Wandering Mind

'Naitaavad enaa, paro anyad asti' (There is not merely this, but a transcendent other). Rgveda. X, 31.8.

Dr B R Ambedkar (14.04.1891 - 06.12.1956)

Great social reformer, philosopher, jurist, political leader, historian and economist. Independent India’s first Law Minister and Chairperson of the Constitution’s Drafting Committee (29.08.1947 - 24.01.1950).

A few quotes from his writings:

"Every act of independent thinking puts some portion of apparently stable world in peril."

"For a successful revolution, it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights."

"What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights."

"Political tyranny is nothing compared to the social tyranny and a reformer who defies society is a more courageous man than a politician who defies government."

"I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved."

"Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence."

Today is his 123rd birth anniversary.

Insanity: inside the Country of the Mind

Insanity: inside the Country of the Mind

Originally posted on Living in the Modem World:

Insanity

Insanity

In his novel Queen ofAngels, set at the close of 2047, Greg Bear explores the concept of what he calls, “the Country of the Mind”. This, Bear postulates, is the “ground” for all our thoughts. A kind of virtual reality landscape within us where our “big and little selves” – the personality routines which make up the conscious self, and…

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Mother’s storybook photos become viral sensation

Mother’s storybook photos become viral sensation

Originally posted on Flickr Blog:

When we first spotted Elena Shumilova’s photostream, her photos instantly took our breath away. The Russian photographer transports her viewers into a beautiful world that revolves around her two little sons and their adorable pets — scenes literally out of a storybook. Elena’s use of natural light, colors, and her enchanting rural surroundings have not only…

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Hips Liberated Because the Feet Have Been Shackled

Hips Liberated Because the Feet Have Been Shackled

Featured Image -- 130

Originally posted on COOLIE WOMAN:

Michael Goldberg Collection, University of the West Indies, Trinidad. http://www.cooliewoman.com

Michael Goldberg Collection, U.W.I., Trinidad. http://www.cooliewoman.com

For the new Indian site Scroll.in, I wrote about my affection for chutney music. Here’s the piece:

Bollywood and my mother’s bhajans were the background music of my childhood. Growing up in New Jersey in the 1980s, any and all yearning for lost homelands was set to the score of…

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Technology concentrates power.

In the 90’s, it looked like the Internet might be an exception, that it could be a decentralizing, democratizing force. No one controlled it, no one designed it, it was just kind of assembling itself in an appealing, anarchic way. The companies that first tried to centralize the Internet, like AOL and Microsoft, failed risibly. And open source looked ready to slay any dragon.

But those days are gone. We’ve centralized the bejesus out of the Internet now. There’s one search engine (plus the one no one uses), one social network (plus the one no one uses), one Twitter. We use one ad network, one analytics suite. Anywhere you look online, one or two giant American companies utterly dominate the field.

And there’s the cloud. What a brilliant name! The cloud is the future of online computing, a friendly, fluffy abstraction that we will all ascend into, swaddled in light. But really the cloud is just a large mess of servers somewhere, the property of one American company (plus the clouds no one uses).

Orwell imagined a world with a telescreen in every room, always on, always connected, always monitored. An Xbox One vision of dystopia.

But we’ve done him one better. Nearly everyone here carries in their pocket a tracking device that knows where you are, who you talk to, what you look at, all these intimate details of your life, and sedulously reports them to private servers where the data is stored in perpetuity.

I know I sound like a conspiracy nut framing it like this. I’m not saying we live in an Orwellian nightmare. I love New Zealand! But we have the technology.

When I was in grade school, they used to scare us with something called the permanent record. If you threw a spitball at your friend, it would go in your permanent record, and prevent you getting a good job, or marrying well, until eventually you’d die young and friendless and be buried outside the churchyard wall.

What a relief when we found out that the permanent record was a fiction. Except now we’ve gone and implemented the damned thing. Each of us leaves an indelible, comet-like trail across the Internet that cannot be erased and that we’re not even allowed to see.

The things we really care about seem to disappear from the Internet immediately, but post a stupid YouTube comment (now linked to your real identity) and it will live forever.

And we have to track all this stuff, because the economic basis of today’s web is advertising, or the promise of future advertising. The only way we can convince investors to keep the money flowing is by keeping the most detailed records possible, tied to people’s real identities. Apart from a few corners of anonymity, which not by accident are the most culturally vibrant parts of the Internet, everything is tracked and has to be tracked or the edifice collapses.

What upsets me isn’t that we created this centralized version of the Internet based on permanent surveillance.

What upsets me, what really gets my goat, is that we did it because it was the easiest thing to do. There was no design, forethought, or analysis involved. No one said “hey, this sounds like a great world to live in, let’s make it”. It happened because we couldn’t be bothered.

Making things ephemeral is hard.

Making things distributed is hard.

Making things anonymous is hard.

Coming up with a sane business model is really hard—I get tired just thinking about it.

So let’s take people’s data, throw it on a server, link it to their Facebook profiles, keep it forever, and if we can’t raise another round of venture funding we’ll just slap Google ads on the thing.

"High five, Chad!"

"High five, bro!"

That is the design process that went into building the Internet of 2014.

And of course now we are shocked—shocked!—when, for example, the Ukrainian government uses cell tower data to send scary text messages to protesters in Kiev, in order to try to keep them off the streets. Bad people are using the global surveillance system we built to do something mean! Holy crap! Who could have imagined this?

Or when we learn that the American government is reading the email that you send unencrypted to the ad-supported mail service in another country where it gets archived forever. Inconceivable!

