Back to India

This should provide some insight on why I made the move from the US back to India after a few years of work. And no, my work visa wasn’t expiring. The intent is not to try and convince more people to do the same, but at least get people in similar situations to talk about it more so that it’s not taboo. 

First, some background for context. My academic and professional pursuits have been so typical, it’s almost a cliché. In a weird way, this should make this more relatable, which is good. 

Born and brought up in New Delhi for the first 22 years through my undergrad education in engineering, moved to the US for graduate studies after that, and started working at a big technology company. So far, so good. 

On to the ‘American dream’

It was actually a lot of fun, all of it, straight from graduate school on the snowy east coast through a job in a fancy company in sunny California. (Fun fact: I met students from 21 countries in my first 7 days of grad school. Never could I have imagined getting that kind of exposure and cultural sensitivity that quickly in India had I not gone to the US; it indeed felt like drinking from a firehose [1]). 

Going to school at MIT and then later working at Tesla were two goals I had set for myself when I was still at NSIT in Delhi for my undergrad. In that regard, I’ve been pretty fortunate that those did line up for me. That being said, I’m acutely aware of the life of privilege that I come from in Delhi – monetary and intellectual. I have stood on the shoulders of giants all my life – my parents, my chacha, and my chachi. My dad says I should always be aware that I work with not just my own experience, but an additional 40 years of combined life experience of my elders – I’m indeed a product of compounding over time. 

At some point though, while working in the US, it was hard to ignore the compromise I was living with – personally but also professionally. Strange as it sounds, my primary reasons for the move weren’t on the personal front. Most of my family is in India, but if I had wanted to stay on in the US, there was a plan for some folks to move to the US with me over time. In other words, there wasn’t much blocking me on the personal front from continuing in the US, which otherwise is usually why folks migrate back to their home countries from the American dream. 

However, with my professional ambitions and interests, it became harder and harder to ignore the restrictions that come with working as an expat in the US on the H-1B work visa [2]. The COVID-19 lockdown through 2020-2021 precipitated that train of thought. Life became a continuous scroll of never-ending days, weeks, and months of the same rinse-and-repeat – it stopped being exciting. 

Back to India

Consequently, moving back to India was always on the docket. The financial independence that Tesla’s success afforded me just happened to expedite this move even more. 

I wanted to be able to work on ten different things, which may or may not be in my area of core STEM expertise, which the H-1B visa doesn’t really allow for. I didn’t want to be in a position where the US government machinery dictates what I can and cannot work on, and I became fiercely protective of my time. The incremental professional benefit of spending another year at Tesla and in the US became smaller and smaller when juxtaposed with the insane opportunities available in India now [3]

From my vantage point, this move to India is so obvious for me that I’m bummed I wasn’t able to get all my ducks in a row to make it sooner. A good way for me to think about it – it’s probably a good idea to participate in India’s rising startup and tech wave regardless of whatever the alternate option is – working in the US or any other country. Massive switch from wealth accumulation mode to wealth creation mode. 

This is not to say it doesn’t come with its own issues. Especially if you haven’t worked in India at all or for a long period of time, there’s a certain reverse cultural shock [4] that’s inevitable. But for me, that waned off pretty quickly (within a couple of weeks). As I anticipated, I do miss hanging out with the people I met and the country’s national parks. Pretty high on my list of priorities is to make sure that I keep in touch with the wealth of friends I collected in the US. 

To be clear, this is not to vilify the option of choosing to stay in the US long-term. If I had to do everything all over again, I would still choose to study and work for a bit in the US (or another country perhaps?). In fact, more generally speaking, if it’s an available option, I’m a big proponent of spending some time abroad in a country with a sufficiently different culture than your own, for studies or work or whatever. It was easier for me to understand India’s ways of life better once I was able to compare and contrast them with those in the US. 

