Tuesday, November 14, 2006

X r e a t i v i t y

Most of the good stories are written about travellers. Whenever a culture meets with another, a new story is born. May be I can generalize and say that, all good stories are about the meeting of two places or cultures. Sometimes, the second party in the meeting will be the audience themselves, the first party being the protagonists. For example, this happens with a story set in the future or in a fantasyland.

The problem with the current generation of writers is that very few people seem to notice this fact. All the great writers of old have spent considerable time traveling. Somerset Maugham has wandered throughout Europe and in the Far East - his stories are weaved from those travels. Roald Dahl has found most of his creative inspiration from his experiences in the second world war where he has served in the Royal Air Force. O Henry writes a considerable section of his stories about the Mexican neighbours to his south, and the rest of his repertoire are about con-men bitten by wanderlust. Even the great epics of the past - Illiad, Odyssey, Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. are about the travels of people or the meeting of cultures.

One of the reasons why Bollywood keeps churning out soulless jibberish ad infinitum is because it has forgotten this recipe for a successful story. Instead, it keeps trying out weird formulae such as boy meets girl, girl's father dislikes boy and so on ..

There is no culture without creativity, and there is no creativity without crossing cultures together. So I call this xreativity.

India probably ranks first in the world with respect to cultural diversity. But nobody seems to take notice. Logically speaking, there should be a huge number of TV programs about the travel & life in several parts of India, made for several Indian languages. India is so big - we can have TV channels such as Discovery, Animal Planet, History channel, AXN etc. which are restricted to only within India.

Even in universities, we do not have the tradition of celebrating cultural days. In US campuses, people celebrate China day, Singapore day, India day etc. Why not hold a Telugu day, Gujarathi day, Bengali day in a similar manner within India ?

Indians are a very inquisitive race by nature and are pokey about other cultures. Write a story about a Kabuliwallah parading in the streets of Calcutta, and the whole of India takes notice (This happens to be a lovely story penned by Tagore). Indian writers are currently doing a pathetic job in milking out this diversity for nice stories.

Where is the story about a Punjabi truck driver roaming in Karnataka ? Where is the story about a Rajasthani software engineer working in Hyderabad ? Where is the story about a Tamilian school teacher living in Bihar ? Where are the stories about Malayali armymen serving in Nagaland ? ...

Another thing glares at me now. I wanted to write stories in this blog. Instead, I have been posting brainwashing articles for the entire last year. What has happened to me !! ?

So friends, there will be no more lectures from my side. I will try concentrating only on writing short stories.

Monday, November 13, 2006

É g a l i t é

Égalité is a concept totally lacking in India. If I ever make a decision to leave India for good, it will most probably be because of the lack of égalité. Loosely translated, égalité means equality. But it is more than that. It is a principle of accepting that each person is equally interesting.

In India, we live in the tradition of sucking it up to the stars. A person is either a star or a bozo, nothing in between. I will give examples - Sania Mirza is the face of Indian tennis, Aishwarya Rai is the face of Indian cinema .. I feel disgusted enough when such epithets are mentioned in domestic press. But when they are uttered on the world stage, I feel nauseated.

How about the girl in the neighbourhood who plays really good tennis ? How about the guy in the campus who sings really well ? How about spending some money to purchase tickets for a concert of the local rock band ? How about paying some money to buy the book written by the new writer in the town ? "What !? Does he think he is an Amitav Gosh or what ?" These people are greeted with a fickle smile - "Yeah, we have seen people better than that !".

This is the reason India will never produce anything great or in copious quantities. It is not just about the feeling of disappointment that is imparted onto the minds of talented people. It is the total sucker attitude of the entire population.

Such people can never realize a true democracy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

M u r d e r e r O f M i n d

What was India doing when the fever of renaissance was gripping Europe ?

Listening to this lunatic. This person holds responsibility for the degeneration of Islam into mere puppetry.

One of the most evil persons to have ever walked on earth, he effectively killed the movement of Indian argumentative thought. I feel ashamed to see people glorifying him in current society.

Friday, November 10, 2006

C o n j u g a t e G r a d i e n t M e t h o d

When a person believes that he is doing something for a right cause, he becomes indistinguishable from a robot. Most of the great things happen because of these type of people. Most of the nonsense that we see in the world is also committed by the same kind of people. So where is the distinction ?

The distinction lies in the vision of the people - in what they see.

The problems of the world can be visualized collectively as a function which forms a peak over several dimensions. The solution for these problems lies at the top of the peak and it has to be reached somehow.