I’m not saying these abuses aren’t serious. But they’re the opposite of surprising. People will always abuse power. That’s not a new insight. There are cuneiform tablets complaining about it. Yet here we are in 2014, startled because unscrupulous people have started to use the powerful tools we created for them.

We put so much care into making the Internet resilient from technical failures, but make no effort to make it resilient to political failure. We treat freedom and the rule of law like inexhaustible natural resources, rather than the fragile and precious treasures that they are.

And now, of course, it’s time to make the Internet of Things, where we will connect everything to everything else, and build cool apps on top, and nothing can possibly go wrong.

An extract from Our Comrade The Electron, a talk from the Webstock Conference by Maciej Cegłowski, which is worth reading in its entirety. (via new-aesthetic)

(via new-aesthetic)

nok-ind:

The Empire of ancient Ghana
The empire of ancient Ghana created by the Mende (Soninke) with human habitation dating back to at least around 4,000 BC.

Ancient Ghana was located in what is now southeastern Mauritania and western Mali.
Today the area around Dar Tichitt in southern Mauritania has been the subject of much archaeological attention, revealing successive layers of settlement near what still were small lakes as late as 1200 BCE. At this time people there built circular compounds, 60-100 feet in diameter, near the beaches of the lakes. (‘Compound’ is the name given to a housing type, still common today, in which several members of related families share space within a wall.) These compounds were arranged into large villages located about 12 miles from each other. Inhabitants fished, herded cattle and planted some millet, which they stored in pottery vessels. This was the last era of reasonable moisture in this part of the Sahara. By 1000 BCE the villages, still made up of compounds, had been relocated to hilltop positions, and were walled. Cattle were still herded, more millet was grown, but there were no more lakes for fishing. From 700-300 BCE the villages decreased in size and farming was reduced at the expense of pastoralism.

Architecturally, the villages of Dar Tichitt resemble those of the modern northern Mande (Soninke), who live in the savanna 300-400 miles to the south. These ancient villagers were not only farmers, but were engaged in trade connected with the salt and copper mines which developed to the north. Horse drawn vehicles passed through the Tichitt valley, bringing trading opportunities, ideas, and opening up the inhabitants to raids from their more nomadic northern neighbors. Development of the social and political organization necessary to handle commerce and defense must have been a factor in the subsequent development of Ghana, the first great Sudanic empire, in this part of West Africa.

It is very plausible to think that the people of antiquity in Ancient Ghana may be connected to the Ancient peoples who lived in the Sahara before it turned into dessert. Additionally Habitation of the region where the Ghana empire existed is much older than Western academics are aware of.

(via diasporicroots)

kenobi-wan-obi:

Representation in STEM: Black Women Making Their Mark in Space and Science

Today, there is an increased push for the American education system to improve their STEM programs as well as to get students to show interest in the fields. It is important to bring attention to some of the African-American females that have, and are still, paving the road for future scientists, astronauts or any STEM degree holders.

These women are just some of the many examples of African-American contributions to science. (Descriptions pertain to the women in the order they appear on the photoset, from up down, left right)

Mercedes Richards PH.D is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University. Originally from Jamaica, Dr. Richards received her Doctoral degree at the University of Toronto. In 2010 Dr. Richards received the Fulbright Award to conduct research at the Astronomical Institute in Slovakia. research focus is on binary stars; twin stars formed at the same time.

Willie Hobbs Moore PH.D is the first African-American woman to earn a PH.D in physics in 1972. She received it at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Her thesis research involved important problems in vibrational analysis of macro molecules.

Beth Brown PH.D (1969-2008) was an Astrophysicist in the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Born in Roanoke, VA, she grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars and was fascinated with space. In 1998, Dr. Brown becoming the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in Astronomy from the University of Michigan.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein PH.D is currently a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at the Observational Lab in Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland. Originally from Los Angeles California Dr. Prescod-Weinstein specializes in theoretical cosmology.

Dara Norman PH.D is a professor at the University of Washington. Dr. Norman grew up in the south side of Chicago Illinois. She went to MIT as an Undergraduate and worked at NASA Goddard in Maryland. Dr. Norman currently specializes in gravitational lensing, large scale structure and quasars (quasi-stellar objects). This year she was honored with the University’s Timeless Award for her contributions and accomplishments to astronomy. In 2009 she was invited to the Star Party at the White House.

Jeanette J. Epps PH.D from Syracuse NY is a NASA astronaut. She received her PH.D in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Marylan in 2000. Dr. Epps was selected in 2009 to be one of the 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. She recently graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training.

Shirley Ann Jackson PH.D is the second African-American woman to earn a PH.D in physics and the first from MIT. In 2009 Dr. Jackson was appointed to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. She is currently the President of the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute.

(via women-in-science)

R I P
Suchitra Sen (06.04.1931 - 17.01.2014)
Born Roma Dasgupta at Pabna, Bangladesh.
Some of her memorable films: Devdas (1955), Deep Jwele Jaai (1959), Saptapadi (1961), Uttar Falguni (1963), Saat Paake Bandha (1963). Mamta (1966), Aandhi (1975).
Photo: www.thehindu.com 

R I P

Suchitra Sen (06.04.1931 - 17.01.2014)

Born Roma Dasgupta at Pabna, Bangladesh.

Some of her memorable films: Devdas (1955), Deep Jwele Jaai (1959), Saptapadi (1961), Uttar Falguni (1963), Saat Paake Bandha (1963). Mamta (1966), Aandhi (1975).

Photo: www.thehindu.com