Tuesday, March 31, 2009
"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
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,
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. 
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. 
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. 
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.' 
(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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
 http://www.nonduality.com/shankr13.htm "Dakshinamurthy" refers to "Shapelessness situated on the right side".
 Sri Sankaracarya's "Daksinamurti Stotra" with the Varttika "Manasollasa" of Suresvaracarya, by Swami Harshananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore.
Monday, March 23, 2009
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,
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
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.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
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
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
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,
(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:
 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,
(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
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
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
(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
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
(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
Rabindranath Tagore, in his Gitanjali, wrote:
"`Prisoner, tell me, who was it that wrought this unbreakable
`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.
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.
 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.
* 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
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.
 A note on why no patents for mathematical or business methods or computer programs per se or algorithms in India:
pointing to the following article:
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
"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
 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
 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
According to Patrick Henry Winston, "Artificial Intelligence" is study
of the computations that make it possible to perceive, reason
and 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/ |Perception |Reasoning |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
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.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
அச்சப் பத்து. [ஆனந்தம் ஊறுதல்]
புற்றில்வாள் அரவும் அஞ்சேன்; பொய்யர்தம் மெய்யும் அஞ்சேன்
கற்றைவார் சடைஎம் மண்ணல் கண்ணுதல் பாத' நண்ணி
மற்றும்ஓர் தெய்வந் தன்னை உண்டென நினைந்தெம் பொம்மாற்
கற்றிலாத்வரைக் கண்டால், அம்ம! நாம் அஞ்சும் ஆறே !
The Decad of Dread [Absorption in Divine Knowledge]
Not the sleek snake in anthill coil'd I dread;
nor feigned truth of men of lies -,
As I, in sooth, feel fear at sight of those
who have not learnt the Lofty - One
To, know; who fear the Foot of the Brow-Ey'd, -
our Lord, crown'd with the braided-lock,-
You think there's other God. When these unlearn'd we see, -
AH ME! WE FEEL NO DREAD LIKE THIS!
Thiru Manickavasagar is said to have composed the above poem when he made a hut of leaves for himself outside Chidambaram, and lived withdrawn to it as a Yogi. The translation by Rev G.U. Pope takes not only the work of devotion to new heights, but gives meticulous details about the grammar used too. The metre is ஆசிரிய விருத்தம், six feet in each line, with the formula:
|கூ||}விளம்|||புளி||}மா|||தே மா||||கூ||}விளம்|||தே||}மா|||தே மா|
The Tamil poems use a context free grammar, and are described elegantly at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venpa If there is any scripting work harder than computer programming, it would be composing poetry in High Tamil.
In 2005, Ilaiyaraaja gave new life to the "Sacred Utterances", by setting some of the quatrains, including the "decad of dread" above, to melodious music. A snip from my notes on the album:
Songs of Liberation from Thiruvasagam
"The East and the West have influenced one another in a very real and
not yet thoroughly understood way from the earliest times": thus wrote
Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope in his introduction to the translation of Thirukkural
in 1886. The symphonic oratorio "Thiruvasagam" by Ilaiyaraaja with the
Budapest Symphony Orchestra, conducted by László Kovacs, released on 6th
July, 2005 at Chennai, brings out the confluence of the East and West
Pope deeply felt, through a rich classical musical cross-over, in ways
words can never describe. Hats off to Ilaiyaraaja, László Kovacs,
Richard King, Stephen Schwarts, Budapest Symphony Orchestra and all the
other musicians for their brilliant work.
This delightful masterpiece cost more than Rs. one crore to produce.
Tamil Maiyam founded by Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj, its producer, is looking
forward to income from album sales and donations, but it would be a
blessing, if many orgs and govs could join together, pay the outstanding
debts of Tamil Maiyam reported to be around Rs. 75 lakhs, and have the
work released under a suitable creative commons license. There are about
51 chapters in the Thiruvasagam, and the album is a fine selection of
only choice verses presented as six songs. A cc license should help
many musicians to join the project, and soon set entire work
Thiruvasagam of Thiru Manickavasagar in symphony. A brief intro to the
The album begins with the verse "poovar senni mannan..." which is about
the "last journey" towards "ultimate liberation", and it is also
believed to be the last composition by Manickavasagar, on the last day
of his life on earth. The score for this song is quite naturally set to
a score that reminds of "poom poom dan dans" - the sound which anyone in
this part of the world can instantly recognize as a pointer to a death
in its vicinity, and that the last rites and rituals are in progress.
