Saturday, July 2, 2011

A very simple message

Watch the full episode. See more The Buddha.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Responsibility

Yesterday at work, an RSS news feed popped in my in-box and the strange yet sad title beckoned me to at least giving it quick glance, which progressively turned into a thorough read. The title read "‘Friends’ torture, kill disabled woman". As I started to read further, I released there was much more to the story than the title suggested, which is unlike the usually sensationalistic principle of a news website, whose sole motivation is to say so little so dramatically so that people get drawn into reading the entire story. Now, the story itself was very sad, horrifying and immediately prompted a reaction of disgust, anger & the emergence of a deep seated cynicism for humans, in my head. Without getting into the gory details, basically, a woman in Pennsylvania who was mentally challenged, befriended a group of people, fell victim to their pranks, taunts and teasing which may have led to torture and eventually her death.

My very first and basic reaction, like I mentioned earlier was anger & disgust at the perpetrators which included a couple of women and most being in their 20/30's. However from my colleagues that were reading this news article, I received all kinds of reactions, from indifference to anger of the extreme kind - one that supported capital punishment, to self-righteous funny - hiring John Travolta / Sam Jackson, characters from pulp fiction, to get a 'hit' on the accused. While, I could get into why people react the way they do and their reactions itself, I think it may lose the significance of the act committed. In reality, the news and the reaction to news are all deeply interconnected.

I tried to delve deep, into what may have happened, that led a group of regular, generally law abiding people to commit such an heinous act. Was it the 'group effect' ? which is related to conclusions obtained in various study, that people behave differently in groups than when alone. Was it the often unseen side of human psyche to make fun of fellow beings especially when they are not on the same mental/physical level as ourselves or was it just something that started harmlessly, took a nasty turn turning itself into a horrible crime at the end of it? Did peer pressure play it's part in not allowing anyone to speak up against what was happening? The answer could very well be any of these above reasons or a combination of all the above. The question that perplexes me is Why, if we are the intelligent creatures that we are having survived so many generations, can't we figure out the end based on the start? Why, is there this clear disconnection between the emotions and the logical decision making in people?

I personally believe that it may have a lot, at the very least, to do with the way people are raised, in today's society. Life is but a delicate balance of learning the survival skills along with the sensibilities of society. As simple as that might sound, it is anything but that. The acts of terror & crime as well as random acts of kindness, the explicable hostile reactions of locals to foreign military presence to the friendliness among nations & peoples of different ethnicity, every thing boils down to the way people are raised in a home & thus a society. If someone is not imbibed with respect for life, love for fellow beings, animals & nature, during their formative years then how can one expect them to make the humane decision when put into a situation? If all that society does is to raise men and women to be indifferent to others woes, then that is exactly what they will strive to do in their lifetimes and some might even justify their actions. We say that there is always a choice to do right or wrong, but what if the right is not even an option for some? Wouldn't that be a reason that drives people to grave outcome, such as this?

This somehow puts (and rightly so) an additional onus, on how we raise our children. Yes, they will grow up someday, even without too much effort, but the factor that will determine their actions and reactions (as well as the society's as a whole) is the values you instill in them as kids and how you raise them as good citizens. Citizens that are stable emotionally, able physically & driven intellectually.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35370263/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fear

Fear is little known or identified as one of the strongest forces driving our society. It is a highly complex and hidden emotion capable of taking a multitude of forms, establishing itself in different ways in every person's mind, almost as if it is self-aware of the substantial role it plays and wants to remain unidentified and obscure to the naked eye.

You may not all agree with this statement but chances are that by the time you finish reading the following passages, you may have had some of these described experiences that shall at least lead you to believe the reality of fear.

Often, most of us can recognize only the very obvious, ever present physically/ socially metamorphosed form of fear. Be it the fear of the known or the unknown. In a free society, you may be repulsed at the idea of someone controlling you/influencing you by force or the very notion of having physical confrontations. Another such omni-present form of fear is what society and it's rules inadvertently inflicts on it's denizens: fear of failing a driving test, exams, fear of having a lie discovered, fear of not confirming to society's apparent law or to the ostensible, less enforced, moral law. There's also the fear of the unknown: the fear of strangers, the fear of situations that might result in losing someone or something (possessions) and last but never the least, the fear of death itself.

