Monthly Archives: August 2008

Uncertainty and Fear.

I lost my keys and I have been locked out(it has happened more than once), so I am sitting in the so called ‘old town coffee house’ sipping chocolate and doing what I love to do. Life has never been this good. Really!

I take breaks from my intense product development to do some other stuff, which is not so important as products but still holds a lot of significance for the company. One of the things is to pen down my thoughts(As I mentioned before, the reason I take action is primarily to aid my thinking, so it is only natural that I should pen down my thoughts as I am in action).

Today I will dwell on one deficiency of human psyche,so pay close attention. Have you noticed the increased security hullabaloo after 9/11? What have people learned from 9/11? To increase more and more security in airports, coasts, air, water, land, your home,your bedroom…your mind? Human beings have a deficiency of drawing narrow principles from particular events. Hardly anyone got the lesson from 9/11 that the future is highly unpredictable. It sounds like a cliché but even the humblest of us have greater confidence in our ability to predict future than it should be. We have an intense dislike for the abstract, We love details and particulars. So, we fail to draw abtsract, but more imporant lessons from events: in this case our inability to predict future, especially those that matter.

The truth is that , in general, security is a big illusion. Are you afraid to start a startup? Are you afraid to live your dream? Are you afraid to learn day trading that you have been dreaming of doing? Are you afraid…..? You are already sitting on a time-bomb, so you might as well live it according to your own terms. It is better to take calcuated risks with a chance to live life fully than to be in an illusion of security and not knowing what to do when the time-bomb finally explodes.

According to many studies it has been shown that most of the bravado is done mostly because the doer did not anticipate the risks involved. Which is good if you are an entrepreneur—you are using your ignorance to your advantage. We are sorely deficient in forecasting risks. And the real problem is that we forecast all the wrong risks, which do not even exist. So, all the dangers you are foreseeing when you want to live the life you want, they just don’t exist. And the dangers that do exist, you don’t know them. And your optimal strategy is to take life in your hands and do what you truly desire instead of sitting on a time-bomb and living under a false security of its muted ticking.


PS: I will follow the advise of the famous mathematician Henri Poincare and won’t bother to correct my spelling mistakes.

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Mathemagic Solution.

Let us say you think up a 5 digit number , say, X=15683.

Add up the digits: Y=1+5+6+8+3=23

Subtract this from the original number : Z=X-Y=15683-23=15660.

Let us say, from Z we take out the number 5. So we have 1660.

The Problem is to find the missing number.

Now look carefully, here is the trick for finding it out. The number you see is 1660. Add them up and you get 1+6+6+0=13.

Now you know the multiplication table of ‘9’.

It is 9×1=9

Now we have the remaining sum=13. Ask yourself the question What is the number in the 9’s table which is closest to 13? The answer is 18, right? So subtract 13 from 18, which is 18-13=5. MAGIC: That is the missing number. You got it.(Remember, I took out 5 from 15660 to get 1660.) NOTE: You can’t hide a 9 or 0

Now, Here is the challenge for you. The number I give you is = 122, tell me which number is missing?

If you have any doubts about the solution , don’t hesitate to contact me. Have a nice mathemagic. :))
PS: Proof of the trick.Let us say a 4 digit number X=1000a+100b+10c+d. Then Y=a+b+c+d

Z=X-Y=999a+99b+9c=0(mod 9).

Which means that the sum of the digits of Z will also be divisible by 9[1]. So, all you have to do to find the missing digit is to get a number which makes the sum divisible by 9.

The proof can easily be extended to n-digit numbers.

PPS: Proof of [1]

Let us say a number X=0(mod 9). Say, X=1000a+100b+10c+d=9k.

X=(999a+99b+9c) + (a+b+c+d)=9k. Obviously (a+b+c+d) is divisible by 9 to make the LHS divisible by 9. Hence, the result. Again, this proof can be easily extended to n-digit numbers.

(Those who attended my talk–Here are the slides )

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Time To Walk The Talk!!

I have been giving talks here and there, in public, in private and sometimes talking to myself on the unrealized power of mathematics and the impact it can have on the WWW. Now is the time to walk the talk.

For that purpose I have started my own enterprise– EvolviMatix[1]. I will come to the ultra-geeky name in a short while.So, first things first. Usually some practical thinkers take action to test their theory, to validate it. And that is what most people think I am doing(including my wife before I explained to her). Actually it is the converse. I am basically a philosopher(the greatest thing is that I do not need a degree to be so), and my action is solely for the purpose of thinking, to have more clarity about the state of affairs in my mind.Actions are for the sake of achieving clarity in thinking and not vice-versa (atleast for me).

My hypothesis is that the smartest strategy you can have is to maximize your odds of getting lucky, the rest are mere details[2]. And I have explicitly stated that in my company’s official strategy(company strategy). My strategy is to get lucky– that’s it.However, it would require a lot of thinking to increase my odds of getting lucky, and that is where my experience with mathematics will come into play. Please understand that it has nothing to do with numbers. As I have said elsewhere that mathematics(and also numbers) is primarily a tool for meditation, that it has other benefits is just a side effect.

If you look at the short history of internet superstars, that is how it happened. Say Google, it didn’t happen that one fine day the founders dreamed up the strategy how to rule the internet and be the poster boys of web2.0. They were just solving an interesting problem while doing their PhD. And it so happened that they soon realized the impact of what they were creating.

Caterina and Stewart had created a game company and were working on that, when they stumbled upon this goldmine of tagged photo-sharing(which was actually a small part of the game they were building).And that is how Flickr came into the scene.

Even Microsoft had an evolutionary approach to strategy when they wanted to put a PC in every home. They were tinkering with various operating systems which also included an OS they were building with IBM. It was just that Bill Gates saw a greater velocity in the Windows market and went for it.And nobody thought that computers will have so varied uses and applications so as to reshape our social and business life.All the breakthroughs were solutions waiting for a problem.

Now, everybody seems to be creating the next killer app, the next idea which is going to revolutionize the web. So, I just thought of doing something different. I endeavor to be extremely lucky. And I am tackling a tough technical challenge of the internet(that’s all I can say about the project in stealth mode).So, wish me luck!!

[1] ‘Evolvi’ is derived from evolution. ‘Matix’ is derived from Matrix, a mathematical structure(much glamorized by the movie ‘Matrix’).
[2] Sometimes people mix up Vision with Strategy. My Vision is to generate wealth(I will write about my vision another time). ‘How’ I do that is strategy.

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