No Noose… a piece of fiction.

conversation…to hang him? Are you bloody insane?!

He’s a suicide bomber. He would have readily blown himself along with the countless many around, and all you want to punish him with is death penalty when he himself is perfectly willing to offer it?

Yes i agree it would have been a ghastly occurrence. He had enough nitrates in his jacket to blow two floors of the mall with its bustling weekend crowd. The attempt’s been foiled due to some sharp wits and quick steps. We caught him and he’s convicted. Now its a question of what next?

Look i know his crime is of the severest of kind. And by your argument, he deserves the severest of punishment. But you are skipping the point that ‘severest of punishment’ isn’t something absolute. It depends on the person you are meting it to. For a man who is willing to die, giving him death is not quite severe?

What to punish him with? Well first tell me why do you want to punish him?!

Yes. To serve as a deterrent. The rationale behind the punishment for crime is not to set the score even. Its not a means to avenge. Its not about retribution. Its about taking steps to keep off the occurrence and recurrence of such acts of terrorism. So we have two objectives to achieve through the punishment that we may pronounce. One, to instill in the minds of the many else to not follow in his lead. And two, to ensure that this man will not redo his act.

What, you think he is beyond reforming? Well, i do not know that and have nothing to say as about that.

Well, you say killing him will keep him from redoing his acts. But i hope you realise that it doesn’t affect the former objective in an amicable way. It in no way would serve as a deterrent to the others. And if anything, they will be all the more infused with the rage to go for the kill because one way or  the other, as through your act or its subsequent punishment if foiled, you become a martyr and ascent to heaven!

I know that sounds ridiculous. But its a logic infallibly ingrained in their minds. You cant beat that.

So what is my solution? Kill not him but his spirit to kill. If he is a psychopath, bring a doctor, or if he is a religious fanatic, get a preacher from his clan, and set up a confrontation. Have his logic squashed, his reason to kill which he takes as to be a moral prerogative undone and damned, and make him realise that his conception was wrong. He would be devasted for sure, but if not, at least try to make him feel thoroughly guilty. Now you got two case scenarios. One, he realises his folly. Set up a camera and have him deliver a message to ‘all his brothers’ about how and why and where he went wrong, and whats the right alternative. Broadcast this through various media all around the globe. Sharing is no more hard labour. Two, he remains stubborn and sticky, impervious to the wits and charms of the councellor, then dont set up the camera to broadcast. In both cases, though, lock them up for life in isolation. Well, do let his kids come meet him once in a while. Or at least, show him their photo’s and video and give him news of them. The kids will be glad to know their dad know’s. They did no wrong.

Why lock them up? For the latter case its quite easy to conceive. To keep him from setting charges around again.

Why not kill him? Like i said, to keep him from becoming a martyr. And to give him a life full of isolation and boredom, the sufferance will serve as the deterrent.

Now wait! You jump the gun time-again and make me lose my stead. Where was i.. yes, lock both for a life-time. Yes, life-time, till their last breath. I know it would ‘not feel right’ to keep the reformed guy insider. The former case. But the reform is ‘apparent’. You never know. Moreover, its tough if not impossible for the families of the aggrieved to keep self from hurting this man if they get hold of him. Its better we lock him up, if at all, for his own good.

You dont think it will work? I dont know. But it will serve a deterrent, i hope. And like i stated before, should keep such occurrences and any recurrence at bay.

You arent convinced of its sanity? Well neither am i. Its theory. Try it out to see if it works! We have decades of archaic laws akin to ancient customs that refuse to give way to more sane ways. Its worth a shot for if it works, the returns would be huge.

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On Reading Books and Going Nuts!

In response to the IndiSpire,

‘Reading books has reduced dramatically in today’s youth. Kids who read books are treated as socially incapable nerds. What is your take on this topic?’

 

read-booksNope. No no no no no! Hope the too many no’s add mileage to my argument as when I quip, no (again!!), we young men and fellow women do read!