Beyond all of this, is the fear that manifests itself in our sub-conscious. The effects as well as the power that we only have glimpses of from time to time but one that we never can quantify.The force that is so well connected to the real world as well as the sub conscious world and is one that influences your decisions in highly abnormal ways. I have had personal experiences that motivates me to shed some light on this topic, while helping me understand the reason for normal people making decisions that they are not usually capable of. I feel the urgency as well as the importance of others recognizing, if not attributing, the reasons for life molding changes in their lives.

For ease of conversation, let me address this fear as the sub-conscious fear. The origin of it is deeply interconnected to the fears mentioned earlier, hence in many ways, this fear differs by society, the law's existing during that time,and the person that this fear resides in. This sub-conscious fear, affects a person in his sleep during the time when his/her body and mind are in partial states of rest. Based on the person's past experiences it almost plays out the fear thereby allowing the person to experience an alternate reality's nightmare, in his sleep.

To clarify by an example, if a doctor's main concern or fear is losing a patient and at that point in time, let's assume that he/she is involved in saving another individuals life. Now, if this doctor accepts either his/her self prophesied failure (arising from lack of hope in general and/or belief in themselves in specific) or does not trust the patient's ability to fight and live, the doctor's concious fear migrates into the sub conscious world. When here, the worst of the physical world's nightmare, plays itself out in the sub-conscious mind of the doctor in their heightened state of sleep. This play of events is completely based on the doctor's past experiences, usually bad ones, and is metaphysical, i.e. lacks or transcends the concepts and rules of our physical world. This may be what we call night mares, and when this person wakes up from his sleep, his/her perception of the situation is altered. In some cases, it may also influence him/her to take action in a direction that their normal state of mind wouldn't allow them to. The reason why we must understand this concept is because it explains the single most influential cause of a person's actions. When we scoff at someone's decision or just plain wonder at the reasoning behind it, we must understand the the underlying fear behind it.

Personally, it has helped me understand why someone does what he/she does. It makes me sensitive to their pain and suffering and most importantly their fears. Now, this may not hold true to everyone and sometimes it may even be unidentifiable to many.

Now that we know what it is, how do we deal with it? A great philosopher one said, and I am paraphrasing here (not to achieve greater clarity but due to my lack of memory in recollecting the words) 'the only way to deal with fear is to look straight into it's eye, and question the very basis of it's existence'. I believe this is what we must all be aware of and practice in our day to day lives. Humans are frail creatures, for all their intelligence and physical endurance, they are not invincible or infallible. But we must make an effort to comprehend and be in touch with ourselves as well as people around us. Our friends, families, partners, neighbors are all affected by such situations and purely by understanding the complexities of fear and thereby our very existence, we may be able to forgive, forget, love and accept everyone for what they are, even if the situations demands us to think so otherwise.

aK

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson - A Special Star


I remember the day, as a kid, when I became a true fan of this phenomenon called Michael Jackson. I was with my brother and a few of his friends watching this new video called "thriller", having heard so much about the totally cool (& frightening) special effects. We were supposed to watch the movie "An American werewolf in London" right after, which we believed, was a rip off of the video (supposedly because of the director, Landis). When I did watch the video, I was left spellbound. Back then, I had heard of Michael Jackson but was watching him dance for the very first time and I fell in love with this video and the artist. I was in awe and admiration of his moves, dance and needless to say, his "moonwalk". He was a true star.

Years passed, but my admiration for this artist only grew. He was not only a terrific singer, performer, song writer but a complete package. He also had a keen business acumen to have made thriller into what it had become, an international hit and a money raking machine for everyone. MTV and other music channels played this one video over and over again and people never got tired of watching it. Everyone quipped about how a real international star was truly born. Of course, he was a star in Jackson 5, all along, didn't escape his dad's attention either but he was only of the first stars to have gained international recognition.

One of my biggest regret in my life would probably be that I did not try hard enough to convince my parents to watch his live tour, when he performed in Bombay, India. My cousin had purchased a few extra tickets and I certainly could have been there watching him live, but didn't. It was a smash hit of a tour, after he released his Dangerous album sometime in 1992.

I have the highest regard for him as an artist, song writer, a person that has been through a lot of anguish and pain in life, not having had a normal childhood but still being what he is and no matter what anyone says, this regard will never diminish. All along I've been following his stories in the news, internet, paper, hearsay and I agree there's a side to him that no one knows. But, I am not here to judge anyone in this world. We all know what humans are capable of, and every time a person raises a pointed finger at another human, let alone a famous one, It makes me sad at how much hypocrisy exists in this world. Can anyone say they have truly never done anything they have been ashamed of or never thought of something that they or the society considered moral?? I bet even if someone says they have, they are only lying to themselves and to the whole world by believing they are saying the truth. I am not supporting the act that Michael is accused of, by any means, but I am only supporting the possibility of him being innocent and the view point that we DO NOT know the truth enough to judge him. I have been in awkward situations when I ended up seeming like I agree to the fact that he was a weird guy interested in sexual relationships with children, but really I for one do not believe in something just because it's in the news.

