Friday, April 22

Decision Support Problems (DSP), A Class of Information System !!!!!!!!!!!!

For those few, who sometimes follow my blog....... this post might seem weird to all of you..
I was puzzled even, when I wrote this, and still can't believe myself.. the reason being the content and the subject of this post which you will soon read as you go down.
Anyways leave aside all the mystery or what ever you may want to think about this article, but the idea to write about this topic came to my mind while I was enrolled, in one of my Masters classes ... (a decision that still haunts me big time).
The article is about Decision Support Systems or DSP's as you may say. DSP's are kind of information systems useful in making decisions. I would rather stop here, and without defining it further, would come straight to the crux of this concept.

Making decisions is never an easy job. A lot of things need to be considered before we arrive at a final decision. But here the most critical thing is choosing a decision which has the maximum prospect of success or usefulness and which best fits our aims, wishes, way of life, principles and so on. Decision making is always associated with tentativeness and risks. This is because if you do not have risks then you do not have a decision. In short, decision making is the study of recognizing and selecting options based on the values and preferences of the person who takes decisions.

Decision Support Problems – Knowledge based information systems that support decision making activities:

Decision support problems are a class of information systems which include a wide range of methods from simple manual knowledge based systems to computerized systems. Lately the concept of decision support problems has been used extensively for supporting commerce and trade, and managerial decision-making actions. Also decision support problems make use of a lot of things which include rare facts and figures, papers and credentials, individual knowledge and company models. In general decision support problems make use of record of all the existing assets, relative figures and projected figures based on the current problem. From the point of view of this course, I feel that decision support systems can be an important tool as they can make use of our suitable and available knowledge for improving the effectiveness of our managerial and professional activities. By doing that it can make possible faster decision making, finding out the unwanted or negative qualities, and making better use of available attributes.

A simple decision support system can be divided into 6 steps, which can be subdivided into 2 categories namely;

1. Meta Design

2. Design

Meta Design is basically a pre-stage of the actual design stage. Here an important task of dividing the decision problem is done so as to facilitate the future decision making. Also how these decision making plans can be successfully implemented is decided here.

In the design category the most important job that is done is that of problem formulation. I feel this step is more important than the earlier one. This is because understanding the problem is more important than actually working on finding its solution. If a person has a clear understanding of the problem, then he can work out its solution after some work. But if he is not sure about the problem itself, how can he move ahead?

When the problem is identified we then need to make use of mathematical methods, to form a good skeleton to make it more abstract. This can be done with the help of some problem related figures, appropriate documents etc. Once we have a proper problem framed in front of us then we can arrive at some numerical solution, with the aid of computers and stuff. As discussed earlier in recent years there has been a lot of computer use in decision problems. Computers make the mathematical part easier. Then comes the stage of analyzing the solution which we just found out, and checking it whether the outcome is in unison with what was expected. It is also important to corroborate the solution by checking whether it waivers away from any of the information present in all the stages which were used in finding the solution.In this way one can easily lay down a simple decision support problem.

As discussed earlier about there not being any specific practice of defining decision support problems, the classification of decision support problems is also not fixed. Depending upon how the user copes up with the problem, or how user tries to find a solution to the decision problem, one can divide the decision support problem if they wish. One famous author, whose classification seemed interesting to me, is Daniel Power. (Source: wikipedia). Power differentiates decision support system problems into communication driven, data driven, document driven, knowledge driven and model driven.

* Communication driven problems support more than one person working on a shared task.

* Data driven emphasizes access to and manipulation of a string of data points of company data which is directly or indirectly related to it.

* Document driven system problems deal with recovering and maneuvering unarranged information in some computerized formats.

* Knowledge driven is concerned with some dedicated problem-solving proficiencies &

* Model driven problems use numbers and factors given by users to help out people concerned with making decisions in investigating a case.

It is clear that decision support problems because of the possibilities associated with it can be used widely and in variety of applications.

Some of the fields that employ decision support systems are the field of agriculture, medical field, manufacturing systems, financial market, water management, transportation systems, forest protection etc.

