60 to Learn (Part I) – Source Control Using Git

Welcome to ‘Source Control Using Git’! Source control is very important in any industry, I’m not only talking about software/hardware development. Basically, if you are in the design and development stage of a Product Development Life-Cycle (PDLC) you need to track changes and decide which one suits your needs!

Github is used exactly for the same purpose, to maintain source/revision control and to track changes in your source code.


This 60 Minute tutorial will give you a good overview on how to start using Github. I will be focusing on using Git on Windows Powershell, you can correlate that to using it on a Mac or Linux based OS.

We will split this tutorial into 3 sections –

A. Setting up Github, Git Desktop and Git Shell – 15 Min (Sep 5)

B. Working on Remote Repositories – 25 Min (Sep 7)

C. Creating SSH key-pairs and Testing Connections – 20 Min (Sep 9)


I’m releasing the first video in the tutorial series!

Post your questions and feedback in the comments section. I look forward to hearing back from you guys.

 

Git cheat sheet for your reference:

git_cheat_sheet
Git Cheat Sheet (Source: patrickzahnd.ch)

Next two videos in this tutorial will be published by Sep 7 and Sep 9 respectively. The reason for not releasing all of them at once is to provide enough time for everyone to practice and get used to git terminology!

Keep an eye on this space for next tutorial video. Happy learning!


 

Augmenting Development using AR

By @sahilpotnis

“Everything you can imagine is real”

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We as the most progressive species on this planet have evolved, developed and survived by constant thinking and logic. Imagination and reasoning precedes all our actions and results. Needless to say, humans have regularly expanded the frontiers of science and technology, even though at a critical rate sometimes but without any stagnation. Majority of these  scientific developments have rooted out of our essential needs to lead a better life. However, we don’t stop at that; human DNA is hard coded to challenge and push our own limitations. One of the endeavors being, to modify the reality to suit our 21st century needs. And the closest we have come in augmenting our real tangible world is in the first half of this decade through – Augmented Reality or AR. 

Imagine, you are attending an important board meeting with a bunch of unknown faces. Instead of wasting time by contemplating on mutual introductions, your contact lenses save the day by overlaying in front of your eyes the opposite person’s identity and basic info. It helps you translate a foreign language real-time into yours and what not! This was precisely the vision set by Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and futurist, almost five years ago and I believe we are rightly heading forward in that direction…

AR_1
Augmented Windshield DisplaySource: Pinterest

What fuels our need to augment the real world or how much of the AR technology can be put to developmental use beyond recreational applications? We don’t necessarily need to answer these questions at the moment. Several technologies develop and evolve before their application base is filtered and the market matures into a mainstream sink. This is partially true in the case of AR, as its market worth is expected to hit $150 Billion mark in the next five years [1]. To put that in perspective, it is slightly greater than half of the Apple Inc’s 2015 net revenue. Though, it is not a magnanimous number but the progress made is very evident especially in the hardware design aspect of things.

arvr-2020
AR Market Share; Source: Digi-Capital

We can put AR to use in numerous sectors with wide range of applications. Right from education, medical and travel, military, infrastructure development to the city and regional planning and brand marketing for start-up firms, there are plenty of them. With immense advancement in real-time image, 3D reconstruction and signal processing it is widely possible to digitally overlay elements over the conventional display or project 3D imagery in real world. Freely interacting with the fluidic media and your external surroundings at the same time holds the key to AR’s success. Let’s have a look at some of AR’s possible applications I can think of for now-

Education – Students can view all their chemistry, biology, physics classes in real world using headsets or there can be augmented classrooms with multiple projectors, stitching a 3D image in real-time. A combination of augmented virtual reality can prove to be an excellent aid to practical education, a couple of finger swipes and you will see the gas bubbling out of your vials. Students and teachers can scan their notebook pages to view grades, reviews and personal notes. It will be important to maintain the real world feel to these applications and not divert it to being too virtual.

Brand Marketing and Guerrilla Advertising – This will be the most volatile and experimented sector used with AR. It’s impossible to gauge the limitations of AR and brand marketing’s combination. It is simple to visualize how effectively AR  will help in improving the customer-product interaction down the road and brands like Converse have already started investing in such venture. AR in its true sense will augment window shopping as people can try out apparel, accessories and appliances without having to enter the shops!

