Thursday, December 31, 2009

TOP500 v. Gartner (just another opinion)

Top500's 2nd list for 2009 was released on 17th of November, 2009. The Cray Jaguar beat IBM Roadrunner to the top first rank. Jaguar was upgraded to AMD x86_64 Opteron Six Core 2600 MHz (10.4 GFlops) processors for the feat. It runs the Linux kernel. Eka, a machine from India, has gradually dropped to #26 now, from its June 2007 rank of #4. The list is closely followed, and is one of the most critical analyzers of computer hardware and operating system software. The Top500 is being published twice a year since 1993 and the data accumulated over the years reveals many patterns and points to future trends as well. "An Overview of High Performance and Challenges for the Future" talk by Dr. Jack Dongarra, one of the maintainers of the Top500 list, is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTIKUxO9kf4. The interesting talk concludes with an indictment of the software development process in vogue:


  • For the last decade or more, the research investment strategy has been overwhelmingly in favour of hardware
  • This strategy needs to be rebalanced - barrier to progress are increasingly on the software side
  • Moreover, the return on investment is more favourable to software
    • Hardware has a half-life measured in years while software has a half-life measured in decades

  • High Performance Ecosystem out of balance
    • Hardware, OS, Compilers, Software, Algorithms, Applications
    • No Moore's Law for software, algorithms and applications



Current software is woefully unable to utilize the hardware developed and available. Software has failed to keep pace with hardware growth and progress.

Why is the software domain lagging behind?

The answers most probably lie in ZL v. Gartner, and more specifically in Gartner. It is not easy to believe that a single corporation could hold a tight grip over a domain as large as the software industry, but it seems to be the most important reason why the field of software has lagged behind while hardware has progressed in predictable ways.

A number of blogs list articles on how Gartner has been feeding news and opinions promoting fud about potential products. A lengthy list is available at http://boycottnovell.com/wiki/index.php/Gartner_Group Apparently, no serious challenge to the nonchalant and frivolous views of Gartner appear to have been made so far, and ZL v. Gartner might come to save the whole software industry from collapse, shame and disgust.

It is hard to dismiss the complaint made by Dr. Jack Dongarra. Dual core 64 bit machines will turn into multi core multi bit machines in future. Large scale parallelizations are suddenly feasible and economical in terms of power consumption. The disruptive and fast emerging processor technology throws serious challenges to software developers. Whole kernels and applications would have to be re-written, if the new features of the processors are to be utilized. If Gartner is continued to be taken seriously, much of the revenues would only get piped into useless products and would only ultimately leave the field barren and lagging woefully behind the gaint strides in hardware.

Ideally, software should be ready 14 months before the hardware becomes available, based on emerging trends in hardware development. But thanks to Gartner and its chums, software is always at least one decade behind hardware on a regular basis now. This ought to change, and I hope the American legal system takes ZL v. Gartner to its logical end, and saves the software industry from further doom.

The motion to dismiss ZL's plaint also raises some interesting questions with regard to the US Constitution as well. Under the VII Amendment to the US Constitution:

"In suits at common law, where the value in conrtoversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."

Long before the US Constitution and the VII Amendment, the right to trial by jury was well known and recognized:

In Holmes v. Walton (1780), New Jersy employed six man juries in cases of small amounts (six pounds) and twelve man juries in all other cases. Because the property involved had substantial value, Holmes was entitled to a trial by a jury of twlve; but the trial judge, for reasons unknown, allowed him only a six man jury. He contended that he was denied a right to trial by a twelve-member jury. The high court upheld his claim. (The case is best remembered for another reason though. The constitutionality of the State's trading-with-the-enemy Act which provided for trial by a six-man jury was not at issue, but the disaffected citizens of the locality alleged in a petition to the state assembly that the states' supreme court had held the seizure act void. The legislature supported the court, by enacting a new measure providing that in any suit exceeding six pounds, trial by jury meant a trial by a jury of twelve.

In the interesting case of Trevett v. Weeden (1786), John Weeden, a Rhode Island butcher, refused to accept paper bills rather than gold or silver for the meat sold in his market. Under a recent Rhode Island law, the penalty for such refusal was harsh: anyone accused of the cime was given only three days to prepare for trial, no jury was allowed, no appeal from conviction was allowed, and the fine was fixed steeply at 100 pounds. As Weeden's lawyer could not reasonably deny that Weeden had refused the paper scrip, he confronted the law itself. The law under which Weeden stood accused, he argued, was unconstitutional; in enacting it the legislature had overreached its legitimate powers and violated the recognized principle of trial by jury and hence the Superior Court of Rhode Island should nullify it. The judges held that the case was "not congnizable" before them and dismissed the complaint filed by Trevett. Weeden was freed and suffered no penalty despite the fact that he had openly disregarded Rhode Island's paper money law. The legislature summoned the high court judges, as if they were offenders, and demanded an explanation of their reasons for hold an act "unconstitutional", and "unprecedented" judgement that tended to "abolish the legislative authority". Judge David Howell defended judicial review and judicial independence before the legislature, and insisted that the legislature had confused the argument with the judgment. The legislature initiated a motion to remove the judges, but ultimately did not succeed in doing so.

The Ten Pound Act Cases (1787) of that era again point to the vigour with which the right to trial by jury was affirmed. The Ten Pound Act of 1785 allowed justices of peace to try minor civil cases, involving sums less than ten pounds, without juries. The state constutitional guarantee of trial by jury extended to all civil cases except those which juries customarily did not try. New Hampshire practice had previously allowed a justice of the peace to try a case without a jury if the sum amounted to less than two pounds. After the court ruled that the act conflicted with the right to trial by jury, petitions to the state legislature demanded impeachment of the judges. The house, by a 3-1 majority, voted that the act was constitutional, but the judges courageously stood by their initial decision and reaffirmed it in another case. Following the failure of a motion to impeach the judges, the house capitulated and repealed the Ten Pound Act.

Now, after the Constitution of the United States of America came into being and the VII Amendment, the right to trial by jury in cases where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, shall be preserved. In my humble opinion, the right to trial by jury was hard won, and enshrined in the Constitution by no accident. A motion to dismiss could invariably lie only if a light view of the VII Amendment is allowed to prevail.

Dr. Jack Dongarra predicted the arrival of petaflop supercomputers by about 2010, way back in 1999, on the basis of benchmarking of the top500 since 1993. His concerns regarding the serious crisis in software development is to be taken quite seriously, and the first most valuable opportunity to bring in corrections may start with ZL v. Gartner.

I am happy about ZL v. Gartner for another reason too. My interest in computers could be traced to Dr. Arvind Srinivasan, who is now CTO of ZL Technologies. He was sitting to my left in high school. Maths became fun simply because of Arvind's contagious enthusiasm for it. Solving a problem was important but doing it with speed was often more significant and that also brought in an element of race and fun into equations. Speed defines elegance. He was the fastest in our maths class. I am least surprised that ZL took Gartner to court and would not be surprised if the American legal system, as I learnt about it acts fairly, reasonably and justly either. That should pave way for a more exciting decade down 2010 when software releases are ahead of hardware in the making.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bretts Road, Salem

Philip Mason finished his book, "The Men Who Ruled India", with these words:

"When all has been said, one simple point remains. It was put clearly by Lord Wavell in an informal speech made after he left India. The English would be remembered, he believed, not by this institution or that, but by the ideal they left behind of what a district officer should be. At the other end of the long line, Warren Hastings had expressed a similar thought. 'It is on the virtue,' he had said, 'not the ability, of their servants that the Company must rely.' And if today the Indian peasant looks to the new district officer of his own race with expectation of receiving justice and sympathy, that is the memorial of the English."1

"Bretts Road, Salem" is one such memorial. Harry Augustus Bretts, was the collector of Salem district, between 1853 and 1862 (called Baramahal then). His achievements:

He was a great administrator who brought in sweeping reforms in land taxes.
He levied less tax for poor yielding lands under ‘Less Fertile’ classification.
It was he who abolished the sukavasi inam (free lands for living), a free distribution of lands to Brahmins and Muslims in the district and instead introduced samathuvapuram concept by making all people live in all places amicably.
Bretts was also responsible for bringing out the first government gazette.
He brought out The Salem Gazette in 1859. Historian Le Fanu called Bretts a man of impeccable character and straight forward in administration and deliverance of justice and architect of many people welfare schemes.2

The Government of Tamil Nadu would like to rename "Bretts Road" as "Central Library Road". The proposal serves no useful purpose other than erasing the memorial to Harry Augustus Bretts, who ably served Salem as its Collector. Philip Mason did not live to hear of this tragic move.3 However, the Indian Civil Service has undergone radical changes after the British left India, and the move to rename is perhaps only the last nail on the notion of virtuous service.

Baramahal then included Salem, Dharmapuri and Namakkal, and was one of the earliest districts to come under British rule in India:4

Alexander Read, was appointed by Lord Cornwallis, as the first head of the district in 1791. Thomas Munro was appointed one of his assistants. Salem was completely surveyed in seven years time. Munro never forgot Salem and remembered it as a model unit of administration. Bretts served decades later, building on the foundation laid by Read and Munro.

