this was published by firstpost.com on 29 Apr 2016 at:

http://www.firstpost.com/world/agustawestland-panama-papers-ishrat-jahan-september-11-scandals-2755508.html

serious accusations, but will any of them get traction, or will the stonewalling establishment and pliant media manufacture consent, and bury them?

here’s an excerpt from the published text:

April is the cruellest month, said TS Eliot.

It has certainly been true this year in the context of scandals involving politics and the establishment. We have seen the high and mighty, mostly politicians but also journalists, athletes, film stars and so on, named and shamed in this series of revelations, and there may be parallels between them, even though they are spread all over the world.

In the US, the #28pages issue is that of a redacted chapter of 28 pages from the 9/11 enquiry commission’s official report. Some suggest that these pages — that have been seen by a limited number of people — were deemed too damaging to one of the US’s principal allies, Saudi Arabia. A former senator, Bob Graham, who had seen the impugned pages, suggests so in so many words.

Representational image. Reuters

The #PanamaPapers scandal established the fact that there are many loopholes and tax havens that are used by the rich and powerful to hide their (possibly ill-gotten) gains from the taxman. The US has been, quite indignantly, suggesting that offshore tax havens have hidden billions of dollars from the eyes of their Internal Revenue Service, and have forced many countries, including the famously secretive Switzerland, to reveal details about those who might be doing so.

The #Ishratfile revelation, in India’s case, suggests a nexus of politicians, journalists, lawyers and various others engaging in a clear conspiracy to hide certain facts about that dead young woman. For the first time has such a scandal hit P Chidambaram, who has hitherto been untouched, partly because he has such authority that nobody dares question him, although his election in 2009 in Sivaganga, commentators have noted, did seem a trifle odd.

The court case about that drags on.

The #AgustaWestland scam is both more and less sensational than #Ishratfile. The latter does not surprise in the sense that most of us suspected that Ishrat Jahan was indeed a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative: Well, for one thing, the LeT itself said so before quietly removing that from its website. The extent to which the Nehru dynasty has been willing to go to eliminate Narendra Modi (literally or metaphorically is not surprising either: Remember the maut ka saudagar meme, for instance).

 

this was published by swarajayamag on apr 19th, 2016 at https://t.co/uotI0seEwM

brazil is reeling when it should be doing well with the upcoming Rio Olympics and a huge new hydrocarbon deposit offshore.

russia is in deep doo-doo with the oil price collapse, and #deepstate-induced wars in ukraine and syria

india is sort of blundering on

china is collapsing

south africa is rife with corruption

not a pretty picture. and who gains from all this? #deepstate.

this was published by firstpost at http://www.firstpost.com/india/bureaucracy-strikes-back-pathankot-fiasco-indicates-that-public-servants-are-sabotaging-modis-agenda-2719804.html on april 8, 2016

i think babus are thoroughly thwarting him. and it’s not only pathankot.

this was published at http://swarajyamag.com/ideas/innovation-nation-machines-are-not-yet-omniscient on apr 7

excerpt:

Events in the recent past have given us opposing perspectives on how well Artificial Intelligence (AI) is doing. The sum total of the fallout from these is that the status quo ante prevails: machines are getting pretty good at specialized tasks, but they are still rather bad at being generalists. This may mean that it will be a few more years yet before we are all out-competed for jobs by untiring, unforgetting, unflappable computers that are also ruthlessly logical and omniscient.

The most spectacular event, of course, was Google DeepMind’s dethroning of the reigning world champion in the game of Go, by a devastating margin on 4-1 in a five-game match, after taking the first three in a row. Go is supposed to be much harder than chess, and experts had not expected a machine to achieve this feat for another ten years. The ease with which ‘deep-learning’ algorithms came up with winning techniques was quite amazing.

this was published in Swarajya April 2016 issue

http://swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-human-digital-future

The Paris-based Netexplo group, an affiliate of UNESCO, is focused on finding innovations from all over the world. By cooperating with their academic advisory board, which consists of faculty from all over the world, Netexplo does a “spotting” exercise in which students identify interesting innovations. (Disclaimer: I am a member of that board, and attended their annual forum in February).

These innovations are broadly classified as “digital”, which definition may not be as clear today as it was when Netexplo started this exercise 10 years ago. That is partly because “digital” has now an inevitable part of the infrastructure. And partly because once we get into areas like machine intelligence, nano-robots, self-correcting drones and other bio-mimetic systems, the distinction between digital and natural organisms may cease to be meaningful.

The fundamental question is whether you are using technology in interesting ways. What Netexplo does is take the few thousand ideas spotted, and distill them into a shortlist of 100, which is then winnowed down to a final list of 10 prize winners, who are invited to Paris in February for the Forum, where the Grand Prix is announced.

The second thing they do is to try to identify trends from what is seen in a particular year. They are clear that they are looking at trends, and not making forecasts: many of the trends may sputter in future, and amount to nothing; others may become big winners.

These innovative ideas are not necessarily from entrepreneurial startups (although many are): significant numbers are from university or other research institutions, some from NGOs, and some from large corporations as well. The criteria for selection are novelty, viability and societal value. Over the years, winners have included Twitter, WordLens (now part of Google Translate), Aadhaar, Layar (an augmented reality app), Wearable Thermo-Element, Electronic Tattoos, and many others.

 

this piece was published on apr 7th, 2016 at http://www.rediff.com/news/column/the-persistence-of-memory-what-it-means-to-be-human/20160407.htm

i liked uttam ghosh’s illustration. apt, and homage to dali

The persistence of memory: What it means to be human

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April 07, 2016 20:45 IST

Deep-learning machines are conquering realm after realm of human expertise, but is there a difference between Them and Us?
I think the only thing that distinguishes us from the machines is memory. It is what makes us human, says Rajeev Srinivasan.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

In the wake of the astonishing feat by Google’s AlphaGo machine in defeating, nay thrashing 4-1 the world’s best player of Go, it is time for us to wonder what it is that is truly human, that which distinguishes us from the machines.

Deep-learning machines are conquering realm after realm of human expertise, from chess to natural language to Go to other domains, and there is no reason to imagine their progress will come to a halt any time soon.

Some of us may worry that the machines will replace us in more and more jobs; not only the menial, ‘dirty, dangerous, difficult’ jobs that we don’t want to do, but also the ones, including the creative ones, that we like to do.

But is there a difference between Them and Us? I used to think that it was obvious, that they could never be like us, that they were just machines. Now I am not so sure.

this was published on swarajaya.com on apr 5, 2016

http://swarajyamag.com/ideas/innovation-nation-machines-are-not-yet-omniscient

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