Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Travel

Come 2014 and it was time for resolutions. I never believed in keeping resolutions but made exception this one time. One item in it is travel and found out to my pleasant surprise that many of my friends has the same. Thus began our journey in a race against time.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On Artificial Intelligence

How do we make artificial intelligence?
I do not know whether artificial intelligence would ever attain the beauty and complexity of human mind. But it still is an interesting scientific problem. So just to challenge my human intelligence, I’ve been asking the question.
To answer that question, we might have to look back at how humans gain intelligence. There are few inborn human features and external factors which play a role in growth of intelligence from a baby to adulthood.


1. Senses : We have been with very powerful sensory system to collect data from our environment. There are already sensors which can mimic each of our senses. So that’s one down. There could even be sensors which does more than the human sensory organs, like ultrasonic vision modeled on bats.


2. Classification : One of the critical elements. How do we recognise a cat when we see one? Think of it from the viewpoint of a baby seeing the cat for first time. The baby brain probably classifies the cat into a moving object. It wouldn’t know whether it’s an animal or moving toy (assuming cat is the first animal it’s seeing). But then why would baby brain classify it as ‘moving object’ or even as an object? For that we would have to go further back in baby’s life to the point when it opened it’s eyes. The information about surrounding is getting recorded in the brain but it is just shapes and frames of references. Everything would be compared with things seen before and classified as ‘similar’ or ‘different’. Fast-forwarding to seeing the cat first time, baby would’ve classified enough data to have a class called ‘moving object’. As time goes on baby would classify further to ‘interesting moving object’, ‘furry interesting moving object making sounds’, ‘furry living object with mom saying cat’ and by a certain age just ‘cat’.
Modern computers, even after being so much powerful will not be able to recognise a cat unless it has been programmed to do so. It never does anything more that what it has been told. Artificial neural networks does classification to an extend, but I’m yet to know about something which goes “Mama, Cat!” when it sees one.


3. Communication : This is the most critical external factor. We had inadvertently touched on this in baby and cat example. Unless the baby classifies ‘furry living object with mom saying cat’, it will never say a cat is a cat. It could give any name that it fancies or not even give it importance to give a name. So the communication from outside source did two important things : constrain the classification to a common reference by giving it a name and ensure that some classification is important enough to be remembered.
How can this be done for artificial intelligence? The AI should be such that next step after classification should be the question “what did I classify?”. This question could be answered by human intelligence or another artificial intelligence. What if there’s only classification and no communication? Would we still have individual AIs which are intelligent? I dont think so. It will just be a chaos of accumulated data. So our intelligence is as much dependent on our ability to communicate as our brain’s capability to process the information from senses. Human intelligence is thus a collective achievement of our race and artificial intelligence, even if it completely independently cultivated from human influence would require some medium to communicate and reach an agreement.


These three factors can make an Artificial Intelligence, but could it then have human emotions?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why cant I buy music in India?

Long back I'd promised myself that when I earn the money to spend, I'd spend it on things I love - books and music. It was not because there's any lack of cheap pirated books or mp3, I wanted to do it as a way of saying thank you to the people who brought those beautiful piece of work into this world. I love owning books and since getting a job, I've been a regular at online book sites. Sadly the same couldn't be done for music.
I, like the majority of Indian youth, have laptop/mobile/tablet/ipod but do not have a cd or cassete player. So naturally the choice of format for songs would be digital. The advantages are many, including portability from one device to another. mp3 songs were available in plenty in 'not so legal' form. So there was nothing to complain.
That's when Flyte began. It couldn't have come at a better time for me. I had just got a job and had money to spend on music I loved. The Flyte online music store by Flipkart had a very good collection of songs. Their mobile/tablet app was also pretty good. I wouldn't say I was driven only by some misplaced sense of self-righteousness to buy music. In recent years there have been lots of 'free' mp3 download sites shut down (I guess with government involvement). So it has not been as easy getting hold of good quality songs and the lazy me went for the costlier solution. But I knew in my heart it is a good in long run because I'm buying it to the digital library from where I can download whenever I want to any device. I almost convinced many of my friends to start buying. I went crazy when Flyte offered 100 free albums for several days as part of their anniversary celebration. Little did I know that good days wouldn't last.
Flipkart closing down Flyte has been very disappointing news for new age music lovers in our country. I appreciate Flipkart for venturing into digital music in India where it is a huge risk to take, since 'free mp3 download' is pretty easy. But cutting off the sole source of legal digital music was a bitter blow.
So this is an open appeal to all the aspiring start-up companies in India. If you make a digital music store with mobile app, atleast the 9000+ fans of Flyte in Facebook would download your app and be happy to buy the songs they love.

