Monday, September 22, 2008

IQ, Wealth and Income

The lecturer made a remark that was impossible for me to ignore. He said, "IQ has some correlation with income, but almost no correlation with wealth."
It didn't shock me, but I found the part about wealth difficult to accept at an intellectual level. So I checked the Web to see if there was truth to what the lecturer was saying. It looks like he was right. When the journal intelligence plotted IQ against net-worth, they found no real correlation. (See graph.) This is a difficult concept to come to grips with, especially for all those who suspect that their IQ is well above average. The accepted correlation of IQ and income seems to be around 0.4 to 0.5 (Wikipedia.)

In the context of retirement (or more accurately, financial indepence which is one facet of 'retirement') the lesson for most of us is fairly straight forward. If a certain net-worth is a goal, then work towards it diligently.

Thinking damn, I am quite smart, so I should be a lot richer than I currently am might actually be counterproductive.Your net-worth won't balloon all by itself just because your IQ is high.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One-Person Projects

I now realize that I was making excuses back then. From time to time, we all come across instances where one person, through sheer perseverance and not much else achieves something remarkable. Confronted with those examples, I was able to go easy on myself by thinking 'if only I had more time'. The thing is, I now have the time and so that excuse doesn’t work anymore.

I recently saw a documentary titled Nobelity, a one-man effort. Since I am also currently reading about Crowdsourcing (and getting very excited about the possibilities), I am realizing that both ends of the effort spectrum -- group effort or single person actions -- are equally interesting and potent.

This post is about three feature-length documentaries that I saw this year, all of which are essentially one-person efforts.

Nobelity has 9 interviews with 9 different Nobel prize winners in disparate fields, shot on location in several countries. Without exception, all these laureates are very good communicators, capable of communicating directly to the lay person about powerful ideas and concepts. (I highly recommend that you seek out and watch this on DVD.)

Turk Pipkin conceived of this project (worried about what the world would be like 50 years from now, the world his two young daughters will grow up in) and took the time (over 3 years) to follow through. It is an opportunity for us to hear Nobel laureates speaking to Turk, one on one.

Peace One Day is one Jeremy Gilley’s attempt (he almost succeeded) to see if the whole world would set aside one day each year when there would be no wars, no fighting. A world ceasefire, just for one day. Obsessed and consumed by this idea, Jeremy meets with students, NGO’s, politicians, the Dalai Lama, presidents of countries and Kofi Annan, trying to convince them to give it just a try. Again, do watch the DVD if you can get hold of a copy, if only for this guy’s persistence.

Finally, Scared/Sacred is one person’s visit to around ten places of major catastrophes (think Bhopal Union Carbide, think Chernobyl, think Cambodia’s killing fields, think Hiroshima). In these places, interviews people, hangs around and allows us to share in his personal journey. His goal is to look for lessons and to communicate hope even in these places of oppression.

All three movies are extremely rewarding, and I recommend them all. Be sure to also watch the story behind the making of these DVD in the special features sections.

Again, the humbling part all of three documentaries is that they are all one person efforts – real-life reminders of what one person can do, if only they took the time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Caution: Time sink ahead

When I was working, my TV viewing used to average well under one hour per day (I think). An occasional sitcom (The Office or The Apprentice), 30-minutes of BBC World News, and a few PBS travel shows (Rick Steves' Europe, GlobeTrekker) now and then. There were also many days when we wouldn’t turn on the TV at all. And I was very diligent about turning off the TV so that I could make time for books.

Now that I don’t have to go to work, I am seeing a steady increase in my TV viewing. It is so easy to give in when there is the illusion that there’s plenty of time. There are always interesting (and interesting-sounding) TV shows on. The trick (for me) is in not even turning on the TV so that I don’t fritter away my time instead of using it for all the things I was hoping to do if only I had more time.

A quick web search reveals that this fact is well known and studied: There is increased TV viewing in the retirement community. When you stop working, keep this in mind and keep from reaching for the remote.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Project: No more IC engines

Now that I have been vegetating and traveling for 2.5 months, I am just starting to look at things that others are working on, the type of projects that sound interesting.

I read this article in the paper edition of Wired Magazine today, and was very impressed with what Shai Agassi is attempting to do. I don’t know if his plan is even feasible, but the sheer audacity of the idea is what impressed me the most. Imagine doing away from Internal Combustion engines altogether. No wonder Shimon Peres called his guy's phone directly.
Agassi dealt with the battery issue by simply swatting it away. Previous approaches relied on a traditional manufacturing formula: We make the cars, you buy them. Agassi reimagined the entire automotive ecosystem by proposing a new concept he called the Electric Recharge Grid Operator. It was an unorthodox mashup of the automotive and mobile phone industries. Instead of gas stations on every corner, the ERGO would blanket a country with a network of "smart" charge spots. Drivers could plug in anywhere, anytime, and would subscribe to a specific plan—unlimited miles, a maximum number of miles each month, or pay as you go—all for less than the equivalent cost for gas.

