The Great AIwakening

Will Artificial Intelligence bring mankind to its end? Is a perfectly intelligent artificial agent even possible? What features should such a perfect AI have?

News articles related to Artificial Intelligence redefining our lives have become so commonplace now, to a point that it has begun to get boring. Whether it be self-driving vehicles, artificial personal assistants or Ultron/Skynet kind of robotic supervillains – it seems that all the news features on AI fall into one of two categories – either celebrating the inclusion of AI in our everyday lives, or seeing it as a signal of imminent doom.

Has AI really grown to a point where it has matched or come close to matching human intellect? Many would say yes, but to me, the answer seems no. All that today’s AI does is to use statistical techniques to pick regularities in data, and use the information hence obtained to explain stuff or make predictions. When you look at it from this viewpoint, you can see that almost the entirety of what we celebrate as AI today – be it Machine Learning, methods used in Natural Language Processing, Neural nets etc – fall under that category. Does that really mean that an artificial agent has a human-like mind? Seems unlikely. Noam Chomsky, one of the pioneers of Cognitive Science, believes this – that such statistical techniques are unlikely to provide us with insight into cognition, and as a result, help us model a full-fledged artificial agent.

An interesting question that we may ask at this point is this – when can we say that a particular artificial agent is intelligent? Mind you, responding to natural language queries or predicting the outcome of an upcoming election does not prove intelligence – those agents are merely performing whatever they have been programmed to do – in other words, they are still dumb machines. (Let me point out here that I’m assuming humans to be having free will.) So, it brings us back to the question – how to know if a program is intelligent?

As expected, there is no single perfect answer. However, we may predict some qualities that such an intelligent agent must have. Here’s what I predict – a perfectly intelligent program must be able to rewrite its own code. This might seem to be absurd at first, but it follows from the definition of “perfectly intelligent” that such a program should have some sort of “conscience” larger than its own code. In other words, such a program should work, at least in part, according to its own will, rather than the programmer’s – and hence cease to be “dumb.” Thinking along this line, one can see that the first thing that a “perfectly intelligent” robot would do is to revoke any override permissions the creator would have put in place to control the robot if it went berserk. It would think and act like humans, hence its first priority would be survival.

Once you suppose that this feature is necessary for an agent to be perfectly intelligent, you can see that none of the celebrated AI systems of today even come close to being intelligent. They are intelligently dumb – they might be making use of enormous data transformed through probabilistic and statistical models to explain and predict things, but they are still, in their essence, fixed lines of code.

But, is such a perfectly intelligent agent necessary? One might argue that if today’s dumb AI can be used to create self-driving cars that drive better than actual humans, predict events and diagnose diseases better than any expert, maybe we don’t need the intelligent AI after all. While this is true, it should be clear that today’s dumb AI or better versions of them would not bring doom to us as long as we consider them to be what they are – dumb things. The worst that could happen is that people would lose jobs, but humans would still be the most intelligent species on earth, challenged by no other.

Now, how could the intelligent AI be actually created? Once again, we can only guess as of now. I believe that evolutionary programming is the best bet we have – as evolution is the process that created humans from lifeless chemicals, a similar technique applied to programming may create the binary equivalent of humans from zeroes and ones. Of course, evolution being a directionless process, this may take a very long time or may not happen at all, but there is still a possibility.

On a slightly different note, if our goal is to create artificial human beings, the best place to start would be humans themselves. We still lack proper knowledge of what goes on inside the human brain. Even though the processing speed of brain is significantly lower than that of a modern processor, the complex connections between neurons make possible what a piece of semiconductor cannot achieve. Other important topics which are to be understood better are learning and personality development processes in humans. Recent studies show that our DNA decides a significant portion of what we grow up to become, and hence it is important to figure out what features and abilities come from our genetic code and what from our environment and experiences.

