In My Hands Today…

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets.

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

In My Hands Today…

Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now – Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier, the world-famous Silicon Valley scientist-pioneer who first alerted us to the dangers of social media, explains why its toxic effects are at the heart of its design, and explains in ten simple arguments why liberating yourself from its hold will transform your life and the world for the better.

In Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now Jaron Lanier draws on his insider’s expertise to explain precisely how social media works and why its cruel and dangerous effects are at the heart of its current business model and design. As well as offering ten simple arguments for liberating yourself from its addictive hold, his witty and urgent manifesto outlines a vision for an alternative that provides all the benefits of social media without the harm. nicer person in the process.

In My Hands Today…

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World – Cal Newport

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.

Digital minimalists are all around us. They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.

Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement, and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals like observing a digital sabbath, don’t go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.

Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a thirty-day “digital declutter” process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control.

Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. The key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. This book shows the way.

Technology Then and Now

The other day, I was talking with GG & BB and we were talking about technology specifically. In the last twenty odd years, technology has completely changed our lives and the last few years have shown us how indispensable technology is to our daily lives. Our lives are almost entirely dependent on technology, and as much as we can say technology has enslaved us, we can’t deny that it’s made life a lot simpler.

More than twenty years back, when I first moved to Singapore as a new bride, the phone was the only means of communication with my parents and extended family. And phone calls were not cheap, with only using the international calling option on your landline as the means to make the call. So I used to call my parents every Sunday for between 10-30 minutes each time and each phone call was very treasured. Any calls outside that timing on Sunday was strictly for emergencies or special occasions and if either side made other calls, it was scary until we heard the news.

And today, phone calls are just a touch away. I can speak to my parents, extended family and friends and the only thing I need to worry about is the time difference between us. Applications like Zoom, Whatsapp and other calling services have shrunk the world and distances seem so minuscule now.

And speaking of phones, in the late 90s and early 2000s, cell phone usage was very minimal, especially in India. I remember when a friend and colleague got the first phone I had seen, the cost of incoming and outgoing calls used to be very expensive with each call costing something like INR 8-10 per call. People used to not call others using their mobiles and the phones used to be used sparingly. And even as late as the late 2000s, I remember data being very expensive. While writing this, a memory comes to mind of me waiting outside one of the children’s classes. I was scrolling on my phone and used the internet for less than 5 minutes and when the bill came in, I had to pay something like $1 for each minute I was online. Today, I pay less than $30 for more than 60 GB of data and this amount includes talk time and messages.

I remember when BB & GG were young and I used to sometimes do work from home, it used to be on a desktop computer with a dial-up connection. This meant that anytime we got a phone call, the line would disconnect and we’d have to dial up again later. Internet speeds were a joke compared to today’s speeds and even after we got a broadband connection, the desktop stayed and speeds were abysmally low.

A big reason for this jump in the amount of data we all can access is the improvement in broadband speeds across the world. While less than 7% of the world was online in 2000, today over half the global population has access to the internet. And this can also be seen in mobile phone usage. At the start of the 2000s, there were 740 million cell phone subscriptions worldwide. Two decades later, that number has surpassed 8 billion, meaning there are now more cellphones in the world than people. Singapore’s mobile phone penetration rate in 2020 was 148.2% which means each resident has 1.5 mobile phones to their name and the smartphone usage is about 88%. Over in India, the penetration rate of smartphones in India reached 54% in 2020 and was estimated to reach 96% in 2040. This figure has more than doubled from 2016 when only 22% of mobile phone subscribers were using smartphones.

Smartphones changed the world as we all knew it. I remember the first time a friend brought an iPod. I was amazed that she could use the internet on the go. This was before smartphones became popular and the thought that we could surf the internet on the go was too much for my mind to take in. Today, there is hardly anyone around us who does not use a smartphone. All around me, I see people of all ages who are using these devices, from toddlers to the elderly and each one uses these devices differently.

I am a big reader and every time I leave the house, I used to carry a couple of books to read on the road which added to the weight of my bags. Today, all I need to do is load the books in my e-reader and I am good to go. I can have multiple books waiting for me to read and depending on my mood, I have access to plenty of books at the press of a button. This was one technology change I was thrilled to adopt. And because I tend to borrow books more than I buy them, my library e-reader is an app on my smartphone and that is a device that rarely leaves my hands or pocket. I am reading more and can read even in pockets of five minutes when I am waiting in a line and never get bored.

And how can we forget mobile phone cameras? Previously, we had to carry a bulky or even sleek camera with us whenever we wanted to take photos. And that used to be something very special. Today, with cameras part of one’s phones, it’s so easy to take photographs and document our lives. No moment go undocumented and every gorgeous sunrise, sunset or scenery is captured for posterity.

And we just can’t deny how useful this has been in our daily lives. The COVD-19 pandemic has shown us just how important technology has been in our lives. During the pandemic, I was able to virtually attend the wedding of someone in the extended family, albeit streamed over YouTube and so not as interactive as I would have liked it, but we still got to attend. I was also able to pay my last respects to my maternal grandmother who passed away a couple of months back when travel was impossible for us cousins spread across the globe. And in work, we all have been working from home in the past two-plus years, all using various video streaming apps.

For those of us who do not live with or close to our parents and loved ones, mobile phones and the technology it works with allows us to be a part of their lives through cheap and almost free phone and video calls. I am seldom without my phone and I can truly call my phone an extension of me. What will the next years and decades bring us? I don’t know, but I am super happy to find out and excited to be a part of it.

2017 Secondary 2 Week 2 Update

School has started in earnest now and both BB and GG have a full school week. On days when they have CCA, they are home only after 6 pm.

Later today, GG will receive her Edusave scholarship. According to her, she saw some document in school which shows that she came in third in the level,  missing the second position by a small percentage (actually a point percentage). So this has made her even more determined to do better her Sec 1 grades this year.

GG has her Singapore Youth Festival competition sometime in April this year and her CCA is going all out to practice. They will be wearing some kind of an ombre dress this year and GG says they will also be wearing formal court shoes with heels as part of the costume. Excited for them and hopefully, they get a Gold this year too….

BB did something new this year. On Friday when he came back from school, he told me he had to go back to school to present some dance as part of the environmental club he was in for he Sec 1 Orientation day. Since S was going to be working late, I decided to let him go to school and come back alone. This is a huge thing since they’ve not gone out alone after sunset before. He left around 6:15 pm and came back around 8:30 pm. I was worried and was relieved when he finally came home. Now GG is asking that she also be allowed to do the same thing. I’ve told her when the next opportunity comes, we’ll do it….All part of letting my chicks spread their wings and take tentative steps outside the nest….

All part of letting my chicks spread their wings and take tentative steps outside the nest….

Have a great Sunday folks!!