An invisible trap of “Extreme View”

In recent times, India is witnessing “extreme view” culture. With rise of internet availability and power of social media, this culture is growing at extreme pace.

We all want to be neutral and wish to support only the best cause.  And we think, we are neutral.  But unconsciously we are falling in to the extreme-view trap.  This is an invisible and quite inevitable trap. Let me explain with the help of below example –

Almost every WhatsApp group has frequent discussion / debate by pro Modi and anti Modi camp, triggered by any forwarded message.  Someone sends a message, and then others jump in either supporting or defying it. Even some groups have now made strict rules against any such message or discussion.

Both camps keep pushing their view on other with aim (wish) that other will agree with their view and start following it; but in reality, both are reinforcing one’s view.  Such discussions are only pushing one toward extreme view. As, we are not debating, rather we are imposing thought & opinion.  And its human bias to support their own view / opinion and ignore all other aspects.

In this process, an extreme view culture is rising.

For anti Modi camp, they unconsciously start to oppose everything which is happening (good or bad).  Many have started questioning CJI, EC and even Indian Army. If some bad news published anywhere in world, they forward it quickly.  If someone says, “India is doing good”, they quickly deny it.

One example – when India ranking in “world bank ease of doing business” jumped from 130 to 100. In one of group, a person commented “must be manufactured or fixed”. So unfortunate, it was proud moment for all of us, and we all should have said congratulations.

I am not saying anti-Modi are anti India; not at all. Everyone (both camps) equally love India and feel proud to be an Indian.

The same extreme view is true for pro Modi camp as well; recently (2-3 months ago), I read many posts where people were even indirectly supporting rape. Saying it’s impossible to control.  It may be impossible to control, in current infra and setup, but we all need to defy it and express anger in whatever possible manner, no matter what.   People are even supporting (by not opposing) some bad decisions or acts; e.g. govt’s weak role in 2G case.

If someone says, “something is not well”, this group quickly call that person anti Indian.  This is unfortunate, as it denied opportunity of debate, rather it turns into imposing view or specific label on individuals.

Most unfortunate part is, none of us want to have extreme view; but if you will carefully observe your acts on social platform, you will have a better understanding of this thought process and a bitter encounter with truth. Do one thing, go and see what all posts & messages you recently forwarded and liked (on any platform). I bet, if you belong to Anti-Modi camp, then you liked and forwarded most of news which says embarrassing things about India and ignored others. Same is true for other camp also, if you belong to pro Modi camp, I bet you have ignored many bitter truth and ground realty.

This is not about pro Modi and anti Modi; it is all about change in nature & culture.  Today’s topic is Modi, tomorrow it will something else.  But nature of extreme view will persist.

From where it came and how this culture is becoming part of our life –

For debate, in Sanskrit the word is Manthan, means churning. And when we churn, both good (Amrut) and bad (vish) comes up.  We throw away bad or waste part and use the best.  Churning is way to get the best, that’s why every good society promotes debate.  But unfortunately, we are going away from Manthan (churning) to Rassa-Kassi (tug of war) approach in debate.

 

What we are witnessing is western (USA) style debate, where all the debaters have pre-decided view, and they keep on advocating their view and push it hard and harder on other.  It’s “I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong” approach.

This approach, came to us through TV debate programs (partially due to Indian media and entertainment industry obsession with imitating US programs). In TV debates, now anchor mostly invites people with well-established views/camps and not the neutral experts. Afterall, people like to see fight, not the debate. The noisiest the show, better TRP.

Started with TV, this approach soon infected into WhatsApp group & Facebook posts, and use of social media by political party for ongoing campaign keep on fueling it.  The nature of debate style, ensuring further falling into trap. It’s kind of a vicious cycle.   A slow, invisible and inevitable change.  Now, people attempt to win debate, and not to learn from it.

