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Udacity AI for robotics ‘Final hunt’ problem

I managed to make it work 1 in 5 times on an average now. Rough algorithm:
1) Just cache points upto 500 points
2) Use that to calculate precise turn, num of steps in a circle
3) Also it gives approximate radius and center
4) Then apply convolution on each point in the circle to get the ‘Mu’ for each point.
5) Then try to get the best first point, by collapsing all the points on a single axis. Using this I get the first point very close to the actual one e.g. 0.2, 9.8 for (0, 10)
6) Then I use this good point to get other good points in a circle, just using this and the turn.
7) Then try to visit all the points, in a pattern using which most points can be visited in the 500-1000 iterations.
8) Below is a sample unsuccessful run pattern. It tries to stay ahead of the rogue robot and meet it at the next rough halfway mark. (Fig 1)

9) Above (Fig 2) is a sample successful run case. In which  the rogue robot was caught it in 680 steps
I tried with some other approaches, as well. Just spiraling around the first point. Which also gives varying results.

Would very much appreciate any inputs, or a better algorithm, using which I can catch it more often.

My review of Ai dil hai mushkil

SPOILER ALERT: I am trying not to give specific spoilers but some phrases may suggest some happenings in the story. So please stop reading if want to fully enjoy the movie.

Karan Johar seems to be a very emotional man. His lingo of love is different. This movie is a spaghetti of who loves who! Also faithfulness in love, is apparently missing from his dictionary. Lest, my initial few sentences suggest that I did not enjoy the movie, should make it clear that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Its good to get a perspective foreign to yours. Especially if served in an interesting way.

Laced with beautific Urdu couplets, some words you don’t even get to hear in Lucknow anymore. On that note, was disappointing to see Lahore substituted by Lucknow, because of the terrorizing by the bhakts. Funny to see a bhangra dance in Lucknow, during a wedding. Also the flight via Dubai to Europe is a dead give away that city was Lahore.

Ranbir Kapoor’s acting is too good. In some parts, when he realizes a third person walking into his relationship of “friendship” with the lady, the way he gets heart broken, is so so effective. One totally roots for him, at the point, and totally identifying with him. On a personal note, I was also reminded of a very good friend, years ago, who used to go along with a lady colleague for various kind of shopping errands. When I suggested to him, that he might love her. He said “pagal ho, kya bak rahe ho…I don’t have that feeling at all..she is more like a mother to me…”, only to be totally devastated when she presented him with her wedding card one day. True story. No exaggeration.

Anushka Sharma’s acting is also very good. But I could not identify with her character a lot. Beginning part of the movie she is too pushy, and also I thought dishonest and manipulative. I know these are role related things, but at some level, in art, our judgement does get mixed up.

Also, I can’t get over the fact, that our leading pair, punish their respective partners for an act, they themselves were committing or about to commit in the very first act of the movie. As it opens. If Karan Johar wanted to show the hypocrisy, then its fine, but I doubt it.

Also, I cringed when the two males of a lady. One ex(1), and one current, get suggestive in a discussion and sort of discuss the sex life with the new partner. Oh man! there’s a limit to what a man can take. If ever, I’m in that situation (nature forbid!), I would be willing to lick somebody’s puke on the floor than discuss that. Of course, I would never do that, but just to suggest the cringe I felt.

Like that there are quite a few cringe worthy moments, if you believe in faithfulness in love. Or even give two hoots about it. Forgive me for sounding nobler-or-holier-than-thou, but one may feel it even if actions lack a bit from ideals.

So again, as some reviewer said, this movie is about definition of love. May be to a self declared asexual Karan Johar, sex with multiple partners is not a big deal. But to some of us mortals, physicality in love is almost inseparable from it, especially in romantic love scenario[2].

I mentioned about KJo’s lingo in the first paragraph. My kind of lingo is the one presented in the brilliant movie ‘Kapoor and sons’. That movie totally was my kind of movie. Of course characters were flawed even in that, who isn’t? but the lingo was realistic. People feel betrayal in a way, as the persons I understand would. But not in this movie, here if I understood the movie, Karan is making a statement, and that is platonic love in a friendship is the best kind of love in life. Real (read physical) love comes with too many strings attached, and is rarely fulfilled.

