The orange side of organized crime

Our brain flashes gruesome images when we imagine crime. It is not our brain’s fault. We feed those images into our brains when we consume news and other sources that report a crime. Most of the crime that is reported happens to be a sensational event. Something uncommon or rare that can draw eyeballs, hence the media reports it. Crime quintessentially means murder, rape or some form of harm to humans. Very few people are able to imagine crime beyond violence and the razzmatazz that comes with it. But again, that is not our fault. We are limited by imagination because the crime that doesn’t involve violence is inadequately reported, at least in the popular media.

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Money laundering, smuggling of goods, bribery, forgery, vandalism, welfare fraud, white Collar crime are all disproportionately reported unless off-course the shit hits the fan or they achieve the proportion that draws national attention. Given this reality, organized crime remains largely underplayed despite the fact that it is more rampant than other crimes.

I am also amazed by the term  “organized”. Having read the Godfather, I can totally relate it to how an organization functions. There is a Capo Regimo or captain. Then there are under-bosses and associates. These organizations have goals and missions. Perhaps objectives to expand in certain geographies. They have strategies to spread their network. Franchisee model to collect revenues. Strategic partnerships with corrupt politicians and financial institutions. They have to manage logistics and collections. They have to deal with the engagement of employees, retention and hiring new talent. It gets so mundane that the media simply doesn’t find it interesting to report. Unless off-course the shit hits the fan. Read Pablo Escobar.

But look at the orange side( I won’t call it the bright side) of organized crime. Is it not an entrepreneurial pursuit?

So what are the core competencies of a typical mafia recruit?

  1. First and foremost he must be risk-taking. This risk-taking attitude mostly comes from ignorance rather than a natural ability to calculate probabilities of winning. *I am using “He” given the skewed gender diversity in organized crime.
  2. Ability to follow orders.
  3. Ability to commit while keeping a positive attitude.
  4. Last but not the least, strong networking and influencing skills.

I can go on. But you get the point. There is not a big difference between the success skills that are required in the corporate/entrepreneurial world and the crime world.

Survival skills for humans on this planet remain same irrespective of the choices they make in life. Organized crime is no different. It is just an industry poised to explore the weakest chain of law and order.

20 years of gaming industry

I recently bought a used Xbox. It is an old machine, manufactured in 2011. I got a decade-old gaming console for 6000 Rs ($90). I am not a serious gamer and there are more than 100 must-play classic games the console can neatly handle. I was told that if you are new to consoles, this Xbox is for you.

Back in 2001 when dad bought us a personal computer, gaming was not big in India. Indian kids were happily playing the classic games of the 80s and 90s on their 8-bit consoles, Mario, Contra, etc. Consoles like Xbox and PlayStation were rare. Only the rich imported them from abroad. I am not sure whether gaming consoles were even retailed in India back then. It was my dream to have a gaming console.

But I managed to play all the games on my PC. Some were demo-versions and some were pirated discs circulated among friends. By 2005, gaming PCs became mainstream in India. Can’t afford a console? assemble the power required to run the latest game. Graphic cards were hot. Every kid who longed to play the latest game kept a tab on all the latest trends of computer hardware. This industry was so dynamic that the latest processors, motherboards, RAMs became obsolete within months if not weeks. I observed that the hardware simply couldn’t match the software.

Intel was notoriously known to launch a slew of processors only to cannibalize their older processors. It was a mad race. Intel Vs AMD. Dual-core, triple-core, quad-core it went on. No one knew if this kind of power was necessary to do the mundane and common tasks on personal computers; watch movies, browse, etc. Towards 2010, I lost track of this madness. But I believe the gaming industry was still pushing the evolution of hardware.

In retrospect, hardware was getting better because it simply could get better. All the investment that the semiconductor industry deployed in R&D always resulted in some progress.  But this curve had to hit a plateau. The mad race for faster processors had to stop somewhere. By 2015, gaming consoles had not only become widely available in India but also became a lot more affordable. It was a big blow to the so-called “Assembled PC” market. People went mobile. It was the age of high-performance laptops and mobile phones.

In 2018, I was stunned to see the kind of graphics mobile phones supported. The kind of graphics PUBG (popular online multiplayer game) used was a distant dream back in 2004. It was satisfying to see how gaming was made accessible to all. Hardware was irrelevant. There was a lot of standardization. The race for faster had almost ended but maybe it was replaced by race to achieve higher efficiency for mobile devices.

