The new age of chess playing machines

Any doubts entertained on whether we have moved into a new age, or at least climbed a new step on its ladder, would be put to rest by the fact that the game of chess is now played by machines which can better any human on a given day. What some upto the 80s considered even impossible has been put into practice, and if reports are true, no man can beat the best rated machines playing this mind game today. That Kasparov, the greatest chess player ever, was beaten by a game or two in a return match, could be doubted as part of some marketing gimmick that did not go beyond exhibition matches. Yet, re-playing that second or third game where he lost in the end game shows it was really an oversight on his part, a lack of calculation, where the machine saw further; it rattled Kasparov to an extent that he demanded being shown printouts of the game...
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What India owes to England

It would be unfair and unjust if India does not acknowledge the contribution Britain, and the West in general, made to its well being and prosperity. Whatever India is today, most of its social, political, economic institutions, is because of the English rule from the 19th to the middle of 20th century. Written from the writer’s personal understanding, the following is a case for acknowledging this huge debt. Whether it is India’s democracy and parliament, laws and courts, science and technology, education, market economy, press and media, or cultural aspects of life — how Indians dress, eat, socialise, and entertain, it is today what it is in large part due to the West. More so today than just a decade ago, with a large portion of our very jobs, related to outsourcing, are due to the West which now reaps the rewards of sowing the seeds of English education on India’s fertile soil. (It was, of course, India’s Tata group, led...
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The Windows revolution

The popular sentiment against its creator Microsoft notwithstanding, the Windows operating system has brought what was once a scientific and business curiosity to everyone’s homes, so much so that even toddlers today can operate machines that once upon a time only professionals did. Windows reinvented the computer, such that today the machine permeates all aspects of our lives. Giving commands through clicks made with a mouse is what Windows is all about, and it has virtually transformed the whole world. The greatness of the idea lay in its simplicity. It is innate to humans to use their index finger and thumb for manipulating and operating objects. Buttons and switches are therefore prominently used for operating gadgets and devices of all kinds. Windows uses this concept on the monitor screen – icons and buttons that can be clicked with a mouse to give commands to manage all operations. The older, keyboard-based DOS would have left us typing commands all over to manage...
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Confronting reality, media’s way

All new trends and behaviours in society immediately pass through the watching lenses of the media, which knows very well what matters are to be pushed into which court of justice. So it is that matters like singles living alone, live in relations, use of explicit content on gadgets, suicides, alcohol related driving accidents, subjects that immediately rattle the ‘normal’ senses of the journalists are transferred to the courts of psychologists, social workers, sociologists, psychiatrists, teachers, etc – the ‘courts’ that deal with such behaviour. It is a smart move, but puts a question mark on why such features are being printed at all and whose side is being taken. Apparently, interviews taken of the people involved would appear as if the media is objectively reporting a new trend or describing an interesting issue, like a democratic medium would. The involvement of these professionals mentioned above, at a later stage in the report, shows the report in a different colour –...
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Filling the web with junk – by article spamming

It was inevitable that the billions of pages that now comprise the web, a rapidly growing and fast changing, massive collection of web pages, would need a powerful search engine to get the required information and filter out the rest. For this search engine to be fast and efficient and produce the most comprehensive results, it was also important to automatically crawl and index the web, and rank the pages using automated procedures based on objective criteria to produce the right information on the first page itself. A direct consequence of this has been the competition among websites, or rather among people trying to make money over the internet, to get their sites seen on the first few pages to receive maximum traffic and public exposure. This has given rise to the search engine optimisation (seo) industry, and a major aspect of this business is that of writing and publishing articles in bulk on a daily basis for web promotion, that...
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Living a dual life

The most famous of all notions about man describes him as a social animal. That is to say, it is a part of his nature, an instinct, to form groups and communities wherever he lives, and that man cannot live without society, and ought to do so. However, the term ‘man’ in the sentence ‘Man is a social animal’ refers to mankind as a whole, and not individual human beings. It is the nature of an individual that needs introspection. The contention arises when the individual is described solely in social terms. Does this notion of man really describe an ‘individual’ in his or her totality? Is it a true reflection of his or her real nature? There are times when an individual wishes to interact with others, and there are times when he or she wishes to be left alone. All of us live a dual existence, as individuals and as members of groups and communities. Individuals in human society seem...
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Voltaire – some stories and snippets

It would be easier to subjugate the entire universe through force than the minds of a single village. ~ Voltaire Voltaire was an 18th century French writer of the Enlightenment period, a liberal thinker, and a proponent of tolerance and reason in the world. He wrote Candide, and a number of short stories that describe his views on various issues that were of concern to him and the Europe of his times – religious tolerance, faith in reason, abhorrence of superstition, and a free life. Some interesting stories In Bababec, a muslim traveler visits India and meets fakirs engaged in self-denying and torturous acrobatics, like sitting over nails, and meditating. One of them is persuaded to give up all this and live like a good man. But he returns back as he loses his social status and influence over women. Voltaire asks whether it is not enough to live like a good man and reach heaven? In The story of a Good Brahman, an honest and learned brahman admits his ignorence –...
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Words mean more than what we say

It does not happen on rare occasions that what we say is misunderstood by others, and that there is always a gap between what was meant and what was said. This is no fault of ours alone, as nature made individuals separate and unique. Immersed in our own body, mind and soul, it is only on occasions that we see that others too are in a similar state, and that the way they look at us is different from what we see ourselves as.  All of us have built up with us our own unique ability to understand words. Of all, the media is an expert at interpreting words, for they look out for hidden meanings and read between lines. But it seems that words carry a life of their own. They mean more or less to others than what we say through them. Spoken words carry along with them our emotions. A speaker unintentionally displays his or her state of mind while speaking to others. Our training for...
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Living a free life

As an individual grows up, he becomes a free person in his own right, begins to rule his life, makes his own life decisions, and becomes independent. He is the sole guardian of his best interests, his own self-protector, and the sole maker of his decisions. This alone makes him responsible for his actions. It is not a huge price to pay considering the ownership rights of your body, mind and soul that come with it for a lifetime! To govern oneself, be one’s own ruler, is to be free in its real sense. This is how children are distinguished from adults, and the latter considered responsible for their behaviour. Guardianship, paternalism, protectionism, coming from outside, remove this distinction, and reduce adults to a child-like state. The strongest blow that can be delivered to an individual is to consider him or her unfit for freedom, and put them under some form of guardianship or paternalism, undermining their free nature, returning them into...
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