All of the fun

As Balaji [5] explains so eloquently in the mind-melting podcast with Superteam Podcast [6], given the ongoing zero-sum win-lose games in international geo-politics, India has a very good opportunity to win-win with other international partners. And the amount of VC funding in India combined with the startup ecosystem’s energy here is absolute fire [7][8]. The momentum of a massively online population has been rotating the flywheel of several industry sectors [9]

And it’s not as if these pursuits are just on paper in an all-too-distant-world that’s too far from ground reality – I can attest that they’re very real and close to home. Two of my good (and brilliant) friends from my undergrad in India – Videt and Rahul – are pursuing their own ventures at AirBlack [10] and SocialBoat [11]. Damini [12] has been immersed in the Bangalore circuit for over half a decade and is killing it at Khatabook. The collective risk appetite has never been higher. Even for me, my work at Pravaig Dynamics [13] to make EVs in India just began recently, and I expect for it to be quite the adventure. The step after the ‘American dream’ is the ‘Indian dream’. 

Footnotes and sources: 

[1] Drinking from a firehose at MIT: 
[2] Michio Kaku on the H-1B visa: 
[3] The Indian startup ecosystem: 
[4] Reverse cultural shock: 
[5] Balaji Srinivasan: 
[6] Balaji Srinivasan with Superteam Podcast on returning to India/Asia: 
[7] VC funding in India: 
[8] 2022 economic survey on startups in India: 
[9] Active industries in Indian startups:
[10] Airblack:, Videt Jaiswal: 
[11] SocialBoat:, Rahul Jain: 
[12] Damini Mishra: 
[13] Pravaig Dynamics: 

Edge of the celestial knife

It’s fascinating to realize how we all exist on the edge of a razor sharp celestial knife when it comes to what made human life possible on earth in its current form. It’s as if there exists a cosmic ‘life-balancer’, similar to the classic Winamp MP3 EQ/equalizer from the late 90s/early 2000s. Except that in our ‘life-balancer’, there’s a lot more than just audio frequency isolation and adjustment that can be controlled. 

At the risk of oversimplification, let’s assume that the below charts encapsulate some key variables needed to define the existence of carbon-based living forms, of which human beings are a subset. It’s interesting to see how Earth provides a warm and cozy sweet spot for us to exist in – temperature, ozone composition in the atmosphere, water, temperature, and distance from the sun. Some scales are only non-negative, while others have both positive and negative axes. 

Something as insignificant (on a cosmic scale) as a 23.5 degree tilt in Earth’s axis relative to its orbit causes something as significant as the annual seasons that we know – we are truly tiny and insignificant, a beautiful and hilarious cosmic fluke. 

Similar story for Earth’s atmospheric composition with respect to ozone… 

… and water on Earth’s surface.

Almost everything that we observe in nature has some ‘range’, and is not binary. At a macro level, not a lot is truly as binary as black and white – everything operates in grayscale. Darkness and light aren’t really antonyms; they’re just different points along the same axis of photons – ‘light’ is the presence of photons and ‘darkness’ is just the absence of them. Same as how coldness isn’t the opposite of heat; it’s the absence of it. 

It’s all about levels – a dearth of something can be troublesome but so can its excess – for example, water, oxygen, and food in the body. It’s fun for me to periodically define (and redefine) what those levels or ‘green ticks’ should be for me, instead of always attempting to just ‘increase’ or ‘decrease’ the value of a variable monotonically. 

Progress or motion often comes with the absence of ‘bad’ things – stress, bad health, headaches – instead of always due to the presence of ‘good’ ones – access to the most expensive hospitals, most effective analgesics. In fact, often, reducing the ‘bad’ thing in life negates the need for an excess of a ‘good’ thing – don’t need to have a lot of money to spend in a hospital if you’re healthy! 

Of course, these are oversimplified examples, and actual reality is a cocktail of all these variables interacting in ever evolving ways. But I think the micro-summary is helpful – we should always have a bird’s eye view and be aware that mostly all such ‘variables’ have ‘levels’ that can dialed up or down, with some effort, to optimize for quality of life. And doing a thought experiment/exercise to recalibrate these variables every few months is probably a good reality check for life priorities. 

