Quora answers of the week is a new initiative by The Connectere wherein we seek questions on quora ranging on a variety of topics and give answers to those question. Following are the questions our team answered this week –

  1. What do you think of the gig economy?
  2. What are some facts about Hitler?
  3. Why has India failed to produce tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
  4. What AI advancement is dangerous to humans?
  5. How Does Perspective Matter?
  6. Why are books more powerful than articles and blogs on the internet and videos on YouTube? If you can easily watch a video on the same thing, why do we have to spend more time reading a book?

What do you think of the Gig economy?

To begin with, I feel it’s imperative that we have a clear understanding of a ‘gig economy’ actually means; basically, it is a type of economy characterized by more temporary and flexible jobs wherein industries and companies are inclined on hiring freelancers and contractors rather than having full-time employees. It boomed at the time of the 2008 recession, and played an instrumental role in ensuring a basic standard of living for all within the social strata, amidst the shockwaves of financial and economic distress that countries throughout the globe were crippling with.

Though this form has certainly brought in a lot of positive impacts like making work more suited to the needs of the moment; fulfilling the rising quest for flexible lifestyles to attain a healthy work life balance, opening up new income streams for the masses and even providing ease to the pockets of businesses and companies.

The more the gig economy has grown, the greater it has made its mark on the global economy. On one hand where, in the lesser developed countries it has had a fairly beneficial impact in the financial aspect, but a lot of studies have raised eyebrows regarding its impact in the developed countries and the world as a whole. Many today are tagging the gig economy as an exploitative one because of the sole reason- that this economy has allowed companies an avenue to hire workers from lesser developed countries at lower wage rates. While, small businesses and MSMEs are able to outsource time-consuming and demanding work at far lesser wages, they are able to grow much quickly. However, on the flip side of the coin, the same jobs are being taken away from people in the cities with greater standards and are also compelling people from stronger economies in a position to accept wages that are definitely not at par with what is asked of them. Additionally, such jobs essentially take the responsibility of employees away from companies, and don’t always have a great quality of the output.

One big challenge that the gig economy poses to the world today is regarding the regulation and curbing any exploitative practices. Having integrated the globe into one big marketplace, the regulatory aspect would certainly not be easy considering how there are multiple governments and bodies all with their different set of rules.

What is needed today is to ensure that such freelancers have their voice heard and the hiring companies follow certain guidelines strictly to ensure the sustainability and safety of workers. Fair work practices as well as benchmark wages must be set on a global level, to ensure a basic standard of living universally.To make the gig economy sustainable in the long run, all the stakeholders- the workers, companies as well as governments must support fair working standards and norms. This issue isn’t one whose responsibility is to be shouldered by non-profit organisations alone, but every citizen of the economy must contribute his bit to making the gig economy a complement rather than a substitute for the world as a whole.

(Written by Aradhana)

 

What are some facts about Hitler?

The following are some unknown facts about Adolf Hitler:

1. Hitler had served in the World War 1 as an infantryman in his teenage.
He was spared his life by a British war hero, Henry Tandy. Henry Tandy was the most highly decorated British private of the First World War and is most commonly remembered as the soldier who supposedly spared Adolf Hitler’s life during the war.

2. Hitler was Time’s Man of the Year in 1938.
A mere year before he led Germany to war, Time magazine bestowed the title of “Man of the Year” on Hitler. It’s important to note however, that the award isn’t always meant as an endorsement. Instead, Time claims that the title is more a measure of newsworthiness and impact.

3. Although a strong German nationalist, and patriot Hitler was an Austrian by birth.
In 1914, while living in Munich, Hitler managed to enlist in the Bavarian Army before renouncing his Austrian citizenship in 1925 and officially becoming a German citizen in the early 30’s.

4. The place where millions of Jews were killed on his orders, Hitler never personally visited any concentration camps.
Hitler never visited a single death camp. The distance Hitler kept between himself and the spot of actual killing has fuelled the claims made by the neo-Nazi supporters that Hitler was not responsible for the holocaust and that Himmler kept him in the dark about what was taking place. However, Hitler’s involvement in the genocide can be found at every stage of the ‘Final Solution’, a program aimed at murdering every last Jew within German controlled territories

5. Hitler Shaved Part of His Moustache Because His Full Moustache Nearly Killed Him.
During WWI he had full moustache. Soldiers in trenches were experiencing mustard-gas and other lethal gas attacks during the WWI and respiratory masks were provided to the combatants to keep out gas. But during gas attacks, Hitler could not create complete airlocks pulling his respiratory mask over his face due his long moustache and he almost died due to presence of gas in his mask. As a result, Hitler’s supervisors ordered Hitler to remove his fancy moustache to facilitate the wearing of the gas masks. But instead, he trimmed it to the distinctive toothbrush shaped style.

