Monday, October 20, 2008

Passive Communication

I have always regarded communication to be central to human endeavor and to be playing a key role in crafting the civilization we all are part of today. Communication dates back to the times when meaningful exchange of symbols among humans gave rise to societies, eventually to language and culture and heritage. Communication has paved the way towards sharing of knowledge, evolution of novel ideas to even the point of the myriad scientific discoveries.

What strikes to us at the very first moment when we hear someone talking about communication is a group of people sitting face to face and conversing. In fact this has really been the traditional way to think about human communication since a long time. However, communication does not need to be an active exchange of meaningful words through some agreed upon language. Communication can be passive - modes by which certain information percolates in a society via variegated media.

I am talking about passive communication when you borrow a book from the library. When it happens to be a very old torn book, you would often find that several parts of the book are marked, underlined with ink, notes written on the margins, or pages folded by their corner for future reference. What do all these cues tell us? What kind of information is being conveyed to us through these passive, non-sequential, sporadic bursts of "hints"?

I would label this "passive communication". Communication which need not be based on some language. Communication which is not intended to cater to an individual or to an audience. Communication which percolates through time, non-periodically. Communication which does not associate itself with any feedback mechanism to the communicator.

I believe such passive communication plays a significant role in crafting our thoughts, and caters to emergence of newer meanings with time and with multi-faceted individuals. When you see a couple of sentences marked in ink in a long densely typed page of a library book, you immediately know they are key ideas. Even before knowing the context of the entire page, such passive communication cues give you an idea of the content of that page.

This kind of passive communication is extremely rich in my opinion. Because their analysis can lend us interesting insights into how thoughts have evolved with respect to that book. And the dynamics of thought process are central to understanding our society. Because a society gradually moves towards progress when it generates a collective thought out of all these miniature passive communication cues hidden under the piles of text since time immemorial.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Social Symmetry

I have always been amazed at the way the human society is groomed towards searching for symmetry everywhere. Time and again I have been encountering this question, why is it that we are able to identify with someone with the same culture as ours, same upbringing as we got and same customs as we cherish? Why is it that we form these groups of friends whom we call "like-minded" people? Why is it that "Bengal" feels proud when Ganguly hits a century? Why is it that despite never having met him, never having interacted with him, the Bengalis are able to connect with him? What is about this strong bond of language that binds completely geographically dispersed crowds together?

The question of hunting for symmetry is not new to the civilization, however. The desire to connect and be connected have been an artifact of human nature since time immemorial. That's how societies grew, languages evolved and networks of people were built through villages, towns and cities. Symmetries grew out of several contextual factors, sometimes living needs, sometimes culture and language and sometimes passions and interests. Even in today's digitized world, symmetry occupies a central place with the rapid evolution of these wide array of social networks across the Web.

My central idea in this blog is what is the reason we are looking for symmetry everywhere? As per the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy of a closed system always increases. However, what is not clear to me is whether the social symmetry is contributing towards this ever-increasing entropy. Or whether the idea of symmetry is actually countering the law of increasing entropy that governs the universe.

Understanding under what conditions hunt for symmetry arises is interesting to me. I conjecture it can lend us better understanding of individual human behavior, and of the changes that he embarks upon the moment he goes out looking for symmetry - the evolution of collective ideas, thoughts, opinions and semantics.

Whether or not the hunt for symmetry is another name of defining compatible entities on the Earth, the idea of compatibility still remains an open question. As in how do we know what kindof social symmetries are compatible for natural selection though evolution? Why is it that despite several species having evolved and gone, the natural tendency for symmetry hunt still exists. How is it that social symmetry is a very intuitive idea to us, though often it might involve satisfying contradictory constraints to conform with a real world? How is this amazing evolving human behavior so naturally adapted to find symmetry in the universe?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Inside Explanation

I have mostly been thankful about the decisions I took in my life. They have fitted very well in life along the course of time; even those circumstances which you did not really want to encounter. Life makes it up over time anyway. Life just goes on. You either find alternative sources of happiness or you just get used to it. In a way, precisely life just gets fine. Isn't it the biggest adventure and mystery life has? Probably yeah!

Life just goes on. It finds a way. And I think I found that way - the pleasure in research. The adventure to leave a mark in the world even after you are gone.

Life doesn't await anyone. Though life just gets more and more complex. But it definitely finds a way. And what I learnt is that, we should put attention to only things which deserve attention. Life is short and there is no scope to wander away on things or people who have departed from you at some point of time. They don't deserve it, especially if they caused you pain.

