Archive for Lit

Defining happiness through suffering

I came across this thought the other day and I was reminded of two of my favorite sci-fi references to that.

For those who haven’t seen / understood (:P) the Matrix, here is the RED pill. The Matrix is supposed to be a perpetual dream into which all human minds are supposed to be plugged in. This is developed by the machines to keep the humans alive and captive so that they can harness the energy generated while “living the dream”.

Quoting agent Smith  – “Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program…I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from…

It is true isn’t it? Our life gets a meaning only when we are struggling for something – may it be for survival, for food, for money, for love or for something else depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in. But do we forget to stop and look at the smaller happinesses which come our way? Can we taste joy only after we have been though hell? Does success only after struggle matter? Do we always need to associate any high in our life with a low to make it worth?

Another of my favorite novels from Isaac Asimov – “The End of Eternity” revolves round the same theme. In this an organisation is carrying out social engineering – changing reality by time travel and thus building an utopia for mankind which will be free of war, disease, terror, poverty i.e. in short free of suffering. But then when the reality unfolds they realise that man has become stagnant, unambitious, there are no new inventions and we ultimately meet our end due to our failure to leave the earth and colonise other planets.

This opens up a new angle to suffering – the mother of all innovation. Clearly, the most productive times for research and development were the two world wars. The Cold war accelerated the progress into space exploration and nuclear energy which have translated into many a innovations in every day life gadgets.

The more I think about it the more I feel it is human nature. It is in everyone of us. We appreciate good things more when they come after a bad time, appreciate white when it is next to black. Or realise the worth of things only when they are taken away from us. From the movie “Zindagi na milegi dobara”  – When we breath normally, we do not think twice about it but we cherish every breath when we are underwater. I think there in lies the true essence of life. Yes, there are certain things to struggle for – those define us, those give us purpose, those drive  us forward and prevent us from stagnation. Yes, we should cherish success which comes after hard work. But that doesn’t mean that we be unhappy while fighting for it. Life and this world is full of so many small things and tiny moments – each with their own charm, they are to precious to be missed. Its like you start off by believing you are happy and then do things which make you more happy. As Leo Tolstoy said – “If you want to be happy, just be.”


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My take on Asimov’s laws

Asimov’s three laws of Robotics have always fascinated me. Of course, I have read almost all his fiction works and come to admire them. Quoting Wiki – “The laws were made with human morality in mind”. And ever since I have been called a ‘If-else’ program, I wanted to pen down my take on the three laws.

<Spoiler Alert for Asimov’s books>

Incidentally not many people know that Asimov’s laws are not completely fool-proof. Of course, most of Asimov’s works are a play on these laws. In one story, the first law for instance – of not harming another human being by action and inaction, is challenged when a group of humans decides to bring another group to harm. The whole world is in danger and the Robots (the heroes of the story) are helpless to do anything against it because of the first law. This leads to the formulation of the Zeroth law of Robotics – A Robot cannot by action or inaction allow HUMANITY to come to harm.

In another instance, a robot is asked to administer poison to a human but after being told that it is medicine. This leads to the extension of the laws to include the extra condition of “information”. If the robot is unaware of the consequences of its actions or inactions due to the fact of incomplete formation, how can it abide to its laws.

Therefore, Asimov’s stories become the quest of one Robot to find harmony within these three laws. Many things are incorporated by him (yes, him) to aid him on the way – it starts with the zeroth law to begin with and goes on to mind reading and even mind control. The missing piece seems to come from the development of a new science – psychohistory – the ability to predict firstly reactions of large groups of humans which is perfected to determine reactions of an individual. But even that proves to be incomplete. In the end, he finds hope in the spirit of Gaia – part in whole and whole in part. But he realises that the choice is not his to make…

These stories have fascinated me so much that I have been on a similar quest – to incorporate these laws into my life and find harmony within them. The if-else program hence exists with the attempt to avoid making the arguments, (for want of a better word) – Heartless.

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Worlds most pathetic dance video

An advertising campaign for the worlds most pathetic dance video:

Please please watch it and join the campaign

Video introduced to me by Aditya

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Life in perspective

“We are searching for life, yet we have a little idea what life really is….”

A quote I read in a Natgeo article some years back. The article was based on SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). And today I came across another article which reminded me of the line and about why liked it the first time.

Take a read. (Alien life on earth??? – the BBC’s Science portal)

The article essentialy is in 3 parts:

The first, suggests that alien life may exist in earth itself – in very unusual or toxic lakes etc. It could be the result of ferrying from comets, mars – the usual sources. Not very convincing though. As one scientist questions in the article – How do u differentiate between earth and non-earth forms? Even the article itself uses the phrase – wierd life everywhere. Not at all impressive.

The second part, calls for more exploration on earth itself. Sensible – no matter what “life” you are looking for… wierd, alien, earth like. But an interesting quote here – “Personally, I’m only interested in establishing whether life happened more than once. If we find it has happened twice from scratch then its going to have happened all around the universe.” This makes a lot of sense. I believe when and if we find life – this is the one that everyone would agree to.