It time to say, no to “Extreme – view”

Starting point of defying it, is to accept that we have extreme view; without acceptance, no correction is possible. Then gradually start to think & observe things more holistically, for the fact that good and bad both persist together. There is no concept of light in absence of dark.  Let’s re-adopt ancient Indian style of debate, one with “Manthan” approach.

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India – from glorious past to great future

Any nation becomes great, when people feel proud on its history.  It is an important ingredient for “nation building”.

When one reads history of own country and feels proud, it builds an inner confidence and encourages one to think and do big.  An unconscious feeling of replicating great deed of ancestors.

Unfortunately, in India our history books in curriculum are not like that.  Our history textbooks have highest emphasis on darkest era of Indian history, i.e. from thirteen century to independence.

To proof my point, I will ask two questions

  1. “How many Mughal emperors you know (like Akbar, Aurangzeb etc.), recall their names”
  2. “How many medieval and ancient Indian scientists you know (like Aryabhata, Bhaskar, etc.), recall their names.

Can you feel the difference of knowledge?

Some more points to ponder

Recently I was watching the movie “A man who knows infinity” based on life of great Indian mathematician Ramanujan (high recommendation for this movie, a must watch).  While watching this film, I realized Ramanujan invented many mathematical things (theorem and formulas), while we know only few. This triggered another thought, about Aryabhatta, the inventor of zero and decimal, a great scientist like him must have invented many more things… but hardly anyone knows.

Another incident, I recently read somewhere Takshashila (Taxila) and Nalanda were like Stanford or Harvard of today.  Infact, Taxila was the first university of the world, Not only Indians but also students from as far as Babylonia, Greece, Syria, Arabia, Phoenicia and China came to study.

To deep dive further, I started recalling my school days (class 7 to 10). Though I was an average student, I was always good in history, I used to remember every emperor’s name right from Delhi Sultanate to Mughals, complete family tree, who was born when & where, how many battles they fought and in which year, what all monuments, roads they build, so on and so forth.

Believe me, for this, I never studied extra, it was part of the curriculum. Complete book, chapter after chapter was dedicated to this era. And hardly a paragraph on Aryabhatta, Nalanda or Taxila.

Let’s explore – why

Let’s try to explore the reasons, why there is highest emphasis on specific dark era and very less on other great times.

From 1190 to 1947 (close to 750 years), India was ruled by others.  When Britishers re-started formal education system in India, very tactically, they emphasized on era ruled by invaders. To damage further, they put even more emphasis on bad practices of society like Sati pratha, Dev Dasi and untouchability etc.  So that when we read about history, we start to believe (unconsciously) that we were always been slaves & backward and it was for good, else our society would have been doomed by bad culture.

Imparting poor self-confidence among Indians. Leading to mediocre, slave minded attitude, ensuring minimal revolts against company Sarkar.

After Independence, while emphasis on bad practices was reduced significantly and history of freedom fighting started to dominate. Still, there were limited or no efforts to highlight golden era of Indian history.

A glimpse of great time

1500 BC to 700 AD was the golden era of India.  With numerous inventions in the field of Medical, economics, philosophy, music, art and architecture.

To name few – Charak invented surgery many thousands year ago (mentioned in Charak Sanhita). So, does Patanjali invented Yoga (though, many Indians heard of Patanjali, only when a Baba branded a company with this name).

Universities like Nalanda and Taxila, along with great literature like Veda, Upnishad, Yoga-Shastra and Artha-Shastra etc. show we have greatest knowledge heritage.

Indian ancient architecture was unmatched – caves like Ajantha, Eullera can be found across India, (e.g. Karla cave in Pune, Pandav gufa near Khajuraho), numerous grand temples and forts are testimony of Indian architecture. But most people know only about Taj Mahal and some forts of Rajasthan.

We had very open culture and believed in gender equality. Books like Kamasutra and a temple dedicated to this art are live evidences.

