Don’t go where the puck is going

Making predictions about future is more than a fun past time. Gartner, Forrester, and many other research companies justify their existence by predicting where technology industry is going. Other organizations (like PwC, below) once in a while go crazy and release predictions decades ahead of now.

Do we even know if these countries will remain by 2050? (original source)

Such long-range predictions are ironic because we can’t even get short-range predictions right. For example, from this news report:

While projecting a more optimistic picture of the global economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday slashed India’s growth forecast by 0.5 percentage points to 6.7 percent in 2017. ...  Read the entire post →

Revenue requires investment, profit requires creativity

The purpose of a business is to generate over its lifetime a higher return for its shareholders than what they would have gotten by investing in risk-free options (such as government bonds). This is a slightly technical definition but an example will illustrate what I mean.

Imagine there is an entrepreneur with a business proposal and he requires a $100 of investment for it. He reaches out to you and pitches his idea to seek your investment. To make a decision, you’ll probably analyze and estimate how much return you’d get in return of money you give to him. If you usually get 6% interest annually in a savings bank account, you would expect a higher return from the entrepreneur (given there’s a risk of losing your entire $100 while your money in the bank is virtually risk-free). In fact, you’d expect an unjustifiedly high rate of return because like all humans you’re risk averse and hence demand more upside than what seems fair. Absurdly high expectations is what makes entrepreneurship so hard.  ...  Read the entire post →

Nobody likes using technology

If you are an engineer, the title of this article may shock (or even offend) you. But if I rephrase, I’ll merely state what’s immediately obvious: people are motivated towards achieving their goals and technology is simply the means towards that end (and not an end in itself). This holds true even for engineers. When they get excited about new technology (say, a new programming language), they’re responding to their intrinsic motivations of exploration, competence, social acceptance (or even aesthetic appreciation).  ...  Read the entire post →

How to avoid cognitive biases when you get paid to think

One of the major findings in last 50 years has been what people had suspected all along: human thinking and judgment often isn’t rational. By this, I mean given a situation where someone has to make a decision, she will often take a decision that “leaps” to her immediately rather taking than a decision that incorporates the structure of the problem, data available immediately and the data that should be collected. In many cases, intuition and reasoning arrive at the same decision so it isn’t an issue. But, stating the obvious, in many other cases, intuition leads to a worse decision in retrospect. How often have you said to yourself: why did I NOT think of it earlier...  Read the entire post →

Singapore’s foundation and lessons for entrepreneurs

Singapore became the independent, modern nation that it is today on 9th August 1965. The history of how the tiny island-nation became a significant force in Asia is a fascinating one. Its GDP per capita (PPP) is number 3 in the world and it has the highest number of millionaires per capita in Asia. Yet the country is smaller than Los Angeles in size and its population is half of of Delhi.

How did this change happen?

This article is the first half of the story of Singapore’s growth and how it became into one of the richest nations in the world. I will examine what historical events created conditions for modern Singapore’s founding Prime Minister (Lee Kuan Yew) to do what he did and what lessons Singapore’s pre-independence history has for entrepreneurs starting companies. A follow-up article will explore post-Independence policies of Lee Kuan Yew that transformed the nation (subscribe for updates to know when that post comes out).  ...  Read the entire post →

Good engineers make terrible leaders

Yuval Noah Harari in his highly celebrated book Sapiens says that human values are shared myths and that there is no objective basis in humanism. I agree with him.

In several separate exchanges on Twitter, I’ve debated the claim that technology has caused progress in human society or that there’s never been a better time to live than now.

It’s actually not true. Progress is personal and subjective. For some, mental peace through meditation is progress. For others, increasing religious devotion is progress. Any objective measure of progress implies a moral stance. ...  Read the entire post →

Why people jump red lights and what it says about startup failure

One of the many things that used to baffle me was people’s behavior that’s evidently harmful to themselves. Take the case of Pune (a city in India where I live). It has simultaneously the lowest rate of helmet adoption and the highest number of two-wheeler casualties. How do you explain that?

Obviously, my confusion was a cognitive bias that impacts many people. It’s the mind projection fallacy: how I think is how other people must also be thinking. It’s an understandable bias as we know no other mind better than ourselves. We have direct access to our thoughts, but for others we can only guess why they’re behaving a certain way. My mistake was that I assumed that if I understand the tradeoff between the cost of wearing a helmet and benefits of avoiding a potential accident (conditioned on how frequently I use a two-wheeler * probability of an accident each time I use it), I’d be foolish not to wear a helmet.  ...  Read the entire post →