October 22, 2017

Rumour: tractors may be classified as "transport" vehicles

Earlier tractors was classified as "non transport" and now it will be defined as "transport" vehicle.

Difference is in GST... tractors attract 12% GST... now it will attract 28%.

Note: this is a rumour. If true, this will be one more kick to the farmers.

How long can a human being live without...

A seemingly benign viral game about paperclips reveals why AI could be a huge danger to humanity

"Paperclips" casts you as the overlord behind a paperclips business. It starts as a weirdly compelling time-waster - but it's not long before the subtle, postmodern horror of the whole thing sets in.

The idea of an ever-more efficient automated paperclip factory has a history in the world of philosophers and futurists contemplating the dangers and possibilities of a "technological singularity" in which artificially intelligent machines rapidly outpace human abilities.

This addictive free paperclip game is also a terrifying lesson in how artificial intelligence will make us unnecessary

At first, it's all very hands-on. Every time you click the button, you make a paperclip. Your goal is to make paperclips as fast as you can, and price them at a level so that demand doesn't wildly outstrip your supply or your materials on hand.

Before long, the game offers you the AutoClippers, a tool that automatically makes paperclips without your having to push the button. And then you get WireBuyer, which automatically purchases more wire for you to make paperclip as supplies run out. Pretty soon, it's more efficient to let them go than to make paperclips yourself.

October 20, 2017

1987 crash seen from a different perspective

Remember my post on the Oct 19, 1987 crash when the US markets lost 22% in a single day?

This is the same chart (log scale) and when zoomed out.

Video: Soyuz undocking, reentry and landing explained

An excellent video for the space enthusiast or the technically inclined.

Brain in a vat

The "Brain in a vatoutlines a scenario in which a mad scientist, machine, or other entity might remove a person's brain from the body, suspend it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and connect its neurons by wires to a supercomputer which would provide it with electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives.

The computer would then be simulating reality (including appropriate responses to the brain's own output) and the "disembodied" brain would continue to have perfectly normal conscious experiences, such as those of a person with an embodied brain, without these being related to objects or events in the real world.

Since the brain in a vat gives and receives exactly the same impulses as it would if it were in a skull, and since these are its only way of interacting with its environment, then it is not possible to tell, from the perspective of that brain, whether it is in a human body or a vat. Yet in the first case most of the person's beliefs may be true (if they believe, say, that they are walking down the street, or eating ice-cream); in the latter case their beliefs are false.

Since the argument says one cannot know whether one is a brain in a vat, then one cannot know whether most of one's beliefs might be completely false. Since, in principle, it is impossible to rule out oneself being a brain in a vat, there cannot be good grounds for believing any of the things one believes; a skeptical argument would contend that one certainly cannot know them, raising issues with the definition of knowledge.

The brain in a vat is a contemporary version of the argument given in Hindu Maya illusion.

Read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_in_a_vat

No Indian institute among top 200 world universities, experts worried

Experts have voiced concern over not a single Indian educational institution figuring in the coveted top 200 list of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-17, released on Wednesday.

India aced the rankings as far as South Asia was concerned, but only two universities from the country – the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore (201-250 group) and the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (351-400 group) – could be seen in the top 400 of the 980-institution list. While the premier Bangalore institute moved up significantly in the list (it was in the 251-300 group last year), other establishments like IIT-Delhi, IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Madras figured somewhere between ranks 401 and 500. IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Roorkee, for their part, appeared in the 501-600 band.

India has 19 institutes in the top 800, two more than last year, and 12 others between 801 and 980.

Though we may pat ourselves on the back because a record 31 Indian educational institutions – including 14 new names – have made it to the list, the picture does not look as rosy when we take the total area and population of India into consideration.

View from Pakistan - declining standards in education, lack of critical thinking

TWO quotes from physicist Richard Feynman set the stage. “There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt.”

“I can live with doubt, and uncertainty. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

Higher education has been in the news in Pakistan. When rankings of universities are revealed we find none of our universities are in the top few hundred. When CSS examination results are announced, the dismal performance of candidates elicits comments about the poor quality of our higher education. When university graduates are found amongst the ranks of extremists and fundamentalists, questions are raised about what they are being taught, if anything, in universities. When the quality of research publications is talked about, our universities are found to be wanting. When internationally known academics are ranked, we get to know that we do not have even a few working out of Pakistan.

Read more at https://www.dawn.com/news/1364911/thinking-critically-really

The steamy adventures of a sauna addict

Image result for finnish sauna
I became a sauna addict early on. The first hurdle was to come to terms with being naked with strangers of all shapes, sizes and age. Once you realize that no one cares about that, it’s easy.

Then there’s the heat. Finns are proud of their sauna tradition—the earliest written accounts of Finnish saunas are from the 1100s—and although saunas are popular in other parts of northern Europe, Finns think theirs are the best.

The early wood saunas used to be in pits in the sides of hills in woods and Lapland still has wood-fired saunas in the middle of forests. Now, most saunas, especially the ones in people’s homes, have electric stoves, which are good, but not quite the same as wood-fired ones. There are new-fangled infrared saunas too but a true Finn would sneer at them.

Read more at http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/UGIxRMoGb64zqzk1Qdam9J/The-steamy-adventures-of-a-sauna-addict.html

Ahead of Diwali, good news for Indian economy

Data ranging from cooling of inflation to a rebound in exports and factory output suggest a favourable shift in the economic climate, recovering from the disruption caused by rollout of goods and services tax (GST) and the aftershocks of the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation move. The trend gives optimism to experts for an uptick in economic growth rate in the coming quarters.

Read more at http://www.livemint.com/Politics/1NEng6olk1ewL9wbHNpVGP/Series-of-data-deliver-good-news-for-economy.html