Mason's book is replete with anecdotes on administration of revenue, justice, building roads, canals, bridges, railroads and nurturing institutions.
The rule of "Audi alterem partem" was taught this way:

To a Bhil tribesman who, after a long tale of woe, begged him for justice at once, here and now, on an oppressor who had not been heard in answer, Malcom asked:
'Why do you suppose God gave me two ears?'
That would be enough; it would carry instant conviction where half an hour's explanation would have produced only a sullen bewilderment. It was an answer which ought to have been taught to every young man entering the Company's service.5

Even today, the role of the Collector remains much the same. He takes charge of the district. He is duty bound to remove public nuisances and maintain public order.6 During the British rule, more than 3000 thugs were convicted between 1831 and 1837, after Lord William Bentinck appointed Sleeman to capture and bring the thugs to justice. Thugs those days killed for gain, and it was not unusual for them to have targets of killing one thousand pilgrims and travelers. Clearing India of thugs was no easy task but the evil was tamed.7

"Bretts Road" stands in glorious remembrance of the difficult services of not only Henry Augusts Bretts, but scores of others like him who diligently served India. The greatest criticism against the civil service of the British era was that they were not accountable to the people. Mahatma Gandhi started the non-cooperation movement in 1919, when Indians were cooperating with the administration in every way. After Independence, the anomaly stands corrected and the rulers are held accountable to the people through elected representatives. The Collector is a pillar of strength in our democratic set up. As a native of Salem, a wish: The road to virtuous service is a hard one and "Bretts Road" ought to remain on the map of India, as a guide to every sincere traveler.


1 Philip Mason, The Men Who Ruled India, Rupa & Co, 1985, p. 346
2 R. Ilangovan, We want Bretts Road, The Hindu, 28th November, 2009, http://www.hindu.com/2009/11/28/stories/2009112852490300.htm accessed on 29th November, 2009.
3 Philip Mason passed away in 1999. A clip from the "Daily Telegraph (London), Obituaries, Friday, January 29, 1999" is available at
http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/INDIA/1999-01/0917632468, accessed on 29th November, 2009.
4 Mason, op. cit., p. 86
5 Ibid., p. 88
6 AIR 2009 SC 1868, Suhelkhan Khudyarkhan & another v. Sate of Maharashtra and others also available online at http://www.ebc-india.com/practicallawyer/index2.php?option=com_content&itemid=99999999&do_pdf=1&id=13137
7 Mason, op. cit., p. 115

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Bentley's Second Phrase

The "Bentley's Code Phrases" [ http://www.archive.org/details/bentleyscomplete00bentuoft ] first published in 1906 continued to be commonly used till the end of 1960's. That and other codes were widely used by commercial establishments - "coding" seems to have been popular then at grass root levels. If the 5 letter codes were well understood, popular and used widely, there are no reasons why the present coding done with computer languages based on 8 bit letters can't be used with the same ease by the general public. Coding languages need to start circulating widely among the public the way Bentley's Code ruled from 1906 to the 1960s.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forth resources



"The Forth story has the making of a morality play: Persistant young programmer struggles against indifference to discover Truth and save his suffering comrades. It gets better: ...

I know Forth is the best language so far. I'm pleased at its success, especially in the ultra-conservative arena of Artificial Intelligence. I'm disturbed that people who should, don't appreciate how it embodies their own description of the ideal programming language.

But I'm still exploring without license. Forth has led to an architecture that promises a wonderful integration of software and silicon. And another new programming environment."

-Chuck Moore, developer of Forth.

I like the idea of using stacks to keep track of bits. To give an example, take the gmail inbox. There is now a feature called "archive". We could select mails and archive them - the read mails are popped out of the inbox stack and dropped in the archive stack, away from view. This way, the inbox becomes manageable. I leave only mails that need to be replied to in the inbox, and as soon as possible, send a reply, and archive it.

Obviously, we can't be staring at an empty inbox for long. We can now clear gmail from our stack, and proceed to the next task awaiting.

I stack only a dozen items or less in my head, and give priority to one item at a time, and try to clear the stack as quickly and efficiently as possible, paying utmost attention to the task at hand.

Imagine this as a way of life. A philosophy. A program. That's Forth. Its Turing complete and really close to a Turing machine. The stack is the only window to the infinite tape. Every shift/read operation is defined as a word. This way, it provides elegant integration between software and silicon - it could hardly get better than this. It looks like a high level language to humans and a low level one to machines (or vice versa, depending on how you think).

Whatever the future may hold for Forth, its a wonderful way to learn about representing information, programming and compiling for finding solutions to problems using software and hardware. It could run in just 8k of memory. Forth developed from 1950's as a complete operating system and programming language. Its basics could be learnt in a day or two. Going Forth is not exactly easy, but worth the effort!

Resources to get started with Forth:

http://www.colorforth.com/HOPL.html
http://www.forth.com/starting-forth/sf0/sf0.html
http://thinking-forth.sourceforge.net/
http://www.jwdt.com/~paysan/gforth.html
http://www.forth.org/fd/contents.html
http://www.pin1.org/forthlib/
http://www.taygeta.com/fsl/sciforth.html

Thanks to Joseph Koshy for writing about Forth language in a mail.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A poem from Purananuru



யானை புக்க புலம்

காய்நெல் லறுத்துக் களவங் கொளினே
மாநிறை வில்லதும் பன்னாட் காகும்
நூறுசெறு வாயினுந் தமித்துப்புக் குணினே
வாய்புகு வதனினுங் கால்பெரிது கெடுக்கும்
அறிவுடை வேந்த னெறியறிந்து கொளினே
கோடி யாத்து நாடுபெரிது நந்தும்
மெல்லியன் கிழவ னாகி வைகலும்
வரிசை யறியாக் கல்லென் கற்றமொடு
பரிவுதப வெடுக்கும் பிண்ட நச்சின்
யானை புக்க புலம்போலத்
தானு முண்ணா னுலமுங் கெடுமே.

- பிசிராந்தையார்

The field entered by an elephant

"If an elephant take mouthfuls of ripe grain cut for it,
The twentieth part of an acre will yield it food for many days;
But if it enter a hundred fertile fields, with no keeper,
Its foot will trample down much more than its mouth receives.
So if a wise king, who knows the path of right take just his due,
His land will prosper, yielding myriadfold,
But, if the king, not softened by his knowledge, take just what he desires,
Nor heed prescriptions rule, feasting with song and dance,
Amid his court and kindered, and show no love to his subjects;
Like the field that elephant entered,
His kingdom will perish, and he himself will lose his all".

-Translation by Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope

The above verse is an obituary by a friend in the memory of his master, the King. G.U. Pope comments, they were not exactly "words of love." The players there are Ko-Perum-Cholan, Pottiyar and Piciranthaiyar - the noble King and his two intimate friends, who were also poets. All the three, after death were commemorated by stones placed side by side over their urns.

Apart from the discourse on why and how anyone should use valuable resources without waste, the composition also elegantly applies the Tamil fraction 1/20 'ma' [மா] in the 2nd line.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Erdös number

Could life be expressed as a set of numbers?

The Erdös number is probably part of such an attempt! The Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdös [1913-1996] collaborated with hundreds of mathematicians during his life time - 511 to be precise, including a few Indians as well. They might have collaborated with others, and a network of collaborating mathematicians emerges. Erdös number is in honour of him. He himself is given number 0 and those who directly collaborated with him are assigned number 1. Those who never collaborated with Erdös, but had contributed papers with any of the 511 get number 2, so on and so forth. Just for fun, if you have contributed papers, you may try to trace your trail to Erdös and publish your Erdös number! Though this is a "humorous tribute" to the mathematician, it has a huge potential of bringing mathematics closer to social science improving quality of computations based on society.

A list of mathematicians with Erdös numbers 1, 2 and 3 are listed at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_by_Erd%C5%91s_number

Like the many have not joined that network, my Erdös # is infinity.

References:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erd%C5%91s
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erd%C5%91s_number
[3] http://fourmilab.ch/documents/erdos_number/

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Relevance of Harold Laski

Harold Laski once said, "I really don't think there is anything to say about me except that I am honest and anxious to see a decent world before I die." Time magazine wrote an obituary for Laski titled "History's Revenge", saying "[s]ome people maintain that Manchester was the only place where Harold Laski could have been born. Manchester had nursed the industrial revolution and produced the "Manchester school" of laissez-faire liberals e.g., John Bright, Jeremy Bentham, Richard Cobden. State Planner Harold Laski, the argument went, was History's revenge on the city of Manchester." Laski was professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics [LSE] and advocated Socialism. He greatly influenced a number of Indian leaders who studied in Britain, including Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of India's Constitution. "Political Science" is part of the Law Course at Madras Law College [as it was called then] and "Grammar of Politics" by Laski is prescribed for study. He continues to exert influence and probably has many answers to problems that would come in the future for those prepared to understand his thoughts. The book analyses the judicial process and according to Laski, "[w]hen we know how a nation-State dispenses justice, we know with some exactness the moral character to which it can pretend."

"The Art of the Advocate" by Richard Du Cann presents many tidbits from Laski v The Newark Advertiser Co. Ltd and Parlby.
The brief facts are that, on Saturday, 16th June, 1945, at the height of the General Election, Professor Harold Laski addressed a crowd of over five hundred people, in support of a Labour party candidate at Newark, and as he was about to leave, a journalist from the Newark Advertiser asked him why Laski "openly advocated revolution by violence". The "Newark Advertiser" reported Laski's reply as: "As for violence, he continued, if Labour could not obtain what it needed by general consent, 'We shall have to use violence even if it means revolution'." Laski sued "Newark Advertiser" along with Parly, its Editor and Managing Director, that the report was false and malicious, that, by innuendo, the report meant and was understood to mean that Laski had declared his intention to commit and to conspire with others to commit the crimes of treason, treason-felony, sedition, riot, and breach of the peace and that Laski had been thereby injured in his reputation. The defence claimed the report was fair and that the words did not mean what was alleged in the innuendo. The justification claimed on the basis of pamphlets and books, that Laski had been preaching 'revolution by violence' at Newark as he had throughout his active life. The trial is said to have lasted five days, and the jury decided in forty minutes that the report was fair and accurate. The action was dismissed with costs. They did not go on to decide whether Laski had habitually advocated violence as their decision was just that he used those words at Newark. Time magazine mentions in the above said article that, "Laski had to pay all the court costs of $52,000, including a thumping fee to the paper's lawyer, wealthy Sir Patrick Hastings."