Time for a quick survey, ‘if you are in the honorable age-group of teen’s and twenties’, poke ur mom n dad, and get a number for the books they read back then’.  You are well advised to poke them separately, for we don’t want to pique in them a burly competition. As when I did, the numbers soared as at auction!

Now let’s put on our poker face and get objective. There are three cute-little red-ribboned reasons I base my claim upon.

One, we got more avenue. Reading books in my Kindle counts!! I got a library in my hand. And I don’t need subject self to the misery of going to the end of a poorly written book just cos I bought it or took that horrendous ride to the city library in noon traffic. I can also always jump books and read one I find relish in. Allows one to experiment with genres, authors and literary styles. Plus, downloading is cheap. Believe me. I know one needs calories to lift the index-finger and click on the ‘download’ icon. But potatoes are cheap too. And potatoes give calories.

Two, more books around, courtesy the many IIT and IIM pass-outs so bent on telling us their heartaches, breaks, and baked-cakes, adding to the already burgeoning freelance writers. We all need thank Microsoft for MS Word, for making it possible, and charming. Fountain pens and typewriters sure got their antique appeal and romantic feel, but believe me, its easy doing spell-check on Word. And flipcart gets me a book written by an author on the other side of the globe in no time. Actually 5 days. But thanks to Tim Berners, WWW can shrink the 5 days to 5 seconds of transaction and I start reading my book on my dimmed flat screen right away.

Quite very truly, IT has made more books possible, and in retrospect, it would be wrong that people would publish as avidly as they do today, if there was no readership! Reduction ad absurdum!! Thus our initial assumption that readership among youth (majority population, except for in Japan) is taking a plunge is incorrect. Also, that would be all latin I know!

And third, Global Warming! I hate to go play in heat and even for going out, my girlfriend is ever bothered of her complexion. So we sit home and read. Honest!

Switching to the part about socially incapable nerds, well, I want to collapse that part of the topic in wordplay. Yummy! Now nerd by definition, from a dictionary which conveniently gave the definition I was looking for, is ‘someone dedicated to non-social pursuit’. So by definition, thankfully, their focus is on things other than improving their social capability and getting dates! But the definition (again!) sure doesn’t mean that they need be socially awkward.

I think its just the pop-culture and macho-bro-code sensationalized in television, where they think digging into a book makes you socially sick. Let’s get real! Ask any girl, she will always pick a well-read guy to one born-and-bred in a gym. And well if she doesn’t, then don’t bother asking her out. She probably belongs to the clan who feel ‘Earth is the best planet in the world’. Skip! Pass! Run!

images (26)I just don’t think one becomes boring from reading. I think the pop-culture reference came about as because those who are socially withdrawn retreat into books. And this may have got caught up and glamourised. Thus, social ineptness and books relate in being the other way than as stated. Being bookish aint gona make you socially awkward. But, chances are that if you are socially awkward, you will go on an extended holiday into your world of books. And frankly, I think that’s okay.

Thanks reading. Do finish the survey. And lets join hands to plant trees (actually plant saplings which then may grow into trees!!), not cut down more and make this place less warm. But then that will bring down readership of books! Who cares! I will get to go out and play in a greener cooler earth. Plus, there will be girls out too taking walks in their giggly girlie gangs! Which is, kind of, cute!

When I was asked to cut my beard, trim my hair and wear a clean white coat

stubble faceLife is a giant cogwheel of change. Though change is an inherent characteristic of it, the individuals who constitute it are expected to conform. Right from very early in our life, even before we have developed the discretion to make our own conscious choices, till the day we give it off to the tough dictates of senility, our existence is a continuing attempt at finding acceptance. An acceptance in this world of ever morphing beliefs and paradigms. This acceptance, we strive for at a multitude of facets. Beginning from the acceptance by the family, through the neighborhood, the band of friends at school, at college and then in finality, the wide open vast wilderness of the world we get to realize we live in.

