November 18, 2019

Neglected and decaying, the original ‘Arthashastra’ may soon be lost forever

Livemint.com


3 min read . Updated: 17 Nov 2019, 11:19 PM ISTM. RaghuramThis palm-leaf document is currently housed in Mysuru's cash-strapped Oriental Research InstituteThe Arthashastra is one of the oldest books on governance, military strategy, politics, economics, justice, and the duties of rulers

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ArthashastraOriental Research InstituteKautilya

Mysuru: In a room without an air conditioner or a dehumidifier in Mysuru, an age-old manuscript lies locked, withering and uncared for. This palm-leaf document, housed in the city’s cash-strapped Oriental Research Institute (ORI), is the original manuscript of Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

“It is just kept in a cushioned box and wrapped in a cloth," said S.A. Krishnaiah, a member of the institute’s committee. “You feel proud when you see it, but that’s quickly overcome by pain at how little it is cared for."

The Arthashastra, written in Sanskrit and dating back to the time of the Mauryan Empire, is one of the oldest books on governance, military strategy, politics, economics, justice, and the duties of rulers.

Scholars say it was composed around the second century BCE. Its author, Kautilya—also known as Chanakya— was prime minister to Chandragupta, the first of the Mauryan rulers. After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, the document was lost.

Rudrapatna Shamashastri, a Sanskrit scholar and librarian, discovered the original Arthashastra in 1905 among the mounds of palm leaf documents lying in the institute, which was founded by Mysore’s Wodeyar kings in 1891. The institute has been part of the University of Mysore from 1916, and is home to about 70,000 rare palm-leaf manuscripts.

Shamashastri transcribed the Arthashastra onto fresh palm leaves and published it in 1909. He translated it to English in 1915.

Until the re-discovery of the document, the British Raj believed India’s ideas on governance and military administration were drawn from the Greeks. The Arthashastra also dethroned Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, a 16th-century work, as the world’s oldest treatise on political philosophy.

“It has survived from the second century, but now the palm leaves are falling to pieces," said Krishnaiah.

The ORI has been strapped for funds and care for years. In 2012, the US government announced a grant of $50,000 for the upkeep of the building as the roof was leaking. The Ford Foundation donated dehumidifiers and air-conditioners, but these have fallen into disrepair.

Oriental Research Institute in Mysuru (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“Without air-conditioning, dehumidifiers and regular coating with citronella oil, the original palm leaves on which the Arthashastrawas inscribed will be lost to us," lamented Krishnaiah.

S. Jagannath, a research scholar who has used ORI resources for decades, said there were two fires sparked by faulty wiring at the institute in 1996 and 1998. “The Arthashastra and about 70,000 other historic documents and manuscripts could have been reduced to ashes," he said.

Directors have improved infrastructure—changing the wiring, shifting the book depot, painting and dust proofing—but preserving the fragile documents was not addressed properly, say research scholars who use the institute. They say that ORI does not get enough funding to manage manuscripts, hire more experts and maintain the building.

Dr. Shivarajappa, director of ORI, said: “A lot of work has to be taken up to revive the original document of the Arthashastra. We have sent a proposal to the government for a grant of ₹3.5 crore. I have also asked the vice-chancellor to give ORI more staff with expertise in maintaining and documenting ancient manuscripts. I led a team of experts to Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune and learnt latest techniques to maintain old documents."

The institute gets about 5,000 visitors a year, including scholars and students from around the world.

Dr. Hemantha Kumar, vice-chancellor of the University of Mysore, said they will increase funding for ORI. “Funds have been earmarked for the Arthashastra. ORI has also been given freedom to make fresh proposals for digitalization of the Arthashastra. The size of funds allocated for ORI and especially Arthashastra is dynamic and based on the need," he said.

Prof. L.N. Swamy, senior faculty of history at the University of Mysore and a former official of the Karnataka archaeology department said the Arthashastra has been digitized and can be accessed by any scholar or student, but the original is extremely fragile. He saw it 30 years ago in the ORI. “Palm leaves have a longer life than other materials, and manuscriptologists of the past knew how to extend the lifespan. But even they recopied the documents every few decades to preserve them, just as Shamashastri did," he explained.

Krishnaiah and other scholars say the original should be saved even if there are copies. “Palm leaves can survive more than 1,000 years with or without treatment, but air-conditioners, dehumidifiers and coating with citronella oil is needed to extend their life," Krishnaiah said. “If there is anything to be done to protect the document from further deterioration, it has to start immediately and done scientifically."

M. Raghuram is a Mangaluru-based journalist who was assigned by Mint to report this story

November 17, 2019

AI washing

AXIOS FUTURE

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

 

Zealous marketing departments, capital-hungry startup founders and overeager reporters are casting the futuristic sheen of artificial intelligence over many products that are actually driven by simple statistics — or hidden people.

Why it matters: This "AI washing" threatens to overinflate expectations for the technology, undermining public trust and potentially setting up the booming field for a backlash.

The big picture: The tech industry has always been infatuated with the buzzword du jour. Before AI landed in this role, it belonged to "big data." Before that, everyone was "in the cloud" or "mobile first." Even earlier, it was "Web 2.0" and "social software."

About three years ago, every company became an "AI company," says Frank Chen, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley VC firm.Now, investing in a purported AI startup requires detective skills, says Chen: "We have to figure out the difference between 'machine learning that can deliver real competitive differentiation' and 'fake ML that is a marketing gloss over linear regressions or a big team in the Philippines transcribing speech manually.'"