It seems, when the recording started at Budapest with this song, the
score sounded funny to some in the orchestra, who tried to hide their
laughter. Illayaraja observed this, and immediately sung the verse
explaining it, and the orchetra understood and briskly started with the
business of bringing Manickavasagar back to life again.
The entire album is sweet as honey, but at about the 5th minute of this
song, the first stanza of Thiruvasagam, "Namasivaya vazhga, nathan thal
vazhga.." comes, and this is very easily the best part of the album, a
little more sweet than the rest. Illyaraja has freely arranged the
various verses, to convey meaning even through the topography and
arrangement of verses. Ilaiyaraaj and Roy Harcourt sing mixing Tamil
and English verses creating a very deep and stunning effect. A brief
snapshot from the lyrics, translated by Stephen Schwarts:
I'm just a man
how can I reach for something holy? ...
So many forms I must wear!
So many lives I must bear!
Grass and shrub and stone and tree!
Worm and bird and beast and demon
heaven the sky and turn the earth
how long till I'm fin'ly worthy?...
Hail! Hail! ...
I am beginning
to be free...
The symphonical oratorio is a rich tribute especially to Rev. Dr. G.U.
Pope who translated the entire work of Thiru Manickavasagar. (Available
online at http://siddhanta.shaivam.org/thivacha.html ) We could be
certain that Manickavasagar would have composed his verses with our
traditional music in mind, but for sure, Pope had only a western
symphony in mind as he worked on the translations. The frequent "Hail"
we come across succintly summarises the essence of "Namasivaya Vazhga"
and other praises, and sets the work in symphony with great effect.
pooerukonum Purantharanum is yet another sweet composition picturising a
king bee singing praises.
Manickavasagar paints a picture of women pulverising gold and perals to
dust with ural and ulakkai (pestle and mortar), singing Muthu Natramam
in praise of their lord. At the inauguration, this song was enacted on
stage by a classical troupe, and at the same time a pair danced swift
ballet moves sharing the stage with them.
This is like a "hello world" introduction to setting Thiruvasagam into
symphony. Ilaiyaraaja takes a simple score, searches for suitable
verses and finally finds that the verse beginning "putril vazh aravum
anjen.." fits the score rather well, and finishes the album with great
grace. He makes the whole exercise appear very easy and simple, but
none other than the mastero could have undertaken the task of setting
the fairly difficult classical tamil verse of Thiru Manickavasagam, that
is more than 2000 years old, into symphony.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Mahatma Gandhi went through a lot in life and documented them carefully. We can measure and see how far things have changed in India because of his messages. The Mahatma reached out to solve every little problem around him, which is as great as the political liberation he fought for.
To give just one example, the Indian Railways have changed a lot today with freedom and is today the largest and one of the best run organisations. A glimpse into the past will amplify the improvements we enjoy and take for granted today:
THIRD CLASS IN INDIAN RAILWAYS
I have now been in India for over two years and a half after my return
from South Africa. Over one quarter of that time I have passed on the
Indian trains travelling third class by choice. I have travelled up
north as far as Lahore, down south up to Tranquebar, and from Karachi to
Calcutta. Having resorted to third class travelling, among other
reasons, for the purpose of studying the conditions under which this
class of passengers travel, I have naturally made as critical
observations as I could. I have fairly covered the majority of railway
systems during this period. Now and then I have entered into
correspondence with the management of the different railways about the
defects that have come under my notice. But I think that the time has
come when I should invite the press and the public to join in a crusade
against a grievance which has too long remained unredressed, though much
of it is capable of redress without great difficulty.
... ... ...
... ... ...
The compartment itself was evil looking. Dirt was lying thick upon the
wood work and I do not know that it had ever seen soap or water.