6. As a child, Hitler wanted to be a priest.
Hitler’s mother was a devout Catholic, while his father considered religion a scam. In his childhood, Hitler was enthralled by the pomp and ritual of the Catholic Church and for a while he even considered becoming a priest, but ended up rejecting religion as a teenager.

7. Hitler got married less than 40 hours before he died.
Hitler married Eva Braun on 29 April,1945; a day before they are believed to have committed suicide in a bunker. Hitler believed he was attractive to women, so he remained single for political gain. The German people were unaware of Eva Braun until after the war.

(Written by Manav Jain)

 

Why has India failed to produce tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?

When we compare the two environments, some glaringly obvious answers jump at us. These are-

1. Entrepreneurship is considered to be a dead end
India is a country with traditional values where families mostly urge their children to follow what’s familiar to them- be it engineering, medical or MBA. In an environment like this, it is very difficult to cultivate an open space where ideas are given freedom and support. The mentality that entrepreneurship is a dead end is fixed inside every parents’ mind, like an outgrown weed. And to find support is a difficult task.

2. Minimal Funding
Investors in India, as compared to other countries are very sceptical to invest in start-ups. The Indian start-up ecosystem has largely received funding from North America and Europe, followed by Japan and China. Domestic investors tend to shy away from Indian start-ups and bet on out of India start-ups. How will the start-up ecosystem grow if domestic investors are afraid to invest in India?

3. Education and work culture in India are lacking
Compared to US, China, Japan, India’s education system lacks the cutthroat advantage involved in starting a technological start-up. India’s work culture too is not up to mark. People value well paying jobs more than struggling 5 years in a start-up. People are largely influenced by their family needs. I feel, this diminishes the edge of Indian players.

4. Loop of venture capitalists
Venture capitalists in India are very much like the companies that they fund: since most companies in India end up replicating things that already exist (but perhaps at a discounted price or catered towards the domestic market), venture capitalists in India in turn are more willing to fund these same companies rather than truly innovative companies. If the idea has not been tried, tested and proven, an entrepreneur is less likely to get funding in India versus the West. Venture capitalists have a different approach in India. Valuation places a higher focus on cost vs. revenues and encourages funding of ideas that already exist in the West. In other words, truly innovative ideas on a global scale are less likely to get funding.

Despite all these reasons, India is not far behind. It has already garnered much momentum than before and it’s heading towards greater and bigger things. Success stories in India too exist- Oyo’s Ritesh Agarwal is the world’s second youngest self-made billionaire, Sundar Pichai just became the CEO of Alphabet, etc. So, let’s not get hasty, one out of 1.3 billion population is bound to create something big.

(Written by Sonal)

 

What AI advancement is dangerous to humans?

We have come across cases of Alexa recording entire conversations in homes and sending it to unwanted people. While that is certainly embarrassing, and to some extent even dangerous, there can be much serious threats posed by Aritficial Intelligence (AI). Anyone who has watched science fiction movies or read novels of the same genre can vouch for the fact that there is always something going topsy-turvy because of some new invention. Take Avengers: Age of Ultron for instance, where the AI system built by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner becomes sentient and decides to wipe out the human race.

Although we might not have an “avenger’s” level threat at the moment, we can all agree that any sufficiently advanced technology has both its perks and detriments and if such technology falls into the wrong hands, the detriments far outweigh the perks.

Most of us know what Artificial intelligence is. It is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems based on hard computing. From SIRI to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence (AI) is progressing rapidly. While science fiction often portrays AI as robots with human-like characteristics, AI can encompass anything from Google’s search algorithms to IBM’s Watson to autonomous weapons.

Artificial intelligence today is properly known as narrow AI (or weak AI), which means that it is designed to perform a narrow task or specific task. Take for instance, only facial recognition or only internet searches or only driving a car. Researchers are creating general AI which could outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task.

So, there lies our point of concern – the creators being overpowered by their very own creation. The question now is, how can this be potentially dangerous to us? As I.J Good, a British mathematician and cryptologist, pointed out in 1965, “designing smarter AI systems is itself a cognitive task. Such a system could potentially undergo recursive self-improvement, triggering an intelligence explosion leaving human intellect far behind. By inventing revolutionary new technologies, such a super intelligence might help us eradicate war, disease, and poverty.” So think of this recursive self-improvement as something increasing in a geometric progression. Good becomes better, bad becomes worse and the increase is happening exponentially. Therefore, some experts have expressed concerns that unless we learn to align the goals of the AI with ours before it becomes super intelligent, it might even be the last event in human history.

