One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

روح اقبال (رح) سے معذرت کیساتھ

سوشل میڈیا پر، اشعار کے تشریحات پڑھ کر، متاثر ھوئے بغیر نہ رہ سکا۔

اسی تاثر کے زیر اثر، حضرت اقبال (رح) کے دو مصرعے کے تشریح پیش خدمت ھیں:

روح اقبال (رح) سے معذرت کیساتھ؛

اقبال:

ڈھونڈتا پھرتا ہوں میں اقبالؔ اپنے آپ کو

آپ ہی گویا مسافر آپ ہی منزل ہوں میں

تشریح:

شاید اقبال کے استاد، میر حسن نے زبان کے تدریس کے دوران، صوفی اشعار کے توضیحات میں، ننھے اقبال کو یہ سیکھایا تھا کہ انسان کے اصل تلاش، اپنے آپ کو پانا ھے۔ ننھے اقبال کے دل کو یہ بات لگی ھوگی، اور وہ اپنے آپ کو ڈھونڈتے ڈھونڈتے، مغربی علوم کے مرکز، لندن پہنچ گئے۔ وھاں اسکو، اقبال کے بجائے، بیرسٹری مل گئی۔ وھاں سے مایو‎س ھوکر، وہ نیٹشے کے سرزمین جرمنی، اس امید کیساتھ چلے گئے، کہ وھاں اسکو اقبال نیٹشے کے "سوپر مین" کہیں نظر آئے، مگر وھاں اسکو فلسفہ میں پی ایچ ڈی کے ڈگری سے ٹرخایا گیا۔

مغربی تہذیب سے مایوس ھوکر، اپنے آپ کو پانے کیلئے، اقبال نے اسلامی تہذیب کے شاندار ماضی کے یادگار، اندلس کا رخ کیا۔ وھاں اقبال کو اقبال کہاں سے ملتا، جہاں کے مساجد کو پیش امام اور نمازی تک نہیں ملتا۔ آخر تنگ آکر، اقبال نے واپس ھندوستان لوٹنے کا فیصلہ کیا۔ ھندوستان میں، اقبال کو اگراقبال نہیں ملتا، پھر بھی، کم از کم، کھاںے کو آم، سننے کو مولوی حضرات اور دیکھنے کو خواب اور شعر بازی کیلئے، کافی سارا فارغ ٹائم تو ضرور ملتا۔ 😜

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Artificial Intelligence & Moral Economy: An Opinion (Part IV)

In the last three blog posts on artificial intelligence, I tried to lay down the problems (core problems). While the title of the blogs advertised "A.I" and "Moral Economy", they offered very little on A.I and Moral Economy or the link between the two subjects;

In this very short blog, I want to define Moral Economy, so it becomes clear what I mean by the term (As A.I as a blanket term covers lots of subfields, each with tonnages of resources available online, I don't feel the need of defining it.)

Moral Economy is socially Progressive.

What does it mean to be socially progressive?

The basic unit of a society is an individual, and creating and sharing of opportunities from the individual (self) progressively outward, meaning, yourself comes, and those closes to you, like family and friends, neighborhood, city, state, country, continent, and the world at large. The same way, your immediate environment and progressively beyond. The same is true for an organization, company, and state. Let's say, the country A is a multicultural society with one or several dominant cultural identities and many smaller cultural identities. As the democratic system give the decision making chairs to the dominant culture or the coalition of the dominant cultural identities, the minority cultural identities and likewise, the sub-cultures are pushed/ignored and they remain on the fringes of the societal recognition or decision making chairs. Starting from the majority, a socially progressive economy (moral economy) recognizes the fringe identities and include them in the decision making. An opening of the world to women and increasing recognition of their roles is a positive sign towards of a general moral economy. However, there are ethnic, religious and cultural identities who are not as recognized as the women issues (while the women make up fifty percent of those populations). That's a direction that a moral economy needs to go.

A WORD ABOUT CONNECTION OF RELIGION WITH MORAL ECONOMY: I haven't seen any religion in the world which is progressive both inside and outside the boundaries of the religion. While, every religion is socially progressive within the community, meaning, it is emphasized to take care of family members, neighbors, friends, poor and those in needs, practically, the resources are spent inside the community of that religious identity. Religions are closed systems (which makes them conservative). An open system is more progressive.

