TECHNOLOGY AND THE HUMAN MIND

 

The saddest part of technology is that it lacks ethics. .

Over the recent times, artificial intelligence has been in much debate. We are having a moral tussle with our own self and our own creations. Would our creations someday outdo us? Or have they already done it? Should we be afraid? Would robots wipe out the entire human civilisation? The likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg are already having a war of words regarding the artificial intelligence. The future of technology, or rather, of the world (for now technology is our entire world- how romantic!) presents a scary and dystopic picture. What kind of a future are we looking at? The future, as it seems to me, would be highly augmented/virtual/artificial/self-destructive; in other words- unreal! The human tangibility would be lost entirely. All that would be left for the humans to do would be- nothing!

What makes humans human and humane? Humans are intelligent beings with an assimilation of feelings like love, anger, fear, happiness. They are conscious beings with a set of cognitive abilities which enable them to feel, think, recall, sympathise, judge and imagine. What would happen when some other entity is able to do the same? A non-human human with augmented intelligence?!

‘Sofia’ made it to the headlines recently. Saudi Arabia declared this humanoid as its official citizen! She has been making celebrity appearances in the United Nations, popular TV shows, even music videos. I do not know how others see it, but to me it is very disturbing.

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Isaac Asimov, a popular American science fiction author, in his short story- ‘Runaround’- postulates three ‘Laws of Robots’-

• A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
• A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
• A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

Unless all the robots follow these laws, they would assuredly pose a great threat to the entire human existence.

Sofia is just one of the many existing (and innumerable to come in the future) humanoids. We are looking at a future where the even the most ‘human’ly tasks such as that of nursing and medicine would be looked after by robots. What then would our jobs be? Simply to exist and see these lifeless machines take over? To build our own coffins; or would that also be done by machines?!

These lines from George Orwell’s 1984 present an accurate picture of our future-

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.”

However, we must remember – we cannot deal with artificial intelligence until we overcome our natural stupidity. The converse of the preceding sentence may also be true- artificial intelligence would pave way for more and more natural stupidity. In the words of Albert Einstein-

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity;
and I’m not sure about the universe.”

The human mind would certainly evolve more in the coming decades than it has in the past centuries. Such a speed is perilous. Speed kills, does it not? If not all at once, then at least gradually. Cities are growing at an unimaginable speed. We now have metro cities, even mega cities. The more the growth, the more poisonous the society becomes. One of the pioneers of the Modern Hindi Literature [the Nayi Kavita (New Poetry)]- Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayana ‘Agyey’ very subtly put his concern regarding the urbanisation as –

“साँप!
तुम सभ्य तो हुए नहीं
नगर में बसना
भी तुम्हें नहीं आया।
एक बात पूछूँ–(उत्तर दोगे?
तब कैसे सीखा डँसना–
विष कहाँ पाया?”

What Agyeyji is hinting at is not hard to grasp. The maddening, fast-paced city life does add to the mental chaos, confusion and clutter.

Delhi’s Bhanwarlal Joshi and United Kingdom’s Jon Pedley have a lot in common. Apart from once being millionaires, the two are also among hundreds of other millionaires to have renounced all their possessions and begun to live by scant means. Joshi now leads his life as a Jain monk, whereas Pedley runs a children’s charity in Uganda! Somehow the hectic urbane life did not provide them with the much sought happiness and in the tree of a fully nourished life, instead of aiming for higher branches, they chose to go for the roots!

Is it now time that we go back to the age of Romanticism to look for tranquillity in the countryside all over gain, to resort in the lap of Nature all over again, to derive a sense of beauty and joy from the simplest of things all over again? In the words of the famous astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson-

“Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature.“

No, I am not condemning technology. It is as imperative for an individual and the society as it has always been.

