Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Democracy has been repeatedly praised as the best form of government ever to be discovered by mankind, yet there have been obvious draw backs of the system that has been noticed by many. Some find the idea of democracy to be so perfect that they also want to take it upon themselves to spread this political style of governance to countries across the world that still haven't adopted it. Immanuel Kant predicted that liberal democracies would increase in number and with their increase the armed conflict among them would reduce. While this has proven to be true however, liberal democracies are are just as likely as non-democratic countries to get into armed conflicts with non-democracies! 
What I present here are a selection of quotes which sort of bring out this paradox inherent in the idea of democracy

Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
- George Bernard Shaw

The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.
- Niels Bohr

Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.
- Clement Atlee 

The Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
Thomas Jefferson

Gandhi is the other person. I believe Gandhi is the only person who knew about real democracy — not democracy as the right to go and buy what you want, but democracy as the responsibility to be accountable to everyone around you. Democracy begins with freedom from hunger, freedom from unemployment, freedom from fear, and freedom from hatred. To me, those are the real freedoms on the basis of which good human societies are based.
Vandana Shiva

In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
John Adams

Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.
- Aristotle

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.
Isaac Asimov

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
H.L. Mencken

 High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
Oscar Wilde

Being democratic is not enough, a majority cannot turn what is wrong into right. In order to be considered truly free, countries must also have a deep love of liberty and an abiding respect for the rule of law.
Margaret Thatcher

Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike.
- Socrates

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Monday, March 17, 2014

A Crash Course - MH370

Its been 9 days since the flight vanished and still all the brains of the world put together have not been able to figure out what could have happened to this flight. It is one of the biggest challenges human mind has faced in my living memory. I explore here few possible angles and the plausibility of it.

  • MH370 vanished on 8th March 2014
  • Before it vanished it was supposedly flying at a height of 45000ft above sea level 
 The Crash Theory:
  • There are two ways of detecting a flight
    • Primary radar which works on signals that bounce off the body of the plane
    • Secondary radar which is dependent on response from the flight's transponder
  • The crew could have switched off the on-board transponder or it could have malfunctioned
  • No - reasons why the primary radar would not have detected the MH370 even if the pilot lost control and it scuttled to a crash
  • If the flight was indeed in danger then the pilot should have been able to send out a distress signal
  • If every system on-board malfunctioned and the flight did crash into the sea then the debris should not have been this difficult to find
The Explosion Theory
  • Something catastrophic that could prevent a pilot from even sending out a distress signal is possible only and only if
    • A situation like that of Columbia space shuttle was created where the shuttle disintegrated even before the crew could react
    • Only a nuclear explosions are known to create such amount of heat that could vaporize people even before their minds could react and also blow the flight into such small undetectable pieces
    • Nuclear scientists are exploring this angle and seeing if any radiation could be detected indicating an explosion at 45000ft above sea level

The Hijacking Theory
  • If hijackers were indeed behind such a nuclear explosion then why would they like to die faceless and voiceless and purposeless without announcing which group they belonged to?
  • If the plane did not vaproise due to nuclear explosion and was hijacked by terrorist who were smart enough to avoid the radar systems and take it to a safer location then why haven't any group staked claim to the hijack or come out with demands?
  • After all what would be the purpose of hijacking a flight full of innocent passengers if not as a bargaining chip?
A Possible Theory
  • There is a much denied experiment of the famous USS Elridge conducted in 1943 which was supposedly part of a famous/infamous Quantum Teleportation experiment based on Einstein's Unified Field Theory.
  •  This experiment was supposedly altered at the request of the Navy, with the new objective being solely to render the Eldridge invisible to radar. None of these allegations has been independently substantiated.
  • The experiment was called Philadelphia Experiment
  • Does it make sense to see if there were any physicist on-board who were on a paid leave from their respective universities to conduct such an experiment?
I feel that only two explanations sound logical, one is that there was an explosion which was sudden, fast and so severe that it blew everything apart in few seconds and reduced the debris into undetectable dust which is really sad and heart wrenching to think or imagine about and I hope it isn't the case from the bottom of my heart OR MH370 was chosen for an experiment that was a top secret experiment the results of which have been unpredictable and something that could be equally devastating as a crash!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Other Cast

There are many things in life that become obvious only through their absence. The supporting characters that many actors play in a television series or a movie, literally fighting for both screen space and mind space makes for some interesting observation.

While the hero and heroine have it easy with tailor made roles and dialogs, it is the supporting characters who, I think, have to demonstrate very high level of commitment and dedication to the characters they are playing to make it stand out and linger in our memory. The language of the series or movie doesn't matter. I would like to believe it is the same everywhere and anywhere.

Of seeing Bollywood movies over the years I have started to idolize some these side characters that make watching movies so much a pleasure. Repeat viewing of these movies makes the contribution of these actors stand out even more. I present 4 such contemporary actors who have been a delight to watch in every movie that they have been a part off. Some of them are celebrities in their own rights but probably not as much as the lead actors or actresses of the movies that they are part of.