The compartment had an exceptional assortment of passengers. There were
three stalwart Punjabi Mahomedans, two refined Tamilians and two
Mahomedan merchants who joined us later. The merchants related the
bribes they had to give to procure comfort. One of the Punjabis had
already travelled three nights and was weary and fatigued. But he could
not stretch himself. He said he had sat the whole day at the Central
Station watching passengers giving bribe to procure their tickets.
Another said he had himself to pay Rs. 5 before he could get his ticket
and his seat. These three men were bound for Ludhiana and had still more
nights of travel in store for them.
Computerisation of operations at Indian Railways have now made ticket issue corruption free. We may book even online through http://www.irctc.co.in/ and browse through http://www.indianrail.gov.in/ to get information about the rails running. Of course, cleanliness has remarkably improved today, but there is room for more tidiness.
Running operations with computer aid could bring in remarkable transparency, speed and efficiency. Mahatma Gandhi is one of the greatest inspirations for all times. One of his visions was as follows:
The government we dream of, I describe as Ramarajya.
Swaraj alone can be such Ramarajya.
How may we establish it?
In former times, the subjects did tapascharya when they
were oppressed. They believed that it was because of their
sins that they got a wicked king and so they tried to purify
themselves. The first step in this was to recognize a monster
as such and avoid him, to non-cooperate with him. Even
non-cooperation requires courage. To cultivate it, one needs
to give up comforts and pleasures.
He asked lawyers to give up practice and avoid working with the government then, whose "activities have done nothing but harm to India." Strangely, six decades after swaraj as the Mahatma dreamed of, a huge number of lawyers in the Madras High Court, have had to return vakalats and briefs to their clients and only few steps away from giving up practice as well. Their skulls were broken by a brutal police. Is this the Ramarajya he dreamed of?
What could be the penance of today?
Read any and every piece of legislation that we use in our daily life.
Rewrite the code in a programming language, capable of machine execution.
Network with computers:
Every individual, home, organisation and government should be
networked through computers.
Make democracy feasible:
With that network of transparency and publicity, bring in Ramarajya.
As the great Mahatma said, "When we have the Government of our dream, we may enjoy some innocent pleasures."
Sunday, March 15, 2009
points to the futility of governing cyber space, not to speak of governing from it. He thunders, "You have no sovereignty where we gather." Marvin Minsky has the simplest argument against the libertarians: "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 compromise is that any society needs to settle down a few working rules. It is very interesting to use machines to help us in executing those rules. They raise many issues. An old note of mine, to provoke thought:
e-governance and e-transparency solutions are most welcome. But then,
the solution itself should also be free, open and transparent. ...
Law itself is public, free and open in nature. Our Supreme Court had the
occasion in Naresh v. State of Maharashtra [AIR 1967 SC 1] to consider
the merits of open and public trials for "healthy objective and fair
administration of justice," and quoted Bentham with approval as follows:
"In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest, and evil in every
shape, have full swing. ... Publicity is the very soul of justice.
It is the keenest spur to exertion, and the surest of all guards
against improbity. It keeps the Judge himself while trying under
trial in the sense that the security of securities is publicity."
The principles laid are equally true for governance. Without free
software, it is hard to even imagine a e-governance software.
But, I am personally wary of using the expression "e-governance software".
The law is the common background for all human activity. Besides
governance, law operates upon a large area. Governance is specially
grouped under the heading Constitutional Law and Administrative Law. We
have Law of Contracts, Torts, Law of Property, Family Law, Labour Law
etc. wherein "governance" is minimal or even totally absent. If an
application can handle Constitutional Law and Administrative Law, then
there are no reasons why it should not handle the Law of Contracts or
the other laws. We have people designing "banking software", "insurance
software", "billing software", as though the law has these water tight
compartments. We have ERP, CRM, B2B, B2C, G2G, G2B, etc. etc, with
others promising to integrate ERP with CRM, CRM with the rest in all
possible permutations and combinations. It makes business sense but no
Can any e-governance software check constitutionality of code? If they
can't, then they better not call themselves by such a name.
Besides, consider the following:
Suppose an e-governance application wants to assist litigants in filing
plaints. While automating preparation of plaints, some issues arise.
