Deepfake videos in Indian elections, what does it portend?

General

Here’s how it has kinda evolved:

  • In the early days you had to speak on a stump to connect with your voters.
  • Then you had access to a megaphone to make your voice travel further.
  • If you wrote and published your writings, you could always have help to polish it up, or even have someone ghostwrite it.
  • Then came broadcast video where body language and micro-expressions and subtle cues started to influence perception
  • Then came edited video where the right cuts, the right montage, the right soundtrack started to influence perception

And now, AI deepfakes can learn how you speak and then make you say anything in any language. If you use it for yourself, just to scale yourself, it falls in line with all the other stuff above.

But now it’s also to use it on your opponent. What does that mean for politics? And with end-to-end secure communication that is broadcast to hundreds of millions within seconds without any social oversight or feedback loops, the person physically sitting next to you is going to be literally living in a totally different world than you. For some more time the only thing common between us is going to be air molecules that enter our lungs. Everything else is completely personalized. What does that mean for our ability to reason with each other about things that are important?

When the Delhi BJP IT Cell partnered with political communications firm The Ideaz Factory to create “positive campaigns” using deepfakes to reach different linguistic voter bases, it marked the debut of deepfakes in election campaigns in India. “Deepfake technology has helped us scale campaign efforts like never before,” Neelkant Bakshi, co-incharge of social media and IT for BJP Delhi, tells VICE. “The Haryanvi videos let us convincingly approach the target audience even if the candidate didn’t speak the language of the voter.”

https://www.vice.com/en_in/article/jgedjb/the-first-use-of-deepfakes-in-indian-election-by-bjp

Here’s a fascinating article by Vice that explores this topic in more detail.

Republic Day of India in San Francisco

General

Jan 26, 2020 was the Republic Day of India. People in San Francisco came together to celebrate the 70th year of the adoption of the Constitution of India, at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco.

🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty- sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳 🇮🇳

It was also the day when people showed up in support for and to voice their opposition to the recent Citizenship Amendment Act that violates the constitution.

Tree of Unity: Republic Day of India

General

The Indian Constitution turns 70 today. It’s unimaginable how 500+ princely states scattered all across the subcontinent, with 30+ major languages (definition of major language: spoken by at least a million people), and spanning almost every religion in the world, was able to come together and form a country that ended up becoming the largest democracy on Earth!

Growing up in India as a kid, we only had 2 TV channels. Channel 1 was National TV that was owned by the central government and broadcast everywhere. And Channel 2 was Metro TV, a terrestrial broadcast local to the city I grew up in and owned by the local government.

Channel 2 only came on a couple of times a day. Rest of the time if we switched to the channel, it would show white noise, or a color calibration screen with a loud continuous beep sound. Channel 1 had a little more programming, but it also went off air a few times a day. So we would go out and play. When it was time, we would all come back home and eagerly sit in front of the tv, and stare at the static screen, waiting for the broadcast to start.

Anyone who grew up in India in the 80s/90s has a lot of common ground because we all watched the same television, no matter where in the country we lived, and what languages we spoke. A lot of the programming was intentionally sanctioned to help educate the population, help everyone learn about each other and the vastness of the country, and the importance of unity. (In the late 90s, cable television became a thing and we started to diverge. And then came the internet and then YouTube and then now WhatsApp and TikTok, we are more fragmented than we have ever been).

Here’s an example of a video we all had to watch, at least once a week, as there was nothing else to switch to or to distract us 😇 (Who remembers this one? 😊)

#HappyRepublicDay

A brief, selective history of India

General

[Just putting together some thoughts. Welcome fact checking / corrections / perspectives.]

28,000 years ago
The oldest definitively identified Homo sapiens fossils yet found in South Asia are Balangoda man. Named for the location in Sri Lanka where they were discovered, they are at least 28,000 years old.

10,000 years ago
Indians who are lactose-tolerant show a genetic pattern regarding this tolerance which is “characteristic of the common European mutation.” This suggests that “the most common lactose tolerance mutation made a two-way migration out of the Middle East less than 10,000 years ago. While the mutation spread across Europe, another explorer must have brought the mutation eastward to India – likely traveling along the coast of the Persian Gulf where other pockets of the same mutation have been found.

