Saturday, January 28, 2017

Infosys, TCS not hiring as many - Is the Computer Science future doomed in India?

As I settled, with my book, in my favorite seat besides the big show window, in the coffee lounge that I frequent, heard someone call from behind, "Sir? Sir?". I turned and looked up. This was the girl from the coffee shop. "Sir, do you have some time? I need some advice". I had seen the girl in the shop for over a year. She had served me many times earlier. Yeah, sure, tell me. "Sir, I need internship in some company in HR department, can you help". That is how the conversation started. She had approached me since she had seen me many time before with books or with someone discussing business, so thought I might be able to help her with her internship. I found out that she had done engineering in electronics from a college near Chandigarh. She was working as an assistant brew master in the coffee shop. She had enrolled in a distance learning MBA in HR, for which she wanted to do internship in some company.

"Sir, this franchisee option would be perfect for you", said this salesman from Franchisee India. He was trying to get me to take franchisee of a brand. In the conversations, I figured that he was an electronics engineer from a University in Jalandhar. A girl he introduced me to, who was working with the brand as their channels manager, was his classmate, also an electronics engineer.

I have seen and met so many engineers, doing anything but engineering, that I am left wondering what did they really do with their 4 years of engineering in the college.

I had an opportunity to go to a few local engineering colleges where I was invited to give talk to the final year students. In the gatherings, all I could see was young faces, obediently sitting and listening.There was no spark, no inquisitive question, no telling of stories, no grand dreams.

The sad part of the story is students enroll into engineering courses to get jobs, not to engineer something great, something cool. Most go thru' the rigmarole of standard courses being taught since last many decades, without much understanding, with the hope that companies will come for campus recruitment, and that they will crack the interviews and get a job. The passion to know, to create, to innovate is sadly missing. Irony is, landing a good Job being the only objective of getting into engineering, makes it harder to get a job!

One thing that I hear these days that amuses me no ends, is that Computer Science is finished. See, Infosys, TCS, Wipros of the world don’t hire as many anymore. Automation is killing the jobs. Don't know if all the computer engineers will get the job or not. Big question mark written all over the face!!

Well, I know the answer, they won’t. Not because computer science is finished, but because they never really started learning or doing true computer science.

What for sure is going to go away is basic, entry level jobs. However, if you see, computer science is only starting now. Now is the most exciting times for computer science, enabled by immense processing power available on tap, extremely cheap all pervasive connectivity, huge amount of data to play with and online help available to learn new tools and techniques. With the availability of immense processing power, and availability of data that can be persisted, because of availability of cheap storage, problems that were considered too complex to be solved, just a few years back, are getting solved now with immense ease. Computers' intelligence is increasing exponentially as computers ingest huge amount of data and learn from it. Even earlier, we knew the theory of making computers learn, but we did not have the processing power nor enough data for computers to learn fast enough. Now, both the conditions have been met.

It is computers that drive cars, it is computers that now interpret your XRays and CT Scans. It is computers that write news stories and movie reviews. It is computers that run the stock markets. Computers, listen, see and respond. Improvements in these areas have happened over last few years, driven by the enablers I mentioned earlier. Remember those days when the computer could not understand the English we spoke, because of our Indian accent, well, all that is history, computers not only understand accents, they respond back in the accent of your choice.

Well, it is not just computer science, where exciting stuff is happening, equally interesting work is being done in almost all fields of engineering. Electrical - renewable energy, fusions, batteries for electric cars and so on. Electronics is all about the devices that are becoming more and more powerful and increasingly small, you don’t have to look further than your smart phone to realize the revolution electronics is bringing. Metallurgy is into finding and creating new materials that can be super conductors, materials that can be used for bendable screens etc. Heard of hyperloop? A near vacuum tube, wherein pods will transport passengers at speeds greater than the airlines. This would be one big Civil engineering marvel. Robotics is an amalgamation of Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics and Computer Science engineering areas. Companies for profit have been floated, to extend the human life to 500 years and ultimately for humans to live as long as they wish. These are not just some research projects, these are for profit ventures, in which people are putting serious money. Advancements in Biotechnology, requires cutting edge research in all areas of engineering, same for nanotechnology. Manufacturing and mechanical engineering going thru' revolution because of 3D printing.

