Perturbations

Dear L,

A brilliant man once told me about Umeshisms, named after Dr. Umesh Vazirani. Dr. Vazirani is a professor of computer science at UC Berkeley. He used to pack entire philosophy of life in little nuggets. Among those, one of my favourite one is, “If you have never missed a flight, you are spending too much time at the airport”.

The time when I first heard about it, I thought it was a joke on some sort of “optimisation strategy” as engineers like to call them sometimes. But the more life I started living as years went by, it dawned on me that Dr. Vazirani was onto something fundamentally deeper than randomised algorithms and the likes; Nerdy way to philosophise about life, but hear me out.

Like Scott Aaronson in his blog writes, “The squash player who runs back and forth to attempt every shot, the student who’s never late with an assignment, the researcher who stalks an unimportant problem like Captain Ahab: all have succumbed to the tyranny of the low-order bit.”, it’s important to note that the ultimate strategy for success relies on making lower order course correction over and over until you reach the desired goal, or the meta-goal. Success, partially or completely in any aspect of life invariably will be a summation of little failures and successes. Evolution is a prime example this strategy, so is Apple Inc. If everything is going wrong or going right in certain aspect of one’s life, either they are under-compensating or  overcompensating. As Nicolas Nassim Taleb puts it in his book Anti-fragile, any system tgat becomes better at handling external stimuli by changing itself through the said stimuli is inherently long lasting that a system that does not.

I am not advocating dehumanising aspect of one’s life by boiling failure and success down to mere data points in a system's study, but it’s worth sparing a thought for the effects of the “lower order bits” in our lives. After all, being human, we can only see so much at a time.

Groundhog Day - A Movie About Life - YouTube
A video essay about the movie Groundhog Day; Funny movie starring Bill Murray, but with deeply stirring implications of what it means to live.

‘The Midnight Library,’ by Matt Haig: An Excerpt - The New York Times
A novel, Midnight Library, where a girl gets to choose a life she wants to live next after her death.

Shtetl-Optimized
The original blog post on Umeshisms.

Excerpt from Antifragile | Penguin Random House Canada
And an excerpt from Nassim’s book Antifragile.

Enjoy.

Best,
A

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