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Some people seem to be celebrating simple minded Independence day. I wish I could be this simple minded. I am celebrating and contemplating the very complex Independence day. A day that was declared with too many ifs and buts, way too many riders, too many scars of divided people and incomplete independence. Gora (white, colonial) babus (bureaucrats) finally left India this day, so there is reason for Euphoric celebrations but they left behind legacy of hatred, division and system of incompetent and evil Bhura (brown, ethnic South and South-east Asian) babus to rule across South Asia and South East Asia. It is official independence of one section of grander South Asia and South East Asia, a significant bit called India but it is not independence day for everyone that lives in India. Everyone never got independence. Vast populations continue to live in such abject conditions that independence is merely a hypothetical concept to them.

I am trying to celebrate this day remembering how often after moving to West Bengal, locals have asked me what is my country and look puzzled when I say India. They insist no, whether it is Punjab, Himachal or Bihar. I am celebrating knowing how parochial the mindset of vast population of Indian continues to be. I am trying to celebrate, when a policeman insists that I cannot talk in Hindi because I am in Bengal but runs away when he realizes that he might be recorded. He passes on this information knowing fully well it would be distorted and misused by politicians who abound the stagnant “innovation sector” of India, where politics is the favorite pastime of people. I think of independence when criminal elements that are responsible for the rot of education and research in the country, find moral rectitude and patriotism an oddity and try to frame anyone who is not leaching off the system like them. The celebrations of Indian Independence day remains complicated and somber to me like it was for the Indians who celebrated the first Independence day in 1947 amid scars, pain but yet had hopes of better future, a better India.

Just as a thought experiment, I wonder how much worse things would have been, if the babus would have continued being gora instead of bhura? While I think of that I am also wondering can the can-do spirit be sparked in India in dark distant corners of eyes of have-nots. Maybe it is merely the need to celebrate that is so essentially human that makes me delusional but hope is what makes life worth living anyway. Hope continues to be the biggest dope. Maybe the only difference in having the bhura babus rule us, instead of gora ones is that we feel less slave for the same enslavement and feel like doing something for the place on the name of country, community or whatever box we define to be ours.

It is not ancient history, boundaries but living culture and living people that define a country. I am celebrating with the hope that India and all of South Asia and South East Asia would be more worth celebrating in the coming years. I am celebrating with the hope that one day the campaign of make in India would one day transform into Innovate and think in India and would be part of living culture that it would not require campaigns anymore. Happy Independence Day India. Hope for better ones for you to come in the coming years.

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Dr. Sukant Khurana is a New York based scientist, artist and writer of Indian origin. His basic research involves neurophysiology, computational neuroscience, sensory perception, addiction, learning and memory, while his applied research extends into many areas of drug discovery and problems of the developing world. Both his visual art and writing explore the issues of modernization, displacement and identity.

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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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