I feel that agriculture, water management, forest protection and medical have a lot of serious decision making associated with them. Just to go over this a bit more, currently the problem of water management has high degree of complexity associated with it. Due to growing water problems resulting from reduced rainfall, deforestation etc human societies are getting increasingly concerned about this issue. Also if there is less water the agricultural market is one of the biggest losers immediately. This is because for sustainable development and crop production, water is a must. This makes the job of decision making processes and decision makers even more crucial, so as to come up with improved techniques and practices.

Thus in short I feel that, in order to achieve development for the needs of present and future generations, the influence of decision making is going to be vital for raising consciousness and steering growth towards sustainability.

Thursday, February 3

Are changes taking place in modern warfare engineering system sustainable? Why or why not?

Few months back I came across the book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer. The essence of the book deals with a very tricky content taking into account the connection between imaginative scientific innovations and modern day military warfare. Before reading this book I had a totally different outlook towards the current military activities and politically volatile situations around the world. However after going through Dr. Singer’s book as well as hearing from him, the whole idea of modern warfare has changed in my mind.

With technological progress continuously taking place at a rapid pace, the future of wars seems to be taking an interesting turn. With the introduction of remote controlled weapons, robotic army men, unmanned bomber aircraft's, and nuclear weapons and stuff, I have no idea where these war related technologies are going to lead us. Are we going to get the age old and reliable human destiny of democracy, liberation, independence and liberty? Or do we again have to face the unavoidable sadistic clash of societies on a worldwide scale, due to introduction of these high-tech robotic war systems. The whole world knows the tragedies that people had to face due to different wars that have taken place until now. Be it the first and Second World War, the Gulf War, Indo-China war, war in Kargil, or the latest ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. These wars have caused loss of sovereignty, deflationary tendencies, and the worst of them an unstable world system. Use of technology in wars is ok to a certain extent. But whether a balance of these unmanned robotic engineering technologies is an adequate basis for survival as human beings or as a nation is a questions that needs to be asked.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. I think that the upshot is also true; invention is the mother of necessity. Technology and communication are necessitating basic changes in our lives. Information has become accessible in all parts of the world. Due to this, dictatorial administrations in countries are feeling a strong pressure on themselves. The world is very much smaller. One thing we have to accept that even smallest of things, which are not even very serious, happening in certain part of the world can immediately be heard in other parts of the world – and consequences follow. Scientific innovations are stretching our minds and our grasp of reality to the outermost dimensions of our capacity to understand them. Efforts are being made to know more about the endless horizon of space, mysteries found in the great depths of our seas which are virtually unknown to us and to see whether there is life on Mars and water on the surface of Moon. The scientific education that we have still seems to be just a drop in the ocean. But scientists and researchers do what they are supposed to do. And as an indication of that more than 90000 scientific research papers and journals are written in a year so as to publish the flood of new techniques that come out of different places on the globe. But in recent years due to highly unstable social and political scenario in many parts of the world, ever increasing presence of active rogue and terrorist forces there has been a threat of collision between the good and the evil. Moreover with their capabilities for dangerous purposes and cruel intentions it was getting more and more serious to tackle this issue. Therefore in order to make sure that they seek security and try and reduce the problems that these extremists and chauvinists pose for the mankind, super powers like USA, UK, Japan started to think of some out of box, war systems. And in recent years what has turned out to be one of the most dramatic discoveries, remote controlled weapons are being used in the war-zones. The latest place to witness these modern battlefield marvels being Iraq.

Since ancient times there have always been conflicts between two different societies. Be it for political reasons, for wealth, for land, religious supremacy or for being a world power. Although it is seen that the difference between the ancient and the modern warfare, was mostly based on organization than on technology, but still in order to make sure that they do not lag behind in their might of weaponry and arms and ammunition, the countries always kept on working over improving their military strength. Early armies primarily used to have bows, arrows, spears etc. These were the same weapons the early armies used for hunting purposes. As time passed on, people felt that they needed improvements in the warfare technology. So we see that in early armies of Egypt and China massed infantry armed with bows and arrows was being used. Gradually more and more improvements were made with introduction of heavy cavalry, siege engines, and trebuchets. But due to introduction of Iron Age there was decline in the chariot warfare, and increase in the use of metal weapons. Then we witnessed large standing armies and use of military power. In the beginning of 20th century urgency was seen in weaponry technology leading to development of long range guns, tanks, machine guns, flame throwers etc. All these weapons were very significant for the future development of war weapons. These deadly weapons were used widely in the First World War. In 1939 there was a growing conflict between the European and American countries, leading to a global military clash or Second World War. It lasted for almost seven years. This period required massive outpouring of manufacturing capabilities. There was a great fusion of man and machine, leading to world’s largest conflict. The growing use of technology was making its presence felt.

