Archive for the ‘Living Sustainably’ Category

In emerging economies, rapid urbanization poses unprecedented challenges. A positive spin-off of the same appears to be an acceleration in the rate of innovation.

Perhaps, urban spaces enable the coming together of creative minds, thereby fuelling innovation?

Here is a thought-provoking post on the subject.

understanding innovation

In their quest for the commonalities and differences between cities and companies, Geoffrey West and his team came across the crucial interplay between those two social structures. And from those findings, we can see that the role of cities in innovation is a lot stronger than we usually realise.

A grand idea

The heart of the matter is superlinear scaling, a unique characteristic of cities that has no analog in biology or in other social systems: a city with double the number of citizens will generate more than twice as much wealth, will be more than twice as productive, will deliver more than twice as much innovation. This phenomenon occurs regardless of city location, and it has massive effects.

If you think about the development of a specific city that grows over time, we can predict that by the time it reaches twice its current size, its wealth generation, productivity and innovation…

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Right across India, power cuts are an essential part of living. Getting regular power supply remains a utopia. Every time the government of the day announces an ambitious scheme to assure the hapless citizens that the 24 by 7 power days are just around the corner, there is a sense of severe skepticism and déjà vu.

I propose that we look at the positive side to the present power crisis that we face. I am not only referring to all the entrepreneurs who have shifted to manufacturing inverters of all sizes and shapes and are raking in handsome profits these days! Even ordinary laymen like you and I would also ruefully look back at this period. Let me put across some highlights of the unique experience of the “dark ages” we live in at present!

Just like the advent of the Internal Combustion engine ruined our lifestyles, making us forget to walk, electricity has also played havoc with our lives. We have lost touch with the primordial cycle of the Sun. We tend to live a life which is unhealthy. Within a family, various members live in greater isolation, sometimes depriving the younger generation of our rich cultural heritage and value systems.

In the presence of power, we sleep when we get tired watching the idiot box. We get up when we feel like. If the birds chirp too noisily in the mornings, or early sunlight starts disturbing our slumber, we merely draw the curtains tighter and doze off to catch a few winks more. Most of us have come to believe in the adage that “it is the early worm which gets caught!”

Thanks to electricity, we have lost close touch with our near and dear ones. Like elsewhere, life in a semi-urban environment is heavily dependent on the availability of power. Enter my house on any lucky evening these days – when power is available – and you will find that while the lady of the house is busy watching a cultural program on the telly, I would be fooling around with my desktop in another room. Son would pop up late from work, and get busy with his laptop in his bedroom. Daughter-in-law would be operating either a microwave or a grinder in the kitchen, whereas the granddaughter would be busy watching some inane channel on another TV in the bedroom.

Poof… goes the power. Another unscheduled power cut! Since repeated cuts have drained out the battery, our inverter is not in an obliging mood. With a sense of resignation, the whole family assembles in the outer courtyard of the house. A soothing silence pervades the house. We enjoy a gentle breeze under a clear star-lit sky. A soft moonlight is lovingly caressing all of us. My granddaughter is enjoying the cosmic scenery and starts chasing a bemused firefly in the lawn.

Slowly, as we get accustomed to the natural surroundings, conversation gets around to some key problems being faced by the family. My son’s impending transfer comes up for discussion; so does the need to minimize granddaughter’s exposure to the multitude of TV channels which profess to be meant for kids but are brazenly violent in their content.

The quality of family bonding we get by virtue of being power-less for a few hours is priceless. We end up eating an early dinner. After some more chit-chat, the family gets to sleep rather early. The result is a good night’s rest. Next morning, we wake up early, fully refreshed. I go for my constitutional, whereas son and daughter-in-law go off to a gym nearby. Since there is a feeling that power may go off any time, wife gets busy with her breakfast preparations rather early. Overall, the day starts on a positive note.

Imagine having uninterrupted supply of power – 24 by 7. Shall we not end up losing the power of being power-less? Would we be able to enjoy the same feeling of togetherness within the family then?! Surely, all the family members would need to exercise much greater self-control on their daily habits to be able to live a healthy, harmonious and well-knit life together!


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The way we have been mistreating Mother Earth, plundering its precious resources, the day is not far off when we shall be making wide-eyed touristy visits to Earth II, one of the new discoveries by astronomers of planets which imitate the climatic comfort zone of our Earth. Such planets offer our species a second chance to learn to rein in its greed, behave more responsibly and live in a more sustainable fashion! Some of us may even decide to settle down there, in relative calm and repose, devoid of slogan mongering crowds, chaotic traffic conditions and garbage laden habitations.

Even if Earth II is said to be 600 light years away, a small distance by galactic standards, at our current space travel capabilities it might take us 22 million years to cover the 9.4 trillion km to Kepler-22b, the current hot favorite amongst strong contenders for the title of Earth II. Sure enough, our scientists would soon find ways and means of not only making us travel closer to the speed of light but also of extending our life spans, so a successful trip could be made. Even if this were not to come about, our future generations, born and brought up on space shuttles, could surely end up colonizing Earth II.

Since the trip would be frightfully expensive, only a collaborative effort by all the major economies of Earth would be able to pull it off. So, there will be a single planet administered by an UN-like body, and no countries at all! To put it simply, no passports, no visas and no currency exchange blues. Possibly, only an Aadhar no. to identify its habitants!

Kepler-22b is said to have a year of around 290 days. This would imply that the number of government holidays would need to be rigorously pruned down, so the official machinery may deliver some results. The number of sessions of our legislative bodies would get curtailed, providing much relief to our elected representatives who could possibly utilize the extra time for developing their constituencies in right earnest. This would imply their becoming more pro-active, bringing in policy measures designed to address such mundane issues as farmers’ suicides, etc.

The private sector, already a stickler to 24x7x365 working, would have to re-engineer its processes to ensure that the same amount of work would get done in 290 days. In other words, higher productivity norms would follow, thereby giving the original earthlings a run for their money. Management institutes advocating the mantras of higher efficiency and productivity would sprout all over. Since the executive compensation packages will be more lucrative, employees would be queuing up for promotions to a branch on Earth II. As a result, HR honchos would be breathing easy.

The weather on Kepler-22b is said to be moderate all over, so burnt out executives would no longer feel like venturing out to fancy locales on exotic vacations. With little diversity in climatic conditions at the poles and at the equator of Earth II, tour operators would shut shop and instead take up more serious vocations which would boost the economy of the entire planet. There will be no reason to take off from work, leaving managements laughing all the way to the bank.

As to hapless employees, having no avenues for leisure related expenditure, savings would multiply, resulting into funds getting ploughed back to Mother Earth, thereby resolving the crunch being experienced by most of our developed economies. Bankers and financial consultants handling inter-stellar transfer of funds would have a field day.

Another advantage of having moderate climate all over the planet would be to do away with such carbon generating gadgets as air-conditioners. Power requirements would be a fraction of what they are on Mother Earth. Earth II is said to be mostly water bound. So hydro-energy would be the mainstay of civilization. There would be no need to grapple with the cost benefit analysis of power from other sources like thermal or nuclear.

With valuable lessons learnt from over-drawing on the resources of Earth I, our future generations may adopt a more eco-friendly and sustainable style of living on Earth II. Come New Year 2112, and this could well be a real prospect. Amen!


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