The Collector of Dystopias

Photographer: Pawel Janiak | Source: Unsplash Star Wars and Scotch Tape I am a technophile; always was and always will be. It doesn’t prevent me from agreeing with Gandhi’s critique of technological modernity. Instead, we can have fun asking such questions as: What would a charkha computer look like? One thought: Ok, I am not sure the…

The Form of the World

Photographer: Heather Lo | Source: Unsplash Configurations India has a renewed government with a few new faces, the most unusual of whom is the new minister for external affairs, Subramanyam Jaishankar, a career diplomat who is now in the Cabinet Committee on Security, which instantly makes him one of the most powerful people in the country.…

Bits of India 2: The Secularism of the RSS

Photographer: Aashish R Gautam | Source: Unsplash Buyer beware: this essay has a higher than usual ratio of speculation to explanation. I am playing with two central ideas (illustrated in the flowchart below): What? The modern system — with the state and the market being its standout institutions — destabilizes traditional categories, breaks them apart, swallows the pieces and finally…

Bits of India: Introduction

Photographer: Ron Hansen | Source: Unsplash The big news from my part of the world is that India organized the biggest, most expansive (and perhaps most expensive) elections ever conducted. Narendra Modi and the BJP were the clear winners. Not the outcome I desired, but that’s not the point of this series. Instead, let me start…

The Tyranny of Experience

Photographer: v2osk | Source: Unsplash There’s no greater tyranny in my world than that of experience, by which I mean the ever more sophisticated versions of the claim “seeing is believing.” We are skeptical by nature, demanding evidence and proof and subjecting claims to all kinds of tests before we believe them. Experience produces facts, in…

Earth Day 2019

Photographer: Guillaume de Germain | Source: Unsplash Many lifetimes ago in a different reality, the devas and asuras made a deal by the seaside. They were tired of dying and when one of them heard the secret to immortality lay hidden in the ocean, they rushed to the beach. Some dove headlong into the ocean in…

Computing Climate Change

Photographer: Markus Spiske | Source: Unsplash In my previous essay, I arrived at an unoriginal idea: that the computer is a mental telescope through which we can view the world. I didn’t say the universe is a computer because that would be really unoriginal but more importantly, because I am not interested in the universe. I…

The Software Eaten World

Photographer: Markus Spiske | Source: Unsplash In accounting for the furniture of the universe, several intellectual traditions have settled upon two great organizing principles: Materialism: the world’s made of stuff and only stuff. If you can’t kick it, it don’t exist. Idealism: the world’s conjured by the mind. If you can dream it, it exists. While…

The Bots of War

We think bots might have tipped the polls in the UK and in the US, but will South Asia host the first “war of the bots?” If you had asked me even two days ago, I would have laughed at the possibility, but having experienced how the recent India-Pakistan crisis was amplified on social media,…

DHK: Desi Henry Kissinger

Let’s say I was Henry Kissinger. I know, I know, but there was a time when I trained with the best to fake a vague European accent while pretending to be an evil genius. So let’s just say I am DHK (Desi Henry Kissinger). I am looking at His Majesty Namo the Magnificent’s War of…