Sunday, 7 June 2020

Righteous Robots

Updated: January 15, 2011 2:55 pm

 

India That Is Bharat

 

 

Does anyone remember that once upon a time, long, long ago, the Congress Party had a committee called the Ethics Committee? Does anyone know what happened to it? Not Satiricus. But he knows that a committee is set up with the sole purpose of producing a report, and he is sure that committee must have duly discharged this onerous responsibility. Satiricus is also sure that, like all committee reports, that report must also have been given a decent burial in some funeral file.

Still, the Congress commitment to ethics did not stop with that committee. On the contrary, it spread from one Congress to another from the (Indian) National Congress to the Nationalist Congress. For, Satiricus recalls papers prominently reporting a few years ago that the Nationalist Congress Party had selected “a few good men” to work as ‘sampark pramukhs’ for the growth of the party. So far, so good. But what type of workers did the selection require? And that was the joke. For they were required to be vegetarians, teetotallers, honest, and unbiased. As if this was not funny enough, the chosen ones were clearly told not to have political ambitions. And the crowning part of the whole joke was that they were to be briefed like the RSS.

Well, now, Satiricus should correct himself here. The whole thing was not a joke. It was a whole pack of jokes. For starters, even a dimwit like Satiricus wondered how just a few good men were enough for a whole party to spread everywhere. If, as the report said, there were just 25 of them, that wouldn’t be enough even for a tea party.

Secondly, and much more importantly, if there were indeed a few good men around, why would they pollute their goodness with politics?

Thirdly, what is this curious creature called an honest political worker? Did not someone almost say politics is the first resort of a vote-buying scoundrel?

And finally, training a political worker to be as unselfish as an RSS pracharak is the limit. It would mean accepting the RSS to be as nationalist as the Nationalist Congress, and equating the Hindu culture with ‘Congress Culture’. How demeaning!

What happened to these good men is not known, but apparently they were not good enough at ethics to prevent their party president Sharad Pawar from telling secular lies as a politician and statistical lies as a minister.

Anyway, all this is now happily irrelevant, and neither Congress need bother any more with party workers who may make the wrong choice between ethical values and material prices. For ethical robots are here. An American husband-and-wife team of researchers has programmed a robot to behave as an ethical robot, so that it makes morally sound decisions. According to press reports, this robot is the product of a new field of research called machine ethics.

Now isn’t that just wonderful? The original Gandhi had talked of morality in politics, and the latest Gandhi talks of values. The first Mrs Gandhi had said corruption in India was in a way to be expected because it was everywhere in the world, while the second Mrs Gandhi has vowed to finish it. But now all this is history. Now all party programmes could be programmed into an ethical robot just switch it on, and we have automatic, instant ethics. There may be just one problem: If the Congress places a mass order for these righteous robots, how many bribes a la Bofors will clinch the deal?

 

Intellectual Globalisation

The journalist in Satiricus was tickled pink the other day to read in the papers that newspaper-editing is going to be outsourced in New Zealand. That country’s biggest daily, The New Zealand Herald, will employ an outside contractor for the editing work, for which the contractor in turn will employ as many as 20 contract-subeditors. Now Satiricus knows about ghost-writing of books and has even read about ready-made Ph.D. theses being on sale in the USA. But outsourcing editing is a new twist to newspapering, which is timely for us Indians. For, it was recently reported that foreign newspapers and journals may be allowed to bring out Indian editions with some Indian content. If that means outsourcing Indian journalism, it could also mean outsourcing the opinions of editors. In a way, Satiricus would call it intellectual globalisation. Sadly enough, there might be some people in Bharat that is India, who might say globalised brain-washing of Indians.

Unfortunately, even on professional grounds a union of journalists in New Zealand says it is not such a good idea. These professionals say the move would erode the quality of news coverage, because it would be handled by imported contractors not familiar with local issues. But that is no problem for us. For, while Shaw said journalism is an illiterate profession, Satiricus knows that Indian journalism is an ignorant profession, so not only unfamiliarity with but even ignorance of issues of local and even national importance is required of an Indian journalist. In fact Indian journalists are not required to be knowledgeable, they are required to be imaginative to the point of being imaginary. Look, for instance, at all the current ‘news’ about ‘Hindu’ terror.

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