Look, What's Time Has Done

This month there’s something strange happening in my inbox. Lots of those emails are marriage invitations and some from the people who I knew as “geeks”. And then I start remembering those days when we set in college labs until late, many times whole night and most of the time escaping from scheduled lectures. The girlfriends and dating was the least of the priority when there is a whole world with challenges in front of you to explore and win (partially that was also eased by the fact that only few female souls thought it worthy to pursue engineering as a field of study). We were tough, proud and ignorent.Some of us thought they don’t want to live beyond 30s because it looked too boring. Most of us unanimously thought getting married, silently settling down and disappear in the mass of other 4 billions would be the worst possible way one can live a life. Today I still see likes of these people around. But for the eyes who knew them, there is a subtle difference. The faces doesn’t have loud signs of a rebel - rather it looks more like tired fat exploiters. People expect our curiosity to age with us. You don’t see people in their middle 30s and 40s roaming around science museums just by themselves - they are not supposed to be that curious! Aging is an interesting process and there was a debate: Is it imperfection or a necessity? While for most it’s depressing to even discuss, the study of aging at cellular and genetic level is a fascinating biological paradox. One of the best work I’ve came across is a book called A Means To An End. While still written for a lay-person, it explores scientific theaories of aging without shying away from the technical language of molecular biology and genetics. However as a human beyond mass of bio-chemicals perhaps more interesting is the experience and emotions attached with aging. When I was cruising through that book Hackers, one of the things I anxiously wanted to know was what happened to those super hard-core computer geeks of 1960s. Where they are, what they are doing today and most importantly, are they the same? If not, where the compromises have made it’s home? Author has put this information in the very last chapter and to read it is like reading the Revelation in the Bible. Watching a movie of a large building being demolished with carefully planned explosives has different sets of emotion. Is it fun? scary? Exciting? Disappointing? This experience is perhaps best written in a tiny book by G. H. Hardy written in 1950s called A Mathematician’s Apology. When mathematicians - the people obsessed with reality, people with the eyes of pure logic rather then good or evil - writes about emotions it ought to shine like a dew on the rock. When I read this book couple of years ago I thought I’d like to carve it in stones so it’s there even if humanity manages to loose it’s every printed copy. The book cold heartedly deals with author’s diminishing abilities for mathematics with his age and one of the most passionate arguments for doing mathematics. Pretty much every paragraph in this book you can put as a quote on your walls! However it couldn’t have been more cold hearted then one of that interesting finale of Star Trek Voyager. Most fiction ends either in good thing or bad thing - but not the most probable reality. An average life of human population, with no magic and no coincidences, usually doesn’t interest fiction writers. But that Voyager finale appeared to be little different - for first few minutes i.e. The characters who you came to adore are now shown old, have white hair, have wrinkles, some of them already died, some of them insane and most of them looks helpless. Watching your strong heroes ending up in their aged weak state, their lives passed by without any magic is watching reality working like a knife made out of ice. Not everybody can take it. And so after those few minutes, authors of Voyager finale soon puts in some magic and attempts to sweetens their pill. Funny. And there was this quote somewhere: time is the only critic - everyone else has just opinions and fantasies.

Shital Shah

A program trying to understand what it’s computing.

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