In my humble opinion, that’s a formation of a deeply emotional man, who has had a lot of trouble dealing with relationships. Sorry, for sounding judgmental and crude. But my intention is not that, sincerely. I loved his recent blogs on NDTV, where he got candid. But perhaps if he holds this view to be true for a larger section of people, I believe, that he is extrapolating a bit too much.

One thing which you like in the movie are the very real dialogues. A possessive man, asks the question to his(well, not really) lady, whether she had sex with the long lost lover-man she found. That was too cool. Likewise the movie is laced with brilliant conversations.

Lastly this movie showcases acting talent of Ranbir Kapoor in the best way. And he has made a solid comeback with this. Although he appears a bit chubby, and that could be related to his professed alcoholism problem seen in some page3 news lately. Careful man, don’t start to look like your dad so soon. As I said above, Anushka is also brilliant, but not in RK’s league(incidentally he is best actor in his family in my opinion). Aishwarya[3] and Fawad Khan have very small roles. Played effectively though.

People made such a hue and cry about Fawad Khan, but with such a short role, there’s hardly anything to discuss about him. But a solid actor he is for sure, as seen in Kapoor and Sons.

Overall my rating is 3/5. Enjoyable watch, for me, even though don’t agree with a lot of aspects. Its fine if I disagree with a movie, as far as the movie is not disagreeable.


[1] – played by the superstar in real life, making a guest appearance in the movie
[2] – i.e not the one we have with our children, parents and siblings.
[3] – Feel a bit for her situation. That self professed beacon of nationalism and also now feminism (after the success of Pink), can’t even spare a tweet to encourage his bahu. Sorry for judging some one, only if he does not wear the non-existent values on his sleeve, and so obnoxiously so. Just look at his own life, he made his wife stop acting, in the prime of her career. Even that is fine, as far as you don’t pretend to be someone else.

Hacker rank problem: Sherlock and Geometry

Had fun solving this problem yesterday evening & today got accepted after minor fixes.

Solving these kind of algorithm design problems, gives me a kind of a high. And I want to shout out, to anybody who may be interested! 🙂 [PS: If you land here via search engine, in search of a solution. You can sure refer, but please don’t cheat]. No high, like writing your own code. And once you see all the test cases passing, and full marks (in this case 60) being awarded, you are one very happy programmer.

I am too lazy to explain the design. So just dumping the code below. Some helpful comments are there, though. Some concepts, I have made use of, in brief:

  1. Area of a triangle using sides
  2. Shortest distance to line
  3. Checking if the shortest distance to a line, happens to be the shortest distance to that line segment. If yes, then just checking if its less than radius. If no, then the segment is outside.
  4. Also some simple checks upfront like if the triangle is inside the circle, fully. Or if triangle has points lying on either side of the circle perimeter.

‘Nuff said. Code is below:

Watson gives a circle and a triangle in a 2-dimensional plane to Sherlock. Sherlock has to tell if they intersect/touch each other.
The circle is centered at (xc,yc)(xc,yc) and has radius RR.

Input Format
The first line contains TT, the number of test cases.
Each test case consists of xcxc, ycyc and RR in one line.
The next three lines each contains xi,yixi,yi denoting the vertices of the triangle.

Output Format
For each test case, print YES if the triangle touches or intersects the circle; otherwise, print NO.

Note: There will be no degenerate triangles (i.e. triangles with area 0)

Sample Input

0 0 10
10 0
15 0
15 5
0 0 10
0 0
5 0
5 5
Sample Output



package main

import (
// “strconv”

func main() {
var T int
//fmt.Printf(“T = %v\n”, T)

for t := 0; t < T; t++ {

// circle
var x, y, ri int
//fmt.Printf(“%v, %v, %v\n”, x, y, ri)

// 3 points of triangle
var x1, y1, x2, y2, x3, y3 int
//fmt.Printf(“%v, %v; %v, %v; %v, %v\n”, x1, y1, x2, y2, x3, y3)

p1_d := dist(x, y, x1, y1)
p2_d := dist(x, y, x2, y2)
p3_d := dist(x, y, x3, y3)
//fmt.Printf(“%v, %v, %v\n”, p1_d, p2_d, p3_d)

r := float64(ri)
if p1_d < r && p2_d < r && p3_d < r {
// all points inside circle
} else if atleastTwoPointsOtherSide(p1_d, p2_d, p3_d, r) {
// at least 1 point inside with at least 1 outside
} else {
// all outside

