Category: books

A Look “Behind Deep Blue”

There are a few books that I like to reread especially when I need to recharge my motivation. One of these books is “Behind Deep Blue” by Feng-Hsiung Hsu. It is a well-written story about a small team who, as the subtitle says, built ‘the computer that defeated the World Chess Champion’, aka Gary Kasparov. Despite the technical implications in the title, a person moderately familiar with chess and computers would not have any problems following the story. The few geeky parts, scattered here and there, can be skimmed in favor of what really stands out, the human narrative.

The fateful night and soul-searching described in Chapter 3 is one of my favorites. Hsu finds himself at a cross-roads, and only hesitates for a bit before committing to the task at hand. One of the reaffirmed lessons for me is the need to identify the root of confusion and doubt before one could proceed into effective paths. Hsu found the 64-chip design odd even from the beginning, but for various reasons he did not think about alternative solutions. Until he was asked to help out, and he started to look deeper into the technical issues, and then that fateful night of introspection, … and the rest is history, or more precisely, a 12-year endeavor by dedicated individuals.

I really don’t want to give a long book review or spoil the story. Let me just say that there are many lessons in Deep Blue that I find relevant to my own pursuits. Dedication to a task is one of them. Not the ‘blind’ variety, but dedication that springs from the process of working through doubts and the careful assessment of one’s capabilities and limitations. It’s been seven years since I first took the time to really reflect on recurring questions; six years since I decided that yes, I could do something about these questions and started to search for potential paths; four years since I committed to training towards a technical role as warranted by my natural inclinations; and now I’m again purposely moving out of my comfort zone towards unfamiliar territory. Who knows if anything will come out of my projects, but it’s all worth it as I really enjoy the self-imposed challenges.

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Of Workers and Worders

“I see you are a worker. You are not a fanatic. You will change whenever you find yourself in the wrong. There is no harm as long as you are not fanatical. Whether you are in the right or I am in the right, results will prove. Then I may go your way or you may come my way; or both of us may go a third way. So go ahead with your work. I will help you, though your method is against mine.” [An Atheist with Gandhi by Gora]

The above was taken from an exchange between Gandhi and the quoted book’s author, which had sought advise from the Mahatma. If the reader doubts that people could effectively work together despite having fundamental differences, I would recommend reading the short book by Gora. No one denies the idealism of these men, and yet what really stands out in their discussions is the importance of having concrete results to back theories.

Through Gora’s endearing recollection of his time with Gandhi, I could imagine myself receiving advise directly from eminent practical idealists. More than once, I have used the following curt advise to pull myself above recurring doubts: “Go and work. Work solves your difficulties.” On the other hand, when I feel getting carried away by words and flights of ideas, I find this quote brings me back on solid ground: “You are too theoretical. I am not so intellectual. Go to professors and discuss.”

Immediate relevance and clarity of insight more than makes up for the lack of eloquence in the preceding advise.

Practical Idealism

I don’t know how and when the idea of independent currency brands and issuers would become widely adopted, but a word of caution to the early adopters:

“As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired.” (Richard B. Gregg recounting M.K. Gandhi’s advice, in the book The Value of Voluntary Simplicity, online copy here.)

If a person’s current line of work allows him or her to achieve peace of mind, as far as being able to provide for family and to contribute to society without personal moral or ethical objections, then the wages from that work does not have to be given up in order to try out a satconomy implementation.

As for myself, I think of this effort as somewhat of a personal hobby/duty. If and when the time comes that I lose interest in the salary that I earn as a technical writer, or if I conclude that my contract work is an obstacle to the effective demonstration of a satconomy framework system, then only at that point would I have to give up earning ‘regular money’. I will be content to be able to simply cultivate a currency brand (tyaga.org) at this point, just like any start-up entepreneur who hopes to eventually gain brand recognition. However, unlike an enterpreneur who looks forward to a big payday at an IPO, my goal is conceptually simpler but perhaps much harder to implement: influence the market to sustainably support what my entity’s currency brand represents.