- Someone frustrated at not being able to find a single good mobile app to download music in India.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bangalore - 3 days on 4 wheels

Disclaimer- This would be completely useless for anyone looking for a travelogue and is of no significance other than for the writer.

Day one: South and West
Bangalore traffic was at it's best (read worst) on that day. A large majority of Bangalore population having their native elsewhere are hurrying along to reach the two transport hubs - Majestic bangalore central railway station and Madiwala, the long distance buses stop. The fact that it was a long weekend didn't help. First day's journey was from Bellandur to Majestic to Madiwala, 30kms took close to 4 hours.

Day two: East and Center
It doesn't get more central Bangalore than MG road and Shivajinagar. Next day's travel was to commercial street via old airport road. Almost all the roads in MG road area are one-ways and one wrong turn could end up miles away from destination. Thanks to whatsapp location sharing and Google maps, I somehow reached the right place after several wrong turns and missed red lights. Reached back after about 2 hours and went for lunch. Tried to find out a shortcut on way back but my navigator took me to dead ends one after the other. Moral- common sense triumphs Google maps.

Day three: South-east to North-west
Morning on day 3 took me to Karmelaram. Not much traffic on road since it was a Sunday. By afternoon I had gotten addicted to driving and decided to cover the only direction left. Hence the final leg of my Bangalore city in 3 days was to Jalahalli and then to Yeswantpur.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Overdose


Been going through an overdose of nostalgia these days. What do you do when a stage comes in your life when the memories weigh you down. I've always been someone who tried to find inspiration out of my good memories. At the same time remembering them gives you a feeling of loss, the harder you try to grasp. Life moves on. The nostalgia catches up with you as and when you slow down to stop and think by yourself. It's addictive in a way.

At last, there are two options before you with all the memories you have. One is to relive and refresh them in some way. Second is to let them go. It's harder when you are forced to do the second in some cases. The two songs I'm hearing aren't helping either. Here's to all the memories I've got to let go:
Owl City - Vanilla Twilight
As many times as I blink I'll think of you... tonight.
I'll think of you tonight.

Manichithrathazhu - Varuvanillarumee
വരുമെന്ന് ചൊല്ലി പിരിഞ്ഞു പോയില്ലാരും
അറിയാം അതെന്നാലുമെന്നും
പതിവായി  ഞാനെന്‍റെ പടിവാതിലെന്തിനോ
പകുതിയേ  ചാരാരുള്ലെല്ലോ
പ്രിയമുല്ലോരാളാരോ വരുമെന്ന് ഞാനെന്നും
വെറുതെ  മോഹിക്കുമെല്ലോ

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bell Jar - A short note

I've started off with 3 different sentences for this post and am still not able to begin. Maybe it's the writer's block or the sheer absurdity of writing about the book. Let me start off with some history.
Back in Std 10, we had to study a poem called Tulips. It is my favourite in the collection of poems. I've never been a huge fan of poems, but this particular one appealed to the 'little spark of madness' (quoting Robin Williams) given to me. Never knew that would influence me to buy her only novel, The Bell Jar.

A bell jar is a piece of laboratory equipment similar in shape to a bell. It can be manufactured out of a variety of materials, ranging from glass to different types of metals. A bell jar is placed on a base which is vented to a hose fitting, which can be connected via a hose to a vacuum pump. By pumping the air out of the bell jar, a vacuum is formed. (source Wiki).

