Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the time dependance of Ethics

Imagine this, a village child is hungry and has a big chunk of cake kept next to her. But she is not havng it - because it does not belong to her. Thats seems like the right thing to do, right? Not taking something that does not belong to you seems correct.

Now, imagine if a few hours have gone by and still no one has come to claim it. Would you call it morally correct that she does not take the cake? Now consider if a day has passed and no one claims it. Would you now call her descision to not take it, moral? Now, if the cake is about to get spoilt and wasted, would you still call it moral correct to not take it?

The only thing that changes in this example is the time frame and it affects our sense of right and wrong.

This is not just a case with perishable goods, it goes for non-perishables as well. If a house is not being used for long enough, its ok to use it, right? But who decides long enough? Is one day enough to decide that the house owner is not going to come back? One month? One year? A decade? Fourteen years? Fifty years? A hundred years? The question is where do you draw the line. Time increases in continous fashion. And our sense of morally acceptable and not acceptable is dependant on two discreet (and ambiguisly defined) lengths of time - Long and Not-so-long.

Our inherent sense of right and wrong is based on our understanding of timeframes and it seems to change with it.

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On the ownership of Ethics

Arent there days when you really want to do some good to the society? When you feel the pain of the people around you and want to contribute to the society? I am sure everyone of us has been in such a state before.

Now, imagine yourself to be in such a situation. You see a hungry beggar sitting on the pavment, two steps from you. You offer him the sandwich that you were about to eat. Good deed done, right?

If you had paid for it, indeed. But consider if someone else had paid for it. Then, would it be morally correct for you to give away the sandwich? If you did not have a mandate to give off something you did not own, isnt that wrong on your part to transfer it to someone else?

If you think that its ok to give the sandwich even when you did not own it, think how this can be extended. I could give off anything to anyone even if I dont have a thing. So potentially I could transfer all of Mukesh Ambani's wealth and give it off to my friendly neighbourhood beggar and feel happy for myself that I did a good job today. Or, I could give off all his money to the poor guy that I am, and feel proud of myself.

Charity makes sense only when you can own it up to youself.

Btw, all this money transfers should statestically lead to an equilibrium where every member has the same amount of money. Though this would be extremely unstable as people will like to have a bit more than others which would give them some advantage. Hence to maintain that equilibrium, an external force has to be applied. And now it appears that I am talking about communist governments. Ah, the digressions mind takes, from charity to communism!

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Mandated - Too important to fail

Recently, I visited Scotland and the first thing that I noticed (apart from the breathtaking view, that is) was the fact that currency notes were guaranteed by the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was extremely surprising given the fact that most banks that guarantee the payments of the amounts denominated are central banks. And central banks do not operate as commercial or investment banks (which RBS does).

And the fact that RBS was indeed rescued by the British taxpayer during the last crisis, gives more weight to my suspicion that it is mandated by the government to be too important to fail. A vast majority of the notes in circulation in Scotland are RBS guaranteed and hence the government can just not afford it collapsing.

Some thing even more surprising was the fact that England was one of the first countries to have a central bank and almost all of world's central banks are based on its model. Central banks operate in accordance to the government's fiscal policy and since they do not have any financial arms, they are immune to shocks from market crashes. This typically gives more credibility to a country's economic system. So if tomorrow the markets crash down, and RBS looses so much money that people lose trust in RBS's promise to pay the bearer an amount equal to the denominated pound value, a run on the bank occurs and all of the country's financial system stops working. To me that is a very scary thought. The only was the government can stop a run on the bank is such a case, is by mandating that RBS is too big and important to fail. So whatever happens, government will have to provide assets to back up all the banks that issue notes on its behalf.

As I later realised, "Clydesdale Bank" also issues currency notes. Now what is not clear to me is if all banks in Scotland are mandated to issue notes on their own or not. Though entirely possible,  this does not strike me as particularly prudent. Essentially the government then risks having the credit rating of the worst credit rating of the bank issuing notes.

It is possible that the government has only allowed banks to issue notes in return of some highly under valued collateral so that it can withstand the shocks, but I am not sure about it. Anyone who can enlighten me on that? Also I would really like to know how such a sytem evolved in Scotland when England had a central bank system. Any guesses?

