The Impossibility Conjecture of Humanoid Artificial Intelligence and the Non-Benign Singularity

Abstract

[A Rough Draft of a Work-in-progress.]

The idea of machines which are almost identical to human beings has been so seductive that it has captured the imaginations of the best minds as well as laypeople for at least a century and half, perhaps more. Right after Artificial Intelligence (AI) came into being, it was almost taken for granted that soon enough we will be able to build Humanoid Robots. This has also led to some serious speculation about ‘transhumanism’. So far, we do not seem to be anywhere near this goal. It may be time now to ask whether it is even possible at all. We present a set of arguments to the effect that it is impossible to create or build Humanoid Robots or Humanoid Intelligence, where the said intelligence can substitute human beings in any situation where human beings are required or exist.

1. Humanoid Intelligence, the Singularity and Transhumanism

Before we proceed to discuss the terms of the title of this section and the arguments in the following sections, we first define the foundational terms to some degree of conciseness and preciseness:

1. Human Life: Anything and everything that the full variety of human beings are capable of, both individually and collectively. This includes not just behaviour or problem solving, but the whole gamut of capabilities, emotions, desires, actions, thoughts, consciousness, conscience, empathy, creativity and so on within an individual, as well as the whole gamut of associations and relationships, and social, political and ecological structures, crafts, art and so on that can exist in a human society or societies. This is true not just at any given moment, but over the life of the planet. Perhaps it should include even spiritual experiences and ‘revelations’ or ‘delusions’, such as those hinted at in the Philip K. Dick story, Holy Quarrel [Dick et al., 1985].

2. Humanoid: A living and reproducing entity that is almost identical to humans, either with a human-like body or without it, on a different substrate (inside a computer).

3. Intelligence: Anything and everything that the full variety of human beings are capable of, both individually and collectively, as well as both synchronically and diachronically. This includes not just behaviour or problem solving, but the whole of life as defined.

4. The Singularity: The technological point at which it is possible to create (or have) intelligence that is Humanoid or better than Humanoid.

5. Transhumanism: The idea that, after the singularity, we can have a society that is far more advanced, for the better, than the current and past human societies. From 1910 to 1927, in the three volumes of Principia Mathematica [ 1925–1927], Whitehead and Russell set out to prove that mathematics is, in some significant sense, reducible to logic. This turned out to be impossible when Godel published his incompleteness theorems in 1931 [Sheppard, 2014, Nagel et al., 2001]. During the days of origins of modern Computer Science, before and in early 1930s, it would have been easy to assume that a computing machine would ultimately solve any problem at all. This also proved to be impossible with Turing’s undecidability theorem [Hopcroft et al., 2006] and the Church-Turing thesis of computability [Copeland and Shagrir, 2018]. Since then, other kinds of problem have been shown to be undecidable.

Now that we are supposed to close be enough to the Singularity [Kurzweil, 2006] so that it may happen within the lifetime of a large number of human beings, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves whether real intelligence, in particular Humanoid Intelligence (as defined above) is possible at all. We suggest that there are enough arguments to ‘prove’ (in an informal sense) that it is impossible to build, to create or to have Humanoid Intelligence. We argue that even though the Singularity is indeed possible, perhaps even very likely (unless we stop it), it may not be what it is supposed to be. The conjecture presented here is that the Singularity is not likely to be even benign, however powerful or advanced it may be. This follows from the idea of the impossibility of Humanoid Intelligence.

2 Some Notes about the Conjecture

We have not used the term theorem for the Impossibility and the reasons for this should be evident from the arguments that we present. In particular, we do not, and perhaps cannot, use formal notation for this purpose. Even the term conjecture is used in an informal sense. The usage of terms here is closer to the legal language than to the mathematical language, because that is the best that can be done here. This may be clearer from the Definition and the Story arguments. It is due to a similar reasoning that the term ‘incompleteness’ is not used and, instead, impossibility is used, which is more appropriate for our purposes here, although Godel’s term ‘essentially incomplete’ is what we are informally arguing for about Humanoid AI, and perhaps AI in general. No claim is made as to whether or not a formal proof is possible in the future at all. What we present is an informal proof. This proof has to be centred around the distinction between Micro-AI (AI at the level of an intelligent autonomous individual entity) and Macro-AI (very large intelligent autonomous systems, possibly encompassing the whole of humanity or the world). To the best of our knowledge, such a distinction has not been proposed before. While there has been some work in this direction [Brooks, 1998, Signorelli, 2018, Yampolskiy, 2020], for lack of space, we are unable to explain how this work differs from previous such works, except by noting that the argumentation and some of the terms are novel, a bit like in the case of arguments for or against the existence of God, which question has been debated by the best of philosophers again and again over millennia, which as we will see at the end, is relevant to our discussion.

3 The Arguments for the Impossibility Conjecture for Micro-AI

The Definition Argument): Even the Peano Arithmetic [Nagel et al., 2001] is based on three undefined terms (zero, number and is successor of ), which are relatively trivial terms compared to the innumerable terms required for AI (the core terms like intelligence and human, or terms like the categories of emotions, leave alone the terms like consciousness).

