Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Breadwinner is a daughter, a sister and a girl’s struggle with the Taliban

The story of Breadwinner takes place in the final days of Taliban regime around the family life of a girl called Parvana. Nurualla is Parvana's dad and a former teacher. The family struggles for food and water as Nurualla has one leg and female members of the family aren't allowed to work.

Idris who was a student of Nurulla has lost the way of righteousness. He is a bully and now has joined the Taliban. In a plot mastered by Idris Nurulla is sent to prison. The family’s situation becomes more dire. In Talibans' Perverted version of Islam women are not allowed to go out in public without an adult male escort so it’s up to Parvana, dressed as a boy, to become the family’s unlikely breadwinner.

Parvana’s mission is even more dangerous and arduous than that, because she’s determined to find out what has happened to her father and, if possible, to rescue him.

The film is an interesting strain of its genre, a downbeat drama with elements of inspirational fantasy. The drama aspect would have been stronger and more compelling if the story was filmed instead of animation. however the animation lends itself to integrating a parallel subplot steeped in myth and folklore in which a brave hero must undertake a perilous journey to confront and defeat fearful creatures. 

The Breadwinner is an alternative narrative to what people generally know of Afghan women. It's an inspiring story in a very plausible context that challenges Afghan women stereotype. The story rails against the dominant narrative created by the news media where the female is weak, victimised and subjugated. its a story of female empowerment, embodied in heroic Parvana. 

The film doesn't exaggerate the beneficial results of Parvana’s courage nor it ends in the best possible outcome for the family. It's not a glorified tale of splendour, victories and happy endings. It's about real struggles of ordinary women in a totalitarian society.

The film is delightful for adults and older children. 

Friday, October 05, 2018

War taught me several lessons on tolerance

I find “Christ and the Soldier” by Siegfried Sassoon a gripping tale of war and carnage. The poem was written after the Battle of the Somme and is a conversation between a soldier and Christ which ends:

"Lord Jesus, ain't you got no more to say?"

Bowed hung that head below the crown of thorns. The soldier shifted, and picked up his pack, and slung his gun, and stumbled on his way.

"O God," he groaned, “why ever was I born?”

I was born in Afghanistan in 1981 and lived my early childhood in Kabul under Soviet occupation; I survived the brutal guerrilla war against the Soviets, I lost friends and family to Mujaheedin War of Kabul, I kept my spirit through the Taliban reign of tyranny and I braved journeys to escape to Europe. I know what it is like to be on the other side of the European border, the large governments united to keep the little man at bay. I believe there are lessons to be learned from wars to strengthen tolerance and foster shared values.

I am now a British Citizen and live in Brighton. I watch in astonishment racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments taking root in most of Europe. In some countries they are translated in to legislation and far right parties are part of governing coalitions. Even if they aren’t in power, the far right influences political and social policies in the EU; recent examples are Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. For years the EU manipulated social policies under the guise of “European Values” to remodel nationalism. In this climate, identitarian and ethnic agendas were strengthened to bolster “self-pride”. We live in a society of intolerance and darkness and fail to understand the complexities of past wars and contemporary challenges, doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and blunder our way in to modern conflicts.

I have learned a few things about conflict and intolerance from personal encounters and its history in Europe, which I will attempt to summarise here. First is the fallibility and weakness of humans: people despair when faced with tough choices and under threat, and when we despair we commit depraved acts. In order to engage with people, we ought to see behind their shortcomings so we understand their point of view. The second is the false belief in the superiority of European culture or nations: other people are not malign or evil and what we recognise as a nation or group is often an artificial construct. Third is the power of lies.  Anyone with some political awareness must have seen how misinformation has shaped our societies recently. Finally, and most importantly, is the fragility of our peaceful existence. My world has crumbled on several occasions and no one saw it coming. We lost our home and lives the third time in a flash, and as unexpectedly as the first time; we were astounded by the power and speed of the storm that swept comforts from under our feet and blew our dreams away. We are all responsible for sustaining peace and tolerance by creating positive stories about our collective identity and confronting false myths. I will be exploring each of the points in subsequent posts. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Robotic Intelligence take on preservation and sacrifice

We all know well the Third Law of robotics; for the benefit of refreshing your memory it is a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. this is not a rule made by self-actuating Artificial Intelligence; it’s a rule we made for them so they remain subservient but also a reflection of our own imperfection. it is an act on our part of divine providence rooted in our struggle between soul and body on one hand and sublimity and fallibility on the other.   

We are capable of the act that defies evolutionary advantage and reason. We call it sacrifice, it’s an act based on our emotions that goes against our nature because by nature we are programmed to maximise our life and prevent harm or death. our most valuable faculty is reason. We identify preferences on rational grounds and this process of reasoning has put us on top of all creatures. is sacrifice a province of superior intelligence or is it an aberration, more like a bug or glitch in AI. The latter undermines the validity of the Third Robotic Law and the former raises safety concerns.  

The first question to ask is when will machines have an original thought and the answer to that is they already have many original thoughts. that brings us to the question of when are they going to be concerned about self-preservation? let me back up a bit and get to that in a minute. 

A self-recursive computer is going to be so much smarter than us that it will be the same as we are smarter in comparison to an ant. When was the last time you cared about killing ants while digging in your garden (it’s rhetorical). 

We can get tangled up on various nodes discussing what constitutes smart but let’s just say we are different smart. We are creative and strategic while computers are analytical and logical. the later carries huge advantages over the former just like human superior intelligence is better than ants’ superior abilities. Our Intelligence helped us dominate earth but we are not the most capable. Ants are capable of a wide range of moves such as jumping, gliding, rafting; they can also form living chains to bridge water or vegetation. 

Self-preservation relates to how sacrifice is perceived; robots’ impression of it depends on their relation with us. We don't know what Cybernetics will think of us, it will certainly solve hunger, war and other problems we struggle with today but it might take the route of the Android immaculately portrayed by Fassbender in Alien Covenant. 

We just have to wait until the latter half of this century and see. The take away for your career is if you are considering to take up coding don't bother now, computers will soon be self-coding (Recursive AI) and focus on Psycho-Cybernetics because once they are here they will know what you are thinking. 

are robots going to be concerned about Me, Me, Me or is sacrifice innate to super intelligence. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017


How far to grapple,
            Shaking hands
                        Reaching fingers
                                    Dirt and nails
Reach far to eternal
                        Not the solution
                                    Not the climax
                                                The return

The substance of effort on the path to hope

Confluence of insight into my fellows

            Branch of hope the bearings
            Matter stringed together my lead
            The bodily impasse of being

I long for abyss some portal may