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At its very core, the fundamentals of Robotics looks a lot like discussing the philosophy of life and understanding how we work in terms of mathematical equations.

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The future of machines

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 29, 2010 at 12:39 AM Comments comments (0)

No matter how well equipped a laboratory may be, I will be inclined to side with Einstein: There is no better laboratory than the equipped mind. We are so used to using "age-old, rudimentary" tools to this day in putting forth ideas even on a highly automated machine such as a computer. We have to keep typing in instructions (a.k.a. programming) and debug them manually to this day.

 

The process of evolution has clearly been outstripped by the pace of technology. A few centuries ago, it would'nt have been impossible to dream up new inventions and ideas with access to limited learning resources. In contrast, in our times, we cannot imagine a modern laboratory without a computer loaded with cutting-edge applications.

Random ramblings - Universe as a laboratory

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 24, 2010 at 2:44 AM Comments comments (0)

    I find myself left in a laboratory - replete with particles that are at once exotic and mundane. I seem to possess an innate knowhow of manipulating some of the higher level structures of the forms the particles may take. Helpless on how I might manipulate the base of all creation - the particles, I ask myself.

 

    How do I make the constituent particles if I am presented with "nothing"? How do I make "nothing" if I'm given "everything"? Does something have to be created in order for it to exist?

The nature of knowledge

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 14, 2010 at 2:46 PM Comments comments (0)

Knowledge, it is said, is a form of wealth that increases on being shared, cannot be lost or stolen; and the more you have it the faster it increases. We generally tend to think of what we know as knowledge - information, facts and the similar. I merely seek to analyze this "wealth" in this post.

The cases of complexity

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 14, 2010 at 2:29 PM Comments comments (0)

    The luxury of an era often becomes a necessity of the next. This tendency is partly driven by the human desire to keep up with the Joneses. Over a period of time, we witness a facade of complexities of various degrees and dimensions associated with even the simplest of everyday tasks.

 

    Being a passionate programmer, I'm inclined take up the case of complexity associated with newer software. The original Windows operating system had a size of less than 20KB; in a couple of decades, the size of the newer versions swelled to over 2GB. No doubt, I must admit the number of features have shown commensurate growth. Nevertheless, the sheer size makes me wonder how efficient one could get at correcting flaws for a seemingly incomprehensible system.

 

    The best step one could take before developing newer stuff is to make sure one first gets the basics right and develop simple, useful tools which one could make use of as if it were second nature.

 

    I was recently involved in a discussion with a group of graduate students as to how one might define a "complex" image. Well, we basically call anything we do not completely understand as complex. If on looking at a high-resolution image with much information which we are unable to process in a sufficiently short period of time, one might probably find the image comparatively more complex. At the same time, when we try to glean out sufficient information from a low-resolution image and run into problems in the process, we again term the image "complex". The point at which the human mind is fed just as much data as it wants would be when it finds the input data to be least complex.

Rise of the Nations

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 13, 2010 at 3:52 PM Comments comments (0)

    One look at the Atlas and I see hundreds of differently colored patches, each of which supposedly represents a different country strewn across the global political map. Each claims to have its own national pride and prestige, unique societal makeup and culture.

 

    In the days of the primitives, cavemen banded together to protect their territory from other tribes. I view the modern-day theory of nations as being no different - if an "alien" enters an unfriendly patch of land, an "appropriate course of action" is taken by the nation. This leads me to conclude that the concept of nationhood is fundamentally not very different from the cavemen's concept of "territorial integrity".

 

    I believe that each human being is born free and belongs to the earth - not to any race, religion or region in particular. Yet, sadly, some facts that are recognized universally are not necessarily used as a reference in making the laws of the nations. Air, water and land are a common property of every creature born on this planet and it would be against natural justice to deny a person unrestricted freedom to roam the wide world.

Human fashion and etiquettes

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 11, 2010 at 1:09 AM Comments comments (0)

I read an interesting quote on etiquette in Wikipedia: "Etiquette tells one which fork to use. Manners tells one what to do when your neighbor doesn't".

 

Now, seriously, how does it matter what fork I use to anybody else I'm dining with? The notion of etiquette has become synonymous with "status" and "class" defined by the society. It is amazing how empty rules are set even for a simple, mundane task such as dining.

 

Now let's consider the "nooses" professionals wear proudly around their neck, rechristened as ties. The origin of ties is quite interesting. The history of ties goes back to the croats who supposedly wore cravats to intimidate their opponents in battle. The cravats, in time, metamorphosed into ties which corporate professionals wear while fighting the everyday "board-room battles". We call ourselves a "modern and civilized" bunch of people, and it surprises me is that some of our status symbols are in some way derived from some of the most aggressive mercenaries in history.