The name is a very apt one for narrating the story of Esther who's trapped in the Bell Jar of life and every gulp of air is being sucked out. You cannot use beautifully written,  interesting plot, thrilling or any of the normal adjectives given to a good book for this one. The biggest word of praise would be she's crazy and I believe that is exactly what Sylvia Plath wanted people to say. She's not asking anyone to think like her, she's just saying to the world how she sees it. No one can deny that it's not her autobiography because she actually went ahead and committed suicide few weeks after publishing it. The novel could have been her last try at saying to the world she and her mind doesn't belong here. The book left me one unanswered question - Madness, is it a disease or just a way the world says 'You're different'?

Couldn't resist posting the poem Tulips:

Sylvia Plath - Tulips

The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.


They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.


My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage ----
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.


I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.


I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free ----
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.


The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.


Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I hve no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.


Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.


The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

Friday, July 09, 2010

World Cup through my ages

"Mone nokku Maradona", said an elder (Look son, Maradona)
"Hee he.. dona dona maradona.. dona dona maradona", I danced around in my er..
Yeah I guess that counts as being a 2 year old Argentine supporter at the 1990 World Cup. The earliest name I heard in the footballing world was that of Maradona, even before I knew it's rules. Argentina went on to make the final that year, losing to Germany (erstwhile West Germany). It was the beginning of the fall of Maradona too.
I was supporting Spain in 1994. Why Spain? No idea. I even didn't know a bit about how the Spanish played. But Spain was my favourite country then. I still don't have a clue why. One day I looked up on the globe and said Me encanta España! Those days I had even made a personal record sleeping just 3 hours to wake up and watch a match. I slept off 10-20 mins into the match though, leaving Dad to watch the rest. Spain did make it to the quarter-finals but ended up losing to Italy. The final was a tight one. I still have vague memories of that spectacular moment when Roberto Baggio missing the final penalty, thus losing the match and Cup to Brazil.
I've always had this love-hate relationship with Brazil. In 1998, they were the best team around. Ronaldo was at his peak and I couldn't resist the temptation supporting a team that I believed would go all the way. They did reach the final in a breeze and looked unbeatable. Then there was controversy before the match as Ronaldo was said to be unwell.  And that's when Zizu zoomed into the picture to spoil my party. Brazil ended up losing 3-0.
World cup was being hosted by Asian countries for the first time. EPL frenzy had caught up in school and the English superstars were a hot commodity. With Beckham as captain we all believed in our hearts that this could be the year for England. I joined the big fan club. I remember delivering a speech about the World Cup in our school assembly just before it began. The English team didn't looked as good as the hype, but got till the quarter-final when Ronaldinho exposed their weakness. A long shot left the goalkeeper wishing he was a real sea-man. Fast forwarding to the final, I was willing to support any team other than Brazil. Ze Germans couldn't do much about the mighty Brazilians who won the match 2-0, both scored by Ronaldo.

I was back to my first love this time. Argentina played great football through the group stage scoring lots of goals, most of them beautifully. Germany was the spoilsport this time in quarter-finals. It was heartbreaking to see them going out in penalties. Devastated, I looked around for any other team to support. Someone was playing the best football of his life in French shirt. Zizu, who missed out on 2002 WC was at his best for his country at the age of 34. He single-handedly dragged the French team into the final against Italy. He was spectacular in the final, until the sad headbutting incident. I was almost in tears. Often wondered whether France would've won it otherwise. Zidane in WC2006 is the best I've seen any player in a World Cup. Truly one of the greats.
Now to the present. This time it was a toss up between Argentina and Spain. One was being coached by my first football hero and the other perennial underachievers were finally finding their feet winning the Euro 2008. I went with Argentina and the group stages didn't disappoint me, full points. Again the quarter-final and again Germans. The Germans outplayed the Albicelestes, end of story. Spain on the other hand defeated the Germans (who are a very impressive team) in semi. So the final awaits. Some work of fate has it that the country I support in the final has never won. Fingers crossed.. Will my favourite country (still?!) bring home the Cup of Joy?

PS. Logos courtesy Wikipedia.