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At my first job, I worked at a huge investment bank. While I was there, the managing director (MD) of my team left the firm. I was curious and asked my manager how the firm decided on the new boss? The answer surprised me.

When a new boss gets appointed you would think he/she should be an expert in the work the team does. I was in the data science team. So you would think the top boss should be a data science expert. Which our previous boss was, a big shot PhD from Stanford. Though, when the new boss got appointed, this wasn’t the most important thing anymore. …

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4th April, 2014

There were a bunch of people sitting on the mattress, playing cards.
They were having a good old laugh.
Even when they were not drinking from the glass.
But that wasn’t a scene that would last.

Someone cried “Electricity at last”,
“I’ll watch a episode of Game of Thrones with a blast.”
Everyone took a breath fast.
Went into to their rooms to see the cast.

Or Life, Food and Work for an Indian in Japan

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Tokyo Skyline. Credit: Derrick Brutel

Japan is a curious place for most of us. We have heard so many stories about Japan, how it is ridiculously clean, how people are extremely polite, how there is almost no crime. I wanted to know what it is like to actually work and live there, especially as an Indian. So I called up my friend Siddharth Kannan, who works at Mercari in Tokyo as a backend engieer and I interviewed him about his life in Japan. Here’s an edited transcript.

Harsh: So, Siddharth, how did you end up at Mercari?

Siddharth: So, I was in a dual degree program in IIT Kharagpur. Around the beginning of my 4th year, I knew that I wanted to work as a software engineer and I was particularly interested in living abroad. During my placements, some Japanese companies came to Kharagpur for the first time and I had a good coding test and interview with Mercari. That’s how I ended up working at Mercari in Japan. …

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Aim of a book is review is get you excited enough about a book to make you read it, but often I only end up saying “this book was a really interesting” or make it “really really interesting” but that’s not very interesting so let me try something else [without giving spoilers].

The book is a hard science-fiction, hard means that the author tries to keep the work as scientifically accurate as possible. It does invent things, but the basis of everything remains scientifically solid. Imagine if we had three suns instead of just one, then they would go around in a very unpredictable manner. In winter it will be too cold as all the suns are too far, and then in summer all three suns will be blazing on the top of your head, evaporating everything, there are is a sweet spot between them, pleasant and livable but you don’t know long will that last. The winter can be there for a day or even years or so is the case for summer, and you don’t know in what order will they appear and for how long. How will a civilization cope with such chaos? …

When I read fiction, I want the book to be something “new”, I want my books to surprise me and the trick with surprise is that there is no formula to it. So I was going through the fiction section in Sapna book store and all the books felt predictable, they felt like some book or another or somehow gave me the feeling that I know what will happen. Then came across a book with a goat on the cover and this strange name Poonachi. I first thought the book has something to do with Poona (old name of Pune) and to my surprise it turned to be about a black goat. Good start to a surprise right!

I’m not one of those people who can describe a book of fiction eloquently without summarizing it, so I won’t tell you anything more, go figure.

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Taleb’s latest book Skin in the Game is about asymmetries in life. Let me describe the book via negative:

  • Skin in the Game is not about incentives. Because incentives can be one sided. For example, an executive at a big company has the incentive to make the company more profitable but she does not have skin in the game because she only takes a cut from the profit but not the losses. Take two scenarios, in first the company makes 50 million profit in the first year and then in the next year they loose 60 million, second scenario, company makes steady profit of 5 million dollars in both the years. …

It has been more than two years since I left Facebook. In the start it was hard but now, especially after graduating from college, most of the time I don’t even remember that Facebook is a thing and it is an important part of many people’s life. Here tips which helped me:

  1. Let your friends know that you are not on Facebook anymore. How else would they know? Tell them it is not about them, tell them you want to remain friends and stay in touch. …

I used to watch discovery channel a lot as a kid and there was a show where they would talk about the probability of some bizarre things. They would describe the event, like a snake hiding in the toilet pot of someone and biting the person on his genitals and then the person surviving. Then they would go on to calculate the probability of that event, it will be something like, the probability of snake hiding in toilet is 1/100000, then the chances of a person walking into the toilet when the snake was hiding is 1/100, he surviving after the attack is 1/1000, so the chances of the whole event happening is 1 in 10 billion or something. Then you’ll be left wondering if it is miracle or something that event even happened. There is an simpler explanation, the world is large and complex and there are trillions of rare but interesting things which might happen, some of those things do happen and the producers of the show go and find them. …

My rule of thumb to determine this is, assume that the skill level of everyone involved becomes half, does anything change, if not it is a sport.

Usual sports are sports this way, Usain Bolt will run twice as slow but still he’ll be the fastest man on the track. Usual non-sport such as medicine will be non-sport, because half skilled doctors will kill twice more patients.

Though the definition will also include non-sport as sports, competitive programming will be a sport, so will be rankings of people in university, best paper awards, politics and so many other things, it does not matter much how good you actually are, but how good you are in comparison with others. Which means that you might be the best, but what you are be best amount might not be so good.

Harsh Gupta

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