Saturday, May 30, 2009

Conflict of realizations

"It makes you cry so much? You'd loved so much!" Distant gaze. Contented smile. "I feel so happy! So fulfilled!"

"Quiet, Mukesh!"

"I find fulfillment in your loss? And you're my dearest! I'm so cruel no, Mridula?"

His eye let go of that reluctant tear. Like his body was to let go of that life...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Atlas' bugged... keep it short!

Gail Waynand stared at his own reflection, and the hand that held gun against his forehead. His own hand.

He wanted to live on... to try deserving Dominique more than Roark.

He was afraid of death. He pulled the trigger.


"Inefficient buggers! Can't produce guns that don't jam."

"Keating! Don't..."


Who's John Galt?

Thursday, May 14, 2009


A few months back I was watching a documentary based on the book The Elegant Universe, and in one of the sections, the concept of a wormhole, which would basically enable one to move from one point in space time to another through connecting tunnels was being discussed. The simplest consequence of presence of such wormholes for the lesser humans who are not physicists would be the ability to travel from the two connected points without spending any time! This, if ever is to be a reality, would take very long, say at least two hundred years from now. The presenter of the program, Brian Greene, was apparently very excited about this possibility as he would be able to travel from his residence to his workplace (both in New York) in "no time" (quite literally!). Excited, yes he ought to be at such possibility. But two hundred years from now (at the earliest)? Not sure.

Though, the program was excellent in its analogies and gripping for how it dealt with widely disparate schools of physics, from classical, through, quantum physics and general relativistic physics to the theory that has been receiving mixed reactions at the possibility of being a "the Theory of Everything"-- the Strings Theory, which attempts to basically combine quantum physics (which deals with the forces acting at relatively short distances, i.e., subatomic level, viz., electric, magnetic and strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces) and general relativistic physics (which gives a very accurate description of the only force acting at long distances--the force of gravity).

Well those details are not the purpose of this post. What that fantasy of traveling in no time made me think was how in taking a futuristic view of the world around us, we tend to take a very limited view of the spheres in which the human life would change due to the development of new technologies. I feel, quite obviously, that it's not just technology based on physics and engineering would evolve radically. The human race would also have benefit of advances in medical sciences, neurology, nutrition, human psychology, communications, etc. All these technological advances cannot occur in isolation; they are bound to have some (at least) implications on the very essence our lives would hold for us. Issues like what purpose does life hold for us, what/who is admirable, the need for human intelligence, the extent of communication between humans, human aspirations, average lifespan, the type of prevalent medical disorders, the nature of day-to-day problems and conflicts would all have changed beyond recognition by that time.

The first question that came to my mind when Brian Greene made that statement about traveling through wormholes, was would we need to travel? Then, would we need to work? What would be the nature of that work? How many of us would really need to work?

Picture this: you get up in the morning, and pop a pill that has all the nutrients that you'd require for the day. You're seated in a chair, and an apparatus (let's call it Experience Simulator or Expulator) aims light beams at your brain that make you experience whatever you want to. This is the 126th year of your life, and if the Expulator detects that you don't have adequate desire to live on, it will aim beam at some specific neurons that would fill your brain with the desire to live. It might also consult with some database to confirm if you're really required by the human race in any capacity in which you could contribute, or if in terms of cost-benefit ratio, if you'd still be desirable any longer to the human race! Or if your contract to live had expired! (More about this later, though)

All the infectious agents would have been eliminated, ageing would have been stalled or retarded to such a rate that there would be a real possibility for the majority of people to "get bored" of their lives. And needless to say, there would be no medical disorders.

No experience would require you to leave your chair--be it of playing in the ground, having your favorite food, some violent outlet just for the kicks of it, or one of those kinky fantasies. Nothing would be out of bounds. No doubt, everyone would be happy and content or whatever they'd want to feel at any given moment. One could also not argue that these "experiences" would be artificial as they'd be produced through the same mechanism by which we experience "reality" as we know it today(!), i.e., stimulation at the appropriate synapses.

One could question, would the Expulator be available to all?

I believe, any technology becomes widely accessible (in terms of both rate of production and the purchasing power owing to its affordable cost) a long time after its advent. This itself would ensure universal accessibility.

Okay, returning to the original question, would you require to travel? No, of course not! Think of all the reasons to travel:
  1. To do work. With such advanced technology, you certainly won't require separate workplace to work at.
  2. To meet someone. You could always switch on the Expulator, and meet that someone just sitting in the chair.
  3. To visit a place. Now don't make me count what all your Expulator could do!

But I think I've left out so many significant issues. The human race could know by that time, what it means to be perfect. Perfect brains and perfect bodies would be order of the day or the century. Any aberration would simply be a manufacturing defect! Would we really require to work? What would be the incentive to work? Remember: though difficult it is to imagine it without having your very own Expulator, it could make you feel and experience any and everything that you'd like to experience. It would make you feel tired, sleepy; it could give you the same pleasure as discovering a new galaxy! Basically, it could make you feel that you work! My guess, is the incentive to work would be actually knowing something more. Developing better Expulators, synthesizing more and more experiences to enrich Expulator's database, continued fight against infectious agents, protecting the human race from real dangers, like comets, asteroids, aliens(!). But why would someone work, if the Expulator could simply make the right neurons of the reward center in your brain fire at will? Out of sense of duty? Would it become incumbent on a few to do some compulsory thinking as decided by some lottery system?