Intelligent Commute – It will be obsolete to use add-on GPS modules and traffic monitoring apps for constant navigation through the journey. An ideal AR headset will comprehensively project all the necessary details such as speed, road curvature, weather and possible dangers right in front of our eyes or perhaps on the windshield. This will be highly complemented by self-driving cars and auto-pilot systems. All the dashboard options will be replaced by floating projections which can perform multitude of tasks.

Infrastructure Development and Planning – AR will be of a great help in city and regional planning and infra development especially in the developing countries where land is a scarce resource. It will be simple to view the proposed developments with 3D CAD models on your tablets and smartphones. The greatest advantage it presents is that of scalability, right from a small monument installation to as huge as an airport planning everything can be made virtually real before its implementation.

Augment_Image
Overlaying using Apps; Source: Augment

Medicine and Military – Last decade witnessed the rise of robotic surgeries and use of image processing in enhancing our life saving medicinal capabilities. AR can assist budding surgeons to practice intricate operations on human projections providing more anatomical details than a cadaver. All the critical units would require lesser patient monitors as most of the vital parameters can be directly seen over the AR headset, decreasing the procedural time and operational cost. Strategic and ballistic military programs have already started using AR in mapping hostile targets and pinning the enemy with digital overlays.

augmented-reality-headset-fighter-jet
Fighter Jet AR; Source: OpticsGamer

It’s a non-exhaustive list which is only bounded by one’s imagination. These aforementioned practical uses are forecasted to conserve substantial amount of resources in terms of money, time and labor. However, the point is that – it is certainly a Hercules job to design and develop the right technology and AR hardware but will not be as delicate and game changing as compared to devising a meaningful user end foundation which is good enough to protect personal privacy and provide data security at the same time. We should be quick and cautious in embracing our transition to augmented reality. One of the best measures in controlling the risk (if any) in accepting a change is to gear-up for it before it’s too late. And that is exactly what the tech community all across the globe is engaged in.

Be it Microsoft’s Hololens developer model, stealth mode startup Magic Leap or Facebook’s $2 billion not so baby- Oculus. The required underlying groundwork for AR is developing at a fast pace on both the hardware and software fronts.

Despite steady and sturdy progress in this field, many multi-billion big famous companies with large cash reserves are taking measured steps in AR R&D in order to gauge the market development; especially where consumer expectations are out of sync with the product reality. It’s never too early to place your bets on AR, just the way Facebook did with Oculus or Google experimented with the project Glass. AR/VR are going to cater our needs of future which may appear to be pretty insubstantial at the moment but would be of colossal importance in the near future. Only time will tell how effectively we could tap the potential of AR and VR as we usher into a new sci-fi era of flying cars , talking bots and neon floating screens!

And yes, now Pokemon!

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– Pablo Picasso


Epilogue –

Though I am not an expert in augmented reality, I have made an effort to understand the developmental trend of AR hardware and software. It is time that we look up to this exciting new technologies to make an entry in our everyday lives! I really appreciate your feedback and opinions, even maybe from a different standpoint.


References –

[1] http://www.digi-capital.com/news/2015/04/augmentedvirtual-reality-to-hit-150-billion-disrupting-mobile-by-2020/#.V3mEL7grI2x

 

Get us to the Greek! – An Insight into the Eurozone Crisis

It is not very often for a country like Greece to make global headlines on a daily basis and lately when it has done so, it either ended up winning a Euro tourney or signaled economic vulnerability and distress. I was recently browsing through articles on few economic tabloids about this so called ‘Eurozone Crisis‘ and a possible exit of Greece – ‘Grexit‘ followed by the Greek Referendum outcome. This interlinked and intriguing nature of the situation got me interested and I decided to dig deeper. Let’s start with a bit of an introduction (those who have a fair idea can skip this and jump directly to the context).

What is Eurozone and European Union (EU) 

The main objective behind the creation of the EU was to promote peace and geo-political stability in order to prevent another mega catastrophe like World War II. The 1957 Treaty of Rome created European Economic Community (EEC) or ‘Common Market‘ which was the first face of the EU. With six founding states back in 1957, the existing EU council comprises of 28 member states (might be 27 soon). It has got a system of seven institutions or governing bodies which hold it together. This also prompted EU to create a single currency in the region which we call ‘ The Euro’ with a motto that one currency helps in buffering the market risks equally and promotes closer co-operation between the member states.

Greek Crisis
Will the Euro break? 

