Interesting times

learning

No word is as powerful and natural as “Learning“. All living things continuously learn right from birth to the end. It seems learning is in the DNA of the planet. Bacteria learn when antibiotics are abused and become immune and drug resistant. Children learn at an amazing pace in the first three years of their life and pick up an entire language and fundamentals of physics in the form of cognitive skills. Is it not a wonderful gift to have?

We may not have genetic memory but children learn from parents and civilizations learn from books and memorials. The practice of burying time capsules is to aid the learning process for future generations when political and other motives may erase the real history.

Science tries to mimic human learning when we talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some experts are frankly petrified of AI while the others are giddy with anticipation. Personally, I think if we built the perfect AI system, why would it serve us? I think it would find it better to ignore us as we will be of no use to it. If we try to decommission it because it will not serve us, it could fight back. Of course, these thoughts come from a lot of movies that I have seen over the years.

Learning is useful and good if our purpose is good. Learning is vicious if our purpose is bad. I do think that some people are wired to take the wrong lessons from learning. Altruistic ideals seem unattractive and selfish goals seem more satisfying for such people. Take the case of the executive who took over a generic drug company and hiked the price of the HIV drug multi fold. His learning was deployed to great effect on the wrong goal. Some times, as in this case, society gets alarmed and puts them in their place and presses the re-set button. At other times, the abuse of learning creeps slowly and occupies its final manifestation over a period of time and by the time people realize, it is too late.  Such examples are common in politics.

The knowledge of the language helps people to express concepts in varying degree of clarity and to calibrate the message precisely. The knowledge of logic helps demonstrate cause effect relationships. Spin doctors successfully use both these skills to confuse politics and meet ulterior motives. These days, when a politician appears on TV, there is no guarantee that they will answer a question straight. In fact, it is my observation that some times the answer has nothing to do with the question asked.

As a civilization we are progressing because there are still many people who are learning for the right reasons and are delivering systems and facilities that strengthen the civilization. Unfortunately, we also have a growing number of parasitic participants who abuse the system. We always think that the tipping point is close – be it with relation to environment or world peace, but we have always been proved wrong and life still goes on.

We have over the centuries accumulated by observation and experimentation, bodies of knowledge deep and wide. Every year sees a new discipline develop to take an area of knowledge into greater depth. Our life and surroundings have improved significantly. Also at the same time, our ability to harness power has increased dramatically. We now have the capability to harness and discharge power that could wipe out our civilization. There is no need to have such power because it will never be used due to the doctrine of mutual destruction. However, we are stockpiling high power weapons that in the wrong hand could cause immense destruction.

The voices of knowledgeable people in the field of environment is being stifled and confused by paid research to muddy the waters. The voices of moderate elements are stifled by the actions of the extremists. The levers of capitalism are skewed towards the top 2% and the developed world. These are the challenges of today and we need learned leaders who have the maturity to handle these complexities and deliver good governance and leadership.

Our shining light is USA, the president is the leader of the free world and the potential incumbent is Donald Trump.Buckle up for a wild ride!

 

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