I have barely scratched the surface, there are many more avenues. What is required is deep understanding of the area, going to the edge of the knowledge. Once there, seeking job is last of the problems.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Harvesting Cancer

Bhakra dam at 740ft is one of the highest in Asia. When it got commissioned in 1963, it changed the fortunes of the farmers in the region, and little did they know, lives of their future generations. The farm productivity of the irrigated land increased by 39% to 43%, compared to the rainfed plots. Increase in agriculture productivity however came at a very heavy price. People of the region literally paid for it with their lives. Cancer rates sky rocketed in 30 years, so much so that Punjab is now called cancer capital of India.

Intensive agriculture, aided by canal based irrigation, has enabled not only multiple crop cycles, but agriculture of unsustainable crops like paddy, resulting in tremendous stress on the soil and water. Soil is sought to be rejuvenated by use of increasing quantity of chemical fertilizers, where as water is increasingly getting pumped from the ground, getting depleted at an ever increasing rate.  Further, to protect the yield, farmers take no chances, and poison the produce and the soil, with pesticides. Concoction of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and multiple crop cycles, is resulting in dangerous levels of harmful chemicals in the blood of the locals.

Punjab has only 2.5% of total agriculture land in the country but uses more than 18% of all the pesticides used in the country!

South of Sutlej River in Punjab, called Malwa region, also called cotton belt - Batinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Ferozpur, Muktsar, Moga, Barnala, Sangroor  - is the worst effected by cancer. Other regions of Punjab - Majha (North of Beas and Sutlej till Jehlum) and Doaba (Between Beas and Sutlej) - are fast catching up on this dubious distinction.

Irrigation enabled green revolution. However, in the scramble that ensued, short term objectives got way too much weightage, compared to long term and sustainable objectives.  The problems range from the abuse of fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in poisoning of the soil and the produce, to unsustainable crop cultivation. Cultivation of paddy is resulting in water logging and soil turning saline, in places that are close to the canals, and dangerously depleted ground water table in other places.

To think of it, Bhakra Dam, besides many other ingredients, is a key input to the "harvest of cancer" in the region. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Land of Nalanda

When Nalanda was being destroyed in India, Cambridge was getting established in England. The story has unfolded on predictable lines since.
Here in Patna for Badminton National. Arre nahi babumoshaye, not me baba, for my Son.
Well, the idea of this post is not to bore you with where I am and what I am doing, it is to share the sheer darkness that still pervades this place. I have come back after 17 years. Last time I was here, it was for one of the cricket world cup matches in 1997. My recollection from that time is, sea of rickshaws every where, moving, rather crawling in all directions. The only change between then and now is the fact that rickshaws are replaced by auto rickshaws. The filth is still there, all pervading, omnipresent. Roads never existed earlier, they don't exist even today. Tons of people, just busy, doing their chore, oblivion of the dust, smoke, stench in the air. Samosas, litti with chokha, is being fried right next to open gutters, which has doubled up as garbage dump, which is there every few yards. Don't get me wrong, these garbage dumps are not by design, they just spring up impromptu, based on where ever someone, anyone, wants to throw garbage.
Chief Minister came to inaugurate the tournament, and with him came the Sports Minister of the state and couple others. They addressed the gathering. In the list of uninspiring / inaudible speeches, these, in my opinion, would top the charts. A few things that all the speakers did not forget to mention, before they started their respective speeches, was to welcome the participants to the land of Buddha. I was like, did you not drive on the roads that we took to come here? Why do you make mockery of Buddha's name by continually referring to him? If the reference is to be made, it should be like, hey we are sorry, that we have abused this land of Buddha, sorry that we have destroyed generations of people, sorry that we have taken away hope from the people, sorry that people here don't dream, they only have nightmares.
However I know, the land that once had a university like Nalanda, thinkers like Buddha, has the potential, if only the leaders stop raping it, looting it, for their personal benefits.
I look forward to my third coming, hope to share picture of a land truly becoming of where Buddha attained enlightenment.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Na Nar ke Na Narayan Ke (Neither of human nor of God)