So, does it means, a Moral Economy is based on equality?

A progressive economy can't be a pay-everyone-the-same-amount model. Pay all the same is not a sustainable and unrealistic model. Progressive means, the constant update of floor values.

Let me explain. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the biggest achievements of post-WWII. It defined a set of floor-values applicable for all humans. That floor-values needs to updated as humans progress technologically and the means of productions and distributions become more efficient. The purpose should not be to clip the wings of those who are pushing the boundaries of human progress but give wings to those who struggle flying. I want to keep this blog limited and do not immerse in the examples (please revisit for the blog in coming weeks for examples and the role that A.I can play).  But just to point to the kind of examples that I want to discuss, I like to name the concepts of  inclusion of "Basic Income" and "Basic Health" (paid for with the income from natural resources- and human population defined as natural resources too). 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Popularity Of A Childhood Tactic in The Current Election Campaigns

It's very hard to predict an individual's behavior and in contrast, a certain population may show trends that make their behaviors more predictable. It's called statistics. If you remember Maxwell's name or his Kinetic Molecular Theory of gases from your high school Physics class, then, it might be interesting to know that he faced the same problem. It was hard to determine the behavior of the individual atoms/molecules of a gas, however, a known mass (a certain size population of atoms/molecules) of that gas showed predictable behaviors under certain conditions (The Maxwell Distribution Laws). Basically social sciences deeply influenced by the practice of finding trends in populations (a popular method in natural sciences). 

This blog is not a study of the childhood tactics in the election campaign (though, might be an interesting study if one commits time to), as the title suggests but to share an observation that has become so obvious in the current election season that I can't resist, not sharing it 😜;

It's the general election season in Pakistan, and the two Hazara enclaves in Quetta (Hazara Town and Alamdar Road) are actively participating in the election. As you may have guessed by now, I have keenly observed the common trends and one trend that has particularly taken my attention is a tactic that is commonly used by the children for "social" dominance;

The boys (often unconsciously) try to discourage other boys from expressing themselves by making fun of their voices, choices of the words, accents and the stories they share OR make other boys question their self worth by assigning derogatory names based on their physical features, appearances, location or family affiliations. The worst part is that these derogatory remarks/names are considered "cool" and funny. The boys who use them don't think they are trying to force other boys to submission (or suggesting their supremacy) but consider them cool and their usage as funny. Well, you may consider it as bullying. But I think, it is a bit different than bullying. As I said, these kinds of behaviors are considered cool, funny and friendly. A good analogy would be the friendly fights of the carnivorous-cubs. Friendly fighting and plays not only improve their hunting skills but also determine the social ranking at the same time. 

Back to the election,

While the election is an open competition and some leg-pulling is expected, however, a mature society would use the democratic processes to ENCOURAGE expressions (as the only venue towards improvements is practice) to improve the collective wisdom. Election as a democratic process is not only electing representatives but also promoting civic virtues and training future community leaders. Using the boys tactic of DISCOURAGING expressions will not produce potential leadership that will be able to lead the community in hard times. 

As a Hazara, I am expressing my concern about the common usage of such a vile tactic on social media and ask concerned Hazaras to write and speak on the topic. THANKS

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Lost in Space: A Review

I don't remember that I have written any review before (at least not for a TV show: but bad memory may betray me and this statement may look a lie 😜). Here comes my first review and like any other first timer, it probably ends up more about me than about the show 😳):

Reasons?

Alright, I decided to write a short review because of two "fundamental" changes that I noticed in me:

First, I haven't watched any show that was related to space. I'm bad at directions and I easily get lost in a new place (Thanks to all those who had contributed in whatever capacity in the inventions and developments of GPS and vehicles that I don't worry about directions when I do have access to GPS and a vehicle to drive). You probably have rightly guessed that I stayed away from the space-related-shows out of fear of getting lost in a place that we know very little and most of the knowledge comes from indirect observations and very limited data and very little time. So, there are much lost essential data in our reading of data and our ability to capture the data. 

What Made Me to Watch, the "Lost in Space"?

My own guess was that it was a kind of escapism from what was happening around me. The awful news is killing hopes. I know, hope is organic. It regrows whenever the conditions are right. Anyway, I decided to get lost in Space, albeit via the show and to my surprise, it was a pleasant experience. 

What I liked most about the show?