// looking at the min distance of each side
// from circle center
if checkDistToLineSegment(ri, x, y, x1, y1, x2, y2) {
} else if checkDistToLineSegment(ri, x, y, x2, y2, x3, y3) {
} else if checkDistToLineSegment(ri, x, y, x1, y1, x3, y3) {
} else {


func dist(x1, y1, x2, y2 int) float64 {
x := x2 – x1
y := y2 – y1
sum := x*x + y*y
return math.Sqrt(float64(sum))

// if dist of at least one point is less than r
// and dist of at least one point is greater than r
func atleastTwoPointsOtherSide(p1, p2, p3, r float64) bool {
if p1 <= r {
if p2 >= r || p3 >= r {
return true
} else {
if p2 <= r || p3 <= r {
return true

if p2 <= r {
if p1 >= r || p3 >= r {
return true
} else {
if p1 <= r || p3 <= r {
return true

if p3 <= r {
if p2 >= r || p1 >= r {
return true
} else {
if p2 <= r || p1 <= r {
return true

return false

func areaBasedOnSides(a, b, c float64) float64 {
s := (a + b + c) / 2.0
return math.Sqrt(s * (s – a) * (s – b) * (s – c))

// center x,y with a line segment of the triangle
// in this we check if shortest dist to line segment,
// is also the shortest distance to line
// if so returns true
// else false
func checkDistToLineSegment(r, x, y, x1, y1, x2, y2 int) bool {
a := dist(x1, y1, x2, y2)
b := dist(x, y, x1, y1)
c := dist(x, y, x2, y2)
A := areaBasedOnSides(a, b, c)
//fmt.Printf(“A: %v\n”, A)

// shortest distance to line
h := (2 * A) / a
//fmt.Printf(“h: %v\n”, h)

// Check if shortest distance to line, falls in line segment
hi := int(h * 100)
if hi <= r*100 {
theta1 := math.Asin(h / b)
theta2 := math.Asin(h / c)

a1 := b * math.Cos(theta1)
a2 := c * math.Cos(theta2)

if a1 > a || a2 > a {
// approximately (a1+a2) should be equal to a
// but if a single part is greater means the perpendicular meets much outside the
// line segment
return false
} else {
return true

return false

Salman Khan case miscarriage of Justice

I am so angry at the development last week, where justice was not served by the high court of Mumbai.

So far, by and large, judiciary in India has been a strong pillar of democracy, inspiring trust and confidence, despite the slowness of its functioning (which is another matter, which needs fixing BTW, but that’s story for another day).

Now its evident, to anybody who pauses and thinks for two minutes, that the father-son Khan duo (i.e. Salim & Salman Khan) have made a Faustian bargain with the right wing BJP government, by being tacit supporters of it – the father speaking out in support of Modi, in some interviews, and the star son doing kite flying and such.

Now this miscarriage of justice hurts India at so many levels. Foremost its the case of justice not being served to the poorest of citizens – one died and few permanently disabled.

Secondly, the bodyguard police officer Ravindra Patil, who always maintained that Salman Khan was driving the car, was apparently harassed and died a suffering man. We don’t know how much of his suffering was because of this saga.

So the point is those who stand in support for justice, need to die miserable men, and whose names only serve as footnotes in the stories of wrongfulness, favoritism and bargains with the devil.

Thirdly, the quid pro quo at play which is very apparent. The judge retiring within 10 days of the judgement. I am not sure what he is going to get, if anything material at all. May be its just letting him retire in peace. But the real quid pro quo is for the silence and compliance of the father-son Khans. If you support us, you will stay out of jail, not be trolled. And also get to define how an ideal Muslim citizen should behave.

By extension of the third point, just look at how the other two Khans – Aamir and Shahrukh got their treatment for having voiced their honest opinions on the issue of ‘tolerance’. And note ‘tolerance’ BTW, is just a compromise word for ‘secularism’. See they already bullied you into finding parallel words, which find shelter in our constitution. How low will you all stoop?

