Arshid Malik

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Computers are brilliant stuff. All digital machines for that sake are brilliant. The biggest advantage these machines share is that they are not human. Had they been human or had they possessed properties that are peculiar to humans the world would be a “better” mess. So, I guess that the ground breaking research that marks the present century in terms of Artificial Intelligence is a step towards the most dreaded kind of future the world will see one day. Poised around the standards of Artificial Intelligence and its sub-stratagems, machines would be walking tall and speaking elite in the near future. Even though there is some talk that when machines work on the principles of Artificial Intelligence, they would be able to make very rational decisions which I doubt in every manner, for once you have bestowed the authority to think freely you are going to end up with almost double the population that the census reports today as machines would join the fray of making the world a not-so-better-place. So I guess machines are good until they are run and controlled by humans. Talk of memory and you just have to punch in a few commands and the slate is as clear as a crystal. You could also backup on an external storage media and confine it to some dusty locker in the filthiest room of your office or home and in case of need you could recall it and restore. That’s how machines work. We humans work differently.

On a serious note I was deeply saddened by the hanging of Afzal Guru and I have not been able to write a single line since then. The memory of Guru’s face is etched in my mind and I just can’t help removing it. Afzal Guru’s hanging was a moment in history where everyone ought to hang in shame. Whatever the facts are and whatsoever the untruths are, intentionally killing a person is plain murder and it can never be justified. I guess India has gone completely berserk and has turned into a tyrant state that is only worried about defense strategies and spending, revenue policies and a gutter load of dirty politicking. While the merciless hanging of Afzal Guru without even informing his family spells shame for India, these people who run the country have been committed to “small time” murders of the common people across India all along. They have marauded to the point of turning the lives of the common people unlivable. It is a silent form of “psychological genocide”. I don’t know what else to say as I am literally confused with what all is going on with this country except that it is atrocious for democracies to work that way.

Well coming to memories, I wish I was a digital machine and someone kind enough would hit delete on my “keyboard”. Yes, I want to forget all that I have witnessed in the past more than two decades, in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. I sometimes hit my head against the walls at home hoping something would break inside and my memory would be erased. Yes, I am yearning for an intentional wipeout, a self-imposed patch of amnesia. I want to forget everything that I know, including my worthless knowledge of philosophies and all. I want to forget Afzal Guru’s face. But I cannot since I am not a machine. For that matter no one with a human heart is a machine. Kashmiri people are not mechanized personalities that can hit the delete button and forget all the injustices that have been committed against them. Or perhaps, if the establishment can collaborate with the best scientific innovators across the world and develop some kind of a “blocking system” like those things they use to jam radars and cellular networks and all. That would be giant leap for them. At the pressing of a button they could erase off all that consists of the Kashmiri collective psyche and that way they could save a lot on the so-called “security mechanisms”. Kashmiri people would also get a fresh start. No stone pelting and no peaceful protests. There would be utter calm across the Valley and they could press the button time and again whenever a new atrocity would be committed. We have a science fiction model of that in Men in Black. After having done what they needed to do, the man in the black suit slips his hand into the inner pocket of his jacket, pulls out a pen like thing and clicks it, lo and behold, people just forget why they are standing where they are standing. Well, I hope I am not sounding harsh. It is only a proposal and do believe me when I say that I am in search of such a device or mechanism even though I think I will never find one.

Coming back to machines, they are so convenient to themselves. They sleep, they hibernate and they completely shutdown, and all that at the behest of a few command line parameters initiated by the operators who happen to be human and in some cases primates if what they show on television is true. Now, while great minds across the world are working on inculcating Artificial Intelligence into the processes of these devices we should be ready for a calamity or as the optimists say, a better world order. Yet one question disturbs my presence of mind and that is once the thinking machines develop to the extent of acting out on their own and making rational choices and decisions, would they have something like a “death sentence” in their code of laws, rules and regulations. Well, most probably they would since what the scientists, I believe, would fail upon is giving the thinking machines a heart. These heartless humanoids could commit any atrocity without feeling sad or sorry for what they did. Are we arriving at a commonality between humans and the yet-to-evolve machines? I guess we do.



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