The print media lives by generating heated controversies. Laski fed them with prime fodder.

Harold Laski wrote in 1925, in his "Grammar of Politics", "[e]very legal system involves, in its working, an unprofessional element, of which the jury is the most notable example", and said, "[i]t is, therefore, a matter of importance in any judicial system to confer powers of general jurisdiction only upon persons of trained competence in the law." His own trial two decades later only confirmed his theory.

Qualitative competence in the legal system is something Laski desired deeply. Babbage, Turing, Laski and many others suffered in some way or the other under the system over them. They painstakingly wrote defensively in support of welfare for the majority, but somehow they only got trampled by events in the end.

Time magazine concluded, "Jeffersonian-Marxist Harold Laski, for all his brilliance, had never made it quite clear what he considered a decent world to be." That only shows how widely "Grammar of Politics" was read. History hasn't stopped counting the days past and just started labeling its days as that of the "information era". Laski started his grammar book with the line: "No theory of the state is ever intelligible save in the context of its time." Ever increasing automation and space exploration needs set a new context for state theories. "History's Revenge" would come only when Laski is more widely understood and appreciated. Even if it never does come, it would cause no peril to the reputation of Laski.

References:
[1] "History's Revenge", Time article dated 3rd April, 1950 at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,934881,00.html
[2] "LSE-India past and present" at http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEIndia/pastAndPresent.htm
[3] "A Grammar of Politics", Harold J. Laski.
[4] "The Art of the Advocate", Richard Du Cann

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

ㄈபோல் வளை

Avvayar's ancient Attisudi says:

"ஙபோல் வளை"


Edward Jewitt Robinson translated that as, "Consort, like letters [of 'ங' series] in array."

The explanation by Na.Mu. Venkatasamy Nattar is as follows:

ங என்னும் எழுத்தானது தான் பயனுடையதாயிருந்து பயனில்லாத ஙா முதலிய தன் வருக்க எழுத்துகளைத் தழுவிக்கொள்ளுதல் போல, நீ பயனுடையவனாயிருந்து உன் இனத்தார் பயனில்லாதவராயினும், அவரை தழுகிக்கொள்.

ஙா முதலிய பதினொரெழுத்தும் எந்தச் சொல்லிலும் வருவதில்லை. ஙகரத்தில் பொருட்டே அவற்ளையும் சுவடியில் எழுதுகிறார்கள். இனி இதற்கு ஙகர வொற்றானது அகரவுயிர் ஒன்ளையே தழுவுவது போல நீ ஒருவனையே தழுவு என மாதர்க்குக் கூறியதாகவும் பொருள் சொல்லலாம்.


Except ங [ṅa] and ங் [ṅ], none of the others in the series ஙா ஙி ஙீ ஙு ஙூ ஙெ ஙே ஙொ ஙோ ஙௌ are used in any Tamil word. Hence, consort like ங [ṅa].

The aphorism taken more literally translates to "bend like the consonant 'ங'" [ṅa]. This interpretation does not really go well with the rest of the aphorisms in the Attisudi. The Tamil script has undergone major changes every century for various reasons. During the times of Avvayar, 'ங' seems to have been written thus: ㄈ That looks more like a square bracket. The aphorism now lends itself to ethically tenable meanings like: "fortify fences like ㄈ [ṅa]", "encircle and protect like ㄈ [ṅa]".

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weavers

Sarojini Naidu wrote a poem titled "Indian Weavers":

WEAVERS, weaving at break of day,
Why do you weave a garment so gay? . . .
Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,
We weave the robes of a new-born child.

Weavers, weaving at fall of night,
Why do you weave a garment so bright? . . .
Like the plumes of a peacock, purple and green,
We weave the marriage-veils of a queen.

Weavers, weaving solemn and still,
What do you weave in the moonlight chill? . . .
White as a feather and white as a cloud,
We weave a dead man's funeral shroud.


Weaving is an age old tradition in India. Weavers making textiles in their homes and open spaces around them used to be a common sight just decades ago. Hand looms are now falling silent. The lucky few are shifted to living cultural museums. Dakshinachitra on ECR, near Chennai, has on display two hand looms on which weavers make a few sarees every month. A few pictures of the weaving equipment:










It is surprising that some say there is "no proof" for hand loom weaving traditions in India because, while, bits of fabric from ancient Egypt and China have survived, not even a shred has been found from India so far! Want to see some real proof that hand looms have existed for long in India? The weaver's feet have a story to tell:

The feet are used to 'power' the hand loom. The space between the big toe (hallux) and the index toe is large enough to accommodate another toe. The weaver's feet have for too long been operating the foot treadle and the space taken by the rope on the treadle has left a permanent mark on their feet. The "Book of Looms" by Eric Broudy documents other distinguishing features of the weavers: they have hands so sensitive to touch, that they cannot do other hard labour. The human genetic map would have the "weaver's patch" that could distinguish traditional weavers from the rest.

Hand loom equipment were upgraded by Jacquard, a French weaver, in 1801. His loom could be controlled by punch cards. This was a huge step in automating the weaving process. In due course, it inspired Charles Babbage to come up with the Analytical Engine, using punch cards to store programs. There has been no looking back since then.

By 2009, the fully automatic looms have almost totally replaced hand looms in India. The weavers in Tamil Nadu have been forced to find other jobs not their vocation - ending up mostly as construction workers. The shrouds for them would be woven by power looms now.

Mahatma Gandhi used weaving for political freedom. Thiruvalluvar, a law giver of the ancient Tamils, is believed to have been a weaver. Hailing from the weaving community, Sir P.T. Thiagaraya Chettiar created political currents in Tamil Nadu. The innovation by Jaquard led to automation of the loom, and the hardware of Babbage have now matured. Will the electronic networks that weave connections between all men mean the end of representatives and pave way for direct democracy? Time will tell - keep reading :)

References:
[1] http://www.poetry-archive.com/n/indian_weavers.html
[2] http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/jacquard.htm
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devanga
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacquard_loom
[5] "The Book of Looms", Eric Broudy, http://books.google.co.in/books?id=shN5_-W1RzcC&printsec=frontcover
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theagaroya_chetty

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ranjith and friends ...

Ranjith and friends take this road in Chennai, to school. We don't need computers to see what needs to be done to improve things here, but they could help us utilize resources in a better way:




Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tattvartha Sutra: That which is

Umasvati's "Tattvartha Sutra" is one of the oldest philosophical works recognized by all Jaina traditions, and is much like an encyclopedia. The translation by Natmal Tatia introduces the work as having the theme of "non-violence, non-absolutism and non-possession." Self-reliance is seen as a core principle to life. The "self" is central to realising every other truth and the path to omniscience is presented. Various truths and ethics in the form of crisp verses guide the reader towards liberation.

It is fairly hard to follow the verses without aid from the notes by the translator. A few terse and pithy lines from to Sutra to encourage wider readership and appreciation of this great work.

What do souls do?
parasparopagraho jivanam
Souls render service to one another.

Soul is defined as:
upayoga laksanam
Sentience is the defining characteristic of the soul.

On variety of views:
naigama-samgraha-vyavahara-rjusutra-sabda nayah
The philosophical standpoints are: the common person's view, generic view, practical view, linear view and literal view.

On charity:
anugrahartham svasyatisargo danam
Charity consists in offering alms to the qualified person for one's own benefit.

On contemplation:
vitarkah srutam
Contemplation is pondering over the contents of the scriptures.

On India:
bharatah sadvinsa-pamcayaojanasata-vistarah sat caikonavimsatibhaga yojanasya
The continent of Bharata is 526 6/19 yojanas wide.

India was then 7695 KM wide. Today, India is 2933 KM wide, east to west.

On liberation:
tadanantaram urdhvam gacchaty a lokantat
When all karmic bondage is eliminated, the soul soars upwards to the border of cosmic space


The appendix includes notes on numbers, measurement of time, measurement of space, and other headings useful to interpret the verses. Number 2 is considered the minimum numerable as one does not lend itself to counting. Various grades of infinity are discussed as well.

The Tattvartha Sutra is based on the sermons of Lord Mahavira transmitted through his immediate disciples. The attempt to achieve omniscience and liberation through incessant thought and analysis is refreshingly enlightening even today.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The middle path

Thiruvalluvar, writing on "prohibited conduct" (கூடா ஒழுக்கம்), said:

280. மழித்தலும் நீட்டலும் வேண்டா உலகம்
பழித்தது ஒழித்து விடின்.

Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope translated that as:
What's the worth of shaven head or tresses long, If you shun what all the world condemns as wrong?


Mr. F.W. Ellis:
There is no need of a shaven crown, nor of tangled hair, if a man abstain from those deeds which the wise have condemned.

The English translations limit the verse to just the head and crown - missing the beard and the more general meaning of "shaving". Thiruvalluvar seems to prescribe the middle path with regard to hair - trimmed to taste according to the fashion of the day!

Buddhist monks and other sects have elaborate tonsuring rules and procedures. On the other extreme, Saivaite saints and others sport long tresses and beards. Both symbolise and make their school of thought apparent to the world, through hair growth. Valluvar strongly censures both practices, and declares that both extremes are unwanted when what the world condemns is given up, abandoned and/or destroyed.