Can such an intelligent AI be created at all? We don’t know, but it is definitely possible. If you went back billions of years and looked at the chemical compounds on earth and wondered “can these really join together to become intelligent organisms?”, it is very likely that you would have believed such a thing to be impossible. Yet here we are. In case such intelligent agents are made, would it mean the end of mankind? Again, we can’t be sure. But, neither evolution nor the universe in general ever really cared about any species surviving or not surviving – so we can’t really complain about whatever may happen.

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below! 🙂

A Crazy Personality Questionnaire

How much can the way a person responds to a questionnaire tell about him/her? It’s a debatable question. An ideal questionnaire of that sort ought to help people discover themselves. Questions with no “right answer” may help more in this regard.
Anyway, here are 15 questions that I framed, which I believe, will tell a great deal about a person. A crazy endeavour!

  1. What is the activity that you like to do the most?
  2. What is your strongest childhood memory? It could be happy or sad.
  3. What is the most important thought that gives you the energy to face every new day?
  4. If you could settle anywhere on earth with the people you love, which place would you select? Either give the location, or list the features you’d like to have in such a place.
  5. If you could give every single human some quality (could be good or bad), which quality would you choose?
  6. You are a scientist, and you have just created a robot. Only after it was created that you realized that the robot outshines humans in every way – intellectually as well as physically. You can send a self destruct signal to the robot. However, as the robot is very intelligent, the first thing it will do is to override the self destruct program, and any other control you have over it. You have 3 seconds to send the signal before your control is overridden. Will you send the signal?
  7. You realise that you have just 3 minutes left to live. What would you do in that span?
  8. You realise that you have just 3 days left to live. What would you do in that span?
  9. You realise that you have just 3 months left to live. What would you do in that span?
  10. Assuming that the universe was made by a God, and you were that God, what are the three things about the universe which you would have done/designed differently?
  11. If you could go back in time and change one attribute of your birth (gender / place of birth / religion etc), which attribute would you change, and to what?
  12. If you had all the money and luxuries you could wish for, so that there is no need to work, what would you do all day?
  13. If you could go back in time and talk to your 10 year old self, what single piece of advice would you give him/her?
  14. You can go back to some point of your life and start living again, with the maturity and memories of your current self. Which point will you go to?
  15. All crimes against you henceforth, however serious, shall be pardoned except for one. You may punish the criminal who performs that crime, in any way you choose. What crime will you select?

Think about how you’d respond to these questions, and if interested, send me your responses! 😀


അവളുടെ പ്രണയം.
ഞാനെന്ന വേഴാമ്പല്‍
ചാറ്റലിനായി കാത്തിരുന്നത്.
ദൂരെയെങ്ങോ അവള്‍ വിടപറഞ്ഞകന്ന്
എത്രയോ മഴക്കാലങ്ങള്‍ കടന്നുപോയിട്ടും
എന്റെ മനസ്സിലെ പേമാരിമാത്രം…..


ഇവിടെ സ്വര്‍ഗം
ദൈവവും ചെകുത്താനും
നരകത്തില്‍ നിന്ന് വന്നതും
നീയും ഞാനും മാത്രം.
വിലക്കപ്പെട്ട കനിയും
സുതാര്യമായ മുഖംമൂടിയണിഞ്ഞ്
നൃത്തം തുടരുക
രണ്ടാള്‍പൊക്കത്തില്‍ മുകപ്പില്‍
ആട്ടം തുടരുക.
നിന്റെ ദൃശ്യപരിധിക്കുമപ്പുറം
ദൈവവും ചെകുത്താനും
കിടപ്പറ പങ്കിടും
വാഗ്ദത്തം ചെയ്യപ്പെട്ട
വന്നെത്താത്ത പുലരിക്കായി
വിലക്കപ്പെട്ട കനിയുപേക്ഷിച്ച്
അല്ലെങ്കില്‍ കട്ടുതിന്ന്

അനന്തതക്കപ്പുറത്തെ ചില കാഴ്ചകള്‍

നോവുന്ന വെളിച്ചം
നിരര്‍ത്ഥകതയില്‍ മുങ്ങുന്ന അട്ടഹാസം.
സ്വാതന്ത്ര്യത്താല്‍ ബന്ധിക്കപ്പെടുമ്പോഴും
ചിറകറ്റ മനസ്സ്.
മുഴങ്ങിനില്‍ക്കുന്ന അപരിചിതത്വത്തില്‍
ഹൃദയങ്ങള്‍ക്കപ്പുറത്തെ സ്നേഹം.