Lastly, it just shows if compromised persons are allowed to reach top positions, then they will strike these kind of bargains to serve their vested interest – which is actually just their survival (ingrained in all our DNAs) in this case.

I am hoping the Maharashtra home ministry, will appeal in the Supreme court, and justice will be done there at least.

If that does not happen, this is a bigger issue for all of us, who want to see this country doing well. ‘Tolerance’ & ‘Secularism’ even if standards go down, are still citizen sentiment and manipulation issues, which have highs and lows with time. But if justice starts to get compromised, in such visible cases, it is a travesty.

One can live without ‘tolerance’.  But need to pack my bags, if can’t do anything to change it, if there is no justice. In the human world, it is what makes it go round.

Brief review – Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree by Tariq Ali

Just now finished reading it.

Good to get an idea about the times in receding Muslim powers, at the end of the 15th Century, in Spain. As the author is historian, we are assured that the fictional story is well rooted in history. My personal gain is getting to know a bit of history, I am interested in, geography and time wise, without heaving to read a heavy-dry history book. So in that respect I liked the book.

But my problem is with the last 15%, the war/fight is described in a very limp way, without any intensity. So one does not get a buy in to the events happening (which should have been catastrophic) around us. Countless other pure fiction writers would have done a much better job, in the last 10-15%.

I read it on my Kindle. Overall a good read, if you are interested in the topic – Islamic medieval history, and through the convenience of a fiction.

Overall rating: 3/5

Reading – WaitButWhy article on SpaceX and colonizing Mars


Perspective changing/defining one for lay people like me. Almost everything in this article is very interesting/etc. Still, I collected some gems out of this gem. Just in case its entertaining to read….

Great Gems:

‘For thousands of years, The Story of Humans and Space had been the story of staring out and wondering. The possibility of people leaving our Earth island and venturing out into space burst open the human spirit of adventure.