But the most important question that arises is what would be the incentive to live? I'm not sure, how horrifying it sounds to the reader--this piece of my fantasy is from a very sterile point of view. I, though, find the picture quite complete save the minor details like how electricity would be produced; how that nutritious pill would be produced; how ageing would be stalled; how the infectious agents would be eliminated (believe me, this is the most likely spoiler in my fantasy of a "perfect" future!), what would happen to other species? Would everyone have equal status in the human race as all would be perfect, and by extension, effectively identical? What would be the effect of knowing that all the experiences are simulated at will? That there's no external (to one's most personal aspirations for one's life) purpose to life, other than the continuation of the human race, which in turn would have or may not have any purpose depending upon how one views the role of human race in the affairs of the Universe, and if one feels that the Universe is "supposed" to be some way or the other.

Is there something missing in this picture that's rendering it incomplete? God, may I propose? The purpose of life could be known to God. What if God had a purpose that we don't know of? What if I/we end our lives, and it turns out to be one horrible mistake? So, why take chances and just not live on? As it is what's the harm of living, more so with the Expulator around?

The person who smokes knows that the "kick" they get out of smoking is nothing but nicotine doing its wonders. Does that make them quit? Ditto for cocaine, alcohol, or morphine. Does this sound similar to our Expulator? May be. I really don't know. Life, as I always say, indeed, is addictive.

It would be amusing to know what it would be like to "live" in such a world. And it also amuses me to realize I won't exist to verify it for myself!

PS: Surprisingly, I didn't require an Expulator for this piece of armchair philosophical fantasizing!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

An Ethical Brainteaser!

This is one of my favorite questions that I ask to my close friends. So, here it goes:

You witness a poor person who cannot afford to buy medicines for his daughter suffering from a life-threatening condition, steal some money from very affluent and corrupt person who has earned most of his money through illegal means like demanding bribes and cheating others (I am not implying that rich people are corrupt; just that this hypothetical one is). But no legal action has been taken against him because of his being able to subvert the legal and judicial processes. In the court of law, would you testify to tell the truth that he stole the money? Or would you lie to save the daughter's life? I will add some more hypothetical conditions:

1. Your word would be taken as absolute truth. So you will not be penalized for lying.

2. That rich person will not persecute you!

3. Somehow you know that the accused person will not steal again, except if a similar need arises, in which case, he would pick a similar affluent and corrupt person.

4. You do not have the option of helping the daughter by donating money yourself.

Let me add a few immediactely apparent ethical issues here. You may certainly point out other issues involved in your comments.

For speaking the truth:

1. Stealing is stealing, and is wrong.

2. Lying is lying, and is wrong.

3. Money is money, to whoever it belongs. "Who am I to judge him guilty of corruption if law-enforcing agencies haven't done that up till now? It's wrong to take law in my hands."

4. This will encourage robbery in the society.

For lying:

1. To save the daughter's life.

2. To ensure that the parasite on society gets his due (losing some money). Idealism works only in ideal society. Just because the judicial system has gone corrupt, does not mean the affluent person should not be punished.

3. The amount of money lost by the rich person would be insignificant to him. He would not have even noticed his loss, had the act not been discovered.

4. The law should first penalize the rich man for his crimes, before turning to judging the act of robbery.

I would be glad to know what the readers would do. I will try my best to not contest anyone's opinions :)
I'm also putting up a poll in the left side panel.

PS: The poll has expired.

My System of Ethics

Why is it important to analyze the basis of ethical principles?

Simply because, our ethical principles determine how we deal with others, what we conclude, how we judge, what we speak, what we do, and what we become. Each word we speak and act we commit is an exercise in ethics.

There is a lot of worthy debate as to what is the source of ethics? Is it some authority (religious, philosophical, elders of the family and society) or is it the individual? Are the terms of ethics modifiable with time and circumstance? I've opined in one of my previous blogs that ethics should not base itself in authority.

One of the strongest (and most worthiest of consideration) objections expressed against this position is the opportunistic use of such ethics, more specifically, not following it or modifying its terms when it comes in way of satisfying one's self centered desires even by harming others in the process.

I would be stupid if I disregard this contention for I've seen such opportunistic application of ethics too many times.

I've always possessed a strong sense (as in without too many predicaments) decisiveness in matters of ethical principles. I'll restrict the scope of this post only to bases of my ethics for I too was curious about them! But to discover them, it did require some mental excavation--it was buried real deep!

