An assortment of stuff I came across in cyberspace, offered second hand, for anyone who may be interested.
- If you haven’t read it already, Thomas Friedman’s penultimate op-ed 9/11 Is Over, is a must-read.
- China has now started blocking all RSS feeds as well.
- A woman has been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran for committing adultery. Kamangir and a group of Iranian bloggers are trying to stop that from happening.
- Microsoft launches HealthVault, an online repository where consumers can store medical information for free in an encrypted database. For once, Microsoft beats Google to something!
- Ashok talked about “Collective Intelligence” in the comments discussion on my post “Runaway Train“. Techcrunch reveals that a new site, CrowdChess, has launched. You log on and sign up for a game. Each side is made up of teams of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people. Anyone on a team can suggest the next move, and the move that gets the most votes is the one that is played out. Like Erick, I too wonder if any number of amateurs can ever beat a grandmaster in this scenario! What do you think?
- MMP has his own insightful analysis of why he blogs. He has developed an interesting universal model that shows how we all live in blogging CAVES. Check it out.
- Check out Ashok’s take on the various categories of Indian bloggers to have a healthy laugh at The Blogosphere Zoopedia.
- A US Senate Judiciary Committee has passed the Free Flow of Information Act. There is still a long way to go and final outcome seems uncertain at this stage. See Are Blogging Journalists Shielded? for background information.
- The Economist paints a sordid and bleak picture of the challenges involved in revamping Mumbai. A must-read if you care about Mumbai.
- Financial Times puts Rahul Gandhi’s first populist action after ascending to the Congress secretaryship as the backdrop to describe how political short-termism is hampering retail reforms.
- I had pondered on a few questions regarding cricket’s status in India in my 10 Thoughts on T20 World Cup Win post. Social psychologist Ashis Nandy has some interesting answers in his interview with Outlook magazine. He says there are only three areas of our life—cricket, cinema (Bollywood) and crime that recognize capability wholeheartedly and unconditionally.
- I have written about the contempt of court ruling regarding Justice Sabharwal. Vinod Mehta brings greater clarity to the issue and wisely cautions that if the media and the judiciary engage in a war, the only winners will be the politicians.
- To bring this potpourri full circle back to the US, Rajinder Puri takes on a lot of controversial issues in his take on the decline of the US. Some of his comments resonate with Shefaly’s comments in the discussion on Right To Free Speech: What does it mean?.
I decided to add this prologue after the first few comments to this post. This post uses an incident in India, but is actually universal in nature and focuses on the moral, philosophical, and ethical decision-making involved in an emergency.
Imagine you’re traveling from Mumbai to Pune by train, which is full to capacity, as usual in India. An additional engine is added to the train to climb the ascent of the Western Ghats from Karjat at sea-level to Lonavala at a height of 2000 ft. above sea level. Your train trudges laboriously upwards and reaches Lonavala after 1.5 – 2 hours. You enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Sahyadri ghats. It stops at Lonavala for a while and everyone gets back on board, ready to proceed.
Suddenly the train starts inching backwards. There are smiles, giggles, and wisecracks about what antics the drivers are up to. Some wonder if they’re simply changing tracks or if some engine replacement or something had to be done. The ‘inching’ turns into ‘crawling’, and soon enough, ominously, the train is now really ‘moving’ backwards. There is puzzlement all around and you are amused as to what’s happening.
There is no let up however, as the train starts getting momentum, accelerates further, and starts gaining speed. Amusement disappears as you and everyone else realize that something is seriously wrong. The train gains further acceleration and you’re already cruising at a reasonable speed. Everyone is peering out the compartment doors and windows only to find people from other compartments doing the same. “Has the driver lost his mind?” you wonder, as people start voicing obscenities at the train staff.
“But, was the staff (driver and guard at opposite ends), on the train when it started off at Lonavala?” someone asks and nobody really knows. The worst possibility comes to your mind – you’re on a runaway train, downhill, with no one at the controls.
By this time, the train is so fast that it would be dangerous to jump off. Panic and confusion all around you. You calm yourself and start thinking rapidly. You visualize the laborious twists and turns of the track as it winds down the mountains. You imagine a full-speed, no holds barred, runaway train hurtling across those tracks and overturning into the picturesque Sahyadri valleys. Is this how you were destined to die?
Point A: Question 1
At this point, if you jumped off, you assess your chances. Let’s say there’s a 70-80% probability that you’ll get seriously hurt, and a 20-30% possibility that you might die in the process. Will you jump off?
Point A: Question 2
Assume you don’t, and cling on to hope, that there will be some miraculous intervention and that you will be saved. After all, when one lives in a civilized and moderately developed society, it is a rational expectation that there will be systems and processes in place to deal with such emergencies.
Some people are seriously doubtful however. They’re contemplating jumping off. Will you discourage and/or prevent people from doing so?
Meanwhile, the train has reached a breakneck speed. The sparks from the wheels are now of alarming proportions and reaching the windows. People from another compartment come rushing into yours as their compartment catches fire. The ghat section, where the real twists and turns begin, is just around the corner. People are screaming, women are crying in hysteria.
Point B: Question 1
At this point, there’s an almost 100% probability of serious injury, including permanent handicap, and a 70% probability of death. Will you jump?
Point B: Question 2
Assume you don’t, and still have hope that you will be saved. However, there are people who are getting ready to jump. Will you discourage/prevent them, just because you have hope even if they haven’t?
The above situation is not hypothetical. This is what happened to the Indrayani Express in the 1990s, when my cousin brother was on the train. During a normal return journey from Pune to Mumbai (downhill), the train used to descend the height of the ghat section in approximately an hour. That day, it ran the same track downhill in 11 minutes. The train did not overturn. Few people who jumped off were seriously injured. There were no major casualties. My brother urged dozens of people not to jump and ended up saving them in the process.