When we change the value of a variable, say, a non-negative variable such as weight, the same variable’s meaning changes drastically depending upon where we are at an absolute scale – 40kg down and I’m anorexic; 40kg up and I’m obese. 

When we say ‘everything is good in moderation’, we’re just defaulting to an implicit understanding of what the variable’s quantity should be in our human scale to optimize for quality of human life as we know it [4]

Things that we can explicitly control in life follow a similar trajectory – not much is truly binary, and mostly everything operates on a scale of varying usefulness/utility. And it’s almost always worth it to try and achieve improvement in life quality by deleting ‘undesirables’ instead of trying to force in more ‘desirables’ to counter the ‘undesirables’. There is a good chance that this approach will be less resource intensive – money, time, health, or effort. 

I can categorize most variables we can control in life in one of three ways depending on how their usefulness/utility changes as we change their values: 

  1. Variables with a ‘sweet spot’: pretty self-explanatory – anything in this category above or below the desired ‘sweet spot’ is probably a bad idea and not good for you. This category includes mostly everything, and hence ‘everything is good in moderation’. 
  2. Variables whose utility is perpetually decreasing: these are the things you don’t want present in your life, since their presence would usually deteriorate the quality of life. 
  3. Variables whose utility increases and then levels off: these are things that are good to have in some limited quantity, but anything beyond that is pretty pointless in improving the quality of life. In other words, these are things that offer minimal incremental benefits beyond a certain point. 

If you think about it, cases #2 and #3 are just special cases of case 1, adjusted for the human scale. Take a look at some charts to explain this concept a bit more.

All actions are (or rather, should be) to move the current value of a variable toward the crest of the plot and then possibly slowed down to then focus on other priorities. Knowing when to stop is perhaps as important as pushing hard. Given that these variables interact with each other as closely as they do, a slight gain in one can lead to a drastic loss in another. 

I present to you the ‘human’ – carefully balanced at the edge of the celestial knife for over 200,000 years [5]. 

Footnotes and sources: 

[1] The good concentration of ozone as it exists today is ~ 0.00006% of the atmosphere or ~3B metric tonnes or ~0.6ppm with a peak ~8ppm in the stratosphere. This allows for human life due to life protection from sun’s harmful UV rays, including all of the most energetic UVC radiation, most of the UVB radiation, and about half of the least energetic UVA radiation. Ozone basics from NASA:,0.00006%20percent%20of%20the%20atmosphere.

[2] Increased ozone levels, even slightly more than ‘good’ ozone levels, at a delta increase of 70ppb or 0.07ppm in the troposphere for a total of 0.67ppm global average can cause throat irritation all the way to severe asthma with prolonged exposure. And super high levels of ozone (50ppm or higher) are fatal as quickly as after 60 minutes of exposure. Lethal nature of ozone:

[3] Waterworld movie: What would happen if the world was covered with water:,would%20go%20extinct%20(die).

[4] We (humans) may look a lot different when we become bio+synthetic beings, or figure out how to transfer consciousness to a silicon/computer chip, etc. In our current form though, human beings are just flesh bags of blood and biological ASICs called organs


Resource X

I’ve been reading about a particular category of ideas: specific ideas that are successful in specific fields, and then using those themes to extrapolate to general applications in other areas. 

Time-sharing of resources is one such theme. The idea is very simple, but its ubiquity can be tricky to appreciate. In essence, 

  • Venture = time-sharing of resource X 

where resource X is any underutilized asset owned by an individual or entity. If you have excess units of resource X available, you can “lend” them to people looking for them. 

