BrownCast Episode 11: Indian Numismatics with Mohit Kapoor

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else). Show-notes after the jump!

Image result for gandhara coin
Gandharan Coin

Continue reading “BrownCast Episode 11: Indian Numismatics with Mohit Kapoor”

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Open Thread – Brown Pundits

Please keep the other posts on topic. Use this for talking about whatever you want to talk about.

ZackNote: As per suggestions; I’m listing all the Posts Written since last week’s Open Thread (in Reverse Chronological Order):

  1. The Balto-Slavic & Indo-Iranian Connection
  2. Pakistani Psychosis
  3. Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (b)
  4. Brexit and Democracy
  5. Indian Numismatics Browncast Podcast Coming Up –
  6. Notes on Brown Pundits “BrownCast”
  7. 1857: The Central Indian Campaign
  8. Watching Shtisel.. (and Turkish TV)
  9. Brown Pundits BrownCast episode 10, with Josiah Neeley
  10. the British “created” India according to this Coloniser
  11. Why doesn’t Arundhati Roy move to Pakistan?
  12. ‘In the milk of OBCs and Dalits, Muslims have added sugar’
  13. (Machine) Learning Biases
  14. American Muslims and Kamala Harris
  15. Various Asiatic raps
We average 2 posts a day making it a fairly prolific blog.
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American Muslims and Kamala Harris

The number of Democrats who have thrown their hats in to run as President has already approached double digits or crossed it; its difficult to keep tab. So far the most impressive launch was Kamala Harris, who declared from a huge rally in her homeground, Oakland, California. It’s not hard to see more than a similarity with another hugely famous biracial candidate, Barak Obama, who declared in his homeground Illinois with much fanfare.

Everybody understands that Kamala Harris will be a formidable candidate. Apart from all her personal and professional qualifications, liberal America may just want to recitify the Trump presidency with another emphatic progressive statement.

However, for now I am curious about how Muslims in America will regard Kamala Harris. I find it interesting that several Muslims media personalities have been twitting about Harris with barely disguised antipathy and are quickly delving into oppo research of Harris’s background.

Ofcourse, any sober political observer understands that people like Mehdi Hassan are fanatics who cares for only one issue, how good is the candidate for global Muslims and the way to judge that is probably position on Israeli-Palestine issue. But I believe people like Mehdi Hassan and his cohort do not move in own ways. These guys either coordinate intesely or their ideological lodestar acts as an Schelling point for coordination.

I am curious to see if general American Muslims show hesitancy about Kamala Harris. If they do, what could be reason for such luckwarmth?

 

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(Machine) Learning Biases

Cross posting from Ali Minai’s excellent “Barbarikon” blog (this is, of course, Ali Minai’s writing, not mine)

 In a recent tweet, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – widely known as AOC – responded to a report from Amazon that facial recognition technology sometimes identified women as men when they have darker skin. She said:

When you don’t address human bias, that bias gets automated. Machines are reflections of their creators, which means they are flawed, & we should be mindful of that. It’s one good reason why diversity isn’t just “nice,” it’s a safeguard against trends like this

While I agree with the sentiment underlying her tweet, she is profoundly wrong about what is at play here, which can happen when you apply your worldview (i.e. biases) to things you’re not really familiar with. To be fair, we all do it, but here it is AOC, who is an opinion-maker and should be more careful. The error she makes here, though, is an interesting one, and get to some deep issues in AI.

The fact that machine learning algorithms misclassify people with respect to gender, or even confuse them with animals, is not because they are picking up human biases as AOC claims here. In fact, it because they are not picking up human biases – those pesky intuitions gained from instinct and experience that allow us to perceive subtle cues and make correct decisions. The machine, lacking both instinct and experience, focuses only on visual correlations in the data used to train it, making stupid errors such as relating darker skin with male gender. This is also why machine learning algorithms end up identifying humans as apes, dogs, or pigs – with all of whom humans do share many visual similarities. As humans, we have a bias to look past those superficial similarities in deciding whether someone is a human. Indeed, it is when we decide to override our natural biases and sink (deliberately) to the same superficial level as the machine that we start calling people apes and pigs. The errors being made by machines do not reflect human biases; they expose the superficial and flimsy nature of human bigotry.

There is also a deeper lesson in this for humans as well. Our “good” biases are not all just coded in our genes. They are mostly picked up through experience. When human experience becoming limited, we can end up having the same problem as the machine. If a human has never seen a person of a race other than their own, it is completely natural for them to initially identify such a person as radically different or even non-human. That is the result of a bias in the data (experience, in this case), not a fundamental bias in the mind. This is why travelers in ancient times brought back stories of alien beings in distant lands, which were then exaggerated into monstrous figures on maps etc. This situation no longer exists in the modern world, except when humans try to create it artificially through racist policies.

The machine too is at the mercy of data bias, but its situation is far worse than that of a human. Even if it is given an “unbiased” data set that includes faces of all races, genders, etc., fairly, it is being asked to learn to recognize gender (in this instance) purely from pictures. We recognize gender not only from a person’s looks, but also from how they sound, how they behave, what they say, their name, their expressions, and a thousand other things. We deprive the machine of all this information and then ask it to make the right choice. That is a huge data bias, comparable to learning about the humanity of people from distant lands through travelers’ tales. On top of that, the machine also has much simpler learning mechanisms. It is simply trying to minimize its error based on the data it was given. Human learning involves much more complicated things that we cannot even fully describe yet except in the most simplistic or metaphorical terms.