A Sadhvi, who is also a Union Minister, made this comment, "Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya haramzadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai".
When a person makes this kind of remark, it tells me that the person does not have the basic goodness and calmness, in short does not have Godliness to be called a Sadhvi. The remark also suggests that it is depraved of basic etiquette, common sense and intelligence for it to be coming from a Minister. Hence in my opinion, she should be stripped of both these titles, forthwith.
unfortunately, this is becoming more of a pattern. Some overzealous BJP associates think that the majority that BJP got in the Lok Sabha, came on the back of vast majority's alignment with BJP religious ideology. Hence they think they have a licence to not only continue down their earlier path of religious bigotry, but in fact go down that path with renewed fervour and speed. In truth, the Lok Sabha mandate is more for economic progress, aspirations for better living standards and just plain fatigue with the status quo that Congress was pushing.
The danger is that as the time progresses, as the Modi government's honeymoon period wears off, and as the government comes under pressure, which invariably all governments do, these vitriolic voices are going to get shriller, plus more of BJP & Co may join this hate bandwagon to play to the galleries.
This evil must be nipped in the bud. Any later than now, Modi government may not have the political capital to stop them.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Last Mile!

The tiles fit snuggly into each other, as they were laid out on a flat foundation of sand. The workers, the mason, the material and the whole jing bang was there. The dirt pavement, which was such a hazard during rainy days, and such a dusty place to walk on otherwise, was finally getting a makeover. Walkers mostly preferred to walk on the road, making the road even narrower for the vehicular traffic and in the process risking their lives. Now things would be different, walkers would finally get their space. After enduring a few weeks of construction material on the road, all the noise, dust and the traffic jams that ensue, finally the pavement was ready. It looked neat.

But then, it started, one after another, in quick succession. There was recesses in the pavement at every few meters for the rainwater drainage inlets. The vertical tiles that separated the pavement from the road at the corners of these rainwater drainage inlet recesses started falling. They had not be secured properly with enough adhesive or the angle was not proper or both or something else, but they fell. They always do! As they fell, the beautifully laid out pavement tiles that were sitting so snuggly intertwined with each other loosened. First the ones at the corner loosed and fell, and then the next row followed, till the corners just collapsed. It looked like a pile of rubble. Soon, the loose tiles where gone. The corner looked like a mud slope from road to the pavement, of what was left.

Not that money was not spent, not that labors or masons were taken away from the spot before they could finish. No, nothing of that. It was simply a question of not taking care of the last bit, not doing a proper job of tying it up and sealing it properly.

Everywhere I see, I see that enough money is being spent, but it is the last bit, the last mile that which not done properly wastes the entire effort and the money.

The story repeats, weather it is the pavement, or the cover of the drains, which do not fit the opening properly, or the railing along the side of the parks, which are fixed so flimsily that you know that they will fall if given a push, or electric poles which have the naked electric wires hanging out of the small opening at the bottom of the pole, with the door to the opening, invariably missing or hanging/dangling.

Following Pareto's advice, I had definitely put this in the bucket of 20% things that if done right have a potential to provide 80% positive effect! 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My God

My God!
Every day for last 43 years I heard her voice. Hardly ever did I not see her or not speak to her. It was my routine to touch her feet before leaving home in the morning, whether I was going to school or college or work. Getting her blessings in the morning gave me a feeling of invincibility. Whenever I was stressed, just sitting with her would calm my frayed nerves. Even today, whenever I am in a tough situation, I close my eyes and imagine her giving me a reassuring... smile and confidence that she is there.
No, she was no superwoman, she was no magician, she was my mother and the power she had was love. Limitless and unconditional love. Love so strong that it even transcends the boundaries of the living and non living, for, even though she is gone, I still feel the warm glow of her love. I can still see her smiling and blessing, when every morning I close my eyes and touch her feet.
I have not seen the almighty God, the creator of everything, but I have seen my creator, my God, my mother. It is my God, who gives me strength and motivation to seek the all mighty, for when I find the all mighty, I will again find my God, my mother. For me the all mighty God is only a way to get to my God!