Missing Dot Pattern, Spotlight and Capacity Building Opportunity for Bharat
Devsena Mishra

On 22nd March 2016, something interesting happened in the tech world. Almost all web platforms started crashing within a few minutes, from small enterprise apps to giants like Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, etc. At one point, it seemed that the entire internet-based infrastructure with billions of lines of code is about to crash, and the web of dependencies is going to a halt. Interestingly, the reason for that was not some state-sponsored targeted attack or some hacktivist’s amusement, etc. it was the aftermath of a heated argument (over the name of his package) that provoked a 28-year-old developer Azer Koçulu to delete a few lines of his code (some 11 lines from his module) from the open-source project ‘npm,’ an open-source collection for Java Script code, on which a majority of web developers around the world depends on (Collins 2016).

Although it was a less expansive software failure as compared to other incidents in history (from Ariane 5 to Therac-25 to Y2K), it reminds us about the interesting characteristics of the computer programmes, a basic unit of code, where only by removing a tiny dot or a semicolon from the place where it is needed, billions of lines of code can be crashed, within a fraction of seconds. No matter how glorious your software development process, tools, frameworks, and investment are, a tiny dot is capable enough to shatter all that like a house of cards.

There is a tendency to look out for a grand plan and strategies behind grand challenges, and we often hunt for a pattern behind everything. Sometimes the patterns exist, but sometimes, be it a computer or the real world, even a tiny dot matter! By removing or misplacing a single dot from a System or process (including thought process), its meaning could be altered or completely turned around.

Let’s take a reference from the experiences of our country in the recent past.

What has changed in the last 9 years? Why have the same institutions/people or processes that were not able to perform/deliver earlier, (under the previous governments) now yielded remarkable results? There were some competent and talented people in previous administrations too, but then what was missing at that time, that despite everything, they could not deliver, or leveraged their capabilities, the way they could have?

There can be several reasons for that, and at different levels, those reasons are valid too but the most basic of them, which often get ignored is that it is the absence of a tiny dot called ‘intent.’ It was intent or a will to perform that was missing in the System.

It is by removing that tiny dot of ‘intent’ from our people’s thought process and approach others got an opportunity to leverage the situation in their favour and to benefit from that state of affairs. It is the lack of intent to perform, that our economy was in its worst form, under one of the most acclaimed economists of global repute. Bharat was a member of the Fragile Five club and there were apprehensions that its fall can cause global economic turmoil as well.

Today, Bharat is seen as an engine of global growth and hope amid a gloomy global economic environment. Be it corona pandemic or Russia Ukraine war indued crisis, if there is one country on which, the entire world and global business community bet, is Bharat.

So, what has changed, and how have things turned around? One of the key achievements of the current government, in the last 9 years of its tenure is that it has placed all those missing dots, at the places, from where they were removed, fixed loopholes of all kinds and all sizes, physical, structural and moral as well, debugged the system, and made it functional again. And our Prime Minister himself validates the point when he often says that if intent of the leadership is right, the same system, the same process, and the same people, can work!

The fight for our national interests, in that light, is not limited to a particular lobby, interest group/bloc, or nation, somewhere the fight for the country’s national interests, is a fight for filling those tiny dots in the system or morale of the people, that forces (outside and inside the border), attempt repeatedly to eliminate. These missing dots may look unworthy and unmentionable but they have the potential to halt the trajectory of some of the most ambitious and large initiatives of the nation. And from our experiences of transforming India, we can say that the missing dots, matter!

The Magic of 'Spotlight'

What’s the difference between a normal light and a spotlight? A normal light helps us to see things (with a balanced view), while a spotlight, places a particular spot under focus, and when a 'Spot' becomes a point of our focus, no matter how big/small it is, it can change everything!

It is by shifting the focus of ‘Spotlight’ on a particular object/activity or human behavioural aspect that the entire meaning of things can be changed, no matter how grand or glorious they were in the past.

Some References:
Same Product, Different Results

Our country has a good number of institutions and institutional processes to hunt and shape talented and hardworking human assets, from big engineering and management institutions to bureaucracy. A number of products from these channels are consumed by our system and others choose to go abroad (to foreign countries).

