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June 21, 2010

Concrete development.

Filed under: gandhian principles, market, nature, news, social change — Tags: — neosurya @ 15:37

Visited a “green” venture by a local developer. The guy even asked us tips to make the place greener; they claimed that some folks from Canada had bought a 1 acre property there, and a businessman from Dubai was going to come in a day or two. One of us was an avid byker, The developer asked him for the brand of international bikes that would be appropriate for his brand. He had ducks in artificial ponds, ostriches, turkeys (from turkey)??? The place was guaranteed to develop, would give us great returns, he promised. Wonderful. On the return journey, we mulled over the development that was unfolding about 70 Kms from Bangalore and about 15 Kms from Kanakpura.

As we passed by the concrete pillars built on Outer ring road near Agara Kere, we wondered how “green” these were, and how green would the construction in the village near Kanakpura. BTW, there is no mention of the village on the developer’s website.

And, I also wonder how we became developing nations, and a few other countries became developed nations. Is it because of all the concrete, the air-conditioning, and all the medication that they are getting, or is it because of their obesity. I guess when all toilets in a country get air-conditioning, the nation can be called well-developed.

I remembered an article in the Hindu about how impoverished African refugees were being developed. Or were they?

In Kandikiti, where Jean Lupanga’s family lives, a group of 20 villagers won a $4,000 grant last year to start a pig farm to help orphans. The group bought nine pure-bred hogs, built them a residence nicer than those of most people and posted volunteers to guard it round the clock. They also bought 10 bicycles, vaccines for the pigs and paid their members to attend training sessions.

More than a year later, they have not sold a single one of the white, floppy-eared, European-bred pigs. In a village where scruffy local pigs trot freely among the huts, the group’s leader fell silent when asked who could afford such expensive pork.

And then, this article on corporate, colonial, and now Asian interests in Africa:

About Africa’s role in the world, the old colonial mindset seems to be alive and kicking. Recently a senior French minister called Africa “our El Dorado”, a legendary city of gold. France reportedly wants to ensure broader influence in Africa, seen as “a frontier for profit-making.” Many American, EU and Chinese companies seem to share this perspective.

Will Indian companies be different? Will they give to Africa as much as they receive from it, if not more? This is perhaps what Ratan Tata had in mind when he recently recalled that South Africa had been a victim of “exploitative and extractive enterprise”. He suggested that India and South Africa could have “a different relationship”, one based on mutual benefit and genuine partnership. His advice applies to all Indian companies operating in Africa, not just in South Africa.

What a job – Amazon turk

Filed under: social change — neosurya @ 14:33

Recently read about a service being provided by Amazon – Amazon Mechanical Turk. In the words of this website:

The Mechanical Turk web service enables companies to programmatically access this marketplace and a diverse, on-demand workforce. Developers can leverage this service to build human intelligence directly into their applications.

What did one say you had to do at this job? The job involves a person to perform tasks called “Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs)“. Let not the word intelligence fool you; the jobs are more mundane than what ford asked his assembly-line workers to do. There are apparently HITs like rewriting of essays that require more work. In general though, this job requires  absolutely no skills.

In laymans terms, what it means is that there would be a huge number of people who sit in front of computers. These folks may be casual users like you, and they would have a window on which Amazon would display an image let us say every minute or so. You would need to perform tasks like – type the word displayed in the image, or type how many faces are there in an image. Amazon may pay you about half a cent for each correct answer. That is like 2 paise per answer. One may wonder what is wrong with it; good money at home – ghar bhaite acche paise mil rahe hai… And, you do not need a whole lot of skills for this. People earn sufficient money [1, 2]; sufficient to pay for their ipods, iphones or whatever other bills they have to pay. And apparently, this even provides work for African Refugees [1]. Heck, it has even helped find people lost at sea [1].

The jobs may seem very good in the short term. But I believe these jobs are a distraction for individuals who could otherwise have done better things with their time. Doing jobs like these is easy, but creates a dis-incentive to gain skills that are required for the long term.

In the culture we are encouraging, a human is either a candidate to perform a HIT, or a customer (An earlier post, where I talk about markets). As a species, we are losing it while trying to define the best (and easiest) way of furthering our gene pool. I am exaggerating here, but there is no better way to explain it.

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