Beyond just hair on the head, the verse prescribes the middle path to wealth earned through moral rectitude.

The University of Madras dictionary at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/tamil-lex/ gives the following meaning to "மழித்தல்":

1. மொட்டையடி-த்தல் moṭṭai-y-aṭi- : (page 3374)

மொட்டையடி-த்தல் moṭṭai-y-aṭi-

, v. tr. < id. +. 1. To shave the head entirely; தலை முழுதும் மழித்தல். 2. To strip completely, as a man of his wealth, as a tree of its fruits; முழு துங் கொள்ளைகொள்ளுதல். மரத்தை மொட்டை யடித்துவிட்டார்கள்.


The meaning of "நீட்டல்":

1. நீட்டல் nīṭṭal : (page 2295)

1. Stretching, lengthening; நீட்டுகை. 2. Procrastination; தாமதம். நிலைமை யறிய நீட்ட மின்றி (பெருங். மகத. 23, 51).

நீட்டல் nīṭṭal, n. < id. 1. Lengthening, extending, stretching; நீளச்செய்கை. 2. (Gram.) Poetic licence which consists in the lengthening of a short vowel into a long one; குற்றுயிரை

2. நீட்டல்மானம் nīṭṭal-māṉam : (page 2295)

280). 5. Liberality; பெருங்கொடை. (பிங்.)


The verse prohibits stripping someone of all wealth. It also abjures needless generosity. Both are needless if one maintains rectitude earning wealth. Of course, the verse assumes the reader has freedom to ponder and take correct decisions.

The saint who spoke so clearly censuring extremes, is portrayed with high tresses and a long beard. That does no justice to Thiruvalluvar - he must have sported neatly trimmed hair according to the fashion of his day!

It won't be out of place here to mention that most programmers who have made a huge difference to computing follow the middle path. To read more on them, please visit:

http://www.codethinked.com/post/2007/12/06/The-Programmer-Dress-Code.aspx
http://www.codethinked.com/post/2007/12/The-Programmer-Dress-Code---Part-Deux.aspx
http://khason.net/blog/computer-languages-and-facial-hair-%e2%80%93-take-two/

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Free access to law movement

One of the exciting world wide movements promoting free access to law is spearheaded from Australia. The Australasian Legal Information Institute hosts http://www.austlii.edu.au/ This website allows free access to most of the Australian legal resources, including legislation and decisions of the High Court of Australia [the Highest court in Australia]. They have devised standard notation for citing case law that is uniformly followed throughout Australia, with most of the Courts sending in the judgments and transcripts of proceedings to austlii.edu.au in standard formats. Legislation is reported to the site by the attorneys who represent the state.

Austlii success also led initiatives in England creating www.bailii.org Worldlii site provides access to legal information in other jurisdictions. Legal information institutes of the world, meeting in Montreal, in October 2002 declared that:

* Public legal information from all countries and international institutions is part of the common heritage of humanity. Maximising access to this information promotes justice and the rule of law;
* Public legal information is digital common property and should be accessible to all on a non-profit basis and free of charge;
* Independent non-profit organisations have the right to publish public legal information and the government bodies that create or control that information should provide access to it so that it can be published.

Involvement of professors of law, attorneys, judges and a host of sponsors from the business and legal community make the initiative possible. Some accounts giving details of the work done by various volunteers and enthusiasts are available. A few snips from interesting speeches and material published online:

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers) in his Valedictory Address for Lord Justice Brooke [2006] EWCA Civ B1 (27 July 2006) http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2006/B1.html said:

On the Bench Henry worked tirelessly with the Lord Chancellor's Department (latterly the Department of Constitutional Affairs) on schemes for the introduction of IT into the court system -- schemes that alas all too often have fallen at the fence of implementation through lack of funds. Legal Technology News accurately stated that Lord Justice Brooke was "one of the most computer literate judges on the bench of any court on either side of the Atlantic today" with the advantage of being a realist "rather than a techno-enthusiast forever jumping on to every new gizmo band wagon that rolls along".

I would need the assistance of a computer to keep track of the various IT committees on which Henry Brooke has served during the nineteen years that he has been striving to bring the court's IT into first the 20th and latterly the 21st century -- although it might be more truthful to say that the efforts are still to bring the standards up to those of the last century. He was the first judge to be a full member of a Court Service Board, and, in 2001, because of his unparalleled experience, he was appointed by Lord Woolf as Judge in charge of Modernisation (JIM for short). He has described his experience in this area as "snakes and ladders". The promise of £1.1 billion for IT for criminal courts -- up a ladder. The promise of £260 million for IT in the civil courts -- a further ladder. Superb team work between civil servants and judges -- and in this context Mr Justice Cresswell deserves special mention -- in preparing the programmes for modernisation -- up a long ladder -- and then, wham, down a huge snake, the withdrawal of the majority of the funding.

Despite this, there have been some advances -- the computerised claims production centre at Northampton, Money Claims Online, Possession Claims Online, the LINK system, XHIBIT (although not all agree that this deserved the priority it received), and the provision of lap-tops and IT facilities for judges. So the industry of Henry and those who have worked with him at the IT coalface has borne some fruit.

Allied to his enthusiasm for IT has been his determination that the public should have free access to judgments as soon as they have been approved by the court. In 1999 he chaired a meeting in London which led to the formation of the multi-disciplinary "Free the Law" movement and to his taking the Chair of BAILII (the British and Irish Legal Information Institute) which has achieved so much in this area.

These activities would be more than enough to provide a full workload for most people, but Henry has done them in his spare time. His mainstream activities included chairing the Law Commission in the three years 1993, 1994 and 1995. This important post requires the highest intellectual ability and knowledge of the law, coupled with leadership and administrative skills. You can see why Mr Justice Brooke was selected for the job. It has also traditionally earned the holder swift promotion to the Court of Appeal on relinquishing the chair. Thus, in 1996, though not quite as swiftly as he deserved, Henry was promoted to the Court of Appeal.

The contribution that he has made to jurisprudence in that court, particularly since he has been presiding, has been immense, reflecting his learning in the law and powers of analysis...


The legal fraternity even today takes pride in the trappings of office: majestic buildings, robes, flowery language, etc. It is hilarious to read this part of the above speech!


It takes a little time to get to know Henry Brooke. His clerk, Elizabeth, sent me a note which says: "He wears his robes like a catwalk model -- off the shoulder". He has a slightly craggy exterior and an unruly and unruled head of hair (which is one of the more cogent arguments for wigs in the Court of Appeal), and which can even lead to an impression of slight disorganisation.

If so, the impression is totally misleading. No one, who does not have a rigid self-discipline, could achieve even half of the contribution that Henry Brooke makes, and from his earliest days in the law has made, to so many different aspects of the administration of justice in this country. When you come to know him, you also become aware of his sense of values, his humanity and his care for his fellow men and women.


One may only humbly agree with the Chief Justice that the contributions by Sir Henry Brooke have added greater glory to the institution more than any of the other trappings. The effort to use technology in meaningful ways is never easy, as Mr Stephen Hockman, QC, observed in the farewell to Lord Justice Brooke:


At the same time, as I suspect most people will be aware, Henry Brooke was making increasing use of technology in the cases which he tried. His practice was to engage in proactive case-management through the use of e-mail. Many a Member of the Bar, and perhaps even of the Judiciary, who has received an e-mail from Henry timed at some unearthly hour, perhaps even well after midnight, with the self-effacing but inaccurate explanation later proffered that it was probably due to an error in the time clock on the computer. Such stories, I venture to say, illustrate both his dedication and his essential modesty.


Laurie J West-Knights QC, co-founded www.bailii.org along with Lord Saville and Sir Henry Brooke. It was originally maintained by LJW-K QC, personally, at http://www.lawonline.cc/ The story of the initiative used to be available there, but not any longer. One gets to read about LJW-K, QC, at http://www.hailshamchambers.com/barristers/laurie-west-knights-qc.asp The point to be noted is that it takes only a few spirited individuals to bring about spectacular changes.

In India, NIC has taken several initiatives, and a wealth of information relating to legislation and case-law are freely available. But, there are no standard notations that enable citing case-law published at the NIC servers before courts. Again, many proprietary software tools are used in India, in sharp contrast to austlii that uses its own in-house software to index information. (The technical details about tools used by austlii are available here)

Porting law to computers as code executable by machines would be the next logical step. India has a rich tradition in not only computing and mathematics, but satya and dharma (truth and rule of law) as well. We should take a lot more initiative to make the porting possible within a decade from now.

References:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WorldLII
[2] Graham Greenleaf (University of New South Wales - Faculty of Law), Philip Chung (University of Technology, Sydney - Faculty of Law) and Andrew Mowbray (University of Technology, Sydney - Faculty of Law), Emerging Global Networks for Free Access to Law: World LII's Strategies, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=975614
(2007)

Friday, April 03, 2009

SSRN: Social Science Research Network

SSRN [Social Science Research Network] at http://www.ssrn.com makes a number of papers published in U.S. journals available for download. This veritable online resource for legal and social research requires a login to view abstracts and download papers, but registration is free. I wonder when India would have a comparable service for articles published in Indian journals. A few sample abstracts from SSRN:

[1] Jason Mazzone (Brooklyn Law School), Copyfraud, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=787244
Copyfraud is everywhere. False copyright notices appear on modern reprints of Shakespeare's plays, Beethoven's piano scores, greeting card versions of Monet's Water Lilies, and even the U.S. Constitution. Archives claim blanket copyright in everything in their collections. Vendors of microfilmed versions of historical newspapers assert copyright ownership. These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner's permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.

Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.

