Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Summary Exercise May 1 2012

Read the following article and write down a summary. Compare your summary with one given in the answers.

When i was a child (which was not so long ago), everybody who shared the same demography as myself had only one of two professions as his childhood dream - medicine or engineering. I used to be quite amazed at the dexterity of the supreme creator who seemed to have assiduously made sure that all the doctors and engineers of the world were born in the same locality.

I, being an engineer myself, am definitely more aware now. So i will make sure that my kids do not choose either of these two professions. Instead, i have shortlisted two professions for them. Naturally, i cannot force them to take up a particular profession. The final decision is entirely up to them (as long as it's one of the two professions i have shortlisted).

I would want them to be either meteorologists or economists. Prima facie, the choices might seem totally unrelated and completely arbitrary. But there is a sound rationale behind shortlisting the two. The principal parameters i employed while arriving at this selection were - job security, stability of income, complete lack of accountability and absolute absence of performance appraisal. At the end of my study, these two professions emerged on top and beat the other professions by a huge margin.

I must confess that i wasn't quite surprised with the outcome of my study. How many economists predicted the subprime crisis and its aftermath? Almost all of them were singing the same tune in the run-up to the crisis, gloating about the booming global economy. However, immediately after the crisis, we could see them talking about how greed can bring down the entire global economy and the inherent deficiencies and limitations of capitalism. Their post-crisis commentary sounded as if it was always apparent to them that there would be a crisis. But they had been silently observing the unfolding of the unfortunate series of events from the sidelines.

The track record of the meteorologist is even more laughable. A few weeks back, there was a major earthquake in Indonesia. As soon as the tremors were felt in Chennai and as soon as we got to know from television channels that there has been an earthquake in Indonesia, my neighbour's 13-year-old daughter told me that there was a possibility of a tsunami along the Tamil Nadu coast because in 2004, when she was five years old, there had been a tsunami in the wake of a similar earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Several minutes later, there was a tsunami alert from the Met department which was finally catching up with her analysis.

But the most entertaining activity from our meteorologists is always their annual forecast of the monsoon season. If there were a Nobel prize in 'vagueness', it would definitely be awarded to them. Consider this: "There's 88% probability of the rainfall turning out to be normal" while normal itself is defined as "90% to 110% of the Long Period Average" and there's "24% probability of the rainfall being between 90% and 96%".

If you believe that the Met department gets its predictions right every time because the officials cleverly make their prediction very broad and vague, then you are completely wrong. Despite this vagueness they still don't get it right every time. But they can always explain missteps away citing El Nino or La Nina or Chikni Chameli. OK, maybe not the last one.

Of course, there is no performance review or appraisal. There is no performance-linked incentive. In fact, if you get it wrong you'll be in the news more (an incentive to get it wrong) and you'll be more active writing and talking about why what you said did not happen. How many professions can boast of such wonderful privileges?

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