Paradox Paradise

Would you still call it nonsense, if sense exchanges its meaning with nonsense?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What do you know about who do you know?

“Thank God! You didn’t name it after your family name!” Scraped Sig. Luca Venzella, who’s a 40-year old single, who knows there’s no such thing as an ideal match (neither in a matchbox nor on a football field), in Orkut Buyukkokten’s scrap book on February 27th 2004. That was just about a month after orkut.com was officially launched. That wisecrack will go down on the pages of world history one day, if it hasn’t already.

The Young Turk, Buyukkokten came to USA in 1997, to do a Ph. D programme in Computer Science from Stanford. He modified the first sentence of Moby Dick, by changing the name and omitting ‘having little or no money in my purse’ part, to use as the first lines of his personal page in the University website. By completing the course by 2001, his visa had expired and he joined Google for a valid reason to continue living in the waterside of life where money floated and flowed.

Apart from giving massages to its employees (Buyukkokten has self-scraped about it in his scrapbook), Google also asks their employees to devote 20% of the paid working time on their personal projects. Using this one-day-a-week to work, Buyukkokten with his friend and fellow graduate Tyler Ziemann built a social network program called Club Nexus for the undergraduates in Stanford. Seeing its success the duo formed the company called Affinity Engines, and developed InCircle, a similar program for the Stanford Alumni Association. About a year later, Google declared to buy a program developed by its in-house engineers, and launched orkut.com on January 22nd 2004. The site was just ‘in affiliation’ with Google at that time. And nobody then thought Google will want to become Yahoo, or MSN, but will stay what they are, enjoying their leading position in search engine business. Though it has later integrated to the Google portal along with Gmail, Gtalk and Blogger, even after 3 years, orkut.com is still its beta version. That’s about not ‘wasting’ any more money on development unnecessary.

Four months later Affinity Engines sued Orkut Buyukkokten and Google for breaking the contract and stealing their source code. According to them, they have uncovered nine software bugs in orkut.com, identical to InCircle, and indicative of a common source code. AEI claims that Buyukkokten had given written and verbal agreement that he won’t work on any other social network programs, as a commitment to support his project with them – InCircle. To promote orkut.com as a trustworthy site, the membership was only on invitation, a method that was proved a huge success for Gmail. And there were 100,000 members by 48 hours of its launch, and it crossed the million mark in 6 months. Proving their initial tagline – expand the circumference. That’s exactly what Google did with orkut.com – expanding its circumference.

The registration process demands 5 or 6 pages of personal information to be filled in. And more than 50 percentage of over 43 million registered users provided their personal information in detail. More than generating revenue directly from the new tool, it was this invaluable user data – the kind of demographic data any marketing machine would need, that Google was aiming for.

Another method they used to fuel the site’s popularity was the user-friendly public message board, instead of a private one. Though everyone knows that it’s a public message board and anybody can access it, people tend to use it like a private message service. That’s easy to understand from the psychological state of the user, because he or she is seeing their message board only after signing in, and it creates the same impression of reading your mails or private messages. And it successfully reduces the number of aliases, and profile of anybody belongs to a friend list has more chances to be authentic than fake. There’s also a private messaging facility, almost similar to the public one. But it purposely involves you more steps to reply to a message, and none of the users I know uses it.

Though, you should be 18 years or older to be eligible to be a member, there are millions who are much younger in the network. It had created a huge issue in Brasil, where over 90% people who have Internet access at home are registered users of orkut.com. Even now, over 60% of the users are from Brasil, and about 20% from India, and about10% from USA. “The people in Brasil are very friendly”, commented Buyukkokten, “and that’s the only reason I can think of its huge success in Brasil”. I can think of a few more. Because, sooner, Brasil and India will have an equal share in the network. Yes, the two havens newly opened up for global marketers.

I have also found on net, from unreliable sources, that Orkut Buyukkokten earns from every single profile registered, every single friend added, every single photograph uploaded, every single scrap and for each of its replies, etc. Though, I’m not sure about the amounts, I’m sure that Google pays to Buyukkokten. Why would they pay? By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the orkut.com service, you automatically grant to us [Google] a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials. That’s one of the terms every single orkut.com user had agreed upon while registering. I don’t know what they will do with your photographs, or stupid scarps.

There’s a possibility that I can think of. Some more rambling before coming to that.

Some 12 years back, one of my friends who was more interested in textbooks than the usual philosophical bullshitting rebellious teenagers like me were aimlessly indulging, told me one small secret of life.