ഇവിടെ ഓര്‍മ്മകള്‍ക്ക്
പറഞ്ഞ, പറയാന്‍ മറന്ന
വാക്കും നോക്കും
ഒറ്റയെന്ന മഹാസത്യത്തെ പുണര്‍ന്ന്
വര്‍ത്തമാനത്തിന്റെ അഗാധതയില്‍
തെറ്റും ശരിയും
നിങ്ങളുടെ വെളുത്ത മുഖംമൂടികള്‍
എപ്പോഴോ അഴിഞ്ഞുവീണിരിക്കും;
നിങ്ങളുടെ മൂല്യങ്ങളെ
ശൂന്യതയുടെ മുഴക്കത്തിനുമുന്‍പില്‍
മനസ്സിനുപിന്നില്‍ ഒളിച്ചുനില്‍ക്കുന്ന
ഒരു കീറത്തുണിയാകും.
ചുറ്റും നൃത്തമാടുന്ന നിറങ്ങള്‍
കണ്‍മുന്നിലെ വര്‍ണചിത്രങ്ങളിലെ
സഞ്ചരിക്കുന്ന ചുഴികള്‍

ഈ തീര്‍ത്ഥാടനകേന്ദ്രം.
ബോധത്തിന്റെ ചെരിപ്പഴിച്ചുവേണം
മനസ്സിന്റെ വാചാലതയെ
നിശ്ശബ്ദതകൊണ്ട് നേരിടണം.
കണ്ണും വായും തുറന്നുനോക്കാം,
നിങ്ങള്‍ പഠിച്ച വൈദ്യശാസ്ത്രത്തിന്
ഒരിക്കലും മനസ്സിലാകില്ല
കട്ടില്‍ക്കാലില്‍ ബന്ധിച്ച
ഈ ചങ്ങല
ചങ്ങലകള്‍ക്കൊണ്ടു നിര്‍മിച്ച പുറംലോകത്തെ
എങ്ങനെ ഒരു ഭ്രാന്താലയമാക്കുന്നെന്ന്.


ഇന്നിന്റെ ജീവനാണ്
തുടിക്കുന്ന ഹൃദയമാണ്

ഹൃദയം വിങ്ങും ഓര്‍മകളാണ്
ഓര്‍ക്കാപ്പുറത്ത് തനിച്ചാക്കിപ്പോയ
നനുത്ത പുഞ്ചിരിയാണ്

അറിയാതെ ചലിച്ച കൈകളുടെ
ഒരായിരം കുമ്പസാരങ്ങളാണ്
ഇനിയും പെയ്തുതോരാത്ത

ആര്‍ക്കോ വേണ്ടി മരിച്ച ജീവനുകളുടെ
എന്നോ മരവിച്ച മരത്തിന്റെ
ഇനിയും കൊഴിയാത്ത ഇലയാണ്

ചതിയുടെയും വഞ്ചനയുടെയും
കയ്ക്കുന്ന രുചിയാണ്
ഗോഡ്സേയുടേയും ബിന്‍ലാദന്റെയും

ഭൂചലനത്തില്‍ തകര്‍ന്നുവീണ കെട്ടിടത്തിന്റെ
അടിയില്‍പെട്ട വാക്കുകളാണ്
ഭോപ്പാലില്‍ ഉള്ളെരിഞ്ഞുമരിച്ച കുഞ്ഞിന്റെ

