Category: Improve

Life is a Highway

India – More highways or Better National & Public Transport?
 
This is an email I had sent to our Minister for Road Transport & Highways in January this year. Of course I am still optimistic (or delusional) enough to hope for a response or an opportunity to further discuss this topic. Either way, I hope they at least consider it for a moment.
 
email–
I have two thoughts to share with regard to your ministry’s awe-inspiring INR 3.3 lakh crore highway development plan [23 highways, 4-5 years]. It might help to reconsider the scale of the projects.
 
Please consider these two historical events:
Scenario 1: In the late 1800’s, electric car prototypes existed [William Morrison and others]. But given limited research and push, fuel-powered cars won, leading to a century of polluting vehicles and climate damage.
Imagine the world today if a more long-term view was taken in the late 1800’s and electric vehicles were pursued and developed!
 
Scenario 2: In the 1950’s, a few leaders and businesses saw great potential for plastic in consumer goods. Almost instantly, entire industry sectors were created around plastic goods and packaging. Half a century later, our helpless dependence on plastic continues, and its resulting ecological disaster is becoming irreparable.
Imagine the world today if a more long-term view was taken in the 1950’s and plastic was to be used sparingly and responsibly!
 
Sir, we are now at a similar crossroads with regard to vehicles in India. And you have the power to choose one of two possible routes for us. Please let it be the one that remains relevant half a century later.
 
Here are two thoughts for your consideration:
1. As autonomous vehicles become prevalent in the next 1-2 decades, we will most likely shift from a car ownership to a Transportation as a Service (TaaS) model, taking the usage efficiency from the current ~10% to ~90%. With this, the total number of cars needed could reduce to 1/5th its current growing demand [Ref.: https://www.slideshare.net/Ideafarms/transportation-2050-the-future-of-personal-mobility ]
 While cargo related road expansion plans could continue as planned, if we only add sufficient road infrastructure for passenger cars to factor a future TaaS model, our planned highways might not need to be as wide as planned, and the project cost need not be as high as it is.
 
2. India, compared to North America, has four times the US population living on an area that is 1/3rd that of the US landmass. Therefore, higher individual ownership of vehicles made more sense in the US given the distance between people and places.
   The Indian scenario is quite opposite. Many people on a smaller land mass. This means, a world class national and state based public and private mass transportation would be a more logical option to pursue than individual car ownership. If we simply build wider highways and push car ownership from an auto industry that is largely dependent on a captive domestic market but struggles to compete globally, we would end up with (i) an inefficient auto industry, (ii) traffic-jammed cities and towns, and (iii) huge, inefficiently used automotive assets sitting idle at homes and offices. We might lose our global efficiency and edge due to challenges this inefficiency would present not necessarily now, but in the decades to come.
 
So, if we create more efficient public and private mass transportation infrastructure like Singapore today, we can save investments on the current highway projects by making them more future-efficient. And the saved funds could be diverted to boost relevant economy sectors that will give us a global edge in the coming decades, while creating more efficient lives in a cleaner and traffic-free India.
end of email–
 
Thoughts?

Segway

Not sure y’all heard, but Segway stopped production in 2020.

Founded in 2001, those incredible-looking, futuristic two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporters were priced at a prohibitive $5000-8000 a unit.
Probably why, despite their universal popularity and appeal, only some 140,000 sold in two decades.

Along the way, Chinese robotics startup Ninebot started selling Segway rip-offs.
They then raised funding (from Xiaomi and Sequoia), and acquired Segway in 2015, offering it as part of their mobility products portfolio.

However, as of June 2020 however, due to low sales and some past accidents, Ninebot decided to stop manufacturing Segways. They seem to be doing well selling their own range of kick scooters, go-karts and other personal transport products though.

An odd end for what was once a fascinating, seemingly ahead of its time, self-balancing personal mobility solution.
I suppose that’s how progress works.
And perhaps ‘affordability’ should be an important element of it? Especially if the product has a mass appeal and can be made cheaper than you are.

