Cesca left me snoozing in our room and went out to the roof top café/restaurant to take some photos of the city. The city is blue, blue of the Brahmin caste we were told, but I can’t help wondering if there is another reason for its popular -nay ubiquitous-shade. I heard one rumour that it was due to the blue paint putting off the mosquitos. However, I am more inclined to believe it is to challenge the other brightly-coloured-city it is most often confused with (Jaipur, which is bright pink!) I leaned back on the bed and spied out of the window at the huge cliff-wall behind the hotel, and then up, up and eventually to the turrets of the Mehrangarh Fort high above. It towered over the entire city of a million people, ever watching like a sleeping dragon turned to stone by some mighty magic, frozen with one eye open and brooding over its faded dominance. The city’s name? Where else but Jodhpur: the blue city of India set amongst the stark landscape of the Thar Desert.   […]

Inside the behavior of the UK looters, why do they make such bad choices?

The recent riots got me philosophically thinking and the following analysis is the results of those thoughts. Much of the behavioural science is from the book “Predictably Irrational”, which I highly recommend. I realised upon seeing the chaos on our streets that we were dealing with many different groups of people with different agendas. The following is my take on those who casually looted during the riots. Particularly these two idiots I heard on the radio: The mechanisms used by such people to loot during the recent sequence of UK riots are not well understood. Normal analysis of the behaviour of people has one enormous presumption: that the person was rational at the moment they made their choice to loot. But, to me, this doesn’t tally with their actions. I say they were irrational choices, but they must have had some mechanisms to assist them in making their decisions and in later justifying them (so drunken and stupidly) on the radio. The behaviour of those casually looting elicits a number of different reactions and comments from “normal” people. Most respond with a large slice of “they’re just wrong’ns” vindictive spleen. It is as if once someone has committed a crime they somehow stop being human altogether and are instantly transfigured into Martians. While I too have very little sympathy for the fate of people committing crimes like this, I do feel it is very important to understand what was going on in their minds in order to be able to prevent such happenings from occurring again. This is not just important in terms of stopping future crimes, but also important in terms of preventing ill thought out, knee-jerk reactions such as, for example, blaming social media. […]

Stephen Hawking – “The Grand Design” book review by Basho

I’m an avid reader of New Scientist magazine. In fact I get it every week. The headline will usually be about something “quantum” or allude to some current or near “breakthrough”. Of course real breakthroughs are hardly on a weekly schedule. I know this, but still I buy into it. It is a classic marketing technique that tempts impulse buying. New Scientist covers about Quantum are the geek equivalent of putting Princes Diana or perhaps Jordan on the cover of a ladies magazine or putting Bruce Lee on the cover of a martial arts magazine. In each case the marketers know what make people pick up the edition, what buttons to push. It is this technique that got me to buy this book. A few weeks ago my wife started a Skype chat to me at work. Normally this signifies that I need to pick something up on the way home or that I forgot to turn the iron off, or similar. However, this time she was definitely excited about something, […]

What is consciousness? Is it the “self”? Is it “me”? Basho argues no!

You are in possession of the one of the universe’s most mysterious objects. Your personal copy of this object differs in function only slightly from all the other similar objects in our solar system. It is the part of you that feels pleasure and yet it is also the part of you that knows pain. It is a part of your body that you cannot see, but it is also that which you rely on to make sense of what you observe. It is built of more than 33 billion neurons, linked in a mesh up to 10 thousand times each, making a total number of connections greater than the observable stars in the sky. It is the true wonder of planet Earth; for it grew here in the same way apples grow on trees. It is your brain. And while we can explore the furthest reaches of light-enabled space, we cannot claim to have begun understanding this small lump of tissue we each possess. Our sciences regarding it are crude at best and mostly replying on mere observation. That sum of knowledge eventually comes down to this: which bits you should not poke. On the other hand, our mental science experts, doctors and scientists try to reduce the functions of the brain down to an increasingly morbid collection of faculties about which they then bicker and argue about endlessly. And every single one of them has missed the point… […]