Friday, November 28, 2014

Computer Revolution and Moore's Law: A Personal Journey

Moore's Law: Exponential increase
in transistor density and speed

In this post I trace a personal journey of my interactions with the evolutionary stages of computational machines. I feel my decisions in life have been shaped by forces which were not as clearly understood or even visible in the 1970s and 1980s as they are today and are depicted in this graph. Tremendous progress in the speed of the computers and their reduction of costs obeys Moore's law which says that speed of the computer would double every 18 months and the costs would decrease by half every 2 years. This trend has held for more than half century and is depicted in the figure in the context of the microprocessors.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Encounter Project 2: Propagating Islam as an Inflexible, Rigid, Harsh System

I am now forced to translate "Encounter-2", an Urdu column published in 2000 because I have noticed that since 9-11 there is a flood of rigid Islamic literature, likes of which were never encountered in my readings of Islamic literature during 1970s-80s. The literature that I typically came across then was published from a period extending from mid of 19th century till the 1980s. Recently, however, the frequency with which certain rigid thoughts and ideas seem to have been excavated from the ancient archives of fringe Muslim thoughts and then systematically spread as mainstream Islamic thought appears to be a part of a concerted campaign that seems to be growing in intensity. I think we need to seriously examine the proposition put forward in Encounter-2 below when we see rigid literature specifically relating to children books written from fringe Islamic perspectives that indicate:
  • Ban on fiction; reading, writing and telling of stories.
  • Ban on humor; reading, writing and telling of even decent jokes.
  • Ban on poetry; reading, creating and enjoying of poems.
  • Ban on showing the faces of animals in pictures i.e. facial hijab of animals; cutting off the heads of horses, camels, goats and other animals from their illustrations in school books of children.
  • Ban on the picture of snakes and even of vegetables such as onions!

"Encounter-2" Column Published in Jang by an Urdu Columnist 
[Translated in English by me]

"Encounter " also known as Paris Review appeared immediately after the end of second world war as the foremost authority on communism. Published using offset paper through the state of art printing systems, the magazine would surface at the ports, airports and railway stations of Paris and from there would quickly spread in a few days to tea houses, coffee shops and bars around the world, where every line and every word in the magazine would not only be read as a gospel but would also become the part of the communist belief system that commanded instant obedience to the instructions contained in the articles.  If we research the history of Marxist thought, analyze the Marxist behavior of its followers and study their extremist ideologies, we would discover "Encounter" as the most potent source that made "hunger" of have-nots the most dominant of all the philosophies. It was Encounter that convinced the followers of communism to let their hairs grow, to discontinue the practice of daily bath, to memorize verbatim the Marxist literature as if it was a holy book, to divorce their wives on flimsy grounds, and to instruct their "have-not" kids to 'kill and rob the rich "haves" '.
The magazine had millions of Russian Roubles behind it, thousands of the most intelligent Marxist minds, expert journalists, and extremely sharp critics and erudite intellectuals, and therefore there was no other magazine of the kind that was more impressive, more comprehensive and with better organized content. You can evaluate its standard by looking at the editorial board members that boasted of the top intellectuals of that time including Spender, Auden, and Marlowe. In addition, it had an international editorial board that would critically analyze the submitted articles containing descriptions, evaluations and reviews received from around the world. This analysis would involve ensuring that the submissions are aligned with the Marxist yardstick, and ensuring the correctness of grammar and diction, validity of of statistics, and weight of the arguments. On passing such rigorous analysis, the submissions would then go to different desks where they would be translated by experts of different languages followed by further refinement of the language and its usage. Then another department would reanalyze the translation, correct the appropriateness of words, tighten their loose ends, and improve other language issues. When the time came for printing, the approved article would not only be printed in English but it would also be accompanied with the original language text, so that an interested reader can compare the original with the translation and can verify any discrepancies, if any. The rigorous standards for selection and painstaking review often compelled critics to give a prominence to "Encounter" that was sometimes not even accorded to Karl Marx or Lenin.
But readers need to observe the irony of revelation about ten to fifteen years after the completion of the "Encounter" project when it came out that the magazine which was regarded as the Bible of Communism was actually a CIA project through which an American of the rank of a deputy secretary sitting in a small room of the CIA headquarter along with two clerks and a peon and a few files, a few telex messages and some secret phone calls, was deceiving the whole socialist world by poisoning their ideas and thoughts which triggered  the opposition to communism in the countries being targeted by the communists.
Years later, when the chief of the Encounter project went to attend a seminar on cultural empowerment in Paris, all the participants in the hall stood up to greet him. The American who was now old and had retired, took off his hat to acknowledge the greeting and then took his seat. One of the participants asked, "Sir, how did you achieve all this?" The old man smiled and touching the mike said, "Young Man, it was very simple. We turned communism into such a rigid, harsh and inflexible system that it became no longer acceptable to the masses." Another young participant stood up to ask, "But, how did you do it because the entire management team and editorial staff of the magazine were committed communists, and to our knowledge CIA had no direct interaction with the management and staff?" The old man gave a laugh and again touching the microphone said, "Young man, you are right. We had no direct connection with the management, editorial board or the communist workers of the magazine. However, the articles reaching the magazine for publication from around the world were all submitted by people who were writing on our behalf." Another young participant stood up incredulously and asked, "But, what difference would such submissions make?" This time the old man smiled, and clasping the mike with his fingers said, "Don't you see the huge significance of this, young man! Please consider, what would you think of a bible that gives instructions that are against man's natural instincts, that stop man from thinking freely, that do not permit man to say or do things of their liking, that instructs man to wear smelly and unwashed clothes, that instructs man not to shave their facial hair, nor to clean their teeth, that teaches people to use foul language; how can such bible be acceptable to people? We did precisely that. From the platform of Encounter we demonstrated that people with communist ideology are inflexible, militant and unreasonable. This triggered the opposition in third world countries against communism which made our task easy." At this point, the hall erupted with applause. The old man stood up from his chair, waved his hat again, put his hand on his heart and bowed the way actors thank after a successful performance on stage, turned and left the hall.

