art, artificial intelligence, deep learning, education, employment, prose, university

Why my kids may not go to any university…

Artificial Intelligence and Internet are two sides of the coin which need to be the currency of our education system

I studied in a classroom with peers who were probably as clueless as I was, and chose to stare at the walls or look at the teacher to feign attention (we’ve all been there eh?) I did my undergrad, and diligently pursued mass communication to now pursue a career in journalism. A lot of my friends went ahead into specialised fields like engineering, medical science and computer courses. But probably two decades from now, our kids won’t need to cram up information or study in a classroom with mute coloured walls to get a job. The era of specialised learning is at its fag end and the millennials know it.

The rise of online learning and free massive open online courses (MOOCS) are a clarion call to the future and spell the end of the traditional college model, which has a lot of apparent flaws. Our education system’s blueprint uses a cookie cutter approach– measuring all students at the same level in a classroom. But truth of the matter is that college degrees are an asset in a country like ours, which still favours a thorough (but not quality-centric) education. But we too are slowly progressing towards more skill-based education.

While a lot of skill-intensive training was undertaken in the manufacturing sector in our labour-intensive country, we now need to look towards two things that will soon run the world- Internet and Artificial Intelligence. The former has pervaded all aspects of our life while the latter is greasing its wheel and revving up its engines. Our focus needs to shift from manufacturing towards ordinary service sector occupations, which even world leaders have come to terms with. The founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, warns of significant market disruptions, especially in the manufacturing sector, because of how AI will change the world.

The education system has been disrupted equally by the two. Learning process will and already has undergone a significant change over the past decade. While automation may sound scary, it sure turns in profits, and most human endeavours will soon yield to a machine. While it may(or may not) tantamount to lack of jobs, the fact remains that we as prospective workforce, need to evolve to quickly move from one sector to the other when automation hits us with full force.

With easier and greater access to electronics by students, education sector for most start-ups is a cash cow. Companies are capitalising on this by creating advanced learning programs. E-learning will eventually combine artificial intelligence to help students excel at a task and supplement their efforts when need be. AI can undertake cluster studies and decipher hidden patterns in a classroom to figure out the understanding level and modify course structure appropriately. The internet allows them to pursue education at an individualised pace. One of these undertakings, that uses AI in the classroom is Century Intelligent Learning, which allows teachers to create online curriculum always accessible by students. AI identifies gaps in knowledge and recommends what topic the student should study next based on their aptitude. While online courses lack the sophistication for a measurable impact on a student’s life, it has increasingly been used to supplement the learning process. Which is why online teaching portals, especially the ones using AI are witnessing a rising graph.

Our education system needs to create a space for automation in the future. AI will create new jobs in the future for which we need many short-term skill based courses instead of tedious and cumbersome degrees. No matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes, some jobs will always likely be better done by humans, especially those involving empathy or social interaction. I do not imply that teaching will be extinct, but a wider education base, which includes a variety of subjects, are the need of the hour, starting with Artificial Intelligence. Hence unless my kids want to be scholars, they’d be better off with hands-on experience in different fields instead of completely theoretical 3-4 year of undergraduation in one core department.

However one drawback of the entire hullabaloo around automation and the internet is its impact on the poor, who make up the majority our country, and have limited access to education. Internet penetration in poor neighbourhoods in more than what basic amenities receive but its unregulated structure makes it hard for the government to implement internet as a mode of knowledge dissemination. However, the emphasis on regional languages may target digital inclusion of the marginalised. Internet and MOOCs may give them a shot at education, where the government has failed miserably.

I do not foresee a future that replaces teachers by robots and AI algorithms but our current system needs to reboot and be perceptive to change, because as Bob Dylan puts it, the times they are changing…

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art, life, movie review, psychology, REALISM

Liar’s Dice: Stellar performances and the ugly face of Migration

If you have lived anywhere in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and even Delhi, chances are someone has thrown the word migration around, often as the root cause of an array of issues, be it rising violence, loss of culture, ruin of space and now even stampedes. Thousands of nameless individuals cross state borders around the world in search of food and shelter, often woven in the ambit of an occupation. Migration is a hot cake in today’s political discourse with a volley of nationalistic ambitions that threaten to close borders to nationals of other countries. But immigration and migration are not the center of my tirade. It is a gem of a movie called Liar’s dice.