If we compare their performance, on a surface level, it seems that the people from the same institutions/process, when employed in-house, deliver less on performance benchmarks compared to those who go abroad. And a most highlighted and traditional reason for that goes like this, it is the “environment” of the country that ‘discourages’ and ‘demotivates’ the talented people to perform, so they all tend to leave in search of a 'good life’ and higher ‘purpose’! And decades after our Independence, despite drastic transformation in almost everything around us, this argument is consistently the same!

This can be called a classic case of a misplaced spotlight!

One of the key reasons for their non-performance, when inside, is nothing but an over-emphasis on their brand, institution, and the process of selection, as a society we tend to put a lot of weight on those aspects. It is under the weight of that celebrity status that the performance suffers! In simple words, the spotlight here is on their ‘brand,’ and background, not on their performance.

“Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep 'til noon.” Mark Twain

So, what changes when they go outside? When the same people cum brands, cross the borders, they left not just their home but the baggage of their entitlement/celebrity status (institution, exam, background, process, etc.) too! In foreign lands, being aware from the first day that here the focus of the spotlight is nothing but on performance, they are left with no other options but to perform!

Life after Tathastu (तथास्तु)

In our ancient stories, there are several references to तप (hard work) and साधना (dedication) by even the evils (Asuras). There were scenarios when after years of Tapasya, the God appeared before them and asked them about their wish, at that moment the Asuras were free enough to ask even the God’s seat as well. But despite knowing that, only for the sake of justice to their hard work, without hesitation, with a single-word declaration from God, Tathastu (तथास्तु), their wish was granted!

So, we can take Tathastu as a symbol of that state, when somebody worked hard for a goal/objective, and finally, the wish is achieved. It seems that the story ends there but in reality, as in the case of Asuras too, it is from the state of 'Tathastu' where the story begins!

Going back to the Asura’s example, the same Asur, who used to chant mantras and perform painful Tapasya for several years, immediately after his wish is granted, wake up to his original स्वरुप (identity) and started abusing his powers from that second, and in some cases, they even go to an extent of attacking the same Gods who granted them their wish.

In a nutshell, what one has done to achieve something or fulfil a dream, that process matters less than what he or she has done after Tathastu (after achievement). It is the real challenge and test of the performance that begins after Tathastu.

These ideas of Tathastu and Asuras from our ancient references are becoming more relevant in the current environment, particularly when the power of Tathastu and creating/shaping/nurturing Sur/Asuras, seems going into the hands of a few tech platforms and their creator economy.

Technology and an Ease of 'Spotlight' Business

Think for a moment, if a force outside our boundary, wishes to stop or create some hurdle in our journey of progress/prosperity, all they need to do is to put a ‘Spotlight’ on a missing dot or on a special capability of those people that are in the charge of affairs. The rest will be done by itself!
We have seen that the war is not always fought on the battlefields or with the force of power, some wars can be fought by a normal-looking activity, such as awarding/rewarding a few capable individuals or running a campaign to return their awards (the award wapsi movement) for showing discontent with the current system. The kind of harm that such activities produce is nowhere less in comparison to the damage inflicted by a real war.

The play with spotlight is not new, it is there for ages, but what is new is that earlier for such kind of spotlight management, which Chanakya has referred to as साम (conciliation), a well thought and well-invested strategy was needed, but now with the help of the technology improvisations, it’s a matter of a few clicks.

This privilege that comes with technology brings certain capabilities and ultimately aids in all sorts of classic behaviour experiments with societies around the world.

Ant Jar Experiment and Chaos Engineering

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
--Leon Trotsky

There is a popular short story called ‘Ant Jar Experiment,’ that goes like this: “If you collect 100 black ants and 100 fire (red) ants and put them in a glass jar, nothing will happen. But if you take the jar, shake it violently, and leave it on the table, the ants will start killing each other. Red believes that black is the enemy, while black believe that red is the enemy when the real enemy is the person who shook the jar,” so the moral is “Before we fight each other, we must ask ourselves: Who shook the jar?” This short narration offers a quick view of the long and ongoing behavioural experiments, the pace of which is only going to accelerate with growing tech improvisations. And it is interesting that those improvisations are emerging from the societies that have explored/experimented more with animal intelligence than humans.

