Probability of Certainties or The Karma Theory Redux

Life is uncertain! I had a quaint notion about certain cliches, including this one. But events in the recent past, have shown me that there are certainties even about uncertainties! This must be a good illustration of the Schrodinger’s Kitten theory.

Have you ever wondered why a seemingly simple task never gets completed? Or how does the Indian cricket team manage to lose from an highly advantageous position? Or why doesn’t the fish hook even after so many hours, at the most populated hole?  Or how did your boss appear suddenly (when he was supposed to be off for the day) when you were in the middle of ogling that new comer at your office?  Or how did the professor who evaluated your answer book miss that big block diagram that you’d drawn right in the center of the page?

Or why would a very healthy four month old baby suddenly die? of a rare condition that occurs only in a so small percentage of babies, that it is almost certain not to occur!

How do you get a statistically significant answer to these questions that could satisfy the probability of their certainties? Or would the traditional Karma theory provide a more plausible and easy to accept solution for questions about these uncertain events?

Though Karma is almost always spoken about in hindsight, its value is better realised by its futuristic application. Telling somebody that being kind, pleasant, disciplined in this life, shall ensure that you’ll be endowed with amazing things right from the beginning in the next birth — may actually result in his being all that.

Life is full of events – happy, sad, exciting, disappointing, etc. We tend to qualify each event based on our perception and training. Each qualification could be viewed through other spectrum and a different conclusion could be drawn. Again, tradition tells us to be the Stithaprajna — person with a steady mind — under all conditions.

To tackle Life’s (un)certainties, mathematical modelling does not help. It IS in-fact spirituality and tradition that does have solutions to such conundrums.


The morning on the other day, was not very cloudy. I didn’t think it would rain either as it was quite cool and there was a soothing breeze even at around 10 in the morning. As usual I drove to our client’s site alone. After an uneventful morning session, when I came out of the building it was raining heavily. I didn’t even have my windcheater. Cursing my luck, I came out and waited for some time until the downpour turned into a drizzle. The dark clouds forebode rain for the entire day. Not wanting to get stuck in a heavier downpour, I started driving the two wheeler back home, hoping the rain gods would ceasefire for the next hour or so before I could reach home. The road is located through scenic and landscaped surroundings, with nothing to come by, except the occasional vehicle or some kids on their shepherding routine.

Somewhere in the middle of this road, I saw a middle aged man walking briskly in the drizzle. Hearing my vehicle, he suddenly turned and waved his hand. I stopped near him and he asked me if I could drop him. I said I could and asked him where he was headed to. He asked me to drop him somewhere further in the road from where he could take a bus to the city. It started raining heavily by now and as a car passed us by, I was wondering if I did a right thing by offering him help. He could have hitched a ride in the car and saved himself all the drenching :-)

As we neared a bus stand where a bus just overtook us and stopped, my passenger asked me if I too were going straight towards the city. When I replied in the affirmative, he asked me to drop him somewhere near my place from where he can go further. Though puzzled by his request – he could have chosen to board the bus and travel safe and warm – I consented and continued the journey inspite of getting drenched thoroughly.

After about 30 minutes of driving through the varying rain I almost reached my place. Just before I was to take a turn, he asked me to stop at the nearest bus stop. I stopped and he got down. But he kept his bag on the seat and asked me to wait. I was puzzled. He then started searching through his shirt pocket. I asked him as to what happened. He didn’t reply, but took out all contents from his pocket and started shuffling, sieving and vigorously searching through them. All the while, I was standing there trying not to look like a fool.

Finally with a winner’s look on his face, he took out his visiting card out of the mess and handed me the same. And said, “I’m an insurance advisor with this company. We’ve very good tax saving plans. Please do call me to know more. Please tell your friends also”.

I broke into a wicked smile, thinking I should tell him that I was also one of his breed some time back and that the only client I could manage to snare — was myself and sped. :-P

But ruminating about the whole event, I am amazed by the tenacity these people demonstrate. I know several people who have managed to achieve considerable businesses even under extreme adverse conditions.

I need to learn a lot from them.

Redundancy and the Internet

In an interview with the Portfolio magazine, Nassim Nicholas Taleb says

Do you realize that we don’t understand globalization? Globalization increases Extremistan. That’s one problem with this Tom Friedman guy—he [the bestselling author of The World Is Flat, which argues the advantages of globalization in the internet age] didn’t seem to understand the very simple dynamics that globalization forces redundancy out of the system. And whenever you don’t have redundancy, you have Extremistan. Things are way too efficient, so the smallest mistake blows up. We depend so much on the internet. Tomorrow, if there’s a problem in Bangalore, we’re toast for a long time, you see?

I’m on a committee at the Pentagon, [the Highland Forum, a study group on risk] and one of the founders of the internet is on it and all these people understand that we need more redundancy in the system to avoid a second crisis that may come from the internet, because we don’t understand it.

And to think of it, the Internet was founded to provide redundancy in case of an emergency.

Life’s awesome :-D