Geneva Diaries #59*

Privacy, Cyberspace, Human Error, T&C, Scrapping, Morality in Virtual Space Time

On Monday, September 9, 2013, Roger wrote:

Dear Purnima,

Are you still transfixed with pins to a board, like a beautiful butterfly specimen in a natural history museum?  That is somehow an image that I can’t quite reconcile with my still-vivid memories of French lessons in Geneva, walks to art museums and always fascinating chats about art and life.

I heard a lengthy program this morning on NPR about a book that sounds like it is right up your alley.  It’s called American Gods and is a combination fantasy, mystery about the gods that were brought to the United States by the immigrants from all over the world and how those same gods, who have been abandoned and neglected as their bearers turned to the more easily accessible gods of materialism, Internet, fast food, etc., rebel and try and reclaim their position of importance in the overall scheme of things.  There are, of course, several Indian gods in the book.

We are off in search of new adventures, and who knows, possibly some new gods, in South America.  We are leaving Saturday for Colombia where we will meet up with family.  It will be my first foray on that continent, and I’m looking forward to it.  We are flying first to Paris and then on to Bogota and will spend four days in Paris on the way back to Thailand.  And as was the case on our first trip to Japan, I will carry a tender thought of you in my heart as I wing across the snowy stretches of Siberia on the way back to Europe and then on to Colombia.

How are your kids doing this year?  A is being a globetrotter again this year and being home schooled by her parents.  They are in California right now and they leave on Sunday to meet us in Bogota.  She’s really matured and grown into a fine young woman now.

I’ll drop you a line from Colombia.

Hugs and lots of love,



Specimens in the lab, American Gods and Privacy and Scrapping

Dear Roger,

I just came across this old email and discovered that I had surprisingly not read it thoroughly or reread it twice over as I often do with all your emails as this book suggestion American Gods seems like up something up my alley, a must read, my story, an unfinished song about a family with all its household gods in exile and something I referred to in my email quoting from Longfellow’s epic poem Evangeline:

Many a weary year had passed since the burning of Grand-Pre,

When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed,

Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile.

Exile without an end, and without an example in story.

This reminds me of a wonderful trip to Acadia National Park in Maine where I was remembering Longfellow and subjecting my kids to endless narrations of my fav poems. See Acadia National Park in Maine below-

It was fascinating to discover that this park was a result of the conservation efforts of artists, naturalists and philanthropists, locals and summer residents, who purchased parcels of land and donated it to the federal government towards the creation of the park thus ensuring the preservation of the land and biodiversity so that it may be available to everyone to savor, support and be inspired. I tip my hat to these far sighted men and women as we enjoy the beautiful wild vistas, crisp clean air, bubbling ponds and frothing blue seas.

From Longfellow’s A Tale of Acadie to Purnima’s A Tale of Pondicherry

Inspired by my environs I returned to Longfellow once again to read A Psalm of Life:

Lives of great men all remind us 

   We can make our lives sublime, 

And, departing, leave behind us 

   Footprints on the sands of time; 

Longfellow- Psalm of Life: Footprints in The Sands of Time
Longfellow-Psalm of Life, Footprints in The Sands of Time

See below Mount Dessert Island, Maine by Jervis McEntee at The National Gallery of Art,DC

I was summerly abandoned by my kids who had just had about enough of my verse spouting state of ecstasy, I now live with my iphone, but I’m still hoping to get them back!

Moving onto more cheerful things, I am once again on way back to California next week to tie up the last few pending issues relating to the sale of my home in Los Altos, and then on my way back to Delhi, I stopover in Geneva where I am catching up with all my friends,  and then hope to get three great days of skiing in Chamonix before I head back to India. I just cannot wait, for the first time in many months I have felt alive with excitement, I absolutely love Chamonix, I love Geneva and j’adore Gruyere!

See Chamonix below and a hot meal at a charming mountain hut:

Roger, have you seen this fabulously topical new documentary on all our new age issues which we have discussed to death revolving around privacy called Terms and Conditions may Apply by Cullen Hoback? 