By “renting” out your “extra” or “unused” resource to someone who’s looking for it, you fill a gap in the market, and consequently generate revenue because of it. Basic supply and demand; economics 101. Some well-known ideas to provide you with a mental framework to appreciate this better: 

  • Airbnb = time-sharing of extra residential space
  • Uber = time-sharing of extra vehicle ride space 
  • WeWork = time-sharing of extra work space
  • FatLlama = time-sharing of individually-owned everyday items (such as cameras, etc) 
  • Tesla Robotaxi = time-sharing of driverless vehicle space
  • Amazon Web Services = time-sharing of web services (sort of?)

Public infrastructure maintained by government institutions is a valid corollary of this same model. Instead of being privately owned and paid for by individuals, this infrastructure is funded with taxpayer money. As a gross oversimplification, 

  • Public roads = time-sharing of vehicle driving space, funded with taxpayer money 
  • Public parking spots = time-sharing of vehicle holding space, funded with taxpayer money 
  • Public libraries = time-sharing of information, funded with taxpayer money

There exist private equivalents of these public entities as well, and vice-versa. 

Stretching this idea further, I wonder how many space / money / information / resource sharing opportunities there exist, waiting to be fleshed out. The ‘utilization’ of most things we own is horribly low – after all, how many hours in a week (168 hours) do you use your camera, television, or other high value items? 

Of course there’s a ‘usefulness quotient’ in all of this as well – it may not make financial sense to rent out low-value and high-logistics-overhead items such as a dining table or a washing machine – diminishing returns. 

I think a good rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule. From all the high value items you own, it’s very likely that you spend most of your time with very few items – such as your phone or your computer. High-value items that don’t follow this 80/20 rule are likely good candidates for our peer-to-peer resource rental thought experiment. 

It’s clear then that to increase your chances of successful resource ‘rentals’ of any kind, you want to maximize the high-value assets you own. You want to acquire lost-cost, appreciating assets, and hold them over time so they increase in value. 

I thought about what kinds of things – tangible and intangible – I would deal with on a day-to-day basis. With a bird’s eye view, it seems to me that the following broad strokes capture a majority of the spectrum: 

  • Depreciating-only assets 
  • Appreciating-only assets 
  • Depreciating-then-appreciating assets 

Depreciating-only assets: this one is straight forward – some things just become a burden over time, which gets heavier the longer you hold on to them. After a period of time, there is net negative value contribution by these forces, not just net zero contribution. Avoid these like the plague. 

Side note: these charts are not to scale, but instead are intended to explain my thought process. The starting points of the plots (the y-intercepts) don’t hold meaning in these charts. 

Depreciating-only resource / asset

Appreciating-only assets: intuitive candidates such as good tech equity investments, and some other collectibles fall under this category as examples. In essence, things – tangible or intangible – that are expected to increase in value over time. Their value growth may slow down or plateau after some time, but these functions are usually still monotonic – they don’t change directions at any time to decrease in value. 

Appreciating-only resource / asset

Depreciating-then-appreciating assets: this third one is a bit counterintuitive. A lot of day-to-day things would fall under this category. For example, when a new smartphone model comes to market, with low supply and high demand, its price point may be pretty high. Once commoditized enough though, its price point may decrease. 

Depreciating-then-appreciating resource / asset

However, over a reasonably long period of time, there would be cases where there would be increase in value not by virtue of ‘function’ or ‘newness’, but by virtue of ‘vintage’ or ‘collectible’ value of the item. How much do you think the now-obsolete first-generation Apple computers would sell for in 2021? 

There can be some level of artificial scarcity in this third category that would lead to increased exclusivity over time, making them more valuable. 

If you’re in this third, long-term game, you’d want to take ownership of items after they have already taken the commoditization price point hit. In other words, it may be more sensible to buy a used car versus a new car. 

I try to actively incorporate these ideas into my wealth and fulfillment generation pursuits in life for both – tangibles and intangibles. I’m sure there’s more to it than my oversimplifications, and I’d love to hear from you about them. Drop me a note! 

Vicarious experience aggregation

My background in computer science and software engineering is limited (so far!) to basic data structures and algorithms, with some experience in Python and C++. At work, I’ve picked up a preliminary understanding of how software product development and collaboration works. 