The Robot. I got surprised that I liked the robot and it made me keep watching the show. These days, I am struggling with a neural network design that is inspired by root systems. It's a concept that I think will work and as humanoid robots run on artificial intelligence, the robot in the movie looked cool and therefore, I give the show 5 stars just based on that cool robot 👍. 

Second Change?

after the show, I am more interested in the robotics:

Humans collect data too and are good at processing the data even without understanding them. For example, people doing business using arithmetic every day without any kind of school or understanding the concepts, or people driving the car without understanding anything about the engines or people using computers and smartphones without knowing much what is running under the hood.  The same is true about robots. Robots don't have to understand the concepts but are much better at capturing, storing and analyzing data and as unlike us, they do not have survival instincts embedded in them in the form of the raw emotions make them more reliable than humans. So, I think, I am more pro-robotics than before and that's a change that I noticed. 

All in all, "Lost in Space" is a great story and have a lot more than the robot and if you have noticed that my review is just limited to the robot, then, you have guessed it right that I definitely recommend the show for more surprises and fun 👍. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Bigger Picture

Passion, while an essential force behind the drive for excellence, often blinds us from seeing the whole (or broader) picture. Very often, I find the younger talents struggling with hope related their works. Too much time and energy and little results make them disoriented. While the common expectation is that, those who are sitting on the higher rungs of corporate/trade/organization ladder to offer bigger picture for the younger talents, it's the closest elders who do the job much better:

The old lady limped a bit, was a bit overweight and struggled with her sari as she moved around the stoves. She was cooking several dishes while making puffed roti, all at the same time.

On another side of the table, her young niece updated her on the latest professional achievements, she scored. The old lady listened attentively while cooking. She only talked when her niece drifted into complaints. Her talks were mostly snippets from her young self and at end of each story she reminded her niece that things have much improved.


While there was a stark difference between the spoken and body languages of the two ladies but I could see the visible gaps between sounding smart and wisdom.

While the young lady went back and forth between showcasing her achievements and worrying, the old lady listened calmly and told her personal stories to reassure her that despite ups and downs, things have always gravitated towards better. It was amusing to be a silent part of the conversation thinking that if there was a mental state such as wisdom then, the hope that things always gravitated towards better definitely qualified for it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Artificial Intelligence & Moral Economy : An Opinion (Part III)

Shrinking Attention Span and Missing To Notice Important Societal Changes:

In the last blog on the subject, I argued that human brain is so good at recognizing patterns that it strongly inclines for overfitting which is one of the main reasons for the biases we have in the systems we build.  

In this blog, I want to argue for another BIG PROBLEM that is only getting worse and that The Shrinking Attention Span which is (will) deepening our biases:

You may have donated in one of the campaigns run by one of the big box stores, giant food chains or online retails companies that had promised to match each dollar of your donation by a dollar for some noble cause (curing a disease, food drive or help a disaster hit the community and so on). You also may have read the news about the mega-philanthropic projects by founders of the fortune 500 companies. You may have also noticed the mushrooming of crowdfunding for the smart solutions of the major problems like poverty, education, health, environment, refugees, ...etc.

If you have donated in or noticed any of the above-mentioned developments, it is very likely that you may have asked yourself, despite the generosity of commoners and corporate businesses, why there is so much frustration over access to healthcare and insecurity of job, housing, and even nutritional food? No doubt, commoners, corporates, and techs are getting smarter. Why generosity and smartness are failing to solve the problems that smaller countries (with much smaller economies) have efficiently handled?

THE PLAUSIBLE ANSWER COULD BE,

While people have noticed the most advertised gestures like donation campaigns, mega-philanthropic projects and crowd-funding and so forth, they have failed noticed the most important societal change and THAT'S in words of the Michael Sandel (The political philosopher) becoming a MARKET SOCIETY (Please read about the difference between Market Economy and Market Society by following this link or you can watch here a talk by Prof. Sandel the role of Market Society in increasing economic inequality).

While the common expectation is that by the evolution and ease of access to media, people become more politically aware and their ability for cross-referencing and weighing facts increase linearly, an important factor is usually downplayed and THAT IS THE SHRINKING ATTENTION SPANS on the most important societal changes.