Terms and Conditions:

NYT – Terms and Conditions

Well, if not, you absolutely have to, absolutely! I was so churned up after viewing the documentary and so starved of company to debate the details of the invasion of our privacy that I took my brother on, on our way to dinner with a car filled with teenage kids. My brother argued over the booming voice of my 15 year old and his 14 year old and we ended up in a shouting match and that was the end of that debate with him being clearly on the side of the large corps with the argument saying ” what do I really lose if they (large corps) have my private info”. I of course blew a Gasket! So I decided to quietly put down my thoughts on virtual reality, gaming, facebook, twitter, end use license agreements and privacy, and would love to share these ramblings with you. Look forward to reading your feedback. Here goes and endless, unpunctuated, outpouring of my heart and soul:

What happens in the virtual world stays in the virtual world! We must make a distinction between laws/codes of the virtual world that govern game play, and the laws and codes (End User License Agreements) that govern issues relating to the participants in the real world. It’s imperative to structure a Real and a Digital Identity. We must not permit data to leak! Data, communications, customs, relationships and all such info derived from a user whether in a particular game or all games and interactions in the virtual space must remain  in the domain of the virtual space, to be defined, judged and managed by the laws/codes of this virtual space. We must not permit this data to seep into the real world to be analyzed, disbursed, and judged in the real world. This firewall must be installed, and ASAP! People leave the real world and indulge in game play for this very purpose: to escape the confines of the real world, to fly and dream for a moment, to vent their fears and frustrations, to achieve what the real world withholds from them their chance to be superhuman, to attain love, money, immortality. Throughout the history of man this space has been provided unintruded: whether it was through images painted on cave walls stirring the imaginations of cave man as all members of the tribe sat around and dreamt of having successfully cornered that mammoth or bison horde, or the grand epics that we treasure and which now form a part of our matrix, epics that weave fantastical tales of triumph and glory which man has aspired to emulate recreating the environs around him to recreate that fantasy, and now through this virtual world of Warcraft, wizards and wardrobe malfunctions, from the super sensory to the mundane, man continues to journey to dream to escape. 

Lascaux Cave Art:  

WHAT IF: While caveman sat around the bonfire with his fellow cave buddies and as the images adorning the ceiling of his cave came to life during their ritual song and dance, as it must have in Lascaux 30,000 years ago, evoking passion, fear, camaraderie, and thereby serving as a bonding for the individuals stirring them to further their goals, expand their tribe,  hunt for their game… Now what if, each caveman’s fantasy/dream drawn from the very cave wall images were translated into the language of the real cave world for all to see, where One caveman’s fantasy projects him as hoping for the leadership role and beating the others to the final kill, while another dreams of how the glory of the kill would get him to dominate most of the women and the food, to have his fill of mates excluding them from the rest of the tribe (in fact I think that might even be the majority dream and much more graphic) or from the female perspective (from the ones who did not actively participate in the hunt) the dream might be to snatch the most powerful and dominant mate who brings home the bison, or charm and contrivance by which they and their offspring might get the lions share of the skin and meat providing an advantage over the others, or since they were French, they might even be competing with each other over the possible sauces for the meats! If their fantasies were revealed into the language of the cave people to be remembered and repeated, that by itself would have been the end of cave man, cave woman, cave boy and cave girl, for this translation of their fantasies would work against their coming together as a tribe, their united action to provide food and shelter for themselves and other members of their tribe. But most of all they would have to stop dreaming, stop drawing, stop dancing. But this story started in Lascaux, and France is France, how is that possible!?! Similarly, for all the other examples through the history of man, without our forays into fantasy, without our unrestricted dreams, would we still be man? I say firewall this space from the intrusion of human laws-permit it to evolve its own code!