Unfolding of the Eurozone Crisis

One of the seven governing institutions of the EU is the European Central Bank (ECB) which is a crucial player along with Germany, France and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in unfolding of this Greek-Euro meltdown. After the great recession of 2008, few member states in the EU including Greece could not repay their debts to third party institutions like IMF and ECB resulting in a state of crisis called as ‘Eurozone crisis‘. Of all the member states, Greece failed to maintain a positive GDP growth finally defaulting this month with a debt of more than $330 billion on its head. Watch this Business Insider video to get an idea about how much of a dire straits Greece is currently in:

  6 Mind Blowing Facts about Greece

Due to the terminating negotiations between the Greek Prime Minister – Alexis Tsipras- and his European counterparts the bailout package was put to a referendum held recently on July 5. It is disappointing to know that most of the Greek people voted in this referendum without understanding what a Yes (‘nai’) or a No (‘oxi)’ truly stood for. A ‘Yes‘ vote implied that Greece would accept the creditors’ terms of austerity and implement necessary structural amendments in its economic and fiscal policies. A ‘No‘ vote meant that Greece would reject the T&C of the initial bailout package, portending a possible Eurozone exit.

In my opinion, it makes more sense for Greece to have voted against the bailout package with the support of its anti-euro government; it gives Athens another shot at negotiations with an advantage of toning down the austerity measures to mutually suit Greece and the rest of Europe. However, it entirely depends on Germany and the central leadership whether to partially or fully accept Greece’s part of the talks and go ahead with the deal. It will be a bold and courageous decision if taken and will give the Greeks a last ray of hope to lead a better life.

It was a risky option for Greece to choose a ‘No‘ mandate as it would have meant permanently burning off the bridges with Europe. But thankfully the talks are back on track and we await Tsipras to brief the new terms to EU committee on July 8.

I believe that the primary reason for failing to maintain the economic viability in the Euro region is the non-cohesive framework of the ECB and the member states’ governments. It is left up to the ECB to decide the monetary policies while the member nations decide the fiscal policies. How can we expect such a mechanism without any conjugation to work smoothly?

What lies ahead for Greece, Europe and rest of the world?

This week is going to be the most important one in the history of the EU and Europe overall. The decision is not only going to have economical but also geo-political repercussions on all of Europe, considering the strategic location of Greece in Europe. No matter which member leaves the Eurozone, it will result in devaluing the Euro.

France and Germany will be strongly rooting for a united currency, since they are the two member states with the most stable economies and increasing GDP growth rate. Thus, the EU’s fallout is going to cause them the maximum collateral damage. With a clear resounding ‘No‘ mandate given by the Greeks in the referendum voting, the situation boils down to two possible outcomes:

I. If Greece continues to stay in the Eurozone

With the debt evaluated at over $330 billion, Greece has now become the first developed nation to default on a loan. This often makes me wonder what the real definition of ‘developed’, ‘developing’ and ‘third-world’ nations is.

It’s in Europe’s best interests to keep Greece within the Eurozone –  since this fallout would damage the EU’s financial institutions, not to mention plummeting of the Euro. It is imperative for the leaders to keep the region united, as it may cause untold damage to the EU’s image, making it clear that any country’s membership in the Eurozone can be revoked based on its stability. It seems more likely that a partial consensus on Greece’s new terms will be reached by Saturday and a new mutually beneficial framework will be formed. However, for such a success, Germany and France will have to loosen up their strings and make sure the negotiations take place swiftly. It is pretty clear to all the creditors that without a substantial debt relief, it is impossible for Greece to rise again. For that to happen, Greece needs to stay within the Eurozone and comply with ECB policies and reforms.

II. If Greece exits the Eurozone (Grexit)

With an astounding 61.31% ‘No‘ mandate given by the Greek population, it was quite evident that the radical leftist party of Alexis Tsipras will not bend to the EU’s glorified austerity measures in return for the debt bailout package. Athens has been successful in buying a week’s time by promoting the ‘NO’ campaign and now it gets a chance to table its own new set of economic reforms and financial measures. It will be interesting to see how well the Greek government strikes a middle ground in these negotiations as Brussels sets itself up for a tough face-off, even with a possible Grexit plan being drafted in the process.

Grexit will escalate the economic tensions and send shock waves across the Europe! Greece will look to switch back to Drachma from Euro. This transition needs to be a careful step-wise process. It will take time for the new currency to gain credibility which may lead to increase in inflation and unemployment rates.