AGE OF TWITTER

Who could imagine that one day the most popular source of news will become a platform where tweets will be limited to 280 characters? The popularity of the twitter as the largest news source illustrates the extent of the shrinkage of attention span. Still, not convinced? How about communicating important policies of the US via twitter by POTUS? Could anyone have imagined that one day POTUS will declare war via twitter?

It was understood that the earlier exposure of children to television makes them struggle with sustaining attention in their later age. But the becoming of twitter as a communication tool for highest ranks of the government shows that it is not just common people who suffer from shrinkage of the attention span but also leadership and policymakers.

According to the WorldWideWebSize.com statistics, the size of the indexed pages on Google increased on average of 1.5 billion pages per year, in last two years (There are an estimated more than 45 billion indexed web pages on Google). Now, add to that the gaming and binge-watching as the most dominant forms of the entertainments and time passing activities.

Yes, people have access to media and they are smarter than ever but if the attention spans to the important issues have kept shrinking, then, while people know the little details of the most events, they will fail to see the big picture. AND THAT'S TRAGIC.


IN NEXT BLOG, I WILL TRY TO MAKE A CASE ON HOW AI CAN HELP US. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Artificial Intelligence And Moral Economy: An Opinion

Let's begin with three boring statements (and my hypothesis for the why, and how AI help):

1. The market economies with good managers out-performed the communist economies with equally competent managers.

2. Communist economies age at the young age.

3. Market economies with bad managers create a social dichotomy of winners and losers.

Let me give some examples so you can make sense of what I mean by those three statements.

1. Market Economies with Good Managers:

Market economy shined in countries like Japan, Germany, Asian Tigers/dragons (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan), Malaysia and the even Gulf States (oil export economies - no manufacturing or knowledge-based services- with the monarch systems of governance). No doubt, there are other Western countries with market economies much bigger than the listed economies but the purpose of the list to mention the stars. 

Market economy rebuilt Germany and Japan that were destroyed by world war second. It enabled four small countries/administrative regions to be big enough economic players to be called Asian Tigers and even make the desert states of gulfs to become the major investment destinations. While the cultures, composition of markets and geography of the listed economies vary considerably, they had one thing in common and that's good management.

3. Market Economy With Bad Managers:

Before going to the second point, I brought up the second point for the obvious reason of stressing that Market Economy does not do well by default. It needs proper management;

The memory of the 2008 US government bailout of the banks after the real-estate-market-crash is still fresh. That was a defining moment in the history of the market economy that exposed the effect of bad management. While the bailout saved the banks but the fallouts of the bad management pushed the forking of the losers (who live under fear of losing jobs, homes, and saving) and winners economic classes to the extreme that led to the occupied wall street movement and election an administration that has promised to run US government as a successful business.

I can add the long list of the countries with soured market economies from the four continents of Asia, Africa, America and Europe but for the sake of staying on the point, I prefer to restrict this knol to the big names. So, let's bring in China. Everybody talks about China, one or another way. From Chinese products to ambitious Chinese land-based-economic-corridor projects to the US-China trade war. It all indicates the success of Chinese economy that is unlike any other economy is very unique. So far, it is a very well managed hybrid market economy that pulled millions of Chinese out of poverty, what communist China couldn't achieve. The Chinese model showed that well-managed communist economy soon expands to its limits but a well-managed market economy can sustain growth much better for a longer time period.

2. The short lifespan of Communist Economy:

Since the powerhouse of the communist economy barely lived for eight decades and there does not exist any mentionable communist economy, this subtitle is almost self-explanatory.

NOW, let's consider a plausible answer to the WHY:

It's common sense that smaller the number or size of something (at macro-scale), it's management is easier. Small villages are mostly self-sufficient populations that neatly recycle their resources. In comparison, the bigger the population of an area, the more they rely on the exchange of goods with other populations, the greater are their waste and more obvious are the economic segregation of the populations.

Size of Problem: My hypothesis is that the bigger the size and complexity of the economy, the greater are the chances of the mishaps and mismanagements. That's one of the main reason for an inherent short lifespan of the communist economy. The government can manage certain amounts of mishaps. Once, the number of mishaps increase, they start tearing down the whole system.

Seeing Patterns That Matters: The human factor is another reason for mishaps when it comes to the handling of large numbers/sizes. In one of the databook (I don't remember where) I read, "Human brains are so good at detecting patterns, they most often overfit." The overfittings make them see things that are either not there (noise) or make predictions based on averages ignoring big chunks of important information that actually matters.