How much Attention do you pay to Detail?

How much attention do you pay to detail?
I had read about this somewhere and found the attention to detail unimaginably inspiring.

The sculpture of Moses by Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo Buonarroti has a slight indent in the forearm (yellow marker).

That indent is not random.

Such an indent is only formed when a particular muscle is taut, which in turn only happens when the little finger is extended, as is seen in the sculpture.
Try it out yourself to check.

The incredible attention to detail clearly differentiates legends from the rest.

The Paradox of Colour Choices

Many of us are familiar with the paradox of choice, whether or not we have heard of the phrase itself.

The paradox of choice, is our tendency to believe that more options or variants or choices in a given situation or purchase event is a good thing. After all, who wouldn’t want more flavours in a cereal or jam, or more accessory choices when buying a car or colour options when buying shoes or maybe laptops?

However, I think it was psychologist Barry Schwartz who first argued that for consumers, eliminating choices in fact dramatically reduced their anxiety as opposed to making them more content or delighted. It also simplifies our ability to compare and decide quickly, as opposed to being confused by the complexity of the multiple options presented.

I personally went through a similar experience with my calendar app. I think I installed it sometime in 2013-14. It had a few basic colour options for each entry. And since it was quite basic, I felt the need for some features, and the flexibility of some more colour options, to be able to categorize different priorities or types of reminders by colour. So I signed up for the Pro version.

All of a sudden, I got access to probably three times the colour options which, after an update in the recent months, has now become unlimited colours! There are the basic 11 Google supported colours, 39 more on the app’s extended palette, and the ability to create custom colours using the colour slider or by entering a Hex code.

And with all the options, came the chaos. In an attempt to highlight different types of activities with different colours, in the hope of remembering to get them done, the calendar started looking nauseatingly colourful. And chaotic!

And as the different colours overwhelmed the senses, it became increasingly tough to remember and understand priority.

So I regressed to a better format. I now use less than the initial colour options I started with. And, just as with the paradox of choice, clarity has improved. Now timebound or important matters are in red or green, and everything else is in one colour. So rather than depend on multiple colours fighting for attention while leaving me in a state of chaos, now I am required to pay attention to each to make sure nothing important gets missed out.

Have you faced any similar choice paradox that you solved by simplifying?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[the before & after screenshots are only representational. The actual calendar was far more chaotic before, & far clearer now]

Towards a Better Mask – 3

An internal project under Rattl has been to try create a better mask for the (Covid) times.

While it is possible we fail to actually create an ideal one, the exercise so far has been a learning one.

This is post #3.

Post 1 listed some basic criteria and good to have features that served as guidelines/constraints and some initial sketches.

Post 2 factored in all the basic criteria and most of the ‘good-to-have’ features, in that it was transparent (though slightly off the mark) and had reasonably good circulation.

Based on the basic criteria, good-to-have features and general observation of regular folk preferring a handkerchief to a mask (walking through markets, handkerchiefs seem to be a preferred choice, especially for those needing to wear it all day), the next prototype has the following:

  • Addresses all basic features (though I didn’t have the time to cut out a section so it fits better around the nose)
  • Safety (basic criteria) is far higher than a handkerchief
  • Regarding ‘good-to-have’ features, it wasn’t transparent, but circulation was probably better than with handkerchiefs

What it is, is a section (slightly less than half) of a takeaway plastic soup bowl between the folds of a regular handkerchief.
Used a mini vice to hold the bowl in place, and cut it with a rotary tool.

Since a good number of people prefer a handkerchief (possibly due to convenience and affordability), but are probably not aware of the limited safety provided, this design simply offers a safer handkerchief.

Strings from the bowl (how about call it mask henceforth? 😁) run along the ends of the handkerchief folded in half (how people normally fold it before tying).
How it is different or safer than regular handkerchiefs, is the plastic over the nose and mouth section prevents any direct spit/particles from anyone nearby landing on the handkerchief from passing right through.

