IGNORANCE is a great Asset: from Uncle Sam to ‘Sam Uncle’ as Cheerleader

In Conversation with Sam Pitroda – one of these ‘London at its best’ events:

  • great venue: NESTA
  • superb speaker: Sam Pitroda
  • with not only excellent messages, but also the ability to touch me deeply, by speaking of Gandhi and sacrifice,
  • and good questions from the audience.

The last one was particularly relevant for me: as a first generation British Indian, this young woman who turned out to be a human rights lawyer, was wondering whether there shouldn’t be a discourse about the ‘meaning of money‘ in India. Well, let’s face it: this should be debated EVERYWHERE in the world!

Just like Muhamad Yunus for Bangladesh, Sam Pitroda set out in India to solve the problems of the poor, after having studied in the US. We have the moral responsibility, he says.

His main mission is now the democratisation of public information as infrastructure. That means

  • broadband capacity for villages
  • computerisation of prisons and all public services
  • and to build new instruments for new governance structures. YUPPEE!

Given that he is 71, he said that “today is almost like magic”, compared with the kind of electronics he came across in his studies:

  • Everything we do today is obsolete tomorrow. We can’t continue with the mindset of the 19th century.
  • We have no options but to democratise information – despite the huge resistance from power centres.
  • But the Western model of consumption is not scalable! We can’t continue to spend more and more and buy more and more.

We certainly need new economics, for it’s the biggest destructive force:

  • The concept of money is going to change, as the air miles that he’s accumulating between Chicago and Delhi is ‘Cash’ are indicating.

Gandhian thinking is very important to him: he realised that we are doing everything for ourselves and all we can be is ‘cheerleaders’… Gandhi recommended simplicity, sacrifice and truth as guiding principles formulated seven deadly sins.

  • Today’s education models don’t scale either.
  • We don’t need teachers, libraries or classes. Students learn much more from each other.
  • We need mentors, but teachers are not trained to be mentors.
  • Do I need a certificate when I exit a course?
  • Technology is borderless with global teachers and a global audience.

If you don’t have passion, you can’t get these things done.

One day his nephew asked him “Sam Uncle”, how can I help? I think it’s ironic how we’re up against ‘Uncle Sam‘ and the Indian version is ‘Sam Uncle’. I have a deep connection with India. My first Journey in early 70s was in search of religion: how could women who wear their beautiful hair so long sacrifice it to their gods, I wondered?

We need to improve the quality of life for people not products.

We need to collaborate not compete.

Before his talk, I spoke with him about ‘zero‘ which after all was invented in India. It means decentralisation to him! Localisation!

His 2 year old granddaughter skypes him every day! I was reminded of this remarkable series of slides shift happens… Sam Pitroda contributes. Big time!

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About Sabine Kurjo McNeill

I'm a mathematician and system analyst formerly at CERN in Geneva and became an event organiser, software designer, independent web publisher and online promoter of Open Justice. My most significant scientific contribution is www.smartknowledge.space
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