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November 9, 2017

Science Exhibition

Filed under: education, governance, India, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 16:03

I was invited to judge a science exhibition today. I never realized that this innocent participation on my behalf would be a Pretoria moment. Students had to prepare mock ups on one of the following topics: Software development life cycle, Innovation in computer science, Different types of software systems, eGovernance, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Networking, Real life uses of computers, Innovation using computers, evolution of operating systems. The students had to prepare posters describing the topic, speak about it, and then demonstrate any working prototype, if they had one. The posters were very colorful and meticulously prepared. Barring few, all the students had parroted a script and were repeating whatever was written on their respective posters. However, many students did not even know the meanings of the terms they had used.

The very first team I had spoken to was from Andhra Pradesh. There were two children manning the poster. I asked the name of one girl. “Sharada (name changed) sir, from ABC school.” I asked the other girl for her name. She showed a shy smile and took a step back. Sharada said: “Sir, she is just there to hold the poster”. I said: “It is OK, let her give the name”. Mahita, it was. Sharada started with her demonstration on the evolution of operating systems. She got stuck several times in between. For a student of class 8, it was a bit odd that she had not tried to learn the basics of what she was presenting. A lot of effort had gone into designing cardboard models of computers, paper mache models of an RTOS, several Android phones, and even the scale model of a city. But she clearly lacked knowledge of the topic. Unfortunately for her, the poster holder Mahita also ended up answering a question. Sharada was peeved, not at her own lack of depth but at the ignominy of a “helper” answering her question.

Raj, a student of class 9 was presenting on eGovernance. His presentation covered a slew of ideas: eBanking, eHospitals, eRegistration, eLearning, eEverything. I asked him: “Are there any disadvantages of eGovernance”. Raj: “People are losing jobs due to eGovernance and Govt has to provide replacement jobs. Govt cannot provide jobs anymore. Google is doing a project along with TCS to replace education systems. They will covert everything to a e-Sysytem, and provide jobs”. Clearly surprised, I asked: “Son, who gave you such information?”. Raj: “Sir, you may not know everything. My father is a professor in the computer science department at AU in Vizag. He told me all this”. I asked: “What is his name?”. “Sai Bhaskar” came the reply. I asked: “Dr Sai Bhaskar?”. Raj replied: “No sir, only Sai Bhaskar. He was a professor, now he is not a professor”. After we left his table, he came up walking towards us and said – “Sir, how do we prevent hacking? What can be done to prevent people from taking money from ATM machines after hacking them? I heard that hackers can use ultrasound to break into computers. Flipkart once crashed because of this.”

Sukesh from Bangalore, participating in the innovation section spoke about “LiFi”. In his demo, the audio out of an android phone and a 2.5v battery was connected to an LED. The LED was shining brightly, likely from the 2.5 v battery. The audio out was also connected to a small computer speaker. The speaker was getting power from the mains, and also had a solar panel taped to it. His claim was that when the LED was on, and placed close to the solar panel, the speakers were having more amplitude. I asked Sukesh: “How do you know this is due to LiFi.” Sukesh hold the speaker up, close to his ear and says: “Hear it sir, it is louder”. I did not have the heart to even correct him.

There were other bloopers in the science meet, but Sukesh was the most jarring. I could not comprehend how the school teachers could allow such shallow presentations to come to a regional competition. I dont know if it is a failure of the system, parents, or some strange phenomena within children. I am seriously terrified of the future prospects of my nation.

This is the first school exhibition I attended. Over the next few weeks, I will try to attend other science meets. I hope there will be some succour to be found.

PS: All names and location details have been changed.

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November 8, 2017

What is boring?

