrational beings who can be influenced to make decisions based on our emotional state. Data allows for this manipulation.

The Cambridge Analytics story is more than a year old, you can find the original Vice post here.

To act as if this happened yesterday is ignorant and stupid.

The reaction at the bourse has been swift.


But if there is anything that I have learnt, it is that we have the collective memory of a butterfly and money can make most governments look the other way.

As they say – You cannot make someone understand something if their income depends on not understanding it!

Let us see how hard this storm blows…

Did you know?

Did you know? – Bite the bullet

You may have heard of the phrase – ‘bite the bullet’. It is used to describe the act of doing something unpleasant or difficult, which you have been putting off.

Anaesthesia was discovered by accident in 1840’s

American physician Crawford W. Long noticed that his friends felt no pain when they injured themselves while staggering around under the influence of diethyl ether. He immediately thought of its potential in surgery. Conveniently, a participant in one of those “ether frolics”, a student named James Venable, had two small tumors he wanted excised. But fearing the pain of surgery, Venable kept putting the operation off. Hence, Long suggested that he have his operation while under the influence of ether. Venable agreed, and on 30 March 1842 he underwent a painless operation. However, Long did not announce his discovery until 1849

Before Anaesthesia patients who had to undergo surgery were made to bite a leather belt, and in the field of war – a bullet. The term is born out of there; undergoing surgery in the absence of anaesthesia!

Now you know.


Building a world for the self-driving car

I was reading today morning and I saw this blog talk about the potential of self-driving vehicles being able to see around corners of the street by reflecting lasers.

We have built the world around us with the assumption that ONLY we will use it; which has been a fair assumption to make until now…

The roads, the traffic signs, the markings on the road, everything is built for a world where a human is driving the car. Would it be the same had we built the world for self-driving cars? Definitely not. And some of the technologies that are starting to emerge are making this lack of fit so far as design is concerned, very obvious.

As referenced in my previous blog electronics are going to get easier to build. Imagine a road where the road markers are made of Graphene and have sensors and guides built into it which can provide car a better spatial reference. This would make designing the cars so much more easier.

All of the self-driving technology today is based on visual mapping because the roads are designed as such. I think it is important to start having conversations about how the roads of tomorrow would look and start engaging with startups and governmental infrastructure planners to build the cities of tomorrow.

General Thinking


Milk is not something that we are naturally meant to consume, but milk has become an essential part of our diets. The dairy industry has grown and continued to grow in recent years to just quench our thirst for milk.

Now startups are looking to disrupt how we get our milk and meat.

Humanity’s procurement of animal-based foods has remained stagnant for a long time. In the case of milk, we grow massive amount of crops using large swaths of land and other resources. We then raise cows, feed them those crops, medicate them, impregnate them, milk them, and eventually slaughter them. It’s intensive, requiring huge quantities of land, water, fossil fuels, and other resources.

The excessive growth of diary animals is bad for the environment and resource heavy. The incumbents in the industry are trying to get these products branded artificial and limit its rise in the market. These products are not artificial, they just happen to be plant based rather than animal based. It is inevitable that they will rise and grow and eventually replace the old ways.

They will have cost and scale advantages that traditional dairies and farms will just not be able to compete with. Also, it would be enormously beneficial for the environment, it may not be for those who are currently engaged in the dairy industry. Jobs will move and what effects it has on the hinterland remains to be seen.

General Thinking

Future of Electronics

The impact that graphene is going to have on the future of electronics cannot be underestimated. Graphene is a carbon structure which is one atom thick. Image a sheet of carbon only one atom thick being used for building a whole host of solutions including batteries and advanced circuits.

Now scientists are finding a way to print graphene using laser on anything that is made of carbon, including your bread and your clothes.

The process can embed or burn patterns that could be used as supercapacitors, radio frequency identification (RFID) antennas or biological sensors. Based on these results, the researchers theorized that any substance with a reasonable amount of carbon can be turned into graphene. To test this theory, Tour’s team sought to burn LIG into food, cardboard and several other everyday, carbon-based materials.

This is revolutionary and powerful. It has the potential to change where we put electronics and how we put it there. If you are excited about electronics and the future of it, this is the piece your should be working on!

General Thinking

Blockchain and Governance

I came across this article a couple of weeks back.

The idea is one of 35 that Bloomberg Philanthropies selected from over 300 applications for the testing phase of its 2018 US Mayors Challenge. The challenge asked American cities for technology and data solutions for their most pressing challenges and awarded up to $100,000 in grants for each winning city to experiment with and refine their ideas. The ideas will be re-evaluated in August. Four cities will be awarded $1 million and one will receive a grand prize of $5 million to implement their ideas.

While the entire universe has been going ga-ga about crypto currency the actual use case of blockchain which is relevant, immediately needed and powerful is governance.

Blockchains make sense only when deployed at a systemic scale. It does not make any sense to take up that sort of effort for small scale encryption and data storage. Given this fact, governments should be jumping at this technology to put everything from land to vehicle registry as well as insurance and aid schemes which typically involve monthly cycles on the blockchain.

The trouble is that it makes the system too transparent!

The idea of putting the data of the homeless on a blockchain is a very interesting idea and a perfect application of the technology. I would want to follow this and see how this plays out over a period of time.

General Thinking

Prime Numbers

Modern Cryptography is based on prime numbers. When the research started out on cryptography, they were looking for what is called a reversible function. While most mathematical functions are reversible, they are also very easy to crack through.

If you wish to know more about how we arrived at this point, I advice a more detailed piece I had written on cryptography.

If I said 21 is the product of 2 prime numbers you can figure out the prime numbers fairly easily. But what if the number I gave you was a 64 digit number?

When you talk about 64 bit encryption that is precisely the case! We are using an encryption key that is the product of two 32 digit prime numbers. As we have been discovering more primes, we have been cataloging them for such use.

So the news that we found primes that are 23 Million digits long got me excited! Imagine 46 million bit encryption!

Today, we use 512 or 1024 bit generally and 2048 bit is thought to be impenetrable today even with AWS. Computation will improve and we will use larger prime numbers in the future. I do not suppose it would go anywhere close to even a million digit number in my lifetime.

But given that this is an exponential series, you never know. In 10 steps we might just be there!


General Thinking

Tipping point – Autonomous Cars

Autonomous technology is the holy grail for future of automobile. It will not only upend the automobile industry but also real estate, retail and many others. It is only fair to say that every company with enough cash in their wallets have been trying to get into the game. Apple, Alphabet (read Google), Tencent, Uber, Didi Chuxing are some of the bigger names aiming at this market. Apart from this there are 52 startups in US alone trying to build a solution in this space.

Part of the issues with commercialising technology of this nature are techno-commercial; but the other part is socio-political.

The former can be solved through hard work and innovation. Getting the right technology to be commercialised at the right price. The latter is a bit more challenging, because it involves changing how people perceive the technology; questions around ethics; questions around jobs and so on.

California has taken a huge step in this direction this week by legislating to allow autonomous vehicles without drivers, on the road.

The California DMV got approval Monday (Feb. 26) for its plan (pdf) to put self-driving cars on the road with no safety driver, a measure that ensured a human could take over if the car’s artificial intelligence made a mistake. That means starting April 2, Google, Ford, Nvidia, and other companies can own and operate cars driving around the Golden State without anybody inside.

Although it seems trivial right now, this is the first socio-political step towards making autonomous cars a legitimate solution to mobility woes. Remains to be seen how long it takes for other cities and countries to adopt this stance.