Chaos Engineering

A simple meaning of the word chaos is “a state of utter confusion”, which sometimes leads to complete disorder. For example, what is the ultimate goal of an aggressive campaign by anarchic actors or terrorists, it is not some sort of battlefield victory, the goals are generally to cause maximum chaos and provoke the other side into desperate overreaction.

In the year 1996, US Air Force Major James E. Glenn published his research paper titled “Chaos Theory: The Essential for Military Applications,” and the paper begins with the statement “Wake Up and Smell the Chaos.” The paper was about the application of Chaos theory (a mathematical discipline) features in military decision-making, and examining the behaviour that is characterized by “erratic fluctuations, sensitivity to disturbances, and long-term unpredictability.”

A related term ‘Chaos Engineering,’ has become popular in the tech sector for some years. The idea is fairly simple, it’s about a systematic process of inducing some artificial chaos (failure/bugs) in the live systems (in a production environment) to test their resilience.

The argument is that this approach helps in improving the capabilities and tolerance level of the system, and there is some logic in that too. So, as a professional practice, Chaos Engineering is good but the problem comes when companies capable to perform Chaos Engineering (generally large tech corporations/social media platforms) on their systems, often attempt to apply those methods in different domains, outside their system’s boundaries, in the real world!

There is an interesting link between the companies that perform ‘Chaos Engineering’ on their live systems and the amount of ‘engineered chaos’ they produce through their platforms, in general.

If we keep the number and losses from misinformation/disinformation aside (as accounting of those numbers is now beyond calculation), these days the approach of propagating any new tech or trend, within the IT industry itself, is based on nothing but Chaos!

Current Chaos

A few days back, some concerned citizens cum global tech leaders, gathered again to sign an open letter that calls on “all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.” It is not the first time when such a letter campaign is launched (Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter 2023), the Future of Life Institute, which runs such open letter campaigns, has earlier run a similar campaign in 2015, and the title of the open letter at that time was “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: An Open Letter,” and at that time, over 11251 such tech leaders signed that letter too. Like all previous letters in past the signatories of this letter are the same people that have their interest, investment, and stakes in the ongoing AI-related research and activities. So, one can ask to whom they address in their letters, again and again, and why such campaigns look like a marketing/branding activity for the upcoming suit of AI apps. Chaos in itself is a popular marketing tool as well.

In parallel to that Henry Kissinger, at the age of 99, says that he is becoming ‘obsessed’ about how to limit the potential destructive capabilities of artificial intelligence. He is hoping for a high security dialogue between US and Chinese leaders, about how to apply ethical limits and standards for AI. And such a conversation might begin, in his words, with US President telling Chinese President that: “we both have a lot of problems to discuss, but there’s one overriding problem, namely that you and I uniquely in history can destroy the world by our decisions on this. So, we therefore should start with principle number one that we will not fight a high-tech war against each other (Ignatius 2022).”

In between all this, we hear news about the massive layoff campaigns by some of the giant profitable tech enterprises of the world (that thrived most during the Covid phase), citing reasons that suits larger global AI agenda.

We can say that somewhere the current trajectory of technology led improvisations is moving in that direction about which the creator of the term Cybernetics himself warned, long before.

“I am convinced that a community of human beings is a far more useful thing than a community of ants; and that if the human being is condemned and restricted to perform the same functions over and over again, he will not even be a good ant, not to mention a good human being.” Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, Cybernetics and Society (1950)

A chaotic mind, society or culture cannot do anything good-for themselves and for the humanity! There is a need for an intervention of a Bhartiya approach.

Powershift

“A ‘powershift’ does not merely transfer power. It transforms it.”

“This is the true meaning of powershift. Not simply a transfer of power from one person or group to another, but a fundamental change in the mix of violence, wealth, and knowledge employed by elites to maintain control.” (Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century, Alvin Eugene Toffler, 1990)

We are in the middle of a global powershift, and no one can deny that in this shift, technology is playing a crucial role. What would be the role or place of Bharat in that shift? That’s a question in everyone’s mind. And unlike the previous shifts, this time we have communicated a clear message, that our role and our place in the changing global power dynamics will be determined by us, not by others.

In many ways, the current global powershift brings an opportunity for Bharat to present its approach, methods, and philosophy before the world. In our foreign exchanges, we have made a good start and the world community has acknowledged that too. But we must not stop there, we need to extend that to other domains, be it Business or Security.