“There are no secrets as such,” he told me, “only that the people who know your secrets won’t meet the people who don’t know your secrets.”

“That’s my concept of God, the one who knows everything. Till that date when all the information is split and kept, we all will stay as humans ,” I quipped.

It sounded really funny then, and sounds somewhat scary now. It might take some more time before Google becomes God, but it can soon be a power Orwell, Burgess, Bradbury, and the other dystopians were warning us about. You very well know what it’s like if your bank’s server is down for a day. Once the filthy old currencies stop being around, you will be worth only a few digits in some remote storage device. And it will be a Google or Yahoo or MSN who will be having that device at their command. What do I know?

“By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.”

- The last sentence of Chapter One, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Dumb enough? Act smart now!

Buy the pill; that’s all you have to do. And you will be smart overnight, though you might still remember that you were dumb once!

It could possibly be misleading. Let me put it straight. It’s not the content of one of many, rejected advertising copy that I had written over the past years. It’s about a piece of pretty old news that assures me, in near future medical science will be successful in restoring the part of the brain that stores long-term memories. Or more clearly, you can grow your brains, if that’s needed.

I came to know about it a month back or so, when one of my friends forwarded the link to an archived article in The New York Times, dated back to March 17, 1998. It reads about a path-breaking discovery that brain cells can, and do, grow back in adults. It is contrary to the wide-held belief that we, animals or humans, may lose, but never can grow back the brain cells, once they reach adulthood. Though, it was known that rats can do it, but the experts believed humans might not follow the same pattern as in the case of nicotine using rats. Now, they too can believe, because they have found the same phenomenon in monkeys too. And now they say, it is amazing.

Amazing. Well, it could really be. Plastic surgery was not invented to sell odd-shaped and oversized undergarments either. However, scientists working in neuropsychopharmacology are aiming towards a possible cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and injuries caused by strokes and trauma. It’s almost decade-old news now. I searched on net to find further developments that might have happened over the course of time, but couldn’t find any. But, I’m pretty much optimistic about our brilliant scientists. They must have gone further ahead, and most probably are testing the drugs in some African village after finding favourable results in many monkeys.

Even if the drugs come to the market in near future, there’s nothing much to be too hopeful. They are going to be as expensive as they are supposed to be. They have spent Himalayan amounts on research and drug development, and they would need their ROI. Not many patients are going to get the benefit either. Because, both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are evening life ailments, and the caretakers of the patients can rarely expect an ROI. By the time euthanasia will be legal, and more importantly cheaper, anyway. But, there’s a real positive side to the story as well. That is the unlimited possibilities it will open to today’s limited scope of cosmetic surgeries. What’s beauty without brains, after all!

Don’t worry about your new hairdo, or the newly transplanted hair. The pill they are developing is not to be implanted in your brain. You can consume it orally, like any other pill. Initially, you may need a nurse to remind you of the pills, but as the pills start working you can fire the nurse and remember to take the pills by yourself! And this improved memory will work not just for this pill, but for any pill you want to take. How better can it get?

Now, don’t get too excited, and start feeling stressed thinking how long more you have to wait to put your mouth on the pill. Because, the scientists have also observed the fact that stress can diminish the speed of growth of new cells. They have noticed rats who are allowed to run around and play with toys grow the cells faster than the ones who are kept caged. Buy new toys and play with them more often. I’m not very sure about the effect of video games, because rats don’t play video games. And relax. Take your yoga classes, and/or take up a course in Art of Living for the time being. It’s cheaper, and will save a lot of your money later. Do not worry, if you are not rich and dumb enough.

And I’m dreaming a new world so beautiful and brilliant! Where people will remember all the names at least, if not birthdays, and office meetings. And will laugh to wisecracks, without demanding explanations that will only help to conclude that the joker has a very weird sense of humour. You will no longer need to say that the pun was not intended, just to suggest that there really was a pun.

There’s no need to be so euphoric about it. Because, if it’s an allopathic drug, there will of course be some side effects. And I can see the side effects too very clearly. From LKG admissions to beauty pageants, drug testing will be mandatory. We have to respect only the natural, whatever are our advancements in science. And if you couldn’t control the number of intelligent jokes at your friend’s party, you are going to get more suspicious looks than desired laughter. One of those really arrogant ones will come up and ask, “So, you are on pills, huh?” But with the pills, it’ll be easier to remember the fact that you will have to keep your cool, or your cells will grow slower and you will have to eat more pills. And who knows! You might even be able to give back a smarter reply too, if you have completed the essential first few courses.

The wise had once said, ignorance is bliss. Remember?

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