 

It is hypocritical of human society to give so much importance to fashion statements especially when more than half its population still lacks basic necessities like proper food, clothing and shelter. And even if I personally were fashion conscious, I would consider myself inane if I were to ape the "fashion statements" of well-known actors. There is no tangible advantage in doing something just because someone famous is doing so. In my opinion, I think fashion and etiquettes should be guided more by individual necessity and common-sense than by a coterie which claims to know all about them.

Freedom and Responsibility

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 7, 2010 at 2:56 AM Comments comments (0)

"Give me liberty or give me death" said Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775. In retrospect, do we still have "freedom and liberty" in the true sense of the word? Though most of the world lives in a democracy of some sort, I personally think all men are born free but live a life in chains.

 

What does freedom mean to someone who doesn't know he possesses it? What does it mean to someone who "has freedom" but does not exercise it? And who is responsible for the restricted version of freedom we enjoy? The answer is straightforward - there is obviously no other species apart from the homosapiens which can restrict us in any way. 

 

We are all born into a certain type of environment not out of our own volition, but at the whim of initially unknown persons. If you were taken to a new country without any possessions at all at the prospect of a better life by another person, I think it is the responsibility of the escort to ensure that the new person gets a chance to earn a better living. And I view the newborns of the world no different.

 

With great power comes great responsibility. And there is no disputing the fact that the power parents wield over their offspring atleast in their formative stages is indeed great. And if this power is not used properly, one can safely bet against the future of their progeny.

 

So is the right to reproduce a fundamental right? Shouldn't people who raise the future of the country first prove their ability to do a good job of it? If one must get a license prior to even doing a mundane task such as driving a car, how about a license for performing a more important task such as preparing the future of the nations?

 

Atleast some individuals will have high hopes, expectations and aspirations. And I think it is the duty of every parent to ensure enough resources are provided so that their offsprings get a decent opportunity to better themselves. Unfortunately this is hardly practised in many countries which brings down the land to utter poverty and ruin over time.

 

With poverty comes the decline in education levels, and creates a vicious cycle eventually. Such a system cannot be expected to ever bring out the potential of the humans who live within it. Now if the best in such people are never brought out by the system, whom does it benefit if they are given "freedom"?

Random thoughts

Posted by Shyam Sundar on July 1, 2010 at 6:28 PM Comments comments (0)

Below are some thoughts that have long provoked my imagination:

What drives man into debates and discussions? Is it his ego and pride to impose his views on others? Or is it simply a desire to perfect himself? Could he not perfect himself by looking within?

 

The magnitude of how much man has striven to attain perfection over his long history is quite noteworthy. But what really amazes and inspires me is his unreasonable faith that it this goal may indeed be attained. I strongly feel that this could be the sole driving factor behind the advances of we homosapiens. And it follows that unreasonable faith with a grand vision can sometimes be good.

 

How many times have you ever felt in your life that you have never been yourself? Every person's thought is inevitably being shaped by someone else; so the so-called original thoughts are not really original as one could infer from the Stigler's Law of Eponymy.

 

I believe that an individual can discover himself by listening to himself, by rationalizing and questioning.

I also believe that the world is now ready for a new wave of thought, for new thought changes the world, breaks all shackles that man has imposed upon himself knowingly or unknowingly. Some might beg to disagree on this one but I think the individual is any day more important than the society has ever been. The free thought of the individual, has in countless times shaped the very course of the history of mankind.

Thoughts on Thought

Posted by Shyam Sundar on June 30, 2010 at 12:03 AM Comments comments (0)

I think that most ideas in the world are either recreated, borrowed or stolen, call it what you wish. So what about the remaining few ideas that are supposedly original? Everything in this world is simple, it is our inability to look at things as they really are that makes life so complex and sometimes, intimidating. By mastering the few basic original ideas, you will find yourself regarded immensely knowledgeable. Sounds crazy isn't it? Well, atleast that's what I've learnt from my experience.

Humans as precious "Thinking machines"

Posted by Shyam Sundar on June 30, 2010 at 12:02 AM Comments comments (0)

Man has so far been found to be the only "device" that could generate new thoughts and ideas in myriad ways. One might be able to train a computer using all sorts of algorithms and make it do what we expect it to do. But will it ever be able to do a Newton and formulate new formulae by just dropping an apple over it? Or will it ever find out the Buoyancy Principle discovered by Archimedes by putting it in a bathtub filled with water? We might design Robots to do really intelligent things like playing Chess, composing music and what not by just sticking to some basic application principles. But in my opinion, we humans have a sense of intuition, gut feeling or some inexplicable sense of logic that may or may not force us to do what we do. I think it is something that a machine can ever possess because intuition simply cannot be defined in concrete mathematical terms.


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