Gaming has still a long way to go. But this is the age of mobile. I predict that in matter of a few years, consoles will struggle to exist. A mobile phone could be turned into a console you want with all the projection technology to play any game of your choice on the surface of a wall. Let us wait and watch.

What does everyone want?

What do you want? tough question isn’t it?

What does everyone want is slightly easier to deal with because you have the liberty to generalize it. You can take it as a group of people, ethnicity or maybe as per nationalities. Kashmiris want freedom. South Sudan needs peace. Then there is the complex lense of religion.

But if you still want to super generalize it, think it in terms of the rich, middle class and the poor. Your thoughts, actions, aspirations, ideologies and a great deal of happiness depend on the quantum wealth you hold. Let us have a closer look at the three classes: rich, middle class and the poor.

What does the poor want?

Poor “needs” good food, sanitation, access to clean water and healthcare. You see, these are basic needs. The poor are so busy chasing these needs that they don’t have any time to think about what they really “want”. If you ask the poor, do you want 1 dollar today or 2 dollars tomorrow, the poor will take that one dollar and spend it. Every day is a unit for the poor. Their day resets when they sleep. Then the next day starts with new challenges.

The poor is convinced that there is nothing that is going to take them outside their misery unless they work hard for it. Education is a far cry because all the promises of education will be delivered tomorrow. So what does the poor want? they want to live in the present. There is no element of planning. They take whatever it takes to live in the present: lie, cheat, steal, do odd jobs and consume everything as soon as they can. Instant gratification is what all they care for. In the pursuit of instant gratification, the poor commit mistakes, there are some innocent mistakes and then there are some grave mistakes that destroy lives.

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The Middle Class.

It is easy to understand what the middle class needs. Being the largest consumer class, they need everything. The Middle class wants health insurance, home loans, education loan. They want a cheap family car that has a good resale value. They want discounts so that they can save more. They want things that last long. They want to save tax and invest in government bonds that will mature after 15 years. There is no concept of today for the Middle Class. The middle class believes in the power of education. They think linear. They plan meticulously and have plan B in place if the A fails.

So what does the middle class really want?

They want to live better in the future. They don’t live in the present.

If you ask a middleclass individual whether he wants a dollar today or 2 dollars tomorrow, he will say, “why don’t you invest that dollar and give me 10 dollars in 5 years.”

The middle-class wants to live less today so that they live more tomorrow.

The Rich

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What does the rich want?

I seriously have no clue. There are very few rich people, I know personally. They are rare. The common knowledge we have about rich people is basically a set of assumptions. There is a lot of loss in translation when it comes to the knowledge about the rich that trickles down to us. Writers and movie makers take all the liberty to paint the life of the rich on a big canvas.

Here is what we can deduce from popular media: They travel extensively. They buy expensive stuff at their whim. They do affairs, cheat, have powerful and corrupt allies. Money is what they chase and their money makes more money. They live lightyears away from all the insecurity that absence of money brings.

All that might be true or inflated truth.

But here are my assumptions: In contrast to the poor and the middle class, the rich have a very different mindset. They have an abundance mindset. They don’t think linear. If you give a rich man 1$, he would think of making it into 100$ himself. They have control on their fate. They have an exponential mindset.

The maximize their potential to enjoy every moment of their lives. And they live to their fullest tomorrow. They want to create memories, experience things to create lasting memories.

They take all the calculated risks because they have a secure today and secure tomorrow. It is safe to assume that the rich want to preserve their present as well as build a bigger and safer tomorrow. They want more. They want all the luxuries of life today and they are ready to pay a premium for that. That makes them somewhat like what the poor wants ie instant gratification but at a premium and much grander scale.

So what does the rich want? they want to live wild a feel alive minus the misery that comes with it 🙂

The Call of the Wild

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This might qualify for my first book review. I will keep it short. Never have I read such a heart soothing story of an animal. Written by Jack London, Call of the Wild is a short adventure novel published in 1903.

I am a fan of allegories. This novel is not quite an allegory but when you read the ordeal, plight, and suffering of this beautiful dog Buck you realize that humans are no different.

Just one key take-way. You will live life to the fullest when you live it by your instincts.

Your rational mind might keep you safe but your instincts will keep you raw yet vulnerable, and you will be alive more than ever.

To quote Jack London :

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.”

This book is available free on Google Books.