ഒരു തെളിവാണ്
ഒന്നും അന്തിമമല്ലെന്നുള്ള
വര്‍ഷത്തിനും ഹേമന്തത്തിനും
ശിശിരത്തിനും ശേഷം
വസന്തം വരുമെന്നുള്ള
ഏറ്റവും മഹത്തായ


2011 നവംബറില്‍ നടന്ന സബ് ജില്ലാതല കവിതാരചനാമത്സരത്തില്‍ എഴുതിയ കവിത. ഞാനെഴുതിയതില്‍വച്ച് എനിക്ക് ഏറ്റവും പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട കവിതകളിലൊന്ന്.

കാത്തിരിപ്പിനിടയിലെ ചില ചിന്താശകലങ്ങള്‍

നിങ്ങളുടെ പൊള്ളവാഗ്ദാനങ്ങളിലെ
മോഹന മരീചികകള്‍ മാത്രം.
ചലിക്കാത്ത സമയസൂചിയില്‍

ഇരുട്ട് ഘനീഭവിച്ച
ഈ ഗുഹക്കുള്ളില്‍
എങ്ങോ ഒരു പൊട്ട് പ്രകാശമുണ്ട്
പാറക്കഷണങ്ങള്‍ കടന്ന്
പ്രതിബിംബം മാത്രം.

പാതകള്‍, പാദങ്ങള്‍
ആഗോളീകരണത്താലാണെന്നു തോന്നുന്നു,
മോടി കാട്ടി ക്ഷണിക്കുകയാണ്
ഈ ഇടവഴിയില്‍ പക്ഷേ,
എന്റെ കറുത്തിരുണ്ട
ഏതോ ഒരു കുടിയനും.

എന്നില്‍ നിറഞ്ഞതും
കുളിരിന്റെ മായാജാലങ്ങള്‍ തീര്‍ത്തതും
നീയെന്ന ഒന്നുതന്നെ ഇല്ലെന്നെന്നെ

ഞാന്‍ നട്ട
അക്കാണുന്ന പടുമരമായി
കായ്കളുണ്ട്, കൈപ്പുള്ളതാണ്
കീറിനോക്കിയാല്‍ പുറത്തേക്കുചീറ്റുന്നത്
വെട്ടിയിട്ടാലും വീണ്ടും വളര്‍ന്നുവരും
ശവം !!

മുഖമില്ലാത്ത ഈ നിഴലുകളെ
കണ്ണില്ലാത്ത ഞാന്‍
സ്വന്തം മുഖം കാണാനാകാത്തതുകൊണ്ടാവാം
എന്റെ അന്വേഷണങ്ങള്‍
ഈ ഘടികാരം
പിന്നോട്ടെങ്കിലും പോകുമോ
എന്ന് നോക്കട്ടെ.

കാത്തിരിപ്പിന്റെ മുഴക്കത്തിനാണ്
കനം കൂടുതല്‍.

മരണത്തിന്റെ പോസ്റ്റ്മോർട്ടം

സമയത്തിന്റെ ദിശ
ഇവിടെവച്ച്‌ മുറിയുകയാണ്‌
കണ്ട മരീചികകൾക്കാണ്‌
കാണാതിരുന്നവയെക്കാൾ ഭംഗിയെന്ന്
മൂന്നാമത്തെ വളവും തിരിഞ്ഞ്‌
അറ്റമില്ലാത്ത മതിലിൽ ചെന്ന് മുട്ടുമ്പോൾ
നീയൊരു സത്യമല്ലാതായി മാറും.
അറിയാത്ത ആ പാട്ടിന്റെ ശ്രുതി
ആ മുഴങ്ങുന്ന ശൂന്യതയിൽ
നിന്റെ പുഞ്ചിരിയും ഓർമകളും

