Sidharth Vardhan

They, The Robots

(A review by Sidharth VardhanOf I, Robot by Isaac AsimovFirst written on November 26, 2015) “If one and a half chickens lay one and a half eggs in one and a half days, how many eggs will none chickens lays in nine days?” Isaac Asimov (I, Robot) This is incredible, the best of all science fiction I have read yet. As Fredrick Pohl put it: “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” Fredrick Pohl Asimov not only does that – and he goes one step further, he proposes a solution for the metaphorical traffic jam – in this case ethical issues related to AI, in form of his popular ‘three laws of robotics’ : 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. The laws, as you can see, have nothing to do with the mechanics but rather their

Who’s the Mr. Capital-G in here? – a review of Children of Gebalaawi

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Children of Gebalaawi by Naguib Mahfouz First written on December 13, 2015) This is an allegory on the history of prophets of Abraham religions – Adam, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad represented as far as humanly possible. Gebelaawi, the creator of an alley, favored his son (from a servant) Adham over his other sons of higher birth including Idris (Iblis). Idris walked out on his father and later tricked Adham into the temptation of knowing Gebelaawi’s will causing G to throw him out. “Your mind stays in the place it’s been thrown out of.” Naguib Mahfouz (Children of Gebelaawi) Another book cover of ‘Children of Gebelaawi’ probably showing Adham in Gebelaawi’s house Adham lived on hoping to get back the comfortable life that was once his, scorn-ing at life to sustain which you have to earn: “Only an animal worries all the time about the next meal. “ Naguib Mahfouz (Children of Gebelaawi) Adham lived a miserable life – the memory of lost paradise can bring more suffering than residence in hell, he saw one of his sons kill the other. However, Gebelaawi promised Adham on later’s death bed that his children will get the life he

On Innocence

I’m not much into romantic stories – I mean how much of ‘Ellen, I love you’ and ‘Newland, it is wrong’ one can bear? More so, love triangles – and why they call it love triangles. Just look at this one – Archer has relations with May and Ellen but the two women do not love each other, so where is the third side of the triangle? Shouldn’t it be called love angle or love V? In fact, if you think about it, a love triangle is only possible when at least one of three people is homosexual or bisexual … well, that is just the kind of thing I wonder about when not working on my paper on quantum mechanics involved in the motion of Nitrogen particles in low atmospheric temperatures. Also, I don’t much like leisure classes; for me they represent half the things that are wrong with the world – they are hypocrites, full of ideas of ‘society’ and ‘common folks’, vain, sinfully rich, are always talking about useless subjects like- other equally boring people, balls, marriages, clothes (clothes! Clothes!), food etc. The good thing is Wharton doesn’t much like them either. Different Forms of Innocence There

I couldn’t make ‘The Sense of Ending’

(A review of ‘The Sense of the Ending’,a novel by Julian Barnes2011 Booker Prize winner) “What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” Julian Barnes (The Sense of the Ending) A still from 2011 movie of same name inspired from the book Have you ever wished that there should have been a delete or edit button to change your memories? No, there is no such button but there definitely exist internalized mechanisms which can do those things for us – although a little slowly over time but definitely calculated to make life easy. The truth in our memories is slowly killed over time : “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” Julian Barnes (The Sense of the Ending) Or.. “We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events plus time. But it’s all much odder than this. Who was

Of White Things

(A review of Han Kang’s novel ‘The White Book’, the English translation by Deborah Smith was shortlisted for International Man BookerFirst written on March 15, 2019) “In the spring, when I decided to write about white things the first thing I did was to make a list. Swaddling bands. Newborn gown. Salt. Snow. Ice. Moon. Rice. Waves. Yulan. White bird. “Laughing Whitely”. Blank paper. White dog. White hair. Shroud. With each item I wrote down, a ripple of agitation ran through me. I felt that yes, I needed to write this book and that the process of writing it would be transformative, would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swelling, like gauze laid over a wound …… I step recklessly into time I have not yet lived, into this book I have not yet written. Han Kang (The White Book) Warsaw After World War II Warsaw Now Han Kang is a genius. I could give her a noble prize. This book sits somewhere in the subset between a novel and the act of writing it and a collection of prose-poems and between truth and imagination. The fragments are themed on white objects as the author is

Death of a Dream

(Chorus)So little of happiness So long to come and oh don’t blink see! already over now back to the never-ending darkness(End of chorus) Forgive me for there is an itching in my breast and there is only one way to rest to Share with you this bitter harvest that thanks to you now lives in my chest Forgive me for I must pick another quarrel exchange reproaches add regrets trade tears hide fears Forgive me for I must show the burn in my heart Forgive me for I must pick a last argument Forgive me for i never learned to mourn the living Forgive me for I never was good with the death of dreams

Absolam, Absolam!