If more than one plaintiff sues, the script should use "plaintiffs"
otherwise, "plaintiff". In appeals, for the same reason it chooses
between "appellants" and "appellant". Soon, a function that would give
the plural for singular nouns like applicant, petitioner, claimant,
defendant, and respondent becomes necessary. This exercise soon takes
one to examining the rules of English grammar. If an application can
handle legal rules well, then it might handle rules of English grammar
as well. But the most singular difficulty would be in listing the rules
of English grammar. Tamil has Agathiam (the primary grammar text, but
no longer in vogue) > Tholkappiam (Secondary text, based on Agathiam),
and > finally the recent Nanool, where everything from how letters are
formed, classified, pronounced, to usage, root words, verbs,
concatanation, and every thing necessary to use the language are dealt
with thoroughly. Assuming that after consensus, acceptable rules of
English grammar for the present are available, we could write functions
// returns plural for a given singular
To write a perfect get_plural function, we need to know if the word
passed to the function is a noun or not. Now, we have to write
// returns if word is a noun
As you see, one thing leads to another, and soon we will have a large
library of functions that deal with many aspects of English grammar.
Then our scripts will write well, and may be read well too.
Once we write such a library, there is no reason why this should be
confined to just an "e-governance" application. We could use it even
better in the field of education or wherever English is used.
Consider another scenario.
Recently, an ONGC helicopter crashed into the sea near Mumbai, and an
Enquiry has been ordered into it. The survivor & eye witnesses reported
that the helicopter went into a spin before crashing into the sea. It
is well known that the tail propellor prevents a helicopter from
spinning. Did the tail propellor fail? We see that the enquiry soon
has to deal with the basic workings of an helicopter to arrive at the
truth for the cause of the accident. Though at the top level, things
look like "e-governance", as we go deep, we find ourselves into the
thick of rules of English grammar, the laws of aerodynamics, history, or
other fields of human knowledge.
Ancient sages dealt exhaustively on grammar, philosophy, ethics,
medicine, law, science and literature single handedly. Agathiar wrote
Agathiam creating a script for Tamil, codifing the rules of grammar, and
then dealt with medicine [Paripooranam 400], and initiated Girivalam, as
the simplest form of yoga, that could be practiced by one and all.
Agathiar is believed to have brought his first love, River Cauvery, to
Tamil Nadu. Well, then he might have organised the flow of the River
with the aid of the local kings. Patanjali wrote upon Sanskrit Grammar,
Ayurveda and Yoga, and though the works stand distinctively, a common
thread unites them. A unity at some point is required for scientific
progress and human prosperity.
Free software offers all the tools we can ask for. The next big step
would be when human knowlege is ported across so that software
applications abound with life, intelligence and wisdom.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
,----[A brief note on:-
| Consilience 06 * Law and Technology Committee * el~t�k * NLSIU
| A Conference on Free/Open Source Software
| 26th July, 2006- Day One:
| 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM- Session on Intellectual Property and FOSS
| * Hon'ble Mr. Justice Yatindra Singh, Judge, Allahabad High Court
| * Mr. Sunil Abraham, Manager, International Open Source Network
| 11:30 AM to 11:45 AM- Refreshment Break
| 11:45 AM to 1:30 AM- Session on Using FOSS in Public Administration
| * Mr. Ramanraj K, Lawyer, Chennai
| 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM- Lunch
| 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM- Session on Licensing Matters
| * Mr. Neel Mason, Lawyer, Delhi
| 27th July, 2006- Day Two:
| 8:30 AM- Richard Stallman address via videoconference:
| Why software wants to be free, followed by discussion.
| 11:45 AM to 2:00 PM- Session of FOSS Business Models
| * Mr. Atul Chitnis, Sr. Vice President,
| Geodesic Information Systems Pvt. Ltd
| * Mr. Anand Babu, Member, FSF India & Software Developer
| 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM- Session on Protecting FOSS Assets
| * Mr. Kenneth Gonsalvez, NRC-FOSS, Chennai
| 11:30 AM to 11:45 AM- Refreshment Break
| 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM- Lunch
| 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM- Session on Policy Implications of FOSS
| - An Indian Perspective
| * Dr. Nagarjuna, Chairman, Free Software Foundation of India
| * Mr. Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Consultant,
| Planning Commission of India
| 5:30 PM to 6:00 PM- Open discussion and debate on conference points
| and follow-up
| 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM- Closing session at Hotel Central Park Plaza with
| accompanying dinner/mixer
| Primary conference sessions for the 26th and 27th will take place at
| the Training Centre in the National Law School of India University
| (NLSIU) campus at Nagarbhavi (Near Chandra Layout off Mysore road;
| 12km from city centre). Closing session and dinner will take place at
| Hotel Central Park Plaza (In Manipal Centre, near M.G. Road). The
| accomdation for the keynote speakers will be provided for at the
| Training Centre in the NLSIU campus.