Technology is becoming super-advanced with every passing day. Communication and transportation has been revolutionised. The medical filed has seen innumerable breakthroughs- we can now produce babies in labs; science is even working on genetically-modified (‘designer’) babies. Of late, IBM has designed a computer to study the masterpieces of Picasso and recreate them in the present times!

We have been awestruck by technological marvels on infinite scales; both- infinitely huge and infinitely minute. We have reached the stars, landed our spaceships on distant planets and other celestial bodies. We have unearthed great mysteries of this complex cosmos. We have penetrated into the deepest layers of the earth just as we have in the beds of vast oceans. The quest to find an alien life has already begun. On the tiny scale, we can now scrutinise an object by magnifying it by up to 50000 times! We can explore the tiniest iota of a body cell. No worldly aspect is left untouched by technology. However, between these two infinite extremes, lies an area where technology is yet to make its mark (God forbid, it ever does) – our soul, our conscience.

In our endeavour to run towards our technological best, we are running away from ourselves. Know thyself- so is the purpose of one’s life. The present times only takes us furthers us from ourselves.

This is an age where our every deed, action, emotion is driven by technology. Our society is governed by mere spectacles.It is up to us how we use technology- to extend our ‘instant’ help to the Kerala Flood victims or to ‘instantly’ spread hate messages on social media.

Technology operates us rather than the other way round. Technology is power; and we all know – Power Corrupts. This necessary evil, technology, is as good so long it is a servant and not a master.

Aryabhatta had rightly discovered that the earth rotates around the sun in an elliptical orbit; Sushruta did remarkable work in the field of medicine and surgery. All of these, and more, were without the aid of advanced technology. Thus, technology is a tool which makes humans’ life ‘faster’ and ‘easier’; but I doubt if it makes it any ‘better’.

Our human mind desires peace; for which it looks for tranquillity and isolation. Our mind then runs away from technology; disconnects from all the virtual spaces and wanders in reality. How often have we heard of people taking digital hiatuses and going offline to declutter their mind?!

What is required now is that the technology and the human mind co-exist in a harmonious tandem. Dr. B. L. Atreya, an Indian scholar said-

“A scientific age needs a scientific religion which is yet to be born.”

Who is man’s greatest enemy- the self-sufficient robots or the man himself? Time alone would be our judge.

Technology has already helped and harmed us enough. It is now time that we detach, step into the ‘real’ world, pause and ponder, smell the roses; and live. Let us become ‘human’ beings again rather than simply ‘technology-driven’ beings. Let us live in harmony with technology rather than at its mercy.

This Age needs more Wordsworths and Byrons than we need Scientists and Inventors!

Happy unplugging!

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KAVI GOPALDAS NEERAJ

कुछ 8-10 साल

मम्मी-पापा की शादी की सालगिरह थी। हमलोग ने सोचा कि दोनो की फोटो इकट्ठा करके एक विडियो बनायेंगे। बना भी लिया। अब बस एक गाना चाहिए था जो कि उस विडियो में पीछे चलता रहे। बहुत खोजा। मिल ही नहीं रहा था। बहुत मशक्कत के बाद एक गाना मिला…

“फूलों के रंग से, दिल की कलम से…”

बहुत पसंद आया। मम्मी-पापा को विडियो और मुझको यह गाना। इस कदर पसंद आया कि बस ज़ेहन में बस गया।

सालों बाद पता चला कि गाने के गीतकार हैं कवि गोपाल दास नीरज।
सदाबहार नग्मे- ‘लिखे जो ख़त तुझे, वो तेरी याद में…’, ‘आज मदहोश हुआ जाए रे मेरा मन…’ जैसे और तमाम गीतों को अल्फाज़ आप ही ने दिये।

कुछ 2-3 साल पहले

लखनऊ महोत्सव का वक्त था। जाड़े का मौसम। रात के करीब नौ बजे साहित्य-प्रेमियों का रूख ‘कवि-सम्मेलन/ मुशा’यरे’ की जानिब हुआ।