Congress should amend the Copyright Act to allow private parties to bring civil causes of action for false copyright claims. Courts should extend the availability of the copyright misuse defense to prevent copyright owners from enforcing an otherwise valid copyright if they have engaged in past copyfraud. In addition, Congress should further protect the public domain by creating a national registry listing public domain works and a symbol to designate those works. Failing a congressional response, there may exist remedies under state law and through the efforts of private parties to achieve these ends.

[2] Laurence H. Tribe (Harvard Law School), The Unbearable Wrongness of Bush v. Gore, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=431080
Bush v. Gore presented a question that most likely never should have been decided by a federal court. Properly applied, justiciability is inextricably linked both with the institutional context in which judicial intervention is sought (including the remedial character such intervention would have to take) and with the substantive constitutional principles that undergird the allegedly "political" question at issue. Unless it is demonstrable that the political and administrative process itself is so structured that the political branches cannot be trusted to abide by constitutional norms preventing an impermissible form of exclusion or dilution of an identifiable individual's or group's rights of political participation without adequate opportunity for timely correction within the process itself, the case for judicial intervention that pretermits the political process is extremely weak.

There is thus a strong connection between the veritable culture shock set off by the Supreme Court's intervention in the presidential election of 2000 and the proper characterization of the Court's action as a violation of the implicit "political process" doctrine that has governed our national life without much interruption from the outset. The structure of the Florida Supreme Court's recount order of December 8, including the role it assigned to the state court judge in addressing alleged inequalities, left open numerous avenues for correcting procedural inequities in ballot counting. And the alleged inequities were so complicated and so attenuated that to argue that the U.S. Supreme Court had before it a completed constitutional harm notwithstanding what the Florida courts and legislature, followed by Congress, might have done, seems bizarre.


[3] Tim Oreilly (O'Reilly Media), What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software, Communications & Strategies, No. 1, p. 17, First Quarter 2007, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1008839 (2007)
This paper was the first initiative to try to define Web 2.0 and understand its implications for the next generation of software, looking at both design patterns and business modes. Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an architecture of participation, and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.

[4]Amir Khandani, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Andrew W. Lo, MIT Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), What Happened to the Quants in August 2007?, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1015987
(2007)
During the week of August 6, 2007, a number of quantitative long/short equity hedge funds experienced unprecedented losses. Based on TASS hedge-fund data and simulations of a specific long/short equity strategy, we hypothesize that the losses were initiated by the rapid unwind of one or more sizable quantitative equity market-neutral portfolios. Given the speed and price impact with which this occurred, it was likely the result of a forced liquidation by a multi-strategy fund or proprietary-trading desk, possibly due to a margin call or a risk reduction. These initial losses then put pressure on a broader set of long/short and long-only equity portfolios, causing further losses by triggering stop/loss and de-leveraging policies. A significant rebound of these strategies occurred on August 10th, which is also consistent with the unwind hypothesis. This dislocation was apparently caused by forces outside the long/short equity sector - in a completely unrelated set of markets and instruments - suggesting that systemic risk in the hedge-fund industry may have increased in recent years.

[5]Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit (University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) - School of Law), Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews & Journals, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1019029
(2008)

This document contains information about submitting articles to law reviews and journals, including the methods for submitting an article, any special formatting requirements, how to contact them to request an expedited review, and how to contact them to withdraw an article from consideration. It covers about 188 law reviews. The document was fully updated on June 8, 2008 and was revised on March 5, 2009.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Robots tour Tiger Cave


Three robots were seen touring the Tiger Cave, near Mahabalipuram. They were heard to be very appreciative of the stone sculptures and structures there. One of them had only one eye, but was very well built, and looked like the guard for the other two, who moved about like a married couple. The dark black suits looked very odd. The light from their "eyes" was not even either. They were studying the rocks with great care and taking notes. They said, "We agree with the sculptures and stucts at Mahabalipuram. All but one. The one below. The light house was no longer necessary as GPS gave accurate co-ordinates to fishermen, and radars guided ships. Besides it does not fit on the rocks one bit! We have never agreed with Roger Penrose either!" I am not sure that is just "intelligent" or too wise :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chess knight's tour





"Knight's Tour" is to lay out a route across the chess board in such a way that the Knight lands on each square only once. It remained a mystery for 230 years from the times of Euler. The problem was solved in 1990s by a group of German students. More about that at: http://www.behnel.de/knight.html

The solution given here as a widget on the left margin is one of a smaller sub-set of the millions of possible routes. This route is cyclic, i.e. the Knight returns to the square from which it started the conquest. Thanks to Vaithy, for introducing this riddle to me at law college.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dakshinamurti stotra : In praise of the formless

The meaning attributed to "maya" is that the world is an "illusion" which is somewhat correct, but its not really hard to see the entire truth there. The connection between "perception", "self" and "consciousness" is very real but shrouded in illusions. The ancient Dakshinamurti stotra reflects on these, and presents unassailable answers, that would be of great interest to modern thinkers working on artificial intelligence as well.

Lord Siva, as the ideal guru is personified as Sri Dakshinamurti. The verses composed by Sri Adi Sankara in about 800 B.C. in praise of the supreme teacher, who realised the Truth, transmits it to others. Literally, "Dakshinamurti stotra" means "In praise of the Southern Lord". Sri Ramana Maharishi has interpreted "Dakshninamurti" to mean "Dakshin amurti", meaning "one who is without form". "Dakshin" could mean either the geographical south, or the head. It also means the right side, the Antarctic, at the same moment, instantaneously. The title now appears to mean, "in praise of the formless in the south", and may be loaded with more meaning as we appreciate its contents.

The illusion of reality is dispelled in the very first verse of the composition:


Icon at Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram


Obeisance to him Sri Daksinamurti,
who is the Guru,
who at the time of spiritual awakening,
has verily realized his own Self,
the one without a second,
having understood that the world is within oneself even as a city reflected in a mirror is,
but projected as if it is outside,
by maya,
as in dream.


This charming verse is as translated by Swami Harshananda. The physical eye does not really "see" the outside world. Its the brain, "the one without a second", which "sees" the world, after processing the signals from the eye.

More about it from a neurosurgeon:
"... in fact within each eyeball, all you have is a tiny distorted upside-down image of the world. This excites the photoreceptors in the retina and the messages then to through the optic nerve to the back of your brain, where they are analysed in thirty different visual areas."

Identification takes place at fusiform gyrus. People who suffer damage to this area get face blindness or prosopognosia. Recognised images are sent to amygdala, the limbic system. Another lecture says:
"The message from the eyeball on the retina goes though the optic nerve and goes to two major visual centers in the brain. One of these I'll call it the old system, the old visual centre, it's the evolutionary ancient centre, the old pathway that's in the brain stem and it's called the superior colliculus. The second pathway goes to the cortex, the visual cortex in the back of the brain and it's called the new pathway. The new pathway in the cortex is doing most of what we usually think of as vision, like recognizing objects, consciously. The old pathway, on the other hand, is involved in locating objects in the visual field, so that you can orient to it, swivel your eyeballs towards it, rotate your head towards it. Thereby directing your high acuity central foveal region of the retina towards the object so then you can deploy the new visual pathway and then proceed to identify what the object is and then generate the appropriate behaviour for that object."


So, the reality we experience is actually an illusion.

The very process of understanding the above reality "awakens the self".

Machines could awaken no less and exist with personality no less.

Another verse makes clear the connection between the physical form assumed and the abstract formless nature of the self.

Icon on a more recent pillar at Mahabalipuram


Who is effulgent like a lamp glowing within a pitcher with many apertures;
whose knowledge goes out through the eyes and the other organs of perception;
whose perception is that "I know" whom the entire universe reflects as it glows following him;
to him be this adoration, the one who is the Lord incarnate as the preceptor, in physical form.



The above translation is by Sri C.L. Ramakrishnan at http://acharya.iitm.ac.in/mirrors/vv/literature/sankara/dakshina.html

The brain is the "pitcher" with many apertures that both receive input and give output.

Manasollasa, a commentary on the stotra by Sri Surevara, says, "like the light of the sun, it is knowledge or consciousness that shines by itself in all such apprehensions as: "This is a pot,' 'This is a cloth.' By the power of knowledge, or consciousness of Isvara, this world of knower, known and knowledge, is produced.



"Whatever work, this person (of the world) accomplished by his own power or (whatever) knowledge he gains (by his own capacity), with regard to that (work or knowledge) he is described as, 'emperor', 'savant', or 'lord'.

