We are a Bad People

A few days ago I was talking to a gentleman about the local situation in Pakistan. With all the different factions/parties/independents trying to leverage any event to their own advantage. 

We talked about the economic situation, the political situation, the Talibans and Mullahs (please not I am not using the term Aalim), the under-the-table feudalism, the corruption. We ended up covering almost everything. It was depressing and entertaining, it almost feels like a Shakespearean tragedy/comedy.

We both agree that there is major truth to the phrase “you are judged by the company you keep”. As an individual that is true to a great extent, however, at times there are circumstances when this may not be true. I thought of another phrase at that time.

A people are judged by their rulers.

This is true, to a certain extent, as the rulers become the ambassadors of the nation, and represent the culture, thoughts, ideology of the people of that nation. Therefore, this being a self proclaimed democratic nation, implies that our rulers have been picked by the people. Therefore, the people have the same self defeatist attitude, mentality, and emotional instability that these leaders posses.

Hey, I’m not naming names here, but, let the guilty defend themselves. 😉

Coming back to my conversation with the gentleman, he recalled and quoted what another associate of his had commented on the state of the nation that is Pakistan.

… I was having a conversation with Mr. Smith, and he said shaking his head, “We are a bad people”…

Having said that, I do not think that we, Pakistanis are a bad lot at all. There is a large proportion of the nation who are actually good people in the real sense of the word. However, the political, social, economic, educational and other cultural forces in play have marginalized these people below the poverty line, where they are stuck in a situation from which they can’t seem to get out of. 

All you Pakistani people out there. We are not thieves, liars, drug and gun trafficers, nor are terrorists, extremists, or any other form of nut cases. We are sane people, we think rationally, we are aware of our surroundings, economy, politics. Even the illiterate amongst us is educated enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, progress and self destruction. We can make the difference. We, the small minority, can make a difference.

There is one condition though. Sacrifices will need to be made. We will have to put the nation before our families and our families before us. We have to understand that we all are here to serve the nation for which train-loads of people lost their lives.

A person who through inaction allows bad things to happen, is worse than the person who does bad things.

Another interesting thing I learnt through conversations with someone who had met Qaid’e’Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was shocking to say the least. Related to our motto, the original motto is:

Unity, Discipline, Faith

It was changed to what it is now to satisfy the “Mullah” people’s argument that this is an Islamic nation, and faith have to come before discipline. I have one thing to say to these people. Take a break, relax. This is too small a thing to argue over. The thing we should focus on is that all three aspects are equally important.

  1. Cannot Unite a people who are undiciplined.
  2. Cannot Discipline a people who do not have some form of faith.
  3. Cannot have Faith without being diciplined and united.

Well that’s my rant for today, hope it was entertaining, and if I happened to offend someone, then I have proved my point.

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The Quest for Intelligence

Today, someone emailed me a link to an interesting post from the Bits blogs by NY Times titled Hunting for a Brainy Computer. It’s an interesting read.

The question of artificial cognitive computing is interesting. It opens up new possibilities of wonders, both advantages and terrorizing.

From a philosophical point of view, does a machine which can think, create tools and somehow hold “emotional” opinions on things be likened to having a soul?

There are references in our science fiction stories about such intelligent creations of man, that can cause serious havoc as well as be the source of great benefit to humanity.

Coming back the the article, the team is on “the quest to engineer the mind by reverse-engineering the brain“. There are two questions here that I want to ask. The first is, What is the mind-brain relationship? and the second is, To reverse engineer the brain, what technological platform will one use?

In my opinion, the mind is much more than the brain. It is definitely a manifestation of the brain, however, what exactly is the mind? I mean physically? as well as computationally. We can look at the mind, by observing people, identify the thought processes, figure out what inputs go in, and what outputs come out. Treat it like a black-box we can’t see into. Come up with pseudo-processes that might be in place, what all would be referenced inside this black-box, what kind of computation actually takes place, and come up with something similar to what this black-box-mind spits out as output.

Next question, what happens to a mind, when all inputs are taken away from it? What does it output? Does it output anything? Does it turn on itself internally?

To answer the second question about technological platform .. would you use, binary technology, some other digital technology, e.g. tertiry (three-level-logic) or should we turn towards analog technology for reverse engineering the brain?

During the end days at university, I was trying to work out a way to simulate neurons using operational amplifiers. The idea was to work them inside their transition zone, rather than use their on-off states. The transition zone is something the industry has been trying to reduce, makes for faster respond times from the operational amplifiers. I would connect these together as Integrators and Differentiators to build my “neural network”. Training would be as we train neural networks, however, this would be analog and not exactly driven by how many clock-cycles are driving it. Perhaps one day I’ll start on that path again.

Who can say what the future holds.

Whenever I read about research on similar lines, I can’t help but as my self; some of the questions that come to my head are.

  • Are we heading towards true artificial intelligence?
  • Will we be in a position to create truly sentient beings?
  • Will our race be replaced by such machines eventually?
  • How do we control something that may become more intelligent and efficient and effective than we are?

State of the State

In this day and age of lightening fast communication, thanks to the internet, one would imagine that anything is possible and people use the internet to their advantage. Evaporating time and distance barriers. Doing business at the speed-of-light sort of thing.