Sanjay Mishra - this guy came into prominence during 1999 world cup as Apple Singh and since then he has lit up many movies with his comic timing. People who haven't seen much of his work, I strongly recommend movies like One Two Three or Dhamaal. His body language, diction, facial expressions and dialog delivery all are a big plus in bringing alive some very ordinary characters. I believe him to be a very underrated actor who might not have entirely got his due. He also blows life into his character in a television series, again that I strongly recommend, Office Office, where despite acting along side a very talented star cast he manages to hold his own.

Manoj Pahwa - this guy has been around since the time TV started in India and he acted in the very first hindi soap of Indian television Hum Log. Of course he was much thinner and younger, however both age and growing gait has not depreciated his acting ability or comic timing. He is capable of delivering power packed performances. People unaware of his works, I strongly recommend Aloo Chat, Singh is King, Wanted and also the television series Office Office. Another underrated actor with some amazing performances in every outing.

Mukesh Tiwari - this guy made his acting debut in a movie called China Gate in a negative role. He received a lot of praise for his debut performance, however I think he found his true calling in comedy. Every outing in a comic role has been a stupendous performance. Probably doesn't get as much recognition as much as he deserves but I find him amazing in every role he played including the recent performance in Chennai Express as a tamil speaking Sardaar police officer. Some other notable roles were in movies like One Two Three, Gangajal or Arakshan etc.

Deepak Dobriyal - probably less talented than the rest that I talk about above, however still capable of showing tremendous commitment to all the roles played by him and making them as much memorable as possible. With a slight built he might have been missed in most of the movies that he has played important parts in. Tanu weds Manu definitely stands out as a great performance as a close friend and confidante of the male protagonist. He was equally good in gripping movies like Omkara or Maqbool

This is a small dedication to the performances of these artistes that I find have special talent of playing the most nondescript roles with great conviction and bring those characters alive to add color and value to the movies that they are part off. I sometimes wonder what their motivation is to keep going at a work that probably doesn't recognize their contribution as much as it should. Of course there have been similar such characters during various generation of Bollywood and even in the current generation there are more who have done an excellent job, however I pick four as per my liking and taste.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Artificial Exigency

What is intelligence? Are Humans intelligent? If Humans are intelligent how do they create more problems for themselves than solve? If humans are not intelligent then how can they create something that is intelligent? What is Machine intelligence or artificial intelligence? Is Artificial intelligence about machines being made to do some so called intelligent operations or is it about machines developing ability to go beyond what they are programmed to do? Or is Artificial intelligence more about what humans want a machine to do?

So the question is that, can carrying out instructions as per a pre-determined program be called intelligence? Or can a machine perform actions beyond the program? If it does perform task beyond the program then, would we call it intelligence or an error? Infact even perfectly designed primitive machines sometimes do end up doing things that they were not programmed to do, would we say that the machine developed some intelligence of its own? 

I guess the core issue is to understand what intelligence actually is? It is only when we define what human intelligence is we could work towards developing a method of simulating it in machines. Intelligence has been a contentious issue as has been the various methods available to measure it. How many forms of intelligence exist? Are all or any of these forms of intelligence decided by genetics? Does intelligence has anything to do with memory and our ability to recall? Robert Sternberg and Howard Gardner came up with a list of types of intelligence. While Gardner had a longer list, I present the shorter list provided by Sternberg:

  • Analytical Intelligence: Intelligence that is assessed by intelligence tests.
  • Creative Intelligence: Intelligence that makes us adapt to novel situations, generating novel ideas
  • Practical Intelligence: Intelligence that is required for everyday tasks (e.g. street smarts)
Can any of this intelligence be created or developed or improved by exercising free will?  Are we stuck with what our genetics dictates? If we are stuck with what genetic dictates then we can't create intelligence we can only use the provided intelligence and we can only use to the extent provisioned.

So with such questions trained on human intelligence, there are similar queries that arise when we talk about artificial intelligence. Which form of intelligence are trying to create in a machine? I guess if it has to be a mix of all the three types. In the past few years we have seen machines that have demonstrated Analytical Intelligence, so I guess the real question is whether a machine could develop the other two forms. Would that mean that human can use his human intelligence to create a machine which is programmed for analytical intelligence but the the machine through some process develops a creative intelligence and practical intelligence to be really called intelligent? Or is it more a challenge for human intelligence to understand these two forms of intelligence and come up with code/method to design a machine that can demonstrate those two as well?

Often we hear statements such as ‘machines one day would overtake humans’ there would be a ‘fight between machines and humans in the near future’. How can a machine become more intelligent than what the humans created it to do? For a machine to develop an ability to think it has to be able to decide on its action irrespective of what it has been programmed to do, and the decided action still needs to be an acceptable, identifiable and valid action and not an aberration. So basically that means as explained above that, a machine needs to develop a free will and an ability to think to be truly intelligent beyond what a human has designed it to be. Can a machine develop consciousness too? What circumstances would lead a machine to develop this free will or this ability to think and decide on an appropriate response which it has not been pre-programmed to perform? 

Thus for me artificial intelligence, despite few decades of research and application, appears paradoxical. I also fail to understand the fascination towards hoping for a machine that one day would be more intelligent than humans and also behave and be like a human? However as a friend pointed out to me, probably it is man's way to try and ape nature and see if he could do better!


Random: March 2014