Although, it is mostly unlikely that a super intelligent system could become sentient or that it can be intentionally benevolent or malevolent, there can be some other risks such as,

Autonomous weapons are AI systems that are programmed to kill. In the hands of the wrong person, these weapons could easily cause mass casualties. People have often juggled the idea of using “robot soldiers” instead of humans in the battle fields. On one hand, it could reduce human casualties to some extent. On the other, it could also lead to an AI war because these would be extremely difficult to turn off just so that they can avoid being thwarted by the enemy.

If we fail to align the AI’s goal with ours then it might take a destructive path to obtain a beneficial target. For instance, if you ask a super intelligent car to drive you somewhere as fast as possible, it might not care for the traffic laws or the lives in its way unless it is programmed that way.

As these examples illustrate, the concern about advanced AI isn’t malevolence but competence.

Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and many other big names in science and technology have recently expressed concern about the risks posed by AI. It has the potential to become more intelligent than any human so we have no sure-fire way of predicting how it will behave nor do we have any past source of reference because there has never been anything, so far, that could outsmart us. This is a reflection of Darwin’s concept of survival of the fittest – our own evolution has put us in control of the planet, not because we’re the strongest, fastest or biggest, but because we’re the smartest. If we’re no longer the smartest, are we assured to remain in control?

Another point to think about is, we often see people arguing about AI systems becoming conscious and that we should be worried. Although this mystery of consciousness is interesting in its own right, it’s irrelevant to AI risk. If you get struck by a driverless car, it makes no difference to you whether it subjectively feels conscious. In the same way, what will affect us humans is what super intelligent AI does, not how it subjectively feels.

The book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom suggests “an agent whose sole final goal is to solve the Riemann hypothesis(a famous unsolved, mathematical conjecture) could create and act upon a subgoal of transforming the entire Earth into some form of computronium (a hypothetical “programmable matter”) to assist in the calculation. The super intelligence would proactively resist any outside attempts to turn the super intelligence off or otherwise prevent its subgoal completion. In order to prevent such an existential catastrophe, it is necessary to successfully solve the “AI control problem” for the first super intelligence.”

A solution to this problem can be integrating the machine goal with the human goal which is surprisingly difficult because most goals, when translated into machine-implementable code, lead to unforeseen and undesirable consequences.

The big economies of the world could capitalise on collaborating AI systems with other technologies such as smart phones, 5G networks and IoT (internet of things) however 5G networks aren’t built for normal human environments, that is, at such high frequencies the immunity system weakens. So what might be beneficial in one way, say for the military or defence, may be dangerous to the general populace.

In conclusion, if technology surpasses human control, the dangers will be real.

(Written by Aashika)

 

How Does Perspective Matter?

Everytime we read a book, it is from a particular person’s point of view, their perspective, it is because a perspective changes the entire story. That is exactly how it plays a role in our life. Things are a certain way, but everyone looks at them with their own eyes, own mind, with their perspective, and the same thing ends up meaning a variety of things to different individuals. What we perceive makes us start believing in a certain way, and see things in a certain way. People talk of how a perspective is right or wrong, but there isn’t any categorization, even that category we form is a perception of that perspective. The same thing can be good to one, bad to another, their circumstances, situations, past, experiences, behavior, thought of line, habits, everything makes it different from them.

My perception is that no two people can have the same exact perspective, it is extremely similar but never the same. We bond and interact with each other based on our perspectives, we set our goals according to them, we raise our children according to them, we do every little thing based on them. While buying a packet of tea, we even choose the brand according to our perspectives. Even the way we think of life is our perspective, a famous example we all must have heard, a glass filled halfway with water or a glass half empty?

But like any other thing, perspectives change, we change how we feel about things, the importance of things in our life changes with time, because our perspective changes. It is not a conscious effort, it is more like a subconscious thing affecting our conscious decisions and even our emotions. There is no magnitude to measure how much it impacts us, but it does.

(Written by Tanishka)

 

Why are books more powerful than articles and blogs on the internet and videos on YouTube? If you can easily watch a video on the same thing, why do we have to spend more time reading a book?

I think that books have a charm in them which cannot be matched by any other source of learning. Once you start reading a book you get engrossed in it and don’t ever want to leave the book without reaching the end.

Reading or watching videos online has become very common nowadays. But one cannot always rely on their credibility as anyone could have made the videos.Once something goes viral on the net ,even if its wrong cannot be taken back and its effect would be there to stay. This is not an issue in reading books. Most of the information given would be by reputed authors and would be verified.

Moreover reading online leads to strain on the eyes due to the light emissions from the device.

I would always recommend reading a book as it is a different feeling in itself and that connection with the story cannot be formed otherwise.

(Written by Tanya Bahl)

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