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 08:49

A decade ago, I had started the branch of an NGO in Buffalo, NY. I bought pizza for the group and displayed T shirts with the India flag. It was a beautiful summer day, with the meeting held in my friends dorm room. The meeting encouraged people to do their bit for their home country. It showed a video of kids playing in a Govt school, villagers lining up for medical treatment, and farmers holding up produce. Yes, the meeting was very productive. It laid the seeds for an organization that ended up generating a lot of goodwill and money for projects back home. And yes, the meeting was not boring. It had just enough content to make people open their purse, and stopped just at the time when they needed to get back to their lives. It was nice – life continued and everyone felt good.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that people were OK to open their purse strings as long as they “felt good” about it. If you made them too uncomfortable, or questioned their status quo, they will instantly grimace. You cannot tell them they were wrong. You cannot show them their own biases. They had worked hard to get where they were. I also realized that it is difficult to continue being in corporate world, raise questions, and be truthful at the same time. My own personal situation was at odds with my belief system. This, after ticking all the right boxes in the roles of engineer, son, husband, and father (pun intended). However, I could not tell anyone that these roles were incorrectly defined and must be changed. I realized these discussions were just intellectual games. No one really wanted (or had the capacity) to make a difference. They wanted to enjoy the perception of contributing. It is not wrong to enjoy. It is just that I do not prefer such enjoyment. Life as it is, is awesome. The sun rises with a brilliance each day, flowers blossom, butterflies kiss, leaves fall and new leaves grow without being asked. I have a great family, and mostly I do not have to lie or cheat for my living. I enjoy every moment of life as it is. I am not doing social service to enjoy :). I am only attempting to change my personal situation to bring it in line with my beliefs.

Cut to the present world. Someone very senior said that discussion about the needs of people and economy is boring. I baulked. I almost felt as though I was talking to a stone wall (or walls). It was not just 20-somethings which needed pizza to make them think about society. We have gotten to an unfortunate state where even individuals who have “made it” need to be entertained before they discuss anything of substance. They have to be entertained even more before they do something. Parents do not realize that their options about society do not just effect their children, it effects the surroundings in which every child will grow/live.

Since a few years ago, I had stopped talking in public about my plans in rural development, and my own transformation. I try to focus on doing the work instead of speaking about it. I consciously decided to speak only in 1-1. Even then, I avoided talking to adults until pushed, preferring to spend time with children. Of late, I let my guard down among some friends and “like-minded” people. I responded to someone wanting to discuss. I thought they were honest. I did not think they would be bored. My bad.

 

October 23, 2017

Freelance Cheating.

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 16:52

I was exploring software freelancing and wanted to see what kind of jobs do people put there. I created a login on http://www.freelancer.in. What I saw was disturbing to say the least.

Project number “15462213”:

It was someones homework on Decision trees. The description is here.

Project number “15399788” (There were 14 bids for this; the project was even awarded).

I’m looking for a Indian male expert in Data scientist related field with data science, statistical analysis, machine learning , Hive, PIG,SQL, Python or R. Need good communication skills and available to take proxy phone interview in US CST time zone during working hours. I will send the job description. There might be multiple phone interview rounds, and the funds will only be transferred only if the interview is success and the candidate is selected. No bidding more than $750.

freelancer

Project “15435278“:

Write 2 pages PhD Proposal

Any topic related to any area from these, Visual and Data Analysis in Disease Diagnosis, Medical Image Analysis with Pattern Recognition, Drug Design by Visualization and Machine Learning Approach, Mining Protein and Genome Regulatory Networks using Graphic Models, Knowledge Discovery for RNA Structure and Function, Deep Learning Approach and its Applications, Speech Therapy and Data Mining.

October 19, 2017

Krishna leela and metoo…

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 00:33

I saw a photo being circulated by a few friends about metoo. I did not like it. I thought the photo was unrelated to metoo, and it was in extremely poor taste. The photo completely mis represents Krishna leela. I tried arguing with a friend about it… I decided to document those ramblings here…

Me:

Like you say, one sees what one sees.

My points are:
1) Why bring religion into the context of #metoo? Does it help the matter at hand? If not, then why use the graphic?

2) Side effects of such memes. This image is deeply related to Hindu religion. Are all Hindus bigots? Are only Hindus bigots? Let us say you designed something similar in “religion X”, what image will it send of “religion X”? Is that the true image of all members of that religion?

When I was told this story, there were many versions: was that the Gopikas were sages who were taken by Rama’s good looks. The benevolent Rama takes Krishna avatara to abide by their wishes. In this particular leela, the gopikas complain that it is wrong of Krishna, who is a God, to behave immorally and steal their clothes. Krishna preaches that if I am indeed God, then why have shame. And if I am indeed God, you were sages in your previous birth. Was it not wrong of you to get taken by my good looks?

Oh and there are other versions – that the Gopikas were praying to Godess Parvati so they may get Krishna as their husband. Krishna does this act to ask them – how can all of you want to marry me? Apparently, Gopikas commit an error by getting fully unclothed. When one is conducting specific pujas, they cannot be completely naked in a river. He also reminds that they were not doing their Puja properly.

But yes… One can see what one wants to see.