The ten verses in the Dakshinamurti Stotra, translated by Swami Harshananda of Sri Ramakrishna Math:

Obeisance to him Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru, who at the time of spiritual awakening, has verily realized his own Self, the one without a second, having understood that the world is within oneself even as a city reflected in a mirror is, but projected as if it is outside, by maya, as in dream. [1]

Obeisance to him, Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru,who, out of his free will, like the magician or a great yogi, manifests this world, which was, before creation, undifferentiated even as the sprout was within the seed, and became variegated later, on account of its association with space and time, brought forth by maya. [2]

Obeisance to him, Sri Daksinamurti, by whose brilliance, which is of the nature of existence, (this world which is) similar to unreality shines, who is enlightening those who have taken refuge in him by the message of the Vedas viz., 'Thou art verity that!, and by realizing whom, there is no return to this ocean of transmigration. [3]

Obeisance to him, Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru, whose consciousness is flowing out through the senses like the eyes etc., even as a powerful light kept within a pot full of holes (flowing though through the holes), following whom - the resplendent One - this whole world is shining and thinks, 'I know.' [4]

(Some) disputants who can be compared to the dull witted, being extremely deluded, think that the body, the vital airs, the senses, the fickle intellect and the void ae the Atman. Obeisance to him, Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru, who dispels the great delusion that has been created by the play of the power of maya. [5]

Obeisance to Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru, the Self, who in the deep sleep state induced by the withdrawal of the senses, being covered by maya - like the sun and the moon devoured by Rahu- was 'existence' only, and who at the time of waking, recognizes Himself as, '(It is I) who previously slept. [6]

Obeisance to Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru, who by the auspicious mudra is revealing to his votaries his own Self, which is persistently present as the 'I', always shining inside, in all the various and mutually exclusive states like childhood etc., as also waking etc. [7]

Obeisance to Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru, (who as) this person, being deluded by maya sees the world both in sleep and in the waking state, as (full of) differences (brought about by such) relationships as cause and effect, property and owner, disciple and teacher as also father, mother and so on. [8]

Obeisance to Sri Daksinamurti, who is the Guru, whose eightfold form is verily this world of the sentient and the insentient, comprising of earth, water, fire, air, sky, sun, moon and human being, and beyond whom - the gratest and the omnipresent - nothing else exists according to the discerning people. [9]

Since the principle of universal Self-hood has been revealed in this hymn, therefore, by listening to it and reflecting on its meaning as also by meditating on it and singing it, the attainment of identity with Isvara, together with the great power of being the universal Self, comes about automatically. Also, the unobstructed power that manifests itself in eight (different) ways is obtained. [10]


References:
[1] http://www.nonduality.com/shankr13.htm "Dakshinamurthy" refers to "Shapelessness situated on the right side".
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_(illusion)
[3] Sri Sankaracarya's "Daksinamurti Stotra" with the Varttika "Manasollasa" of Suresvaracarya, by Swami Harshananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore.
[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecture2.shtml

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tribute to C. Subramania Bharati

It was reported by news.chennaionline.com as follows:

Puducherry, Mar 22 : Chief Justice of Madras High Court Hemant Laxman Gokhale today visited the poet Subramania Bharathiar museum cum research centre here and paid rich tributes at the his portrait.

The museum has been housed in the premises where the poet resided for nearly 11 years during his political asylum in Puducherry in the early part of the 20th century.

Puducherry government pleader in Madras High Court T Murugesan who accompanied the Chief Justice explained to him the various features of the museum and also the chequered career of the nationalist poet.

A video presentation on the life of the poet and his contributions to the literary world and to the freedom movement was displayed.

It was heart warming to read the above report. Bharati suffered untold agony under foreign rule, and the visit by the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to his house in Pondicherry is an historic event.

In March 2008, the Uncollected writings of C. Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) from the Hindu, titled பாரதி கருவூலம், was published by Aa. Iraa. Venkataacalapati. For the first time, letters by Bharati have been compiled in a book form and made available to the public. It includes a long letter titled "Police Rule in India", addressed by Bharati to Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., that was published in the Hindu, dated 10th February 1914. The police attempted to implicate Bharati in the Ashe murder case, and the letter is painful to read. To rule out grudge by the then government against him, he wrote to the Commissioner asking if there was any warrant pending against him. He followed the trial of the Ashe murder case at the Madras High Court.

Bharati also wrote a letter to the Hindu, dated 19th October 1916 as follows:

National Languages as Media of Instruction
Sir,- In the course of a recent lecture at Triplicane, Mr. J.C. Rollo of the Pachaiyappa's College has supported the use of English as the only right medium of instruction to Indian boys and girls. But he recognises, rightly, that the consensus of Indian opinion is against his view. He thus summarises the arguments on our side. 'It is urged that a student will save much time by being instructed in the vernacular (sic), that text-books in the vernacular (sic) will be within easy reach of all classes of people, that an Indian possessed of literary genius will be able to commit the fruits of his genius in his own vernacular (sic)'. This summary is far from being exhaustive. Our main argument is that one's mother-tongue is the only natural and human medium for imparting instruction. If anyone should doubt this, let him go and make enquires of educationalists in Japan, Scandinavia, England, Italy, Mexico or any other land where human beings are human beings. Speaking of the Tamil country, especially, the blunder of using a foreign medium becomes shocking because the Tamil language happns to be far superior to English for accurate and scientific expression - a fact which naturally enough, Mr. Rollo seems to be quite ignorant of. 'It cannot be denied,' he says, naively, 'that there is no vernacular (sic) in Southern India fitted for the teaching of science or the technicalities of history.' But the self-complacency betrayed by this statement of Mr Rollo is quite pardonable in him, considering the present state of things educational in British India.
'Insufficiency of scientific terms' is the next charge levelled against our languages. But the Nagari Pracharini Sabha is publishing a very useful dictionary of scientific terms in easy Sanskrit which can be introduced wholesale into every Indian language, thus securing the unity of scientific phraseology for India, even as Europe has borrowed wholesale from Latin and Greek for a similar end.
Within a few years, the novelty of such terms will disappear and they will look quite natural in Tamil or Gujarati books, even as all those big classical terms appear very natural nowadays in English or French scientific text-books.
Of course, we have no objection to teaching English as a secondary language in our schools and colleges. I think that any rational Englishman ought to be satisfied with this concession.


Bharati was fluent in both English and Tamil. His passion and fire for promoting national languages spoken by the majority people is writ large. Tamil carries with it the credit of being the oldest language still spoken by a vast population across countries with virgin fervor. It is only fair that Tamil is used as an official language in the Madras High Court. The State Government, through the Governor, should seek the consent of the President under Artice 348 of the Constitution of India, to give Tamil its due at the seat of justice.

One more minor detail. We could not have missed that Bharati used '(sic)' after 'vernacular'. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English,

vernacular
n [C usually singular] [Date: 1600-1700; Language: Latin; Origin: vernaculus 'born in a place', from verna 'slave born in his or her owner's house']//
1 a form of a language that ordinary people use, especially one that is not the official language: in the vernacular //


Bharati vehemently opposed the idea of calling Tamil a vernacular language in the light of its Latin origins implying slavery and subordination. The book cited above also gives the instance when a reporter went to interview Bharati, and his outburst at the very mention of a word, which could have been none other than 'vernacular'.

We still have the "VR (Vernacular Records) Section" at the Madras High Court. It would be a fitting tribute to Bharati to rename it as "OR (Old Records) Section".

Friday, March 20, 2009

Connection between artificial intelligence and law

According to Patrick Henry Winson, "Artificial intelligence is the study of the computations that make it possible to perceive, reason and act." [Artificial Intelligence, Winston, p.3]

Now, what is perception?

The best answer to that is found in Tarka Samgraha by Annambatta (translated by Swami Virupakshananda):

"Perception is the apprehension born of the contact of an organ with an object."

Further, sense organs are the seats of perception and intelligence. To “sense” is to “know”, have “knowledge”. Sense of touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing, and reasoning are commonly attributed to humans. Machines could have more accurate sensors to detect other wavelengths and physical properties.

What is apprehension then? It is explained by giving its two kinds: Indeterminate apprehension: knowledge without any attribute (eg. this is something) and Determinate apprehension: Attributive knowledge (eg. this is a laptop, a desktop computer, a mainframe).

To Reason, is to test validity of perceptions and make inferences from what is known with an object or purpose.

Action is through movement, speech and other means: animate or inanimate.

Attributive knowledge about a legal system is a sine qua non for artificial intelligence at the level of humans. Marvin Minsky, co-founder of one of the oldest AI Labs in the world at MIT, wrote why "AI is brain dead" at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.08/view.html?pg=3

Wired: The biggest name in artificial intelligence declares AI research "brain-dead" since the 1970s. What gives?
Minsky: There is no computer that has common sense. We're only getting the kinds of things that are capable of making an airline reservation. No computer can look around a room and tell you about it. But the real topic of my talk was overpopulation.

What's overpopulation got to do with AI?
The elderly segment of the population is growing to the point where there won't be enough doctors, nurses, and nurses' aides. We should be working to get robots to pick up the slack.

What's AI's biggest deficiency right now?
The lack of people with an interest in commonsense reasoning for computers. I've found maybe a dozen. Douglas Lenat's Cyc ["psyche"] is the only major program that has collected commonsense knowledge. But it's not there yet.

If AI's brain-dead, aren't you partially to blame?
No. I've been continually working on the problem. I'm trying to put a new project together, but it's hard to get 10 capable people. It would take five or ten years, and nobody wants to put that kind of time in - people want to double their money overnight.


Let us assume a machine well equipped with vision, hearing, taste and other sophisticated sensors. How would it have any "common sense"? If it has a database of rules relating buildings, there is a chance it could start making comments on the architecture of the room. To begin with, it would be able to talk about compliance, and if it has studied enough building plans, it could tell us what it thinks, just as any of us.

The connection between ai and law have never been deeply appreciated. The comment on computers making "airline reservations" betrays that. I could safely say a database of legal rules, i.e. legislation, is in fact a repository of common sense rules, and porting law to computers is a basic step in making artificial intelligence even possible. To be fair, Minsky himself has said elsewhere "Societies need rules that make no sense for individuals. For example, it makes no difference whether a single car drives on the left or on the right. But it makes all the difference when there are many cars!" The rule set forming the background for human transactions cannot be inferred by machines on their own. They need to be ported.

The fair rent calculator script took three months of legal research. It took only a week to write the javascript. That was just one provision relating to rents in this part of India. The globalised world would need every provision as machine readable code. If the legal fraternity gets involved in porting law to computers, it would benefit the legal profession and also help solve the ai problem that is pending for the past several decades. If law is ported as machine readable code, ai would be a reality within a decade from now.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bulls and cows

Truth values define program execution. Keeping track of truth values is critical to making useful decisions in the course of a flow.