Greece
Will the lightening strike Athens? 

Can we have a win-win situation?

It will be a win-win situation if there is no need for the upcoming EU summit. Both Greece and its creditors must reach a common ground to seal a profitable deal before Sunday. The terms need to ensure a long term stability supported by economic reforms suitable to Greece. Needless to say, Greece requires a strong support from its creditors to lift itself from public debt and to break the shackles of economic burden permanently. ECB will need to pump in liquidity to ventilate the falling banking system as a priority. 

In one way Greece did the right thing by voting ‘No‘ in the referendum. It would have otherwise although not permanently, suppressed sustainable development in the region for a long time. But, this comes at a price: the success of negotiations and further stability rests on the last few threads of responsibility and accountability which Greece should be wary of.   

Athens will look to opt for a final exit from this situation even though this means a temporary exit from the Eurozone and Euro. It will be less of a smart move from both the parties if the talks fail, especially when both Asia and the US are pressing for a deal. Germany must learn from its past and not forget the London Agreement of 1953 which effectively cut down its post World War II debt in half. There is an opportunity and responsibility for states like France and Italy to mediate the negotiations, however Germany must be careful of a possible political advantage these states might try to leverage on.

What about its implications on Asia and the US?

There won’t be any direct serious implications on the US and Asia since the worst case scenario of a possible Grexit has been accounted for, while calculating risks across the markets. It is not much of a problem for the US since Greece is not a major exporter but we should expect USD to grow stronger as the week progresses. Similar is the case with most of the Asian markets. Japan along with US, is rooting for a favorable outcome. However, it will be ignorant if one under-estimates the concerns of Grexit in causing volatility across financial markets and harm to economic growth.

What can we conclude? 

There are many other important strings tangled beyond the ones described here and only time will tell how events will unfold. The upcoming emergency EU summit in Brussels holds the key to the fate of not only Greece, but entire Europe and the EU (if required in first place). By then, if a deal is struck between Tsipras and the creditors based on new T&Cs, we might see a stable era dawning on the EU.  However, it’s too early to speak! The kind of economic reforms the world expects from Athens and the EU’s leadership is of a more permanent nature, putting an end to the prevailing economic problems once and for all. The governing institutions as well as the member states need to swallow the bitter pill and take necessary austerity measures to stabilize this turmoil.

To quote New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and a Nobel laureate – “No matter whether Greece stays or leaves the Eurozone by coming Sunday – the referendum just showed that the democracy is much more important than any currency arrangement, something for the world to cheer about amidst chaos and confusion.”

 

(Edited by Rashmi Rajshekhar)

References – 

[1] – http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/07/what-happens-if-greece-exits-the-eurozone.html

[2] – http://europa.eu/about-eu/eu-history/index_en.htm

[3] – http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-07-05/greece-contemplates-nuclear-options-may-print-euros-implement-parallel-currency-nati

[4] – http://sputniknews.com/europe/20150707/1024325946.html

[5] – http://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2015/jul/05/greeces-eurozone-future-in-the-balance-as-referendum-gets-under-way–eu-euro-bailout-live#block-559979d2e4b032a39a3ba8fa

[6] – http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33435601

[7] – http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/jul/07/greek-debt-crisis-alex-tsipras-seeks-last-chance-deal-live

[8] – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/07/guardian-view-on-greek-crisis-time-for-french-connection-francois-hollande

[9] – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/07/us-and-japan-increase-pressure-on-europe-to-reach-a-deal-with-greece

[10] – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/11369124/Greece-wont-leave-the-euro-but-Alexis-Tsipras-is-going-to-make-this-very-messy.html

[11] – http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/07/news/economy/greece-drachma-currency-cash/

[12] – http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/07/economist-explains-2

[13] – http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/05/us-eurozone-greece-idUSKBN0P40EO20150705

[14] – http://abcnews.go.com/Business/greeces-economy-affect-us/story?id=32252631

[15] – http://www.cnbc.com/id/102810382



India and the Middle East – Decoding the ‘Look West’ Policy

By Vighnesh Nayakedited by @sahilpotnis

Foreign policy of India has received a lot of attention lately due to the exuberant activity displayed by the Ministry of External Affairs and the PMO in conducting a host of successful bilateral talks with top global leaders. The primary objective of foreign policy is to facilitate the domestic transformation of India by engaging with other countries and try to protect our positive efforts in building and changing the country for the better. It is important that we create a global environment which is secure and safe for all the Indian citizens here and living abroad. I believe that foreign policy should not be viewed as an instrument to prove your power and hegemony in the international community but as a means to achieve your domestic objectives and interests with the support of other nations. In order to create an affable environment, it is important to rethink assumptions and pre-conceived notions about many countries and develop a broad-minded view of the world.

Middle East
Image Source: Allied Media

Middle East has always been viewed through the prism of conflicts, unrest and controversy. The chief constituent countries which are a part of Middle East include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and other nations. It comprises of very poor countries like Gaza and Yemen to extremely wealthy nations like UAE and Qatar (they are super-rich!). Middle East nations form an integral part of India’s neighborhood and most of the nations are of extremely critical importance to India’s economic, political, security and strategic areas. When we speak about a “Look West” policy, the policy refers to the nations that lie on the western side of India. Most of the Middle East countries lie in the western neighborhood of India and hence need special attention while framing the international policy. This forms an important part of India’s overall foreign policy especially at this crucial point when Obama’s willingness to open new fronts in Asian diplomacy seem to have faded. Indian policy makers are striving to strike that perfect balance between maintaining peace in the SAARC region, deep blue waters (don’t neglect China here) and middle east co-operation at same time.

Image Source: Free WorldMaps
Image Source: Free World Maps

The map above shows how clustered the middle east region looks like, which I believe is one of the key factors influencing the geo-politics in the region. Indian connections with the Arab world existed since the days of antiquity and they have played an important role in cultivation of relations. There have been a lot of cultural exchanges between the Arab nations and India. Sufi tradition has its roots in the Indo-Arab interactions. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the Sufi Saint whose dargah in Ajmer attracts hordes of followers was an Arab. Many Arabic words have their linguistic influences not only in Hindi and Urdu but also in Malayalam and Gujarati. Literary classics like Arabian Nights, Alif Laila have been extremely popular in India. Moral stories from the Aesop’s fables and the Panchatantra have gained equal mileage in India and theArab World respectively. There are many dimensions to Indo-Arab relations and the Arab world has left an indelible imprint on India’s history, culture and civilization.

The Middle East is a primary source of India’s growing oil requirements, residence of approximately seven million expatriate workers, a lucrative haven for India’s exports, an important source of revenue and a potentially critical partner in defense co-operation, intelligence sharing and combating terrorism. When the countries in the Middle East experienced the oil boom, India helped those countries by providing them with the human resources as those countries strengthened their infrastructure. The Indian laborers were initially blue collared workers but gradually we have managed to provide the gulf countries with technically skilled professionals, managers and accountants with relevant experience in the oil and gas business domain.

India’s Regional Dynamics with Middle East- 

In spite of having huge stakes in the Middle East region, India has traditionally followed a reluctant approach when it comes to engaging with the major countries in the Middle East. There are many reasons behind this approach. New Delhi has been wary of popular uprisings and revolts caused during the Arab Spring [1].This prudent and dovish approach is due to the fact that these revolutions can cause major distortions and disruptions in the global energy market. The Indian government heavily subsidizes public sector domestic oil companies and products making it vulnerable to market volatility, especially if the Indian rupee falls relative to the U.S. dollar. Another point of contention for India is the forex remittances obtained from the Middle East. Any Western intervention or any major shift in policy which affects the status quo puts New Delhi on the back-foot because the intervention can directly impact this cash-flow.

(Image Source: Pew Research Center: Remittance Flows Worldwide in 2012)
(Image Source: Pew Research Center: Remittance Flows Worldwide in 2012)