  1. I imagine a similar feeling in the people of the 15th century, during the Age of Discovery, when we were working our way through the world map chapter of Where Are We? and the notion of cross-ocean voyages dazzled people’s imaginations. If you asked a child in 1495 what they wanted to be when they grew up, “an ocean explorer” would probably have been a common response.In 1970, if you asked a child the same question, the answer would be, “an astronaut”—i.e. a Situation explorer.’
  2. ‘about one-third) of the satellites are much farther out, in a place called geostationary orbit (GEO). It’s right at 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above the Earth…GEO is ideal for something like a TV satellite because a dish on the Earth can aim at the same fixed spot all the time.’
  3. ‘There’s a big problem happening in the world of satellites. In addition to the 1,265 active satellites up in orbit, there are thousands more inactive satellites, as well as a bunch of spent rockets from previous missions. And once in a while, one of them explodes, or two of them collide, creating a ton of tiny fragments called space debris…The issue is that at the incredible speeds at which space objects move (most LEO objects zip along at over 17,000 mph), a collision with even a tiny object can cause devastating damage to an active satellite or spacecraft. An object of only 1 cm at those speeds will cause the same damage in a collision as a smallhand grenade. ‘
  4. ‘Awkwardly, Pluto was still a planet when New Horizons launched, and everyone spent the years following Pluto’s demotion avoiding making eye contact with the New Horizons team.’ [LOL :-)]
  5. ‘Curiosity is a now-famous rover. A car-sized lovable lander robot dropped down on Mars’s surface in 2012, Curiosity is studying a bunch of things inside a large crater, with its primary objective being to figure out if there’s ever been life on Mars.’
  6. ‘An AU is an “astronomical unit”—the distance from the Earth to the sun—which is about 93 million miles (150 million km)..’ [ Voyager 1 is the farthest at 131 AU]
  7. ‘At this rate, Voyager 1 will reach Proxima Centauri, the closest star to us, in about 73,000 years.’ [ Its speed is 61000 km/h! ]
  8. ‘But there came a point when ground telescopes ran into a limit on what they’d be able to see, no matter how advanced they became. You know when you look at a light through a glass of water and the light is all bendy and silly? That’s what’s happening when stars twinkle, except instead of water, we’re looking at them through the Earth’s atmosphere. …….In 1990, NASA launched the first truly badass space telescope, the Hubble.’
  9. They even did some repairs on the hubble telescope, in the space, few years after it was launched. As the lens was slightly off.
  10. ‘As I began working on this post, I realized I didn’t really know what the ISS was for or what anyone did while they were there. Every time I see a video of what goes on inside the space station, it’s just some adult floating around having playtime.’ [LOL :-)]
  11. ‘When a species becomes so powerful that they can achieve giant grand-scale life leaps in under a century, they can essentially play god, in many different ways. Let’s call that reaching the God Point. If progress is indeed accelerating, it makes sense that an advanced species would eventually hit the God Point,’
  12. ‘Musk came up with a way to help—he’d put a plant on Mars. The plan—called Mars Oasis—was to perform a charitable mission to Mars that would carry a small robotic greenhouse to the planet. The greenhouse would use an arm to scoop some Martian soil, plant a seed, and then once a plant had grown, the greenhouse would send back what Musk calls “the money shot”—a photo of a sturdy green plant amidst the alien red background and the first (known) life on Mars.’
  13. ‘But A) I think I’d like to put 1,000,000 people on Mars to B) Now there are 1,000,000 people on Mars—that one seems extra difficult.Elon Musk is more ambitious than you.’
  14. ‘He read books like this and this and this and this and basically memorized all of them. Rocket expert Jim Cantrell, who met Musk around that time and was on the failed trip to Russia with him, says “He would quote passages verbatim from these books. He became very conversant in the material.”2To supplement his reading, Musk asked a lot of questions of a lot of people. Cantrell, who calls Musk “by far the single smartest person that I have ever worked with,”’
  15. ‘As Musk started to talk more and more seriously about making space his next big pursuit, Musk’s friends were worried about him. Wouldn’t you be? Imagine if your friend made a huge amount of money selling an internet business and then told you he was going to spend almost all of it trying to become the first entrepreneur to succeed at building a space launch company—because it was important that human life become multi-planetary. You wouldn’t feel good about this. One of Musk’s friends did his best to talk him out of the insane project by putting together a montage of rockets blowing up and forcing Musk to watch it.But Musk is an odd duck, and he continued along unfazed’
  16. ‘There seem to be lots of stories like this that reflect on SpaceX being unusually meritocratic—I met with Zach Dunn, the Senior Director of Launch Engineering, who seemed to be about 12 years old. Dunn told me he started as an intern just a few years ago. Early on, when he assumed Musk had no idea who he was, Musk surprised him by telling Dunn he thought he was a very strong engineer, which made Dunn realize that Musk is acutely aware of everyone at the company. A few years later, Dunn was put in charge of launch engineering and more than 100 employees’
  17. ‘By the time 2006 rolled around, Musk had decided to revolutionize the automotive industry as a side project, and with $70 million of his PayPal fortune tied up in Tesla, that left about $100 million for SpaceX. Musk said this would be enough for “three or four launches.” ‘
  18. ‘here’s what SpaceX really does: It’s an innovation machine, trying to solve one big problem—the astronomical cost of space travel—because that’s the key to making humanity a space-faring civilization that can become multi-planetary and back itself up on other hard drives. It supports itself by taking things to space for people, for money.’
  19. ‘Let’s just go ahead and get it out of the way right now—Falcon 9 is the world’s largest dick-shaped sculpture. It’s something every SpaceX employee has learned to endure, an unmentionable fact that hovers over their professional lives, and it’s something we’re all going to live with as well’ [LOL 🙂 ]