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Communication gap - His and Her

Anokhi : We are not going to need this ever, why even bother drafting and signing it?
Ishan : Its just a contingency document.

Anokhi : But you think it might happen.
Ishan : I just want to be sure that we dont have hard feelings, in case.

Anokhi : In case? Incase of what Ishan? Divorce, right? I dont think there can be any divorce if there are no hard feelings. Adding some more would not really hurt then.
Ishan: But I just wanted to be sure.

Anokhi : Sure that you dont lose anything when you get a divorce?
Ishan : I was thinking of if rather than when.

Anokhi : Ishan, thinking of a pre-nuptial agreement is thinking of a divorce even before you get married.
Ishan : I once heard a maxim - Dont get in unless you know the way out.

Anokhi : Then maybe you hould not get in at all.

And Mars and Venus need to know about each other to understand them.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chatting - His and Hers Hi : Hey, Hi
                                         How are you? Hope you remember me, we met last night
                                          I am fine. was just sitting and thinking how awesome yesterday was. : yes, it was good. DJ Raunak does infuse life in a party. .Yes, he most certainly does.
                                          Btw, the music wasn't the only thing that awesome yesterday. : is it? I did not notice anything else being cool.  Hmm, ah well, hmm ya , as in
                                           ya, there weren't too many things happening also. : Though I was asked on the dance floor by an OK type guy. :) It was small gathering anyway
                                          I am sure that guy would be awfully flattered at being considered OK :) : Hmm, I do try to bring smiles to people, you know. You know, I was scared that I might forget your email id - after all we had had enough booze to sedate an entire army :) : You had had a lot more than me.
                                         and why do you think I wrote my id down and gave it to you? :)
                                         Btw, totally love these expressions you come up with. You have read such expressions before? 
                                          :( I was hoping  to impress you with these :( : Yes, I read them on your blog. And you have read my blog too. So its like I dont have an iota of chance to impress you. : You really are as naive as you sounded yesterday.
                                         First up, I would like to know more about the guy I was dancing with last night. -                                               Atleast more than his name is Ankit and works at an Investment bank.
                                          And if I were you, I would try to capitalize on the fact that girl has read my blog - rather than ruing how I could have lifted things from there. :P Being verbose is not something that comes naturally to me
                                          I typically need a lot of alcohol in my system before that happens :) : :)
                                         I can at least vouch for you being verbose when inebriated :) Anyway, if I remember correct, you are a Mexican food specialist chef at a five star hotel. : I like that you could manage to remember so much from last night.
                                         Yes, I am chef (you could guess that from the id itself  :) )
                                         Let me see if you remember something not-so-obvious Hmm, not-so-obvious .. Telling you that you have an extremely pretty smile would be extremely obvious, so thats ruled out.
                                         And that the way that you remove those hair strands from in front of your face - it makes my knees go weak. - but even that might be obvious
                                          Something that might not be so obvious to you is that to muster the courage to talk to you, I had to gulp down much more beer than I normally do. : I like it when flirting is concealed under a sheath of "ah-so-obvious" ramblings :)
                                         And btw, it WAS obvious to me :) Now, thats interesting ..
                                          btw, you mentioned that you were moved by the plight that regionalism has brought and the hinderance it creates for national growth. : Yes, it sad, isn't it?
                                         National integration is indeed a burning problem right now. Whats the point of the country growing if all the people do not get some benefit out of it. Yes, and stopping people from working at certain areas, just reduces the economic efficiency of operation. If the leaders see this nation as a single entity, they would try to distribute resources as to develop the entire nation rather than parts of it. : Though we definitely dont a China-type communist rule - The government deciding where and what to invest. It would probably be best to frame policies to allow for growth everywhere and let economics take over from there on. Bingo ! If you were not a chef, you could have been an economist.
                                          Though I doubt if they dont automatically disqualify girls over a certain level of beauty. : What amazes me is that you can get to flirting from any topic. Don't you get bored of it? Someone once quipped about quitting smoking - "I have quit smoking many a times, but to be unnatural and not appreciate the beauty in front, its a insult to both the beauty and its maker." : Too much of cheesy lines can expand your waistline, you know? Is it?
                                          So do you leave calories count note of the kind "Without any chessy lines - 300. With a bit of flattery - 375. With pure and unabridged adulation - 550"? : :)
                                          I haven't done that yet, but now I have a mind to do that :)
                                          But before that I will have to ask my manager if he would be fine with such explanatory notes :) Good work ethos dictate that you do that.
                                          would you need some help in convincing your manager, do call in the (free) services of the author. : Hmm, I don't think it would be a good thing to take someone to pitch an idea for me.
                                        Maybe I can get more details sorted out about this idea before I meet him. Ya, that makes sense. How about tomorrow night, at 8?
                                           We can have a nice dinner and maybe discuss things there. : Seems good to me.
                                         See you tomorrow. And we will discuss only this idea then :) Yes, sure we will :) : Anyway, good night. got to get to work early to leave early. Good night.