The Category Argument: A great deal of AI is about classifying things into categories, but most of these categories (e.g. anger, disgust, good or bad) have no scientifically defined boundaries. This is related to the following argument.

The Story Argument: It is almost established now that many of the essential concepts of our civilisation are convenient fictions or stories [Harari, 2015] and these often form categories and are used in definitions.

The Cultural Concept Argument: Many of the terms, concepts and stories are cultural constructs. They have a long history, most of which is unknown, without which they cannot be modelled.

The Individuality, or the Nature Argument: An individual intelligent autonomous entity has to be unique and distinct from all other such entities. It originates in nature and we have no conception of how it can originate in machines. We are not even sure what this individuality exactly is. However, all through history, we have assigned some degree of accountability to human individual and we have strict provisions for punishment of individuals based on this, that indicates that we believe in the concept of the ‘self’ or the ‘autonomous individual’, even when we deny its existence, as is becoming popular today.

The Genetic Determinism Argument: Individuality is not completely determined by nature (e.g. by our genes) at birth or creation once and for all. It also develops and changes constantly as it interacts with the environment, preserving its uniqueness.

The Self-organising System Argument: Human beings and the human societies are most likely self-organising [Shiva and Shiva, 2020] and organic systems, or they are complex, non-equilibrium systems [Nicolis and Prigogine, 1977]. If so, they are unlikely to be modelled for exact replication or reproduction. The Environment, or the Nurture Argument: Both intelligence and individuality depend on the environment (or on nature). Therefore, they cannot be modelled without completely modelling the environment, i.e., going for Macro-AI. The Memory, or the Personality Argument: Both intelligence and individuality are aspects of personality, which is known to be dependent on the complete life-memory (conscious and unconscious) of an intelligent being. There is not enough evidence that it is possible to recover or model this complete temporal and environmental history of memory. A lot of our memory, and therefore our individuality and personality is integrally connected with our bodily memories.

The Susbstrsate Argument: It is often taken for granted that intelligence can be separated from the substrate and planted on a different substrate. This may be a wrong assumption. Perhaps our intelligence is integrally tied with the substrate and it is not possible to separate the body from the mind, following the previous argument.

The Causality Argument: There is little progress in modelling causality. Ultimately, the cause of an event or occurrence is not one but many, perhaps even the complete history of the universe.

The Consciousness Argument: Similarly, there is no good enough theory of consciousness even for human understanding. It is very unlikely that we can completely model human consciousness, nor is there a good reason to believe that it can emerge spontaneously under the right conditions (which conditions?).

The Incompleteness/Degeneracy of Learning Source and Representation Argument: No matter how much data or knowledge we have, it will always be both incomplete and degenerate, making it impossible to completely model intelligence.

The Explainability Argument: Deep neural networks, which are the state-of-the-art for AI, have serious problems with explainability even for specific isolated problems. Without it, we cannot be sure whether our models are developing in the right direction.

The Test Incompleteness Argument: Perfect measures of performance are not available even for problems like machine translation. We have no idea what will be the overall measure of Humanoid Intelligence. It may always be incomplete and imperfect, leading to uncertainty about intelligence.

The Parasitic Machine Argument: Machines completely depend for learning on humans and on data and knowledge provided by humans. But humans express or manifest only a small part of their intelligent capability. So machines cannot completely learn from humans without first being as intelligent as humans.

The Language Argument: Human(oid) Intelligence and its modelling depend essentially on human language(s). There is no universally accepted theory of how language works.

The Perception Interpretation Argument: Learning requires perception and perception depends on interpretation (and vice-versa), which is almost as hard a problem as modelling intelligence itself.

The Replication Argument: We are facing a scientific crisis of replication even for isolated problems. How could we be sure of replication of Humanoid Intelligence, preserving individual uniqueness?

The Human-Human Espitemic Asymmetry Argument: There is widespread inequality in human society not just in terms of money and wealth, but also in terms of knowledge and its benefits. This will not only reflect in modelling, but will make modelling harder.

The Diversity Representation Argument: Humanoid Intelligence that truly works will have to model the complete diversity of human existence in all its aspects, most of which are not even known or documented. It will have to at least preserve that diversity, which is a tall order.

The Data Colonialism Argument: Data is the new oil. Those with more power, money and influence (the Materialistic Holy Trinity) can mine more data from others, without sharing their own data. This is a classic colonial situation and it will hinder the development of Humanoid Intelligence.

The Ethical-Political Argument: Given some of the arguments above, and many others such as data bias, potential for weaponisation etc., there are plenty of ethical and political reasons that have to be taken into account while developing Humanoid Intelligence. We are not sure whether they can all be fully addressed.

The Prescriptivastion Argument: It is now recognised that ‘intelligent’ technology applied at large scale not only monitors behaviour, but changes it [Zuboff, 2018]. This means we are changing the very thing we are trying to model, and thus laying down new mechanical rules for what it means to be human.