The immediate danger in handing over important decision-making to intelligent machines is not so much that they will replicate human bigotries, but that,within their limited capacities and limited data, they will fail to replicate the biases that make us fair, considerate, compassionate, and, well, human.

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‘In the milk of OBCs and Dalits, Muslims have added sugar’

Catch our latest Episode 10 of BrownCast on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher

Back to the Post. I was thinking that usually Jinnah (I prefer to use QeA but this time I’ll dispense with honorifics) is contrasted with Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi. Nevertheless a better basis of comparison would be Ambedkar.

When All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen President Asaduddin Owaisi, MP, and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar addressed a rally in Aurangabad on Gandhi Jayanti, it marked a milestone in contemporary Indian politics.

It was the first time a Dalit party has tied up with a Muslim outfit.

In pre-Partition India, Muslim League leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah understood the power of this vote bank and quickly latched on to the idea of separate electorates when the British proposed it.

But the plan came a cropper when the more astute Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi convinced Dr B R Ambedkar that separate electorates were not the way forward and sealed the Poona Pact.

Then in the 1980s, Kanshi Ram realised the potential of Dalit votes and went on to form the Bahujan Samaj Party. It reached its zenith under his chosen successor Mayawati, a four time chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

See Also: Pakistan’s Forgotten Dalit Minority

Continue reading “‘In the milk of OBCs and Dalits, Muslims have added sugar’”

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Why doesn’t Arundhati Roy move to Pakistan?

Catch our latest Episode 10 of BrownCast on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher

Back to the Post:

The Short Answer is that Indians have Privilege and Pakistanis do not. Omar has a tweet to that effect that I couldn’t find but explained it very well.

I was inspired to write this by VijayVan‘s important comment:

When people like Audrey Truschke are denied visas instead of being called to festivals, then the coloniser will be reticent .

Vidhi and I were listening to Arundhati Roy the other day. She was so spectacular and brilliant in her eloquence; I genuinely began to believe that India was simply one large casteocracry.

Then clarity hit me and I asked Vidhi that why hadn’t Arundhati said anything about Pakistan. The greatest moral question in the Subcontinent is the near martyrdom of Hazrat Asia by Holy Pedophile’s orc armies. Continue reading “Why doesn’t Arundhati Roy move to Pakistan?”

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the British “created” India according to this Coloniser

I observe a moratorium on all electronics between dinner and bedtime but I’ve commandeered V’s laptop (with her permission) to express my profound outrage. I’m also sorry to detract attention from the excellent Episode 10.

I am reading “The Shortest History of Germany” by James Hawes and on page 13:

“Rather like the British in India, the Romans in Germany found a patchwork of warring statelets and imposed upon it, for their own convenience, the notion of a single vast Nation. Like the British, they then created for this invented land a class of semi-acculturated leaders from whom they expected loyalty.”

I just tweeted him this link but this coloniser has no shame in writing such ahistorical filth and must be called out. Any reading of Indian history shows that there has always been an intrinsic geographic identity that stems back as far as IVC and that centralised authority has existed twice (in the Maurya dynasty and the Mughals) pre-British (I was going through the Numismatics podcasts). Continue reading “the British “created” India according to this Coloniser”

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Brown Pundits BrownCast episode 10, with Josiah Neeley

The latest BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else).

Continue reading “Brown Pundits BrownCast episode 10, with Josiah Neeley”

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Watching Shtisel.. (and Turkish TV)

We have been watching the Israeli TV serial “Shtisel” the last few days  (it is available on Netflix). I find the availability of foreign serials on Netflix a very good development; We watched Yunus Emre (a Turkish serial about the Turkish Sufi poet; a sort of less famous Rumi) and enjoyed it.  Turkish serials have good production values, though the propaganda requirements of modern Turkey can be heavy handed (and therefore the depictions of 13th Century Turks are likely to be not even close to accurate), but even so, at least they shed light on what contemporary Turkish media mavens regard as desirable. Yunus Emre is about “spiritual” matters, so the propaganda is not a huge issue (no more than what it would be in a Western production), but it is a much bigger element in Ertrugul.. another series worth sampling (though it is extremely long, so don’t even try to watch it all). The propaganda in this series completely dominates any actual historical record that may be buried under it. Still, at least one can see what kind of founding myth the neo-Ottomans want to project (short version: The torch of Islamdom is passed to the vigorous (though as yet insignificant) Ottomans as the Seljuks and others are falling to the Mongols and the vicious conspiracies of the Crusaders; the spiritual side of this great clash is being handled by Ibn ul Arabi on the Islamic side and the Templar Grand Master on the Christian side). 

Shtisel is far closer to reality than either of the Turkish serials I mentioned (it is also set in contemporary times, so that makes a difference, though the Turkish serials set in current times are much more crudely propagandistic as well). I have never been to Israel and don’t know a lot about the Haredi community, but what little I know (mostly from reading the news and from conversations with a couple of Israeli colleagues), this seems to be a very realistic (and very sympathetic) portrayal of this ultra-orthodox community. Some of the subtler plot elements may be missed by viewers who have no knowledge of Israeli society, but maybe the serial will be gateway to learning more?

I have only seen about 6 episodes, so I have no idea how it holds up later.. still, check it out.

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