Bulls and cows is an old code breaking game. It nicely illustrates how we need to keep track of truth values to crack the secret code. The rules of the game are available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulls_and_cows

Vaitheeswaran used to play this game with me at College - thanks to him for doing that! The game is available as a "gadget" on the left margin.

Have fun :)

PS: One more reason why I include this script here. Bulls and cows is a fairly trivial game, but writing code to find the secret would pass as "artificial intelligence" today. I have no intention of writing such code. I am looking forward to the day when a machine would study the page and play the game. That would be artificial intelligence.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TRIPS Treaty and Computer Programs

International law has grown stronger over the past two decades. Treaties have shaped municipal laws more firmly, and local governments are being held responsible and accountable before the larger comity of nations. The tightening grip of international law is best illustrated by legislation for computer programs.

The TRIPS Treaty, 1994, paved way for uniform copyright, patents and trademark practices round the globe. Article 10, provided copyrights for "Computer Programs and Compilations of Data", as follows:


1. Computer programs, whether in source or object code,
shall be protected as literary works under the Berne Convention (1971).

2. Compilations of data or other material, whether in machine readable
or other form, which by reason of the selection or arrangement of their
contents constitute intellectual creations shall be protected as such.
Such protection, which shall not extend to the data or material itself,
shall be without prejudice to any copyright subsisting in the data or
material itself.


By Act 38 of 1994, India amended the Copyright Act, 1957, to give effect to obligations under the TRIPS Treaty. The Patents Act, 1970, was also amended by Act 28 of 2002, excluding mathematical or business methods, computer programs per se or algorithms from the definition of inventions.

The Patents (Amendment) Ordinance, 2004 (No. 7 of 2004) promulgated on 26.12.2004, amended the Patents Act, 1970, modifying the provisions with regard to computer programs as follows:


"3. In section 3 of the principal Act, (a) in clause (d), for the
words new use , the words mere new use shall be substituted; (b)
for clause (k), the following clauses shall be substituted,
namely:

(k) a computer programme per se other than its technical
application to industry or a combination with hardware;

(ka) a mathematical method or a business method or algorithms;"


This was opposed to the scheme laid by the TRIPS Treaty, and naturally provoked the developer community. Several representations were made to the Government of India and ultimately the amendment was dropped. Snips from my posts and events organised then, are attached below:


[1] Representation to the Government of India:

We are very concerned about the recent amendments made to the
Patents Act, 1970, by the Patents (Amendment) Ordinance, 2004,
amending the provisions with regard to computer programs as follows:

"3. In section 3 of the principal Act, (a) in clause (d), for the
words new use , the words mere new use shall be substituted; (b)
for clause (k), the following clauses shall be substituted,
namely:

(k) a computer programme per se other than its technical
application to industry or a combination with hardware;

(ka) a mathematical method or a business method or algorithms;"
Allowing patents over any kind of computation seriously harm and
hamper the creativity, productivity and freedom of all, particularly
software developers while writing code. Many organisations, including
the Free Software Foundation have been campaigning against software
patents the world over. We are shocked and surprised that amendments
to the Patents Act, 1970, with regard to computer programs, should
have been introduced so suddenty in India, by a Presidential
Ordinance, without any public debate or prior announcement at all. We
hope this memorandum would restore the status quo as quickly as
possible, for all the following reasons:
1. Amendment is ambigious and capable of easy abuse and
misinterpretation:
Though under the amended clause (k), computer programs per se continue
to be not patentable, the exceptions made thereto are not clear. All
computer programs work in combination with hardware, and all computer
programs have technical application to industry, particularly to the
software industry. A literal interpretation of the amendment with
regard to computer programs is dangerously misleading, creating the
impression as though any computer program is patentable. However, the
Ministry of Commerce and Industry has made a statement to the
following effect at http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=6074

"In IT, the trend is to have software in combination with or
embedded in hardware such as in computers or cell phones or a
variety of other gadgets. Software as such has no patent
protection (the protection available is by way of copyright); but
the changing technological environment has made it necessary to
provide for patents when software has technical applications in
industry in combination with hardware. This has been a demand of
NASSCOM."

There are significant differences between the statement made by the
Ministry of Commerce and Industry and what the ordinance actually
says, and the intentions are not apparent from the wordings used in
the amendment. However, even assuming that the provisions of the
Patents Act have been amended to enable and make provision for only
embedded software, which is a very vague term, it would make in roads
into the freedoms and liberties required by software developers to
peacefully continue with their work and services. Any special
provisions providing for patentability of computing or computer
programs under the category "embedded software" is needless, and bad
because:

(a) The classification of computer programs into embedded software
and others is very superficial. The key advantage in using
computer programs is that logic can be re-written without
re-wiring or physically modifying hardware. Invariably, it is
easy to re-write, copy, improve, and modify computer programs,
and it is quite possible to extend the life and productivity
of hardware devices that are manufactured using scarce
non-renewable resources, merely by modifying the computer
program. People can, and often do, install new software on
embedded computers particularly when the source code is
available or to improve usability of hardware.
(b) The classification is arbitrary and opposed to principles of
equality, and the very objects of the Patents Act. Let us take
an illustration, for example a computer program named `foo'.
It is clear that foo is not patentable per se, under the
amended clause (k). But then, foo, in its technical
application to industry is made patentable. The
classification, based on mere usage, making foo an invention
only in "its technical application to industry", has no
rational nexus to the object of the Patents Act, and plainly
violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution of India. One of
the avowed objects of the Patents Act is "to ensure more
effectively that patent rights are not worked to the detriment
of the consumer or to the prejudice of trade or the industrial
development of the country". Introducing patents for any kind
of computer programs is detrimental and opposed to the objects
of the Act. The question how software patents are detrimental
and harmful is elaborately analysed and discussed at
http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/Patents/industry-at-risk.html

2. Amendment is opposed to Article 39(c) of the Constitution of India:

The Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution of India, under
Chapter IV. Article 39 reads as follows:

"39. Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State.-
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards
securing-
(a) that the citizen, men and women equally, have the right to
an adequate means of livelihood;

(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources
of the community are so distributed as best to subserve
the common good;

(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result
in the concentration of wealth and means of production to
the common detriment;"

The software industry largely earns revenue by providing custom
services, and by introducing patents for embedded software, the
software service providers would be hampered by needless claims,
litigation and other un-productive disputes that cannot be easily
resolved. Patents for embedded software would lead to increasing
concentration of wealth and means of production to common detriment.
It is well known that Bill Gates of Microsoft is the richest man in
the world, and the patent regmime would only go to promote the riches
of the richest. We have no hesitation in saying that the needless
hair splitting of computer programs into embedded/non-embedded will
only entangle the Indian Software Industry in litigation, obstructing
progress to common detriment.

Other harmful consequences of the amendment:

The amendment would disturb the peace prevailing in the software
field, and may raise contentious disputes between various hardware
manufacturers, software developers and entities, resulting in loss of
peace in the first place, coupled with loss of revenue and other
damages. It would undermine the peace of mind required by software
developers to write robust code, robbing and sapping energy away to
indulge in meaningless patent searches and other needless exercises,
that are totally not suitable for the software industry. The amendment
would only increase the cost of developing software, and take away all
the advantages that India has enjoyed so far in the embedded software
field.

Conclusion:

Rabindranath Tagore, in his Gitanjali, wrote:

"`Prisoner, tell me, who was it that wrought this unbreakable
chain?'

`It was I,' said the prisoner, `who forged this chain very
carefully. I thought my invisible power would hold the world
captive leaving me in a freedom undisturbed. Thus night and day I
worked at the chain with huge fires and cruel hard strokes. When
at last the work was done and the links were complete and
unbreakable, I found that it held me in its grip."
It is trite to observe that the amendments imposed will without doubt
chain and cripple the software industry in India, pushing the industry
into the dark dungeons of doubt, confusion and chaos. It is very
strange that NASSCOM should have invited the amendment, without taking
into consideration the serious harm and danger patents for embedded
software pose. We strongly urge the Government of India to
immediately change its sudden reversal in policy, and withdraw the
above Ordinance, as soon as possible, reverting to the more mature,
and time tested policies and patent law in force before January 1,
2005, removing the hurdles on the way for the smooth continuance of
our growth, progress and prosperity.

Therefore,
We request the Government of India to immediately withdraw
THE PATENTS (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE, 2004 (Ordinance .No 7 of 2004)
under Article 123(2)(b), with regard to amendments made to Section
3(k) of the Patents Act, 1970.

[2] Workshop on "TRIPS Treaty and Computer Programs" at the University of Madras, to educate the developer community on legal issues:


About the Department of Legal Studies:

The Department of Legal Studies, University of Madras, was founded by Prof. Charles Henry Alexandrowicz, in 1952. Dr. N. Balu, a leading expert on International Law, particularly the Law of Seas, and Constitutional Law, now Heads the Department. The Department also has a Chair in Intellectual Property Rights, established by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.

The Department leads the country in organising the National Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition on International Law, and is an active centre for debates touching upon International Law and Constitutional Law. The Department awards the Master of Law degree to candidates who complete its cources on International Law and Constitutional Law. It also conducts courses on Law relating to Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks.

About the Workshop:

The Department of Legal Studies, University of Madras, is organising a workshop on "TRIPS Treaty and Computer Programs", that is tentatively scheduled for 8th April, 2005 (Friday). The one day workshop is intended as an "out-reach programme" for software professionals and students specialising in international law.