The Wish Fulfilment (or Self-fulfilling Prophecy) Argument: Due to prescriptivisation of life itself by imperfect and inadequately intelligent machines, the problem of modeling of Humanoid Intelligence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we end up modeling not human life, but some corrupted and simplified form of life that we brought into being with ‘intelligent’ machines.

The Human Intervention Argument: There is no reason to believe that Humanoid Intelligence will develop freely of its own and will not be influenced by human intervention, quite likely to further vested interests. This will cripple the development of true Humanoid Intelligence. This intervention can take the form of secrecy, financial influence (such as research funding) and legal or structural coercion.

The Deepfake Argument: Although we do not yet have truly intelligent machines, we are able to generate data through deepfakes which are not recognisable as fakes by human beings. This deepfake data is going to proliferate and will become part of the data from which the machines learn, effectively modeling not human life, but something else.

The Chain Reaction Argument (or the Law of Exponential Growth Argument): As machines become more ‘intelligent’ they affect more and more of life and change it, even before achieving true intelligence. The speed of this change will increase exponentially and it will cause a chain reaction, leading to unforeseeable consequences, necessarily affecting the modelling of Humanoid Intelligence.

4 The Implications of the Impossibility

It follows from the above arguments that Singularity at the level of Micro-AI is impossible. In trying to achieve that, and to address the above arguments, the only possible outcome is some kind of Singularly at Macro-AI level. Such a Singularity will not lead to replication of human intelligence or its enhancement, but something totally different. It will, most probably, lead to extinction (or at least subservience, servitude) of human intelligence. To achieve just Humanoid Intelligence (Human Individual Micro-AI), even if nothing more, the AI system required will have to be nothing short of the common notion of a Single Supreme God. Singularity at the macro level will actually make the AI system, or whoever is controlling it, individual or (most probably small) collective, a Single Supreme God for all practical purposes, as far as human beings are concerned. But this will not be an All Powerful God, and not a a Kind God, for it will be Supreme within the limited scope of humanity and what humanity can have an effect on, and it will be kind only to itself, or perhaps not even that. It may be analogous to the God in the Phiilip K. Dick story Faith of Our Fathers [Dick and Lethem, 2013], or to the Big Brother of Orwell’s 1984 [Orwell, 1950]. We cannot be sure of the outcome,
of course, but those as likely outcomes as any others. That is reason enough to be very wary of
developing Humanoid Intelligence and any variant thereof.

References

Philip K. Dick, Paul Williams, and Mark. Hurst. I hope I shall arrive soon / Philip K. Dick ; edited by Mark Hurst and Paul Williams. Doubleday New York, 1st ed. edition, 1985. ISBN 0385195672.

Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica. Cambridge University Press, 1925–1927.

Barnaby Sheppard. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, page 419–428. Cambridge University Press, 2014. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781107415614.016.

E. Nagel, J.R. Newman, and D.R. Hofstadter. Godel’s Proof. NYU Press, 2001. ISBN 9780814758014. URL https://books.google.co.in/books?id=G29G3W_hNQkC.

John E. Hopcroft, Rajeev Motwani, and Jeffrey D. Ullman. Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation (3rd Edition). Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc., USA, 2006. ISBN 0321455363.

B. Jack Copeland and Oron Shagrir. The church-turing thesis: Logical limit or breachable barrier? Commun. ACM, 62(1):66–74, December 2018. ISSN 0001-0782. doi: 10.1145/3198448. URL https://doi.org/10.1145/3198448.

Ray Kurzweil. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Penguin (Non-Classics), 2006. ISBN 0143037889.

Rodney Brooks. Prospects for human level intelligence for humanoid robots. 07 1998. Camilo Miguel Signorelli. Can computers become conscious and overcome humans? Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 5:121, 2018. doi: 10.3389/frobt.2018.00121. URL https://www.frontiersin. org/article/10.3389/frobt.2018.00121.

Roman V. Yampolskiy. Unpredictability of ai: On the impossibility of accurately predicting all actions of a smarter agent. Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness, 07(01):109–118, 2020. doi: 10.1142/S2705078520500034.

Y.N. Harari. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harper, 2015. ISBN 9780062316103. URL https://books.google.co.in/books?id=FmyBAwAAQBAJ.

V. Shiva and K. Shiva. Oneness Vs. the 1 Percent: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom. CHELSEA GREEN PUB, 2020. ISBN 9781645020394. URL https://books.google.co.in/books?
id=4TmTzQEACAAJ.

G. Nicolis and I. Prigogine. Self-Organization in Nonequilibrium Systems: From Dissipative Structures to Order Through Fluctuations. A Wiley-Interscience publication. Wiley, 1977. ISBN 9780471024019. URL https://books.google.co.in/books?id=mZkQAQAAIAAJ.

Shoshana Zuboff. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. 1st edition, 2018. ISBN 1610395697.