Trusting The Judgements of the Performers Instead of Performance: 

If you have closely watched the politicians, they are good performers, the composition of voices, body languages, the environments, and messages are appealing that make people follow them. In comparison, not too many people really care what kinds of laws they pass. It's too much of boring and complex information that is not pleasing at all. People want excitements and relaxations after dealing with exhausting jobs and dealing with their daily personal battles.

Transparency And Fairness Are the Building Blocks of A Moral Economy:

I guess I may better not to go into defining a moral economy here (the risk of undermining the main topic, that's setting the role of artificial intelligence in creating a fairer economy). Still, it's essential to point out that without fairness and transparency there will be not any moral economy. Having said that, I very like to stress that even if intentions are good, complexity and size of problems reduce significantly the transparency of information and hence the fairness of the decisions based on the poor understanding of information. Here comes the role of the AI.

As I prefer short blogs, I will try to add more on the topic in my next blog post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Artificial Intelligence: An Opinion

I remember asking Ustad, "Why religion is so powerful?" an obscure question (that could be interpreted in many ways, both positive and negative). 

Instead of a direct answer (as was his signature way of explaining things), he began with an example, "If we give students the choice between researching the topics and preparing their personalized set of a knowledge-base and prepared notes, which method you think, the majority of the students will choose?" 

"No doubt, there are students who genuinely do go their own way out of their personal drive for knowledge but I think the majority of students prefer ready notes...."

"And it's not just the education, the same rule is equally applicable in all spheres of life. Take the example of the food. The health hazards of fast food are in the news and advertisements, almost everyday in one or other form and yet, it is the cooking at home that's in decline instead of fast food [An interesting statistics about the number of the eating places in the new york city. There are 24000 eating establishments in NYC and if you want to eat at a different place, you would need about 65 years  (24000/365 = 65.75) from the day you are born to be able to eat at all the stores]."

"Don't you think that it's just a practical need of the modern lifestyle?" I asked him.
"Of course, all the ready-made products are very practical for time-crunched city dwellers but also have become a modern style as you mentioned and that's part of human nature. That's strong inclination towards easiest of the choices. And there lies the strength of both religion and culture. Religion free its followers from the burden of thinking hard in distinguishing rights and wrongs and making right choices. As a follower, one has just to believe that the religion he/she follows ae true and he/she can have the piece of the mind that the algorithms he/she are following are the best of the choices that he/she could make. Even better than that it gives you the assurances that your religion is true and others are false...." 

I mentioned our conversation to bring in another phenomenon that's functioning the same way (as religion and culture) and have become part of our daily lives (most of the time, we don't even realize it) and that's the artificial intelligence. Based on the digital footprints (the data we feed by our online activities), specific products, services, news, opinions and organizations (even friends and social groups are recommended) appear in search engines and millions of the other potential products, services, and opinions do not reach us. Therefore, we can say that services empowered by artificial intelligence are not only thinking for us but on the long-run influence our personalities. We do not need to have machines embedded in our bodies to be defined as bionics. We can claim that we are already bionics and artificial intelligence are replacing traditional roles of culture and religions in many ways. Once a cultured person or a religious person easily easy identify himself or herself as belonging to the particular group and see the group as an extension of himself/herself. That simple categorization is disintegrating. Artificial intelligence is designed by companies and in addition to the personalizations of the education, culture, and lifestyles, they also promote the cultures and worldviews beneficial to those companies and therefore, except the small number of individuals who do take the burden of thinking for themselves, the majority of people let AI think for them. 

Continued.... 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Malala and the Cultural Struggles Between Large and Peripheral Cities

I planned to wake up, early. I woke up at 3 a.m. I had still time to get up, so I checked my social news feed. There were fierce battles between the two opposing camps over the return of Malala. In fact, it was amusing like the WWE wrestling shows than serious debates. Rationalizations, sarcasm and faking of news to undermine the opponent point of views were at their best, something I could rarely find in the traditional news outlets (except in the comment sections 😜). Besides, worrying about Malala's safety (although, being an international celebrity she has better security, now), I couldn't resist thinking that despite all the shortcomings, the original confusions and emotions expressed with  broken language and poor illustrations in social media were more capable in capturing the interests of the visitors than what professional reporters try to achieve with the professional maskings of their reports (professional reporters still have the advantage of higher confidence levels 😑). Anyhow, what I understood from all the debates were that Malala as a person was not the concern. The concern was the shift of cultural leadership from big seats of power like Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad to the peripheral cities. This is now a continuous process. Persons who manage to go outside the circle of the big cities are seen as anomalies (In popular culture, for example, the break out of the artists to outside world (particularly Bollywood) were not welcomed as such, too).