The Israel-Palestine conflict also is a focal point that needs attention when it comes to discussing the Middle East policy. While India has traditionally supported the cause of an independent Palestine state, the recent developments with respect to its policy towards Israel has put many question marks on the faces of policy makers. Israel and India have had favorable trade relations and in more recent times, tourist relations have improved due to Jewish presence in different parts of India. An ill prepared India was able to tactfully counter the Kargil incursion by Pakistani troops due to timely Israeli intervention. India has been a lucrative market for Israel’s defense products and services. India is the second largest export market for Israel and Israel is India’s seventh largest trading partner. There is talk of a bilateral free trade agreement; though India’s turbulent domestic politics will continue to prompt New Delhi to proceed with caution. Subramanian Swamy, a prominent leader of the BJP, has written widely on alliance with Israel but it must be noted that the ulterior propaganda of right wing politicians and parties is mainly using this issue as a beating whip to the minority Muslim population in the country [3]. India and Israel have had similar problems in combating terrorism. Israel combats with Hamas operating from the Gaza strip and India has to fight the likes of Lashkar-e-taiba operating from Pakistan. Owing to similarity in these issues, India and Israel always share the same natural synergies. It is quite clear that New Delhi values its relations with Tel Aviv but not at the cost of the Arab countries. India, with its 150-million-strong Muslim population, has long been a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and remains staunchly committed to an independent Palestinian state.

Traditional Indian policymakers have a cynical approach in viewing the Western mediation in the Middle East. As we know that history repeats itself, Indian policymakers tend to view recent Western intervention in the Middle East as comparable to the U.S. funded and Pakistan-led exercise to support separatist opposition forces in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union’s invasion in 1979. Suhasini Haider, strategic affairs editor of The Hindu- a widely read Indian newspaper correctly echoed these sentiments in an editorial. [2]

Diplomacy with Iran and Saudi – 

India is particularly wary of Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting ultra-conservative Islamists, a caution compounded by India’s pragmatic relationship with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are extremely important to New Delhi. Saudi Arabia is home to a large Indian population and is an important trade partner. Trade between both countries was estimated at $43 billion for 2012-2013, crude oil imports by India are a major component of this trade. As India is the fifth largest market for Saudi exports, the latter is also India’s sixth largest export market. India’s ties with Saudi Arabia have become independent of India’s tensions with Pakistan. The defense co-operation agreement signed recently between the two countries seeks to enhance cooperation in areas such as information sharing as well as military training and education.

Iran, on the other hand also is a vital geo-strategic partner for India. India is heavily dependent on Iran for energy, with the latter already India’s second largest supplier of crude oil. India, one of the largest aid donors to Afghanistan, has no contiguous corridor to Afghanistan and must rely on Iran for access. Both countries share a common goal in Afghanistan – to ensure that the Pakistan-backed Taliban does not return to power. India and Iran have few opportunities to explore synergies and projects in the context of Afghanistan. An example is the Chabahar port, which would provide India with access to Central Asia and Afghanistan. India can no longer afford to ignore Iran or Saudi Arabia, allow ties to be driven by fixation on Pakistan, or view relations through the banal Shia-Sunni lens. With the Saudi government flagging radicalism as a major threat, Saudi Arabia may emerge as an important partner for India.

Following Infographic gives a glimpse of strained relations in the middle-east region –

Middle East: Friends & Foes
Middle East: Friends & Foes

The Way Ahead for India – 

New Delhi’s actions suggest a clear intent to reorganize India’s provincial losses and to boost its standing on the arena of world politics. One of the trademark’s of Modi’s foreign policy is that it is shear of ideology, with pragmatism being the hallmark. The Prime Minister has demonstrated a knack and an acute sense of political will to employ levelheaded and firm ideas in both domestic and foreign policies. For instance, he has launched a “Make in India” mission to turn the country into an export-driven powerhouse like China and Japan and to transform it from being the world’s largest importer of weapons to becoming an important arms exporter. Modi’s clarity and vision, coming after a long era of ad hoc, reactive Indian diplomacy, is seen as a welcome change for India in the Middle East regarding India’s treatment to its Muslim population. The Middle East nations might exhibit a small degree of preference towards Pakistan as expected but that should not deter India’s engagement policies.

New Delhi & Istanbul –

Turkey has been a country that has long been off the radar for diplomatic engagement. Historically, India extended support in the 1920’s to Turkey’s War of Independence and the formation of the Turkish republic. Mahatma Gandhi himself took a stand against the injustices inflicted on Turkey at the end of World War-1. Turkey represents a big under-exploited opportunity for India: a secular democracy with a fast-growing economy, it ought to be a close ally, but has been locked for decades in a pro-Pakistan policy crafted under successive military regimes in both those countries. This is gradually changing, and with burgeoning trade (currently over $7.6 billion and growing), a distinct note of warmth has been creeping into the relationship. Many geo-strategists are bullish on their hopes on the development between Indo-Turkish relations. One such instance can be seen in this editorial by a Turkish journalist [4]. Amitav Ghosh, an acclaimed novelist has also drawn parallels between Recap Erdogan. The Prime Minister of Turkey and Narendra Modi. He says “The similarities in these two political careers are such as to suggest that something more than coincidence is at work here, something systemic. Erdogan and Modi are men of their time and have both come to power by riding a wave of neo-liberal globalization: their rise is proof that an economic ideology, when wrapped in a packaging of religious symbols and gestures, can have a tremendous electoral allure.”[5].