You might not have heard of it- such gems are often lost in the dirt and squalor of the backyard of Indian cinema because it gets no endorsement or appraisal from celebrities. Surprisingly, this movie, written and directed by Geetu Mohandas received national awards but did not see the light of the day through a theatrical release. I wouldn’t want to spoil the movie for you, which is a journey of a woman who sets out against all odds, with her daughter (and her goat), to look for her husband, who left to work at a construction site. Starring Geetanjali Thapa and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the cinematography blew me away. From the picturesque Shimla hills to the narrow stifling lanes of Delhi, the thematic essence is maintained throughout. The protagonist’s inner turmoil is palpable onscreen as slivers of emotions rupture your metropolis bubble of safety and bring to you the ugly face of oblivion.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui has time and again established himself as an actor beyond the narrow confines of mainstream cinema and that is his strength. The scheming crowd entertainer Nawaz is a shifty character and the movie derives its title from the game he plays to fleece the crowd. The title would obviously have several connotations – from helping Kamala (Thapa) out while lying to her, to Kamala risking everything on fate when she decides to travel with Nawaz, Liar’s Dice symbolizes a gamble for the forlorn woman. From a scheming vagabond to a considerate companion, Nawaz’s performance is a perfect complement to Thapa’s anguish and fear. Her construction worker husband’s name is a symbol – a unit which represents the mass of faceless nameless individuals who feature as mere statistics in the scheme of things.

While it is hard to portray the ugly truth behind the construction industry’s migration business wherein thousands of workers are brought in from far-flung areas and made to work in dangerous conditions, the director and the cinematographer Rajeev Ravi have managed to give us a glimpse into the characters’ lives and through them, the mystic gaping hole of namelessness, and to that end, of the importance of any one individual in this urban squalor.

art, india tourism, madhya pradesh, mandu, mptourism, prose, traveling, Uncategorized

With Love, from the Ruins of Mandu

“Shout out as loud as you can,” said our guide Tukaram, as we stood perched at one end of a broken wall that barely reached my waist. My sister and I were a bit unnerved with his enthusiasm, so our guide, visibly frustrated at our shyness but still undeterred, took the task upon himself.

“Will Mallika pass or fail?”

The echoes amazed me and filled the area around us, to my dismay, with the resonance of the latter. We laughed at the juvenile trickery and continued our journey around the city.

Mandu, erstwhile Mandava or Mandogarh, is a tottering city in the southwestern state of Madhya Pradesh, 60km from the city of Indore. Nothing could mark a greater difference than the towering buildings of Indore and this city of Mandu, which is closer to oblivion each passing day. Situated atop a plateau, lying close to the lazy course of the Narmada, the city was once fortified with walls stretching upto 50kms. The intricately carved walls, domes, pillars and entrances have endured centuries of dynastic wars and the harsh hands of Time.

Having been situated on the top of a plateau, mainly for strategic advancement, the city has been designed around water harvesting and conservation mechanisms, with innumerable wells, tanks and channels which direct water to the depositories, undergoing traditional means of purification through pebbles, sand and charcoal. Everywhere you look there is a beautifully carved structure that stands encased in history.

No less enchanting is the structure of Jahaz Mahal, the story of which is etched in my memory. The ‘floating palace’ as it was called when it was built, stood in the centre of man-made lakes, giving it the celestial vision of being afloat. Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji built it for his queens, concubines and the attending staff going upto thousands in number. It is one of the most elaborate extant structures of the ruined city. The royal palace complex at Mandu also includes the Hindola Mahal, or the Swinging Palace, a T-shaped structure which is a perfect specimen of the Malwa architecture.

As we negotiate the area, peppered with carved buildings encircled by broken battlement walls, Tukaram breaks into a song which is reverberated by the walls around us. A soft breeze saves us from the sultry sun that threatens to char my skin. Tukaram goes on the explain how the walls and columns were hollow structures with deep interconnected water ducts that ensured the service of water even in the most obscure corner of the palace and kept the palace cool in summers. He moves on to guide us to another area in the city and metaphorically into the past of Rani Roopmati.

