Sigh Fie Chen High, episode 2: The GM Test

This is a sequel to Sigh Figh Chen Igh, in terms of it being set in the same fictional universe. It’s also rather Madras centric, so for those not from this city, migrate here if you wish to make sense of this post. On an unrelated note, somebody saw it fit to interview me.

The laboratory had a laid-back look, contrary to the popular cliche that busy, messy labs are the ones at the cutting edge of science. But do not mistake the Extraordinary Gilma Lab for one of those stereotypical R&D joints where bureaucrats test the tensile strength of scarlet coloured tape. The EGL was the pride of Silken Valley, a sprawling high tech strip of research institutions that stretched from the Mandaveli Hyperbusport to the Hovercraft port on the banks of the Adyar river. Ever since RMK Viswanathan,XVII discovered (in 3673 A.D) that the pallu of extraordinarily intricate Kancheepuram sarees could perform advanced computations at an exponentially higher speed than the now obsolete silicon based semiconductors, the Silken revolution had altered life as we knew it in Sambaria. The new elite in Madras society were the weavers of logic, aptly titled Silk Smithers.

Guna was sitting at his terminal, unable to bring his mind to concentrate on the task at hand. He was still smarting from his weekend experience at the TTK Virtual Academy for Interactive Music For Elite Masses on Radhakrishnan-Cathedral-Hyperavenue. He had decided to try out one of those much vaunted interactive Carnatic concerts where one could virtually “become” the artiste, say “Besh Besh” at the right moments and also confuse the mridangist by messing up the Misra Chapu tala, among other things. But what he did not expect was the white virtual veshtied gang, the Carnatic Clucks Clan, to hound him as he attempted to virtually perform the Bilahari alapana as the violinist. They had infiltrated the virtual audience and had loudly passed comments such as “Is this Bilahari? Or Mohanam with indigestion?”. Hailing from the southern spacepolis of Pondicherry, he was caught totally by surprise, being unaware of the strongly parochial tendencies of the crowd that patronized the Virtual Academy.

He took his Pansolaric Coffeeblaster in a big gulp, hoping that the unique concoction of caffeine, milk and bubbles would provide him the necessary kick start to his endeavour. Having studied to be a pseudomicrobiologist, his particular skills had suddenly became useful in the world of Silken computing, as scientists now played with the Silkworm’s DNA to produce custom threads for use in the construction of modern day Processing ALgorithmic Logic Units (PALLUs). Guna was engaged in testing and fine tuning a revolutionary new computational knowledge engine, code named Wolfram Omicron. While knowledge engines had been around for the better part of the last millennium, Omicron was special. It was designed to be the first machine to pass the GM Test (short for the Goundamani Quantum Hypothetical Modified Turing Test). No machine had ever passed that test, and Guna was on the threshold of achieving what was universally considered to be impossible.

The Coffeeblaster took longer than usual to reboot his brain. He made a mental note to order the more potent Kumbakonam Degreeblaster from tomorrow. He could not afford to waste any more time. He made a few last minute code changes and brought up the Omicron interface for the big moment. He took a deep breath, looked at his Cesium powered high precision Rahu Kalam determination unit, and typed the Goundamani Quantum Hypothetical Modified Turing Question.

Wolfram2He then waited, as the millions of PALLUs crunched quadrillions of bits (perhaps “crunch” is not quite an appropriate verb to describe the inner workings of the Silken processor. Swished and Sashayed, perhaps) in its attempt to crack the GM test. It finally spit out the answer.

wolfram1He had done it.

No coputer has been able to crack the GM test to date. This was the greatest achievement in machine intelligence since the Advanced Language Engine of 2896 that finally deciphered the Malayalam mumblings in the song “Jiya Jale”. He looked at Omicron and silently whispered “Thank you”.

To be continued……

Glossary (This is an extension of the earlier glossary at the end of the earlier part)

Virtual Veshti –Invented in 2870 by Lord Ram Raj XVII, a few years after the last man who knew how to tie a veshti (dhoti) passed away. The invention was a huge hit, and caused a resurgence of veshti-pride. The device was essentially a modulated, high-definition 3D laser surface generator in the shape of a waistband, and allowed the wearer to simulate an authentic looking veshti of ones choice by the click of a button. A “Thooki-kattu” (Lift, fold and tie) mode was also available. The older models were prone to failure, especially in the “Thooki-kattu” mode. A rounding error in the Intel Ombodhium processor of those times that powered the device often caused a miscalculation of the height at which a veshti must be thooki-kattufied. Battery life was also a concern, as the Microsoft Embedded Windows OS that powered the device had the nasty habit of claiming “20% battery life left”, and then suddenly next moment, inexplicably dropping to 2%. Subsequent versions improved reliability considerably, especially when Ramraj decided to dump Windows and adopt Ubuntu (the Valiant Veshti edition).

Going  open source eventually created an ecosystem that allowed the community to develop custom plugins for the Virtual Veshti. Kabali Design Enterprises (KDE) announced in 3124 that a lungi mode was now available, with further options to choose between  “Subdued Erode”, “Singapore Silky” and “Hallucinogenic Tirunelveli”.

Interactive Carnatic Concert – A virtual reality event where the audience could put themselves in the place of the artistes and engage in all of the shenanigans they usually indulge in

Carnatic Clucks Clan – A terrorist organization founded by a retired SBI employee/rasika dedicated to keeping Carnatic music pure and devoid of any external influences. This group’s trademark appearance involved spotless white virtual veshtis and hoods made from Angavastrams.