P.K. Dick and J. Lethem. Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. ISBN 9780544040540. URL https://books.google.co.in/books?id=V1z9rzfTb2EC.

George Orwell. 1984. Tandem Library, centennial. edition, 1950. ISBN 0881030368. URL http://www.amazon.de/1984-Signet-Classics-George-Orwell/dp/0881030368.

How we Gravitate towards Evil, Collectively

The same results can be obtained even after reversing the genders.

And the results are far more diabolical when the individual mademoiselle is replaced with a collective mademoiselle. Or monsieur, or whatever other gender on the spectrum, because the phenomenon is gender-neutral.

The results are already quite diabolical due to the effect of the collective gravitating towards the individual evil, but they become exponentially more diabolical when the evil itself is collective and even bigger collective gravitates towards the collective evil.

The above is an example of the malignant type of this phenomenon.

In a highly organised social collection of individuals, as we have in our world at a global scale, individual evil is (at the worst) like a cancerous cell. There exists what we call cancer only when there are a very large number of such cancerous cells. Individual cancerous cells can’t do much damage.

Even a small group of cancerous cells is usually benign. Unless, of course, the collective gravitates towards it.

Here is benign type of the same, that is, some of the seeds of it, lest we forget completely, shown in a very much sanitized version:

We all carry some seeds of individual evil: some more, some less. Most of these seeds are supposed to lie dormant and they often do. They are there, at least partially, for evolutionary reasons. There are more than enough technologies of power (in the Foucauldian sense) to keep individual evil in check (but also keep individual good in check if it conflicts with the interests of the powers that be).

The problem is, these same technologies of power create and facilitate collective evil and/or make the collective gravitate towards it for reasons of their own (such as The Greater Good or The Higher Cause, whichever way these causes are defined, which may not be really good or higher).

So, yes, in that sense it is more a political matter, less a psychological matter.

Who decides what is Good or Higher? Who decides who decides? The collective? Those who represent the collective? Those who claim to represent the collective? Those who have the power to decide on behalf of the collective? Those who have the power and just pretend to decide on behalf of the collective? Those who convince the collective that they are deciding on behalf of the collective or for the good of the collective?

To convert a mainly political matter into a totally psychological matter has always been a tactic dear to socio-political establishments to maintain their power and to maintain the status quo (or to change it to their interests), particularly to totalitarian systems such as the Stalinist Soviet Union or the Maoist China or Nazi Germany. That is what the Re-education Camps and Gulags were for, in terms of the justification given for their existence.

There is no reason why a Capitalist Establishment can’t or won’t use this tactic.

We do know for sure about the use of medical ‘treatment’ for gender-related ‘illnesses’ or ‘disorders’ or ‘diseases’. That is not a Conspiracy Theory. The people — good people, nice people — genuinely hated and dreaded the people with such ‘illnesses’ or ‘disorders’ or ‘diseases’, to the extent we hate pedophiles, for example. In many societies, such gender related phobias (is that the right word, considering what I just said about the psychological and the political?) are still the norm. Not just phobias (or whatever is the right term), there are still laws applying them.

The one below is a less benign case of the same phenomenon, hinting towards the malignant form:

This one, as the others, shows the pushes and pulls (well, technically only pulls) of gravitation between entities, both good and evil, whether in the same person or not, and also (more importantly) between the individual evil and the collective evil. The political here is much more explicit. The psychological is just what humans are. The political is what humans have made for themselves, collectively. That last one is the keyword.

In that case, are there some Special Ones or Chosen Ones, or is the Higher or the Good for everyone?

In the fight between good and evil, the evil always has the upper hand. This is almost a cliche. But also in the fight between the individual evil and the collective evil, the latter is a guaranteed winner.

The collective just brushes aside the individual good. And it crushes the individual evil as a giant can crush a little thing. It does that only when the interests between the two don’t align well. Otherwise, they can get along just fine. That is part of how the world works.

There is less evil in a room with a view. A room at the top, however, is a very different matter. The evil there is immeasurably more.

The room at the top is the control centre of the technologies of power. An evil Mademoiselle or a Monsieur is just the kind of asset that they need there.

Only as long as the interests align.

A room at the top comes, not only with a view, but with much evil, with or without the Mademoiselle or the Monsieur.

The Moral Laws of Comedy and a Paradox

The Moral Laws of Comedy

According to Eklavya, the three moral laws of comedy can be stated as follows:

  1. The First Law: If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no right to laugh at others.
  2. The Second Law:If you can’t laugh at more powerful people, then you have no right to laugh at less powerful people, irrespective of where you are on the power spectrum.
  3. The Third Law:If you can’t laugh at the society (or the institution or the group) you live in or belong to, then you have no right to laugh at the individuals in that society (or the institution or the group), including yourself.

An extension to the first law is:

If you can’t laugh at your own society (or institution or group), you have no right to laugh at other societies (or institutions or groups).

The revised (and recommended) statement of the same laws will have the word ‘can’t’ substituted by ‘don’t have the courage to’.