| WEB SITE
The Consilience 06 event at NLSIU, Bangalore, briskly started on 26th,
with the Convenor Mr. Raman Chima briefly introducing the event
focused on the business, legal and policy issues relating to Free/Open
Source Software [FOSS].
The key note speech by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Yatindra Singh presented
the various facets of the laws governing computer programs. Source
code and object code, could be protected as copyrights or trade
secrets. Object code of both free and non-free software are protected
by copyright. While free software source code is protected under
copyright law, the source code of non-free software is seldom
published and is generally protected as trade secrets. The indepth
critical analysis on the legal position of "software patents", in the
light of TRIPs and US decisions and law practiced there and in other
jurisdictions was beacon of light and guidance. The works and
thoughts by the Hon'ble Judge on the legal aspects of FOSS and other
topics are available at http://yksingh.blogspot.com
The intricate questions of law in this sphere are not only a rich
field of study for research by law students, but may also invite
opinions of Courts in future. The Judge hinted that questions of law
involving interpretation are largely answered with one's heart,
pointing to the famous dictum of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr:
"The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience."
[The full text of "The Common Law" by Justice Holmes is available at:
It is indeed the heart which ultimately guides law and logic.
The Allahabad High Court web site http://www.allahabadhighcourt.in is
probably one of the finest in India, with convenient to use RSS feeds,
using open standards and free software to publish judgments and other
records of the Court online. The judicial leadership by Hon'ble
Justice Yatindra Singh has indeed created a fine model for emulation
by other Courts.
Our Hon'ble Courts could perhaps also frame and designate suitable
standards to enable citation of judgments published online. In
Australia, the Australasian Legal Information Institute had taken the
initiative to build a legal database at http://www.austlii.edu.au/ to
provide information about the Australasian laws covering almost all
legislative Acts, judicial decisions and records in those
jurisdictions. Hon'ble Justice L T Olsson of the Supreme Court of
South Australia wrote the "GUIDE TO UNIFORM PRODUCTION OF JUDGMENTS"
to enable production of judgments in a standard format, paving the
way for vendor and medium neutral citation in Australia. The Guide is
available at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/CompLRes/1999/1/
FOSS tools help to power austlii.org and technical details about it
are available at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/austlii/technical.html
Details about how the austlii project was created, funded and works is
available at: http://www.lawonline.cc/accesslawright.htm under the
title "Free the Law". In India, NIC maintains a large legal database,
but it would be useful if a system of reference is devised to enable
vendor and medium neutral citation for use in India as in Australia.
Sunil Abraham, Manager, IOSN, under the United Nations Development
Programme spoke next.
My talk was on using FOSS for Public Administration in the light of
the Calpp project experience. The slides I used are available at:
The "transition" effect for the slides is as follows :)
I started off with the issues in using FOSS for Public Administration.
Law and computers have a few common issues that are strikingly
1) Legal issues -> Law is both:
(i) a simple truth system
(ii) a complex system with dynamic rules and hierarchies
2) Technological issues -> Computers are also both
(i) a simple truth system
(ii) a complex system with no solutions for the AI problem
Law is trivial at one level and extremely complex at another. For the
vast majority, law could easily appear as a simple truth system. The
high ethics, morals and laws, say for instance Avvayar's Attisudi, the
"Golden Alphabet" of Tamil language and culture, could be taught to
even 1st standard children, and the whole legal code could easily be
etched in one's head and heart to be executed for life without much
difficulty. India has deep roots in such a tradition where truth is
regarded as the highest law. It is no coincidence that our national
motto is "satyameva jayathe" - "truth triumphs" etched on our national
symbol. Max Muller and others have commented on the truthful nature
of Indians and panchayats were able to swiftly settle disputes as
there was seldom any argument over facts. There have been criminal
sessions at the Madras High Court when there was not a single case for
trial. If we could take truthfulness for granted, that in itself
solves a critical issue in Public Administration - every task from
collecting tax to executing public works, and reporting facts to
decision making and law making could be done with great efficiency.
