Should any country, which is woefully short of meeting its minimum standards of living, have a right to invest in futuristic technologies that is not likely to result in amelioration of living standards of its hapless denizens?
Let me know your POV …
There were quite a few triggers for this piece. One of them being an article I read on FB shared by a friend. The article lamented the decline of West Bengal over the years in light of the recent violence that erupted in the state during elections. The writer mentioned that the state had once produced great men of eminence which is missing in recent times – the best of human minds who had a great influence over the entire country and beyond. Some of the names were quite obvious. What struck me in the list of best minds was the commonality in the nature of work of these great men – spirituality, social reformation and at a lower level, literature. Even though Bengal has produced many of them, missing were world-acclaimed Scientists and other great Academicians and achievers from other fields of work who ought to have also found them in the august list.
This perception is generally true. If you ask any Bengali/ Indian about the great minds of the community, you are likely to encounter the names of this religious set only. Sir J. C. Bose or Meghnad Saha would rarely feature in them. What I am trying to imply is that we do not consider our Scientists to be the best minds, at par with the best of social reformers and spiritual gurus.
Why should that be a problem? After all, the Scientists are held in high-esteem by the well read and their own scientific community. I think perception matters in a country like India because perception can mask objectivity and truth. That is why even though millions of youths laid down their lives for the country during freedom movement, the general perception is that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi singularly gave us freedom. The other reason why we need to promote Scientists and scientific temper among the masses is that people will have a greater understanding of the innate working of things. Even the father of the Nation is well-known for his anti scientific views. He is on record to have attributed a Bihar earthquake to an Act of God.
Without cultivation of Science, Religion will be the only guiding force in Society. And in a country like India, illiterate and corrupt politicians will exploit religion to poison and divide people and win power. No one cares for developmental issues when the rival religion is the enemy no. 1.
Two days back, I was having a conversation with a dear friend at work. An ardent supporter of the BJP, he was obviously elated at the resounding success of the party. He was narrating his POV about the first business family of the country. He opined that they’re such a cultured family because they visit temples regularly as a family unit. I couldn’t resist myself and queried “Suppose someone is impeccable in all respects and doesn’t visit a House of God, is he not a man of culture?” Because of the din in the surroundings I couldn’t fathom the mumbling that came from him. I carried on and in a lighter vein joked “Given that all the negatives contained in data by the economists and Indian policy analysts have been disproved by the resounding win at the hustings by the saffron-tinged party, isn’t it time that we should stop our wasteful expenditure on the scientific and policy related institutes, and instead focus on opening institutes that foster spiritual learning?” He gave his affirmation and said that only then happiness would truly prevail in Indian society. The nut that I am, I couldn’t hold myself and replied “the next time your family member fall sick, take him to a sadhu instead of a doctor …”
The dry cleaner in our Colony market, Babu-ji as we call him, whom I have been seeing since the last ten years occupying a front-side shop in the market, recently had to swap with a ‘Computer and Mobile’ shop that operated from the rear side of the market. Probably people aren’t as fixated on their clothes as they are with their gadgets …
Pattern Recognition is a technique of sensing a repetitive occurrence in any situation. It can be very useful in problem solving.
Say we want to count the number of x in the following diagram
x x x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x x x
x x x x x x x x x x
We see there is a pattern in the way the ‘x’ is placed – uniformly across all columns in every row. What would an intelligent person do? Would he count all the singleton ‘x’ beginning from the first row and ending with the last? The answer, as you have rightly guessed, is NO. The person would count the number of ‘x’ in any row and multiply it with the number of rows. In our above figure, it should be 10 (number of x in each row) multiplied by 5 (number of rows) which gives the number of x to be equal to 50.
For problems of much larger sizes and complexity, detecting patterns can help in finding solution faster making it an efficient one. That is why Pattern Recognition is so useful in Computational problem solving.
Tech and Society 3: Fake news
Recently a BBC commissioned Research published a report that alleged that the largest contributor to fake news emanating from India was churned out from the IT cell that owed allegiance to the party running the Govt. Quite predictably, seemingly credible news report surfaced that countered the BBC Research claim highlighting the shortcomings of the published report including technical points such as sample size and sampling bias. We have seen a similar situation a month or two back with the outbreak of disclosure about the Rafeal deal.
With the advent of Internet, it has become easy to publish reports and their rebuttal with such conviction that it becomes a mind-boggling affair for the average reader to fish out the real truth in the stories.Political parties with an axe to grind are mostly instrumental in carrying out such misdeeds. A recent report about a newly constructed bridge in the National Capital actually carried a picture of a bridge from Singapore. Increasingly, the net is emerging as a platform for political slugfest with a mix of genuine and fake news with the factory involved in producing the latter category getting increasingly better at their jobs. In that sense, Fake news have a huge potential to sway public opinions and if they continue to prosper in this unregulated manner, one wonders whether the fate of a genuine article is similarly destined like the shepherd boy prone to playing pranks on the unsuspecting villagers till one day when they got tired …
Recently when wifey returned one day from work, she told me about an incident that left her fuming. She said that during the day she had received a whatsapp message from the class teacher of our son. It showed him in a picture as one of the three students lined up for punishment. The picture was similar to the ones we see in newspapers, where criminals are made to line up and photographs are taken of them where humiliation is writ large on their faces. The crime the three high school standard boys have committed was of not doing their homework, which emboldened the subject teacher to take a snap and forward it to the class teacher, who whatsapped that same picture to my wife. When my wife strongly objected to this way of punishing a child, reasoning that such issues should be resolved at school, the class teacher informed us that they keep sending such pictures of insincere students being punished similarly, and hardly any parents have criticized this method. I don’t know how far this is true about ‘accepting parents’ but IMHO this practice is a blatant misuse of technology, where groups of classes are formed on whatsapp, activities and information and notes sharing happen therein. Imagine if the teacher posts and the child sees his picture flashed in his class group in whatsapp!!! It may damage his morale beyond measure. Thankfully, this didn’t happen in the case of our child.
Not without reasons, France has banned mobile usage for school work recently. I strongly believe that school kids should be kept away from gadgets and no matter how much the world is changing, foundational concepts are built only by reading school text books the way conventional education was imparted in earlier days …