The Form of the World

Photographer: Heather Lo | Source: Unsplash Configurations India has a renewed government with a few new faces, the most unusual of whom is the new minister for external affairs, Subramanyam Jaishankar, a career diplomat who is now in the Cabinet Committee on Security, which instantly makes him one of the most powerful people in the country.…

Bits of India 2: The Secularism of the RSS

Photographer: Aashish R Gautam | Source: Unsplash Buyer beware: this essay has a higher than usual ratio of speculation to explanation. I am playing with two central ideas (illustrated in the flowchart below): What? The modern system — with the state and the market being its standout institutions — destabilizes traditional categories, breaks them apart, swallows the pieces and finally…

Computing Climate Change

Photographer: Markus Spiske | Source: Unsplash In my previous essay, I arrived at an unoriginal idea: that the computer is a mental telescope through which we can view the world. I didn’t say the universe is a computer because that would be really unoriginal but more importantly, because I am not interested in the universe. I…

The Software Eaten World

Photographer: Markus Spiske | Source: Unsplash In accounting for the furniture of the universe, several intellectual traditions have settled upon two great organizing principles: Materialism: the world’s made of stuff and only stuff. If you can’t kick it, it don’t exist. Idealism: the world’s conjured by the mind. If you can dream it, it exists. While…

Earth Trek

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash Today is the 1st of February. Let’s just say I took January off and am now ready to take on a year long writing project. What’s it going to be? No surprise, it’s the same project as last year. Way back at the beginning of last year, I said I…

Geocracy

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash Institutions Institutions are the mechanism through which we impose collective order upon our lives. Some institutions are tacit, such as customs, habits and rituals. Why do people in many cultures drink and write with their right hand? Is there a law on the books that says so — usually not. Others are…

The Emergent Design of Failure

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash I am not letting any secrets slip in saying that the world has become much more authoritarian in the last decade. The largest countries in the world: China, India, the US, Russia, Brazil are all now ruled by authoritarians. The concentration of power in a few hands is not an isolated…

Lynchings are acts of terror

If you’re Indian you know this already and if you aren’t you may not care, but in this note, I want to pay attention to a new innovation in the annals of violence: the Whatsapp driven lynchings of muslims accused of being rustlers of cows, though like every other innovation, it’s spread to lynchings of…

Alternate Dystopias

As you might know, I have been writing extensively about demonetization. In case you have missed some of the articles on medium, they are here: While demonetization is undoubtedly important — perhaps the single most important economic-financial event anywhere in the world after the 2008 recession — and it affects the lives of the Indian poor much more than…

Permanent Demonetization

It’s an error to compare today’s demonetization to what happened in 1946 and 1978, for those were simply cases of removal. What’s being attempted today is the wholesale replacement of one financial system — based on cash — with another financial system, based on credit and electronic trade. It’s not a surgical strike; it’s bypass surgery on an unwilling…