India has been overburdened already near its region: increasing border violations from Pakistan, rising Chinese influence across the border (and in the Indian Ocean) and a fragile, vulnerable Afghanistan. As a nation which aspires to have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and with a large amount of economic and security interests at stake, India should engage more with the countries in the Middle East. India can leverage its unusually strong points like positive relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel to increase its influence in the Middle East. As other BRICS nations like China and Russia have already established their firm footing in the region, the West would surely appreciate a broader and engaging role by India. An increased Indian engagement in the region would truly make India from a traditionally “non-aligned” country to a progressive “multi-aligned” nation!

References –

[1] http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Arab_Spring

[2]http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/wars-without-winners/article6210828.ece

[3]https://twitter.com/swamy39/status/489604005522190338

[4]http://www.turkishweekly.net/columnist/3898/turkey-india-relations-under-modi-a-new-opportunity.html

[5]http://amitavghosh.com/blog/?p=6857

(Vighnesh Nayak is a Telecom Engineer currently working with Tata Consultancy Services. He loves to write on Politics, Foreign Policy and carefully follows India’s position on rising global issues) 



A Viewpoint on Self-Reflexive Media

By Todd Bollinger,

The balkanization of modern media has attracted much attention with regards to its effects on modern politics, social studies, and human interaction. I argue that, while technological advancements have enhanced or streamlined humanity’s inclination toward sectarianism and like-minded social groups, this facet of news media is merely an extension of our preference for confirmation bias and the familiar, as well as our fear of ideological conflict and cognitive dissonance. Media in the 21st century has the potential to encourage human discussion, but is more often used to discourage it.

We humans tend to live and interact with others who look, think, or act like us, and who identify with the same groups or causes that we do. Modern media, including everything from 24-hours television news networks to online blogs and social media platforms, reinforce our inclination to study the world we’d like to see, or to study the world the way we’d prefer to study it. Modern media, especially within the online digital realm, allows us to easily, comfortably remain within like-minded ideological safe-spaces where vehement (but respectful) disagreements, objective discussions, and conflicts of opinion are avoided or minimized.

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In other words, the rise of digital media has played a huge role in further segregating population demographics based on race, sex, economic class, and political persuasion. 24-hour “info-tainment” networks and the proliferation of the Internet compound humanity’s inclination toward sectarianism and confirmation bias.

But notice my phrasing, there — “compound humanity’s inclination…” Social and news media have only exacerbated these aspects of human nature, the desire to live within a likeminded social circle (or “tribe,” if you will) and the wanting, dare I say the need to be told we are in the right. The segregation of human thought and discussion within the Internet and on television is merely an extension of our basic human instincts. Facebook, Twitter, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News did not create our closeminded nature, but they sure as hell stoke the sectarian programming within us. Human beings love self-affirmation and self-validation. What easier way to embrace those predispositions than watching our own TV show, news network, Facebook group, or online news blog tailored specifically for us? How convenient!

This painfully human dilemma can perhaps be summarized by the following quote:

Mike Stoklasa: “Most people are dumb, and don’t like to be challenged intellectually or emotionally. They like the familiar and gravitate towards the safe and non-confrontational.” ***

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Modern media and the Internet can be used to more easily exchange contrasting ideas and differences of opinion, but they often aren’t. People tend to use media to reinforce their established views of the world, rather than challenge them. Therefore, the bulk of the power of the media and the World Wide Web is used to streamline human discussion rather than enhance it. The potential for greater, more fruitful human interaction is there, but the reality is something else entirely.

Before you ask, no, trolling and disrespectful political arguments on Internet comment-sections don’t count as meaningful discussions or cultural exchange. These childish conflicts are merely the modern updates of the same ape hoots, hollers, and chest beatings seen throughout human history. People don’t understand that the concept of “trolling” is simply counterproductive human banter extended into the digital world. No one’s learning anything from each other except for how incredibly easy it is for people to be assholes and to make fools of themselves. This behavior was not created by the Millennial Generation or the Internet. It has always been there, side-by-side with our need to fit in with our peers.