In the past 6-7 years the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been a major source of debate. Lot has been said about the way the American military along with their allies handled the situation in these places. The Vietnam War which lasted for almost 20 years had already created a sense of insecurity, tension and doubt among the people of America. The tension was regarding the ability of government to win a war. And in the first decade of 21st century the same feeling is gripping the entire nation again. Most of the effects of these wars are clearly seen and felt. In an effort to bring justice to their country, they decided to use all the power they had so as to teach the perpetrators, who created tremendous destruction, a nice lesson. In the attacks that took place in USA, there was a large scale destruction of human life, economy was badly affected, tourism got affected and most important of all there was insecurity among the people. Hence in there war against the terrorists along with the traditional war technologies in 21st century which involved machine guns, tanks, aircraft carriers, atomic cannons, bofors guns, aircraft mounted guns, air launched missiles, rockets and torpedoes and bomber aircraft’s and helicopters, there was use of computer controlled weaponry of all kinds on such a large scale. There were robots from the size of small flies to a conventional robot similar to a normal human, being used on a large scale. These robots and other unmanned weaponry have been able to locate the culprits deep within caves. The remote controlled drones as they are called since the war in Afghanistan, take out terrorists from places where human soldiers find a difficult time to fight against their rival opponents. However as far as my personal opinion is concerned I am against the use of these high tech war systems. This technological escalation has since ancient times been a source of dominance of one civilization over another. In these wars up till now, millions of people have lost their life. Not just from the enemy side but even the soldiers who were fighting for their country had to sacrifice their life for their motherland. However these killings are still continuing and the end does not seem to be near.

Motives of sophisticated technology, modern engineering systems used in war, seem to have a deeper meaning and desire to me than just a triumph necessary over the evil. On one side it is said that it is important to conserve the human race while on other side each day along with hundreds of militants some innocent people have to die. It is ok that the modern robotic arms and unmanned weapons have been developed after years of research and hard work. But just like humans can make a mistake we cannot expect these weapons to 100% accurate in their tasks. As a result theses robots have unnecessarily killed too many people. It is not easy to distinguish between a culprit and a normal person, particularly in places where the entire surrounding is full of blood, sorrow and unhappiness. We cannot just rely on machines every time to be our slave. Machines have certainly made our life easier and happier. But to get work done from them especially for a volatile situation such as war seems difficult for me to understand. Every year millions and millions of dollars are being put into research and development of these deadly machines. Unfortunately I have a feeling that the authorities are keener on establishing their supremacy and worldly influence in general. The technological escalation and the increasing amount of time that is spent by the government in an engagement with these modern war tools may be literally showing us the inability to imagine and think in any other way to compete or show off their strength. Technological progress is good, but mindful utilization is the key here. It is well known that more the scientific and engineering development more will be the dependence of human beings on these highly efficient but dangerous machines. And more the dependence the chances of over utilization and being a slave to these “automatic men” increases. Also it is fine if these automatic weapons are used for the welfare of mankind. But if people start taking undue advantage of these weapons, then surely one or the other day, weapons are bound to backfire at some point in the future. Also nations in the hunt to be super powers try and get all the latest possible technologies, in this case getting equipped with robotic and unmanned weapons. But they should keep in mind that, this should not arouse ill wills in the mind of other world countries. What I mean here is if such weapons are used for showing up their prowess, then other countries will be forced to do more research on developing more technologically sound weapons, which are no good for environment and society. I feel that such a race is more dangerous for sustainability of these war systems. The cost of these weapons is very high, and for using them continuously over a period of time like in case of Iraq War, the participating countries had to spend millions of dollars to accomplish a war mission overseas. And in spite of doing this if they are not able to achieve success then what is the point of using them? There are still thoughts about the horror in Vietnam and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created doubts about American judgment, about American credibility, about American power- not only at home but throughout the world. At least now the authorities should understand that robotic warfare is not going to solve their problem. The people know this and hence they no longer have a delusional notion that their country could take on any power anywhere in the world and come out victorious. What I feel that they decided to use these weapons, with a faulty assertion and a defective intelligence.