To outside world, Malala was seen as a girl who had stood for the education of girls (an anti-Taliban voice, to sum up). But I surprised noticing that many of those who opposed Malala were not conservatives (there were highly educated women, too).

Before going further, I want to emphasize that the cultural war between big cities and peripheral cities are not just limited to Pakistan. It's a regional phenomenon. In neighboring Afghanistan, this battle is the fiercest. The like battles  (when become imbalanced by foreign interferences) have torn apart countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. I'm expecting it in Saudi Arabia too if the country continues to open up in a zigzag manner (the way she is going these days). Once the peripheral cities/populations find themselves culturally compatible with traditional cultural leaders of the country, then the culture war will become visible and the desperate attempts of the traditional cultural leaders to maintain their status quo will turn into open cultural battles. (Please see the additional note at the end of the knol)

Back to the story:

While reading the arguments, I fell back to sleep, and dreamt:

Children were picking sellable items among garbage pile in the garbage-tub (The municipality used to build brick-walled-garbage-dumping-sites in the neighborhood that were called garbage-tubs). A garbage truck dumped its load on the garbage picking children. I didn't see what happened to other children but I saw a girl struggling to get out the pile of the garbage. The pile of garbage was heavy, stinking and suffocating. She was about to give up when she felt something hit her head. It was the bucket of an excavator. She cried in pain and grabbed firmly the bucket. The excavator pulled her out of garbage and lifted her in the air. She cried for help and the spectators cheered and applauded her. She collected herself and felt like a heroine.

I don't see any patterns in the dreams and do not believe in the interpretations. But nonetheless, it was an amusing dream that very likely had some connections with the current divide on a girl from a periphery area that has become a cultural symbol. And that symbolic representation has made her a target practice of the politico-cultural struggles between metropolitan and peripheral cities.

*********

Additional Note:

                         With the exception of East Asia (which somehow managed to transition to modern world in more organized manner, if not linearly), the rest of Asia has maintained its historical ethno-cultural identities. Historically, while the boundaries of the kingdoms shifted, the boundaries of ethno-cultural identities remained mostly unchanged. The game of power was played by changes of alliances between those identities. The imposition of nation states based on the culture of the majority population has pushed the smaller cultural identities into the peripheries. It's slowly changing (Enriched by global cultural influences, particularly Western cultures and empowered by the digital communications, the peripheral cultures are reinventing their identities. I may go in more details in a future knol on the issue) and that's creating lots of confusions and chaos. Controversial individuals and events are not all linked to this phenomenon. The Syrian experience has made people even more sensitive and the reactions to the controversial individuals and events were taken more seriously (as existential threats) now than any time before. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chop chop chop VS. Balancing: A tribute to Asma Jahangir



An elderly lady had advised my mom that for the children to become independent, it was very important to supplement their education with some trade apprenticeship. She had taken that advice by heart and encouraged us to master at least a trade: 


When I was a high school student, I started working in the evening shift as an apprentice at a woodwork factory. Part of the job was chopping the logs to prepare them for turning. I loved that part of the job. All I had to do was chop chop chop. I wished the trade just required one tool and that was an ax, then, all woodworkers were the happiest people among the population. Chopping released all the anxiety and made me feel good. I understood that chop chop chop was one of the best escapes, if not the only great escape. 

Another part of the job was balancing of the chairs. I hated that part. Wood, fresh out of the lathe machine was very sensitive to humidity and changed shapes and cracked during balancing. Balancing was mostly done by the chief technician. I understood that balancing was very stressful till one acquired the required skills and experiences. 

Back to today's main story:

Today, lots of people are offering their tributes to Asma Jahangir (the human right lawyer) for her lifelong stands for the rights of all ethnicities, religious minorities as well as women, laborers and other oppressed parts of the society. 