Things go easy at the formative years of life, from the innocence of childhood and through the flirtatious shyness of high school. It’s into the college that complications arise. It’s a stage in life, wherein we want to stand apart. We break rules. We disregard orders. We make a sham of obedience. It’s not just a want, rather a need. A need to develop an individuality of our own, a personality that’s personal. And this is followed by a furious attempt to uphold it, while at the same time, striving to be accepted while being recognized. Complex as it may seen, it’s etched into each one’s psyche, and we attempt for it just as naturally as quenching thirst with water.

Now let me go more personal to present before you such a clash of priorities that I happened to witness at first-hand once in college.

I used to have a beard, a neat and beloved French beard. And to top it, a flowing lock which I had parted in the middle. To complement this set-up would be my tasteful choice of clothing. And once in the morning, after the Op class the Professor caught up with me and quipped, “Tomorrow I need you to come with a clean shave, a trim cut and a clean white coat over that imposing designer shirt of yours.” The very idea was devastating and the thought of me new look revolting.

“Sir, but I like it this way. Makes me feel comfortable of self.” Thus objected the self-preservation instinct in me. Isn’t it my liberty about how I tend to self?! I am a reasonably good student. I read my courses, observe with finesse at the wards and also endeavor to answer in the Op. If I fail in any of these, I may deserve reprimand. But my looks, aren’t they my liberty?!

But the professor wasn’t to let me off with it. “In our profession we follow a code. And you are expected to conform so as to be part of that community which we doctor’s constitute. You need to wear a white coat to identify self amidst us. And a clean shave and a trim cut to find acceptance among us. It’s something we expect from you over and above dedication and hard-work. Better I see you in your new look tomorrow. Bet you would look just as smart if not more.”

Having being told so, I had no second thought but to adopt the new look. I wouldn’t have minded to, if it was my own conscious decision, my choice. But the fact that I did it on being told to do so, never went easy with me. Maybe to find acceptance in something that means a lot for you, actually more than anything else, you need to conform. You need to stake your liberty at places. You need to make a bargain between your priorities. You need to lose something, to gain something. Or maybe not. Be it what it may, I still got many years to learn before me, and many more wisdom to gather. Bet I have my answers someday.

Thinking into the talk!

21454525-think-and-speech-bubbles-the-dude-x-2-communicating-think-and-speech-bubbles (2)‘Oh pretty woman! The sparkle in your eyes is like the twinkle of stars in the night sky’, serenaded Pritish to Priya in his jubilant baritone. While, ‘The structure of an atom is like a miniature solar system with planet-like electrons orbiting the Sun-like nucleus in closed elliptical paths’ proclaimed a gruff gaudy Rutherford. And ‘If you expect the world to be fair with you because you’re fair to them, its like asking a lion not to eat you because you don’t eat lions’ read a random facebook quote. Now what’s the common string in all three?!

No, don’t go into twinkle of star and atoms undergoing nuclear fusion in the starry kiln, and shake off that image of a pretty woman and a lioness walking that graceful gait. The connection is, well bit more literal, actually more of linguistic. All are analogies. The sparkle in eye to the twinkle of star, and the rest two are homework!

Analogies are a logical tool to enhance the literary repertoire as of the scientific ramble. It’s a connection in similarity. We equate some aspect of something to a similar aspect of another thing, to make a point. Yes, the purpose of analogies is to make a point. And that’s as simple as it gets.

Now my worry is, what kind of point is the point that’s made as with analogy. Try this. Once a friend said something mean to another friend of mine. Well lets strip down the façade. The real is, a girl said something mean to her boyfriend, my friend. And she stormed out. A moment later as when it gleamed on her that she was in wrong, she returns to apologize, but my friend in his momental chagrin blurts out, ‘An egg broken, is broken.’

Now he conveyed a point, that once hurt, it can’t be undone, only maybe forgiven or forgotten. And he livened it with a beautiful analogy of a simple scientific fact, actually more of a common knowledge that one cant put the albumin and yolk back into the broken shell and reseal the egg. (The physics is due to entropy and arrow of time and stuffs.) And there is beauty, impact and a clarity in this way of conveying it, with a crisp subtle simple analogy.