To conclude I feel that I don’t really have the authority to make a statement, that these modern robotic engineering, are going to last long or are going to be sustainable in today’s fast changing world. But I am inclined to say that their use should be stopped or at least limited to a certain situation. In spite of using such systems, if a country remains skeptical about the success, then what is the point of getting engaged in an overseas situation which is not going to be of your use or vital to your interests. So I am afraid I won’t accept use of such engineering systems, which are not sustainable for a better environment, society and a nation’s economy.

Wednesday, May 6

Billion Votes Mandate 2009:

Never have the elections in India been so clumsy & unpredictable than they are this year. With so much of political drama, feeling of uncertainty among parties regarding their fate, the Indian Lok Sabha Elections 2009, is no doubt the hottest topic, which has attracted the attention of the Indian masses in general.

Since the day, the Election Commission announced the poll dates, all the major political players’ started taking rigorous efforts to highlight the developmental plans they had undertaken for the people. The future projects they will offer for the betterment of the people were also given top priority. But in all this the most interesting thing that this election has on offer, is not the usual two way tussle between Congress and the BJP. In fact with the numero uno post in sight, two other fronts started their campaign trail and bring their Priministerial candidate in the fray. They are the third front and the fourth front. The CPI led 3rd front led by Mr. Prakash Karat and the so called 4th front which has Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, SP leader Mulayam Singh LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan. With these parties giving a major fight this time, outcome on 16th May will be really something to watch out for.

The Congress suffered severe setbacks in its initial campaign days when important alliances like that of Health Minister Ramadoss, Railways Minister Lalu Prasad parted ways with the party. The BJP too were in for shock when its long term ally Navin Patnaik left their side. Then there was the Varun Gandhi incident which gave the anti BJP or anti NDA parties, a chance to have a strong attack on their opponents. His severe remarks against the non-Hindu people landed him in jail, only to be out on parole for a few days when he had spent sometime in jail. Then there were some shoe throwing incidents on some of countries top leaders, which continued a phase of uncharacteristic campaigning this time. All these acts were nothing but a sheer example of the enormous anger and resentment the people are having for the current politicians.

Lower voter turnout in the initial phases of this mandate have made this election totally unexpected and one where every party has to keep its fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Sunday, December 14

Need to introduce personality development courses in regular college curriculum.

Every person feels that he should have some characteristics, certain attributes which can distinguish him from everybody else around him. It can be anything, may be your temperament, way of interacting with others, ability to handle tough situations, or say presence of mind. All these qualities are unique. It is very rare to find all such features in an individual at the same time. But if someone has them, he will surely be a person who will be very much respected in the society. Personality is another such characteristic which is distinctive and can make a person very unique. Personality is what makes a person a unique person, and it is recognizable soon after birth. Charles M. Schwab has described in very simple sentence that Personality is to a man what perfume is to a flower.

The phrase ‘personality’ is derived from the Latin word persona, meaning the disguise which the artists wore on the Greek and Roman stage to differentiate their roles and increase their voices. It was used to mark off the individuality of or difference between one man and another. The act of enhancing this trait is known as personality development. In simple words Personality development is the developing of a personality cult so as to create a strong positive influence about self with the targeted group, or in general; and more relatable aspect of such personality is to sustain and prove in a long run. In other words Personality development is the development of the organized pattern of behaviors and attitudes that makes a person distinctive. Personality development occurs by the ongoing interaction of temperament, character, and environment. In recent years personality development has created a lot of attention. Now the reason I feel this change is taking place is due to the race to be the best in this competitive world. World is moving at a rapid pace. You have to keep pace with it, if you fail to do so you will struggle. So in order to succeed and stay alive in this competitive world you have to do some thing different. Personality development helps an individual in making him aware of his talent and taps his good qualities. By doing something in a different way, a person can create his own identity. And today’s youth are certainly up for it.

