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Why We Fail To Understand Each Other?


On two corners of this world, I am watching two divides. India Pakistan divide in Southeast Asia and another Democrat Republican divide in USA. Of course the first divide has lot more sinister dimension of possibility of nuclear war. And that has historical context too. But more on that in next post.

The Democrat Republican divide is interesting because it’s happening even when there is no reason for this divide to be that strong. After all, both parties support capitalism, human rights and more or less agree on constitution.

What makes the public opinion about each other diverge? Why people completely fail to understand each other’s viewpoints.

And then one of my walks, I made a discovery. I am sure people have made this discovery before. But here it is in my words.

When thinking about someone else, people expect them to behave in a rational and ethical way. But when thinking about themselves, people make decisions based on emotions.

It reminds me of an psychological experiment described to me by a friend of mine. Forgive me for not providing a link, but it was just part of a conversation.

People were divided into two groups and asked to make a choice.

A. Select an airplane ticket at certain price for flying on the route where bad weather and heavy turbulence was expected.

B. Or select a ticket on the route for double the price where good weather was expected.

Everything else was supposed to be same about planes. There was no known technical difficulties and both airplanes were statistically supposed to have the same probability of safe journey.

One group had to pick this ticket for an unknown person. They mostly picked the cheap but turbulent route, because that was rational choice, scary but still statistically safe and cheap. The other group had to pick for their own, they mostly picked the calm route with double the price.

After this, both groups were shown a movie narrating horrible turbulence experience. Then they were asked to make a choice again.

Again if they had to pick the ticket for other person, they picked the scary but cheap route with almost the same probability.

But here is the real kick. When they had to pick for themselves, they picked the safe but costly route even in significantly higher numbers. That means they were more inclined to avoid the fearful experience for themselves after watching the movie. But still they thought it’s OK for the other person to face the fear, as long as it was in their rational interest.

It’s not that people hated the unknown passenger. They  underestimated the importance of emotions to the other person.

When thinking about others, people underestimate the erosion to the quality of life by negative emotions like fear  and enhancement to the quality of life by positive emotions like self esteem boost.

But when it comes to them, they overestimate those exact things things. They want to avoid negative emotions and go for positive emotions, even if it means making a choice that seems not rational.

Two primal emotions  – desire to increase self esteem and desire to reduce fear play a huge role. If you leave room for these two emotions, you would understand the response much better.

Take an example. Think of a recent incident when white cop shot black person.

When white person is thinking about the incident of black person being shot by white cop, their first thought is whether the black person followed cop’s instructions? If yes and still shooting happened, then white people are willing to investigate further. If not, then the case closed. The black person should have followed the instructions.

When black  person thinks about the same incident, their first thought is whether the police followed the procedure. No matter the victim followed the instructions or not, the black person would conclude that if the victim did not pose danger to the officer, the shooting was not justified. The situation when cop arrests you is stressful to both ends and may be the victim was too stressed or confused ?

The white people are more likely to identify with police and allow them some emotional slack, like fear and anxiety. The black person is more likely to identify with the victim and allow them emotional slack, like fear and anxiety.

Who is right? I am afraid both are.

(I am generalizing too much. I know. There are plenty of white people that see black angle and vice versa.)

Next time if you don’t understand the choice made by other person, think of two things. Self esteem and fear. Or rather Self-Love and Fear. If the person has to not only make a rational choice, but also make sure it helps them to do self-love and reduce fear, what choice would they make? And you will surely have a lightbulb moment.





Saving Energy – One Monitor at a Time

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Several times I had observed that my laptop battery lasts a lot longer if I turn down the brightness of the screen. That just seems such a common sense thing to do. But I never took power consumption of monitor that seriously till one day I almost burned my hands while trying to move the big bulky 19 inch CRT monitor. The back side of the monitor was really hot.

Boy, how much power does this one consume? A quick look at the manual and turns out that my old big bulky 19” monitor was consuming a whopping 120 Watts. It’s like having a big bright bulb burning right in your face. That figure was big enough for me to switch off my monitor while not working. But still I wondered, what is the exact relation between what is being showed on screen and how much power is being consumed by the monitor.

A really good EBay deal on P4400 KillAWatt by P3 International convinced me that God wants me to buy a power meter and investigate this in detail. For anyone interested in “watching your power”, this is a handy thing for about $30.

I ventured onto this study. I checked monitor power consumption for CRT (Cathode Ray Tube aka big, bulky, heavy, TV shaped, ugly, dinosaurs), as well as LCD monitors (Liquid Crystal Display aka thin , flat, light, cool cuties) . Since 17” monitors are the most common, I chose Compaq S710 in my office (which is CRT 17”) and Hundai Imagequest L70N, which is LCD 17” monitor for study and comparison.

I checked following things

* CRT monitor consumption vis-à-vis LCD monitor consumption
* Brightness settings varied 0, 50, 100
* Contrast settings varied 0, 50,100
* Screen background changed black, gray, white
* Soft power off (off using power settings of computer) and hard power off (off using switch) consumptions.

The results were really surprising. Following charts summarize my readings.

