Tag Archive for systems experiment

It Begins Today … Systems Excerpt

Somewhere in an imaginary world, today is the beginning of the end for the first generation of characters from my novel, Systems. To mark the occasion, here’s the passage that explains what happens that day … er, today.

Another one will appear here on the 16th. Enjoy! – SK

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From Systems, Chapter Eleven (Leon’s Promise)

14 January 2014, Crescent Bay East

The professor entered the coffeehouse in an anorak and rubber boots, his dark wavy hair windswept. Leon and David stood to greet him as he came to their table, and Leon leaned over to shake hands with him. Omar however was preoccupied with his umbrella, which was dripping all over the floor. He propped it against an empty chair before perfunctorily shaking hands with the pair, and sat down.

Three years had passed since work had begun on the Systems Experiment, and Omar was finally looking to be vindicated. The experiment had run for ten weeks, simulating a time frame of two hundred and fifty years, and the computer had produced data on the five different political systems almost continually. Though the closing results had yet to come through, it was an open secret that the theorem was proven. The implications were enormous. Some were speculating that the theorem had the potential to influence policymaking in individual countries, and thereby affect the character of the Mutual World Alliance as well. The MWA, a body of democratic states, was only a few years old and still finding its feet. No analyst could yet make a long term forecast of its future. Its destiny was waiting to be written.

The MWA research bodies had conducted the experiment privately, but everyone expected the results to become public knowledge soon. Leon could hardly wait. For days he’d been walking around in an almost constant reverie, elated at the prospect of being part of such a momentous time in history. Omar however had a more self-effacing attitude towards his achievements, and he’d credited the success of the experiment primarily to David. In his typically offbeat style Omar had humorously dubbed him Abdul Salaam, or Servant of the Peace, for bringing about a bloodless “virtual revolution”, one that had incurred not a single human
casualty.

As these thoughts passed through his mind, Leon hadn’t been fully cognisant of the anxious look in the professor’s tawny eyes. Omar combed his short neat moustache with his fingernail nervously, lowered his head and with a quiet voice he uttered the most awful words Leon would ever hear in his life.

‘They’re shutting it down.’

Leon frowned. ‘Sorry, what –?’ He looked at David, and saw the consternation on his face. Then he realised what Omar meant, and his heart sank. ‘The experiment?’

David looked sharply at Omar. ‘Where did you hear that?’

His indignation was justified. David was an integral member of the team and he’d written much of the main program himself. If anyone was pulling the plug, then he’d expect to be amongst the first to hear about it.

‘I have a friend on the inside,’ said Omar. ‘I can’t tell you his name, but I trust him. He called me to warn me of their plans.’

Leon looked at Omar in alarm. He knew the professor had received numerous threats throughout his career. Officially they’d come from religious fanatics, but according to Omar they answered to a higher authority of evil.

‘Y-you don’t mean –?’

‘It’s them. My friend has heard that the STRO executive board is about to hold a meeting. It’ll happen sometime in the next forty-eight hours, maybe less.’

‘They can’t do that!’ said Leon.

‘They can, and they will,’ said Omar, ‘because they don’t want the truth to get out.’

David was still on the defensive. ‘But then why did they let the experiment run in the first place?’

‘Because they always have to be the ones pulling all the strings,’ replied the professor with a wry smile. ‘They knew I wouldn’t give up until I found someone to test the theorem. It was to their advantage to let me run the experiment where they could keep an eye on me, and terminate everything at the first sign of trouble.’ He sighed. ‘I was aware of this possibility, but I had to take the risk.
Now they want to get rid of me, because they know I won’t go quietly. And, I’m sorry to say, you’re in danger too. My friend says they’ve had all of us under surveillance, and they’ve identified three people as my accomplices. That’s both of you, and Joanna.’

‘Joanna?’ said Leon. ‘She isn’t even working on the experiment.’ ‘But she knows too much. She applied for a consultancy position at the same time you did.’

