There is greater need for basic intelligence than artificial intelligence, says Sonam Wangchuk
Until people in cities live simply, we cannot simply live, said Sonam Wangchuk, Indian engineer, innovator, and education reformist, while speaking on the opening day of the two-day litfest, Literati 2019, at Lake Club here on Saturday
Wangchuk, who inspired Aamir Khan’s character Phunsukh Wangdu in the film 3 Idiots, is the founding director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL).
Wangchuk said that SEMCOL was founded in 1988 by students who were, “victims of an alien education system foisted on Ladakh.” He has set up the campus in Ladakh that runs on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for lighting , cooking, or heating.
Talking about his courtship with innovation, he said, “I grew up in a place where innovation was all around and without it, life wouldn’t have been possible.”
“I saw how in the trans-Himalayan cold desert of Ladakh where temperatures reach minus 30 degrees, our ancestors not only survived but also contributed to the thriving inter-mingled civilisations. So, the freezing winters were not something to fear but something to look forward to – the hard work of ploughing, farming, winnowing, and thrashing, became in the carrying out of these processes, a community festival,” he added.
Speaking on the absurdity of modern life, he said, “The work was hard but people were happy . Later, the same farmer would go lift dead weight in a gym in the evening !”
The audience riveted in laughter as he said, “It is ironical that humans first invent things to make themselves move less and then invent others to get some physical exercise.”
“Today, there is more need of basic intelligence than artificial intelligence,” he reiterated.
He told audience that he had no formal education till the age of nine.
Condemning the present system of education, he said, “Children are forced to maintain ‘pin-drop silence’ as if they are not in a temple of learning but in a temple of death. All their energies- physical, spiritual, and emotional, are curbed in such a setting where he/she is bound to get demotivated.”
He then explained the three faculties that are developed in students at the SECMOL campus-hands (which symbolise practical knowledge instead of theoretical), mind (one’s logical reasoning), and heart (having empathy for others).
He concluded his talk by saying, “Innovation needs to be done in greater ways than just through apps, drones, and robots. We need to bring a change in our mindsets and live sustainably.”