Monday, March 27, 2023

Replaced by bots?

There was this sudden flurry of people putting up poetry (mostly what poets would dismissively call 'rhymes') and essays and whatnot, leading me to wonder about whether there was a new virus infecting people with the urge to write. Reading the fine print, I realized that there was this experimental bot sort of thing called ChatGPT which was actually doing all this writing with my FB friends egging it on to do so.

Before too long, all this poetry was accompanied by laments about how this AI-powered bot would cost jobs in the millions. The dratted thing could apparently write code, essays and, possibly, stand on its head (if it had one) if asked to do so. IF the said lament was in rhymes, one had a sneaking suspicion that that chap had used ChatGPT to write the lament about how ChatGPT would steal his job!

And then there were others who said, "Not at all! Yes, it will take away some jobs but it will create new ones. Every time when new technology comes in, we fear loss of jobs but, eventually, we find that more jobs get created." Makes one wonder, though. I mean, like, we all talk of technology as improving efficiency which, essentially, would mean that we have to work lesser, right? If we needed to work less, then either number of jobs should go down or the number of working hours should go down, no? And, yet, throughout the history of technology we have, apparently, only increased our total working. Then why are we still chasing this efficiency which only seems to create more work for us instead of reducing it? (Yeah, yeah, it is all because we keep increasing our needs to suit. The point is, no increased efficiency, no having to pursue new needs, no?)

Anyway, that's for other people with brains in their head to bother about. I was sort of happy that ChatGPT was around so that I could offload my blog writing to it and relax. And then...

There is this IIT chap's lecture which I happened upon. He says that it can actually give wrong results. Like, put it to create a tour itinerary and it can give you hotels that do not exist. Ask it to write an essay on economics and it is known to have cited a paper written by authors who exist, in a journal that exists...the only problem being that THAT paper does not exist. So, he says, the thing about ChatGPT is

1. Do you need accuracy? NO? You can use ChatGPT.

2. Do you need accuracy? YES? Do you have domain knowledge to verify its results? YES? Then you may use ChatGPT.

3. Do you need accuracy? NO? Do you have domain knowledge to verify its results? NO? Are you willing to take on the consequences of putting out erroneous information? YES? Then you may use ChatGPT.

4. Do you need accuracy? NO? Do you have domain knowledge to verify its results? NO? Are you willing to take on the liability of putting out erroneous information? NO? Then you should not use ChatGPT.

So, the net result for me is that, apart from poetry and fiction, ChatGPT will be MOST useful for what is known as WhatsApp university. Citing non-existent papers by well-known sources, proving anything you want to prove? RIGHT up their alley!

Accuracy, not needed. But, yes, they still need 'domain' to whether what ChatGPT has put out supports their POV or opposes it...which they probably have. And liability of putting out wrong information? What is that?

So, there! Going by this, the first jobs that it is going to cost is most of those meme-creators. Great!

Great? Not really! Ye gods, the floods of such info a bot can produce...

Monday, March 20, 2023

Squeeze the juice

My earliest memories of this juice-squeezing were of home made lemon juice. Back then (oh, yeah, were you not expecting this phrase to pop up sooner or later?), almost all the cool drinks available to us were either home made or the fresh made ones (though of questionable hygiene) by the pushcart vendors. And sugar being a relatively expensive commodity back then, juices were a treat.

The only fly in the ointment was that my mom used to try to extract the last bit of juice from the lemon. Which meant that the rind got squeezed, too, adding that tinge of bitterness to the juice which is so yucky to the tongues of kids. You hardly dared complain, though, lest you be totally deprived of juices.

This, though, looks like the normal practice of Tamil Nadu at least. I mean, like, when I grew up, I found that the idiom for a hard task-master was one who would squeeze the last drop of effort out of you. ('Kasakki pizhivaan', if you want to know) Though, yes, I have also been told that it is more of a laundry metaphor than a culinary metaphor, indicating the removal of moisture (and, incidentally, dirt) from clothing. I, somehow, preferred the culinary version, perhaps because of my aversion to laundering.

The ways of management always seem to find expression in a humble homely metaphor. And, yet, simultaneously try to also be seriously high-brow as well. You know how it is. You have to be seen as acting like 'one of the boys' but ONLY acting; not actually BEING one of the boys.

And, so, I was not surprised to hear this said while describing a management situation: 'The juice is not worth the squeeze'. In other words, the benefits of a course of action were not worth the cost of that course of action in terms of time, effort or money. Voila! If only they had used this in my time at IIM, maybe I would have been reminded of my mother and have been sentimentally attracted to the course.

But, there is a scary thought that raised its ugly head in my mind. What with this AI bots like ChatGPT doing the rounds, and considering that what I used to do for a living was mainly writing notes, maybe squeezing employees is not worth the juice these days and thus...

Maybe I was born at the right time after all!

Monday, March 13, 2023

Post-Opinion Psyche

"Remember you wrote something about the various uses of 'My'? You know - My hand, My house, My city, yada yada?"


"Why are you looking like a moronic sheep? You do not remember?"

Uh! I mean, yeah, OF COURSE I remember. I wasn't trying to imitate a moronic sheep, I was just wonder-struck that someone even knew that I had written something like that, leave alone remembering the contents himself!

"Yeah! I do!"

"You know what's the 'My' that people cling to more than, probably, even their lives?"

Ugh! I hate these quiz questions popping up in what should be just a fun conversation. Not that I have had many of the latter with my 'friends'.