A couple of quotes from the article that resonated:
Shimon Peres: My great advantage is that I'm ignorant. My own mentor was David Ben-Gurion. He used to say all experts are experts for things that did happen. There are no experts for things that may happen.

They were joining the cause, not just the company. "Once you have a mission," Agassi told me over dinner one night last winter, "you can't go back to having a job."
Be sure to check out the article.

Addendum: When I read the following quote by Buckminster Fuller, I immediately thought of this article.
"To build a new system you don't compete with the old one, you build a new system that makes the old one obsolete."

Crowdsourcing and whales

I am currently reading Jeff Howe’s book Crowdsourcing. (Definition: outsourcing tasks to an undefined large group of people.) I find the concept both fascinating as well as very promising. While reading the book, it occurred to me that I had actually witnessed an example of crowdsourcing just last week, while I was on a cruise in Alaska.

There were over 2000 passengers and a good number of them had excellent (foot-long) telephoto cameras. From the ship's decks, they’d shoot photos of whales. The ship staff included a naturalist and in a presentation she explained that each whale’s tail had unique designs (its finger-print of sorts). She then asked that anyone who had managed to get decent photos of a whale’s tail consider uploading those photos to a marine database in Seattle. The volunteers and professionals there would then use scanning software as well as the date and time of sighting to track the movement of the whale herds worldwide.

After returning home, I looked it up and sure enough, even USA Today had run an article about this back in May 2008.

The reason I mention crowdsourcing in a retirement blog is that I believe that just a few years down the road, retirement won’t be the step change it is today, a phase of not working after a 9-to-5 corporate job. Rather, people will slowly transition into participating in ever more ‘crowdsourced’ projects and activities, some of which may augment their incomes and many that won’t. A much more diffused version of retirement.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Books to read (while in India)

In our current thinking, my wife and I plan to move our base to India starting in 2009. Since neither of us is working and we don't own a home here in the US, there isn't that much reason for us to continue to live in the U.S. So, after nearly 2 decades here, we are hoping to try out living in India.

In light of that, everything for us these days falls into one of two categories -- before-India or post-move. Where we travel to, what we buy, which restaurant we choose are all governed by this.

When it comes to reading books, the ones that I feel might be easier to get in India, I am saving to read later. I decided that I would maintain my list of books to read in India here, just in case anyone else might be interested.

* Maximum City
* Unaccustomed Earth
* A Million Mutinies Now
* Shashi Tharoor (Riot or The Elephant, the Tiger & the Cell Phone )
* The White Tiger (Adiga)
* Rushdie (perhaps The Enchantress of Florence)
* Q&A by Vikas Swarup

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Timid variations

In the same vein as my previous post, here’s something I found in Paul Theroux’ book “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.” Again, it reminded me of how I was starting to feel at times about my day job towards the end.
“I can tell that I am growing old,” says the narrator in Borges’s story “The Congress.” One unmistakable sign is the fact that I find novelty neither interesting nor surprising, perhaps because I see nothing essentially new in it – it’s little more than timid variations on what’s already been.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Goals that didn't bring happiness

This morning, I read something that the famed Japanese author, Haruki Murakami said. He was referring to the time in the 90’s when Japan (he felt) sort of lost its way after dominating the world market with cameras, cars, and TV sets. Referring to the Japanese people’s beliefs as a whole, he said:
“But hard work didn’t bring us to a better place. We found that money is not the answer. We had our goals. We achieved them, but the achievement didn’t bring us happiness.”
I read that and thought it was perfect. If anyone asked me why I wasn’t working anymore, I could paraphrase that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Last Cup of Coffee on the Last Day at Work

An Imagined Rendezvous
Sunday, June 15, 2008

On my last Friday afternoon at work
I walked alone to the office coffee club
The same walk that I’d made hundreds of times

I was anticipating the whole ritual
Dropping my quarter into the Folgers can that doubled as the coin-box
shaking those NJoy canisters of sugar and creamer
and then pouring
and stirring slowly
for one last time.

And then the first sip, the most pleasurable one.
That night, I planned to retire my long-serving coffee mug.

At the lounge, of all people, I ran into him.
Hey, I heard you were let go, he said
I was probably imagining the glee in his voice
It was actually a mutual letting go, but I nodded yes.

He had never thought too highly of me
Our disrespect was mutual.
Because of that we were overly courteous to each other.
He took over and started to pour the coffee for me
robbing me of my ritual.

So do you have something lined up already? he asked.
I am not looking for a job, I said.
He paused and drank in that information.
But, but what will you do with all the time you will have? he asked,
his tone betraying confused curiosity.
Well, I haven’t read a single Rimbaud or a Baudelaire, I said.
He looked up from pouring the coffee,
question marks in his eyes.

He had always suspected that I was slightly off
and now I was confirming it.
My response had made him visibly uneasy.

Okay, I’ll see you around, he said
though we both knew we wouldn’t.

And with our coffee mugs full,
we both walked away
each smugly sympathetic of the other.