Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Genesis of a Revolution

A most worrying thing happened  last week. I told a colleague at work that my motorcycle wouldn't start because the decompressor was jammed open and there was no compression in the cylinder. He advised me to "shut down" the ignition and reboot the motorcycle. And laughed out loud. I don't know what I found more distressing - his absolute lack of knowledge of mechanical components or his shockingly tasteless sense of humour. Now, I can tolerate most things, but I am really impatient with imbeciles. I could sense a Ctrl+Alt+Delete joke coming on, so I promptly pretended to get a telephone call and sneaked away.

I believe that the quality of humour prevalent in a given population is one of the important indicators of its average intelligence. I firmly believe that we as a race are falling in a downward spiral of diminishing creativity and unless something drastic is done to improve the situation, we would all soon be flopping about, guffawing uncontrollably at Youtube videos of dogs running in circles.

Intelligence levels are falling at an alarming rate. Let me remind you here that IQ is not a measure of absolute intelligence. It is only a measure of how intelligent you are compared to the rest of the population. If you plot the intelligence of an amoeba population on a normal graph, half of them would have an IQ of more than 100.

Deteriorating standards of humour is not the only alarming trend, though. What is more worrying is the dwindling number of scientific innovations. With over 2 million engineers graduating every year, you would think at least a few hundred would display some ingenuity and create something useful; but No. The level of common sense is appalling. I mean we are a country of 2 billion people, and yet look at the engineering progress we have made since the medieval times.

I am not a nerd, but I am proud of what engineers have done for mankind. And it pains me to see that the brightest young engineering students end up in software companies with their heads shoved up a computer's backside. The problem is super-specialisation. I mean, it is comforting to know that if my mobile phone has a defect in its 137th microchip circuit, there are 10 million engineers who are willing to kill each other to repair it for 50p. But the same engineers would be clueless if circuit #140 failed. Why? I know insects that are more skilled than that. The problem is that we have too many engineering colleges and not much engineering being taught. The best engineers and innovators never had any formal education. Look at Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Colin Chapman. They had nothing more than an old shed, a few worn out tools and the glistening Spirit of Innovation, against which all the deemed Universities with all their shiny yellow buses seem shallow and hypocritical.

The problem is that that mirror of our society - that Facekut thing, shows a bleak and gloomy image filled with catatonic cows grazing on a toxic wasteland. The problem is dozens of incompetent morons on 97.3 FM radio with a collective IQ of 48, who talk non-stop for hours on end and yet say nothing. Those blithering idiots. And they seem to have the whole world wrapped around their fingers. They are seen by impressionable little children as cool and admirable. Those RJs are what is wrong with the world. The problem is Blogger.com, which screams "Create a blog - its Free!" - Yes. That is what we need. More and more idiots creating blogs because its free. "Go and throw up over the Mona Lisa - It's Free!!" Reality shows are the problem. How ordinary does your life have to be before you start watching glimpses from others lives for your own entertainment, and discuss it with neighbours for the next 12 hours? The problem is that "single, available male from Delhi" on Facekut called "loverboy4u" whose only brush with literature is a pathetic excuse for a sentence, which is just a few concrete nouns shabbily strung together with words like “dude” and “cool”

If that Facekut thing holds so much sway over such a huge majority of the youth, it also has a moral responsibility to stop being a mirror and start acting like a beacon. It owes that to the society. And I don't see that happening, ever.

So, what is the solution? Is it more rigorous education, better colleges and infrastructure? No. It is far too expensive and not much fun. Besides, it will be eagerly taken up and managed by the same imbeciles who caused the problem in the first place.

But don't worry. I have been giving the matter some thought and as always, I have a solution. Indeed, the conclusion is inescapable if you look past the symptoms and focus on what the problem really is. The problem isn't a scarcity of technological innovation or a lack of greens in the diet. Those are merely the symptoms. The problem fundamentally is a lack of imagination.

And how do you cure a lack of imagination?

Slow down. Read what follows syllable by syllable.

Listen to me very carefully. Shoot the grumpy old Thermodynamics professor in the face. Legalise marijuana. And take the insane more seriously. Remember that insanity is only a statistical parameter, and all real progress depends on the minority opinion. Listen to the minority opinion. It is probably the smartest thing you will ever do.

A little imagination and a thimbleful of Cannabis can change the world.

Think about it. Imagination is the only thing you truly possess. It is your only hope, only salvation. If you don't have imagination you are no different from cattle. If you don't have imagination, you don't have anything. The first man who was willing to undertake a voyage "around" the world, relied on nothing more than mere suspicion that the world may not be flat as everyone else believed, and his own undying belief that the earth was round... I mean, what evidence did he have in the 15th century that corroborated that the earth was round? None. So his adventure was based on a wild, risky plan. He had the nerve to do something wild and achieve something extraordinary. He knew he might fall off the edge of the earth if he was wrong and the rest of the world was right. But if there was a risk, he was willing to take it. If he had to be laughed at, or die for attempting something that stupid, then so be it. That was the price he was prepared to pay for his conviction. What we need today is that scientific curiosity. What we need are people who would be willing to trade all they have for one moment of revelation. We need people who would rather be laughed at for defending their "fantastic" ideas than spend their lives wondering about what might have been. The educational system should reward inquisitiveness as opposed to mere rote. The education system we have now rewards the ones who can imitate best. But what good is imitation if we aspire to move forward? Curiosity should be incentivised. Knowledge should not be a means to a better or richer life. It should be a reward in itself.

History textbooks should carry historians' opinions, not politicians'. Science textbooks should come with a very visible disclaimer that all of science is merely based on our interpretation of observable facts, and it may or may not give the complete picture. And that there lies an implicit assumption that the scientific process can explain the world. And that need not be true. The Universe might work just as well based on the rules of Peruvian Voodoo. Scientific rules exist only until proven otherwise. Give in the reins. It's time to be bold and declare our ignorance. There is nothing shameful in a search to find the truth, inspite of our very human limitations. And nothing is more dignified.


Just when I was thinking of hanging up my gloves and taking a long break from blogging, DP went and did this. Then Adamsballs decided to step back into the ring. All the ingredients necessary to spark off yet another bout of creative diarrhoea are now present. Except Time. That bitch. It's a bit like assembling dynamite on a rainy day. You know you can blow up the Parliament if only it stopped raining. If only someone held the umbrella while we rigged the explosive. What we need are matches that are not soggy. What we need...is a plan.

What worries me is that I sound like such a regular guy at times.