We saunter into the area adjacent to the Rewa Kund, which makes up Baz Bahadur’s palace and Rani Roopmati’s pavilion. Baz Bahadur, the last independent King of Mandu fell in love with a beautiful shepherdess, Roopmati, who was also a marvelous singer. He convinced her to accompany him to the palace, agreeing to her condition that her palace must face the venerated river Narmada, which is how the foundation of the Rewa Kund was laid. The broad steps leading to the main gate of the palace are flanked on the sides by high arches, which probably served as aqueducts built into thick walls that supplied water to the palace. The love story was doomed for a premature end when Akbar invaded Mandu. The king fell in the battle and Rani Roopmati consumed poison                to avoid capture at the hands of Adham Khan.

Tukaram, consumed in his tale of love and beauty, comically fell into a small hole in the ground, amidst peals of laughter from the children nearby. He got up, dusted himself and continued stoically like nothing had transpired. He reminded me of how the present, ignorant of the majestic past, gleams at the tottering palaces and empty tanks, shrugs and looks in the other direction while those that remain entrenched in the past, only hope for reparations, for regained glory. As our trip ended, we eschewed the mundane cobbled roads and climb to the terrace of the palace to see the sky change hues. The city which once was one of the richest and also one of the biggest in India during the reign of both the Ghuri and Khilji dynasties, now sits, a lonely guardian on the walls. Men, many old timers like our Tukaram, believe that on a clear starry night, Roopmati’s voice can be felt glimmering through the air, and rippling across the surface of Narmada nearby.

In the meanwhile, hues of orange burst upon the horizon and we look till the sun is gobbled up by the distant curve.

 

 

 

 

featured image:india.com

art, article, Donald Trump, HATRED, Journalism, social media, Uncategorized

Creative Resistance- How Art is fighting back Donald Trump

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Illma Gore knows that these words hold water. Having suffered backlash for her nude portrait with a micro-penis of the now incumbent President of the United States, Donald Trump, she began work on a piece of art, painted with human blood– 20 pints donated by those who share her cause- in association with activist collective INDECLINE as a protest against the election. Hers is not the sole crusade against the anti-feminist, anti-inclusion tainted president who now reigns as the leader of the free world. Another prominent artist, Shepard Fairey, released three politically charged posters, featuring an African-American, a Muslim and Latino women, titled “We the People”. All the three religious/ethnic groups had previously come under ire from the erstwhile presidential candidate, and Fairey felt the need to visually depict the same, in order to highlight their imminent vulnerability under his administration.

Another piece of art came under the political spotlight and it belonged to Richard Prince, an artist whose Instagram picture featuring Ivanka Trump, had earned him a $36000 bounty. In an act of protest, he denounced the work and returned the payment. His argument stated that as a means of an honest protest, he had to exercise his discretion regarding the Trumps, and that they ’are not art.’ Mr. Trump himself is apparently not an art person at all, his government planning on drastic cuts in the spending,including a probable elimination of National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, The Hill reported. The massive outburst against the palpable concerns of a population that considers the election as a national catastrophe is majorly pivoted around the same issue, if not having stemmed from it.

What prompts these protests? Such a collective response to an election, on a scale that has never been witnessed before, prompts an intense soul-searching, although it doesn’t take long for the water to boil. The populace that voted against Trump and his policies are now trying to galvanize fear and angst against his election and stand in opposition to his decrees. Many artists supported a strike on January 20th, which called for an “act of non-compliance” and urged museums, galleries, theatres and galleries to remain closed for the day. The J20 Art Strike witnessed response from places around the country albeit in different ways. While mass outspoken dissent has taken over the stage prior and following the election result, those whose voices have no public platform for outcry have taken to social media and visual medium to cut across barriers. Dozens of banners with messages of inclusivity and anti-racism adorned the buildings across Philadelphia and Atlanta on the Inauguration day.

All the dissenters speak one tongue, inspite of different mediums which emphasizes non-acceptance of divisive attitude, corrosive of the ideas of equality enshrined in a democracy. The paradigm shift in the concept of identity and the argument of white supremacy that underlines Trump’s narrative is the fodder that fuels the artistic cannons, whose call for arms is loud, distinct and unavoidable.

cover picture: fusion.net