  20. ‘Falcon 9’s third launch made history again, when on a demo mission for NASA, Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to attach to the ISS’
  21. ‘(Falcon 9 Launch) Timing is critical down to the second. Even one second off schedule will mess up the rendezvous with the ISS.’
  22. ‘After the demoralizing third failure of Falcon 1, Musk wrote to his employees, “It is perhaps worth noting that those launch companies that succeeded also took their lumps along the way. A friend of mine wrote to remind me that only 5 of the first 9 Pegasus launches succeeded; 3 of 5 for Ariane; 9 of 20 for Atlas; 9 of 21 for Soyuz; and 9 of 18 for Proton. SpaceX is in this for the long haul and, come hell or high water, we are going to make this work.” This puts SpaceX’s June 2015 failure in perspective and lets it serve more as a reminder of how impressive its 20 for 24 start has been.’
  23. ‘cutting edge technology has made it the world’s cheapest option for space delivery. For years, the US government has relied on two major aerospace companies—Boeing and Lockheed Martin, along with their joint venture, United Launch Alliance (ULA)—for domestic launches. ULA charges the government—and the US taxpayers—$380 million per launch. For a similar launch, the US government only pays SpaceX $133 million.’
  24. ‘A Falcon 9 trip to GTO (the highest satellite orbit) now costs $15 million less than a launch on China’s historically-cheap Long March rocket. As for the other major player in the launch market, Musk has said, “My family fears that the Russians will assassinate me.”’
  25. ‘I asked Musk about the difficulty of competing against ULA. His response: “These are not pushovers, it’s the military-industrial complex. You know in movies, how they do terrible things? Well yeah, those guys.”’ [ just wonder, how even such geniuses are harassed by the entrenched bureaucracy! Even after having proved their clear vantage.]
  26. Rajeev Badyal,SpaceX’s VP of Avionics Engineering, who is in charge of the satellite project ‘explained that SpaceX’s constellation of 4,000 solar-powered satellites will work together intelligently to cover every part of the Earth and beam lightning-fast internet to places where it’s badly needed. He talked about how really only a few places on Earth (Europe, the US, parts of India and East Asia, etc.) are truly blanketed with good internet, and how this would be a game-changer for many other parts of the world’
  27. ‘That’s why SpaceX has a long term plan to build a rocket that will make Falcon 9 look like a hot dog—The Mars Colonial Transporter.The MCT rocket will be a giant, powered by a much more powerful SpaceX engine, called the Raptor, that’s currently in the works—and its spacecraft will be able to hold at least 100 people
  28. ‘Today, no one is talking about Mars, and very few people think of Mars as a relevant part of the near future. But unless I’ve missed something big or something unexpected happens, in about 10–20 years,people will start going to Mars. You could go to Mars in your lifetime. Crazy things are on the horizon.’
  29. ‘“send an automated spaceship to Mars just to make sure you can send something there and back”—this should happen before 2020. Then, there would be a handful of unmanned cargo missions to bring equipment, habitats, and supplies, so that when the first people start arriving, they’ll be able to not die—they’ll need access to water, a place to live, the tools to convert compounds on Mars to oxygen, fertilizer to grow crops, etc’
  30. ‘“It’s not going to be a vacation jaunt. It’s going to be saving up all your money and selling all your stuff, like when people moved to the early American colonies.”1 But he also points to the excitement and novelty of getting to found a new land—an experience that stopped being possible on Earth centuries ago: ‘
  31. ‘While we were on the topic, I asked Musk what he thought the government of Mars would be like. His answer: “Creating the Mars government will be like creating the United States. It’s an opportunity to reboot government and say from first principles, ‘What should government look like?’ I suspect people would do more of direct democracy than representative one. In the old days, it would take three months to take a vote—there was no mail system, mail barely worked and would take weeks, and a lot of people couldn’t read or write. It was extremely unwieldy so they had to have a representative democracy. On Mars, there could be instant electronic voting on issues, which would be much less subject to corruption, and laws could be made way simpler—you’d put a word limit on law.”’
  32. ‘By 2040, Musk thinks there will be a thriving colonial Martian city’
  33. ‘He said he’d like to go later in life, then return to Earth, and eventually head back to Mars for retirement and stay for good—but only on one condition: “I’ll go if I’m certain that SpaceX will be fine without me, and that path will continue.”’
  34. ‘So the next challenge after colonizing Mars will be something even harder—we’ll have to turn Mars into our home. We have a word for this. Terraforming. Terraforming a planet means changing its conditions to match Earth’s. And that’s the power of technology—with enough of it, we could literally Earthify an entire planet.’
  35. ‘One day, probably more than 1,000 years from now, Mars will be completely terraformed. When that day comes, you’ll see a picture like this’ [ earth like picture of trees]
  36. ‘and you won’t know which planet you’re looking at. Earth and Mars will be two normal places that take three months to travel between—just like America and Europe only 100 years ago, before airplanes allowed you to zip back and forth between them. Someone could choose to live their life on Earth but go to college on Mars. ‘
  37. ‘Maybe the Solar System’s Grand Congress will make “Earth history” a required class in school, and students all over will grow up yearning to one day visit what they’ll refer to as the Cradle of Civilization, to see its huge animals, famous cities, and ancient ruins.’
  38. ‘The light of consciousness that flickered on millions of years in the past on humble little Earth will spread throughout the galaxy and into other galaxies, branching into thousands of different life forms. Most beings in the lineage will be hazy on where it all started, but those who know their history will be able to tell you all about the Great Leap, that pinnacle moment in antiquity when their primitive ancestors emerged from the womb and became conquerors.’ [flourish!]