एक के बाद एक कवियों/शा’यरों ने महफ़िल लूटी, वाहवाही बटोरी।

सर्द बढ़ रही थी। पर कविता/शा’यारी का खुमार ऐसा, कि भीड़ बढ़ती गई। और बढ़ती भी क्यों न; अब मंच जो संभाला था स्वयं पद्मभूषण कवि गोपालदास नीरज ने।

आप अपने उम्र के नौवें दशक में थे। आप माईक तक न आ पाये इसलिए माईक आप तक लाया गया। आवाज़ में हल्की कम्पन थी ( जाङे का मौसम था!) पर जैसे ही आपने अपने शब्दों का बाण छोड़ा, वैसे ही तालियों की गङगङाहट से माहौल में गर्माहट आ गई।

उम्र क्या है? महज़ एक अनुभूति- ये तब पता चला जब आपने मंचासीन मध्यायु अन्य कवियों/शा’यरों, को ‘युवा कवि वर्ग’ कह कर संबोधित किया।

उस दिन आपकी कही एक पंक्ति हमेशा याद रहती है-

“आत्मा के सौन्दर्य का शब्द रूप है काव्य, मानव होना भाग्य है कवि होना सौभाग्य…”

उस ही दिन की आपकी एक और पंक्ति है जो आपने अपने जीवनकाल में स्वयं ही सार्थक की-

“इतिहास वहीं लोग बनाते हैं, इतिहास से जो आगे निकल जाते हैं …”

उस सर्द रात मैं जिस उर्जा के साथ घर पहुँची, बयां कर पाना मुश्किल सा है।

अब आप एक बेहतर जहां में हैं।

अंत में आपकी कुछ पंक्तियों आप ही को समर्पित-

“नींद भी खुली न थी कि हाय धूप ढल गई,
पाँव जब तलक उठे कि ज़िन्दगी फिसल गई,
पात-पात झर गये कि शाख़-शाख़ जल गई,
चाह तो निकल सकी न, पर उमर निकल गई,
गीत अश्क़ बन गए,
छंद हो दफ़न गए,
साथ के सभी दिऐ धुआँ-धुआँ पहन गये,
और हम झुके-झुके,
मोड़ पर रुके-रुके
उम्र के चढ़ाव का उतार देखते रहे
कारवां गुज़र गया, गुबार देखते रहे…”

GHARE BAIRE- A Review

What happens when one Master takes a masterpiece of another Master and presents it to the world? It results in the immortalisation of the already immortal!

That is what the prolific film-maker Ray did to the Nobel Laureate Tagore’s ‘Ghare Baire’ ( the Home and the World).

Ray attempts to recreate the magic of the novella. Though he remarks-” No filmmaker could possibly achieve what Tagore did.”- one has to laud the director and artist in Ray.

Ray had prepared a screenplay of the movie back in the 1940s. But the movie never materialised. Ray, in retrospect, discarded the screenplay as “pitifully superficial and Hollywoodish.”

Ray started anew in the 1980s. A new screenplay was prepared. The wait and toil paid-off.

The story is set during the tension of the Bengal Division brought forth by Lord Curzon in 1905.

The movie is quintessentially a romantic drama with an undercurrent of Nationalistic sentiments. It revolves around Bimala (Swatilekha Sengupta). Though educated and opinionated, she finds it hard to chose between advocating Social Reforms, of which her husband, Nikhilesh Chowdhary ( Victor Bannerjee) is a supporter; or Radical Nationalism, which is supported by Sandip Mukherjee (Soumitra Chatterjee).

Nilkhilesh, a well-meaning British noble wants India to be reformed. He helps poor merchants and traders even by incurring loses upon himself. He wants his own wife Bimala to partake in all the affairs, that of the home as well as outside, and thus become “Sampoorna Swadheen”.

Their lives take an unpleasant turn when Sandip, Nikhilesh’s friend and an extreme supporter of the Swadeshi Movement, comes to stay in their house.

