Thursday, April 20, 2006

On the Proposed Increase in Educational Reservations

Everyone is talking about the proposed increase in seat reservations for "Other Backward Castes" at the premiere educational institutions in India.

There are enough people trying to attack reservations and I'll not go into all that. I'll simply give an alternative solution to the disparities in Indian socio-economics, and argue that the alternative is better than the current reservation system.

1. Concentrate on primary education. Make the fee structure depend on household per capita income (richer parents pay more). Using the excess money that is gotten from rich kids, make room for kids from economically and socially downtrodden families. These EXTRA seats in PRIMARY EDUCATION can be partially reserved on a caste/region basis. The excess money from rich families is used to give free education to those below the poverty line.

2. After this, all children go through the same education, same exams and so forth. And the subsidies and fee-less seats continue.

3. Bring tuition centres under the government's LOOSE control, create a "Coaching Centre Tax" for kids with a particular threshold family income - the rich kids. The money from this tax is used to give "coaching scholarships" to economically and socially backward students). Since all get equal opportunities early on this way, they can (and should) compete fairly and squarely.

4. At institutes of higher learning, again, competition for ADMISSION should be purely merit based (see above points for assurance that all have a fair opportunity to do well in entrance exams). Once admitted, the fee structure again depends on the student's family financial
background. Rich kids pay more, and the money is used to fund THOSE poor kids who, given the above fair chance, have been able to secure seats based on merit.

1. This is easily enforceable because the Income Tax department can provide detailed income records that can be used to determine exact fee structures.

2. If a majority of poor people are of "lower" castes (I don't have data on this, assuming it is so...), they automatically benefit from the FINANCIAL reservations as described above.

3. All who graduate from quality institutions can be trusted to have atleast the ABILITY to build the nation well. (Merit is preserved)

4. Rich people of "lower" castes cannot exploit the system.

Disadvantages (compared to current reservation system):
I can't think of any. Maybe you can point out.

Remember, those meritorious enough to deserve to study at our premiere institutions ARE a minority. The task is to find all these meritorious ones from all backgrounds and encourage them. Rather than to discourage the ones who can readily prove their mettle already.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Beautiful Buddhism

Came across a wonderful article about buddhist thought on karma and free will. It is interesting to note that Buddhism, like some other schools of "eastern thought" does not make sharp distinctions between conscious beings and unconscious beings, it recognizes the greyness of existence. In our context, this means that the free will that buddhism posits is not only present for humans or the "higher order animals/beings" but is present even in a stone, albeit to a much lesser extent.

This is increasingly being acknowledged by areas of science like quantum chaos (on the fundamental level of the role of chance and emergent complexity in creating macroscopic physical phenomena), and through our understanding of neuroscience and the dissolution of the mind-body seperation. I think it is pertinent to reinforce the concept of "free will" as a broader concept than it is usually viewed as.

Thus buddhist free will has more of a "natural" flavor than say "abrahamic free-will" which is denied even to other mammals. Physics is developing a model called Quantum Chaos that seems to explain how free will can from purely physical events, rather than from some esoteric "soul" concept or any necessity for the existence of a "God".

This also pertains to the question of how free will can manifest within dependent origination and a creationless universe, which at first glance to a limited mind might seem impossible.

This kind of free will does not entertain the possibility of a "self" seperate from the "environment", and thus is not under "my" control (and in the strictest sense is not really "free" will). If this is so, then what is the importance of ethics itself? It all boils down to a "maybe" then. So "here is a set of ethical guidelines, maybe they are useful"; is that all buddhism would say? I see nothing wrong in that, in fact a very mature abstinence from dogmatism. More a pragmatic "take it or leave it" approach than an attempt to argue right and wrong in black and white.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Falsifiability of the claim of the existence of a ToE

Consider the belief that the universe is governed by some complicated probabilistic algorithm. Is this belief falsifiable ? It is not falsifiable if the said algorithm is not instantiated .