And that’s what analogies and meant for. To explain. To bring clarity to the concept. To convey an idea with simplicity. To gleam insight into something.

Now consider this. I once was dragged to a church by a ‘friend’, and someone was preaching on the mike with lots of gesticulation and tonal modulation, walking around, jumping, waving and shouting hallelujah. He made this analogy. I will cut the long repetitive story short. The gist was, ‘the guy went to a furniture store with his wife to buy a cushion for their sofa set. The lady sits on every cushion there, and it takes her two days to make up her mind which one it is’. Then he goes on to say, ‘if u take so long to pick a single cushion, how long will Jesus take to pick the right cushion (life/love/relationship/job/choice) for you’. I guess, his point was, if life is hard, suck it up cos it only means God is trying him as before the gift of a lifetime.

Now the flaw here was, he uses the analogy not to explain, but to substantiate his point. N that’s exactly what an analogy is not for. Because at the very heart, analogy is in essence a logic applied in a different context. The connection being, the similarity of inference that can be drawn. One should note that the inferences in those two disparate contexts per se exist, and are valid. The purpose of analogy being only to present them together so one may understand the logic of the inference in one context as through other. Its not that on the force of some similarity in context, the inference in one is drawn similar to other. N thus why Rutherford went wrong with his planetary model for structure of atom. But there is more to that story than that.

feature-1And thus, like winter gives way to spring, despair will to hope and happiness, well is pleasing pleasant analogy, but its validity, well, its not definite. But then, we want it to be true. Guess, that’s the one small little flaw in analogies. But then, flaws are good sometimes.

Lets finish this with a brilliant one by the Bard, ‘When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.’ The point is implicit. And well, sometimes its just well enough to relish a piece of literature than having to dig into its validity and linguistic aptness. Its ok to like, accept and appreciate something at face-value, not always, but some harmless times for sure.

Cognitive Bias..

What do you do when you got a bad cold?! You want to go out but the malaise keeps you home, you want to read a few more chapters in that book ‘shadows of the mind’ by Roger Penrose but your eyes go teary and bleary as you try to focus on the page, your nose’s red and running in torrents, your throat ruined and starts feeling like sandpaper everytime you swallow and not to miss the unnerving pain that all of a sudden makes you aware of the many muscles (howsoever atrophied!) present in your body?!

 So, what do you do? Wel, i think. And also indulge in the pleasant task of writing. There is no better balm to a sick body than a busy mind. So whats rollicking in my mindspace now? Well, heard of something called Motivated Reasoning and Introspective Illusion?! No, yes, either way am going to string couple sentences about either. Both are psych concepts, but not essentially pathologic. We are guilty of falling preys to them every now and then on a daily basis!

images (7)So lets begin with the lesser of the two evils! Motivated reasoning…now whats it? Wel the theory is simple. “You implicitly decide about something, anything, and retrospectively substantiate your decision with many good reasons.” Its where you having a motivation towards a particular decision, and that makes a mockery out of the rational reasoning that you may otherwise have performed . This is no standard definition, but should serve for our purpose here.

Lets dig a bit more into this concept. We are making decisions all time all day. We base them on ‘the spurt of the moment’, ie, as how we ‘feel’ as about it at that moment. And in certain situations, we reason to figure out a right decision. We seek to optimise for these more important ones. Its this latter that i intend to deal with. It occurs, as quite often, that the reasoning we do to arrive at the decision is glaringly flawed. The flaw is in the form of a subtle bias.(yes, the flaw is glaring, but the bias subtle!)

We ‘want’ a particular decision. Why?… well who care! We just want it. But our mind often needs a rationale as about why we want it. So we give our self reasons as to why that decision, say A, is better than the other, say B. We give to selves all the points in favor of A, and against B. There may still be a contentious few who will also include points anti-A and pro-B, but since you have already set your mind on A, these are numerically few. And even on those rare occasion where the number of reasons for-against A and for-against B are numerically equal, there is still the quanta of significance that we attach to each reason that need be considered. This particular task is far from being rational. And why, because we freaking-dont-know how to do it?! We dont know how to annote weightage to each reason based on its significance. We havnt got the right tool in the form of rigorous mathematical models to annote points of weightage. Its very difficult and equally ambiguous to do such stuffs.  And wel, little do we even care! Thus, we bias it towards the ‘pre-set’ decision.

