Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Conversation on Scott's post

I recently had an opportunity to share my thoughts on some of the cultural aspects of India from my perspective on Scott's post about Joy Christian's attempts at falsifying Bell's-Inequality theorem.

Below I post some of my comments and Scott's on that post since I wanted a record for myself and a few readers of my blog.

First, I am so happy to see Scott’s recent and a bit more frequent posts in general! Congratulations again Scott on your recent award and your really inspiring speech.

I didn’t know about Joy Christian before, but I was googling him after these posts and based on one pic I am guessing he is from Indian descent.

Assuming that is right and that this kind of work is mainly rooted in one’s PSYCHOLOGY, I want to share the following comments.

Besides sounding crackpot I feel people like these can potentially do a bigger damage of aspiring younger Indian generations in completely bad directions.

I was recently reading “Great Moments in Mathematics before 1650″ and found out that Hindu mathematics remained empirical for long long after the Greeks’ transitioned to deduction based methods. That was a real aha moment for me in understanding my significant lack of resonance with the culture I descended from.

People like these need to be exposed more often so my people can realize the lackluster of the Indian ethos. Essentially all the successful individual Indians are basically due to a strong interaction-affect with the Western culture or those who “blocked” the local affects.

I know this is completely irrelevant in terms of Bell’s inequality etc. but I wanted to use Scott’s superb blog-platform to reach Indian readers.

I hope there is realization that all the relevant outcome measures of the Indian system are defined by the West. It’s simple, they have experienced many many wars in the recent history and learnt their lessons the hard way and we all live on the same planet. Stop confusing the younger generations with mystical behavior. Is it hard to realize it’s way easier to be mystical than be rigorous (easier to ask questions than to answer, easier to verify than prove). Hence if you want to set yourself apart in a relevant way, being mystical is definitely not the way.

Pardon any noise in my articulation. I would be glad to smooth my message if needed.

I don’t actually know Joy’s national origin and don’t consider it relevant. I have to say, though, that while your intentions are good, I can’t agree with your thesis about the “lackluster [sic] of the Indian ethos,” in part because of the staggering number of counterexamples that spring immediately to mind (both Western-origin mystical crackpots, and brilliant Indian scientists, the latter including my PhD adviser). Incidentally, from what little I know about ancient Indian mathematics, it was nothing to sneeze at…

I didn’t mean to offend any one who made serious technical contributions. I apologize sincerely you felt so. In fact your adviser Umesh Vazirani (and his brother), are some of the few who inspire me but I feel people like those are exceptions from India. For younger generations (in India) to benefit from such people we need to know much more than just their accomplishments – the key aspect being their embracing of Western philosophy at large.

I do not know the full reasons, but for example Sanjeev Arora for whom I have huge respect as well, was ranked 1st in IIT-Joint Entrance Exam. But he came to MIT for an undergraduate degree and didn’t study in India as an undergrad. Brilliant Indians mostly had Western experience in their lives that is hard to ignore.

I know we do have many IIT undegrads coming to the US and making significant contributions as grad students (e.g. Subhash Khot etc.) in the US but I feel that the fertility of the US system is a key factor in achieving that level of significance. I can hardly think of any brilliant Indian who achieved something by ignoring or taking radically different views from the Western philosophy. The few who did get world recognition were those under the British era.

At least from the book I was reading, there were not many great moments in Mathematics before 1650 from India except a few which were driven again “organically/empirically” rather than depending on raw-power-of-deduction. I believe the culture breeds a need for craving “more (mystical) validation” than just a with-standing-rigorous-deduction.

In terms of having crackpots from the West, yes most likely there are some but I feel that they are precisely the deviants (for various other serious) from the Western philosophy but are typically not bred by it.
In India there are many ongoing superficial adaptations from the West in the past 10 years or so (mainly due to financial interests and investments from the West) but again not at fundamental level. Again I didn’t mean to offend any great achievers from India. I felt to share this because this is the second time an Indian, in the recent past, in the media has shown up in controversy (the first being Vinay Deolalikar). I just wanted to highlight that achievements are defined and need to be validated by the West (with-stand Western scrutiny) otherwise they are not an achievements at all. I hope that clarifies my intentions.

P.S.: Now I have more evidence that he is from Indian origin based on this