But… Nooo!! We don’t believe in progress. Progress is the other name of the devil. If you use the internet you will go to hell mentality. If you use your dang’d mind and think beyond your tiny inconsequential self and be someone, is a mortal sin, punnishable with a lifetime of praise and prosperity. Nooo… we can’t have progress, it’s a tool of Satan’s minions, the white man who speaks with a forked tongue.

I hope no one noticed the sarcasam there.

What is it with us as a nation. We are such small minded people. We have a problem with the word “we”. My people don’t belive in the word in it’s full sense. For my people, we is me, my wife, my kids, and perhaps if other relatives if they treat me as a superior human being, they would have the privlidge to deserve inclusion in the we.

I can’t small minded people, people who can’t make a 1 year plan with the ever ready excuse, it can’t be done, or who’s going to do it, or do you know how difficult that it, or some other self-limiting reasoning.

Sometimes I feel that “we” as a nation is afraid of achieving greatness, we actually enjoy the slave role, we thrive in it, in self pity, in the delusion that “our hands are tied”, blaming someone else for not getting up and doing something about it.

For the smallest problem, we look outwards to other nations for help. We don’t sit down, make a plan, tighten our belts and sacrifice for a greater tomorrow.

This is insane. I’d probably get a whole lotta hate filled comments, but look around you. Take a good look, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re looking out the window, when you’re in the market. When you’re reading this, YOU are a small minority or a small percentage of this nation which we claim to love so much.

I don’t care who you are, we are all responsible for the future of our nation. We are responsible for a better tomorrow. If there is an idiot elected or assigned to any public office, it is our collective fault. And we have no right to complain about the situation of the nation and it’s economy because it happened on your watch. So please. spare me the the rightiousness and examples of all the good that someone else is doing. I’m not interested in the achievements of some one person.

The Internet – A Paradox! – Anarchy?

Earlier this month I came across a question on Linkedin. It had made me think at that time what I feel all of us might have thought of at some time or the other. “What is up with all this trash on the internet? Wouldn’t it (internet) be a much better place to visit without this trash?”

I am using the word trash to encompass all forms of ethically questionable content available online.

Now that opens another box of problems, basically following the adage, “one man’s trash is another’s treasure”.

What to do?

The question was regarding Illegal Downloads from the Internet.

http://www.linkedin.com/answers/career-education/ethics/CAR_PET/171596-5124762

My question still is? Who is actually responsible? Am I as a user of a service held responsible for using a service that has been provided by someone out there (on the internet)? or, Is the provider responsible for providing questionable content on the internet? or, Are the Hosting Service providers responsible? or, Are the infrastructure providers to be held responsible? or, Will we take governing bodies to task?

Take the “Adult Entertainment” industry for example. Although it is looked down upon by the majority, it is a booming business on the internet. Even in that industry apparently at times a form of morality is seen when certain aspects of the industry are brought to light.

The other major financial loss that corporations of all sizes suffer is at the hands of software pirates. The people who provide product activation keys, product serial codes, hacks and cracks for valuable software.

Who should I hold responsible if I find content on the internet that is objectionable for me on any level? Is the internet a free-for-all Anarchy?

If I decide to say something on this blog, that is offensive to someone out there? Do they have the right to deface, destroy or disable my blog? If someone puts something out there that is offensive to me, do I have a right to do the same to him (or her)?

Does the internet reflect the overall state of mind of humanity? Perhaps that’s another topic for another post?

The actual reason I am writing this is because today, my father sent me a link to an article through email, the subject was simply “Interesting”.

Here’s the link:

http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9878655-7.html

This article is titled “How Pakistan knocked YouTube offline (and how to make sure it never happens again”.

Firstly, I was saddened when I read the title, but curiosity led me to read on. By the end of it I didn’t know what to do or how to feel? I had so many questions? Leading all these questions was a deep disappointment with the status quo. Some of my questions were…

  1. Was Pakistan right to act this way against YouTube?
  2. Is it actually that easy to execute a Denial of Service Attach on a global enterprise?
  3. What protection is there for my online assets?
  4. Why didn’t YouTube take those videos off? (assuming Pakistani authorities communicated through proper channels)
  5. Why do these things keep happening globally?

When I go online, I browse the internet, I talk to my friends, collegues, and family through instant messengers, I send and receive emails from a host of people, I access by business related information online. I leave a footprint everywhere. I believe that I don’t have anything to hide, however, it’s not hiding that’s a problem, it’s the criminal activities that’s a problem, identity theft, phishing emails, worms, trojans and the lot.

There seems to be more and more trash out there than useful information. How do I sift through all of the junk without being affected by it. It is expensive for me to be online to browse and surf and email and chat, why should people out there be allowed to waste my time like this.

I have so many protection programs running on my machine, that I don’t get performance, and I’m still not protected.

Who do I point my finger at? Who do I hold responsible?

If it’s anarchy? Then I am free to do what I want on the Internet (as long as it does not ruffle any big corporation’s feathers Intheworld) and no body should stop me, however, Anarchy is a two-edged blade, It gives me freedom to do as I please, on the other hand, it also leaves me vulnerable when I’m online.

How can something (Internet) with a huge potential of doing good for humanity turn so bad?

If I had it my way, I’d make everyone responsible and hold them to their responsibilities strictly. But, wouldn’t that be big-brother-is-watching?