In mathematics, the technique that is used to solve this problem is called the conjugate gradient method. When there are thousands of dimensions, we have to first choose a direction to travel. The most simplistic answer - go in that direction where the descent is maximum (called the steepes descent method) - is also ignored by the junta of the world.

Every person has his own direction where he thinks he'll reach the top. In a sense, he is true. Each one of these directions yields an improvement. But the funny thing is that several of these directions are contradictory to each other. Look at the following figure to understand this.

So we see maniacal people (red and blue) fighting with each other about the correct way to reach the top. Sometimes, things get funnier with somebody (yellow) choosing the least important direction for reaching to the top. I could demonstrate this on a simple function over 2 dimensions, so you can imagine what could happen in real-world problems.

Take the problem of improving the status of traffic in India - the problem lies in several dimensions
a) Controlling the really large vehicles and routing them away from the city
b) Controlling traffic in peak hours by urban planning
c) Controlling traffic blockades by specifying seperate pedestrian districts, parking places etc.
d) Getting riders to wear helmets.

Amongst all these dimensions, the traffic police of Hyderabad demonstrate their zeal in (d). Like mad men, they keep digging in this direction and ignore everything else.

As a second example, take the problem of university education - it needs improvement in several dimensions
a) Establishing world class research facilities with proper accountability
b) Getting the students to have a real dialogue with the world around
c) Getting the students to attend the classes

Again, it so happens in India that all the zeal is demonstrated in (c).

Now imagine that we have a sane bunch of people in the world. You would imagine that things would be a lot better. People would choose the best direction to solve all the problems (cyan) instead of the stupidest (yellow). But, even then, it so happens that steepest descent is not the optimal method to reach to the top. We will eventually get there, but not in the most optimal manner. Because we might follow a zig-zag path with two opposing directions choosing alternate steps, taking a very long time to converge. This is what we would see in elections (assuming each step to be of a 5 year duration) with power alternating between left wing and right wing policies.

The Conjugate Gradient Method is a way of obtaining the peak in just "n" steps where "n" is the number of dimensions. The logic is simple - once you choose a direction, do the best you can in the current step, never repeat the direction.

It so happens that all these "n" directions would become perpendicular to each other (In mathematical terminology, they are said to form an orthogonal basis). If you want to understand the logic behind how to choose the right direction at each step, read this document (only for people with a mathematical bent of mind)

I have attended a fascinating mathematics course by Prof Mike Erdmann at Carnegie Mellon. Each one of us students had to choose a topic for write up, and when my turn came, I jumped at the chance of writing the proofs for the conjugate gradient method.

I think this method gives a lot of intuitions about how to organize a debate. When you are debating with another person, you are presenting a view. That is, you take a picture of the 3D function in the above figure, from an angle. Each person has a seperate photograph and you compare these photographs with each other to understand what could be the true shape of the function in 3D.

But most often, a debater fails to see this main purpose of the debate. He keeps insisting that he has the only photo that can capture the 3D shape and keeps digging in that direction. I call this the "root of all the evil" syndrome.

If only we have a smart bunch of leaders, we would end up choosing the right set of directions, and the problem of all the "n" dimensions will get solved in just "n" steps.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

D e d i c a t e d T o H y d e r a b a d

I am defending my Masters work in IIIT Hyderabad. It deals with matching planar patterns in perspective images.

After a long love-hate relationship, I am dedicated this work to the city of Hyderabad :)

Apart from obvious applications such as the reconstruction of architectural scenes, this work shall have implications towards the holy-grail problem of computer vision - take a clothed girl as input, produce a naked girl as output

So what is the state of the art ? As an insider, let me confess to you - we are already there !

The technology will be available within 15 years. Now you know exactly what Vision 2020 means !!

As a wise old man has said long before, science has a wicked male gaze. People thought he was talking about nuclear weapons etc. Nah, wrong. This is what he has actually meant. Free and juicy porn forever. (The first post on this blog discusses the horrors of this scenario in a poetic vein)

I am leaving to France to pursue a PhD on a related topic. Future generations of teenagers will look back upon me and my brethern as some kind of heroes, I think.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A G o l d e n W i s h

Otthaina maa bhásha ki putthadi pandagalu

Maró Gurajáda neeku kongottha sogasulu diddu gaaka
Maró Vémana neeku tatva chaitanyam'osagu gaaka
Maró Chinnaya neeché kammani kathalu palkinchu gaaka
Maró Thyágayya neek'impaina svaramul'arpinchu gaaka

May another Gurajáda gift new embellishments to you
May another Vémana teach depths of philosophy to you
May another Chinnaya narrate sweet stories with you
May another Thyágayya offer melodious salutations to you

May we see them all.