Breaking Smart – what a wonderful season of essays

Highlights from various essays from this index page:

‘we expected too much too soon from 1995 to 2000, leading to the crash. Now in 2015, many apparently silly ideas from 2000, such as home-delivery of groceries ordered on the Internet, have become a mundane part of everyday life in many cities. But the element of surprise has dissipated, so we tend to expect too little, too far out, and are blindsided by revolutionary change in sector after sector.’

‘Those who adopt a Promethean mindset and break smart will play an expanding role in shaping the future. Those who adopt a pastoral mindset and retreat towards tradition will play a diminishing role, in the shrinking number of economic sectors where credentialism is still the more appropriate model’

‘This means increasing well-being for all will be achieved through small two-pizza teams beating large ones. Scale will increasingly be achieved via loosely governed ecosystems of additional participants creating wealth in ways that are hard to track using traditional economic measures. Instead of armies of Organization Men and Women employed within large corporations, and Organization Kids marching in at one end and retirees marching out at the other, the world of work will be far more diverse.’

‘A big implication is immediately clear: the asymptotic condition represents a consumer utopia. As consumers, we will enjoy far more for far less. This means that the biggest unknown today is our future as producers, which brings us to what many view as the central question today: the future of work.’

‘the social order surrounding work will be a much more fluid descendant of today’s secure but stifling paycheck world on the one hand, and liberating but precarious world of free agency and contingent labor on the other.’

‘As the hacker ethos spreads, we will witness what economist Edmund Phelps calls a mass flourishing— a state of the economy where work will be challenging and therefore fulfilling. Unchallenging, predictable work will become the preserve of machines.’

‘early programming was led by creative architects (often mathematicians and, with rare exceptions like Klari Von Neumann and Grace Hopper, usually male) who worked out the structure of complex programs upfront, as completely as possible. The actual coding onto punch cards was done by large teams of hands-on programmers (mostly women1) with much lower autonomy, responsible for working out implementation details.’

‘With the development of smaller computers capable of interactive input hands-on hacking became possible. At early hacker hubs, like MIT through the sixties, a high-autonomy culture of hands-on programming began to take root. Though the shift would not be widely recognized until after 2000, the creative part of programming was migrating from visioning to hands-on coding. Already by 1970, important and high-quality software, such as the Unix operating system, had emerged from the hacker culture growing at the minicomputer margins of industrial programming.’

‘The cost of this agility is a seemingly anarchic pattern of progress. Agile development models catalyze illegible, collective patterns of creativity, weaken illusions of control, and resist being yoked to driving utopian visions. Adopting agile models leads individuals and organizations to gradually increase their tolerance for anxiety in the face of apparent chaos. As a result, agile models can get more agile over time.’

‘Open Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in forestry,  open data initiatives in urban governance, and monitoring technologies in agriculture, all increase  information availability while eliminating cumbersome paperware processes….Once a field becomes hacker-friendly, software begins to eat it.’

‘The IETF slogan of rough consensus and running code (RCRC) has emerged as the only workable doctrine for both technological development and associated economic models…’

‘From the earliest days of interactive computing, when programmers chose to build games while more “serious” problems waited for computer time, to modern complaints about “trivial” apps (which often turn out to be revolutionary), scarcity-oriented thinkers have remained unable to grasp the essential nature of software for fifty years.’

‘Rough consensus favors people who, in traditional organizations, would be considered disruptive and stubborn: these are exactly the people prone to “breaking smart.” In its most powerful form, rough consensus is about finding the most fertile directions in which to proceed rather than uncovering constraints.’