4000BC
Most of the first wave of Caucasoids into India were proto-Dravidian who migrated into India around 4,000 BC from a region later known as Elam in modern day Iran. The Dravidian languages were brought to India by immigration into India from Elam. Samples from the Indus periphery population are always mixes of the same two proximal sources of AASI and Iranian agriculturalist-related ancestry.

2000-1800BC
The Indo-Aryan migrations started in approximately 1,800 BCE, after the invention of the war chariot, and also brought Indo-Aryan languages into the Levant and possibly Inner Asia. It was part of the diffusion of Indo-European languages from the proto-Indo-European homeland at the Pontic steppe, a large area of grasslands in far Eastern Europe, which started in the 5th to 4th millennia BCE, and the Indo-European migrations out of the Eurasian steppes, which started approximately in 2,000 BCE.

1800-1400BC
The Proto-Indo-Iranians, from which the Indo-Aryans developed, are identified with the Sintashta culture (2100–1800 BCE), and the Andronovo culture, which flourished ca. 1800–1400 BCE in the steppes around the Aral sea, present-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The proto-Indo-Iranians were influenced by the Bactria-Margiana Culture, south of the Andronovo culture, from which they borrowed their distinctive religious beliefs and practices. The Indo-Aryans split off around 1800–1600 BCE from the Iranians, whereafter the Indo-Aryans migrated into the Levant and north-western India.

1500BC to 1000 BC
The Aryans established themselves in India by defeating the natives whom they called Dasas or Dasyus. The period when the Aryans first settled in India, is known as Early Vedic Period.

1000BC to 600BC
The Aryans spread to Indo-Gangetic plains in the later Vedic Period and this region came to be known as Aryavarta. The Aryans were the first people in India to know the use of iron and brought horses along with them.

1500BC
The Rigveda was written in Sanskrit, an Indo-European language.
A reasonable date close to that of the composition of the core of the Rigveda is that of the Mitanni documents of northern Syria and Iraq (c. 1450–1350 BC), which also mention the Vedic gods such as Varuna, Mitra and Indra.

400BC
The Mahabharata was written

7BC to 3AD
The Ramayana was written – which mentioned the mythological character Rama. (In 2019 the Indian Supreme Court granted this mythological character legal standing.)

At that time, all the Central Asians, Middle Easterners, Europeans, Dravidians living across the Indus River in Pakistan were called (H)Indus by the Central Asian and Middle Easterners and Europeans who were on the other side of the river

0AD Jesus was born

The Christian faith was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle, who supposedly reached the Malabar Coast (Kerala) in 52 AD.

Christian communities were firmly established in India by the 6th century AD

570AD Mohammad was born

623AD the first mosques were built in India by seafaring Arab merchants

So for thousands of years outsiders kept arriving into India and bringing with them whatever was in vogue at the place where they were coming from

1400s the Portuguese traders came to the subcontinent

1600s the British, Dutch, Danish & French came to the subcontinent

1858 – the British established complete rule over all the kingdoms in the subcontinent

1947 – the British left the subcontinent leaving the kingdoms and regions to determine their own future. Some aligned with a redefined territory called India, some aligned with a redefined territory called Pakistan, and some like Kashmir decided to stay independent.

1948 – Pakistan attacked majority-Muslim Kashmir whose Hindu king decided to then join India instead in return for protection. A war was fought. The U.N. stepped in. It was decided to conduct a plebiscite so the people could democratically choose where they want to be. But till date the conditions have never been neutral enough for the vote to take place. (In 2019 India revoked the special status the Kingdom of Kashmir was awarded while the issue was supposed to get sorted and completely annexed it into India.)

1948 – Gandhi was assassinated by a fellow Indian who belonged to a political party called the RSS – a right wing, nationalist, para-military organization.

