Only in Pakistan 1

It's not a joke! I've heard of cases where during lift maintenance, people have stepped through open elevator doors to their demise. Enforcement of building codes should solve such trivial issues. The question is, does any government body care enough to enforce such rules?

(via Metroblogging Karachi)

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Top 10 monsters in Chinese history

Now, I don't understand Chinese so I can't tell if there are any references to the original artwork in this illustration. Anyway, check out the Top 10 monsters in Chinese history:

I've been looking for reasons to post something from Scribd here. It's a great content resource and a very well executed website. However, just like all new websites based exclusively on user generated content, there's a lot of noise we have to sift through to get to the interesting stuff. I think Scribd should work towards a community policing system similar to that of Wikipedia.

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Medicine and Technology

One of the reasons I'm so interested in the intersection of medicine and technology is because most of my friends back home are studying to be Doctors. It's not only fun picking on them, it's also interesting to analyze how technology can completely redefine medicine with the same impact it has had on other industries. Not that it hasn't happened yet! It has just not been the curve-jumping paradigm shift we've imagined for a while. Consider the evolving surgical landscape where technology has immediate and obvious implications. We're now getting to the point where brain surgery (arguably the most intensive and sensitive of them all) could be aided by the help of robots like neuroArm. However, the control is still in the hands of a surgeon and for good reason. The disruptive force I'm looking for is when robots will perform such operations completely autonomously or at least with minimal human supervision.

Photo©Artificial Intelligence by Alen Botica

Heh! Turns out this is one of the most difficult problems in science. We would need robots to perceive the world (or at least a part of it) in much the same way humans do. In a Computer Vision & Image Processing course I took in university, the lecturer put it best: "The objective of this course is not to teach you how computers can be taught to 'see'. It is to understand how infinitely complex our vision and processing aparatus is whilst so second-nature and involuntary to us. And we would also need an inference engine (or some A.I.) strong enough to make complex decisions. It's this aspect of technology in medicine that I've always been interested in.

In university, we did some basic projects involving inference engines. I came out with a Knowledge-Based System (KBS) for teaching that would not be domain-specific. In essence, we were trying to accomplish a 'weak' system within the confines of a 'strong' one. You might think that's impossible (or crude) but well, it was all about experimentation. Someday when I have enough time, I'll put it up as an online Intelligent Tutoring System. The point in this post, however, is this: domain-specific KBS's have been shown to be effective in medical diagnostics. I wonder why we don't have more startups etc investigating this field. At the very least, such systems could help Doctors diagnose more effectively and efficiently. I know this is not an easy task, that's why I'm not calling out for fully-automated diagnostic systems. To put it smiply, more effective systems to serve as reference engines for today's Doctors. How about that?

There's also the human-aspect in this change. When a human life is at stake, we'd rather a human expert in charge. How many of you would be comfortable with autonomous robots performing surgeries? We've seen technological blunders in mission critical systems, can we afford a blunder in life critical situations? How about our confidence in Doctors who rely on the above-mentioned diagnostic systems? Problem is, we'll never find out if we never try. And if we gain a vantage point where robots are a lot more successful than the best human doctors out there, I can't imagine how much we would've evolved.

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TT redux

Ok, I'm a couple of weeks late talking about this but we've won the Accenture, Singapore TT (Table Tennis :) ) tournament. Remember, when I blogged about it earlier? I played in the men's doubles. Our team came out on top overall and whilst we kept an unbeaten record in the men's doubles, we lost the finals! I have to say though, our doubles team was really good. We even managed to defeat one of the top teams by game-love. Here's the trophy:

I was a bit shocked at the final's defeat given that we had pretty much gone unchallenged through the whole tournament. But it was a great lesson in humility. That's the thing about defeats: better to lose when a loss doesn't really matter. It keeps you in check and reminds you of the really important times when you have to eke out a win. I have vague memories of all the successful moments in my life but I remember all the losses in detail. And I can say this for sure, I've learned pretty much everything in life from those losses. In TT's case, I'll learn to play much better because of this one loss. In many ways, I've already started my training for next year:

Games at - Table Tennis
Table Tennis

Amazingly realistic table tennis game!

Play this free game now!!

Heh! Next stop is Rockstar's Table Tennis on the Xbox 360!