Plenty of companies rely on one or the other of those tactics, which straddle the line between attractive branding and misdirection.

For hard tasks, like transcribing audio or scanning documents, humans often step in when AI algorithms fail. Take Engineer.ai, for example, a company that raised nearly $30 million to automate app design — but was secretly making apps using human developers overseas.For easier jobs, "AI" may in fact be a shiny term for basic statistics. If you can swap in "data analytics" for "AI" in a company's marketing materials, the company is probably not using AI.

"It's really tempting if you're a CEO of a tech startup to AI-wash because you know you're going to get funding," says Brandon Purcell, a principal analyst at Forrester.

The cycle continues because nobody wants to miss out on investing in — or being — the next Google or Facebook.CEOs demand that their companies "use AI," without regard for how or whether it's necessary, says Svetlana Sicular, research VP at Gartner.

The tech sector's fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude plays into the problem.

Many AI systems are slow to improve and require a good deal of human hand-holding at first, says Andrew Ng, founder of Landing.ai, a startup that helps other companies implement AI."But problems arise when the difficulty of moving to higher levels of automation is underestimated, either by the company or by the broader community," Ng tells Axios. "Or when the degree of automation at a given moment is misrepresented."

The confusion and deception get an assist from the fuzzy definition of AI. It covers everything from state-of-the-art deep learning, which powers most autonomous cars, to 1970s-era "expert systems" that are essentially huge sets of human-coded rules.

Yes, but: The term isn't going anywhere. So a cautious consumer, investor or CEO has to pay extra-close attention to anything waving the AI banner to determine whether it's a groundbreaking innovation — or just three kids in a trenchcoat.

November 16, 2019

AI washing

AXIOS FUTURE

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

 

Zealous marketing departments, capital-hungry startup founders and overeager reporters are casting the futuristic sheen of artificial intelligence over many products that are actually driven by simple statistics — or hidden people.

Why it matters: This "AI washing" threatens to overinflate expectations for the technology, undermining public trust and potentially setting up the booming field for a backlash.

The big picture: The tech industry has always been infatuated with the buzzword du jour. Before AI landed in this role, it belonged to "big data." Before that, everyone was "in the cloud" or "mobile first." Even earlier, it was "Web 2.0" and "social software."

About three years ago, every company became an "AI company," says Frank Chen, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley VC firm.Now, investing in a purported AI startup requires detective skills, says Chen: "We have to figure out the difference between 'machine learning that can deliver real competitive differentiation' and 'fake ML that is a marketing gloss over linear regressions or a big team in the Philippines transcribing speech manually.'"

Plenty of companies rely on one or the other of those tactics, which straddle the line between attractive branding and misdirection.

For hard tasks, like transcribing audio or scanning documents, humans often step in when AI algorithms fail. Take Engineer.ai, for example, a company that raised nearly $30 million to automate app design — but was secretly making apps using human developers overseas.For easier jobs, "AI" may in fact be a shiny term for basic statistics. If you can swap in "data analytics" for "AI" in a company's marketing materials, the company is probably not using AI.

"It's really tempting if you're a CEO of a tech startup to AI-wash because you know you're going to get funding," says Brandon Purcell, a principal analyst at Forrester.

The cycle continues because nobody wants to miss out on investing in — or being — the next Google or Facebook.CEOs demand that their companies "use AI," without regard for how or whether it's necessary, says Svetlana Sicular, research VP at Gartner.

The tech sector's fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude plays into the problem.

Many AI systems are slow to improve and require a good deal of human hand-holding at first, says Andrew Ng, founder of Landing.ai, a startup that helps other companies implement AI."But problems arise when the difficulty of moving to higher levels of automation is underestimated, either by the company or by the broader community," Ng tells Axios. "Or when the degree of automation at a given moment is misrepresented."

The confusion and deception get an assist from the fuzzy definition of AI. It covers everything from state-of-the-art deep learning, which powers most autonomous cars, to 1970s-era "expert systems" that are essentially huge sets of human-coded rules.

Yes, but: The term isn't going anywhere. So a cautious consumer, investor or CEO has to pay extra-close attention to anything waving the AI banner to determine whether it's a groundbreaking innovation — or just three kids in a trenchcoat.

November 15, 2019

We will have to set our agenda on the basis of our National Interests

Kashmir witnessed ISIS-level horror before the West was apprised on it: Columnist Sunanda Vashisht - http://toi.in/oU9TRb63/a31gj

Commentary

Sunanda Vashist is a Kashmiri Pandit and had recently deposed in front of USA Congress Committee.

Forget about Western Countries, we in India looked the other way when lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs were being subjugated to ethnic cleansing. Few hundred years back Hindus were in majority. Now there a handful of Hindu Families left in the Valley.  So long as Hindus don't care for the well being of fellow Hindus, there is nothing to stop more genecoides. Western Powers, led by USA has always looked at Kashmir issue , purely on the basis of self interest. Since the early 50s, USA interests in South Asia was mortgaged to Pakistan vis a vis Afghanistan and the larger Central Asian Republic. Now USA has been replaced with China. There are no permanent friends or foes, so long as mutual interests are protected.

We will have to set our agenda on the basis of our National Interests. A small beginning has been made with the abrogation if Article's 370 and 35A. That said even a Govt elected on a  popular mandate can do 'only so much' and it would require the collective will of Hindus to protect our gains and aspire for more changes. Change will come with time. But do Hindus have the wherewithal to fight it out ?