Giordano Bruno and Lord Kelvin

What do Giordano Bruno and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? And what do Lord Kelvin and Nathuram Godse have in common?

[ I was just writing a comment on a friend’s post that linked to this article; but soon it seemed to be running long enough for a post in itself; so here goes.. ]

Reading the article; I find Godse to be brave at heart in following wherever his reason led him. Ultimately, both Gandhi and Godse did what they considered right; so all is fair and forgiven (and certainly by Gandhi’s own principles).

Godse’s reasons to justify “an armed resistance to aggression”, effectively making the argument “if they’d kill us we better kill them first”, are quite crystal clear:

.. it is nothing but a mere dream if you imagine that the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles [of truth and non-violence] in its normal life from day to day.   – Godse

But at this point I feel that we must turn to history and learn some important lessons.. about what the human mind may or may not be capable of imagining with reasonable accuracy. Let’s jump into it right away, to see the connection:

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – Lord Kelvin

Who was this Lord Kelvin? As it turns out, apart from his well-known accomplishments, he was also the President of the Royal Society of England.. and the above statement was apparently made in 1895. Seems like he might have just been an over-confident person; but his views are representative of what most of 18th century mankind thought:

We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time, and the money involved, in further airship experiments. Life is short, and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly . . .   –  The New York Times Editorial

Well.. a mere 8 years after Kelvin’s statement (and 3 days before that editorial!) was the dawn of the Wright brothers’ flight; and today a century later we are much more optimistic about inhabiting other planets in the near future.

So.. in light of this history of our deep-rooted and totally misplaced belief in the impossibility of flight; doesn’t one wonder how Godse’s stance on the impossibility of ever eradicating violence continues to gain popular acclaim? Not to jump to the conclusion that Godse is also necessarily wrong; but to say the least, stranger things have happened.

Speaking of stranger things.. consider Giordano Bruno. Bruno made his appearance just before Galileo; and to be sure, his ideas were considered even more heretical than Galileo’s observations regarding the Sun being the center of the solar system. To Bruno, all the spots in the sky were star systems of their own; with their own planets and.. yep you guessed it.. possibly even life! This latter part is something that even we have to come to terms with; but at least we may not consider it to be as entirely impossible as those who had him burnt at the stake did. At any rate, there’s little doubt today that his former observation about other star systems (based on very little solid evidence back then, maybe) is now proven to be more than just right; it’s actually inescapable!

So.. what is it that Bruno and Gandhi have in common? And what do Kelvin and Godse have in common? Connect the dots anyhow you want!

Perhaps Godse hadn’t quite ‘internalized’ Gandhi’s vision for non-violence; nor have we for the most part (yet). In a way it might even be an irrational vision in today’s world; i.e. beyond our acceptable logic of “If they’d kill us we better kill them first”. And indeed, today who could object to the sanity of that logic? Not Godse when he justifies the actions of Shivaji among others; and not me either. But let’s not lose sight of the possibility that the seemingly impossible today, may become unavoidable tomorrow.

I feel that we are still to realize how far ahead of their time Gandhi and Bruno really were.. maybe in the future we will, someday.

Quine, quine again

Well.. the AAP did it! Wherever I go online to read comments and opinions on the AAP; all I tend to find is: “you did it Mr Kejriwal; I hope you can change this nation” or “you did it Mr Kejriwal; hope you don’t turn corrupt now and ruin our dreams” or “you did it Mr Kejriwal; though I doubt you have the skills or expertise to form and run an actual government”.. and so on..

But if this is all the reaction we can muster, then funny enough, I think we’re all missing the point.. yet again. I cringed when we elevated Narendra Modi to super-Jesus status; and here we are at it, yet again.

If anything, the AAP’s biggest success was to show that if anybody, only we the people can accept and fulfill the responsibility of solving our problems. And that if we make no progress, it would be only because we didn’t make enough of this opportunity to effect a positive change; and not due to any failure or incompetence on the part of some AAP leader/member.