Friend:

Are all Hindus bigots? I don’t know, you tell me…

I haven’t seen marital and other major poojas performed by females yet. Till recently females weren’t even allowed in sanctum sanctorums of many temples. I don’t even want to get into the issue of non-Brahmin priests. I welcome you to notice similar facts in other religions.

For a lot of people the concept of good, bad and sin comes from religion. So from a cause and effect stance, maybe if religion didn’t have male bigotry, then we’d have seen lesser numbers of “me too” on our FB feeds.

Me:

You say that because pujas are done by men, means that they are somehow hand in glove for crimes against women. By extension, this must be true of Jews, Christians, Muslims… No organized religion has significant female priestly numbers. Many commercial organizations are also top-heavy with men.

Most drivers of public services (refer, buse drivers, train drivers, airplane pilots) all over the world are men. So, does it mean public transport utilities have an ulterior motive to keep women from travelling? After football matches in UK, people routinely get rowdy. Does it mean you ban all matches?

Most air hostesses, nurses, school teachers, home makers were women, what unique quality do they posses for that role? Was that done deliberately by women so that men may be forced to take on other dangerous jobs? Was that done so that they may dominate men by taking on such roles? The feminist will give you one answer, the MCP will give you an antipodal response.

Time wise, recorded history is a blip compared to the history of evolution. The female species in homo sapiens has taken on many convenient roles by staying at home (or cave). Men, on the other hand have been forced to hunt, gather and take on relatively strenuous tasks. It is in the last 10-20K years or so that things were worse off for women. That too, pure numbers wise, I am not so sure. One must check the sex ratio of casualties in famines, wars, and work related events. Being at home sure beats running off to a war or slogging out in a farm, or a construction site.

Contrast this with lions, where the males do time pass, and females do all the hard work. The bloddy males even kill cubs that the females reared with such care. Or with snakes and fishes, where some female species eat the male.

We can be pessimistic and say that such a social evolution in homo sapiens was deliberately malicious. We can be optimistic and say that OK, shit happened as an accident of history. Let us work together fix it. BTW, I am not trying to justify crimes against someone. Terrible wrongs were committed. Yes. But was everyone in that group malicious, I do not know?

And in using these classic men vs women arguments, does it mean that there is no sexual exploitation of men? Does it mean that female bosses do not discriminate against men? This is a human problem. Not a problem of one group vs the other. The shaming of one group en masse to favour another only leads to more divisions. This is more so when you twist the context of a belief completely and use that to make a point.

It is the same bloddy tu tu main mai everywhere. The religious will look at the rationalist with suspicion. And the rationalist will shoo away the religious. I guess… What do I know, I am just a figment of my imagination.

This is the photo in question; I think it does not represent Krishna Leela:

metoo

August 31, 2017

Morality vs Consciousness

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 18:06

Modern authors often make the claim that India does not have a good sense of morality. They are true. But, they forget that India has something much more comprehensive: Dharma. Modernists selectively apply their vast troves of arguments to put down Indian philosophy and thought. Case in point is an article from the Indian Express, written by the VC of the Ashoka University.

The article first starts by saying that consciousness contains confusions and has distorted Indian life. It dwells into the ever-popular subject of Manu, as thought that was the only moral system in India. It further celebrates that there exists no concept equivalent to morality in Indian psyche. Unfortunately, they ignore other forms of morality preached in India – specifically in the form of dharma. The article asks:

“How does the discourse of evolved consciousness relate to the mutilating realities of social power, as embodied in institutions like caste? “

The article fails to elaborate that Indian psyche is also composed of many more nuanced expressions. Its borders are demarcated by neither Consciousness, nor by Manu.

August 29, 2017

Teenagers sell blood for food

Filed under: social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 18:29

It will not be surprising to see the above headline after a few decades, or a few years. If we go by this article on BBC, a Stanford/Princeton grad started a company called Ambrosia that is experimenting on injecting the blood of young people into older individuals. The claims, as per the article:

“It could help improve things such as appearance or diabetes or heart function or memory. These are all the aspects of ageing that have a common cause.

Each procedure costs $8,000 (£6,200) and sees the patient injected with two and a half litres of plasma – the liquid element of blood that remains after other cells have been removed – taken from young people.

I am fantasizing here, and grossly exaggerating. But, it still rankles me to think that several people actually came forward to buy the plasma. I guess this is civilization.