The bulge creates breathing room, something both handkerchiefs and regular masks don’t offer, and which is what causes a lot of people to slide them down or stop wearing them – the suffocation.

The small breathing space offered by the curvature of the bowl makes it more comfortable to wear, and the bottom section of the handkerchief can be partly folded into the bottom section of the mask, to allow for better ventilation while not giving direct exit to any germ from the user.

Let me know what you think!

Previous post Towards a Better Mask – 2

Towards a Better Mask – 2

An internal project under Rattl has been to try create a better mask for the (Covid) times.

While it is possible we fail to actually create an ideal one, the exercise so far has been a learning one.

This is post #2.

This was part experiment, part fun. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of using car components for things. For instance, a dream is to someday replace the sofa in the hall with car seats.

Back to the topic, affordability comes from using empty soup bowls from an earlier food delivery. 😛 

As for the funny white extensions on the sides, they are cardboard (from some box) and inside it lies the “protection” – A decent quality car air-conditioning filter. The entire AC filter comes for a few hundred bucks, and I barely used 10-15% of one. There’s a section of folded filter, and a second single layer where that white section joins the s̶o̶u̶p̶ ̶b̶o̶w̶l̶  mask via a ~1.2 cm opening [below].

So that’s double layer of protection! The plastic section wouldn’t allow the virus in. And the front is transparent to allow for better human interaction. With this particular prototype, the nose cut-out was not deep enough so the transparent section focused more on the beard, but ideally, it would give a view of the mouth and part of the nose.

If you’ve seen the criteria listed in the 1st post of this series, this one prototype addresses:

Among the basic criteria:

  • Protection
  • Affordability
  • Partly achieves ‘breathable’
  • Addresses gaps on the sides of the nose

And among Good-to-have features:

  • Transparency (almost on this one, but should be easy to fix)
  • Partly addresses good circulation (by being a few centimeters away from the mouth and nose, it allows for a more open, relaxed breathing setting as opposed to most regular masks)

Of course the air filtering packs on the sides are huge and unwieldy. General comfort too wasn’t great as I simply used the elastic bands from a used surgical mask so it was tight (to the point it almost took my eye out when the nose protection cushion slipped out and the strain of the bands pushed the jagged plastic edge in my eye as I was fumbling around trying to take a selfie with the mask on.

Anyway, till the next prototype…

Previous post Towards a Better Mask – 1                                                                  Next post Towards a Better Mask – 3

Books Recommended in Books

I mostly read only ebooks since a few years now.
 
A lot of good non-fiction books usually mention a few more good books that the authors found relevant. However, even if you highlight them as you read, it is tough to find the names later on. Especially if you didn’t make a note of them. You’d have to go through the book or highlights to find those names again. Before you forget.
 
What if authors did one of the following:
  • Used a common phrase each time they referred to or recommended a book in their book. Something like ‘XYZ, a book written by ABC’
  • Or separately list out the books at the end of the book
The latter would help both physical books and ebooks. The first would help search for the specific phrase (“a book written by”) in the ebook, thus turning up results of all the books mentioned in it
 
Now all that needs to be done is suggest this to authors, and to remember it myself if I ever get to writing another book.
Pic source: link

Zomato’s Vertical Slider

Zomato has a really simple but brilliant vertical filter slider.
Many sites and apps aren’t great when it comes to their filters. And oddly, most who use sliders have horizontal ones.

The problem with horizontal sliders on mobile apps, is that we are usually using our phones with one hand. And horizontal slider options are a strain on the thumb. Vertical sliders are simply easier to use. It’s odd how most other apps still use horizontal sliders.

Might not be long before others copy it; but nice work, Zomato!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#VerticalSlider #Design #UX #UI #app #slider #userexperience

College Industry Projects

College students and college staff love industry projects. They give students an opportunity to get a feeler of what life after college will be like. Barring any major screw-ups, it is relatively free of the accountability pressures that full-time employees experience. And if there’s a stipend involved, what’s better than that, right?