The AAP symbol is the broom! If you’d listen to Dr. Vandana Shiva, she often mentions why Gandhi’s symbol was the simple spinning wheel: because it symbolizes that every commoner can afford to take action in the movement. The wheel in a nutshell, captures Gandhi’s message of being the change you want to see in the world.

So.. what change can we effect, apart from adding to comments traffic on random news sites, and just feeling stupidly proud of an AAP that we at best may have merely voted for?
Starting with some random thoughts:

  • Pick up a broom! I’m not kidding.. who knows what it’ll do to our psyche; what I’m sure of is that it can’t hurt.
  • Plant a seed! Again, not kidding.. the most trivial yet non-zero effort may start a potted plant, if not a garden! I plan to try my hand at it myself pretty soon.

But something more concrete:

Protect the ultimate quine! Namely the seed. The BRAI bill is an alarming instance of our slowly-loosening grip over several control layers in our environment; often masquerading as scientific, inclusive growth.
The AAP have voiced their strong anti-BRAI stand; so we should use this opportunity to

  • inform ourselves first;
  • support strong anti-BRAI movements and campaigns such as those led by Greenpeace and AAP;
  • spread awareness among family and friends;
  • leverage the support of such a strong political movement such as the AAP, to suitably influence the swing of the political debate on BRAI

< You can help to expand upon this unGuide stub; please start by leaving your inputs and thoughts in the comments below. >

Why is money so valuable?

[ I just answered this question on Quora (my first one) here , seemed generic enough for a post ]

Quoting from a document called Modern Money Mechanics released a few years ago by the Federal Reserve Bank:

Money, like anything else, derives its value from its scarcity in relation to its usefulness.

Aside from the traditional ‘barter’ viewpoint about money as simply a medium of exchange, today it also serves as a method for tracking the scarcity or availability of resources, goods and services, as indicated by their market prices.

Thus, if money has to correctly represent the value of resources that it represents, it follows that it is necessary to maintain the value of money itself. As ModernMoneyMechanics suggests, the present approach to this is by using scarcity, which by design, is built in the present day monetary system. To briefly describe what is called Fractional Reserve Banking: when new money gets created today, it comes into existence as a token of debt that in most cases, has to be repaid with interest. Hence the constant illusion of the scarcity of money.. one can never seem to have enough of it!

There are severe limitations to this system, in my opinion; the biggest one being short-sightedness. Abundance might be just round the corner for so many life-essential resources and services; in fact, we might already have surpassed that mark in the past, somewhere around 1970 as determined by futurist R. Buckminster Fuller a long time ago. But as long as we keep using a yardstick of scarcity, we are going to find it tough to locate abundance.. #elephantInTheRoom

To robots

Robots, steal our jobs!

We are heading into an era of rapidly increasing aid of technology in doing all our work. Is it so far-fetched then, to suggest that the machines are going to displace us as the primary work force in many sectors?

Why the robots? Because we are capable of higher functions. What is ‘higher’, exactly? A partial answer to this is given by Bucky Fuller in one of his lectures: Prospects for Humanity . To paraphrase: this is about the efficiency of two fundamental operations: differentiation and integration.. more on that in a separate post; for now let’s just say that the human brain, having accumulated numerous interferences over the course of evolution, is much better at asking original questions than present-day computers, which in their own right, are more efficient than us in classification [ as opposed to comprehension ].

But that may still leave the question: what about all those jobs? Aren’t they necessary for people to earn their living?
Well, the socio-economic model that we decide to agree upon and accept, is the outcome at the layer of social systems. What does that depend upon? Looking at the heirarchy of layers, one would realize that the energy/inputs form the very basis of all further ‘metaphysical’ constructs such as mathematics, science and.. you guessed it, economics.

You cannot violate causality. For instance, if you have a serious objection to a particular crime, you cannot simultaneously not care about the preconditions that are leading to that crime. And so, it follows that if the robots are going to change the very nature of resource availability for us, then the rest would also appropriately adjust over time: value education, economics… and social structures as well.

Hello world!


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