SCIENCE & DEVELOPMENT

The Discontents of the Data Universe

IN 2011, in Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) hailed the birth of a new “asset class” – data. Going into raptures, they proclaimed data as the new oil. The WEF love for data has only grown with time. In 2019 it has declared that data is not merely oil, it is “super oil”: unlike the universe of oil, which is bound to the physical world and therefore finite, super oil or the data universe, is unbounded and growing exponentially. As long as machines can produce and consume ever larger amounts of data, the immaterial world of money and data can expand infinitely.

The Strange Spectacle of WTO Negotiations being Launched in WEF, Davos

THE US, European Union (EU) and its allies are part of a 76-country “WTO initiative” on “trade related aspects of e-commerce”. Strangely enough, this initiative was launched in the World Economic Forum at Davos, and not in any WTO fora. This “initiative” was discussed a number of times in WTO including the last ministerial in Buenos Aires in 2017, where also it was rejected. The developing countries including India had argued that without any agreement on Doha development agenda, WTO could not take up other issues.

Remembering the Republic, Planning and Science in the Times of Unreason

INDIA became a republic on January 26, 1950, when the constitution, steered by Babasaheb Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly, came into effect. It is the constitution that guarantees that all sections of people – irrespective of race, religion or caste – have full rights to the nation, including the right to a decent standard of living. It is this vision of democracy and a secular republic that is under threat today.

Raksha Mantri on HAL & Rafale: Misdirection and Alternative Facts

RAKSHA Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman’s long and tortured statements in the Lok Sabha on January 4 and 7, 2019 during the debate on the Rafale scandal followed the by now well-established pattern of the government’s, and her own, responses to the storm of criticism and charges against the Modi government. These charges were made by a wide range of defence experts, other commentators, eminent concerned citizens and opposition political parties.

Science Will Survive the Modi Regime, Will Science Institutions?

THIS year also, the Indian Science Congress held in Jalandhar, covered itself with shame; as it has been doing for the last few years. Venkataramanan Ramakrishnan, the Nobel Prize winning scientist, had called it a circus for discussing in Mumbai session of the science congress the irrational: ancient India had aircrafts, genetic engineering, etc. This tradition of celebrating mumbo jumbo as science from the Dinanath Batra School of Nonsense continues, with more and more outrageous claims being paraded each year in the science congress.

Lynching as a Public Spectacle

THE rise of hate crimes in India – cow-related violence and lynchings – has been coupled with extensive use of social media. While fake news and fake videos have often helped spark communal violence, they have also been “celebratory” in nature: participants bragging about being a part of the mob involved in the lynchings and the violence.

The BJP’s New Surveillance Regime

THE notification issued by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) arming10 government agencies under the Section 69 of the IT Act to break into all our communications and computers, has been followed by ministry of information technology modifying its rules. Taken together, these proposed modifications identify how the breaking of our communications will be done. The target in the first instance are the service providers – the telecom and digital service providers such as WhatsApp (owned by Facebook), Telegram, etc, and the equipment vendors.

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