Science and Spirituality: Subhash Kak - Part 2
In conversation with Ruchi Kak
In the first part of this interview, Subhash Kak and I spoke about Science and Spirituality (2017). In this part of the interview, we explore the impact of AI, concepts of UBI (Universal Basic Income) and delve further into conversations about his books based on Vedic Sciences.
Subhash Kak was awarded the Padma Shri (India’s fourth highest civilian award) in the field of Science and Engineering (2019). He is known for proposing ground-breaking advancements in artificial intelligence, cryptography and quantum computing.
Ruchi: Many see the future competition between US, China, and India about the leadership in artificial intelligence (AI). We are also in the middle of a quantum-computing race. In your opinion, how will this race impact world economies and global leadership?
Subhash: Both AI as well as the new frontier of quantum computing are about technology, so the race is about developing the best technology and using it to help people everywhere. Keep in mind that AI is not something mysterious; it is merely the use of statistics and other correlation extraction techniques that work on enormous amounts of data (big data). The race between the three nations will be about who innovates so as to profit from it, by selling it to the rest of the world.
Each of the three has unique strengths. The US advantage is proven leadership, its current wealth, its great universities, its lead in the technology area and an open system that attracts talent from all over the world.
The Chinese advantage is the industriousness of its people, but its communist dictatorship makes it politically fragile.
The Indian advantage is that it will be home to much economic activity given that its infrastructure needs the most doing over, and it has the most people below the age of thirty, which should translate into greater social energy. Its great disadvantage relates to an overly inefficient administrative culture and also business elite who are not known to dream big or to design products for the international markets.
How the three nations manage this competition will depend on the quality of their political and business leaders. But it is possible that the rivalry will not evolve into a competition, and the three nations, as well as Europe and Japan, will see the advantages of cooperation.
While AI will bring benefits of increased efficiency, it will also cause massive disruptions by eliminating many kinds of jobs. For example, we can see that the higher education sector will be seriously disrupted; it will be so much easier and cheaper to offer courses on the Internet as has already begun to happen.
Some scholars suggest that in the future the world will have only ten percent of jobs that exist now. This means that there will be tremendous pressures to reduce populations. The managing of this reduction will be one of the great challenges for the world’s political and business elite.
Ruchi: UBI (Universal Basic Income) is a concept proposed by many world leaders and governments. In your opinion, what impact will UBI have on the overall global economy and everyday lifestyle?
Subhash: The idea of basic income is to ensure that the unemployed are provided for. But many feel that this would hardly be a life of dignity and it would soon degenerate into a dystopia with rampant addiction and crime.
Also, it is clear that the poorer nations will not be able to afford the UBI leading to intervention by the powerful nations to forestall disorder and that will change the world political map. This might even constitute a new kind of colonization.
Some experiments in UBI have been tried in Finland and the US. They have not turned out to be successful and some are talking about creating hybrid schemes where work is required for the UBI payment, and indeed this may be the way to go.
Ruchi: In your book, “The Loom of Time” you connect recursion both at the micro and macro level. Repetition of pattern is central to the universe. Could you talk to us about the concept of recursion at the biological (micro) and cosmic (macro)level?
Subhash: The universe consists of patterns that repeat at different scales and this is what we mean by recursion; in mathematics it is sometimes called fractal behavior.
We see this at the beach, which seems similarly jagged at different scales, and we also see it in plant life and in the fact that within us inhabit different organisms almost like Babushka dolls. The pattern associated with galaxies and stars seems to be similar to the structure of the brain. We also see fractal structure in the very design of the Hindu temple.
This recursion happens at the society level where there is specialization of function just as in the biology of the individual. You also have animal societies with specialized function, as in ant colonies with the queen and worker and solider ants and the like.
The understanding of recursion is the gateway to our understanding of reality. If we can dive within; it opens us to the understanding of the outer world. We see this stressed most emphatically in the Yoga tradition.
Ruchi: In your book, “The Prajna Sutra : Aphorisms of Intuition”, you write about the cosmology that underlies consciousness, written in the style of sutras. Could you share with us some of the fascinating aspects of your research on developing intuition?
Subhash: First, I must say that Prajna Sutra is one of my most original books although it has not received much attention, which may be because of the style it is written in.
Now what do I mean by the cosmology that underlies consciousness? Well our thoughts and the inner space of memories is illumined by the lamp of consciousness. If we knew and understood the nature of this inner space, we would be able to access more of the inner light, and have a sharp intuition and have the capacity for greater understanding.
The book goes into these esoteric topics related to personal and spiritual growth.
Ruchi: You have written much about Poetry and Art. Could you share with our readers, a favorite extract from your literary work?
Subhash: I have written both on the history of art and music as well as many books of poetry in English and Hindi. Here is a poem from my recent collection titled Arrival and Exile:
There is not much to show
for the labour of the previous seasons.
What has seemed a triumph
in the bright light of the summer sky has turned dull,
If I had not done what I did
it wouldn’t have changed the world.
I think no one noticed
the designs we drew on sand
and in the corn fields
and now it doesn’t matter
since the harvest has been done.
Ruchi: From your journey as a young Kashmiri boy to being a Padma Shri Awardee, and a leading computer scientist of the world, we would love to hear your thoughts about navigating through challenges.
Subhash: One must be calm and observant, and one must be fair and ethical and have empathy for others. One must also dream big and apply oneself with complete determination towards whatever it takes to accomplish the dream.
One must also be a realist, accept that there are all kinds of people, and while some of them may not be nice, most people indeed are fair-minded.
If one approaches life from this perspective, then the setbacks and unfair treatment by others do not become permanent burdens; rather, they open new doors of opportunity.
| Author, story-teller, portrait photographer, travel and yoga enthusiast.
Ruchi, believes in the power of story-telling as a way to introduce the next-generation of Kashmiri Pundits t o its “collective consciousness”. She is interested in learning more about “Millennial Kashmiris” and their interpretation of the ever-evolving Kashmiri culture in today’s global context. Through her own experiences, she feels it is up to the millennials to keep the culture vibrant and valid.
She is a Senior Technical Writer and her career combines her interest in writing, with information architecture and content strategy. You can connect with Ruchi Kak through her profile on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruchikak