When a person becomes a statistic

I woke up today morning, picked up the newspaper and read the headline “Yet another Andhraite shot in US” or something like that. I browsed through the other headlines before reading the report itself. The face staring back at me was that of a former colleague – a person who worked for my company for over  an year.

After the initial shock, I turn to Times of India’s website for more details. There is a video on the page. Clicking it plays an advertisement before the actual content. I scroll down to the bottom of the page for other linked reports. There is a link saying “Do you like this story?”

Story. Yes. Story. That is what it is to us. That is the state of the world we live in and the extent to which we are de-sensitized. Everyday we see reports of crimes – murders, rapes, whatnot. We read them, sigh, and move on. These reports stay in our minds for not more than the few seconds it takes to read them. Not even enough time to think: “It won’t happen to me or to someone I know”. And then one day it does. And it is only then that the mind pauses to think.

After all the progress we have made over the centuries – and I don’t mean to belittle it, we have indeed made progress – a human life still does not mean to us what it should. A human life is sacred. It is the very source of the concept. And yet the loss of a human life is just a statistic, an abstract event that fails to move us unless the event hits home. As the headline goes “Yet another…”.

We have come a long way from the insane violence that used to be commonplace. But we still have a long way to go.

Complexity in Software

Software entities are more complex for their size than perhaps any other human construct because no two parts are alike (at least above the statement level). If they are, we make the two similar parts into a subroutine — open or closed. In this respect, software systems differ profoundly from computers, buildings, or automobiles, where repeated elements abound.

— Frederick P. Brooks

Encountered in a book (warning: large pdf file – 53 MB) found at Mentofacturing

Trip to Mangalore: Reflections

Visited a manufacturing unit for diamond polishing machinery belonging to a business associate from my first venture. The unit contained several lathes, shapers, milling machines, a CNC machine and some other machines I could not identify, some of which were designed/assembled in house. There was nothing extra-ordinary about the machinery but it was difficult not to feel a sense of awe at the complexity of the machines. The owner of the unit is not even an engineer. His father, who apparantly has designed some of the machines hasn’t studied beyond class 8. I am supposedly a mechanical engineer with a masters degree from one of the most reputed colleges in India. What a waste of everyone’s time these degrees are!

Also visited the father of the owner of the unit, 79 years of age and a self-made man who came to Bombay at the age of 16, worked at several places in various jobs, set up a factory with all his savings at the age of 55 and still visits it everyday. The only advice this man had to give us was:
1) Everything comes from god
2) Take care of your parents, don’t make them cry!
I was quite bewildered. The world is a strange place.

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