(Review of ‘Absolam, Absolam!’a novel by William Faulkner first written on October 31, 2016) “Tell about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.” William Faulkner (Absolam, Absolam!)  Our social systems (in particular capitalism) are such that some qualities such as bravery, courage, hard work, physical strength, cunning, intelligence etc are rewarded while others the softer ones like compassion, kindness, honesty etc not only remain unrewarded but also come with a price for one of who possess them. In fact, only incentives, besides a clear conscience (which is a hardly a thing to bother about), are other-worldly, that is, those promised by religions in afterlife. Now in such a society, people will be discouraged (like Thomas Sutpen) to hold onto those softer qualities – unless they have a really strong conscience, and thus we have a society which is liable to doom. Nietzsche was critical of soft qualities but Faulkner thinks it is lack of soft qualities which brought the failure of Southern States. The story of Sutpens is an allegory to effect. Another reason is medivel sense of honor. With the need for a son to

The Legends of Maltava

(A short storyFirst written on March 9, 2019) 1. The superstitions and the legends that are connected with the tribe of hidden valley of Maltava can all be traced to the fate of Mr. Robin Samuels. For the sake of science, one almost wishes that it was not so well known. Because ever since him, at least five different researchers  – including three women, a man and a transgender, who had gone to study the tribe have shown a change in behavior that follow the neurotic pattern of Mr. Samuelels’ fate. However, unlike with Mr. Samuels, the effects haven’t lasted for them after they were back in the civilized world – one wonders whether the quick return to the civilized world has cured them before it was too late or they were just imagining the whole thing. Another factor that might have affected them is the presence of Samuels acting as one of the tribe people. And The sight of a civilized person in such a primitive crowd can’t be comforting to one’s mind. A terrible thought catches with one – if Mr. Samuels can forget himself and start acting like them, what are chances it won’t happen to the

Respectablity of Rich – Theory of Leisure Class

(Review of by Thorstein Veblen’s’The Theory of Leisure Class’First written on July 8, 2015) “For the last half of my life, I’ve learned to say ‘sir’. Its word you use when you’ve come down in the world.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Brother Karamazov) There were times in my early teens when I was confounded when upon being called by such titles like ‘sir’ by some manual-laborer, some tourist guide or like, a person much older than me – I’m a very absent-minded and in some way abnormal person and often end up in being ignorant of things which most people have already got used to – even now I feel uncomfortable being waited upon, which is at times embarrass my friends. Anyway, this observation shocked me because I didn’t fit any grounds for such respect known to me- the person in the question was obviously older and unlike me was earning and self-dependent. I, I was just a kid. Why such respect? With time I learned it was simply because I was richer. This book has a term for this phenomenon – Pecuniary respect. To date and even in the best of minds; other things being equal, a wealthy person, even one

The Palace Walk : A study in Patriarchy and Politics

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Palace Walk by Naguib MahfouzFirst written on November 3, 2016) The Cairo trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz is a work of Tolstoyan proportions, drawing a picture of a place during a certain period through its portrayal of a large number of well-developed complex characters. Though mostly it is a story of a joint family, it expands into the political and socio-religious arena of its times. There is a lot more to this book than I will go into this review of its the first installment of the trilogy, Palace Walk. Palace Walk The amorality of the narrator works for me most of the time but sometimes it is really irritating, particularly initially when he is talking about double standards of al-Sayyid Ahmad. When it comes to running his family, Ahmed is quite a traditionalist even for his own times (the 1910s and 1920s) – ‘strict’ (the polite word for oppressive) both as husband and father; so much that his (second) wife, Amina isn’t allowed to leave the house without his permission even after nearly two decades of marriage. When she gives in to the temptation to visit a pilgrimage place in the city (which she hadn’t

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