But, fact is that law has become extremely complex over the years.
The BL degree course in law is studied for five years and then legal
minds, spend several years in active practice and may yet fail to have
ready answers to issues. Legal rules are the most complex, as they are
dynamic, changing all the time. Law has become so complex, that it is
widely accepted that it could take help from computers to improve
speed and efficiency in the execution of laws.
Computers are information processing devices. They are fundamentally,
very simple truth machines. They can interpret the on or off states
as true (1) or false (0) and do simple boolean logic on them. Bits
are grouped together as bytes, and the ASCII standard based on the
English alphabet is widely used. Everything else from source code to
machine code rest on such a simple foundation.
According to the Church�Turing thesis, a computer with a certain
minimum threshold capability is in principle capable of performing the
tasks of any other computer. A Turing machine has only a single data
structure, a variable-length linear array called the tape. Each
component of the tape contains just a single character.
Representation of a computer is as simple as this:
.^. --->read/write/shift pointer
[ rwx permission bits are basic to any time sharing operating system ]
Any computable function can be computed by a Turing machine. It takes
almost no machinery to achieve universality, other than some sort of
unlimited storage capacity. Even an extremely simple set of data
structures and operations are sufficient to allow any computable
function to be expressed. Anything can be done in LISP, Python, PHP,
C etc as long as infinite storage and time is given. The differences
between programming languages is not quantitative but qualitative in
how elegantly, easily, and effectively things can be done.
Now, humans are endowed with natural computing abilities. In theory,
all our computing functions could be performed by a computer, if we
admit the Church-Turing thesis, that has not been proved but accepted
by mathematicians as true. But then, why is it that there is no such
computer program around, and every software project needs several
hundred developers? That takes us to the complexity issue with
computers - common sense reasoning is not yet possible and the AI
problem is without a solution for the past more than 35 years.
The chief reason for the failure brings out the deep connection
between law and computers. How would a robot know how to deal with
humans and others? Often, Assimov's three laws of robotics are cited,
but they are too simplistic - law is more detailed in describing such
matters. Law is often the best judge of what is relevant and what is
not. The computing field has not taken law seriously enough, and that
has prevented the evolution of robust AI systems. Law is at the core
of our lives, and when it is ported to computers, they would have the
chance to do common sense reasoning.
Consilience, or the unity of knowledge (literally a "jumping together"
of knowledge), has its roots in the ancient Greek concept of an
intrinsic orderliness that governs our cosmos. Avvayar talked about
"onraka kaanbathe kaatchi" (to see is to see as one) and most our
theories on cosmology have this core principle and most of our sages
were masters of language, medicine, yoga and various fields and could
deal indepth with each at the same time.
The wikipedia article on informations systems observes: "We need a new
paradigm for addressing Information Integrity. The current approach
to Information Integrity is unscientific, ad hoc, sporadic and costly.
Apart from privacy and security, there has been scant attention on the
trustworthiness or integrity of information and of the interconnected,
integrated information processes and systems. By and large,
Information Integrity is addressed from isolated perspectives within
each organization, or as specific issues unique to accounting,
finance, law, medicine, engineering, hardware, software and the like.
Consequently, industry, government and society are paying an
inordinately high price for the level of Information Integrity that
there is, and facing enormous, unforeseen risks from catastrophic
That sums up the issues at hand.
Devising the appropriate representation for information is the key to
solving the issues involved here.
As a legal professional, I was only interested in finding tools I
could use to help me with my professional work. It came as a bit of
surprise that there were not really any tools around that fit my needs
- slowly, I realised I need to create them myself. The Fair Rent
Calculator was my first computer program, and that exercise exposed
the various constraints in using computers to serve us. The Calpp
design was made to minimise spending time on writing code to create
interfaces. Incidentally, that provided an elegant method to store
information about the work flow taking away the need of using the if
.. then .. or the do .. while .. constructs minimising coding effort.
