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Four White Walls

Deepak PM

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wheelchair

flickr/drdul

My sister’s grip on the wheelchair handles tightened as our neighbour uneasily smiled at me. I knew my neighbour’s smile was not for my good hair but to remind me I am different. My sister hurriedly albeit gently pushed me (and my wheelchair) towards the entrance of the building, away from a disabled mindset.

The squeaking sound of the wheelchair was muted by the ominous silence pervaded by the steep stairs at the entrance of the building, a conspicuous example of architectural inaccessibility inconspicuous to people without disabilities.

My sister was profusely sweating by the time we had reached our obstacle course – the pavement.

As she manoeuvred the wheelchair along an uneven and pothole-ridden pavement I heard a soft clicking sound from my wheelchair, it reminded me of a time when I used to tape a playing card on my bicycle spoke to make my bicycle sound like a motorcycle.

I looked down to see that plastic covers strewn on the pavement had gotten stuck on the wheelchair and was making the sound, before I could bring her attention to it, the wheelchair came to a halt but the pedestrians behind us didn’t; they inconsiderately jolted us and almost knocked me off the pavement.

We waited for the crowd and its frenzy to abate and reached the bus stop at our own pace. The bus stop was desolate by the time a Low Floor Bus had arrived.

The bus hadn’t stopped close enough to the kerb and as my sister flexed her muscles to help me get on board, I heard a commuter mutter under her breath, ‘Oh! What a nuisance! I hope that thing doesn’t make me late’, her reaction was bittersweet because I was acknowledged as an object of nuisance but acknowledged nonetheless.

My sister wheeled me from the bus-stop to the examination centre. Prying eyes accosted me; their metaphoric crooked beaks were silhouetted against the blue sky ready to peck me apart with their tactless questions, idle pity and patronization but I only paid attention to the squeaking sound of the wheelchair and the moment it stopped I looked up to see a flight of stairs. I closed my eyes and imagined myself nonchalantly walking up that flight of stairs.

I felt a hand on my shoulder; her fingers gently gripped my shoulders in a tacit perception of my problem. I opened my eyes, with an unwavering voice my sister asked me, “Are you ready?”

The world I KNEW had schools, theatres, restaurants that served over-priced food and over-crowded buses but the world I KNOW has only 4 white walls. The door to the world outside is locked by government and public apathy, disdain and discrimination. You hold the key to that door. With awareness we can make demands, demands that will pass and implement effective laws that will make everything accessible to everyone.

When education becomes accessible, our performance becomes the only question that needs answering, the only difference that matters.

Turn the key to the right and open that door.

PM Deepak is an 18 year old fellow human being. He is tenaciously passionate about widening narrow-mindedness through his writings. His blog AchaeDin was born out of this burning passion. He is a cinephile, debater, reader and budding screenplay writer by avocation.

He is an alumnus of Delhi Public School Bangalore-North and has served as the secretary of the school Editorial Board. He has participated in, judged and conducted various literary events. His work has been published in Unspoken, TEA Arts Souvenir and Reminisce.

Join him in his efforts to widen narrow-mindedness at https://m.facebook.com/AchaeDin

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Are Robots Really Living Among Us?

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It’s been the staple of science fiction for decades. The notion that there will one day be robots living among us. Robots that are able to perfectly mimic human behavior but who are superiors in every way. Their strength supersedes ours, their intelligence makes our brightest minds seem infantile by comparison and they walk among us with their own agenda. Heck, in many iterations they’ve looked at our long and disastrous track record on this planet and decided that the world’s really much better off without us. But while they may permeate our popular culture, from The Terminator to Blade Runner to Avengers: Age of Ultron, real life robots have been too primitive to warrant the philosophical and moral quandaries that the world of fiction has written for them… Until now.

Meet Sophia

As of October this year, the world has just one robot who has been granted citizenship rights and that is the robot Sophia who was recently granted citizenship of Saudi Arabia. She is the first robot in the world to have achieved this status… But will she be the last? Sophia, while she represents a landmark in robotics and artificial intelligence, she is not the kind of autonomous artificial organism one might expect having watched Ex Machina. That said, she has demonstrated that she has an understanding of human social behaviours such as gestures and facial expressions and their meaning. Her open-source, cloud based AI is capable of learning and she has already demonstrated a sense of humor, an understanding of human speech patterns and the ability to be upset or offended. Her AI has been built around our most valuable and virtuous characteristics like compassion and kindness. She, like Ex Machina’s Ava (played by Alicia Vikander) has been modelled to be aesthetically beautiful and approachable and it’s telling that her appearance was crafted by former Disney Imagineer David Hanson. There’s clearly an effort at work to upend the uncanny valley with Sophia’s presence which raises some interesting questions about humanity’s prospective relationship with robots.

Robots and Transhumanism

Robots raise some interesting questions in the realm of transhumanism (the science and philosophy of using science to refine and redefine the parameters of what it is to be human). Transhumanism is unclear to most people with many misconceptions, but it has some clear views on the roles of robots in human evolution. Aside from the use of robotics for prosthesis and human enhancement, robotics may help humanity to advance itself by doing a lot of the “heavy lifting” in industry, agriculture and the various other ways in which humanity has traditionally sustained itself.