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Google as Brainiac

Speaking of Google, here's a bit of satire for you:

Google Acquires Internet (May 2017)

Because of their mission (to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful), I can't help but draw parallels between the company and DC Comics' Brainiac. I mean, that's a pretty broad mission statement for you right there. Extend it a bit to 'acquire the universe's information' and you're literally bits and bytes away from some AI taking over us all :). Seriously though, in its mission Google has the potential to be so much more powerful than the computing giants we have come to know in IBM and Microsoft. I hope their moto of 'Do no evil' serves as the default guideline for the company rather than an adjunct to it.

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Jobs splitting up Apple again?

Remember how Steve Jobs managed to create a rift between the Macintosh group and the rest of Apple before his departure in 1985? Reading this, I feel that Jobs is getting ready to part the seas again. His intention to position Apple as a consumer electronics powerhouse is obvious. Earlier this year, Apple dropped the Computer from its name to formally become Apple Inc. Now we hear that Leopard engineers were pulled to the iPhone group to expedite the development of the phone's OSX version. They surely have their priorities set straight! I can bet that the iPod/iPhone division in Apple is going to take the largest piece of the cake in the coming months and years.

Not that there's anything wrong with that :). The man has an iconic vision and once he sets his mind to something he devotes all his time and resources to it. In the context of the evolving technological world, this might be a wise choice as well. Clearly, Apple's recent phenomenal successes are hedged in its consumer electronics devices and not in its Mac business. Having just sold 100 million iPods, there's a lot of reason for Jobs to provide a renewed focus to the company. I just hope that this time, the Mac group is not kept locked out of the iPod/iPhone buildings!

There's one thing to note here with respect to Microsoft. Given the size of Apple, I'm amazed at the efficient transitions it makes in its core. PowerPC to x86 happened so quickly that it has already become a thing of the past. And with Jobs at the helm, Apple is starting to show its teeth in the phone business, without being bogged down by the Macintosh side. Microsoft should take a page out of Jobs' book if it wants to maintain its non-PC relevance in the next decade or so. I just read that Google bought out DoubleClick for US$3.1 billion! Wise choice or not, one thing's for sure, Google's going after a market with the aggression made famous by Microsoft in the 90s. The company really needs that back.

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Tearing a rapper apart

Village Voice presents a dissertation on the number one song in America in Hot Hot Heat. This is great publicity for Mims. I shared the link with a friend today who instantly remarked: "Can't wait to hear this song!". Btw, Seth's point is not lost in translation. It's just that I haven't seen such creative commentary in a while, something that I instinctively wanted to share with you :). Just loved it!

(via Seth Godin's Blog)

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Gmail sign up quirks

Maybe it's a one-off problem and I turned out to be the one unlucky person at the receiving end, but do you think people in Pakistan speak Chinese. Or for that matter everyone in Singapore? Check out the language in which the Gmail Terms of Service is displayed for new sign ups:

For reference, here's the same for Germany:

Something that slipped past QA? Just leave a comment if you think it's somehow linked to weird JavaScript etc behavior on the client side. On an unrelated note, I'm starting on the Pimsleur Chinese (Mandarin) course soon. You guys think there's a more effective method?

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What are the chances?

Heh! That's Google Analytics I have open to track the increasing number of visitors to my blog. Finally the two competitors work together on something (with Google branding ofcourse).

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Post-it notes art

Saw this:

(via Kotaku)

Remembered this:

(via Mac Mojo)

The latter has a description on the crazy methodical manner in which the whole operation was planned out. Kudos to the Mac Business Unit at MS!

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Too nice to make the cut

Well, if I were writing solely for the contest, I would've been more critical (and funny):

(via TechCrunch)

Never mind, guess I save on a ticket to the US. In case you missed it, here's a link to the original post.

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Marketing Poles


(via Kotaku)

Just wrong:

(via Xbox360Fanboy)

I can understand Microsoft's frustration with their failure to penetrate the Asian gaming market but this is just ridiculous. Ya, they're trying to exude that confidence Apple Inc. reserves for its shiny new products. Full marks to them in trying to spoil the UK PS3 launch party; their focus is still squarely on the competitor. That arrogance is out of place in the second case: the focus has turned towards the consumer. There's nothing really 'wrong' with us Asian gamers! It's all about choice and the majority of us are making console choices on merit. Hmm, could it be that there're other products out there which are more appealing to the masses?

Anyway, I love the Xbox 360 although I have yet to buy one. Having said that, marketing campaigns in which an underperforming brand is shoved to us on the basis that there's something wrong with our buying behaviour, are simply not flattering. More thoughts on how the Xbox 360 can succeed in the Asian marketplace to follow soon. Stay tuned!