It reminded me of another article I read (I will put in the reference as soon as I recollect it). This was about a team of scientists who modelled our galaxy from origin. They modelled everything (so they claim) and simulated the entire program to search for intelligent species and came up with  (I believe what is an disproportionately large number!) 361 results. The findings were published with a theme like – Oh, you know, life isn’t rare after all!  – –  Is this really necessary????!

I believe I am ambivalent when it comes to SETI. Undoubtedly, it fascinates me. It is a part of a quest, which began with intelligence itself. The earliest of civilizations have put up questions – What is the life? What is its purpose? Does life exists else where? Now for me there exists just the question – Whether these questions will ever be answered?

But sometimes it makes me wonder, whether these people have nothing else more realistic to do. I mean the world is so full of problems that threaten our very existence – such genius brains could be of great use here, not to mention the money spent.

The third part of the article is what interested me. Titled ‘Life in the lab’ it interviews a group of scientists who claim to have prepared molecules that are capable of ‘Darwinian Evolution’. These molecules have a DNA – RNA base with 6 letters in the genetic alphabet. The scientists have observed that the mistakes made in pairing are carried forward – showing that the molecule is evolving. The scientists claim that “Since, the accepted definition of life is a molecule capable of Darwinian evolution”, they have developed life and they would be testing the molecules for natural selection.

The phrase “definition of life” caught my attention. That would be the biochemical way to define life.

I believe somethings missing in their definition. I think that only one thing stops us from being just a blob full of chemical reactions. As Agent Smith would put it – PURPOSE

We’re here because we’re not free. There is no escaping reason; no denying purpose. Because as we both know, without purpose, we would not exist.

It is purpose that created us.

Purpose that connects us.

Purpose that pulls us.

That guides us.

That drives us.

It is purpose that defines us.

Purpose that binds us. [1]

Life cannot be defined without it.

My head is full of thoughts and imaginations, doubts and debates which perhaps may never be sorted, a stand never be taken. And hence, I must end this blog the same way as I started it –

“We are searching for life, yet we have a little idea what life really is….”

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Roughly translated as “Who will watch the watchmen?”, I first came across this phrase while reading Dan Brown’s “Digital Fortress“. Since then, it has sparked a train of thought in my mind, to which I return to whenever I come across any reference. Over the course of time, I came up with an answer which satisfied me completely. It is an answer, which for me, has forever silenced any further doubts and speculation on the question. I decided to put it down here in the form of a short poem:

“Who will watch the watchmen?

And who will heal the healers?

Who will guard the guards?

And who will lead the leaders?

Who will cook for the cooks?

And who will help the helpers?

Who will raid the raiders?

And who will kill the killers?”


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Searching for rhyme

Well, I have never been much of a poet myself though many of my friends have come with their brilliant pieces. The reason for this I believe, lies in the type of poems I like i.e. ones with a good rhyme scheme. This poem here will be in contention for the universes worst poetry ever and will warrant a revision of the entry for the same in a future edition of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which would normally run as:

“Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe.
The second worst is that of the Azagoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem “Ode To A Small Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning” four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been “disappointed” by the poem’s reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve book epic entitled “My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles” when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.
The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England in the destruction …”

So here goes nothing:

Awake at 3oclock in the morning,

Coz something stupid went into my eye.

And this line is just here coz,

I found a rhyming word in ‘why’.

Rhyming words are what I never seem to have,

So I will put in “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie”

And because I love reading Agatha Christie,

I will put in “A pocketful of Rye”.

So, on this fateful and sleepless night,

as GRE words doing am I,

But Yoda would say “GRE words doing I am”

How did I think about him and I wonder why?

Was it then a coincidence yesterday,

that I should come across a lullaby,

Written by an Android, Paranoid he may be.

‘&’ that I heard “Zaphod just this guy…?

Was it also a coincidence then,

That I came across a pie chart of pie?

Or that I could answer a quiz question,

Concerning both Isaac Asimov and Helen of Troy?

Now as I look out of the window,

Into the not so dark and not so starry sky,

Never have I thought so many rhyming words,

How did I think about them and I wonder why?

Doesn’t any poet find rhyming words difficult,

Or to everyone do they easily come by?

And do they have choice to make,

Whether to rhyme with “bee” or with “buy”?

And perhaps I am inspired to write this,

After reading the blog of this limerick loving guy,

And/or after reading this short poem by another friend,

Who gave a lecture, which introduced me to the cricketer CB Fry.

Rhyming words I have thought of many,

They include dry, my, cry, try, die, lie, even fungi and rabbi,

How to put them into lines,

I will think, till then BBYE!

Now I will put down my pen,

The magnum opus complete and the mind rested.

I don’t think I will write again soon,

Till I have so much time to be invested.

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