Our relationship with robots

While time will tell when it comes to specifics, there can be no denying that robots will be instrumental to human survival in an increasingly post-scarcity economy. Indeed, the rise of automation in a wealth of industries is hardly the stuff of science fiction. Sophia herself represents a specific example of Saudi Arabia’s attempt to move towards a post-oil economy as the nation (and the world) grows increasingly cognizant of the urgency with which our natural resources are depleting. There are many ways in which robots could change the world’s economies, making the prospect of Universal Basic Income more appealing to even the most fervent capitalists. As robots become more sophisticated and autonomous will we one day see a world like that of Wall E where robots do all our work for us leaving us with nothing to do but consume?

Only time will tell.

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What’s Involved in the Aftermath of a Crime Scene?

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We have almost all seen TV shows like CSI where the scene of a crime is examined to reveal clues as to who the perpetrator was, and while this is certainly a very interesting aspect of investigative work, it doesn’t really show us the whole story when it comes to what happens at a crime scene.

Crime Scene Clean-Up

When a crime that involves bodily damage has been committed, for instance an assault or murder, it can leave behind hazardous materials like blood and other bodily fluids which need to be appropriately cleaned up. This is also the case when someone has committed suicide, or when someone has died of natural causes at home in an unsupervised situation.

In these cases, the requirement to clean up after the event is handled in a similar way to when foul play is suspected, however, as the cleaning process does not begin until after the coroner or police ‘release’ the crime scene, meaning they have completed their own processes in terms of gathering and taking evidence.

Why Is This a Specialist Cleaning Job?

One might think that cleaning up things like blood after a crime would be no different to cleaning up bodily fluids in other situations, and be something that a non-specialist cleaner or the owner of the location could do. However, it is protocol to assume that crime scene biological waste may be infectious, and needs to be cleaned up and disposed of as a biohazard. There are companies who specialize in doing this, and depending on the state, they may need to be licensed by the Department of Health or be registered to transport hazardous waste with the Department of Transport.

The Cost of Crime Scene Clean-Up

Cleaning a crime scene and disposing of waste is a job done by private companies rather than the police, and while these companies do sometimes work in collaboration with government agencies (for instance when engaged to clean up materials at scenes of death where a potential Ebola outbreak was a concern). Professional crime scene cleaners are not government employees. This means that if you are the owner of a premises where crime scene clean-up is required, this is a service you need to pay for. Crime scene cleanup pricing does take into account the specialist nature of the job and the unpleasant scenes the workers may have to face, but is also designed to be as affordable as possible and may also be covered by insurance depending on the situation.

The All Clear

Crime scene clean up professionals are fast and efficient, and so if you ever find yourself in the situation of needing to use them, you shouldn’t need to stay off site for too long. However, it is vital that you and any other people outside of the cleaning team are kept away from the location until cleaning is officially completed and you have the all clear.

Crime scene clean up may not feature as often in TV dramas or movies as the evidence gathering phase of the aftermath of a crime, but it is still a very important part of the work!

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If Milennials Can’t Afford To Buy Homes, How Will The Next Generation Cope?

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Fewer young people are buying real estate than ever before – and it’s no mystery as to why. The average home in 1997 cost 3.6 times the average salary. Last year, a study found that the average home is now worth 7.6 times the average salary. The property boom has long since slowed down, but rather than plateauing as many expected, property prices seem to still be steadily increasing. If young people are struggling to get a foothold on the property ladder now, how will the next generation stand a chance?

Here are some solutions that are already being discussed now. Are they enough?

Those lucky will be able to inherit

Older generations are still buying property at a steady rate and fewer are downsizing. These properties then end up being inherited by the next generation who can choose to live in them (some may be mortgage-free) or sell them and buy their own property.

Of course, this doesn’t work in the long-term as it could mean owning a property becomes a privilege for the wealthy only. Inheritance tax could lead to each generation having to downsize. Besides who will be buying all the property for the remainder of people to rent?

Property investors will have to evolve

Fewer people will be able to become landlords as owning multiple properties becomes harder to do. Only rich investors and large property rental companies will be able to cope. Already, rental companies are struggling to buy housing for tenants. Some are finding creative solutions – the likes of California company Invitation Homes have found that by merging with another rental company they can share and lower running costs. This could result in a future of rental corporations the size of supermarket chains battling each other. Will this save the property market? Would a population of renters be a good thing?

Cheaper homes will have to be built

In many places, it’s a shortage of property that’s leading to such high prices. Without enough competition, property sellers can get away with charging more than the value of their home. Governments around the world are trying to build more housing, although in most cases it’s not enough or not the right kind of housing. People have to want to live in these homes after all – there have been too many cases of luxury apartments or cheap housing sitting empty because it was built in an inappropriate neighbourhood. Property planning companies like Ethical Property are behind this. Will less ethical property planners see the light, or will they continue to build properties for short-term gain?

Will there be a property price crash?

A property price crash could be around the corner, which could make properties cheap enough again for average people to get into property. However, this might not be a positive outcome for everyone. As the Dublin property crash showed, few young people were actually able to buy properties afterwards. Banks and mortgage lenders were destroyed by the crash and less willing to give out loans, whilst many property owners clung onto their properties – why sell if you’re then only able to buy a smaller home?

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