Regardless of location of software collaboration – Github or vehicle firmware development at Tesla – all have common elements of version control of code. The idea is to maintain all major ‘versions’ of code when changes are made, in case there is a need to revert to earlier versions for any reason. And development occurs by combining, slicing, and dicing stable versions of code for different features into larger sums. 

People keep their code and projects in ‘repositories’ – all their files and directories. 

If I want to build features based on someone else’s existing code, I can ‘fork’ or copy his/her repository. Allows me to play with the code without disturbing the original, while also not having to re-invent the wheel. In the open source world, someone else’s end point can be my starting point. I can create my own unique ‘feature branches’ off of the main repository fork with my own updates. 

And finally, when we have multiple branches with various features that we’d like to combine for a final product, we can ‘merge’ those branches together in a stable way to create a software release. 

Almost everything I learn in life uses the same framework – combining existing ideas into insightful new ones. Putting this development mechanism on paper and acknowledging its existence makes it even more powerful for me. 

I have had the fortune to work with and learn from amazing people over the last decade, and continue to do so. A good majority of them are people I know in person, but some are more mainstream ones, including three in particular. 

In 2014, third year of college, a friend of mine – Videt – told me about Tesla. Living in my college bubble, I had no idea who Elon Musk even was at the time. Once I started learning more about Tesla, SpaceX, and Elon Musk, I tried to ‘fork’ his repository of work, work ethic, and his learning process into my own. 

In 2019, I learned (from Videt) about the angel investor Naval Ravikant, and his take on startups, wealth generation, and happiness. This opened up a new world of startups for me, what’s happening in the world, what to read, what to stay updated on – the list goes on. I have followed him regularly on Twitter since.

In 2021, I learned (also from Videt!) about the writer David Perell, and his view on the importance of writing for professional growth. ‘Forking’ his repository of writing and note taking, I started writing on in March 2021. It’s insane how this recent of a hobby is so important to me now. 

All three of these are public personalities. Even though I work at an Elon company, it’s not as if I work side-by-side with him in my current role, ha! 

Yet I believe that I can learn from these people still, even if I don’t know them in person. I think learning vicariously from people you don’t personally know is a superpower that anyone can cultivate. 

I first attempt to understand what problems they’re working on, staying up to date online on the nature of the problems. Following from that, some active thought experiments on what I would do to solve the problem, if I were them. Then I would read about what they actually did to solve their problem, allowing me to course correct my own train of thought. 

Effectively, I try to learn how they think. When a unique problem comes up, I think to myself ‘what would person X do?’. Having merged the repositories of experiences from successful people into my own master experience branch, I’m able to tap into that for inputs. Talk about sitting on the shoulders of giants, digitally. I effectively recruit them as my mentors.

If I were to summarize all of this with a phrase, I’d call it vicarious experience aggregation. It’s not as one-dimensional as taking everything that someone says as gospel. Instead, it’s a framework to course correct your decision making process based on someone whose thinking you’re trying to emulate. It’s perhaps a more fleshed out version of the last mover advantage – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel that someone else already invented; easier to just learn from it, and build upon it. 

It’s important though to try and get the information from the people directly instead of getting second-hand information. Usually achievable through various online media – interviews, Twitter, blogposts, autobiographies, or podcasts – you get the idea. 

I wonder that if there existed a tool to actively visualize one’s “master experience branch”, would that help inform good decision making? You would decide what all things you’d want to learn about, and then the tool would spit out relevant people to learn it from, and which media to use to achieve that. Perhaps something like this exists already? I’ll keep looking. 

Activation energy and catalysts

There’s a common concept in chemistry – activation energy, or energy of activation for a chemical reaction. It refers to the minimum amount of energy needed for a chemical reaction to occur. In other words, the energy needed to convert ‘reactants’ into ‘products’ in a chemical reaction. You need to strike the match to light a fire – it will not ignite on its own. 