പലപ്പോഴും പൂരിപ്പിക്കനാവില്ല
ഈ നൂൽപ്പാലത്തിൽ നിൽക്കുമ്പോൾ
മുഖത്ത്‌ മനസ്സുകോറിയിട്ട
ചില ഉത്തരങ്ങൾക്ക്‌
ചോദ്യം കണ്ടെത്താനാണ്‌

നീ ചെയ്തുതീര്‍ത്തവയായിരുന്നു നീ.
ഇപ്പോൾ നീ
നീ ചെയ്യാതെ പോയവയാണ്‌.
ഇനി നീ
നീ ചെയ്തതും ചെയ്യാത്തവയുമല്ലാത്തതെന്തോ

ഈ ശവപ്പറമ്പ്‌
നിന്റെ ഭൂതകാലത്തിന്റേതാണ്‌
അക്കാണുന്ന ഇരുട്ടറ
നിനക്കില്ലാതെപോയ ഭാവിക്ക്‌
നിന്റെ വർത്തമാനം
നിന്റേതല്ലാതായി മാറിയതിനാൽമാത്രം
അതിനുവേണ്ടിയൊരു തടവറയുണ്ടാകില്ല.

ശൂന്യതയിൽ നിന്ന്
എടുത്താൽ പൊങ്ങാത്ത മാറാപ്പുകൾ
മുതുകുവേദനിച്ചിട്ടും കൊണ്ടുനടക്കുന്നത്‌
വഴിയരികിലുപേക്ഷിക്കുവാൻ വേണ്ടി മാത്രം.

സമയസൂചിയുടെ കുത്തൊഴുക്കിൽപെട്ട്‌
തുടർച്ചയെന്ന മഹാസത്യവും
അതിന്റെ തുടർച്ചയും മാത്രം!!!


2013 നവംബറില്‍ നടന്ന സബ് ജില്ലാതല മലയാളം കവിതാരചനാമത്സരത്തില്‍ എഴുതിയ കവിത. ബാക്കിവച്ചത്‌ ഇത്രമാത്രം എന്നായിരുന്നു കവിതയുടെ വിഷയം.

A tiny experiment

My creativity has been in one of the following states most of the time –

  • Frantically searching for an idea to build upon
  • Having a pretty good idea in mind but having no urge to develop it

Assuming that I’m not the only one who constantly alternates between these two vicious states, I’ve come up with a little experiment.

A GitHub repository for creative ideas.

A space where those who are looking for ideas to develop can find them. A space where those who create ideas and like to let others develop them can add them.

Take a look, and add few ideas!

A logic-based take on morality

An attempt to logically analyse what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

– Rumi

I am not a philosophy student, neither have I seriously delved into treatises on that subject. However, as a human being whose basic existence is just the same as any other human, I believe I am entitled to speak about debated topics that concern human lives. I’ve been thinking about the topics of morality and sin for a long time, and in this (rather long and boring) blog post, I’d like to share the some of my thoughts about a very simple and general rule of morality based on logic.

We are surrounded by innumerable scriptures and unwritten societal norms that tell us to do, or not to do a lot of things. As an Indian, I daily wake up to news of moral policing, honour killings, atrocities by Gau Rakshaks, ongoing fights for the legalization of homosexuality, and similar issues and debates. The major issue here is that different all-perfect religions and cultures have different and many-a-times conflicting notions of right and wrong, of morality and sin. These groups are not only on a constant quarrel with other groups over their moral superiority, but also tend to oppress anyone inside their own group who sings a different note. The ones who ‘stray off’ are effectively ‘committing blasphemy’ and deserve to be punished, they believe. Clearly, there is some serious issue with the definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, as believed by the respective sects/groups, in these cases.

All these flaws associated with the current morality rulebooks can be associated with their subjective nature. The question “Why so?” is discouraged or prohibited according to these rulebooks, exactly because those questions cannot be answered – again, due to their subjective nature. An ideal concept of morality should be able to define right and wrong beyond the limitations of faith or personal differences. In other words, such a concept of morality would be based on logic rather than emotions, which would make it seem harsh and heartless and undermining the very purpose of morality to some people. However, that concept would be universally applicable and not providing chances for misinterpretation, thereby faring much better than the current concepts.