If this is indeed true, and he is a pervert who likes to abuse children, then agreed he should be treated like any other person in this current society would be treated for doing something heinous but at the same time do not disregard his art or his contribution to art. But how can you or I, with no access to his private life, or anyone who does for that matter, judge him or his act without ever knowing the truth? I feel it's unfair to not look at it from an unbiased perspective. There is a possibility that since he never had a normal childhood he seems to yearn that life as a kid and in his own unusual weird way, ended up having bubbles the chimp and kids, as part of his life. Again does not prove anything but the fact that he may be a victim instead of an offender. At the same time, I am completely against the act of child abuse or any abuse for that matter and any acts like these must never go unpunished.

Personally, I believe that he is a genuine person and a truly talented artist and slime's like Martin Basheer or others like him maybe have gained recognition (more disgrace and hatred but oh well) with their "make hay when the sun shines attitude" but no one can ever write off his talent or his success and his performances will truly outshine everything else - in days to come. If anything, this moment signifies the fact that we are all here for a very short time, & no matter who we may be in this materialistic world - stars, politicians, saints, we are only as invincible and indestructible as any other living thing that has existed in the past and shall exist in the future.

This is a tribute to one of the greatest artists of my lifetime and possibly, of many lifetimes, and as a spec of dust that has existed and is currently existing in this beautiful place called earth, I pay my last respects to my childhood idol, MJ, Michael Jackson - A Special Star.

Regards,

Friday, August 1, 2008

Unite..atleast in the face of adversity

Although I have tried to restrict my "blog" to topics such as philosophy and other creative writing, a few news articles that I have been reading, have compelled me to write about the issue ..The Bhopal Gas Tragedy. I do not know how many are truly aware of this incident that had occurred a few decades ago. To be perfectly honest, as a kid I did hear about it on the news but until now I haven't had the curiosity to dig the facts deeper. I am grateful to a web site run by a group of satirical artists who call themselves "The Yes Men" to have helped me garner interest in this issue all over again.

On December 3rd 1984, A Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant released 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, killing approximately 3,800 people instantly in Bhopal, India. This is still considered as the worst industrial disaster in the history of our world. "Two decades later, more than 100,000 people have permanent injuries, light or severe. The groundwater around the plant area remains contaminated, and the question of cleaning up the area is still unresolved."

This was just around the time when there were still very strict laws governing the safety standards that a chemical plant had to follow throughout the world. To state the facts, this company was owned partly by (51 % by the Union Carbide Corporation) and partly by the Indian Government (49 % stake). In adequate compensations were paid to all the victims amounting to around $500 which by all means is insulting considering the irrevocable damage it has left behind. Also, after the so called "compensation" paid out, all the toxic chemicals and wastelands remained uncleaned. A few years later, this company merged/ was bought by Dow Chemicals. It is very appalling, that the management of such a large and renowned corporation like Dow must vote in favor of being associated with Union Carbide. This deal was worth 12 billion dollars. Meanwhile, the CEO of Union Carbide, decided to abscond (later found to have fled to his house in Long Island, NY) after he was charged with culpable (multiple) homicide, in India. The US Government, even after having known his involvement in this case, decided NOT to extradite him to India to be tried for the charges, in-spite of having an extradition treaty with India.

To not get into the specifics of who evaluated the damage and provided compensation for the victims, I would primarily state 2 main parties that are at fault for cheating the victims and letting down humanity, in general.

Union Carbide/Dow Chemicals, for having followed sub-standard safety and there is no denying the fact that this gross negligence was the cause of this disaster. Had the Management ensured that same regulations being enforced in the US at that time, were employed in the plant in India, this disaster could have been averted.

Secondly, being from India, I am aware of the kind of corruption that has and is still taking place in my country. People have done terrible things to other humans for money. Politicians and Governments have done the worst imaginable things to their own people in the name of progress, being completely aware of the fact that this is in-fact detrimental to the progress of the society. Human and Work laws are very unethical and deals are done in the dark and the truth never sees the light. I can be very sure of the fact of the involvement of politicians and some top government officials, who are to be blamed for such a terrible accident to have taken place. The very officials who have the job of protecting the interests of the people. I blame the Indian Government, to have allowed such poor conditions to have existed at Union Carbide. I also blame to government squarely to have allowed Warren Anderson leave the country and then crib about extraditing him back.