Calpp represents rules under three tables procedures, steps,
particulars and when invoked as a proceeding, the information input is
validated and stored in three corresponding tables proceedings, events
and details. The slides explain the design in more detail, and the
The calpp project work is online and in progress at
http://calpp.freeshell.in/calpp I had to stop here as it was time for
The simple scheme used in Calpp helps to also serve as an AI model
which is merely a Turing machine with multiple pointers, and a
hearbeat pulse drawing on the index which could emulate the plane of
.^. .^. .^. .^. --->multiple read/write/shift pointers
\______|_______|______/ --->heartbeat pulse / index plane
Each pointer may be visualised as a user using the tape, or any
sensor, device or any seat of intelligence accessing the tape. The
index of all tables may be periodically accessed at heartbeat pulses
of the clock (which is as simple as cron running a script at
appropriate intrevals) with some overall objectives in memory, and we
could have a system that throbs with life.
Most of the time-sharing operating systems freely available today, are
multi-user, multi-tasking, systems with a wide range of scripting
tools and other computing facilities. Anand Babu mentioned about the
evolving 60 Petabyte machines, that is very close to the unlimited
storage tape. There are really no technological handicaps in the way
of having a full fledged AI system at work. The task of informing
computers about the rules and functions we use alone needs to be done,
and when a critical number of functions have been loaded, we would
certainly have the pleasure of sharing our lives with intelligent
automatons lacking flesh and blood but nonetheless sharing our
Calpp would not only enable computer aided legal procedures and
proceedings, but solve the AI problem. It has been such a pleasure
working on Calpp, and if you are interested in joining this exciting
journey, please visit http://calpp.freeshell.in/calpp It is said, "The
spirited mind will not be content to remain within itself. It will
reach out for chances to prove its worth." When man and machine do
unite in spirits, I hope that would pave way for visiting the farthest
cosmos and the innermost depth of our consiousness, with rich networks
of information and better sharing of resources.
Public Administration could be greatly simplified if the issues are
taken seriously and we set ourselves to work. Merely publishing
information online on a web server and setting the permission bits to
755 so that public may access them would elegantly implement the right
to information. GNU Mailman could be used by almost any municipal
body or local body as a simple means of grievance redressal. We could
begin with these simple tools, which would help us build more
sophisticated solutions as we move on.
The session after lunch was on licensing matters relating to FOSS and
Neel Mason, alumni of NLSIU, and now a lawyer at Delhi, dealt with the
R. Hari from IBM, Project Manager, OSSRC, told us the story how the
great Indian epic Ramayana originated. Shiva told the story to
Parvathi, who then told it to Kakakushandi, who repeated it to
Garudar, who passed it on to Valmiki, who is now well known for having
written it down, and Tulsidas to Kambar have derived their works from
Valmiki! Free software projects are just like that, having many
versions, authors and generations of users involved in the process of
creating, maintaining and keeping the work alive. After that very
interesting analogy, he took us through the various activities carried
on at OSSRC - they have a students portal, innovation portal and other
specialised sections. They are attempting to use moodle in education
and involved with improving healthcare using FOSS. His presentation
was short and sweet. Visit http://www.ossrc.org.in to know more about
the work done to promote FOSS by his organisation. Day one closed
The other speaker from IBM was Ashish Gautam, an Open Standards
Specialist, who spoke on the importance of having open standards. He
spoke the next day, on the various standards used from neck ties,
power supply apparatus to opportunities that open standards could
provide in the computing field. FOSS tools are invariably built around
well recognized standards. FreeBSD and linux are POSIX compliant, the
free compilers and databases are mostly implementations of the ANSI C
and SQL standards, and any free browser works with the W3C standards
for HTML, CSS, DOM, XML, and others.
Day two was scheduled to open with Richard Stallman's address via
videoconference on the topic "Why software wants to be free", but due
to technical reasons, only an audio link could be established. The
quality of the transmission was poor, and I could catch only a few
lines here and there. I could hear him narrate on freedoms zero to
three and sometime later say, "history shows its easy to loose
That was followed by a session of FOSS Business Models covered by Atul
Chitnis and Anand Babu.