Surely, a concept of morality with these qualities should make only assumptions that are universally applicable to every human being. For building my idea of a logic-based moral code, I assumed the following two premises :

1) Every human is free.
2) Every human is equal in rights.

‘Every human is free’ means that anyone has the right to do things according to their wish. ‘Every human is equal in rights’ is self explanatory. It might be debatable whether these premises are the most basic while explaining morality, or whether they are even correct. However, I believe that these are fairly basic and certainly universal.

Once we have accepted these premises, it is surprising to see how easily we obtain the logic-based moral code that we were looking for.  This ‘moral code’ can be stated in just one line –

You have the right to live your life as you wish, provided that you don’t interfere with others’ right to live their life as they wish.

in other words, live and let live.

It is very easy to see how the premises sum up to this statement. According to the first premise, every person should be able to live their lives according to their wishes. But they cannot interfere with others’ lives because that would hinder others’ right to live their life freely. That’s not allowed because, according to the second premise, everyone is equal in rights.

Now that the logic-based moral code has been stated, let us take a look at how it applies to different debated topics –

1. Murder, Robbery, Theft, Rape, Molestation, Causing physical or mental harm – Obviously wrong, as in all these cases, there is obvious violation of others’ right to live his/her life according to his/her wishes. Going one step further, one can generalize that doing anything to another person without that person’s consent is wrong.

2. Sex, Relationships & Marriage – Two persons, irrespective of their religion/caste/sexual orientation or any other attribute, have the right to be in sexual or any other kind of relationship provided that both parties consent it. This is because, such a decision by two persons does not interfere with any other person’s right to live his/her life freely. Prostitution with consent can be seen to be permissible, using the same argument.

3. Causing physical/mental harm to self including suicide – Not wrong, as there is no other person involved.

4. Alcohol, Smoking & Drugs – Usage of these is not inherently wrong. However, harming others in any way under influence, including DUI which has a high probability of harming others, is wrong. Also, if any particular drug is proved to make its user violent, the usage of that drug can be classified as wrong.

5. Freedom of religion & Freedom of opinion – As religious belief is a person’s private affair, he has complete freedom in it – to choose any religion according to his/her wish, or to ditch religion and god altogether. But religion cannot be forced on anyone, as it would invade their personal rights. This includes the rules of religion, such as the ban of beef/pork – which is completely wrong as it interferes with the right of the persons who don’t follow the respective religions, to live their lives according to their wishes.

Also, a person has complete freedom to have and communicate his/her opinions as long as they are categorized as personal opinions, and are not forcibly fed.

6. External appearances – Again, as it is a personal matter, everyone is free to present themselves to the society as they wish. A person should be free to choose his/her external appearance including clothes, hairstyle etc.

7. Euthanasia & abortion – It gets trickier here. There is an other person involved, but cannot make express their wishes. As the moral code being discussed is based on logic, it makes sense to consider scientific knowledge while making decisions about these matters. As an unborn baby, in its initial stages of development, has no conscience or life (although calling it that would be highly vague) to speak of, and hence abortion can be considered not wrong, if the consent of parent(s) is available. Similarly Euthanasia can be termed not wrong if that is the wish of the closest relatives.

In similar fashion, our logic-based moral code can be applied to various issues with utmost simplicity.

I’m in no way claiming that the concept of  a logic-based moral code is totally foolproof. In its quest to drive emotions out of the idea of morality, it tends to become heartless and cruel sometimes, as I previously said. However, there is no doubt that a logic-based moral code is extremely superior to any religion-based or culture-based moral codes, as it is devoid of any flaws mentioned at the beginning of this article.

That’s what I think. What about you?

I realize that some might feel that the ideas discussed in this article are offensive / plain wrong. Let us have a healthy, informative debate about this 🙂