1949 – Hindu activists broke into a mosque in the city of Ayodhya and placed idols of Rama and Sita inside claiming the mosque sat right on top of the physical place where the mythological character Rama was born. People were led to believe that the idols had ‘miraculously’ appeared inside the mosque. None of the Hindu texts prior to this year mentioned Ayodhya as a place of religious significance and it had no history of Hindu pilgrimage.

1960 – the center of the British India empire, the State of Bombay, was split into two smaller states Gujarat & Maharashtra along linguistic lines. The city of Bombay was given to the newly formed state of Maharashtra. In 1995 a local political party renamed the city to Mumbai and rewrote history claiming that Bombay was part of the Maratha heritage despite absolutely no Maratha presence in Bombay until the British built the first fort on what was otherwise just swampy land. Pune was the seat of the Maratha heritage but it is now relegated to a second tier city. All major landmarks in Bombay are now named after Maratha rulers and icons.

1964 – the VHP was formed. An affiliate of the RSS, “to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve and protect the Hindu Dharma.” In 2018 it was classified by the CIA as a militant religious organization.

1965 – Goa, the last remaining European colony in India was won by the government of India in war with the Portuguese.

1980 – the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Sangh Parivar affiliates began an agitation to build a temple to Rama in Ayodhya, with the Bharatiya Janata Party lending political support to the movement. In 1990, the government of India decided to implement some of the recommendations of the Mandal commission, and announced that twenty-seven percent of government jobs would be reserved for people from lower-caste backgrounds. This announcement threatened the electoral constituency of the BJP, which decided to use the Ayodhya dispute to unite the Hindu vote by mobilising anti-Muslim sentiment.

1990-1992 – the BJP announced a rath yatra, or “chariot journey” across the country to Ayodhya. The procession was led by L. K. Advani, and involved thousands of kar sevaks, or volunteers, from the Sangh Parivar. The yatra began in Somnath on 25 September 1990, and passed through hundreds of villages and cities. It traveled approximately 300 kilometers a day, and Advani often addressed six public rallies in a single day. The yatra caused an outpouring of both religious and militant sentiments among Hindus, and became one of India’s biggest mass movements.
The yatra also triggered religious violence in its wake, with riots in cities across North India. As a result, Advani was arrested by the government of Bihar as the yatra passed through that state, and 150,000 of his supporters were also arrested by the government of Uttar Pradesh. Tens of thousands of activists nonetheless reached Ayodhya and demolished the 16th-century Babri Mosque, resulting in a pitched battle with security forces which left 20 dead. These events caused further Hindu-Muslim riots to break out across the country, in which hundreds were killed. Muslims were often the victims of these riots. Following these riots, the BJP made significant gains elections, both at the national and the state level, on the back of religious polarisation caused by the yatra.

2014 – a RSS and VHP member, who was personally banned from the U.K. & the US for his human rights violations record, was elected the Prime Minister of India. Narendra Modi. He belongs to the organization that murdered Gandhi.

2019 – the Supreme Court of India upheld the demolition of the mosque and cleared the path for building a Hindu temple there instead. A constitution created in 1950 was used to go back in time to resolve a dispute claimed to be from the 1500s. Under this distorted interpretation, people who arrived to India in 700BC (the Aryans from Central Asia) are allowed to displace / destroy / usurp the people who already lived here (the Dravidians), but people who arrived in 700AD (more central Asians and middle easterners) are selectively and retroactively disallowed from that.

2019 – Kashmir’s special status which protected its Muslim population was revoked, all politicians were placed under house arrest, the military swarmed the state, the internet and cellphones were shut down, and the annexation was complete.

2019 – the constitution of India was amended to require a religious test for Citizenship. If you claim to be Hindu, you have a path to citizenship. If you are not Hindu, you don’t have a path to citizenship.

If we look at history – many Indians today (both Hindus and Muslims) are just a bunch of Europeans and Central Asians fighting with each other in a new place they moved to only since 1500BC!

When I almost lost my hand

Travel

For those who were following along at the time, it’s been 5yrs now since I almost lost my right hand!

For those who came in later, here’s what happened. This may be a little graphic so please only continue if such content doesn’t bother you.

