Thursday, June 18, 2009

Short(cut) is Sweet

I read this really interesting book called "Influence: Science and Practice" by Robert Cialdini recently and I was amazed by the simplicity with which the author expresses the rationale behind human thinking. We humans think that having evolved as the most rational being we make every decision rationally, putting all our thought into that miniscule moment when we actually decide. I am not trying to question the rationality of humans, but what I am pointing at is the concept of "Thinking before Acting" that we all consider an inherent characteristic of our rationale.

It is surprising to note that the decisions made by us are based on psychological factors more than they are based on facts. Why this happens is because when asked to decide, instead of analyzing the large amount of information available to us, we try to devise a shortcut that works for us under most circumstances. Very often we work like pre-programmed automatons that have learned a handful of socially, politically and psychologically correct actions and we keep using different combinations of the same actions wherever need be. How many times have you heard yourself say "Well thats what everyone is doing" or "How can I back-out, I promised" or "You may be right, but I'll stick to what I think"? How many times has it happened that while you cross a street, you see a couple of people staring at the roof of a building, and automatically you glance up too?

Off late there has been a lot a concern about how comfortable we have become with the "Shortcut Techniques". The latest observations show that we speak before acting and act before thinking. This is not only true for commoners like us but has become the mantra of the diplomatic communities as well. Its not uncommon for Nations and Organizations to retract their statements and issue clarifications for what they meant, which is obviously not a very good example for the citizenry.

In this Techno-age, the Human Race seems to be suffering from an information overload and the only thing thats lagging in technological advancement is the Human Brain. With little time available to weigh the plausibility and possibility of things its not surprising that rational thought has become a thing of the past. The only rescue from the situation seems to be a technology that embodied the Rational Mind, but if that happens, would we, the Human Species, even be required by Nature???

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Luck by Chance or Chance by Luck???

I know that the title reminds you of the movie "Luck by Chance", Farhan Akhtar and Bollywood, but that's not even close by miles to what I intend to discuss.

A very interesting thing happened yesterday.

I was on my way back home, after a tiring day in office. Sitting in the Metro coach, I got a feeling that there was something amiss. Casually glancing at my hand, I was rocked off my seat. The gold ring that had always encircled my little finger was missing. Where had I dropped it and how come I never realised before? I got up from my seat and looked up and down the coach in a fit of frenzy, once...twice...a dozen times, but the ring was nowhere to be found. My eyes welled, not because I had lost a ring whose clone would cost me dearly in these times, but because I had huge (I really mean HUGE) sentimental value attached to it. I had had it on all through my college life and through the my first job experience. What if this is a bad omen and bad things start happening? What will I do?

I had my mind racing in all possible sinister directions. I searched my bag and my pockets, but to no avail. I reached home with a saddened face that said it all. Telephone, being my best buddy at such times, came to the rescue and I made a million frantic calls to my office, parents, friends and relatives, narrating the episode and receiving consolations..."Don't worry, you'll get it back", "We win some, we lose some" , "This too shall pass", "You can't help it now, don't think about it". None of these made any sense to me. Eventually I gave in and buried all hope of getting it back. I went of to sleep with a heavy heart.

In the morning, I again made a journey back to office in the Metro. During the entire journey my eyes kept searching the stairs, footpaths and road-bends for a gold loop lying abandoned, waiting for me to reclaim it. But, I didn't find it anywhere. Reaching office, all my colleagues consoled me for the loss. "Was it diamond?", "Oh! Gold is even more expensive", "I remember you had it on yesterday" was what they had to say. Listening to all this commotion, the "bhaiya" in charge of our office came and said that the sweeper had found a ring while cleaning the office and it was in the safe custody of another colleague. Hearing this I was overwhelmed. I knew I had been lucky, the ring had to be mine. I rushed to check if this was true. Yes! It was my ring. What LUCK??? There was cheer and celebration all around.

My joy has subsided a little and I am sitting and reflecting now. My first thought was that my luck had played its role in helping me get the ring back. But there is a corollary to this belief. Was it my luck, or was it the honesty of the sweeper who returned the ring that made me lucky??? Putting this in a broader perspective...Is there something called luck or are we mere subjects of our own actions and the actions of those around us??? Is LUCK by CHANCE or CHANCE by LUCK? I leave all these question open to you. Do let me know.