INTROSPECTION STUDY ISo that’s the end of the story. You decide upon something. Implicitly! Just because you feel so. And in a sincere ploy, give self reasons, for the sake of the stern rationalist within you, that why that decision is right, good, proper and the IT! So it forms a cognitive bias, ie, a flaw in the rational thought process. And the root for the flaw is motivation. Thus the crisp title, Motivated Reasoning. And what can you do about it, wel Nothing! The most sane thing to do would seem to strip the motivation away, but i wonder how that could be done. If you know better, be my guest!

Lets pick on the next. Introspective Illusion. Its something i found quite very interesting. Its a thought that occurred to me, but guess am not the only one, for there are pages online about the same!

Now what is Introspective Illusion?! And how does it form a Cognitive bias?!

Who’s your favourite actor or actress?!… no, dont read on. Pick one… got it, sure right, do not try cheating!… Ok now why do you like him/her?! Why is he your favourite?! … Some of you may blink, while else may give a handful of handsome (or pretty) reasons. If you blinked, you made my case easier, but if you are the latter, then how sure are you that the reasons that you gave are ‘indeed THE reason’ why the guy/gal is your favourite?! If you think hard, you may be able to find quite the same qualities in quite few other guys/girls in cinema who also fill the slot but arent your favourite!

This is not restricted to this particular scenario. Its more pervasive. So pervasive that all questions that involve introspection, yes, ALL questions of introspection, are susceptible to this bias. Why you like a particular dish? Why you like that restaurant? Why you like that particular girl/guy from your long list of admirers (note, his/her smell may have something to do about it. Pheromones. Just a research query!)? Wel, carrying on, why you like some particular movie? Book? Color? Painting? Poem? The list can be extended quite endlessly. Guess you would have guessed it ages ago!

There are two counter arguments that may be made here. One, that there is no reason to it! Its flat point-blank just it. I like paneer-butter masala (yes i do!), and i just like it. I dont have a reason as for it and i dont care. Very wel, it possibly could be true. But this in no way harms the case that am presenting (nor the paneer-butter masala).  The second could be that we are making the pick based on some implicit calculation that we are finding difficult to figure out. Thus, though am not sure why i picked say Ileana (good aint she, in acting i mean!), but am perfectly sure she is the One!

Now coming back to the case. I said the first counter-point doesnt harm the case and as about the second, it is the case! We dont know whats brewing inside us! We know the result, but not the factors and the processes that worked upon it to give the result. Because there could be many factors, standing quite behind the scene and hidden from our purview, which go into making of the pick, but when after having made the pick amasked as about why i made it, its not imperative that i may succeed in tracking the pick back througimages (9)h the processes to all the factors that got me choosing it. Imperative, wel, in actuality, its not even remotely possible (leave alone probable). Maybe i may be able to tell you a handful of factors from the repertoire, but its not necessary that i may be able to cover them all. And actually, there is no way to say even the handful of factors you figured out are what indeed went into the deciding or rather they are simply what you want to have been the factors to have consequented the decision. Leave alone maybe, we quite absolutely are not equipped to figure such things out. So though you maybe so sure that it definitely was her ambition, discipline, manners, sweetness, blah blah blah, that got you interested, you never know, it could after all have been that pair of long legs!

So now let me make the very audacious claim! Introspection is a farce. I could be wrong, i could be right. Neither can say based on theory alone. But dear me, studies, yes, of the likes that insomniac men (and women) of science do along the lines of double-blind randomised-control-trial was done, and it was figured out that we dont know why we like something or someone! We may though very readily furnish an explanation for the case, it perfectly and absolutely is far far far from truth! In the end, we just dont know what we are! Who cares!