Laptops, Algorithms and Commitment

Monday, 23 February 2009 | Labels: , | 1 comments |

We live in time and space; a choice is made at a point in time and we live with it.

So, I need to replace a broken laptop.

But I'm seriously afraid of buyer’s remorse. You can’t rush in to it and I don’t want to spend too much. I know 1-2 months from now, prices will drop and new models will come out. I'm afraid that I'm at the cusp of a price cut or new deal. 

What if a new deal pops up tomorrow after I buy?  So I search and wait.

The predicament is great.  Like many things in life, it’s about choices.  I think buyer’s remorse is really a fear of commitment.  

Hmm… commitment.

This reminds me of dating and how we go about choosing a spouse. 

During school I learned about the stable matching problem (from mathematical graph theory):

Given n men and n women, where each person has ranked all members of the opposite sex with a unique number between 1 and n in order of preference, marry the men and women off such that there are no two people of opposite sex who would both rather have each other than their current partners. If there are no such people, all the marriages are "stable"

Various algorithms to solve this problem can be read here

Of course the men and women can be substituted with applicants and universities, residents and hospitals, and other things in life.

Life as we know it boggles the mind.  In hindsight, I suppose you can think of all the permutations of your actions... and lose your mind over it.

“You just stop looking”, my wife would say. I agree in regards to the laptop. 
But does that imply I was just 2nd best!? or 3rd? 

Oh my...

The Sandbox

Saturday, 15 November 2008 | Labels: | 1 comments |

Living in a sandbox.
As children we played in a sandbox, filled with toy trucks, scoopers and buckets, free to build things and have fun. Some 20 or 30 years later, are we still playing in a sandbox as we live out our lives?

More days then not, I feel like life is about the accumulation of toys and things; things that we fancy and things that are for fun. The malls are overwhelming, overflowing abundantly with goods. Who ordered so much? And what happens to all the things that are not sold?

As adults we make money and we spend our disposable income on goods. And it's our every right to enjoy the bounties of our labour. But we end up getting toys... Toys I will call them because they have no consequence to the betterment of this world, but are there merely for our enjoyment and comfort.

Consumption is the engine that turns the wheels of our economy. We are programmed to want and to buy, right from childhood. Marketing companies know so much about our psyche, they bedazzle us through their advertisements, convincing us to buy their product. We have such strong associations with brands and emotional attachment to them and we have readily available ammunition to defend the products we love.

And all the while the world is hungry. While the planet is stretched beyond it's ecological capacity.

It's interesting that the measure of how well our economy is doing is in consumer confidence. When consumer confidence falls, the economists and investors get jittery, because money must flow from the rich to the rich. Who will buy up all the goods that were produced?

From childhood we are programmed... by society and by our parents. Playing with cars and playing house… it all comes true in our adulthood. We get a good education, to have a good job, to be comfortable. To be well off and to "make it". Having money so we can choose from a variety of options. The choice to choose any toy we want in the sandbox. Whatever and whenever. Without this freedom, we feel trapped... as if in a box.

We learn to desire and we learn to deserve these things, acquiring a keen sense of entitlement... sensitive and relative to what our peers get.

And through it all, I believe we become irrelevant, indifferent to the rest of the world. It's about my enjoyment and me only. We become senile to the things that matter… we become removed and ineffective to the hurts of this world; we exacerbate the hurts of the world... and if ever criticized, we deflect and combat this criticism and creatively legitimize our actions and inactions… because "I am right" or "this is your opinion, not mine" or "it's not my problem".

They say with knowledge comes responsibility. Then as educated citizens of this earth, what are we responsible for?

"'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

To me every choice has a consequence, an implication. I believe life is no longer a playground without consequences. There is responsibility. Perhaps it starts with a balanced lifestyle of consumption (like a balanced diet), conscious of our impact... shall we call it responsible toy buying?

The 1993 film Schindler's List is based on a true story of a German businessman who saves over a thousand Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factory. One scene haunts me to this day. Near the end, when the Jews in his factory are about to be liberated by the Russians, Oskar Schindler must flee. The Jews give him a ring made from a worker’s golden teeth filings with the engravings “He who saves the life of one man, saves the world entire.” He is deeply moved and ashamed that he did not do more.

Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson): I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more.
Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
Oskar Schindler: If I'd made more money... I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I'd just...
Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.
Oskar Schindler: I didn't do enough!
Itzhak Stern: You did so much.
[Schindler looks at his car]
Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.
[removing Nazi pin from lapel]
Oskar Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.
Oskar Schindler: I could have gotten one more person... and I didn't! And I... I didn't!

This haunts me.

Our generation is in the midst of a time when we know what we should do, we know the consequences of our actions and inaction. We know that the ice caps are melting and our lifestyles consume the earth and people are starving. We are at a time in history where we can end extreme poverty: we have the knowledge, the technology.. yet we lack the collective will.

Generations from now.. they will look back at us. And closer to home they will look back at us.  Our kids, our nieces and nephews, our grandkids will grow up and ask and wonder... why.

Why as adults, we played in a sandbox... and didn't do more.

Hopefully as we grow old, we will grow up.

Remember To Remember

Friday, 15 February 2008 | Labels: , | 3 comments |

I have to remind myself of my past. I try not to forget where I've come from and what I've been through.

I think too many times there is a tenancy to have gold fish memory. It's easy to forget the trials we've been through, the dreams that have come true and the miracles that have happened in our lives.

Leading up to a dire or pivotal moment in life, all our attention is solely focussed on it, yet when it's over, we just accept it. And quickly it becomes insignificant and passively we move on to the next event in our lives. Too easily, it is erased by the next crisis.

As a child, think how much you wanted that particular toy.

Or when you were getting your drivers license, how you longed for the freedom to drive on the open road.

Or when you were applying to college or university, how desperately you wanted to get in to the program of your choice, thinking that it would forever determine your future.

Or when you looked for that first job after graduating, what a seemingly impossible task it was.

Or how earnestly you wanted to be in a relationship with a significant other.

Or how close you came to dying.

These pivotal moments in life are numerous and likely insignificant now. How many of them do we see as just luck or merely the logical sequence of events in hindsight?

I believe we are richly blessed as kings and queens in this world... yet we go about living, forgetting where we have come from, the importance of what we have been through. Instead of these events changing us permanently and leaving an everlasting mark on us, we go on as if nothing happened.

We have to remember to remember.

The Worthwhile Resume

Monday, 14 January 2008 | Labels: , | 4 comments |

Who are you and what is your brand?
What value can you add?
What unique skills and insightful perspective can you contribute?

In which we have our resumes at hand: A few pages of writing to show what we can do, giving us identity; A few pages to showcase our skills and relevant experiences proving we are "top talent"; That we are valuable people and worth a certain salary.

And still it's not enough. We are bombarded by society to develop more and more our sales skills, leadership skills, managerial and technical skills.

On top of this we are invariably told to do the smart thing and make an investment in something; To get ahead and increase our financial net worth.

And we are told to love.

Wait... society doesn't bombard us to be loving, not overwhelmingly anyway. Wouldn't that be weird if it did? I find that the only strong message to be loving or caring come from the religious institutions that have become largely irrelevant, misinterpreted and forgotten by the non-religious. That and also children's shows like Sesame Street.

Perhaps that's why there is an influx of social justice and environmentalist movements among the socially conscious. These are dire times in the world, but maybe it speaks something about what people were created to do. That is, to love. Could it be that our souls have been so sapped by Western culture's push for productivity, self importance and self improvement that after the splurge in materialism turning out to be ineffective in dealing with matters of the heart, we now en mass turn to do something about this tug in our hearts?

If you've been doing something about the pains of the world before it became a cool and romantic endeavor, before it was good to include on a resume or business school application, then you are awesome.

Yet maybe I'm being too harsh... if the net effect is that people are helped, then perhaps motives aren't so important... another topic for another day.

I believe we should cultivate and grow our hearts so that this muscle that pumps blood through our veins remains strong, giving us energy to care for others and courage to do what is right. We should seek to develop a heart able enough in it's ability to love so that when the time of testing comes, it may not fail us.

Instead of seeking to build a resume full of accreditations and experiences demonstrating leadership, we should look to develop that unseen resume full of experiences and achievements done through a loving heart which includes both big causes and small daily ones.

Because, I believe that is what God will be looking for in the end.