The zeroth moral law of comedy defines ‘laugh’ as a specific kind of laugh that is meant to be a negative comment or critical judgement, such as the laugh associated with ridicule, sarcasm etc. It also defines ‘comedy’ to include humour and satire.

A corollary of these laws is that if you violate any of these laws, then you are not creating comedy (or humour or satire). You are just being mean spirited, petty minded, spiteful, nasty, hateful, bitchy etc.

Simply put, you are being immoral.

A generalization of the laws can also be derived. Such a generalization would apply to criticism and punishment too. Thus, the Moral Laws of Criticism (Punishment) can be given as:

  1. The First Law: If you can’t criticize (punish) yourself, you have no right to criticize (punish) others.
  2. The Second Law:If you can’t criticize (punish) more powerful people, then you have no right to criticize (punish) less powerful people, irrespective of where you are on the power spectrum.
  3. The Third Law:If you can’t criticize (punish) the society (or the institution or the group) you live in or belong to, then you have no right to criticize (punish) the individuals in that society (or the institution or the group), including yourself.

Punishing the society needs some explanation. You can’t obviously punish the society in the way you can punish individuals. And one of the axioms of morality says that collective punishment is immoral, so punishing the society in the above sense can’t mean collective punishment (something whose innumerable manifestations we see in all ages and from all kinds of people, institutions, societies etc.). For the purpose of stating the above laws, punishment of society means changing it in some way. And only that way will be moral which changes it for the better. This sense of punishment, therefore, is nearer to treatment or curing in the medical sense.

The zeroth moral law of criticism (punishment) defines ‘criticism’ in a way that would include the ‘comedy’ mentioned above, thus the generalization.

That extension of the first law also applies here:

If you can’t criticize (punish) your own society, you have no right to criticize (punish) other societies.

The Sin-Song Paradox

Any application of the Moral Laws of Comedy (among other things) is associated with and complicated by a Paradox known as the Sin-Song Paradox.

This moral paradox can be stated (according to Eklavya) as follows:

In most societies, we are taught from our childhood (at least in schools, or perhaps only in schools) that we should hate the sin, not the sinner, i.e., it is wrong to hate the sinner (an individual) and right to hate the sin (an act). However, in practice, the norm in all societies is to hate the sinner, not necessarily the sin (if at all). That is why we have all the systems of punishment, whether legal or social or otherwise.

Similarly, we have another such inversion with regard to systems of belief. Ignoring the cases where a system of belief is respected only because of the power it wields (that being covered by a different moral paradox), we are supposed to (or we pretend to) respect those systems of belief which are shown (or proven) to be rationally and/or morally correct, but in practice, we respect those systems which are advocated by people who are, as individuals, rational and/or moral in their lives and their conduct. In other words, we are supposed to like a song because the song is good (musically and/or lyrically), but in fact we like that song (a system of belief) because the singer is good. The converse is also true.

Thus, in the first case, we focus on the individual, when we should, in fact, be focussing on the act. And in the second case, we focus again on the individual, when we should be focussing on what the individual is saying or advocating. This moral inversion is closely related to violation of the third moral law of comedy, which involves focusing on the individual, when we should actually be focussing on the society.

It is a paradox, and not simply a contradiction between theory and practice because the norm that is followed in practice is assumed to be a moral norm too.

In fact, the violation of the three laws as well the above paradox, all involve wrong focus on the individual, when the focus should be on something else.

From the moral view of the world, it can be derived from the above laws of comedy and the Sin-Song paradox that a lot of our (i.e., the world’s or the society’s) problems stem simply from this wrong focus on the individual.

पनहद

मैंने सोचा था
कमीनेपन की
कोई तो हद
होती होगी

इसका उल्टा जानने की
मेरी कोई इच्छा नहीं थी

पर कोई मेरे घर
आकर और खाकर
ज़बरदस्ती बता गया
कि नहीं होती
एकदम नहीं होती

Everything You Always Wanted To Say But Were Afraid To

This must be surely on the minds of many ‘highly educated professionals’, but one of them has actually come out and said all this. And not even under the cover of anonymity…

I think that there should be planned elimination of those groups of people who are seen to create problems to the “vision” of India as an good advanced superpower democracy. These irritating problem creators talk nonsense and bring down the image of India by talking about poverty, hunger, human rights etc and counter the good work that the highly educated middle class Indians working in MNCs and abroad do,to propagate the very nice image of India as a posh country with great malls, technology and being generally great.

They should be eliminated as part of an elimination policy and which groups should be eliminated can be determined by polling and asking the good indians who work in the US, the MNCs and other good posh middle class professionals and we are sure to get many nominations of groups that should be completely eliminated .These groups should include the “intelligentsia” who are useless irritants and spoil the name and image of India and of no use compared to the highly educated professionals working in the US and in the MNCs who everyone should listen to because they are the intelligent and good people.