The Gupt dynasty, is known as goldan era (sone ki chidiya). Books on Roman history mention that most of their gold used to go to India, as India was biggest exporter.

The list is endless…

But, Unfortunately

Post-independence politics of religion and cast, continued to cast a black shadow on historical textbooks. The emphasis continued on Mughals and less on Gupt dynasty. And not at all on ancient Indian science, art and culture.  One of reasons can be that ‘it may look pro Hindu’.   In reality, it is not pro Hindu or something; actually that time only two religions existed in India – Sanatan and Bodha, so all great artists and scientists of that time will be from those religions only.

Indian civilization has 7000 years of history (not counting mythological aspects).  Except for few centuries, India was a world leader. But our historical books have coverage more on those bad centuries and practically rest of the history is untouched.

Politicians need to think beyond vote bank and need to completely transform the history textbooks.  To be great again, in our philosophy, approach and thought process, we need to replicate era of 1000 BC to 500 AD. For that we need to learn more about it.

To know our true history should be our fundamental right.

While, the new government is doing their bit in correcting this, and we are waiting for changes to takes place on ground.  We need to start doing things at our home.  History “as a subject” is thought at classroom, but we can explore, travel and understand it ourselves.

We, the Indians of today need to explore and tell great Indian history to our kids. It will build an unmatched self-confidence and that will in-turn build a GREAT INDIA.

Fake Realty: New pollution of new Industry

Be proactive in fight against the pollution of 4th industrial revolution 

Welcome, we are into the fourth Industrial revolution.

Every industrial revolution and advancement brings new types of challenges (pollution and crime).  Experts says, fourth industrial revolution (4th IR) have potential of undoing all the damage previous industrial revolutions have caused.  To harness its true potential, we need to be aware of possible challenges and need to act proactively.

Now whole world is fighting with Global warming.  Mainly caused by various form of pollutions from previous IRs.  Started with smoke vomiting industry in early era of industrial revolution. Followed with mass production that causes ample manufacturing waste and now millions of tons of e-waste generating every year (old TV, mobile, computer, laptops, e Gadgets).

Land filled garbage and waste are turning in to mountains and ocean have new types of islands completely made of plastics, some are as big as India and Brazil.

Everyone is doing their bit of contribution and going green, choosing less emission products, avoiding plastics and all. But this is a reactive approach.

Learning from our past mistake, we need to be proactive this time.

Pollution of 4th IR

Professor Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of World Economic Forum and author of book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” describes how it is fundamentally different from the previous three. While previous ones were characterized mainly by advances in technology, the fourth revolution combining the physical, digital and biological worlds led by AI technologies.

So, the form of pollution will also be way different from past. To understand potential form (kind of pollution) watch this BBC news YouTube video of Real Fake video of Obama created by university of washington as an AI project.

This is both incredible as well as scary. A real fake video – right from video, to text to lip movements, to image and voice of Obama everything is synthesized by machine using various AI technologies.

Such AI capabilities along with human psychology of inclination toward information that support their bias will lead to more Fake data, then the real one.

In Machine and deep learning, the machines learn from data; With ample of fake data generation; over the time new machines will mainly be learning from fake data, and it will create a vicious cycle and trigger exponential growth in fake news & fake information

Soon, we will be in a world with over 90% of Fake reality. In the fourth industrial revolution, the counterfeit realities will be main form of pollution.  It can damage peace of world and mutual trust of human race.  Can even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human.

Soon, we will be fighting a virtual war to distinguish Fake Reality (FR) and Original Reality (OR)

IR Period Characteristic Innovation / Discovery Main Pollution
1st IR 1780 – 1890 Arrival of industry (Mechanization) Steam and water power Smoke, Air Pollution
2nd IR 1890 – 1960 Mass production Electricity and assembly line Plastics, Material and industrial waste
3rd IR 1970 – 2015 Digitization and automation Computer, Internet, Mobile, e-Gadgets E-waste
4th IR Now Convergence of physical, digital and biological worlds AI, Machine & Deep learnings, Big data Fake Reality

There will be two types of counterfeit realities (fake news/ data)

  1. Human created
  2. Machine generated

Human Created:

It is psychological tendency of human to accept data as valid points of information that support their bias (understanding and acceptance of beliefs and practices).  This along with massive access to internet and open web (limited controls on content distribution) makes such counterfeit reality looks like original realty.