‘Traditional processes of consensus-seeking drive towards clarity in long-term visions but are usually fuzzy on immediate next steps. By contrast, rough consensus in software deliberately seeks ambiguity in long-term outcomes and extreme clarity in immediate next steps. ‘

‘At an ethical level, rough consensus is deeply anti-authoritarian, since it avoids constraining the freedoms of future stakeholders simply to allay present anxieties. The rejection of “voting” in the IETF model is a rejection of a false sense of egalitarianism, rather than a rejection of democratic principles.’

[Wah, ustaad, wah!!…yeh padh kar hee life ban gayee!]

‘The decade after the dot com crash of 2000 demonstrated the value of this principle clearly. Startups derided for prioritizing “growth in eyeballs” (an “interestingness” direction) rather than clear models of steady-state profitability (a self-limiting purist vision of an idealized business) were eventually proven right. Iconic “eyeball” based businesses, such as Google and Facebook, turned out to be highly profitable. Businesses which prematurely optimized their business model in response to revenue anxieties limited their own potential and choked off their own growth.’

‘Those who bemoan the gradual decline of famous engineering labs like AT&T Bell Labs and Xerox PARC often miss the rise of even more impressive labs inside major modern products and their developer ecosystems.’

‘The IBM OS/2 project of the early nineties,4 conceived as a replacement for the then-dominant operating system, MS-DOS, provides a perfect illustration of “better is worse.” Each of the thousands of programmers involved was expected to design, write, debug, document, and support just 10 lines of code per day. Writing more than 10 lines was considered a sign of irresponsibility. ‘

[Gem! 🙂 ]

‘But concerns that the game might end should not lead us to limit ourselves to what philosopher James Carse6 called finite game views of the world, based on “winning” and arriving at a changeless, pure and utopian state as a prize. As we will argue in the next essay, the appropriate mindset is what Carse called an infinite game view, based on the desire to continue playing the game in increasingly generative ways. From an infinite game perspective, software eating the world is in fact the best thing that can happen to the world.’

‘All it takes is one thing: a thriving frontier of constant tinkering and diverse value systems must exist somewhere in the world.

‘Diamonds were once worth fighting wars over. Today artificial diamonds, indistinguishable from natural ones, are becoming widely available.’

‘When pastoralist calls for actual retreat are heeded, the technological frontier migrates elsewhere, often causing centuries of stagnation. This was precisely what happened in China and the Islamic world around the fifteenth century, when the technological frontier shifted to Europe’

‘Specific ideas may fail. Specific uses may not endure. Localized attempts to resist may succeed, as the existence of the Amish demonstrates. Some individuals may resist some aspects of the imperative to change successfully. Entire nations may collectively decide to not explore certain possibilities. But with major technologies, it usually becomes clear very early on that the global impact is going to be of a certain magnitude and cause a corresponding amount of disruptive societal change.’

‘In art, the term pastoral refers to a genre of painting and literature based on romanticized and idealized portrayals of a pastoral lifestyle, usually for urban audiences with no direct experience of the actual squalor and oppression of pre-industrial rural life.’

‘When pastoralists pay attention to drones at all, they see them primarily as morally objectionable military weapons. The fact that they replace technologies of mass slaughter such as carpet bombing, and the growing number of non-military uses, are ignored.’

‘absolute utopias for believers that necessarily represent dystopias for disbelievers. Totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century, such as communism and fascism, are the product of pastoral mindsets in their most toxic forms. The Jeffersonian pastoral was a nightmare for black Americans.’

‘From the Greek philosopher Plato1 (who lamented the invention of writing in the 4th century BC) to the Chinese scholar, Zhang Xian Wu2 (who lamented the invention of printing in the 12th century AD), alarmist commentary on technological change has been a constant in history. A contemporary example can be found in a 2014 article3 by Paul Verhaege in The Guardian

‘Drivers of early horseless carriages were degenerate dependents, beholden to big corporations, big cities and Standard Oil.’ (Was it really seen this way?!)

‘For Prometheans, on the other hand, not only is there no decay, there is actual moral progress.

‘Hamilton did not just suggest a way out of the rural squalor1 that was the reality of the Jeffersonian pastoral. His way also led to the dismantlement of slavery, the rise of modern feminism and the gradual retreat of colonial oppression and racism.’