What’s even more interesting is that this energy requirement for a reaction can usually be reduced/lowered by using a catalyst, which is a substance/an agent used to increase the rate of a chemical reaction without participating in the reaction itself. It’s effectively a ‘facilitator’ to get a reaction going by lowering that energy barrier. 

I’m sure Arrhenius would not have foreseen how widely this concept applies even at a macro level back when he defined the term in 1889. Replace ‘activation energy’ with ‘willpower’ (or ‘mental inertia’ or ‘mental energy’), and the principle carries over quite nicely. 

The idea is to lower the activation energy for good things to make them easier, and to raise it for bad things to make them harder. Don’t always brute force your way into a good-but-draining activity each time. It’s more effective instead to modify (or ‘catalyze’) your environment so that the ‘good’ activity is a likely or natural outcome – it works.

For the longest time, I have tried to be regular with drinking sufficient water daily to no avail. More recently though, I’ve made my water drinking a bit easier by always having a bottle of water next to me through the day. And I keep sipping on it through the day versus having to go each time to get a glass of water when I get thirsty. Easier to just have a bottle of water around me so that drinking water is a likely or natural outcome. I average around 2.5 liters daily now, trying to improve to recommended daily limits. Small but steady victories. 

On the flip side, pizza and I have been best friends forever. So easy to get junk food with a few taps on a food delivery app. Delete that app, and force yourself to enter your username and password each time you want to order something from a restaurant. Hopefully that is annoying enough for you to not order every night. I’m not all the way there yet myself, but definitely better compared to where I was a year ago. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Expanding on the same theme, it becomes easy to see why trying to actively correct for this mental activation energy – decreasing it for good stuff, and increasing it for bad stuff – can help course correct our days and weeks. 

If I overdraw from my daily willpower reservoir over 100%, there’s a good chance I will just fault out and not do anything good. But if I can manage to make my life easier and bring my willpower withdrawal to below the available 100%, there’s a good chance I will do well. And over time, when difficult things become easier as we graduate into habits, it’s possible to add on more then. 

Correcting my environment has the same effect on me as correcting the direction of an electric field would have on a charged particle in space. Regardless of the starting location of the charged particle, if the ‘electric field’ (or my environment) is pointing in the desired direction (good habits), the particle will move as intended, even if slowly. And this would be with lower effort (or mental energy) compared to what the particle would have to spend if there was no electric field. Or worse, if the electric field pointed in the wrong direction. 

I want my default environment to be my desired state, so that even if I stray away temporarily, my environment would bring me back to nominal. I would want it to be a stable equilibrium, instead of an unstable equilibrium. 

Ultron, cyber veins, and the human brain

The idea that humans are just biological computers is not new – it’s been around for quite some time. We get inputs about external stimuli with our five senses, do some processing in the brain, and then take some action with our motor system aka muscles. However, the notion that humans are more than just biological entities – that is, biological+digital – is still rudimentary, but rapidly evolving. 

Mainstream media got the scoop on this one. One example: in the Avengers movie series, Vision (aka good Jarvis) and Ultron (aka bad Jarvis) comprise the symbiosis of biological+digital in a most dramatic way. Their digital alter egos have the ability to manifest globally via the internet on demand. 

While our reality isn’t as fantastic as a superhero movie series’, some themes from that series are not too far fetched. We can already make our “presence” felt globally at a moment’s notice – enter social media. Controlling heavy earth machinery with the tap of a finger on a screen? No problem. Guiding thousands of tonnes of steel in the ocean with a computer terminal? Yes please. 

It’s not too absurd then to suggest that our consciousness is our ruler supreme, right? We think our thoughts based on what we receive as inputs, and then act out on them with various end effectors – starting at a human body’s limbs, continuing through the world’s most powerful computers and machines. 