In recent years, creation of fake and altercation of original content has been increased by orders of magnitude. Now comes the next wave of that distribution — machine-generated content.

Machine generated:

As per Gartner – “Through 2020, AI-driven creation of “counterfeit reality,” or fake, content will outpace AI’s ability to detect it, fomenting digital distrust”

We are in AI Spring.  With rise of computing power, amount of humongous data generation and feeding this data to machine & deep learning has overcame the AI winter (era from 1970 – 2005).   Suddenly money and investment started to flood in AI related technologies & startups. Everyday a new aspect of AI is popping up, and this is just beginning.

Beyond, reasoning and knowledge representation, the data synthesis power of machines is growing at Godspeed.  With increase in voice, image and video recognition & learning techniques, machines can now generate text, audio, video, image by their own. Further advancement in deep learning techniques and neuron network architecture will amplify it beyond imagination.

Within few years one will be able to create counterfeit realty with in second.  Imagine what will be amount of fake news we will have in coming year.

What can (should) we do –

While government need to form appropriate law and regulation. The industry need to establishing highest level of “anti-counterfeiting” scrutiny. Funding on R&D of such AI technology is needed.

But most important one is contribution at individual level, beyond industry and government level.  More cultural then technical.

Five things that we can do –

  • Avoid playing postman – most of us tend to forward whatever message we received on social media and chatting apps. Validate if possible, before forwarding.
  • Be aware of your bias – Keep yourself reminding that its human psychology to accept data as valid that support our bias.
  • Condemn – If any counterfeit reality is proved, condemned it (on all possible medium), embrace the creators as well as spreaders….so that they refrain from doing this.
  • Support – any government regulation or legislation that is against fake data or news. It may cause some inconvenience, but it is for greater good. Think beyond you.
  • You tell me – what else we can do at individual level (as commoner). You may express your idea in form of comments.

Banking is necessary, Banks are not ! A truth expressed 3 decades ago

In 1990’s, Bill Gates said “banking is necessary, banks are not”.  Back then [25 years ago], imagining banking systems without bank was no less than a wild dream; but visionary like Mr. Gates anticipated it very well in advance.

From 2010, with all the Fintech & startups coming up with innovative & customer centric banking ways and regulators opening up bank data though directive & regulation; lots of banking activities started moving away from bank.

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Payment & retail transactions moved to mobile wallet, primarily owned by telecom or startups (e.g. Paytm in India and Alipay in China);  with disruptive concepts like UPI and equivalent with combination of payment banks (primarily non – banks), the card business will go away soon;  Govt. of India came up with Aadhar pay, which may completely wipe out cards.

With new payment directive in Europe (PSD2), more and more new players will join the force and eat the banking pie, as banks will no longer be able to hold the account info of customer; everything needs to be open in form for secure APIs.  It will further take banking activities away from banks in much disruptive and innovative ways.

Probably by 2020, banking without bank will be new normal.   Almost 30 years after Mr. Gates said it first [not sure if he was first person to envision this or someone else said it first 🙂 ]

This post is not about future of banking or bank transaction 2.0; I am not capable enough or expert to comment on this.  Purpose of this blog is to express my awe to visionaries like Gates.

Experts (like Garters & foresters of the world) predict next few years, but super visionaries like Gates, Jobs, Musk, Larry page, Sergey Brin ….. can see the world few decades from now.