A simple example: I'd be ashamed of stealing something even if no one would notice me doing that. The simple reason for this? I dislike anyone who steals something (undeserved, obviously!) from others. So, would I like to hate myself? If I steal, the only obvious consequence is hating myself, provided I keep my honesty and objectivity intact. Same holds true for all other virtues--being truthful, helpful to those deserving, courteous, courageous, etc. Every instance I depart from any of above virtues would leave me with contempt for myself. I could of course, somehow rationalize my act or take solace in the fact that no one noticed it, but what would happen to my peace of mind? If I lie to myself, think of the consequences. I'm lying (I'm a liar); I'm believing that lie in spite of having best knowledge of the truth (I'm stupid!), and the one lying and one believing that blatant lie is the same person--so I'm both a liar and am stupid!

Well unfortunately, I know issue does not resolve there itself! One could very appropriately ask, what would make me detest an act of stealing? The fact that I won't like being robbed. If I've to judge an act with utmost fairness, it's solely the act that has to be judged irrespective of the 'commit-er' and the subject of that act. Meaning, stealing is equally bad even if one stealing is my family member/friend/myself(!), and even when the one robbed off is some else(!), and not necessarily me! It indeed is a very useful maxim that what I'd not like done to me is bad, irrespective of who it is done by and on whom. Of course, this could beget further question (do questions not believe in family planning!)--why do I not like being robbed? Well, I give up! I don't have all the answers! If I dig deeper in the valleys of my mind, I think I'd find that elusive answer, but this much exercise is enough for one day. Already my mental muscles are feeling sore.

This all seems very straightforward, but an honest introspection would tell how frequently we depart from this maxim. It's not very rare to find a hurt friend ruing, "He'd always been so nice. I don't know how he suddenly turned such a rascal!" Do I need to add that that's just the "subjective" assessment. The objective assessment would be, "All this while, I'd ignored his misdeeds. I'd enjoyed how he used to insult others. And then he hadn't insulted me ever. I thought I was special, 'cuz I wanted to think I was special. Today, just suddenly I was no more important to him, and hence the treatment I got." How often have we been this objective in our analyses of events and people?

I've up till now stressed only on acts of omission (how "not to" commit bad acts). I've not talked about the acts of commission (committing noble deeds). Just like in the above example of despising one committing a bad act, I'd respect one committing acts that impressed me. I'd like to be associated with those acts. That would be my driving force to emulate them.

Lo and behold! What a cute little baby-question we have! What makes an act noble?

This one is indeed difficult to answer. Any act has certain driving forces and certain deterring forces. What forces does one give into and what deterring forces one overcomes, while deciding to commit and act determine its nobility. If I'm overcoming fear (a weakness), then the act has something admirable. If I'm overcoming my guilt of inflicting pain (without giving anything desired by the subject), in well, inflicting pain, then my act is ignoble. If jealousy is the driving force of my act, it's inclining towards unethcical. If empathy or compassion drives me to help someone, then my act could be justified. (I know I'm accumulating grand-grand-grand baby questions).

What makes jealousy and inflicting pain bad? And what makes compassion and overcoming fear admirable?

The answer is I'm unlikely to like dealings with me that are driven by jealousy, and of course I won't like pain ( immoral morality-grass hopper; jumping to conclusions?) inflicted upon me. I'd really appreciate when helped in time of need, and the fact that not all can overcome fears of all types at all times, makes it admirable (maybe).

The bottom line is if after this much elaborate (by my standards, of course) exposition of my basis of ethics, if someone is not ready to trust me with my decision-making based on this system of ethics, I really can't help it. I can't answer why others don't follow this system of ethics, seriously. I wish I could, but then the unfortunate fact is I can't. I do have more answers to more potential questions. They may have some philosophic glitches, too, and some ambiguity about when best to apply a certain ethical principle, but I still find this system of well scrutinized ethics more reassuring than "'cuz someone said so".

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Shilpi: Gimme your English notebook. Quick! Couldn't do my homework. How much time's there?
Alka: Five min!
Shilpi: My God!

Ten min later...

Shilpi: Phew! Just completed!
Alka: [Thinking] What shabby handwriting! You get 'FAIR'. I get three stars. Wow!

Teacher [Gasping]: Sorry, got late. We'll directly begin our lesson. No homework-correction for today!

Thanks Rajat for inputs!

Dog's death...animal lovers will approve

This is my first attempt at 55 fiction. To briefly see the conditions of 55 Fiction, see the side panel.


Don't you stare, Moti.
It's not my fault. You made me mad. You resisted.
You didn't have to whine like dog that you anyway are [sobs]...Were.
This knife was not to scrape your heart; just cut your leg...only one for today. But you resisted.

Hey mom, up there? Happy? Rajesh Motilal Patil...orphaned?

*Moti is a name commonly given to pet dogs in India.

*In some parts of India, people use thier complete name, like First name Father's name Surname.

Updates from my new Blog

If you want to comment...

As you might know, I have shifted my blog to Wordpress - here (click).

All the blog posts I had published before shifting have been transferred there, so if you want to comment on any of the blog posts on this blog, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE TITLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL POSTS.

Thank you!


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