And Mars and Venus continue to find excuses to bump into each other

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Monday, April 5, 2010

His and Hers

How can buying a pair of shoes be such a big deal? Why is Amrita making such  a fuss about me not accompanying her shoe-shopping? Maybe she is really tired, but then she shouldn't go - I don't understand this fixation with shopping! Bah, women!

How can Rahul not want to join me for shopping! We should now start doing things together. Just the other day he said he likes my shoes. Now that I want him to come and suggest things to me - not that I will allow him to choose, he has terrible sense of clothing and everything else associated with it. But still, we must spend time doing things as couples now. The way he seems to be avoiding such stuff gets me worried - is he not committed to make this work?

Its not as if I am going to choose shoes - or that she will let me do that. So whats the point of me going there?

I bet he has one of those stupid matches coming up. I just hate it when he does that. Everytime, everytime that we have to go somewhere - one of those cricket or football matches will be airing. And he will make some stupid excuses and abscond from whatever we were supposed to be doing. He does not even listen to me while the match is at "interesting" stage. Games are so passive! His, or for that matter anyone's viewing is not going to affect anything on the ground, so why bother watching. But who is to drill this logic in his head? That's why I have put the remote in a "safe" place so that he does not waste his time watching stupid things.

There is nothing to do now, I don't even seem to find the stupid remote. God knows where I kept it the last time. Amrita still expects me to go for that stupid shoe shop. Maybe I should go. Then after coming back, I can ask her to search for the remote. She is pretty good at finding things that get lost around here. She even found that Mumbai Indians t-shirt that I wore almost everyday before it was lost somewhere in the house itself. I love my wife!

Rahul has agreed to come shoe shopping with me! I am so fortunate to have such a caring husband. He is not the kind who professes his love, but he could not stand me going alone - and it gladdens me to no end. I will return the remote as soon as we get back here. I love my husband!

And Mars and Venus coexist.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Iran, Pakistan ink the gas pipeline deal without India

Pakistan signed a deal for the supply of natural gas 750 million metric cubic units a day to 1 billion cubic units a day. This deal was worth 7.5 billion USD. Though I really don't know the pricing of the gas.

The pipeline that was to come to India was to be 2700 Kms and now they have settled at only 900 Kms. Had India joined the deal, despite Pakistan's assurance that it will try to safeguard the pipeline, India can never be sure of the safety of the two-thirds of the pipeline that is non-critical to Pakistan.

Earlier India had made a statement saying that the transit tariff demanded by Pakistan is very high. It was speculated that this tariff would mean that Pakistan would have a significantly shorter investment recovery time than India.

And with the recent oil field investments by ONGC in Venezuela and Russia, and gas field discovery by RIL, India does not feel so pressed for energy as it once was.

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Facebook surpasses Google in the number of hits

Facebook had more number of hits than Google for the first time (in US) last week (ending March 13th 2010).This marks a huge shift in the internet usage pattern from the past.
Going by the usage, now connection seems to be more important than information.

