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@abhilash

Notes

I’ll see your natural disasters and raise you a price on carbon

Watching $50B+ wiped out because of a storm, reading Mike Bloomberg’s endorsement of Obama, and looking at a study that show that the number of natural disasters costing $1B+ doubled in the last 15 years - reminds me of a poignant story in recent American politics:

Three senators (a maverick Republican, a soul-searching Democrat and an independent seeking redemption from a failed VP bid), coming together to push a non-partisan climate legislation in 2010. Politics, negotiations and deal-making at its best, only to be beaten down by three forces from all sides of the political spectrum: (a) the chaotic White House of Obama (b) the radical Tea Party movement pushing the GOP towards the extreme right and (c) an uneducated public. 

Here is the story (at The New Yorker). A long read, but worth it. 
And why am I (and Bloomberg, and others) talking about Sandy and climate change in the same vein? Let me steal words from Jon Foley, a professor at UMN

“Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”

“We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”
I only hope we act. Soon.
- Your friendly neighborhood oilman

1 Notes

Keep in mind our Constitution predates the Industrial Revolution. Our founders did not know about electricity, the train, telephones, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, nuclear weapons, satellites, or space exploration. There’s a lot they didn’t know about. It would be interesting to see what kind of document they’d draft today. Just keeping it frozen in time won’t hack it.
Ross Perot, in 1992. Timeless.

1 Notes

… we insist that our early stage debt and equity investments be backed with philanthropy, not with investment dollars. We hold as sacred the ability to take risks based on whether we believe we can help build sustainable companies that benefit the poor, rather than focusing first on investors. Once the companies make it through the breach, if you will, and prove the business model, we can help them look for the next level of capital.
Jacqueline Novogratz, talking about making markets for and with the poor. Also an eulogy to, what seems to be the book of the year, Elizabeth Boo’s Behind the beautiful forevers. The quote reminds me of Prof Dara O’Rourke talking at Berkeley about why he started GoodGuide as a B-Corp, Umair Haque exhorting corporations to maximize human potential and Jack Welch, himself, saying that 'maximizing shareholder value' is the dumbest idea in the world.

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In other words, Burning Man is building its own kind of caste system, choosing insiders and outsiders, curating the community’s most valuable members.
… and that is why I am unable to make it to Burning Man this year.

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Citi thinks (or should I say affirms) that the US is headed towards a remarkably strong Industrial Revolution 2.0. As much as I like that idea, I want to play spoilsport by believing the oil geeks at TOD who think otherwise. After all, North Dakota already looks like this, and my ol’ friends in Saudi Arabia are playing Jedi mind tricks. 

Citi thinks (or should I say affirms) that the US is headed towards a remarkably strong Industrial Revolution 2.0. As much as I like that idea, I want to play spoilsport by believing the oil geeks at TOD who think otherwise. After all, North Dakota already looks like this, and my ol’ friends in Saudi Arabia are playing Jedi mind tricks

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Most international students still believe in the American dream. We tell them the market is tough in the information sessions and try to manage expectations, but when they come everyone thinks they can beat the odds.So we’re more selective on the international front. We don’t want to create expectations that we can’t meet.

Shantanu Dutta, Vice Dean at USC Marshall School of Business

Is this a silent (and partial) requiem for the American Dream?

2 Notes

I hope you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.
Bill Gates, in a letter to the Harvard community. Respect.

32 Notes

Everyone knows pollution is a job-creator!
Steve Colbert mocking the GOP’s vilification of the EPA

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He changed the way each of us sees the world.

Barack Obama about Steve Jobs. 

Here’s to one of my biggest inspirations in life. Thanks for everything, Steve. Love. Respect.

12 Notes

Students always

That is one of the defining principles here at Berkeley-Haas

Most schools or organizations have values or mission statements which look great engraved in stone or hanging in plaques. But, it takes great schools/organizations to live and breathe them everyday. 

By no means, do I intend to brag here. But, I was truly touched by what happened today. As part of a leadership communication class, the Haas Dean Rich Lyons came in front of a class of 120 and rehearsed a speech he is due to give in 2 months at an esteemed national conference. At the end of it, he opened up the floor to take in feedback on how he can improve his speech and his delivery of the speech. 

For someone who I deem an excellent public speaker, and for someone of his status to listen to what freshmen MBA students have to say about his public speaking skills, and vow to learn from that - that is mind-blowing stuff. 

Students Always. I just found a whole new meaning to that phrase. 

4 Notes

Brothers in Arms.

Brothers in Arms.