Atul Chitnis started with how he can scare people to death with his
talks on FOSS. I am not sure if students took that line seriously,
but I wondered if the next time I made a speech, I could begin, "I am
here to talk about killer applications ..." Wait a minute, free
software is indeed closing on non-free software but there is a more
serious killing issue with the Calpp project - if someone does add the
Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code to the Calpp
project, and if our Criminal Courts did start using Calpp with those
procedures in place, and during a proceeding, the Courts do find
someone guilty of murder and sentence the accused to be hanged until
dead, he could get killed by an executioner. That sent a scary chill
down my spine. The rain and cool weather outside along with the
freezing air-conditioning inside made things worse - I started
shivering with my teeth chattering. To add to my discomfort, the
execution in Calcutta some years ago flashed - though the accused was
alleged to have raped and murdered the victim, even women were holding
placards protesting the execution asking "if killing is bad, how could
we kill a person and tell him it is bad?" That is an indefensible
argument against capital punishment from some of the people living in
the land of Buddha and Gandhi. The accused there was reported to have
pleaded his innocence even minutes before the execution, and I
certainly wish, we could live in a society where there would be no
victims or even the thought about any crime. Good education and
training in the practice of moral, ethical and legal percepts from
young age could make a big difference. If this train of thought sounds
like it is way, way away from FOSS and you are very particular about
hearing just FOSS, try chanting "FOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooSSsss..." while
reading :) FOSS in Public Administration is certainly about making law
work efficiently keeping peace in society ensuring peaceful changes.
It holds out a promise to establish a GOLDEN age of peace and
prosperity when science, commerce and arts would flourish, with all
citizens living in peace and harmony with nature. FOSS is about
sharing resources with neighbours, and almost every FOSS tool from the
kernel to applications like GNU Mailman to the Apache Web Server all
help to serve human needs better by sharing information speedily and
Atul Chitnis was correct in commenting that much of the debate on
whether "open source" is legal, valid, viral, cancerous (a la Steve
Balmer), dangerous, economically viable and the other questions of
that kind as quite stale belonging to the previous century. FUD is
dead and gone.
Anand Babu spoke about his involvement with various free software
projects, along with the business models associated with his
Kenneth Gonsalves talked for sometime. G Nagarjun made a presentation
on FOSS from his position as a scientist, stressing the importance of
knowledge and code, and the process of coding, encoding, decoding and
recoding. Freedom of access to knowledge and code is very important
for social equality and progress. Matter and energy are conserved,
but time is not. It is much easier to save time by sharing knowledge
and code. You may write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any
questions on the mission and actitivies of Free Software Foundation of
Time and again, the question of patentability of software came up for
discussion. I had occasion to explain "computer programs per se" at
and about the scope of Articles 27 & 10 of the TRIPs treaty at
I hope that helps while doing research on those issues. India could
prosecute US and Japan at WTO for its "software patent" practices
which are against free trade and the interests of Indian software
developers who may want to deal with markets there.
Ankur Singla, student at NLSIU, narrated the various FOSS initiatives
in India. The most refreshing opinions came from Sudhir Krishnasamy
(Consultant, Planning Commission of India), an alumni of NLSIU. He
analysed the FOSS policies and practices of governments across the
globe, and made concrete suggestions to enable a sound FOSS framework
in India. Most speakers largely agreed that there should be a policy
favouring open standards in governance and public affairs.
The Indian Journal of Law and Technology (IJLT) was also released at
It is very important to have hands on experience with free software to
fully understand how it is maintained and sustained. I do hope NLSIU
students organise a free software user group to start using it in
their daily activities, which will certainly help them to also to get
more acquainted with the legal aspects. Free software and Law have a
long history of being inexplicably intertwined - please read "Free for
All" by Peter Wayner available at http://www.wayner.org/books/ffa/ to
know more about the evolution and history of free software. The
TCP/IP stack was released under a free license making a free internet
possible, and the growth of FOSS thereafter. The future of free
software is very much in each of our hands.