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The future is in the Past and the Curse of Domain Dependency

The future is in the past” - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Presently, I find myself in the process of persuading the CEO of a unicorn startup to allow me to establish a Lab within their company. My proposal is to drive the next phase of growth through a series of non-linear experiments considering they have one of the highest surface areas compared to the rest of the startups from the ecosystem. Naturally, I am proposing to set up this lab on a part-time basis. Over the past 20 days, I have diligently prepared for this endeavour because I firmly believe in the value of preparation. Through this period of preparation, one conclusion has become abundantly clear: many of us are hindered by Domain Dependence and have no interest in looking at the past. If we could shed this constraint, numerous companies that have laid their foundations through relentless hustle would have the genuine opportunity to expand tenfold or even twentyfold within the next two decades. However, this dependency is not confined to companies alone; it is deeply entrenched within our society. Consequently, I have chosen to delve into this topic in the present week, with the hope that as a society, we can adopt a more rational approach and strive to eliminate the "Curse of Domain Dependency".

Let’s get started…

Upon encountering the first stone statues of Roman rulers, I was struck by their remarkable physical prowess – the defined curves, muscularity, and impeccable six-packs were truly astonishing. Reflecting on this, one realizes that 2500 years ago, during an era devoid of modern science, technology, gyms, or self-proclaimed health influencers, they likely boasted superior body fat percentages compared to many contemporary athletes. This feat is even more impressive considering that the Roman Empire boasted a population comparable to today's modern cities.

When I started this essay and did some digging, there was only one answer - the Roman people were independent from the “Curse of Domain Dependency”. Also, this physical prowess was not limited to the rulers - it was among the citizens as well. Of course, Senet and rulers created the narrative and led from the front, unlike today’s opinion holders (people with power and higher frequency of voice). If we summarise the root cause of physical fitness without today’s science and Gyms - they simply converted their work into physical activities. Hence can we say the technology, science, and gym dependency that we have created and have been preaching is not necessary? Except, these people have been successful in manufacturing a multi-trillion dollar industry and have zero empathy for the wellbeing of fellow humans. For example, first, you feed unhealthy food (processed and fast food), then you create a medicine that could help lose weight, and on top of that create luxury training, and nutrition/diet plans to minimize muscle loss. I mean, what the fu** is going on?     

The above observation is also based on my physical transformation. For example, I don’t go gym, I don’t take any supplements and my physical structure is decent (based on the feedback from the opposite genders) - of course not like many of the folks idealized, but it is decent. It feels like we have created a massive wall from the past and smoking something unknown while thinking about the future.         

We should take the example of my friend: I have a friend in Patna, we don’t talk often however, we are a good friend. In the past, I have failed to highlight his domain dependency. Let me tell you the story: 

So, he will drive from his home sharp weekend morning around 5:30 AM around 7 KM to Energy Park to play cricket. There he parks his car at around 6:00 AM, it takes around 30 minutes to assemble the team. And play starts at 6:30 AM, let’s say his team, wins the toss, he will open, and let's say he plays for 5 overs, which takes some 30 minutes, and gets out. For the rest of the overs, he simply sits in the dugout, mostly it takes 1 and a half hours for one inning - he sits for one hour. Now the 2nd inning, he would ball a few overs, and at the time of fielding, after a few overs, he would again sit in the dugout. Let’s say the combined time of physical activity (one of the purposes of playing sports at an adult age) is 45 minutes. The match completes in three hours - 9:30 AM. He walks from the playground and drives back home in 30 minutes at 10:00 AM. 

Let’s do some simple math, he spends 4 and a half hours of his precious weekend morning, for a physical activity of 45 minutes, and in that process creates traffic, pollution, wear and tear on the car/road, and the cost of fuel price. I think I am being biased here, apart from physical activity, sports are also for fun, and considering fun is subjective only he can validate the objective amount hence if 45 minutes of physical activity + Fun > 4 and half hours + fuel, pollution, traffic on the road, wear and tear etc I think this is a good proposition otherwise, his decisions to play cricket in the morning is an irrational decision. And driven by domain dependency. 