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It has been two months since I posted anything here. Life has been a haze over the last 50 days or so, since I moved halfway across the globe to the US of A. An extremely fun one, at that. 
Berkeley has lived up to (and exceeded) most of my expectations. The joy of coming back to school is unparalleled. Meeting activists, engineers, businessmen, leaders, hippies, policy-makers, lawyers, researchers, thinkers - all in a three-square mile stretch, has been the highlight of my last month here. 
And California is heaven compared to this. I took this photo when I went on a long bike ride along the Bay Trail. I had to stop, sit on those rocks and soak in the beauty that is this place. More to come.

It has been two months since I posted anything here. Life has been a haze over the last 50 days or so, since I moved halfway across the globe to the US of A. An extremely fun one, at that. 

Berkeley has lived up to (and exceeded) most of my expectations. The joy of coming back to school is unparalleled. Meeting activists, engineers, businessmen, leaders, hippies, policy-makers, lawyers, researchers, thinkers - all in a three-square mile stretch, has been the highlight of my last month here. 

And California is heaven compared to this. I took this photo when I went on a long bike ride along the Bay Trail. I had to stop, sit on those rocks and soak in the beauty that is this place. More to come.

10 Notes

Why can’t we build yet another Nalanda or Takshashila?

ARWU released its latest 2010 Academic Rankings of World Universities recently (Hat tip: Jitin). I am not a big fan of such rankings, but nevertheless was happy to see #2. I am digressing. 

As always, I clicked to see how many Indian universities made the Top 500 list. And as any Gen X/Y Indian would do, I also checked out how many Chinese universities made it. The answer troubled me.

To spare you the effort of clicking those links, here is the answer. India - 2. China - 22. I’ll also spare you a moment to weep. 

My question(s) to you is(are): Why can’t we build bastions of higher education, like the erstwhile Nalanda or Takshashila? When we blow our trumpets claiming that we churn out the highest number of English-speaking graduates/engineers every year, do we, for once, pause and look at what these graduates/engineers are contributing towards? 

Is IISc the only saving grace of Indian universities? Did we force the IITs to be too elitist for a long time (read: half a century) that we curbed their potential to become some of Asia’s best Universities?

In 1950-1970, when China invested heavily in primary schools and later in the 80s focused on its Universities, India was busy boasting about its IITs and spent a considerable amount of tax-payer money on higher education, largely neglecting primary education. We all know that we are paying a price for that now (look at our literacy rates), but what happened to the RoI on all that tax-payer money spent on Universities? Did we just build brick-and-mortar buildings and play cricket in its corridors?

How do we change this? Is the new breed of private universities or opening up Higher Education to FDI the answer? What will it take for the Institutes of National Importance (read: new IITs, IIMs, IISERs) to leapfrog into world-class universities? The answers are fairly straight-forward: better faculty, better remuneration for professors, better industry-university linkage, better infrastructure and so on. But, do we have the will

[I know some of you might point it out to me that AWRU is aka Shanghai ranking, is carried out by a Chinese University and probably is biased. To you, my answer is look at the Top 200 university ranking by two other sources QS (India-2, China-7) and THE (India-0, China-6)]

7 Notes

Engineers vs MBAs

[Full disclosure: I am one already, and in two years, I’ll be both]

I am always a fan of someone who says an MBA is a waste of time. Largely because, I believe that a large chunk of MBAs get the degree for the heck of it. In the process, a small fraction of MBAs who really benefit from the degree and create lasting impact are lost in oblivion.

I did come across this article quoting Robert Lutz, an alumnus of the school I’m headed to: 

Lutz ultimately believes that the U.S. needs more engineering talent. There are just too few engineers and too many MBAs, he says. “We need more nerds! And we need to stop thinking of our nerds as nerds. We need to think of them instead as an endangered population—like gazelles, maybe…More of our universities need to offer programs in manufacturing and industrial management,” he maintains. “We need to put engineers on a pedestal. And your young people need to be taught that there’s something noble about engaging in value-creating activity. Twenty or thirty years from now, when their grandchildren ask them, ‘what did you do in the great economic war?’ they shouldn’t have to answer, ‘I was a bond trader.’”

I agree. The same holds true in India too. I have personally seen a few of my friends who were exceptionally gifted in engineering, abandon it to pursue a management degree while short-selling themselves. What one really needs to understand is that a good engineer is as accomplished as (or better than) an I-Banker. At the same time, there are many folks, like me, who have an engineer’s approach/mindset, but do not have raw engineering talent and begin to explore an alternative career in business and commerce. As a society, we need to create incentives to equate these two and not put one above the other.