Consider this…College ecosystems are increasingly focused on industry. And obviously so. But given a choice, every subject project would be an industry project. Top that with b-school obsessions with finishing school type skills to ace interviews. My own MBA program that I’m not too proud of, involved mostly visiting faculty who were really good at what they did, but for many of them, the concept of teaching was something like this… Early in the sem, they’d create ‘x’ number of groups out of our class. Then they’d take the syllabus, chop it up into ‘x’ topics. Each group would present a topic during each lecture. Convenient, right? A more relevant phrase that always comes to mind is, ‘the blind leading the blind.’

So for the heck of it, if we were to plot this trend of live projects forward, colleges themselves would become redundant. Since education exists online in far more affordable, consumable and convenient forms.

So is there something that can be taught at colleges that is tough to learn elsewhere?

I’d say values. Principles. Ethics. Interdependence. Servant leadership. Etc.

My concern with live projects early in a student’s college life is that their entire concept of industry work life gets influenced or shaped by their live projects. And if their value foundations aren’t strong enough, we get the kind of mess a lot of leading business schools (think ‘bar-word’) have created. The sole focus on sales and profit at any and all costs. The global environmental crises, deforestation, corporate glass ceilings, unequal pay, workplace harassment. This about one Harvard dropout Mark Zuckaberg’s moral compass with Facebook. Soak in the irony for a moment. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica conspired to rig elections around the world. And in 2017, Harvard University, based in “Cambridge” Massachusetts, awarded Zuckaberg an honarary Doctor of “Laws” degree.

I believe the first 1-2 semesters in any college should be more about building morals leadership with an industry perspective, rather than simply taking students and tossing them into the “big bad world”. Because it isn’t so much about learning skills. Those are easy to pick up on the job. But few teach you values in the industry. Do you want to leave your student’s future to that chance?

Behavioural Law

Classic economics started off factoring psychology and behavioural trends and shortcomings (biases) into economic understanding. However, through the ages, economic concepts and policies were built on the assumption that humans are rational beings. This was like putting a blanket over our susceptibility to biases and our irrational decision-making tendencies.

It took the path-breaking decades of work by 2002 Nobel Laureate (Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and a few others, to identify and document common human mistakes that spring from our heuristics and biases. This led to the importance of the field of behavioural economics which should ideally replace all economic skillsets.

Going by that logic, I did a cursory check on the LLB syllabus in India and that at Harvard Law School. I also came across research papers and articles around behavioural law at institutes like Yale, Harvard, Cambridge. However, a generic search for Indian LLB syllabus and the Harvard Law curriculum did not show up any subject dedicated to psychology, behaviour, or behavioural law. Stanford mentioned it. However Yale Law did have a fair bit of behaviour covered.

Harvard Law curriculum

While the Harvard program had some 55o study modules, and while they certainly might be including aspects of behavioural law, the subjects list did not include anything related to it or behaviour, despite the importance one might associate with it.

One would imagine that given all the business and personal collaborations and disputes that occur across the world, institutes should have at least by now made human behaviour, behavioural economics and psychology a key part of learning.

You might wonder what it might include? While I wouldn’t exactly know how, I do know that legal professionals are well trained in attack and defense, both in documentation and in fighting cases. And they are adept at understanding the opposition for defense or attack; and identifying potential risk scenarios well into the future. However, armed with behavioural knowledge, they might be able to influence collaborations and solve disputes amicably simply with a better understanding of behaviour and therefore a better choice of words and strategy perhaps. One that could benefit all related parties themselves fairly in the short term, but also steadily influence a more collaborative human race in the longer term.

Many of us have seen those videos of Providence, Rhode Island’s chief municipal judge, Francesco “Frank” Caprio, who metes out ‘human’ and ‘humane’ justice. Someone receiving a judgement from him, or someone simply being spectator to his judgement might have a very different view of humankind. One that is compassionate and optimistic. In a world itching to accuse and punish, imagine the mindset change an entire global legal fraternity might bring about, if they had the superior maturity of Judge Frank Caprio.

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