Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On Wealth and Execution

I haven't blogged for a while and I realized that many students haven't blogged as well - but we'd talk about that later.

I also wanted to do an experiment to test if students would blog if I didn't blog. Sad to say, not many did. :-(

What came to me earlier today is something quite philosophical, and thats the question: what is wealth?

I recently get in touch with Nipun Mehta who has an interesting perspective on this question:

His solution is the "gift economy", which attempts to "redefine wealth as contributions, not possessions".

While interesting, and perhaps noble, such a definition is a little too abstract for me.

So I approached this question from a more basic angle: if I can have an infinite amount of anything I want, what would it be? Money?

Sometimes when you ask questions the "right way", you the get the "right" answers.

My answer was pretty obvious: TIME.

If only I had more time. I have so many thing I have to do. I have so many things I wanna do. I never seem to have enough time to do them all. :-( Simple as that. Instead of a daily struggle to pay the bills, mine is a struggle to stay afloat.

Let's try to get everything squared away without blowing anything up yeah?

If you will think a little deeper. There are two things that the world cares about: energy and money. To some extent, the two are actually interchangeable. Energy is money, albeit in a different form.

Why do we need money or energy? Basically to buy time.

Because we have money, we can take a plane or drive a car instead of walking on foot. That saves us hellaluvalot of time.

Because we have money, we can go to the restaurants, we don't need to hunt down the animal, skin it and cook it ourselves.

Because we have money, we can hire a maid to take care of the housework so that we don't have to do the laundry.

Because we have money, we might be able to pump ourselves with more advanced medical treatments so that we don't die so early and have more time.

You get the point. But suppose we all agree that wealth is really time, then there are two obvious corollaries:

One, life is very fair, because regardless of king or pauper, we all have the same amount of time everyday: only 24 hours. No more. No less.

Two, what should we do with our time?

I am not about to suggest that there is a model answer to the second question. To each his own. I am merely sharing a perspective.

The second point I want to touch on in this blog entry is execution, which coincidentally is the theme for the second part of CS3216, if people still remember.

It turns out that CS3216 is not the easiest class to teach. Because of the way it is structured, there are a lot of random variables.

I don't know beforehand who I can get as speakers. I don't know who will turn me down. I don't know who will agree to come talk to the class, but have to cancel and/or reschedule.

I don't know whether the new Google Wave assignment will work out. I didn't even know what Google Wave was about when we started. Thank God it worked out. :-P

Because I am teaching this class for the third time, I am obviously much smarter than when I started, but there are (always) surprises.

For example, while I had expected all the teams to do well for the milestone portion of the Facebook assignment, some teams blew up on and I had to make up some new rules to remedy the situation and to put the course back on track.

Now that we're nearing the end of the semester, I must say that I'm quite pleased to see how things have turned out and as far and I'm concerned, we're pretty much cruising to the end.

There's still the poster session next Wed, but it's quite manageable.

The only other loose end that I need to tie up is the Blogging King/Queen business. As it turns out, this current batch of students dun really like to blog and dun blog consistently. This is very different from the last batch -- but why am I surprised? :-)

Upon careful deliberation, I hereby declare MYSELF the Blog King for this batch 'cos I think I have blogged much more consistently and conscientiously than any of the students.

Because there can only be one, and I'm the one, this means that the no one gets a free A by blogging for this batch. At least not the way it was envisioned at the start of the semester. Sorry.

Am I upset that blogging didn't quite work out this semester? Actually, no 'cos the point of the class is not about blogging. Everything that's done for CS3216 is supposed to go towards promoting learning. While the blogging component this year hasn't been quite so successful, some good has come out of it and that's about as good as it gets.

In case people are wondering if this means it's the end of blogging for the rest of the semester. The answer is no. However. more will be revealed at the Last Lecture on Monday. Akan datang.

People should not forget that I'm the evil prof. >:-P

To conclude, the point I'm trying to make about execution is that it involves focussing on the big picture and high-level goal, without losing sight of the details and begin able to adapt to unexpected events and being able to improvise as you go along. Yeah, it's a mouthful. Go chew on it. :-)


  1. I've already told you this in gChat, but I must say it again:


    I actually burst out laughing when I read that part. Oh hail the King! =3

    Can't wait for the last lecture.

  2. You framed it such that having an infinite amount of time is a good thing. And we don't always use money to buy time :P Also, I don't think going to the movies, buying an PS3, etc. is buying time. And why do you want more time to do more things ultimately? :P

    Though honestly, I'd like more time too xD I don't wanna live forever, 500 years is enough for me for now. I just really really want to see how far the world will progress :(