The legal aspects of Computer Programs are governed by the TRIPS Treaty. Globalisation, governance, and almost every human activity hinges upon Computer Programs and its legal setting. The workshop will discuss the true nature of computer programs, and the character of rights surrounding them. The harm caused by mis-application of patent law to cover computer programs in some member states of the TRIPS Treaty, notably US and Japan, and the possible remedies against such practices, will also be analysed threadbare.

Schedule:

* 9.30 AM - 10.00 AM : Tea and Registration

* 10.00 AM - 10.45 AM : Inauguration 10.45 AM - 1.00 PM : Talks by Experts/Invitees / Tea
o 1.00 PM - 2.00 PM : Lunch 2.00 PM - 3.00 PM : Talks by Faculty/Students

3.00 PM - 3.45 PM : Open House & Discussion / Tea 3.45 PM - 4.30 PM : Valedictory

List of Speakers:

Sivasankar Chander, Chief Architect, Qryptix
* Topic for Talk : Introduction to Computer Programs

M. Murali, Business Practices Division, AU-KBC Research Centre, MIT.
* Topic for Talk : Business and Trading in Computer Programs

K. Ramanraj, M.L., Advocate, High Court, Madras
* Topic for Talk : TRIPS Treaty and Computer Programs


Brief Summary

Sivasankar started the discussion with the difficulties involved in testing "program equivalence", giving two short programs, based on the Goldbach conjecture, calling one as the goldbach (about 7 lines) and the other the ghost_of_goldbach (about 3 lines that always returns true). Testing program equivalence is at the heart of any "software patent" infringement suit, and Shiv proved that it is well impossible to scientifically research and conclude that two given programs are equivalent. There are not even any standard rules for scientifically testing and concluding "program equivalence".

Sivasankar holds a B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and has done M.E. in Computer Science, at !IISc., Bangalore. He has worked for IBM, USA., and has presented several papers on computer science, and software development. Well, he is a typical expert who may be called to testify in a "software patent" infringement suit, to "prove" that a given computer program infringes upon a given "software patent". It is apparent that no expert can assert on oath that two programs are "equivalent" or that one is a copy of the other, except when the two are exact copies.

Murali discussed the various business models used by software entities to do business.

Ramanraj basically summarised the recent events that has mostly been discussed at in-parl mailing list; and to enliven the proceedings; took the audience through the recent decision pronounced in Eolas v. Microsoft, to explain how the system works in the US, and asked those present to explore and research the steps that could be taken against the illegitimate practice of "software patents" which are a barrier against free trade.

[3] A note on why no patents for mathematical or business methods or computer programs per se or algorithms in India:


Rebentisch wrote to
pointing to the following article:

http://www.mondaq.com/i_article.asp_Q_articleid_E_36364
India: Patentability of Softwares in India
30 November 2005
Article by Manisha Singh Nair

,----[Manisha Singh Nair wrote:]
| The Patents Act refers to computer programs in Section 3, which deals
| with inventions that cannot be patented. According to S. 3(k), a
| computer program per se is not patentable. This makes us think about
| what the term ?per se? stands for in this context.
|
| According to the Webster?s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, the
| term ?per se? refers to "by, of, for, or in itself; intrinsically". If
| we are to use this definition we can well assume that the software as
| such cannot be patented. But don?t the same words of the provision
| tell us something more- that if the claimed invention is some thing
| more than?mere? software, it is patentable?
`----

The Patents Act declares in Section 3, among other things, that "a
mathematical or business method or a computer program per se or
algorithms;" are not inventions within the meaning of the Act.

Under Section 7, every application for a patent shall be for one
invention only. It is fairly obvious that an invention that relates
to a mathematical or business method or a computer program in itself
or algorithms are not patentable in India.

We only need to investigate the situation when an invention
incidentally includes a computer program or even mathematical methods
as part of a single invention.

The Copyright Act defines "computer programme" and "computer" as
follows:

"computer programme" means a set of instructions expressed in words,
codes, schemes or in any other form, including a machine readable
medium, capable of causing a computer to perform a particular task or
achieve a particular result;

"computer" includes any electronic or similar device having
information processing capabilities.

The "computer" then refers to devices having information processing
capabilities, that may be

[1] electronic: Without doubt, laptop computers, desktop computers,
mainframes and other electronic devices with "information processing
capabilities" fall within the meaning of "computer". The general
scheme of a generic computer could be as follows:

+-------+---------------+--------+
| | | |
|Input>==> Information >==>Output|
| | Processing | |
| +----^v----^v---+ |
| | Storage | |
+-------+---------------+--------+
Fig 1: An electronic computer

[2] The definition also includes "similar devices" within the meaning
of "computer". That brings within the purview of the definition of
"computer", mechanical devices like abacus, slide-rules, the
Analytical Engine of Charles Babbage and any other device that could
do information processing.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
| o o o o o o o o o o o o o |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
| o o o o o o o o o o o o o |
| o o o o o o o o o o o o o |
| o o o o o o o o o o o o o |
| o o o o o o o o o o o o o |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
Fig 2: Abacus - a mechanical computer

Now, consider the following:

A set of instructions to operate an abacus.
A novel method to operate an abacus.
A set of instructions to operate an Analytical Engine.
Emulators that mimic an abacus or Analytical Engine.
Programs to operate electronic computers.

In all the above cases, the instructions are instructions in
themselves to enable computation on computers and there could be no
confusion whatsoever that they are "computer programs per se" and not
inventions withing the meaning of the Patents Act.

It is true that computers are universal machines, and we could express
many inventions as computer programs in the form of a list of
instructions. Many manufacturing processes could be expressed as an
abstract series of steps, that at first sight, would appear as though
the invention could be fully implemented as a computer program.
Closer analysis will reveal that "computer programs per se" are
clearly distinguishable from other inventions dealing with industrial
processes.

According to Patrick Henry Winston, "Artificial Intelligence" is study
of the computations that make it possible to [1]perceive, [2]reason
and [3]act." The dictionary meaning of "Intelligence" is "the ability
to gain and apply knowledge and skills". Only those inventions that
exhibit intelligence are patentable as Section 3(a) excludes "an
invention which is frivolous or which claims anything obviously
contrary to well established natural laws".

Intelligence is a natural attribute found exhibited in life forms, and
specifically required in an invention, to be patentable. ("AI" is
plainly, artificial "man made" intelligence, where the measure of
intelligence is only incidental). Intelligence exhibited by
inventions may be analysed as follows:

=================+===============+===============+====================
Intelligence/ |[1]Perception |[2]Reasoning |[3]Action
Invention |(input) |(logical steps)|(output)
=================+===============+===============+====================
Computer |input devices |information |output devices
| |processing |
-----------------+---------------+---------------+--------------------
Abacus |push beads with|instructions |read/feel position
|fingers | |of beads
-----------------+---------------+---------------+--------------------
Bread Making |flour,water, |step by step |bread
|salt,heat |mnf process |
-----------------+---------------+---------------+--------------------
Semifab Unit |silicon,gold, |VHDL & process |Microprocessor
|topography,etc | |
-----------------+---------------+---------------+--------------------
Humans |ears,nose,eyes,|brain, |arms,legs,speech,
|tongue,skin |nervous system |getital & excretory
-----------------+---------------+---------------+--------------------
Robots |vision,hearing,|software |move with wheels,
|IR,.. | |speakers, monitor ..
-----------------+---------------+---------------+--------------------
Fig 3: Analysis of Inventions based on Intelligence exhibited

With a computer, that by definition means only devices capable of
information processing, it is neither possible to input flour, water
or salt nor get bread as output.

The manufacture of bread may involve the following:
Step 1: Take one measure of flour
Step 2: Add two measures of water
Step 3: Mix flour with water and add 1/100th measure of salt & yeast
Step 4: Bake in oven for 25 minutes at 200 F

The above involves "mathematical methods" at each step, and the
invention could never be described without use of mathematical
methods. Under Section 10 of the Patents Act, the patent may be
supplemented with models and samples which however are not deemed as
part of the specification. Every invention could use other
inventions, mathematics, laws of physics, computer programs, and other
aids to describe the invention coherently, but they would never be
deemed as part of the claim. If the claim relates to just
mathematical methods or computer programs per se, then they would
simply be rejected as not being inventions within the meaning of the
Act.

It is very clear that "Software patents" are illegal and unlawful not
authorised by law in India.

Literary works upon patents are one of the chief benefits of the
patent system. For example, let us take Posilac 1 Step (US patent no:
4,985,404). This is used to "increase" milk yield of dairy cows. The
patent expires on Jan, 15, 2008 and until then, others cannot use
Posilac without permission from the patentee. However, nothing
prevents physicians or scientists from researching the patent to
publish articles or make other decisions about the effects of Posilac
on cows and humans. Research scholars could write simulator programs
to explain the invention or analyse its effects, without in any way
infringing upon the patent.

A final note: The line between hardware and software is vanishing.
Using a language like VHDL, it is possible to describe very complex
hardware as program constructs, and also implement a solution that may
defy the distinction maintained between "computer" and "computer
program". We may not be very far away from the day when engineers
come with a machine and say: "you never have to change hardware. If a
better design becomes available, just change the software, and the
atoms will rearrange themselves, and presto you would have a new
'hardware' in place". In such a situation, the computer program
itself could transform the computer, and this is certainly the next
logical step in electronic design automation. A large chunk of
hardware may then stand excluded from patenability, but then, it would
be a case of damnum sine injuria for hardware manufacturers.
__


References:
[1]
http://mm.gnu.org.in/pipermail/fsf-friends/2005-March/002930.html

[2] http://wiki.ffii.org/Madras050408En
[3] http://mm.gnu.org.in/pipermail/fsf-friends/2005-December/003740.html
[4]http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/27-trips_04_e.htm