Wednesday, October 27, 2010


This is a poem that is intended to be both generic and symbolic of Raavan. This is what I had thought someone who wants to portray Raavan's character would say, but of course, Mani failed that in Raavan to a large extent. So narrating the part of the story that was left unsaid...

She was a princess, I, ruler of the world,
I, the first to break the laws of love, I, unjustifiably villainized.
I, cursed from the beginning of time, for I, would be blinded by her delicate beauty.
A beauty- so fragile and yet so strong from within
a beauty that compelled her into the cruel jungle with him.
Lady, my heart cries, if I had to take you to the jungle, I would rather die.
Isn't love such a heartless thing, princess,
that you like the man who would banish you, and walk you into fire;
and, I, a woman who doesn't respect me even as grass*
And yet, that hopeless love unites us
for the heart always desires what the hand cannot touch
and desire is the seed of the illogical in the mind.
So let the world laugh at me, woman,
For I know, no man will remain unswept by the passion that washed us away
For I know, you love me, by loving him without repay.

*This line is based on the beautiful explanation Vishaka Hari gave for the event where Sita tells Raavan she doesn't even respect him lesser than she does a blade of grass!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Ok. This is not really an Enthiran review, though I do have a few things to say about Enthiran. I saw it a while ago, and it was ok. But what made me write today is, as usual, reading something. As can be expected, this time it is Asimov. For a real Asimov reader, I had been scoring low, because I hadn't read any of his novels till today. Of course, I have read MOST of his short stories (primarily thanks to Padmini, whose collections lured me out of studying before cycle tests in 1st year!! :) ) Anyway, today's reading brought me back to this whole debate (which explains the length of this post :D). And I am keeping the Enthiran review at the end- so you can read it only if you really want to know my take on it :)

Anyway, one thing good about Enthiran is that it brought some really important debates to the masses (and gave me something to start with)- what would happen if we had a robot that could act as an independent entity? Can we be sure it won't turn against us? Can we make it understand human emotions? Will the robot become the same emotional, sentimental failure that men sometimes become? Or will it show some yet unknown characteristic or emotion?! Will it end up having psychological disorders? Will the randomness that is so part of life on Earth, play a role in robotic development as well?

These are the questions Asimov asked in his stories, and they are as relevant today as then. While we are building bigger and better computers and Japan is speeding with artificial intelligence- someone should ask the question- Do we really understand what we are doing? Do we know enough of the human brain and human emotions to understand what an object equipped with a similar (if not better) brain is capable of doing? I am not trying to be pessimistic here. I am a big fan of technology alright, but these questions are a little inevitable.

Humans believe in a lot of abstract things like spirituality, justice and ethics. Do these laws that seem to apply to us, apply to the objects that we create as well? (Aside, as a reverse question, I wonder if the laws that apply to us, apply to God- it is tricky because if they do- then it means the laws are supreme and not God himself. And if they don't, it means we have an unfair God in our hands! :D) Will the factors that motivate us motivate our robots? Or will they be motivated by things that we shall never understand?

Even further, we have observed that with knowledge competency and talent comes the desire to be independent (it comes even without, but at least some amount of submission is possible in an ignorant man)- will a computer with almost infinite knowledge be able to choose to be independent? Will it choose to prove to us that it is better? And the question that was lurking behind all along- will we become slaves of the robot? Or will we be simply destroyed eventually?

I know you are saying the day is far off when we will leave the computer with such a choice. I know we are not there yet today. But aren't many of us really living our lives for the sake of the computer- spending our lives designing it, testing it, feeding it, enhancing it- or maybe I should say breeding it?! If half the world can be addicted to facebook today, and a piece of code called Farmville can create an extraordinary experiment on living neurons- with just today's compute power- what might happen when we really have humanoids?

It probably sounds a little overstated. And anyway, I am digressing.The point is do we know the impact of our machines on us? Or whether thinking machines will obey us at all?

An even more interesting question is- do we really have a say in this? I know Steven Rose says each creature has its say in evolution- he is possibly right in the fact that we have a choice. But we have constraints limitations on our choices. And we don't have complete knowledge of the consequences of each choice. Maybe, maybe like Asimov postulates in his story, we shall never have a say and ultimately machines shall rule us. Or maybe they won't. Or maybe the question just needs a positronic brain to find the answer... And until then we just have the cliché- "Only time can tell"....

(Click read more for Enthiran review)