This concept of treating the physical human body as nothing but a vessel being driven by our brain’s thoughts is fascinating to me. Makes me think all I’m doing bumbling through my week is just guiding my body through the motions – eating, walking, talking, writing, and a lot of other preventative maintenance. It’s like playing Grand Theft Auto in real life – you look at and guide your avatar from a third person point of view while it completes its missions. 

I’d argue that, by extension, I should also be able to prevent my body, my vessel, from doing stupid things, no? After all, thoughts and habits are just chemical synapses strengthened in the brain by repetition over time. I indulge in much self-destructive behavior – eating junk, watching trash television – even if it seems innocuous at the onset. 

But as a human being, I literally have the ability to think about my thoughts and course correct. Sounds recursive, and that’s because it is. Mind over body, but also mind over mind. 

At Tesla, I work with the wire harness design engineering group. A friend of mine once said that wire harnesses are like the veins of the car. Such an accurate analogy! They keep the electricity flowing, connecting all devices and assemblies. 

Our digital presence is similar – it comprises our cyber veins. Our whole sum – our physical body – is nothing but a vessel to sync our brain’s thoughts to the rest of humanity’s brain-collective. Such a powerful concept. The problem is that our human hardware is becoming rapidly outdated. Seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling, and using our muscles – all have severe limitations in their rate of data transfer. You can only type or talk so fast.

Of course we have data transfer boosters in the form of high performance external devices such as smartphones, spectacles, laptops – the list is endless. The problem with these external devices is precisely that – they are external to the human body. These devices still need to work with our five senses, which themselves are super slow. The chainlink is only as strong as its weakest link. Even though our speed of thought is pretty high, our interfacing mechanisms of communication with the outside world – typing, talking, hearing, watching, etc – are pretty slow. 

Enter Neuralink. And Elon. And his hyper-realistic conception of Neuralink’s brain machine interface. He continuously talks about the necessity of having a high bandwidth interface with the brain’s cortex. I’m skirting the boundaries of what Neuralink does, but this piece is not about that detail. Its summary is important though. To oversimplify one of Neuralink’s primary objectives: let’s bypass the shitty / slow stuff – eyes, ears, fingertips, etc – and get to the good stuff directly – the brain. And then connect the brain directly to an internet computer for high-speed data transfer. 

All his other ventures are about what humans can do. But Neuralink is about what humans can be

The possibilities are mind-bending, and heavily question the definition of what a human being is. Imagine a scenario where you can connect your brain to external devices directly. Want to look at something? Don’t need the human eyes, just connect to an external high-resolution camera. Better yet, why not add some UV and IR cameras while you’re at it to capture electromagnetic waves outside of the visible spectrum as well? 

In this reality, you would be able to listen to music without audio, feel things without touching, taste things without eating – you get the idea. At the end of the day, everything is just data for the brain to interpret. As long as you have these data via electronic signals, you can fire your brain’s chemical synapses at will. 

A few years ago, I read this book by Robin Cook simply titled ‘Brain’. I’ll spare you from its disturbing dystopian plot about brain theft from unwilling medical patients. One gruesome scene is worth talking about though. 

In this scene, a patient has her nervous system ‘stolen’ by a crazy doctor, who hooks ‘her’ up to his secret lab equipment. I say ‘stolen’ instead of ‘killed’ because her nervous system is kept alive, suspended in a vat of liquid, and is then connected to a computer. A series of experiments are run on ‘her’ (that is, on her isolated brain and nervous system). And as a method of positive reinforcement, ‘she’ is fed feelings of sexual arousal to keep her motivated (that is, electrical impulses to the correct parts of the brain) to participate in the experiments. 

Horror movies don’t always scare me easily; sometimes I think they’re just comical. I visualize the actors in studio lighting wearing fake blood make-up – absolutely hilarious. But it’s stories like Robin Cook’s Brain that scare me often, because they’re not that far from reality. It’s the same with Black Mirror – keeps you on your toes throughout, because its settings are not that hard to imagine. Which means that they can and may happen someday. The future’s going to be weird, oof.