Code – Law – Privacy

What if: as a prerequisite for employment, all your online data was scrapped accessible to  employers? This is nothing new or unusual as even today an employer can search data from all your online communities like comments on facebook and twitter base their hiring decisions upon the same. However, what if all your gaming data was compiled by a employee search company categorizing you based on the games you played, your level of aggression, the persons you annihilated whether voluntary, involuntary, whether it was required or not by the game play. Your avatars code of ethics online, your means and strategies, your deception and choices whether it was to play light side or dark side all of this irrespective of whether it was a voluntary choice, required as a part of the game play or inadvertent. Based upon this incredible cache of data a detailed profile can be constructed. Now imagine this data was culled from a bunch of traders who led to the multiple billion dollar collapse of the banking system (like our most recent mortgage backed securities fiasco), imagine the aggression, the choices, the code of ethics employed by this group as they went about decimating the most popular game of 2013, Grand Theft Auto V? What if these traits were profiled (of course an expression of these traits could be viewed as both advantageous and disadvantageous depending on how it was profiled), and persons exhibiting these traits from the general public looking for a job on Wall Street were based on this employee search companies data blocked, excluded OR these very same supposed ruthless and aggressive traits were coveted for these very jobs on Wall Street, would we as a society not be in a conundrum? 

Grand theft Auto gameplay – mowing down pedestrians:

Skyrim gameplay – Killing a Giant for his Toe: 

How would we justify translating these traits exhibited during game play in a virtual world into our day to day lives in the real world? What is desirable and absolutely required in order to effectively play an online game  whether it means mowing down the mother wheeling her child in the pram while you accelerate downhill to complete the lap in your roadster before your competition, or reversing your car on the cop that has come to give you a ticket, perhaps running over him a couple of times back and forth just for fun (Grand Theft Auto), or you killing a lumbering giant  for his toe, one who was not in your space or your face or in any way threatening you (Skyrim), indulging in all the above violent acts during gameplay  which neither add to your game progress or result in detracting from it. In the real world we would consider this kind of action abominable, immoral and utterly unacceptable. However, in the gaming world, all these options exist, based on which your gaming persona evolves, and sometimes are required for the next level But if you are unable or incapable of executing the same, you are just unable to play and can no longer participate in this exciting realm. How then  can we permit the lifting of this data from this world of ambiguous or unrelatable morality, this 21st century realm of dreams and translate it into something comprehensible in our “real” universe? 

Then of course there is the question of whether there can be any morality in this virtual world of ambiguous space time (I have always wondered how the clock would tick tock in wonderland), do we not need defined space time as a basis for morality?  Is the morality of this virtual world its computer binary code, precise exact and unambiguous, where the rules are clearly defined, where there is no margin for debate discourse or flexibility? And a recognition that based on these set of codes are the rules and instructions by which you play and succeed, there is no space for tears or regret. How then can we lift data from this alien realm and apply it to our real realm? We must understand that all the forays into this realm of fantasy are meant purely for that space, there is and should be no scope of retrieving the same and applying the results (as though they were directly transferable) into our realm. 

When algorithms rule the world and sci-fi becomes our living reality – predictive policing in the movie Minority Report:

I emphasize this repeatedly, there must be a firewall, an alt identity for our forays in the cyberworld, for we should not open the gates so wide that one day we people in the “real” world might be judged by the laws of the virtual world and held accountable to the same. For there is no flexibility, no recourse to appeal, no empathy in a universe where the laws are code and everything is not only fully discoverable but demonstrable and KNOWN. Yes, I repeat, man must not permit himself to be judged by a fool proof perfect seal tight world of code where there is no privacy and everything is known. A space where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

See below the inscrutable Terms and Conditions – South Park: Your Data or Your Life!