Indian Government - Have a back bone and do the right thing. At least now, clean up the mess left behind by the company. Ensure that such a thing never happens again and enforce stringent rules and severe punishment to all the executives of companies that do not pay attention to the minutest of details when it comes to safety of their employees. Ensure that the people responsible are punished. If not an extradition, at-least try extending your support out to the people who have suffered so much, instead of harassing them for silently and non-violently protesting the "indifferent spectator" role that the government has played all through these years.

Finally, power in hands of almost all people can be very dangerous. Only the intelligent and wise should wield it or it can destruct all, including those inept ones that hold it. One must realize that money and power isn't something that can taken with you after your death. The only thing we need is our conscience that needs to be human and the rest will follow.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Artificial and Biological Intelligence

The complexity of the thought process has not been fully understood, and perhaps will not be understood for thousands of years, if ever. Thought has been historically perceived to be either analytical/logical or abstract. Abstract thought has been romanticized, perhaps deservingly. However, it is unclear to me if the abstract thought process has been understood. The underlying similarities between quantum physics and abstract thought are intriguing, wherein the minute you try to analyze a thought, it collapses. So here arises the question of the utility of AI from the point of view of trying to generate serendipity, as opposed to focused and cold computational power. I have not understood the mechanisms by which serendipity manifests itself.

The question now arises if AI attempts to create an environment where serendipity can manifest itself in a synthetic, ¿artificial¿ manner, or to utilize the intelligence of machines to carry out tasks in a focused analytical manner that is rarely seen in humans. This prompts me to question the goals of AI, and wonder if the goals are to understand the human thought process, or to create an environment that creates and sustains productive thought.

The concept of neural networks is intricately woven with AI. Neural networks provide us with the basis of AI because it looks at a wide variety of models that is roughly similar to the way the human brain works. A perception of biological intelligence as evidenced by the examples of experiments conducted on non humans is very intriguing but it can be mimicked to some extent by the use of neural networks. Training algorithms are being constantly developed to achieve a higher level of pattern recognition by having multi layered networks although still based on traditional computing methods. The question of whether or not this AI will emulate the complex and massive parallelism employed by the human brain is a thought provoking one. The closest that might come to explaining certain biological process just might be quantum computing, as suggested by the author.

Having stated the above points, I agree with the view point that biological intelligence is multi-layered and complex. The idea of a universal consciousness has been dealt with in Jungian philosophy and to a large extent in eastern, particularly, Hindu mysticism. While this provides a rich, complex and intelligent view of consciousness, to extend this to AI would require an understanding of the philosophy that transcends the philosophy itself, into the physical realm.

Therefore, the conclusions that ensue would be to define the goals of AI in the first place, and to place an increased emphasis on understanding the human thought process. I strongly feel that the goal of computation and thought itself is to find order in chaos¿or rather to organize and analyze logic, to arrive at conclusions that are practical to the sustenance and advancement of civilization, and to maybe someday understand the abstract.

Srikanth & Arvind

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Experience

Out of the many things we respect in people, humility and humbleness is something that I consider very high. We are bound to have experiences that happen to us during the time we exist in this world and this is inevitable. I do not know for sure what determines a person to have a certain experience. It could be the parents and the family he/she is born in, the community, time, place, luck, chance, etc. But we as humans tend to think that what we have seen in our little life is the greatest experience of them all. Do we necessarily have to talk about our lives to let other people know what we have done and does talking about it really help. Psychologically it can be said that it helps create a reputation among the people we interact with but sub-consciously it starts to eat away away the little bit of humbleness left in us when it shouldn't even be a factor that should account for anything. This is not to say that we should not share our experiences with others, had Buddha not shared the knowledge that he attained during his nirvana or enlightenment we would never had known so many concepts about life that we believe in. All of us, at some point in our lives, have done things that we may not be too proud of and we may sometimes even be ashamed of. This is definitely not something that only an idealist thinks of but something that we all know and have it in us but just choose to ignore. To be humble is the greatest quality that one can cultivate. We must realize that we have all had our experiences that has allowed us to be where we are right now and in its own way every experience that one has is the greatest experience for that person and it does not accentuate what we have done by talking about it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Please watch this video - ZEITGEIST

Please watch this video. It is not meant to be political or a religious satire. It is just a point of view that we all need to be aware of.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5547481422995115331