Hats off to them; and still wondering how to be such a visionary; any comments or suggestions on this 😉

a journey to financial stability

Thanks for overwhelming response of my last blog; though, there was very few comments, I got tons of queries related to financial stability, especially from people in early to mid stage in Job.  It inspired me to write another blog covering most of those queries.

The 2nd blog of easy wealth series is about achieving financial stability.   Though, this post is more relevant to salaried group, a small twist (as per individual context) can make it relevant for anyone.

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Financial stability cannot be a destination, it is the very journey itself, where one continue to elevate (or sometime downgrade) their passenger category based on how one is travelling.

This journey can be drawn in 3 phases (Basic, Stability & Growth) or in 9 stages, mentioned below.

Phase 1 – get your basics done (stage 1 & 2)

  1. Ensure basics – Buy Home (to live in, not as an investment), Buy car, and save for or spend on marriage (mind it – your own marriage). Basically first stage is to ensure your basic needs- home, car and life mate.
  1. Zero small borrowing – There is good possibility that, in process of achieving stage 1, you owe some (or many) small borrowings from friends, relatives and/or personal loan or credit card dues etc. Stage 2 is repayment of all such retail borrowing (Home loan or Car loan is OK) – idea here is to attain mental peace by means of fixed liability, so that you may start your journey toward next phase.

Phase 2 – Security and Stability (stage 3 to 6)

  1. Secure it – Buy all possible insurance (Term, life, Health Child education, House, etc). Basically once basic is in place, you need to safeguard your family & yourself from any unfortunate events
    • Don’t look for return on investment, in simple words mix insurance with investment;
    • Start with term insurance. few important points here
      • Start as early as possible (it will save you big on premium over time)
      • Buy adequate, don’t look at your current earning or liability; envision it 10 to 15 years down the line
      • Go for online options (even for LIC), premium cost may go as less as up to 30%
      • Possibly buy a mix of LIC (credibility) and any other option (cost).
    • If you are married and have child – don’t only rely on your office’s group insurance plan for health insurance; buy it separately with adequate amount & critical illness coverage
    • Buy health insurance for parents
    • Secure your house with natural calamity or any other damage; again don’t mix it with your home loan. Even if you repay your loan, house will continue to be you biggest asset and you need to secure it from extremes.
    • Finally, buy child education insurance.
  1. Secure your future earning – Start investment (again adequate amount) in pension fund likes EPF & NPS. It may sound crazy but you need to ensure financial stability for future (retirement) before you start jumping on shares / MF or other high return investment
  1. Stabilize your cash flow – Wise use of RD for stable financial planning – Smart use of RD can not only bring consistency in cash flow each month, you will earn extra money as well (click here to read more)
  1. Safety net for immediate hurdle (if any) – Liquidity for at least 6 months of your monthly expenses – either in form of cash / gold / FD or any other form that can be liquidated quickly. This is to safeguard any unforeseen trouble, recession, job loss, plunge into new venture etc.

Phase 3 – Growth (stages 7 to 9)

  1. Moderate risk moderate income – once your basic is set and you secure your present and future, it is time to fly high; start investment in Equity, Gold, Mutual fund, share market etc.

Disclaimer – one should start SIP or some small amount investments in these instruments from beginning or in stage 1 itself; Idea here is to go big on this (if stage 6 attained and your pocket is allowing)

  1. Long term investment in properties such as land or flat as an investment – remember, in 9 out of 10 cases, 2nd generation (your daughter or son) are real beneficiaries of such investment
  1. Cool, you are in stage 9 now; start investment in high risk high return ventures like a venture capitalist, start ups, Art collections, VC, etc.

Point to ponder – Don’t touch or disturb previous phases (basic and stability) for growth phase at any cost.

As you have already safeguarded all unforeseen and probable unfortunate events, only reason you intend to disturb 2nd phase is your craving for financial adventure.  So be careful, don’t let your adventure ruin your past efforts.

