Saturday, March 14, 2009

Consilience '06 at NLSIU

The purpose of this blog is to promote porting legislation to computers: we need to have supercomputers running legal code at the speed of light. An unintentional useful side effect is it will aid and boost ai systems. I have given a few talks on what needs to be done to make that possible. The "Law and Technology Committee" at NLISU organised an event a couple of years ago, in which a number of leaders participated and shared their thoughts. My minutes follow:

,----[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.

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

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 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 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
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

FOSS tools help to power and technical details about it
are available at:
Details about how the austlii project was created, funded and works is
available at: 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
Information Integrity."

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
implementation has been done using PHP, JavaScript and PostgreSQL.
The calpp project work is online and in progress at 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
our mind:

.^. .^. .^. .^. --->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 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 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
with efficiency.

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 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
the event.

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 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.