Nikhilesh a well-wisher of the poor, does not want to involve himself in the acts Swadeshi Movement, much to the indignation of Sandip. Nikhilesh knows that this would cause irreparable losses to poor, who cannot afford expensive and poor quality indigenous goods. He says- “To worship my country as a God is to bring curse upon it.”

The movie brilliantly showcases the predicaments of a woman’s heart. Bimala, the devout wife of Nikhilesh, is swayed by the rhetoric, powerful and domineering speeches of Sandip (most of which are held in Nikhilesh’s courtyard itself!) so much so that she develops and enraged passion for him.

Sandip too enchants her by singing for her and praising her beauty. He calls her ‘Mukkhi’ (Queen Bee). He gets her involvement by hiding his malicious intents behind the garb of the slogan- “Bande Mataram”.

Nikhilesh is visibily agonised on seeing Bimala’s change of heart. However, he does not question her for he wanted his wife to be free and have her own will. His pains are felt only by his Master-Moshai and Mejorani ( the widowed wife of his brother).

However, tables do turn; Bimala’s conscience does awaken; She realises her folly; but, is it too late?

The film not only made a mark nationally- bagging the Best Feature Film in Bengali, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design- but also was well-received around the globe -Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of 1985 by the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Watch the movie for the wonderful portrayal of human emotional subtleties and outbursts; for delving a bit deeper into the women’s psyche; and above all- for the celebration of literature.

P.S. – What is a cinema at all if it is unable to transcend the barriers of language? In the words of Ray himself-

“The truth is that every story has two aspects- its underlying message, and its language… This language used in cinema is a language of images. A director must learn it and master its grammar.”

A TEA THAT WAS NOT

The long borne wish was going to be fulfilled today (early) morning. Finally, after years of longing and laziness, I was to visit that one tea stall which had been everyone’s recommendation. The ‘Let-us-not-name-it’ Tea Stall spoiled it for me(as it would for any other chai-lover as well)

What you see here is Disappointment objectified.
What the tea-sellers there were were Disdain personified.

After battling the restless crowd, 20-30 minutes of never-ending wait, rounds of calling out “Bhaiya, Bhaiya…(with my voice rising in a crescendo)”, sweating profusely, what I get is this…

This might look like any other ‘chai’ but if only there was some way to convey its taste!

First taste is certainly the last taste!

And the ‘band makkhan’ and ‘samosa’…
Let me put it this way- The sole motivation to finish it up was that we paid 60 rupees for them!!!

When something reaches its peak of popularity, the quality is bound to go down. There is no other way, no evasion.

To avoid degradation, the solution is to be the best, but, in isolation.

Found a commendable tea stall? Do not tell it to everyone! ‘SAVE’ IT FROM BEING POPULAR AND HENCE RUINED. As Kahlil Gibran puts it-

“Travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things.”

 

When The Cuckoo Coos

Today morning, as I was taking a solitary walk around the campus and was admiring its tranquillity, a cuckoo’s melodious chirp happened to catch my attention. Immediately looking up, I tried to find out which tree was the bird sitting on.

A young lady, standing nearby, smiled at me helplessly. Nevertheless, I continued with my failed attempts to spot the bird. The lady’s smile widened. Now I understood.

“So, it is her who is making the cuckoo sound!” – I rightly concluded.

I let out a little laugh. We exchanged smiles; then resumed our walking on our respective paths.

Minutes later, we ran into each other again. A few seconds after, a cuckoo cooed again. The lady looked at the trees above to find the cuckoo out. She could not.

She looked at me. Gazed at me for a fraction of second and exclaimed- “It is you!!!”

I giggled. She giggled. We laughed.

A healthy and happy start to a lovely day…

Ah…strange strangers

A Cut Below

Me- Uncle, bass thode chhote hi kijiyega…[Uncle, make it only a bit short…]
Uncle- Theek, samajh gaye![Okay, got it!]