It is very aptly said that youth will reshape the world. Today’s youth are smart and independent thinking. They are the leaders of tomorrow. And so they should learn and try to practice virtue of discipline. But some where there is a sense of overzealousness, tendency to move fast. He has a lot to say, but some times he just fails to deliver it. And so he accepts things views as they are. In such situations if he is guided properly and taught to deal with things in calm manner he will surely succeed. Personality development helps in injecting just the spark that is needed to accomplish something. George Gurdjieff has aptly said that Personality in man is what is "not his own" . . . what come from outside, what he has learned, or reflects, all traces of exterior impressions left in the memory.
Students now days due to their hectic academic schedule don’t have enough time for other extracurricular activities. So if personality development courses are made available to them in their schools or colleges, students will definitely benefit from them. Personality development in general revolves around three aspects; firstly physique then the intelligence and finally the temperament. Generally in students the qualities of temperament and intelligence are determined by conditions in their academics. The experiences that a student gets during the course of his school life firstly and then his junior and higher classes, contribute in a large number of ways to the formation and development of his personality. When a student gets into a school his main aim is to do well in his studies, and lay a solid foundation for his future education. But in addition to that he has to keep a close watch on his extracurricular acts, which project his persona. Unfortunately at such a young age he is unaware of all this. In such a situation, it is the duty of the institute to make the students aware of things that matter a lot apart from the academics and which play a far more vital role in their life. But at school level it’s ok, if the authorities fail to impart knowledge about personality development. And so importance of college becomes very important as it is this place where students are much more matured and have to handle lots of critical issues.

There has been growing interest & keenness of personality development in the college going chaps. Western countries, which are economically and culturally quite different from India, were the first to realize importance of enhancing the personality. They had a strong insight, which helped them realize that it is the student class which is vital for nation’s development. Due to fast changing nature of the industries, business firms this concept came to India. But like in western countries, it did not get inducted in regular college academics here in our country. The personal and professional development plan helps to improve our capacity to understand what and how we are learning, and to review, plan and take responsibility for own learning and career choices. If a course in personal and professional development planning is started in colleges it will help in a structured and supported process undertaken by an individual. It can reflect upon their learning, performance and achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development. Personality development can boost self-confidence and increase staunch faith in a students own ability and power to undertake the task in hand with utmost confidence in order to make life really successful and happy. Colleges should try to be more agile and make students aware of what they already have in their life and what they are grateful for and then make them think about what is missing, what they want. Awareness has to come first, because without an awareness there can be no conscious decision to take action. Becoming aware also means asking your self different questions and then seeking out the answers. Personality development lectures if introduced can help in making students ponder over whether “there must be more to life than this?" By doing this your mind is already making an assumption that there is more to life and as if by magic you start to see things around you that maybe you did not notice before. Noted thinker Mae West has very correctly said that Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.

Personality development helps in making an individual flexible and willing to change his approach if things are not working. Sometimes when you set your mind to do something, with a set plan, things don't always go smoothly. Remember that as long as you are clear about your destination, you can always change your route, it may take you longer, but as long as you get there in the end. In colleges students have to go through a lot of hard work, there are assignments, homework, seminars, presentations and what not. Students have to do all this in prescribed time, which if not completed puts them in further trouble. By starting personality development courses in regular curriculum it can help students visualize their goals on a daily basis. After all it is all about believing in your abilities. As one Dr. White has very rightly said that Personality is a mask you believe in.
Also if a personality development centre is made active in every college, every student can engage in a creative process with like minded students. This can boost ones confidence and make one more social to know that there is someone else too who has the same interests as you have. These personality development centers should have a counselor too, who can give an ear to personal problems and provide the right direction to the student. The aim of such courses in college should be boosting confidence and raising self-esteem of particularly those students who have the ability but don't have the dash or the guts.

So summing up Life’s success lies in becoming a good human being and developing the personality acquiring good virtues and high morals and not in gaining high post or authority. So if an individual has to perform well and be the best, it is more of his inner skills, his flair and confidence rather than bookish wealth. These paper based things are just like our beauty aids they don’t increase the beauty but just assist in outer brilliance. So if personality centers are opened and made compulsory in colleges they will surely be a great boon for the students. On personal front, I had great experience. During my early days of graduation I found it hard to cope up with the immense workload and pressure to deliver in a big way in exams. Initially I didn’t do my self any good by scoring below the distinction mark, but later I joined the personality development course outside the college which changed my life completely. They made me think positively and helped me in coping stress due to academics. Since then I am a totally changed successful chap. So if such courses are compulsorily made a part of the curriculum they would not only help in creating successful students but also good human beings.