The reason, I know this is because I used to do the same - of course, in my case, I used to take a shared auto so I was trying to minimize, but one day, I did this math and decided either, I have to compensate this with other physical activity - running, playing the entire over (lol), fielding till the end etc. Or I must stop playing. I experimented with a few methods, for example, instead of taking a shared auto, I tried running from my apartment to the playground (around 5 KM) and walking while coming back to the apartment. 

However, the morning’s 4 and half hours felt precious hence I stopped playing cricket on Sunday morning. And today, I have a few Gym equipment that I use and run inside my house. In my current method, I do one hour of physical activity - but in that one hour also I listen to Podcasts. So, double the output. 

My friend still spends 4 and a half hours for 45 minutes of physical activity + fun. I tried explaining to him this math, but he believed his fun was compensating for everything else. The fact is, it is true across everything: A CEO, keeps a dedicated person to carry his bag and the same CEO hits the gym in the evening and does weightlifting :). Here also we can sense the curse of Domain Dependency. Having said that, I understand for most CEOs, time is money hence they have drivers and cars but this personal bag carrier, why? It would be a good idea for CEOs to carry a heavy bag so it would be good for their health.  

I think our society has been largely ignorant of fundamental rationality and most of the decisions are driven around comfort originated by “Domain Dependent”. You look around and will see the examples of “Domain Dependency”. And this has a lot to do with our inertia to look at our past (Not what is happening in developed countries). 

I was wondering in what way I can give you a picture of the DD and its net negative on our economy, innovation, growth, progress etc. To do that I need to walk you through thousands of years of recorded history. Most of what we are seeing today - science, discovery, knowledge, progress, and everything followed a pattern. Considering at the origin of our species there was no science this means that today’s Science, which we all worship so much, must have been through trials and errors - we call it practical application. As we uncover the universality of many of those successes from the practical applications - we created Scientific Knowledge and technology that spread as a virus in the form of practical application and think has come from scientific knowledge and technological development. And using this as a foundation most of us are coping from developed countries without looking at the past. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with that, if something is good that can be copied. 

However, the real problem comes out when we treat that as the only medium in fact, they get involved so deeply based on a few early successes that get affected by “The Crush of domain dependency” and this is also one of the reasons, why we as an ecosystem has been struggling to make some significant dent in the industry. Or the ability to build something at a significant scale. Hence today, none of us believe in the original method because we have stopped looking at the past. 

We as an ecosystem give so much preference to the above sometimes I wonder whether in a lifetime will we ever be able to solve some of the complex problems. I do not see any potential path following similar methods, TBH. It is not the case that I developed this thought process from my birth, in fact, for the initial 5 years, I was struck by this domain dependency. As Nassim Nikola Talleb says, most of life's important and biggest skills and capabilities come with stress and discomfort. When we wrote our mission to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for 1.2 billion, after 15 months of work, we concluded this problem could not be solved by getting stuck in “Domain Dependency” and our ability to connect dots is probably the biggest and only achievement. 

Let’s accept it, our country, our tech ecosystem, our talent, our research groups, and our education factory would probably struggle to make any significant breakthrough by following the above route - considering the next set of innovations and breakthroughs is the outcome of the failed work that get accumulated for uncountable years, this means the above method seems impossible to create any significant dent in the economy of our nation. 

We all have examples, and probably, talked about this when things don’t work in a conventional method - it is time to “Think Differently”. And here I don’t mean by doing everything from ground zero - we can’t. So, the first thing that we need to do is to face our past with confidence, try eliminating our “Domain Dependency”, and follow the origination method of innovation and knowledge creation. Finally, those technologies could be applied as practical applications to unlock our society.  

Before concluding this essay, most of the formal education systems are based on the principle: Teach-Birds-how-to-fly. Unfortunately, in our case - we have not even seen that bird. And this is a good time to look at our birds, observe them, and unlock economic value. 

Thanks for reading, if you find this informative, please share this with your network also you can sign up for my website, so you can receive my essays (that I write weekly) directly in your inbox. 

I shall see you all the next week  :)

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