(‘Chhuk chhuk’ goes his scissors, snipping off my hair a bit there, a bit here. A bit more here, a bit more there. I sit there wondering how skilled he is at his craft! )

Uncle- Haan, ab dekhiye! [Yes, see now] ( With an intonation as if saying- ” Voila, behold my masterpiece!”)

** I procure my glasses, put them on, look into the mirror(Yes! That is how terrible my vision is!) and find my hair exceedingly short.

Now read the first two lines of this post again with an emphasis on the second line.

However, of what use is complaining?! **

Me- Haan, theek! [Yes, okay]

I return to hostel.

Sneha(after 2 seconds of awe and silence)- ” Hello, Sucheta Bhaiya!”

Ghosh(immediately turns her face away, looks back at me again and exclaims)- ” Amar meye aaro chhoto hoyegelo!” [My girl has become even smaller!]

LAUGHING OUT LOUD

PROS AND CONS OF LAUGHING OUT LOUD- Part I

WHILE IN A CLASS

Scene- You happen to guffaw in your class(alone or with your friend). All eyes turn to you.

●CONS
Whatever be the reason of your laugh, the poor professor will attribute the reason to herself. This will result in the bulging out of her eyes and a deathly stare (comparable with the expression your mother would give when you refuse to eat ‘karela’), followed by the age-old clichéd remark- “ What is so funny? Care to share it with the entire class? Come, tell; we all will have a jolly time…” (It is time that these professors look for some creativity and novelty.)

Next up, you have to come up with an immediate excuse for the teacher to let go off you and to order you to sit(though reluctantly). Now you can go on to sit and resume your chuckling, giggling and tittering, though as silently as possible this time.

Heavens forbid that you have to sit right under the nose of the professor in the class while a funny memory or observation hits you. You have to grapple with a register or a book to hide your reddened face and teared up eyes. You can, also, simply ‘hang your face in laughter’. Also, you have to devise a technique to curb the sound of your giggle.

 

●PROS
Your friends and classmates would envy you seeing you happy in an otherwise sleep-inducing lecture.

You yourself would be happy in an otherwise sleep-inducing lecture.

A win-win!

You can apologise before the professor starts off with – “What is so funny…’cliché cliché’…” and escape an upbraiding and continue relishing over your happy moments.

A yawn induces yawn(in a boring lecture). Likewise, laughter induces laughter. It is contagious. Thereby, you can make the ambience of the class a little lighter.

You can escape death( by not choking yourself by curbing your laughter)

 

●CONCLUSION
Since, clearly, the given pros outnumber the cons- LAUGH OUT LOUD LIKE NO ONE IS HEARING.

Footnote 1- The best laugh is the laugh in which is there is no sound but ‘only’ gasping of air, red face, welled-up eyes and bodily tremors. Only!

You are laughing and not laughing at the same time!

Footnote 2- Remember to “ laugh like parrots at a bag-piper” (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)

Happy Laughing!

[To be continued]

Of the lazy Sundays

A lazy Sunday morning, as usual.

Our alarms start theirt crackle since 7:00 am. After all the snoozing and further dozing, 9:30 am it is when we actually rise up. We have just half an hour for us to manage to get ourselves our breakfast; breakfast for which we wait since the last Sunday- Chhole Bhature…

9:50 am, we reach our ‘dinning hall’. It is both a relief and a mild concern to see other people clamouring for food as well. Relief- the realization that we are not the sole late risers. Concern – we will have to tarry a little before our turn for ‘bhatura’ finally comes.

To while away the time, I head to the tea container. As I pick up the steel cup and pour some tea in it, I think my usual thought- Can it be called tea at all? I prefer to call it ‘sugary water’; for it is nothing but sugar and water! I take two sips and leave the rest and then curse myself for having expected the tea to be better this time. Then too, hope is a never dying thing! I know, my stupid self will come back to this tea container again hoping that some day(one fine day…) these cooks will have pity on us and prepare tea that can actually be called tea.

