Thursday, May 05, 2005

Paranoia keeps me healthy

You guys got it. I have merely been adding crappy little snippets that could not respectably pass as posts anywhere in the whole competitive blogging world (assuming there is such a thing notwithstanding that obvious fact that most bloggers are probably self-centric screen gazers who don't give a damn either way... and you know I am not talking about teenage girls that have photologs or write syndicated columns for teen mags about nail care or the throes of adolescent relationships). Well, getting back to the point, I was doing that merely to check if my blog was still alive since I was afraid that Blogger would wake up to the fact that I have merely been hogging precious memory on their servers without any activity and suddenly wipe out my account off the face of the web.

It has been a busy semester of sorts, in spite of the fact that I have only one course which I am taking on credit no-credit. What triggered this beaver-like activity was my sudden realization that I would never graduate unless my publications list looked a lot phatter and I have been trying hard to add to that over the course of this semester. This mostly involves spending hours editing and checking for notational consistency in papers. That's unlike the crazy scrawling on whiteboards with dry-erase markers of various colours routine that graduate school photos captioned 'Research' portray, which is what I had dreamt about back in the day when I was a wet-behind-the-ears senior in undergrad. There was some of that crazy scrawling stage here too, but that was short lived and the whole process of converting those scrawls into a meaningful logically consistent piece is impossibly dreary. It is tedious and boring and a single instance of inaccuracy can scuttle the entire project. In many aspects it is much like accounting, only it does not pay as much.

But now that the semester comes to a close, I suddenly realize that I am going to turn 25 in another semester and I have to think about exactly what I want to do next. And give that a cold hard dispassionate look. Which is just about as hard as deciding to go to grad school when you are sitting cushily in a nice armchair in a comfortable 9-5 gig.

Ideally I would love to go ahead and do theory and get paid truckloads for it. But then, ideally, I would also like to simply make abstract art like Jack the Dripper and get paid truckloads for it. Or make really unprofessional indie flicks and try to pass them off for urban-cool and get paid truckloads for it. But that is not really gonna happen. Almost surely (:)). Also, unlike scores of brilliant people at IISc or TIFR who are so enamoured by their work that they don't really care for how much they make, I have reached the unhappy conclusion that I am a money-grubbing materialist at the core of my being and there is no way I can get around that fact. Now that I have a classic tradeoff before me - 'deal with ideas' vs. 'make moolah', I need to make an optimal tradeoff and this is probably the biggest optimization problem I'll ever solve.

Ofcourse, I have been advised to stop worrying and take life as it comes. But that is something I have never done in the past and I am not about to let go of all the competitive advantage, that I believe my continual paranoia has provided me, in a moment of recklessness. I will continue to be paranoid and keep worrying about the future once every couple of weeks or so.

I will be working on my first internship in the US this summer at Bell Labs. I have dreamt of being in this place since I was a freshman back in college and in many ways it is vindication that my paranoid worrying about the future bears fruit. I am so excited about sharing office space in an organization that meticulously collects smart people that I can barely wait for the semester to get over. The last time I had this sensation was when I was getting ready to go to college and I imagined college to be a water-hole for the brightest and the best in my age-group who would continually talk about intellectually elevating topics. Well, thankfully college was not the geeky hole that I had imagined it to be. We did discuss the meaning of life and if Picasso merely invented cubism because he could not draw a lifelike bovine even if he wanted to and then simply blamed the whole thing on the Spanish civil war.

However, like I said, since things did not pan out exactly as I had them figured does nothing to dissuade me from forecasting, charting out, planning, making decision trees and doing that crazy paranoid optimal prediction math. My point, is that it makes me think about where I am and what I want to do. And it keeps me from the shrink's couch when I think that the fraction of my classmates that now own BMWs is significantly higher than a year ago.