I caught an infection in Tanzania that started developing symptoms on my flight to India. But I went straight to a wedding first, which is the main reason I had flown to India that day ☺️

My Facebook post on that day. My swollen hand is not visible in this picture.

Next morning my hand was very swollen and it hurt very bad – like a semi truck had just run over it. I also started to develop a fever. Went to the doctor who said I needed to be operated on right away.

8hrs later I was on the operating table inside a hospital in Mumbai, under general anesthesia, and the surgeon made an incision in my hand and drained all the pus and then closed it up. That was the easy part. 🤞

We didn’t know what the infection was and my fever raged on. My hand hurt like hell. And every 6-8hrs they had to remove the bandages, stuff a bunch of gauze and cotton deep into the hand cavity and squeeze out the pus like we squeeze out toothpaste. There was no anesthesia involved in this step. It helped me understand pain, my thresholds for pain and offered me a great opportunity to practice integrating into discomfort rather than fearing it. I remember how traumatizing those days were – to feel the pain, to know that more is coming at regular intervals, and the powerlessness around it. Also in an interesting way, I think my family was affected more by it then I was. I was never shrinking or crying or squirming during the procedure. I had mostly resigned to it and was mostly detached from it. Mostly! 😛

4 days later we got the culture results and the right antibiotic started to work. My fever was finally coming down and I could think again. But my hand still was no where close to healed. I could see raw flesh and the deep cavity every time the bandage was taken out. I didn’t think that was ever going to heal. Funny the narratives our brain can tell us 😆 I had to leave my hand raised in a sling to avoid accumulation of fluids. I started doing my tasks and working on my laptop etc with my left hand. I had accepted a future where I didn’t have use of my right hand and had simply moved on. (And you guessed it right, I’m right handed 🤓)

After a month of daily change of bandages and cleaning, I was amazed at how much the body starts to heal. The cavity was closing in, new flesh had formed. And I was also able to finally close my fist again. It then took me 1yr of physical therapy to get my grip back. And now, after 5 yrs all I have left is a scar and memories!

Lesson learned: don’t pluck feathers off dead flamingoes 🦢 😇

Breakfast in India at a highway stop

Photo, Travel

1. Gaathiya (yellow fried dough things)

2. Jalebi (orange/yellow sugary syrupy thingy)

3. Mircha (fried hot peppers with salt)

4. Cha (hot tea)

With two sides:

A) raw onions

B) pickled carrots

The flavors work so well together, at many different levels, despite the simplicity. The hotness of the peppers is accentuated by the heat of the tea, and the salt somehow blends with that intensity while the gaathiya creates the neutral grounding and the jalebi keeps bringing a glimpse of the sweet.

The makeshift SunFunder India HQ office

Uncategorized

Spent the last month in Africa visiting our partners and seeing SunFunder’s impact on the ground (that will be a long exhaustive blog post of it’s own). Enroute to India, developed an abscess in my hand that required urgent surgery under general anesthesia. Spent the last 4 days recovering from the African infection in a hospital in India which gradually became my makeshift office. Infected hand in upright sling, other hand on IV, surprised at how much I could get done with just one hand in the otherwise peaceful setting. Doctors are still figuring out the right antibiotics since nothing has worked (well I did go to some crazy remote places in Africa$. But in safe hands and hope to be out in time.

20131204-194646.jpg

And yes, I am getting enough rest, just had to prep for the New Ventures Investor Forum where I present at a session moderated by the awesome Niki Armacost. Glad to be in India as we plan to launch our first few projects here and look forward to meeting all the awesome people here.

Art of Kissing: Invented in India

Uncategorized

This special video on YouTube explores the history of how kissing originated and spread across the world. I had no idea that the earliest recorded history of anything even remotely close to kissing was thousands of years ago in India. An interesting watch. Almost makes the case that kissing is not as much an innate primal instinct as it is an acquired social norm. It’s also funny that the modern day India, that I grew up in, shuns this act and is not publicly permissible. In fact, some organizations in India would have us believe that it is a western attack on Indian morality.