Though Google owned sites, Youtube, Gmail and Picassa are widely visited, most of Google's revenues are from its sponsored search results.
Such usage changes could mean that companies looking for online advertisement might first look at Facebook than Google. Since Facebook allows one to join many special interest groups, the chances of landing a relevant ad is higher there. In the world of internet marketing, making the ad relevant is as important as anything else.
Though Gmail also has better targeted ads, based on your email content.

Be that as it may, the market leader has been displaced, and in the time to come, we can be sure of heightened war for the eyeballs.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

From being an engineer to a media guy

This is a query (and my response to it) that came on my school's alumni association site( about a guy who wants to go into media related role rather than being an engineer. I thought it might be of use to someone else who is reading this blog.
The text in green is the query.

Hari Om everyone,

Ah well m doin in comp science From NMIMS university.
So the thing is that i don like engg a lot..

I mean though i understand wat they teach here but i don like solving problems based on the things they teach.

And i have always been very keenly interested in media and communication,

So is there something i can do ..after graduation that would get me into my desired field...

Hope u reply soon....and i am gonna complete my graduation next year may...

Hi Rituraj, 

I see two parts in your query,  

1) Doing something based on your engineering skill is not about "solving problems". you have to build things based on the principles you learn in your classroom. It is not the same (and not as boring) as solving problems in an exam.  

2) And about your desire to work in the field of media and communication I am not very sure what you mean by that, are you talking about  
2.1) Journalism (print/ news channels) 
2.2) Advertising 
2.3) Compering 
2.4) Publishing house support and proof reading  

I don't know too much about you, so I am giving general pointers maybe you can see for yourself where you fit well and we can discuss that in greater detail.  

Given the fact that you have an engineering background, you are at a disadvantage vis-a-vis your competitors on two counts 
1) They have more "domain knowledge", and are typically good at articulating. 
2) Engineers are stereotyped as being bad at communication skills. And the fact that you dont have very many people from your background who have broken into this field certainly reinforces the stereotype.  

But, all is not lost You do have a few positives. 
1) Being an engineer, you can bring to the table a much needed skill of structured thinking. 
2) You will have a better understanding of products and businesses, So you can work well in a field that lets you analyse them. Maybe like a gadget guide thing, or a column on new trends in technology, or on stocks and share markets.  
All said, breaking into this world will take a lot of dedicated effort, for 
1) Prima facia, you dont have the specific skill set that such a job requires. 2)Its not glamorous - atleast not at the junior levels.  

Sure you can blabber an hour on how you actually do have those skills, but none of it is going to help you if you cant prove it. 
So my advice would be to go out there and make yourself known.  
1) Fish for events that need a compere - at college fests, products promotion events etc. 
2) Look for FM radio stations that call for guest jockey. 
3) Look out for competitions that ask for marketing ideas. 
4) Try and get a marketing internship. 
These will help you in two ways, one this will get you some experience, and more importantly, it will help you build a network of people who know that you are talented. The latter will help you a lot in getting you the proverbial foot-in-the-door.  

If, however you feel that structured learning is the way to go for you, There is this college called Mudra Institute of communications - Ahmedabad. This, I have heard is the best B-School to go to if want a career in advertising.  

I hope this helps you. Do get back to me here on this forum or at if you want to discuss something specific.  

All the very best. You have more than a year at your college. Make the best use of it.  


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Friday, February 26, 2010

Book review : if god was a banker : dont buy, dont even read even when offered for free.

I normally dont write book reviews, and thats mainly because almost all books I read, lead me to thoughts I enjoy more that writing a book review.

If there was one book that I felt that I wasted my money by buying it, it was this book.
Surely, 'There was a good guy and there was a bad guy. The bad used wrong methods to get ahead. But at the end the good guy won' such an story would probably seem inviting to a 10 year old, but not a mature audience.

And that brings me to another point that irritated me about the book. Who would do readers like me a favour and tell the author that mentioning sleaze does not make a book fit for a mature reader. The content should be such that one does not feel like being treated like a kid.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Amazon allows Macmillan ebooks to be priced higher after Apple row

Just read this news, that Amazon will increase the prices offered for Macmillan books from USD 9.99 currently to 14.99 and 12.99.