This is the right moment, and the right pause for us to create/articulate our references, and a process for that will start by acknowledging our attempts of the recent past, in their full glory!

The need is also there because we would not want the young minds of a powerful Bharat, to continue taking references/motivations from the stories of other nations. They can enjoy those tales as good entertainment but beyond that, they would not feel related to those heroes of foreign lands, working for their own cause. Naturally, they will hunt for some references/motivations, in their own country, of their own heroes, and we certainly have no dearth of such glorious references, in our recent past!

Technical Support Division (TSD) of Indian Army – A Successful Reference of Our Own

A few days back in an interview, (ANI Podcast) General VK Singh shared a small experience from the past. Recalling the events (when he took over as Army Chief), he shared that at that time, there used to be frequent cases of transgression from the Chinese side, and looking at all that, a simple order was passed by him in the Eastern Command that “nobody would be allowed to touch our Defence Works.” Continuing that he said that one day “we had an incident where a Chinese patrol had come, just like they come now, with some 60 plus soldiers led by a Major of Chinese Army. They came and started attempting to hold out and take out the wire which was laid in front of one of our localities. That time there was a young officer, a Captain who was looking after that particular post. He got up, walked up to the Chinese Major, very politely got hold of his hand, took it away, looked into his eyes, and said ‘if you touch it next time, I’ll shoot you.’ He said it very firmly but very quietly, without any provocation but the message was conveyed by his eyes. That petrol went back and they haven’t come back to that position till now (ANI 2023).”

This incident highlights the approach of our defenders. India does not believe in unnecessary provocation but at the same time, we have our own polite yet impactful ways to convey the right message to our enemies, across borders and inside the borders as well.

The Technical Support Division (TSD) headed by General VK Singh, was driven by that approach of conveying a clear message to enemies of the nation too. Everyone who participated in that mission is a hero in our eyes, and it is their experiences that bring real excitement and motivation to our youth, not the entertainment products based on Israeli, US, UK, or any other third country’s intelligence or security missions.

Defending the borders, security and internal structure of a country with the size, scale, and numbers of Bharat is not an ordinary task itself. But what was unique about TSD was that they were those chosen few who were masters of the art of smiling before the biggest adventure/challenge of their life!

Every experience/visual of that unit and their methods could be a source of precious learning for our youth but it is unfortunate that instead of being documented, shared, and celebrated, those achievements and their heroes, were put behind the curtains of remorse.

It is only now, that some of the members of that mission have opened up and started sharing their experiences with the young generation, and one can see that its results are encouraging!

TSD is a glorious reference of our own that needs to be shared/quoted widely among the youth. It will help in augmenting their critical and scientific thinking too, as they will be able to visualize things in more practical terms.

And at the same time, TSD is an unfinished business for National Security! In its next version, the need is to ensure that message would reach more clearly to forces inside/outside the borders and there must remain no doubt about it, to our enemies that luxuries/privileges of life cannot go smoothly, just like that, if any of our national interest would get compromised at their hands.

The time has come to transform this successful reference of our recent past into a Success Model, for future security challenges.

The Subscription-based Model and Future Prescriptions

In the last 9 years, as a country, our experiences with technology are remarkable! We have eradicated several performance-related errors with the help of computers and digital technology. Today, by looking at the way Bharat is leveraging cutting-edge technologies, one can say that we are not merely embracing but celebrating the Tech and that’s why people say that the current decade, in many ways, is the ‘Techade’ of Bharat!

We cannot ignore the fact that it is through technology that we fought one of the worst pandemics of the century, recovered fast from that phase, while sustaining/serving the needs of a billion plus people, covered our national vaccine targets fast, and presented an example of speed, efficiency, and transparency in our governance structure. Our trajectory is encouraging and it seems that at this moment there is no aspect related to Technology where Bharat is not doing well.

But at the same time, there are some concerns. Somewhere, in the technology sector, we are moving toward a subscription-based model. Now the question is what is a subscription-based model? It’s an idea that everything related to the economic, social, and political approach of societies around the world, will always be prescribed/published by the Western bloc and the rest will simply subscribe to the models offered by the West. In simple words, what is best for the rest will always be determined by the West. We have seen that earlier too, in the case of the experiments related to globalization as well. Now in technology, we are moving toward that Subscription based approach.