Global and local maxima

I wonder how many concepts from basic mathematics can be applied to things outside of textbooks. I have been enamored by the idea of global maxima and local maxima off late, and I’m trying to incorporate it as best as possible into my professional pursuits. 

Often I had been vying for my local maximum’s optimization – getting that title change, getting that raise, working extremely hard – always with respect to nearby peers, as that’s what would constitute my short-sighted local maximum. 

It was worthwhile for me every now and then though to zoom out and check out nearby peaks and valleys. Always a good chance that there is a higher peak nearby, which is worth optimizing for more than a current local maximum. 

Simply put, working at an acceptable rate in a high return-on-investment game trumps working extremely hard in a low return-on-investment game. Optimizing shit will just give us slightly better shit. 

Why should I vie for pennies when something else could afford me opportunities with 1000x impact and wealth generation potential? Being at a 50% achievement level of a super high global maximum may still be better than being at 95% of a lower local maximum. Better to jog slower in the correct / better race, than sprinting in the wrong one. 

Easier said than done though, of course, since usually this means that there will be a period of perceived regression in growth during transition periods. And this is often enough to dissuade people from even trying. 

In the grand scheme of things however, the opportunity cost of not trying to find the global maximum is usually far greater than the cost of perceived regression in growth.

Optics of growth vs actual growth

This one is super interesting, as my friend Tanushi explained. 

Actual growth may happen in the background even if the optics of it don’t prove that. Fitness is a common example for this – you have got to put in the hours for months before you see visual changes in your fitness level. Doesn’t mean that growth isn’t happening; it’s just happening in a way that isn’t the most visible. In other words, the optics of growth vs actual growth never usually track 1:1 together, with the optics lagging behind for a majority of the time. 

Usually, the optics are what people would care about – getting that physique, cranking out that code, scoring that perfect top right corner goal – you get the idea. And the immediate absence of it is enough to deter people from putting in the homework needed to get to that level where there is a discernible difference in the optics as well. 

But unfortunately reality is different – there are microsteps in actual growth that need to occur via your homework before any visible steps in optics can be seen. 

A silver living in this is the notion that even if things aren’t visibly improving, as long as you’re executing the correct tasks, you can rest assured that growth is happening in those microsteps.

Everything is demand vs supply

This one’s pretty clear – if supply of ‘thing’ is high and demand is low, then the cost of ‘thing’ is low, and vice-versa. What may not be super intuitive is how universally this applies everywhere. 

Common sayings – “you only value things when you lose them”, “the grass is greener on the other side” – and so on. The variations are endless. In essence though, they are just applications of how everything is supply vs demand. 

The intention of stating the obvious here is to invite active thought in identifying your resources that are high in supply, and to put them to good use, versus waiting for when they may become scarce and we realize their true value. 

An obvious example of such a resource, as is a common theme in the rest of the document as well, is time. If you have two hours free on a weekend, put it to good use, even if it’s just going for a walk. The same two hours may become costlier (and hence, more valuable) at a later time.

The power of books

Reading books is one of the best things you can do if learning and growth is important to you. It may not bring you pleasure and instant gratification as some other things might (such as watching a show, eating junk food), but it’s amazing for what it’s meant for. 

A very low capital investment, high impact activity, reading books is quicker than listening to a podcast or watching a video. Has logistics constraints though of course – can’t read a book while driving. But prioritizing reading as a daily habit is one of the best things you can do for personal and professional growth, second only to perhaps fitness / nutrition. 

Even its learning efficiency is through the roof – would you rather interview 100 people yourself in 20 cities over 2 years, or read the juiced out document that a writer has written by doing the same in 10hours? Your leverage for learning by reading is enormous. It’s like drinking a juice concentrate. 

Even spending those 10 hours on reading may feel like a lot. But compared to the alternate – gathering that info first-hand yourself – it’s a no-brainer that reading is far superior.