...... and now when in gatherings I hear the fatwas (tirades) of "educated" ladies and gentlemen against the ulema, and see the youth saying that Islam (Naoozobillah) is obsolete, regressive and unworkable; when I see decent, quiet and buzurg people getting addressed as "molvis", when I see kalashinikov wielding guards outside the mosques, when I see the innocent children of medrassahs protesting against the disinformation spread by newspapers and magazines; then I visualize a small room in the headquarters of CIA with a deputy secretary level officer with two clerks and peon, with some files, a few telex messages and some telephone calls converting Islam into an alien system in the Islamic countries, and projecting Islam as a system that is regressive, inflexible, unworkable and against natural human instincts!

Dear Readers: If you analyze it with a cool mind, you will agree with me that the extent of hatred spread against Islam through Islamic means, the extent to which maulvi has been maligned as unreasonable with the help of maulvis, the extent to which medressah has been made detestable using medressahs themselves, the extent to which masjid has been made abominable (naoozobillah) using masjids, is tremendously bigger in magnitude than the criticism that has been spread by the speeches and writings of Jews, Christians, Hindus over the last two-three centuries.

Trust me, when some young person speaks the word "molvi" with venom and hatred, it immediately brings to my mind the sight of that old American clasping the mike with his fingers and saying: "Very simple, we made Islam so much bitter, harsh, and inflexible that it became no longer acceptable to the people of the Islamic countries." The old American then continues on to say: "We have now demonstrated to the world that the religion in which a molvi is not willing to sit with another molvi, is a religion that can no longer be acceptable to modern man. Yes, we had demonstrated that people who can not withstand a little criticism, who do not allow another Muslim to enter their mosque, are people who are not capable of following the democratic norms. Yes, we have demonstrated that Muslims belong to the stone age, they are people who can only reply to a question with stoning."

During the last part of the night, when the entire street is engulfed in the pre-morning mist, I am wondering is there no one in the Islamic world who can read the file of "Encounter Project-2"!

[End of my translation of Javed Chaudhry's Column]


See Also:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Big Data, Management Transformation and Voyager of Star Trek Movie

V'jer of Star Trek
The growth of digitization and computerization and its assimilation of everything and everyone that it touches reminds me of the first Start Trek - Movie, where the enterprise encounters a huge energy cloud that is devouring extra-terrestrial objects and even planets on its path as it moves towards the solar system and then eventually towards earth. There seems to be nothing that can stop this energy cloud/mass and there is fear that even the entire earth may be swallowed by it. With each
star swallowed and with each planet gobbled, its size increases and so does its power and energy. What eventually happens to this energy cloud is part of the story that needs to be seen in this movie. What is of relevance for us is that the core of this ever increasing energy cloud eventually turns out to be none other than our old NASA spaceship Voyager that was released from the earth in 1977 and which only recently i.e. in 2012 teared out from the solar system and became the first man made craft to enter the inter-stellar space. In this movie, the Voyager during its two hundred or so years of its journey in the interstellar space has mysterious encounters. Through one such mysterious encounter with an energy source, it transforms and acquires the capacity to start attracting objects, gobbling them and becoming bigger and bigger and amassing more and more energy. Anything and everything that comes in its path is not only swallowed by it, but is also transformed into the energy, which accumulated on top of its existing energy, not only increases its power but also the speed with which it gobbles up things with greater and greater ferocity and an ever increasing appetite.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Companions of Hajj: Dekh mera Zauq o Shauq (Yearning and Passion)

Hajj kay Saathi (Companions of Hajj): See my Passion and Yearning

This year Arif bhai went for his second Hajj and all through the trip he kept on recalling the saathis (group fellows) of that first Hajj of 1996 in which I also accompanied. When I talked on Skype with Arif Bhai after the hajj, I found him emphasizing again and again that everything seems to have changed from what we saw during that first hajj; the fervor seems to be no more visible, the buildings that we saw at that time were gone, the bazaars that existed then are gone, the small eateries run by Bengalis and offering chatpatta desi food seem to have disappeared, the local touch from the shops is gone, the view of  haram as we witnessed then is no longer there; there is new construction everywhere, new building complexes, new malls,  upscale shops, trendy restaurants and the haram is now dwarfed and engulfed by the commercial highrises all round, and above all the local homily touch that we felt then seems to have disappeared.