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On media and influence

No rambling on the content of the video here. Just watch:

My main concern is not that it happened but that the system which promoted it is still in place. It would be virtually impossible to send a barrage of one-sided opinions down the consumer's throat in an evolved media ecosystem. It would be much harder to deceive us. Simply put, the unbridled influence exercised by traditional media needs to be controlled. And as evidenced by the challenges faced (in the face of wide adoption of information consumption through the Internet), we're seeing this control coming into place. From an entry on Dave Winer's blog:

I heard a report in this week's On The Media about a law in Rwanda that requires journalists to be licensed. The justification was that the law requires doctors and lawyers to be licensed, because a lawyer can lose your freedom, and a doctor can lose your life, and they found that in Rwanda that journalists can help create genocide. Pause for thought. Journalism is powerful stuff. Too powerful to be left to the pros.

Think about it!

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Singapore and the New Media

An excerpt from Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan's speech at the Foreign Correspondents Association Lunch:

As far as sex, nudity and alternative lifestyles is concerned, the Singapore government’s approach is to lag behind what the general population is prepared to accept...For example, we only block 100 pornographic internet sites, although there must be hundreds of thousands of such sites. This is what we call “ceremonial censorship”. We are merely drawing a line in cyberspace. But these will move over time, taking into account the evolution of social norms and mores of ordinary Singaporeans.

I think this is the right way to deal with the challenges posed by the Internet in general, 'ceremonial' being the best word to describe the response. Governments all over the world have already recognized one thing: absolutely no regulation is not an option. What they have to recognize is that a strong hand at censorship is also not possible. Drawing a reference line and letting the society and the Internet evolve together is perhaps the best approach.

There's another interesting part in the speech which in my opinion is not very clear:

My final point is that there will always be a need for accurate, rational, balanced and credible sources of information in the midst of the cacophony of the new media. Hence, there will always be a need for journalists and editors to inform, educate and entertain the public. The new media will take its place in the ecosystem, where the written word, the printed book, newspapers, radio, TV, films and theatre continue to co exist in our lifetime. Your jobs are therefore

Ummm. I'm leaning towards the interpretation that new and traditional media will always require the balanced and credible sources of information he mentions. I've read this a couple of times and in the context of the speech it makes sense. However, if there are governments out there with the assumption that bloggers and amateur journalists don't cut muster in the information analysis world, I'd like them reconsider such ideals. The new media is powerful because it's decentralized. And though a lot of this may seem like noise, there are world changing opinions forming in its midst and the best part is that distribution is neither controlled nor localised. In short: it's got the potential to be more fair, balanced and accurate than traditional media.

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Of content and rights

There's a wealth of data accessible to us through the Internet enabling just about anyone to assume the role of an analyst. You hear people talk about traditional journalism vs. the new media and how our information consumption habits have evolved (for the better). However, this does not absolve us of our responsibilities as general analysts. The embedded video violates a lot of citizen journalism 'rules'. Where's the attribution for the background music (Main Title from the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack)? What're the sources for several of the author's claims? It would have been best if the video had a credits roll at the end. If nothing, it would help curious netizens to discuss the underlying message with conviction.

Sidenote: Don't let this rant detract from the message of the video. It paints a good picture of the high-level changes taking place in the world.

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My VisualDNA

Read my VisualDNA Get your own VisualDNA™

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Reactions to violence

I'm a sucker for attention metrics. There's something that bugs me about this video:

It's not the treatment of the dissidents that bugs me most, it's the attention such videos garner: 6483 views at the moment! The Space Camp Song (although funny :)) has over 1.3 million views. Although there's a clear explanation to this disconnect, it's just weird to see how desensitized we can get.

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Lightening up

My friend, the lycheeboy, thinks I'm a little too 'grammatically correct' on this blog. It takes a bit to blog if you're making sure that each sentence at least tries to make some sense in the context of the post. True enough, it's becoming a bit of a chore trying to update my blog. I think writing quickly and effectively comes with time. I'm usually quick at getting thoughts out there but not so circumspect in what I say. And in the world of blogging, newbies should always be a bit careful. What we say will (I hope) be indexed by our favorite search engines forever. I have an entire folder of bits and pieces I want to blog about and I haven't been clearing it fast enough. At last count, there were over 25 of these 'ideas'. So, I'm gonna heed the advice and lighten up. In the coming days expect to see quicker posts and maybe a little more noise getting through the system.

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