For to err is human, and this humanity is encoded in our laws. We permit, 99 men to go free before we hang an innocent man and that is a code etched into our (my) fiber which translates itself into the laws by which we permit ourselves to be governed. We recognize that errors are made, and we attempt to construct efficient systems and effective laws. However, at no point do we relinquish our humanity, at no point do we delude ourselves to be perfect. So, recognizing the inherent errors and failings in ourselves, we cannot permit a set of laws that which violates our core, compromises our humanity, deprives us of our coveted privacy and relinquishes us to the ruthless realm of machines and virtual worlds where all is known, all is recorded and run by CODE.

Yes, we have reached that junction in time where we continuously need to assess, ask ourselves “are you human” and that does not mean being able to submit a perfect answer or copy the combination of letters and numbers from the box at the bottom of the page, in fact, it is just the contrary of that, for only a machine would be perfect and replicate code infinitely, our humanity lies in the little errors during replication, these little errors result in evolution, expansion and form the quintessential expression of humanity.  

I wish to conclude by reiterating that we should recognize the threats that confront us, reinforce our systems, update our laws to ensure that we are able uphold our humanity against all onslaughts against it and pivotal to this is securing our Privacy. Put up those damn firewalls!

Hope you enjoyed the read as much as I enjoyed venting.

Love and hugs to all.


Sent: mercredi 14 août 2013

Subject: Fwd: Self Portrait- finally!

Dear Roger,

These three emails about this uncannily familiar self portrait is to show you where I am and how I am unable to respond to your wonderful emails:

Like the self portrait, I lie transfixed to a board with an imaginary pin with large dark glazed eyes of a dead beetle and concealing in its deep recesses a still beating heart.

Analyzing legal issues is a forgone distant dream I’m afraid.



See below a beautiful Butterfly at the academy of Sciences San Francisco:


Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 6:43 PM

Dear Purnima,

How delightful to hear from you.  Thanks for the 4th of July greetings.

You seemed to have dropped off the radar since you left for your trip to the States.  No travelogues? No outstanding adventures?

How did things go with US immigration?  Were you able to renew your papers so you could eventually return to the States and stay there indefinitely?

What’s new with you and your kids in India?

We continue to really enjoy our life in Chiang Mai, but we’ve also used it as a base for some travel in the region.  We spent ten days on Phuket in April and really enjoyed the place.  Then in May we met Celine, Vincent and Alexandra for ten days on Bali.  It was a little bit more humid there than it is in Chiang Mai, but I loved the people and the temples and the smiles and the sandy beaches and the clear, calm water in the little inlets and bays and the cozy little bungalow on the hill overlooking the sea with the volcano in the background.  We also spent a week in South Korea at the end of June, but were a little bit disappointed in the trip.  The people were very nice and helpful, but it’s really a very materialistic society (they boast the world’s largest department store) and lacks a lot of the refinement one finds in Japan, and the prices were nearly as high as Japanese prices, especially in the upscale clothing shops, and it is definitely not a place for vegetarians.  Their diet is very meat oriented, so we ended up eating in Indian, Italian, Japanese and Tibetan restaurants most of the time.

When are you coming to see us?  We live in a really lovely area north of Chiang Mai on the edge of a small Thai village.  There is an organic restaurant, two swimming pools and a massage spa here.  You would love it and we’re basically here and free until September.

I’m still seething over the arrogance of a certain to-be-unnamed country (one has to be careful about what one writes these days) and their heavy-handed response to a certain whistle blower, but Le Monde revealed in a front-page article this morning that France also has a huge and largely a-legal system of eavesdropping on telephone calls, emails, SMS and internet traffic.  No wonder they have been slow to condemn the actions of the biggest Big Brother of all and have seemingly bent over backwards to do its bidding by closing its airspace to presidential planes from unimportant foreign countries.

Do let me know how you are doing and how you are getting along.  Would love to get a long missive about your trip.  The occasional pictures posted on Facebook were great, but I longed for more detail.

Lots of love,


Roger Stevenson


Disclaimer 😛

All persons, places, events are fictitious; all imputed relationships purely aspirational. There were no men harmed during the penning of the Feminist Manifesto

Published by Purrnima

Travel Writer - Art Blogger - CyberSmurf

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