This is significant because Amazon had long been a sort of monopoly in the ebook business ( With all due respect Sony - your Reader did not make a dent), and had the power to arm twist publishers. But with Apple getting into the foray with its iPad, Kindle (Amazon's ebook reader) expects some serious competition.

The publishing houses long believed they were not making enough profit through the ebook business. This emergance of competition will help them get better money for their products. Maybe things will improve for them from now on.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The train station

My tryst with fiction continues.

Renuka looked around. No, Neel was not to be seen. The train had started leaving the station. It was now or never. If she had to ever leave this place, it had to be now. But how could she leave without Neel? How could she live without Neel. He was her knight in shinning armour. Her very own boy toy. A smile crept on her face as she remembered something about the boy toy.

But where was he? They were supposed to meet at the railway station half an hour ago. How can he be so careless?

Oh, the train is picking up speed. Should I stay onboard and wait for him to come to Delhi, or disembark here itself and wait for him to get to the station? I - I am eloping because I want to be with him. Whats the point of going alone. I would rather stay here.

As she set down her luggage, all of one college bag and an airbag, she was wondering - what could have kept Neel from coming down to the station. Had he got caught? But in that case She would have been hunted down too. So atleast he has not been caught. Thats a positive. Or is it? Because it means that worse things could be true.

To take her my off the other (seemingly worse) possibilities, Renuka turned her attention towards other people waiting at the station. A playful five year girl was running all over the place. Her parents would calm her and force her to sit down every few minutes. In response she would flee to places that would be difficult to spot. Amused at this game for sometime, Renuka drew an immediate parallel with her own life. Though she was not fleeing in a childish reaction - Or was she? A lot of her actions now seemed to be more reactionary than otherwise. Like the time she bought a scooty pep even though she did not like it very much. Or when she increased the intensity of her "friendship" with Neel after her father reminded her that she was only 16. Oh, My God! Would I have loved Neel the way I do if it were not for father's opposition?

Just then a local train stopped at the station. hoards of school and college students got down. There were samples of every type of student in the motley group. From the "serious" students who seem focused and took long swift strides as if to reduce time wastage, to the carefree group who cared more about chatting than anything else. Then there were couples who seemed oblivious to the world around them. Renuka evaluated herself against the people rushing past her.

I am definitely prettier than her. Look at the handsome guy she is with. Dont know what he sees in her.

Her earrings are so cute. Wonder where she got them from. Maybe it is from the new shop on Valabh Road. If I stay here, the first thing that I will do is check that shop out. Hold it, why am I thinking of staying here? I was supposed to have fled from this place an hour ago. Cant fathom what happened to Neel. What could have..

Hey, that girl is wearing the same shoes as mine. Bet she has a good taste. Somehow she looks nerdy, very career focused and all.

These focused people would probably have a good career. Hold it, I can focus hard - Why am I not thinking about my career? I have decent score in my 12th boards. Its been about an year into economics college - and granted that I havent done all too well till now, but that does not mean I cant make up for it. I heard there are good jobs for an economics graduate in Delhi. Hey, Sheela is in Delhi, doing economics - I should call her and ask ... I can actually ask her for colleges and admissions too actually. I can continue/ start over my studies, once in Delhi.

Why would I be in Delhi? Oh, Neel ! That stupid guy. I bet he did not have the guts to elope. He just wasn't man enough. Man! Dad. He has always been such an image of strength. But we havent talked for a long time - dont know what happened... Maybe I should call him.

Hey Dad, how are you?
- Hi, Beta, everything ok?
Haan papa, everything is fine. Just that we havent talked in some while now, so I thought that maybe we can talk.
- Sure Beta, tell me whats going on?
Papa, I want to BE someone. I want to build and live an independent life, have my own world.
- Great, My beta is growing up ! great! Beta, we are always there for you. We always wanted you make your own choices. Just that as a parent, we are a bit worried for you. So that you dont make wrong choices.
(Long Pause) Can you come and get me at Railway station, platform number 5? I have thoughts about moving to Delhi. There are better colleges and job opportunities there. I would like to discuss it in detail with you and mummy.
- (slightly startled) Yes beta, I am coming over. Just wait for me.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010


My first attempt at fiction, so if you feel terribly uncharitable, this might not be the best read.