"What?" I snapped at him.


"No way!"

"Really? Tell me, would you wish me to have a serious accident in order to save your life?"

Right now, I'd wish it just to get rid of his quiz master act! Or...perhaps not...irritating though he was. And...I don't know...I mean if really it was a matter of life and death who knows how I'd behave but I'd like to think that I'd not wish to save my life at the cost of someone else's. I said as much.

"Hmm! Well, then, remember that time you told Sailesh not to drive home when he polished off a half of rum at your place?"

"Yeah! And the bugger laughed at me. And what happened? He went and smashed his car against a lamp-post, was in the hospital for a year and will limp all his life," I said.

"There! See, you still cannot help feeling a tinge of satisfaction at being proved right, can you?"


Drat it! I AM cursed with an honesty which has made me useless at managing people.

"THAT's what I mean! Once you express an opinion...anyone, not just you...and especially if it is made fun of by someone, you WANT to be proved right at ANY cost."

"ANY cost? Are you sure?"

"Of course! If you have said that a course of action by your CEO is not correct, and others disagree then you feel triumphant when that course of action screws up your company...even if it costs you your job."


"THAT's why, when someone says if 'X' party wins, the country will go to the dogs AND 'X' party actually DOES win...why then, they actually can end up rejoicing if they see the country going to the dogs after that."


"There's  no cost that seems too high if it will only allow you to say those magic words."

"What magic words?"


Monday, March 6, 2023

Becoming a groupie

I recently came across someone using what amounts to an archaeological artifact. What, for want of a better word, is called a dumb phone. Surprised as I was to see a phone that can only be used for raising or receiving calls and messages, I could not help a twinge of nostalgia.

I, too, belonged to the recalcitrant few who refused to switch to the smarter versions of the phone. Yes, yes, it WAS because I did not want dumber than even my own phone, no matter how used I was to being dumber than the rest of the world. But then...?

"Why didn't you come to our batch get together on Saturday?"

"What get-together?"

AND it transpires that one was organised right next to my home and I had no clue because it was all done on this strange thing called WhatsApp. Which I could access ONLY if my phone got smarter.

It's not like I gave in immediately. The problem, though, was that I explained that I was still dumb as far as phones went (ALSO dumb is how my friends put it) and expected that they would not assume that I know whatever is being discussed on WhatsApp. Well, as it happened, THEY assumed that I would get a Smartphone. Over time, I realized that I was getting the reputation of being antisocial (Oh! I AM but I'd rather be accused when the accusation is warranted, not when it is unjust!). And, if I wanted to still retain some friends, there was no help for it. I HAD to get a Smartphone.

And then I realized what groups on WhatsApp were! Within days, I was a member of school groups, college groups, trekking groups and whatnot. Thankfully, I had quit working else I daresay work would have also intruded into this space and I'd have had to open WhatsApp with the same trepidation with which I used to log in to my office email in my working days, wondering what new headaches it was going to bring me and how much of the increasingly shrinking leisure time was going to vanish as a consequence of the next message. 

The first couple of days were a real horror story. Every other moment the phone would ping, I'd rush to open the dratted App to find a fresh message, open it to find...

What I found depended on the group it came on. Surprisingly, I realized that groups had their specific flavors. I mean, yeah, you expect trekking groups to have details of trekking and tours and so on...hobby and enthusiasm groups ARE interests-based groups and, thus, are expected to cater to those interests. groups, college groups...

I mean, is there some specific reason why it is in school groups that every other member feels the need to wish 'Good Morning' every day whereas the same chaps are no feeling the need to spread the cheer on college groups or work groups? I have a theory on that, of course. I think that, once you get together in the exclusive company of your schoolmates, you feel free to revert back to childhood. So, along with the carefree friendship and the innocence, you probably revert back to the habits as well. And one of the ingrained habits of childhood is saying 'Good Morning' every 'period' as the next class' teacher walks in. And so... (I do not know if that habit still exists in today's schools).

I hear from other chappies that, the groups from boys only schools revert to other hormone-driven habits of teens as well in the 'art' that they share. But it is probably the 'boys will be boys' thingy which men persist in, especially when the company is exclusively male, even at an age when the only thing that will enlarge is their prostrate.

But, yes, I see shades of it in all groups. I mean, like, you tend to revert to the sort of behavior that you adopted in that particular place when you were there. IF you were intent on showing off your nerdiness at college, you do that in that group. IF you were the back-bencher then, you act one now as well...most especially if you 'real' life makes you have to act the serious sober businessman now! And so on...

Par for the course, I suppose. After all, we are act differently with different people...your persona varies according to the company you are in. AND these groups have a sort of group persona derived from your experiences when it was all in person...'real' so to speak!

One of the other things I found is the persistence of groups. Like, you could create a group with the intention of coordinating one particular event like, say, a get-together. And, three years down the line you'll find a message on that group leaving you scratching your head about what that group was and how on earth you happened to be a member of it. Groups get created but never destroyed!

Oh! Ah! I forgot to tell you that I did find a way to mute the notifications on these messages. Otherwise... Well, it is sort of nice to know to wish people on their birthdays but to get a notification every time one of a hundred odd people wish the chap a 'Happy birthday', every time that chap replies 'Thank you' AND, possibly, every time the original wisher replies to that 'Thank you' (Being taught in school that it is polite to say 'Do not mention it' or some such when someone thanks you)...well, I mean notification pings three hundred times in the morning...possibly every morning...!

It would drive me crazy!