The only slight drawback of this policy is that it can lead to situation where the country will be significantly depopulated and we will be left with noone but the good educated middle class. There would not many people of the lower classes left to admire the goodness and the greatness of India and the highly educated professionals. One way of circumventing this problem is to have along with the program of elimination a program for brainwashing,using mind control techniques etc including psychosurgery so that some people who are the problem can be made to change their opinion of India and the educated middle class indians that they are good , that India is a wonderful country etc.

We should all admire the brave stand. The forthrightness is really like a breath of fresh air.

So when is the pogrom, I mean program, starting? May be it’s already on.

I wonder which category do I fall in.

Mr. Harvey, I Presume

I have been wondering for a long time who it is that keeps pitching in with some (written) comments (in italics) in the middle of my blog posts. The fact that I usually ignore him doesn’t seem to have affected him.

The consolation is that at least someone is reading what I write.

But still, I wanted to know who it is. And I think I might have the answer now, after watching the movie ‘Harvey‘ starring James Stewart, an actor with one of the most likable screen presences. He doesn’t play Harvey, by the way, he plays a person (Elwood P. Dowd) who was “oh so smart” till he was thirty five, but who recommends oh so “pleasant. And you may quote me.” after that, in the company of an invisible friend called Harvey, who is a six feet three and a half inches tall rabbit, visible only to Dowd, but occasionally also to his sister, and finally even to the top Doctor of the ‘sanatorium’.

At the end of the movie, he (Dowd) is saved from being given a serum that will “stop him seeing the rabbit”. He is saved by the mouthing of the experiences of a cab driver who warns Dowd’s sister, who wanted him cured so that she and her daughter could have a social life, which is denied to them due to the craziness of her brother. The cab driver says that Elwood will become “just a normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are.”

A lot goes on, obviously, between the beginning and the end of the movie. But I am not going to talk about that right now.

Self indulgence! I, I, me, me, my, oh, my!

So what I thought after seeing the movie was that perhaps this commenter-in-italics is Harvey. Not the same Harvey, of course. A great deal of water has disappeared from the rivers of this planet since that movie was made. The political and other maps have changed a lot. The Big Weapons have spread around some more. Newer kinds of wars have been invented and still newer may be on their way. Lots of us are working hard towards that. More jungles have been cleared for the onward march of the civilization. ‘Battlegrounds’ is now an insufficient term as real battles with weapons can now be fought far above the grounds, up among the stars. People have become much more polite and they now know how to be racist, sexist, fundamentalist, Fascist etc. without saying any bad words. So the progress goes on.

Naturally, then, the Harvey that is appearing on my blog is a different version. He’s is not even similar to the one that was seen in Donnie Darko. He seems to be of a post-modern (or perhaps a post-post-modern) variety.

I must confess that I don’t like this Harvey as much as Dowd liked that Harvey. But there he is. And I have to bear with him.

As I said, at least someone is reading and even commenting. So I dedicate this post to the post-modern Harvey.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my not-friend, Mr Harv…

Quick! Someone call the sanatorium!

Discovering Delightful Connections

I have been thinking about writing a post about what (at least one thing) to do when life seems unbearably depressive and you are in the grip of the EIM (Everything Is Meaningless) syndrome. When you feel that you can’t really believe in anyone or anything. Even the ‘best’ people start turning out to be unreasonably mean and nasty. And there seems to be no point in doing anything. Even waking up. Or eating.

By the way, psychologists would love to have this one more syndrome. Or have they already (gladly) got it?

I just came across something that reminded me of one such thing. I mean one of the things you can do at such EIM etc. times. And that is discovering delightful connections. I discovered one such connection.

A few days ago I had seen a movie (La Mome) about the legendary French popular (female) singer Edith Piaf. I will write about her later, but one of the things I learnt during my post-movie (re)search on the singer was that another legendary French popular (male) singer Yves Montand was discovered and mentored by Edith Piaf. He was also, for some time, her lover. Anyway, after seeing this movie, Edith Piaf became one of my favourite (favorite for the dominant party) singers.

Some months ago I had written about the director Costa Gavras and one of his movies called ‘Z’. This happens to be one of my favorite films. But I forgot who played the role of the assassinated (really) democratic leader in that movie. I am not very good at recognizing French (or other non-Indian and non-Hollywood) actors, though I have seen many many French films. Probably because they don’t have as strong a star system as Hollywood.

Today I (re)discovered that it was Yves Montand.

 

This is what I call a delightful connection.

One that can bring a smile on your face.

One that can make you recall that not all is meaningless.

One that can make you happy.

A little bit, if not much.

And make you Happily write a post again.

Etc.

(In case you are wondering, the use of a capital letter above is not arbitrary).

But there are one or two more connections that I would like to mention. At the end of the movie ‘Z’, when the military takes over the government, a list of things is announced which have been banned. The list goes something like this:

Peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music (“la musique populaire”), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugène Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, and new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which was used as a symbolic reminder that Lambrakis and by extension the spirit of resistance lives (zi = “he (Lambrakis) lives”).