This fear of ideological conflict and inclination toward likeminded groupthink isn’t limited to political news or the press, but in all kinds of media from literature to music to videogames and movies. Do you think most liberals went into American Sniper (2014) with an objective, honest mindset or even bothered giving the film the time of day? By that same logic, do you think most conservatives bother watching racial dramas like 12 Years a Slave (2013) or Dope (2015), or give two shits about “thought-provoking” environmental documentaries like Food Inc (2008), The Cove (2009), or Sicko (2007)?

No, we watch the movies and read the news and listen to the anchors that reflect the world as we want to see it, or how we’ve been told to see it. We like our own little media worlds and cultural villages of familiar thought to keep us safe, surrounded, and conformed. Why do you think most conservatives never venture outside of Fox news or their small-town villages, where racism, homophobia, and anti-intellectual blue-collar bragging are regarded as full-time professions, where higher education is taunted and seen as emasculating (or at best an irritable means to an end), and where most every facet of redneck life concerns fishing, hunting, guns, and light beer? Why do you think most liberals gravitate toward Huffington Post, Bill Maher, or The Daily Show, and concentrate in urban centers where everyone composts, where you can attend feminist bookshops and lesbian art galleries, where everyone loathes America and dreams of moving to Europe (or traveling to India or Nepal to find “enlightenment,” or whatever), and everyone has a politically correct thumb up their asses?

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Why? Because it makes us feel safe! Also, we are incredibly lazy.

Please note how nothing in this human limitation has to do with who is actually in the right on the modern political spectrum, or which group is more in touch with reality with regards to each and every sociological debate. Who is “right” or “wrong” is beside the point. What matters is how we repeatedly close off our minds and our lives to the larger world around us, how we deny ourselves the admittedly often uncomfortable yet invaluable ideological conflicts that are necessary for intellectual growth. In addition to cheating ourselves of philosophical maturation, we also cheat our political “rivals” by refusing to see the world from their point of view and validating their own personal experiences. By refusing to partake in honest discussion and civil confrontation with those whom we disagree, by refusing empathy, we reject the best of human instincts and embrace the worst. Now we can ignore our political opposites faster than ever before, despite the potential to learn more about one another being easier than in any previous point in human history.

As a society, we have to come to grips with the fact that we are mostly creatures of habit, and we are all insecure enough to need the world to tell us we’re right. We are not that self-aware or that brave. We’re not built to be risk takers or rebels or to be terribly creative. Modern media simply embraces these aspects of human nature and makes those instincts that much more convenient to accept. We can blame 24-hour news networks and CNN and Fox News and the Internet all we want, and we probably should to some extent — but at the end of the day, the real problem lies within people more so than the news sources toward which they congregate. The real problem is us.

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

***Quote from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHiceVim9Wg [Red Letter Media, 55:15-58:30]


Author Summary –

Hi, my name is Todd. I spend most of my time online at my personal blog, ExpressElevatortoHell.com, where I write about movies, music, television, videogames, and other popular arts.

I’m really, really liberal, but I hate liberal arts colleges. I have a mancrush on Tom Hardy and an actual crush on Priyanka Chopra and Daisy Ridley. I love violence in movies, but find most superhero movies bland, tame, and childish. Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are as fun, to me, as most redneck country music. I hate people who call themselves nerds, but actually are not. I also can’t stand most other nerds. My religion is Star Wars, and I pray to the Star Wars Gods.

If something I write doesn’t offend you, either you didn’t read carefully enough or I apologize that I left you out!


Disclaimer: View expressed in this post are solely that of the author. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

Why humans run the world

Interesting analysis.

ideas.ted.com

History professor Yuval Noah Harari — author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind — explains why humans have dominated Earth. The reason is not what you might expect.

70,000 years ago humans were insignificant animals. The most important thing to know about prehistoric humans is that they were unimportant. Their impact on the world was very small, less than that of jellyfish, woodpeckers or bumblebees.

Today, however, humans control this planet. How did we reach from there to here? What was our secret of success, that turned us from insignificant apes minding their own business in a corner of Africa, into the rulers of the world?

We often look for the difference between us and other animals on the individual level. We want to believe that there is something special about the human body or human brain that makes each individual human vastly superior to a dog, or a pig, or…

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