I look forward to life, and I am happy with my state of things - more, because I am moving towards what I really wanted in life. It is a sweet pleasure, although sometimes it means getting away from a host of other things. Life after all, always find a way; and it is always a positive attitude, especially when you know the things or people responsible for your hard times don't deserve any attention, or time or even the least degree of thought. Sometimes life should be led extremely selfishly.

I have found the philanthropy in selfishness. I am happy and would be happy. Don't give a damn to anyone; no tears; no emotional turmoil. I have set out on a voyage which is much more demanding; and I don't care who have given me pains along the journey.

Duties and responsibilities springing from the extreme bottom of heart are the things which make life meaningful. Things which wander away really needed to be so. And I am happy they are that way!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

What is it about the whole Women Empowerment?

I am going to write about a very serious social issue which needs immediate remedy. However, I am writing not to present a solution, which is very difficult, rather to put forth a few customs and reasons which are preventing a remedy to come up.

The issue is about women's empowerment. I could be poles apart from some of you in the views and thoughts I am going to pour down here, yet I believe it would be a worthy read and food for thought for anyone, man or woman.

Tell me, how many festivals do you know in which men fast, often oriented towards wishing "better life" for some woman? The reverse is very common, at least in Hinduism, as far as I know, women would often fast either for their husbands, or their boyfriends or their brothers. Have you heard of any guy fasting for his wife, mother or sister? Tell me if you have.

I am not against fasting, which are often inter-twined with a religious norm. It is a personal choice. But the motivation is important - important because it often defines customs in our society. Since eons when women in India have been fasting for men ever since the tender age of probably 13, how many of them actually knew why they are fasting at all? To get a good husband? Bull shit. To pray for brother's long life? Also bull shit, if fasting could increase the life span of people, then why invest billions of dollars in medical research?

It is not the fault of those young 13 year old girls who even at 25 fast, for days together, thinking they are doing some holy act (better could have been working for some charity!). But what is ironical is that, theoretically all such women are decently educated and are holding respective jobs somewhere or the other. However, the inside motive to fast or to submit to a man still exists: may be to their ignorance.

One problem lies with the flawed education system. However many degrees a woman might get, given today's "equal opportunities", she needs to have an ear to learn. Degrees don't mean anything until the education helps one to think logically, to distinguish between right and wrong based on her own thoughts and to enlighten herself. Unfortunately this is not happening with the current education system. Gargantuan degrees she might attain, at the end of the day she would go back home and keep "Karwachauth" for her husband. But, does the husband do so as well? If he did, I would know this is affection. However, things are often uni-directional.

The other problem lies with a girl child's upbringing. Parents often think that marriage is the ultimate goal for a girl, however educated she is, however established she is, however better she is from a whole bunch of men. But why? Why does a woman have to need a man to make her life complete? Why is a woman supposed to be a good cook to establish that she is the ideal woman? I don't see a reason; because I believe, my life is quite complete and any man in it would be quite redundant. I am a good cook as well and my motivation never sprang from a desire to be better known among men. Marriage should be something which can make both the man and the woman better, or the same if not worse by considering it as the "goal of life".

Parents have to think differently while bringing up a girl child. It is a bigger challenge than bringing up a guy, given the current social bias of male-domination in most places. Parents need not instill their own bias of right and wrong in their kids at a tender age. This hinders their mental growth and the ability to take their decisions by themselves. And when such a girl with dependent thoughts grows up to be 25, she invariably needs another person (possibly a husband) to take decisions for her. This is unfortunate.

The societal gender bias will never go away until and unless there is significant change in our education system and parental upbringing at home. The tradition of fasting is only one of the many such examples which is hindering women's uplift, intellectually and socially.

I went to the Grace Hopper Conference this year too and I met all kinds of women. I met the very ambitious and successful ones and I also met the ones who clamor women's rights but at the end of the day go back home and leave their jobs for thier husbands or in laws; or change their ways of life for them. Changes are fine, as long as they make you a better person or mark something good for your neighbor or for the society at large. Unfortunately this is often not the case.

I realized one thing. The hue and cry about women empowerment won't make any sense till the day women themselves realize the need for it in their lives (note, not as a social responsibility), start to think independently, shun borrwed ideals which probably they themselves cannot justify and break out from the realm of thought that they are "women" and so a different class of treatment.

May be I made some sense to you all. Or may be not. But ever since the conference was over, I have been thinking this wide and deep. And I just poured them down over here. Hope the women (and men) who read this could share this thought with me. And be better parents to their girls tomorrow: parents like my parents had been to me - parents who gave me the room to breathe, to think, to take my own decisions and to be courageous enough to tide over difficulties, should something in life go wrong.

Self-esteem, original-thoughts and mental-resilience are three things the woman of today needs. Then there is no need for any sort of empowerment.