This list is from the Wikipedia page about ‘Z’, but I remember one more banned item from the movie: Pinter. The writer Harold Pinter.

Where are the connections? First, note the inclusion of popular music in the list. Second, ‘the spirit of resistance lives’ is used as a kind of a motto by the site ZNet (or ZMag) where articles (among other things) by a great many of the world’s intellectuals and activists are published.

The Hindi section of ZNet (still pretty small) was started by your’s truly. Another thing I found out today is that some of these translated articles have started making appearance on other (Hindi) sites and blogs.

Reason enough to smile. Even if the ‘best’ people are turning out to be (at least) mean and nasty and you feel EIM.

Does it sound somewhat Frank Capraesque (as in It’s a Wonderful Life)? No, I wouldn’t go that far.

A smile is enough.

Beware of Sirring a Nobody

Sirring is a technical term (so what if I have coined it) that means frequently or always addressing someone by an honorific term like ‘sir’. So, if you keep addressing someone as ‘sir’ or ‘mam’ etc., you are sirring them.

You have to know when sirring is a positive and recommended practice and when it’s not.

For example, sirring someone is a positive and recommended practice if that someone happens to be, well, Someone. Not just Anyone. And a Someone is a person, as you might know, who has some power over you or has a higher designation than your’s or has more money than you do or, in general, is materially superior (socially, financially, politically etc.) to you. It’s alright, in fact, it’s highly advisable if you practice sirring with some such materially superior person.

However, sirring can be harmful to you in some cases. For example, you can get into trouble if you practice it with someone who has no power over you, has no more money than you, has no higher designation than you, has no social, economic etc. status higher than you.

Sirring a Nobody is not alright. It’s not recommended. It’s foolish. It’s not part of civilized behavior. Please refrain from it. It might hinder communication with those who really are (materially) Somebodies.

It doesn’t matter if that person knows more than you, is more capable than you, more experienced than you, more (non-materially) accomplished than you.

Sometimes it also doesn’t matter if that someone is older than you.

Or has done much more in life than you.

Or has more publications than you.

A person who could have but hasn’t risen above you materially doesn’t deserve respect. Doesn’t deserve to be addressed by an honorific term.

Unless that person is a saint or a prophet or is, at least, recognized as one.

It’s Pragmatics, stupid!

(Wo)man’s Inhumanity to (Wo)man

Someone (Bill Blakemore), in an article about the The Shining, had said that it is a part of a multi-film oeuvre ‘about mankind’s inhumanity to man that he’s [Stanley Kubrick] been making at least since Dr. Strangelove’. In this post I will write about another movie on this topic, but directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (as I had promised once).

The movie is Malena, and some reviewers might call it a movie about erotic romance. While that is not completely wrong, I think the main theme of the movie is definitely not erotic romance. Nor is it the ‘sexual awakening of a boy entering puberty’ as one reviewer suggested, even though this is one of the themes. For me, it is quite clear that the central character of the movie is not the voyeuristic boy who is getting ‘sexually awakened’, but the woman who is the object of his (distant) love and who does not seem to be aware of him. She is the central character because it is she who is the centre of everyone’s attention in the town in which the movie is set, not just of the boy. The fact that the movie is named after her, supports my view, but my view is not dependent on that fact alone.

She, i.e., Malena (played admirably by Monica Belucci, whatever you might think of her other performances) looks like ‘the goddess of love’ or even ‘the goddess of sex’ as someone mentioned (I can’t give the references, because I had read all those reviews long ago and right now I am not in the mood to search for them again). But, for the town’s people in general, she is like a beautiful witch. And, accordingly, is constantly hunted and ultimately hounded out like a witch. For the simple reason that she is different from others and, what is an even bigger crime in our civilization, keeps away from others; doesn’t mingle with the mob. Keeps aloof. That’s unpardonable. That she is amazingly beautiful so that all the men (and boys) of the town are obsessed with her, and (like the boy narrator) not just fantasize about her but talk about her all the time. And they don’t say very nice things when they gossip about her.

The women are even more obsessed about her. First, because she is more beautiful than them; second because their men are after her (even though she doesn’t encourage any of them), and third because she keeps aloof and doesn’t put herself in her place where she won’t be (so to say) above themselves. For example, they probably wouldn’t have so much ‘pathological’ hatred for her if she kept her good looks somewhat hidden and dressed badly and became part of the gossiping community and by following the social norms, sent definite signals that she doesn’t think she is better than them.

You see, it’s not enough that she doesn’t send any signals that is she is better than them. She has to send clear signals that she doesn’t think she is better than them. That’s a social law. She could only be exempted from this law if she were something like a royalty, a princess, or if she were a powerful woman actually above all of them in the sense that she had power (legal or otherwise) to punish them, rightly or wrongly. The film is set in Cicily of the Fascist era. So, if she were the female Il Duce, or the wife of the Il Duce, or at least the wife of a powerful general, she could have been exempted from this law.