 

Same day, another article about a teenager (18 year old) girl committed suicide in full view of the social media. Apparently, 10 minutes before her death:

She spoke unsentimentally of her 19th birthday, which was to arrive three days after her death: “I was supposed to do something this weekend for my birthday. But in the end it’s not happening, I mean I can’t go – because of this thing.”

 

 

July 30, 2017

Advertizing articles

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 22:05

Will it engage?

Will the engagement sell?

These are the two most popular  questions  that every business asks these days. Nothing else matters. This has been a common grouse for me ever since I graduated from school. I was hoping that my education was intended to make this world a better place. But most of it is designed to entertain the world.

The article I read on medium today reflected this. Irony is that, it appeared on my facebook wall. 🙂 Below is an image from that article.

advertizing_news.png

The knowledge of how to reliably hijack the human brain for attention is one of the most significant new trends of the 21st century. This discovery, like every large-scale invention in our history, has unexpected outcomes that are difficult to predict.

If we wish to continue to live in a common reality, we must be willing to look at these outcomes with a clear head. Addressing our biggest issues as a species — from climate change, to pandemics, to poverty — requires us to have a common narrative of the honest problems we face: Real threats. Real reasons for outrage.

This article throws light on how propaganda was used to fight wars. Ads drive our world every day and every moment. Ads moved from selling features of the product to saying: “Use this product, it will make you happy, more manly, or more beautiful.”. This was called lifestyle advertizing. For example, in order to sell cigarettes, the ads started saying that cigarettes are manly (Remember the Marlboro man?).

Unfortunately, these days we have other forms: news + advertising, opinion + advertising, lifestyle + advertising. In the days of commercialization, TRPs and razor thin profit margins, a gram of truth is mixed with a ton of lies and passed off as the “news of the day”, “opinion of the day”, or “trend of the day”. This is used to guide public opinion from political affiliation to lifestyle choices.

No one really tries to think if something really is useful to them or if something is correct. “The newspaper says so, so it must be correct”, “the blog says so, so it must be correct”. When we will think for ourselves?

May 18, 2017

The mango cutter and his daughter

Filed under: daughter, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 21:38

mango_cutter

Early morning of a May day, a father and daughter in the market starting their day. The father is expecting his business to pick up. His equipment – a gunny bag, a cloth, and a large cutter that is used to cut ripe mangoes that will be turned into pickles.

I was reminded of a day when I took my daughter to work. And this is another father who is taking his daughter to work. Such a contrast. What did I do to deserve this differential treatment?

April 26, 2017

Artificial Wombs and Sperm Banks

An article in the verge claims that an artificial womb has been developed to grow baby sheep. It is estimated that even human babies can be grown in a similar fashion. It is absolutely dandy what technology has achieved. As per the article:

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.

…..

It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy.

artificial_womb_calf

It truly is appealing…

Frozen sperm in a bank, no need to hold, push, or yank.
It has been done for you well ahead,
A brochure of well endowed men to eliminate chance.
Well winnowed to weed out the idiots,
No foreplay, or even any kind of play needed.
Why leave this to randomness,
The best seed is available, 24/7, everywhere.

Wombs a-galore in glass enclosures.
Prepared, sterilized and ready to go,
Can they integrate with instagram?
The baby to be visible as it develops legs and arms.
When it is born, watch live on skype,
Why go for the normal when the exclusive is on order?
Select a unique name using google, why risk asking mother, or grandmother?

What a wonderful world, full of opportunities.
Enjoyment forever, due process to eliminate all worries.
No waiting, dating, or exchanging of vows.
Feminists can rejoice, MCPs can party,
True independence from all troublesome activity.
Life can continue un-imbibed with technologies,
Is it not awesome to live with these certainties.

Wait there is more to come.
Why cant we have someone pay for all this?
After all we end up working for a company.
Maybe they can grow the base of their employee.
Selected, trained, and groomed from the womb.
Manufactured to precession to follow every rule.
Such a world, so full of possibility…

McBabies, oh that would be so dandy.
We could select from a menu,
Maybe “make it a deal” with a toy to carry.

March 19, 2017

Robot blamed for persons death?

Filed under: Uncategorized — neosurya @ 07:39

This is more akin to automated machinery going wrong. This is most likely a programming error as opposed to a robot that is actually “aware” of its surroundings. Excerpt from an article describing the death is below.

“The robot from section 130 should have never entered section 140, and should have never attempted to load a hitch assembly within a fixture that was already loaded with a hitch assembly. A failure of one or more of defendants’ safety systems or devices had taken place, causing Wanda’s death,” the lawsuit alleges.

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