CRT Monitor @ Contrast 50, Brightness Vs PowerCRT Monitor @ Contrast 100, Brightness Vs Power

CRT Monitor @ Contrast 100, Screen Color Vs PowerCRT Monitor@ Desktop Color = White,Contrast Vs Power for varying brightness

LCD Monitor, Brightness Vs Power

The Summary of the findings is below

*Sensitivity to various settings is as follows

Power Consumption Parameter

CRT Monitor

LCD Monitor

Avg. consumption

76 W

20 W

Screen color sensitivity

Extremely sensitive. Consumes lot more power (43% more) when displaying white on screen.

Completely insensitive. Consumes same power for all colors on screen.

Brightness setting sensitivity

Moderately sensitive. Consumes more power at higher brightness.

Sensitive. Consumes higher power for higher brightness

Contrast setting sensitivity

Less sensitive. (Almost insensitive when brightness setting is low.)

Completely insensitive. Consumes same power for all contrast

Consumption when turned off from computer power settings


0 W

* Screen savers consume as much energy as when you are using screen. They save your screen pixels, but they burn away power.
* CRT monitor leaks power just like TV. Just FYI, a TV switched off using remote control does actually consume electricity (up to 20 Watts for some models). But the TV switched off using “OFF” switch is perfectly at rest.

Do we need our monitor at it’s brightest all the time? Do we need Microsoft Word background look like white paper? Can we write white over black instead of black over white? Can we all follow some monitor manners and save energy?

By following simple monitor manners below, in fact we can save lot of energy.

1. When not in use, simply switch off the monitor by hand.

2. If fits in your budget, buy an LCD monitor.

3. Use “blank screen” as a screen saver option.

4. If your computer allows power setting control (all laptops usually do), then change power settings to “turn monitor off” after 2-5 minutes. These setting are usually accessible somewhere around screen saver settings.

5. Right click on your desktop or background, go to properties>appearance tab>advanced. Now select “window” in the list and select a light gray color instead of white. Play around with schemes, use your creativity. Refer to the article

6. http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=KB;en-us;q307855

7. But be careful while printing because you are not printing what you see. At such times, you can easily revert back to default scheme from display settings.

8. Reduce brightness settings, increase contrast settings.

OK, So what’s the big deal?

If you look at statistics below, you will see that it can actually be a big deal.

The USA has almost 574 personal computers per thousand population, among the highest in the world. Barring a few exceptions, each personal computer has a monitor with it. So for 292 million population, @574 per 1000, we have 177 million monitors.

Just following one or two of the above tips above, you can easily reduce your monitor’s average consumption by around 20 W. If 177 million people save 15W per monitor, it accumulates to a gigantic figure of 3500 Mega Watts, or 3.5 GigaWatts.

If you saved 3.5 Gigawatts, you just shut down four coal fired power plants in Texas, namely Gibbons creek (1 X 480 MW), Welsh (3 X 558 MW), Sandow (3 X 121, 1 X 591 MW) and Oklaunion (1 X 720 MW). That means almost 5.25 million lb CO2 emissions avoided PER HOUR. Yes, I checked my calculations twice.

This savings can be realized on your CRT monitor, not a single penny out of your pocket. A perfect conservation. If you switch to LCD, you save a lot more.

And while the environmentalists within you are drooling over the idea of closing down coal fired power plants, do not forget these additional benefits.

* If you are not saving this energy, then what is happening to it? It is getting converted to bright light and is going in your eyes. Our eyes are not designed to stare at bright white thing from 2 feet close, 8 hrs a day, whole life. They deserve a break.

With my new monitor settings, I find my eyes much more comfortable at the end of the day.

* Amory Lovins (www.rmi.org) once said “Any attempt to make the car lighter by 1 lb actually ends up in making the car lighter by 1 and half lb”. Because when you reduce body weight, you can use lighter chassis, then you need lighter suspensions and so on. Similarly any attempts to reduce monitor consumption by 100 watts actually end up saving overall 110 watts (figuratively speaking). Because to show you something on monitor, computer processor has to do work, hard disks need to be spun, video card must be fired up and fan must run faster to cool these things down. When monitor is off, all these things can take it a bit easy by a watt here and a watts there.
* Just for fun I calculated how much money I would save if I saved 15 Watts for 6 hours every day. Turns out that @ 12 cents KWH rate, I would be saving around $4.85 per year. OK, you cannot buy Lexus with this saving. But hey, at the end of the day, where would you rather put extra 5$? In Your pocket or in your utility provider’s pocket?

Moral of the story:

Just by making a small change in your computer habits, you can save some serious energy. Only thing you give up is an eye candy like screen saver. But if you consider the eye candy cost you are paying in environment terms, it is really worth it.


  1. www.Internetworldstats.com for 2005 computer usage statistics
  2. www.Industcards.com for 2005 coal fired plants data
  3. US EPA Energy information administration EGRID 2000 database as referred by www.greenmountain.com
  4. US EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory EPA420-F-97-037 standards as referred by www.greenmountain.com
  5. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=pm_mmd.pr_pm_mmd

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