We get our ‘bhaturas’ shortly later. Ghosh takes two; Sneha also two; I take three. We proceed get our share of ‘chhola’.

As I hold the ladle and churn the ‘Chhola’, I exclaim- ” Chhole mein chhola kahan hai?!”

Ghosh- “Aur kitna patla patla bhi hai!”

Sneha- “Ab dus baje aoge tumlog to aur kya milega?!”

Sneha is right. However, I wonder if logic is required at all while complaining! We just smile.

We take our plates to the table and eat. Shortly we hear that there is no more ‘chhola’ left for the rest of the people; not even the diluted ‘chhola’. I am happy that though late, we are not ‘thaaaat’ late.

Huh! The oil in the ‘bhaturas’ is enough to induce deeeeep slumber in me again.

A loooong lazy day awaits…

(How long and lazy?
I started writing this post around 10:45 am and see the time I am posting it!
*sigh*)

Weekly Photo Challenge- AWAKWEING

Since awakening is a ‘dawn’ of realization…

IMG_20180411_214229_202IMG_20180411_214238_434IMG-20180204-WA001520180411_213925

And it ‘dawned’ upon me that all the pictures have been taken by

my phone,

during sunrise,

on the banks of river Ganga,

at the serene Assi Ghat, Varanasi, India.

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge- AWAKENING

TEA LOVE

Oh, you have half an hour for the next lecture. Come with us.”

 

“Lecture completed? So, come join us…”

 

“Waiting for someone? Wait here.”

 

“You topped the test? Treat, treat!”

 

“Whose turn is it today for…?”

 

“Where are we going?”

“You know!”

 

The place in subject is one.

 

From at a distance it might look like an ordinary shack, but lo and behold; advance nearer, grab a tea- 5 rupees for the normal one, or the ‘special’ one costing just a rupee more- sit cosily on the stony seat and look around soaking in the ambience.

 

The person behind this all, the gratified owner of the stall, sells not just tea(lemon tea, samosa, gulab jamun, launglatta…) but a catalyst for the stimulation of ideas.

 

Gather some friends, grab a glass, or the ‘kulhadd‘, of tea and let your mind go for a swirl. Talks ranging from how the professor from the previous lecture dressed up today to the deepest deliberations on the Bacon’s essays, everything is ‘served’ here.

screenshot_20180204-001803.png
That esteemed stall

 

You can boast your generosity, or show some pity, by paying up for your friends’ tea as well(of course after a lot of debate as to who would end up paying for it- something which is hardly thought of beforehand).

 

Or with supreme efficacy, evade from paying up for the tea this one time by reminding them how you once paid in the past or by promising to do so in the near future.

 

Moreover, even if you have no one to chat to/discuss with/ share your tea with, you can indulge in even engaging an activity- EAVESDROPPING!

 

Yes.
Again, grab a tea, sit cosily on the stony seat and look around and overhear all the conversations within your earshot.

You will, as per my recollection and experience, hear talks ranging from how Rahul should have batted the other day to the nuances of running the government; from Socrates to Shankaracharya ; from Marx to Manto; from Premchand to Paulo Coehlo; from Basketball to Badminton; from concerns over almost flunking a test to strategies for topping the exams…

 

If Heavens be more magnanimous, you might even spot a professor or two or even more approaching towards the stall. You can pounce upon the opportunity to initiate a discourse with them on any of the intellectual topics(or even the trending ones like Padmaavat); and, as a bonus, might(rather, definitely) save your money, as the big-hearted professors would promptly offer to pay for it.

 

If none of these- no friends to fret over the payment, eavesdropping on random conversations, fortunate guest appearances by professors- you can just sit back, with the tea in hand, and marvel at how some water, milk, tea leaves, sugar, and ginger mixed in a divine proportion create the most ethereal potion of all time…