The three phases here are like 5 elements; you always need 5 elements in life, but dominance of any one will be higher at different time /age. Similarly, one need to invest in all 3 phases always (simultaneously), the predominance in this order (basic then security then growth) can do wonders for you in long term.

I think, 99% of financial discussion ends with “in long term” phrase 😉

Your view, suggestion and feedback are most welcome here. Feel free to flood me with comments or queries.

Easy wealth – by smart Recurring deposits

Along with age, salary, income, family and experience, our liabilities increase too; so does the need for financial stability and security.

It is always wise to have all sort of insurance (Term & life insurance, health, critical illness, child education, home, car / bike insurance so on and so forth) and long term saving or pension plan such as EPF, NPS etc.

Then there are regular expenses cycles such as school fee, property tax, society maintenances charges etc.

In this journey of financial stability & liability management, you realize that you have different premium on different months for different instruments (various insurances, NPS, child school fee, property tax, society maintenance charges etc).

This leads to anomaly in monthly cash flow; some months are very heavy on pocket some months are extremely easy.   This often lead to increased credit card usage in some months and sometimes create an instant dent on cash in hand or in saving accounts.

If you are in similar stage or can be in this stage in coming years, then this simple yet powerful technique is for you.

Wise use of Recurring deposit can do wonders here, it will not only bring a consistent cash flow each month, and you will earn extra money as well.

(though this is written here more from Indian economy and financial instruments standpoint, an equivalent of same or concept can be applied for any country / currency)

Steps:

  1. Create a table for expense details, you can create this using plain paper & pen, however an excel file or any spreadsheet will be much handy
  2. Columns will be corresponding to months (Jab, Feb, Mar…. Dec) and rows will have various financial instruments [As shown in sample image below]
  3. Don’t consider any monthly fixed payout thing such as EMIs or SIPs here, as they are already disciplined
  4. Enter amount in the cell (corresponding to month of premium & instrument); in place of exact amount you may enter rounded figure [as you need approx amount]
  5. See which month how much payout needs to be done
  6. Start a monthly RD (12 month duration) from that month of maturity amount closer to total payout of that month – For example here in given illustration, in January I have to pay approx 37,000. So I started a RD of 3,000 per month for 1 year
  7. Similarly for every month (in which you have high payout), start a RD.
  8. You may club 2 -3 months of smaller payout and create RD on first month of this group.
    • For example –in given illustration, total payout in June, July & August is approx 11K, 5K and 7k respectively
    • It is summing up to total 23K ((11 + 5 + 7)in three month;
    • So I started RD of 2k per month for 1 year in the month of June;
    • Maturity amount received in June will be used to pay out for next 2 months and additionally will earn me some interest on saving account as well (remember drops of water can make an ocean)
  9. Return on RDs is additional plus (kind of bonus) – you will be surprised to see that you are able to pay one of your premium just by interest earning of RDs
  10. Additionally try to keep all the premium cycle annual (avoid monthly, quarterly cycle as much as possible)

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In illustration, last row is showing various RDs that I did to meet this.  Here my total yearly payout is 274,000 (or 274 K) approx; and I did total RD of 21 K per month (some started in Jan, some in June and so on).

So actually, I invested 21 x 12 = 262 K, while I am able to pay 274 K of premium / bills.

Additionally, since my monthly payout is fixed (regular household exp + EMIs + SIPs + my RDs), I am able to better plan for finances and never encountering any instant dent on my saving or shoot up in credit card usage.

Illustration below is showing my monthly cash out (on premiums etc) before and after the smart RDs I applied in my financial planning.

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Time Period – it will take 1 full year to implement this simple yet powerful technique.  Be prepared, you will actually have little tighter financial situation for whole year; as you will be paying your regular bills / premium and at same time investing on RDs as well.  But after one year it will be a easy life from stable cash flow standpoint.

I implemented it couple of year back, and it is paying off well.  If you did something similar Or if you have some other view / ways, please feel free to express them as well as your feedback & suggestions as comment here.