There is another fact which makes her a witch. Her husband is a soldier and is away during the war. She lives alone. And then the news comes that her husband is dead. In the extremely patriarchal society of which she is a member, another social law applies: no husband, no status. A society in which you ‘measure yourself’ in inches and there is no chance that you can go beyond ten. Your human worth is less than ten inches.

Her father is alive, but he lives in his own house. What’s more, he is deaf and a teacher in the school in which the boy protagonist studies. So we are again and again shown scenes of the classroom where Malena’s father is teaching and the boy students (I have seen the movie twice, but I don’t remember any girl student) are all the time competing with one another in saying the nastiest things about Malena while addressing her deaf father who is teaching them. Finally he is sent an anonymous note saying something like Malena sleeps with everyone in the town, after which even the father breaks his relations with his daughter. Malena used to go to her father’s place to take care of him, but suddenly one day she finds that he has locked her out.

Then the father is killed in an air raid and there is the funeral. The life goes on in the same way. By which I mean that the men, the women and the boys are making the same kinds of comments about her during the funeral ceremony while at the same time rushing to kiss her and offer their ‘support’.

Since she doesn’t really have the power to punish them and is only above them in the sense that she is more beautiful and more of an attraction to the men, she becomes the witch of the town. And, following the age old traditions of witch hunting (which are still present in all societies of the world), she is hunted and ultimately hounded out. She does return, but only when her soldier husband comes back alive from the war (who was thought to be dead) and brings her back with some anonymous help from the boy protagonist. He loved her and she loved him too, even if she was considered a prostitute by the people of the town (or village, if you please). The fact was that she was pushed into prostitution after a long spell of hunting and hounding and social boycott where no one would even sell her fresh food. She had to go to absurd lengths just to buy food and the men who obliged her, wanted to be paid back in the currency of her physical beauty.

As the war ends and the ‘liberating’ American army marches in, we are shown the culmination of the women’s hatred for Malena. We know that there are many prostitutes in the town, but as soon as the war against Fascism ends, the women celebrate the event by dragging out Malena and almost lynching her. They tear her clothes and cut her hair, leave her bloody and half naked and direct her to leave the town. (Having no other option, she does leave the town later). When there has been enough beating and the women stop, we see her shouting for the first time, facing the men who had been silently watching the whole thing. I don’t want to describe this, but as I have come so far, I can’t avoid it. Her shout or cry or whatever you call it expresses all the anguish which has been accumulated over the long preceding period. The shout is probably addressed to the men, asking them (I imagine) whether they don’t have anything to do or say about what is being done to her, when till now they were all so obsessed with her and wanted to be her lovers. In fact, earlier we are shown an almost hilarious (it would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic) competition among the men for the claim of her affections, right in front of her door. The men actually fight over who is Malena’s lover and the fight is broken up by their wives. Malena had no direct or indirect role to play in this incident. And, of course, the public opinion decides that the culprit was Malena. Believe it or not, a court case is brought against Malena about this affair.

This court case is just one of the humiliations which she has to go through daily. Even right after the opening scene we see a bunch of teenage boys waiting for Malena to come out and to stalk her right through her walk. This turns out to be a daily routine, and the boy protagonist has an advantage in this because he has just got a bicycle. Mercifully, he is a bit discreet in doing this.

(More to come…)

Wireless Notwork

The Wireless Notwork is out with a vengeance. The duration as well as the frequency of the network notworks is increasing alarmingly. I had some very urgent work to do, which I somehow managed to finish. Often I had to wait for more than 5 seconds to see the letter I typed show up on the console of the locally remote system. Even though I did most of the work offline, what little I had to do online took a hell of a lot of time and patience. I also often have to use the phone for connectivity, which is costly for me. Even to do official work. No reimbersements, of course. But right now, I am writing this post offline in the Notepad. I will post it using the phone connection. The network is notworking for a long long time now. The Wireless Connection Window shows the system to be connected to the network. But actually it is connected to the notwork. There is also that small icon which means that there is some private (security enabled) unauthorized network which is working. And the network I (like everyone else here) am supposed to use isn’t.

Wireless Notwork

Some people somewhere are having fun. Enjoying life. Is it that they love making life hell for others (to borrow a phrase from someone, ‘to f*** someone’s happiness’), or is it just that they are indifferent to the fact that what they do makes someone’s life hellish? Let us see, which one of these would have a higher evolutionary payoff?

I know one thing for sure. Most of these are going to lead very normal and reasonably happy lives. Like they do now. So, perhaps both of the reasons suggested above are immaterial. It’s just that they live happy lives with or without making others’ lives hellish, provided of course that their own lives don’t become hellish. And the fact that they do in itself has a high evolutionary payoff. They are all going to have offsprings. Issues. With cars, not scooters. They are going to continue the life on this planet. This planet belongs to them.

Who am I? I just saw ‘The Bourne Identity’. I should again see Jackie Chan’s ‘Who am I’. May be I will get a clue.