Photo Source: http://www.human-dignity-forum.org/2013/04/dr-asma-jahangir/ 

All along, I saw Asma Jahangir as a strong voice for the balance in the society. In every forum, she criticized sections of the governments and the society for their chop chop chop worldviews/strategies as the sole solution for the country's problems. Asma struggled all her life to convince the government and the people to adopt a balancing worldview (instead of temporary feel-good escapism for blaming and targetting a vulnerable part of society). Today, she died but the majority of the population and the government still love the feeling of the chop chop chop. On majority pages of everyday news outlets (both social and MSM) one encounters the suggestions for chopping this and chopping that. Chop chop chop has become a dominant culture and is rising. And we definitely are going to miss Asma a lot.  May her great soul rest in peace. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Playing with Gephi

Other than during middle school time, when the primitive computer games were popular, I don't remember that I liked the computer games. But recently, I find myself liking a lot playing with computer programs (particularly python, specifically, its scikit-learn library and jupyter notebook)  and data analytics software. I have just started with Gephi and is already in love with it. Following is my first Gephi attempt. It's very crude (as data are all coded and without the reference to an original data table or a description of it, it's not much informative.). However, I like the endless possibilities that it offers in a time when we are submerged in relational datasets. I hope you enjoy my first attempt (even if you don't get anything out it. 😜)



Saturday, January 20, 2018

End of History: A Class-One Student's Perspective

Each time we rethink a memory, we stretch it a bit. The following memories were some realizations that since have been stretched several times:

Realization 1:

At the new school, I rapidly excelled in drawings which were the combinations of basic geometric shapes. First I learned to draw a mountain (Isosceles triangles in a row), a sun (yellow circle), then, a house in the front of the mountain, a man next to house, a car on a line (road) and tree at the end of road and a pond in front of house (just rough blue coloring of the bottom half of the page). Once I mastered this drawing, I thought there was nothing to add to the drawing. For me, it the End of History (Francis Fukuyama's hypothesis that the current system is the best that humanity could achieve. Since I thought, I had mastered the art and there was no further room for improvement, it was my "the end of history").  I didn't miss any chance of expressing my view of "The End of History". I filled pages of my notebooks, blank spaces of my books (Although, it was tolerated but occasionally I get punished for them), drew on walls and streets with charcoal (a bakery was part of our house, so plenty of charcoal) and went to classes during recess in search of chalks and clean blackboards to draw. 

I was very content with my mastery. For first two years of my schooling, I struggled to learn alphabets and numbers (and that my impatient parents were very disappointed with my inability to learn and kept asking for pieces of advice from anyone who had to offer a solution) and in a new school (which was recommended by my father's friend), I learned reading, writing and drawing effortlessly. My father didn't mind it much but my mother didn't appreciate blackened dresses and hands. I kept drawing on everything. My view of the world had stopped with those limited number of objects and I couldn't see any possibility of improving upon it. But that didn't affect my enthusiasm for expressing myself.

THEN,

Realization 2: my youngest maternal uncle visited us after their Iran tour. He was a couple of years older than me and taught me to draw tulips (for the memory of the fallen soldiers), tanks, fighter jets, and helicopters. I had never seen tulips and helicopters before. The only tank and the fighter jet that I had seen were the ones that were parked in the parks of the cantonment area which appeared to me as oversized toys. It was the first time I heard about Iran-Iraq war and that people died in the wars. It dawned on me as I learn to draw new objects, I start seeing the same object anew. There was no "the end of history" moment. It was just a temporary satisfaction with the level of the mastery (So was the case with Fukuyama's hypothesis).

THEN,

Realization 3: I learned from the discussion of adults in the bakery that if Pakistan and India went to another war, India could drop an atomic bomb and we all could die in a blink of an eye (Pakistan was not a nuclear state at the time). I had no idea what an atomic bomb is but the idea everything could vanish in a blink of eyes, terrified me. I received pocket money in the morning and during the day, I kept looking my father and anytime I spotted my father or my grand-maternal-uncle, I taxed them. Each time,  received additional money, I was in heaven. The list of the objects that I could draw was growing and I started reading story booklets. In addition to group plays, these additional pleasures made the world too sweet and I definitely didn't want it to end in blank of eyes. But I couldn't unlearn that cursed knowledge that our world could end.

Probably, humanity survives a nuclear winter but there will be real THE END OF HISTORY for many cultures, societies, ethnicities and countless species of organisms.