How that is going to affect us? There are several ways in which it will influence and impact us because, unlike the previous improvisations, our people have a direct participation/engagement and dependency on technology-related models. But if we have to pick, the prominent impact of all that on us will be a fundamental shift in the character of our people. These improvisations have the potential to influence the moral and behavioural aspects of our people, something that we have never witnessed at that scale before!

This subscription-based participation in technology is making our people reactive, and the more we will up our Reaction part, our Act part will naturally go down. Here it is necessary to mention that this subscription-based future is one of the key aspects of a roadmap envisioned by the World Economic Forum too. In his 2016 article (Auken 2016), titled “Welcome To 2030: I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy and Life Has Never Been Better,” Ida Auken, a Young Global Leader and Member of the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization of the World Economic Forum (WEF) wrote “welcome to the year 2030. Welcome to my city - or should I say, our city. I don't own anything. I don't own a car. I don't own a house. I don't own any appliances or any clothes. It might seem odd to you, but it makes perfect sense for us in this city. Everything you considered a product, has now become a service.” And he further wrote: “When AI and robots took over so much of our work, we suddenly had time to eat well, sleep well and spend time with other people,” and “for a while, everything was turned into entertainment and people did not want to bother themselves with difficult issues.” And what about the others who did not subscribe to his vision, for them, he writes: “My biggest concern is all the people who do not live in our city. Those we lost on the way. Those who decided that it became too much all this technology. Those who felt obsolete and useless when robots and AI took over big parts of our jobs. Those who got upset with the political system, and turned against it. They live different kinds of lives outside of the city. Some have formed little self-supplying communities. Others just stayed in the empty and abandoned houses in small 19th-century villages. (Auken 2016)”

And what about the privacy of individuals, he writes: “Once in a while, I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. Nowhere I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think, and dream of is recorded. I just hope that nobody will use it against me (Auken 2016).”

One is free to have such kinds of daydreams and radical visions for the future, and probably they suit certain cultures or societies in some parts of the world too. Such ideas could be heard, ignored, or laughed out too, but when they come from a forum, which has a track record of pushing its weird visions on the world, the need is to see it with a wider perspective!

Capacity Building – An Opportunity for Bharat

“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” –Mark Twain
One thing that is quite visible about our approach is that Bharat is not insecure about anyone’s ideas, imaginations, and vision, for the present or future. We are a country that says: “Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides,” and we have a glorious treasury of our own economic, social, and political models, created/nurtured/protected and time tested by our people, the great economic/social thinkers since centuries, from Chanakya to Thiruvalluvar to modern-day thinkers. What suits to Bharat and Bhartiya environments, on that we have a well-structured thought process of our own, starting from Deendayal Upadhyaya to Dattopant Thengadi to S Gurumurthy, and it’s an unbreakable chain of responsibility that will continue like that, for many more years to come.

Now what kind of opportunity do we have in this scenario?

A reactive mind cannot offer anything good for itself and the world. The time has come when Bharat must start working on its capacity-building aspects in the technology sector. It’s a much-needed move for not just Bharat but for the larger good of the world too. The way, in between the noise about technology, Bharat is presenting a silent yet impactful model, before the developing parts of the world and the way in which they are looking at Bharat for a better roadmap for the future, promoting our capacities with a healthy vision for the future of humanity, where technology continues to serve humanity, not vice versa, is a responsibility/duty that we must perform for the world!

References
  1. ANI. 2023. EP-50 - Was a ‘coup’ attempted, creation of TSD and other untold stories with General V K Singh. March. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMSOOzzVa6E&t=4277s.
  2. Auken, Ida. 2016. “Welcome To 2030: I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy And Life Has Never Been Better.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/worldeconomicforum/2016/11/10/shopping-i-cant-really-remember-what-that-is-or-how-differently-well-live-in-2030/?sh=183bf10c1735.
  3. Collins, Keith. 2016. Quartz. 27 March. https://qz.com/646467/how-one-programmer-broke-the-internet-by-deleting-a-tiny-piece-of-code.
  4. Ignatius, David. 2022. “Why artificial intelligence is now a primary concern for Henry Kissinger.” The Washington Post.
  5. 2023. Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter. March. https://futureoflife.org/open-letter/pause-giant-ai-experiments/.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>


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