He was not mad. Atleast he dint think so.

He just lived differently. He did not believe in the societal definition of good and bad. He wanted to feel the bliss, the excitement, the energy. And he couldnt find them in ways that the society found great. Not that he dint try - He had being trying for 17 odd years when he enrolled in the best engineering college of the country. It took him 2 years to realize that he did not want to do engineering afterall.

He dropped out of college voluntarily. It created a furor in his friends and family circles. He tried his best to explain that he wanted to "live" life, but to no avail. He gave up on them.

He got fascinated by the numbers on the stock market, and took up stock trading. He was good at it - Made a lot of money. There were silent words of praise for the "madman" who had left an institution that many are ready to die to get into.

One fine spring morning, He abandoned this too. By now, he had got bored of this work. Again, for sometime he had no clue what he wanted to do. Again, there were sounds of what a fool he is to relinquish such a well paying "career".

He then took up writing as his "vocation". It pleased him to write - about humans, about fantasies, about nature. But pretty soon, he was bored of it too. He wanted to break free, again. And break-free he did!

He took up wild life photography next. At least thats what he told people the last time he met them. He is untraceable for more than a year now. No one knows what he is doing right now. Maybe he is too engrossed in the beauty of the wild to wish to come back to the "civilized" life which has never failed to disappoint him in keeping him interested.

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Banks deserting Mutual Funds?

Last fortnight of 2009 saw Indian banks pulling out as much as INR 104K crore from mutual funds - the largest in any fortnight.

It could be due to the fact that RBI had been urging banks to lend rather than park money in mutual fund investments. The central bank's advice is warranted because such activity adversely affects small sector industries and personal loans are undertaken by the banks.

But whether this change is for real or an eyewash remains to be seen. Banks could have taken such steps to improve their results for the quarter ending in dec. By investing this money in short term loans, banks can appear more compliant than they actually are.

Another reason for this act could be a fear of a W-shaped recession.

But I think that a major incentive to pull out could be their plans for the road ahead.
There have been news of SBI looking for some merchant acquisition joint ventures and Union bank looking for some acquisitions in Indonesia. Canara bank has been trying to acquire the state-run Dena bank. Country's biggest bank, SBI's Chairman has openly stated that to provide world class services, Indian banks will have to go on the consolidation route. This pile of money, freed up in the last few days can be an indicator to the big things these guys are planning.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Adam Smith on academia

Below are some excerpts. Text in black is my own.

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith developed an incisive criticism
of academia (pp. 758-81). He at least touches on all of the following familiar
criticism of academia:

• Academic societies  are  organized “not for the benefit of the
students, but for the  interest,  or more properly speaking, for  the
ease of the masters” (764).   In other words, an industry where customer is not the king but the people working in the industry. So this industry has incentive to produce goods that conform to ideals of the people in the industry rather than the ones paying for it.
• They self-organize as self-validating societies, in which members
indulge each other’s conveniences (761).  By mutual indulgence and appreciation, they stand to gain in stature. Trading thoroughly replenish-able resources they can increase their "value" - which is based only on trade volumes. Read trade can make everyone better off.
• Academics tend toward an esoteric language  that  excludes
outsider participation (765).   The esoteric language is one of the most potent arsenals available to project and protect an image of elitism.
• Democratic decision making by professional units fails to make
individuals accountable for their actions within the process of
collective decision making (779). It wasn't ME !
• The clubs are prone to groupthink and the lock-in of foolishness.
They were sometimes “the sanctuaries in which exploded systems
and obsolete  prejudices found shelter  and protection, after  they
had been  hunted out of every other corner  of the world” (772).  I belong to this special group of people, I know what to believe.
They  have generated sciences  that  are “a mere  useless and
pedantick heap of sophistry and nonsense” (781).  Knowledge and thinking are important goals in themselves. How are ordinary mortals to fathom the importance of figuring out the number of angels that can dance on a pinhead?

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