Ethics and Economics @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 2)

Image result for ethics blackburnSamarth started the ethical debate with Ethics by Simon Blackburn.  This book is part of the OUP series of Very Short Introductions to various topics from philosophy to quantum theory. In this book on ethics, Simon Blackburn talks about human conduct and the moral dilemmas that have led to the systems that govern us. Ethics is a branch of philosophy among others including ontology, metaphysics, etc. Blackburn touches on contemporary issues or problems from time immemorial and makes sure that this very complicated subject becomes accessible to the lay reader. The prose is elegant and this makes this slender volume a pleasant read. The immediate takeaway that Samarth had was about the all-encompassing nature and ubiquity of ethics. In a way, ethics is based on some impulse and the gratification of some desire. You have to justify how viable your behavior is in the long term and how it affects the welfare of the people around you. You may think you are operating outside this purview but there are unavoidable questions that steer our life. The book doesn’t have all the answers; it starts a dialog in your mind about human behavior. Abhaya spoke of a similar book, one on democracy, from the OUP series.

A fiery debate ensued about AI ethics- programmers who remain far removed from their actions, bots who imitate human speech, human responsibility to all things not alive, gene editing, molecular cloning….found this interesting article on bot ethics here:

Image result for games in economic development

Pallavi spoke about Games in Economic Development, by Bruce Wydick a book that deals with how strategy is employed in political and economic decisions. The book looks at economics through elementary game theory and offers an all-round perspective across games in natural resource use, education, technology, insurance, etc.

More books in Part 3.

Princesses, Friendship and Democracy @ BYOB Party in December 2016 (Part 7)

The party ended with conversation about women in books, and democracy.

princessRenu spoke about a book called Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. The story revolves around Sultana, a Saudi Arabian princess, who is immensely wealthy but is a prisoner in a gilded cage. The story has been told anonymously and recorded by Jean Sasson. For Renu, the trilogy is not as heart wrenching as A Thousand Splendid Suns but she still thinks that the book has great aspirations and talks about some very important issues like women’s rights. Where Sultana lives, young girls are forced to marry men five times their age and victims of unreasonable punishments. Baraa believes that while the discriminatory practices of Saudi Arabia are well-known, not all Arabic speaking nations are the same and Arabian history has been forgotten too easily. Anurag mentioned how the ideas that people have about anything, including women’s rights, is governed by the society we live in. In China, for instance, it is not surprising when women technicians come home to fix the air-conditioning. In India, this would still raise eyebrows.

my-brilliant-friendKeeping with the woman-inspired book series theme, I’ve been reading one of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, the first one of the series My Brilliant Friend.  The story is a translation and focuses on the friendship of two women spanning four books. It is hard for you not to order the subsequent parts of the series as the friendship between Elena Greco and Lila is absorbing, filled with the conflicts and rivalries of any close friendship. Simultaneously, Elena’s circle of friends reveal the socio-political milieu of Italy during the 1950s.

democracyAbhaya spoke about Democracy: A Very Short Introduction, a short account of democracy published by Oxford University Press. The book speaks about the origins of democracy from ancient Greece and Rome. While democracy entails the concept of liberty, there are no specific duties associated with it, except or jury duty in the US. So participation, which is a defining feature of democracy, is not an absolute necessity. Another contradiction is how in some situations human rights limit democratic claims. It is a good idea to understand democracy, Abhaya said and he quoted: “Man’s inclination to justice makes democracy possible, but it is our capacity for injustice that makes it necessary.”

And with that we wound up the BYOB Party. The next stop was the food.