‘But she didn’t even get the job,’ said David.

‘That doesn’t matter. Due to her relationship to you they’ve assumed that she is involved. Now we need to get away before they come for us. My friend has a safe house and I’m going there tonight. No one should notice my absence right away. David, you’re the only one with direct access to the data. I need you to get it to me before they destroy it. Will you do it?’

David responded with a blank look. Leon had the feeling he was struggling more with accepting the situation than the request.

‘Are you sure your friend’s information is reliable?’ asked Leon.

‘Absolutely sure. He has many connections. He even knows who supplied them with their information on us.’ He looked at David intently. ‘It’s someone you know.’

‘Who?’

‘Adam.’

Leon was appalled. He’d known Adam since college, and had always known that unlike his twin, he could be arrogant, brash and selfish. But Leon would never have thought that Adam was capable of anything like this. He glanced at David, imagining that he felt much worse. David however appeared strangely calm, as though he’d known it all along and had only been waiting for a confirmation. His eyes were sad.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Omar.

David shook his head. ‘Don’t be. If truth be told, it explains a few things. Adam’s been asking me all sorts of odd questions lately. Most of them have been about you.’

Omar nodded, almost knowingly. ‘Oh, yes?’

‘Last week he was even asking me what Abdul Salaam meant. It really seemed to bother him. I told him that it was just a nickname but I don’t think he believed me. Instead he advised me not to associate with you. He said –’ He looked at Omar somewhat guiltily, and then smiled faintly. ‘Never mind. With hindsight, I suppose I should have realised what was going on.’

‘Your brother is just misguided,’ said Omar. ‘In his mind he’s doing the right thing. They have invented many lies against me.’

‘That’s very kind of you to say, but he changed some time ago. I don’t know my own brother any more.’ David closed his eyes momentarily, as if to offer a silent prayer. Then he looked at Omar.

‘Right, let’s do it.’

Omar smiled appreciatively. ‘And you, Leon?’

Leon needed no persuading. ‘Count me in.’

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When we choose liberty

Scales of justice

Today I came across a fascinating post at renowned author Lynn McTaggart’s blog, in which she explains why modern society might be on the verge of collapse:

… our biggest group delusion … has to do with the collective assumption and acceptance of the idea that individual ambition serves the common good.  That idea, which built modern capitalism, will be at the heart of its downfall. 

(Emphasis in original. See full post here)

What she is practically describing is the ‘invisible hand‘ concept in economics, used to defend capitalism. But it is also another way of saying, in theorem-speak, that when we actively choose ‘liberty’ (individual ambition) over ‘justice’ (common good), we are doomed to fail. In the Systems Experiment too, capitalism fails because, to quote Omar, it ‘focuses on freedom, at the cost of stability’.

McTaggart adds that if society wants to succeed in the long term, its people must adopt a ‘good for me, good for all’ mindset.

In other words, we must choose justice.

Hopefully this sheds light on why the theorem in Systems is summed up in the line: Choose justice and return to Liberty.

 

Postscript: Liberty (with a capital L) is different to liberty (with a lowercase l). The latter, as individualist ambition, is illusory and not really freedom at all, however it may appear in a society focused on short-term gains. Only by choosing justice can society earn authentic freedom for every individual.

The end of Systems

The Spider's House .
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*Warning*
– This post contains spoilers, and should only really be viewed by those who have read Systems.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Systems cover

On 14 January 2013, Systems will have been in print for exactly one year. For those of you who have already read it, you’ll know that at the end, Hitoshi, Aaron and Elise meet at the nightclub, intending to return to Creux Island and take down the Paragon3 computer program that is presently controlling the world, and replace it with Libredux’s code. We don’t get to see this happen, but it’s obviously implied, so the good guys have as good as won. The story has come to its proper closure.

Right?

For some of you, apparently not. A significant number of you have said that the novel’s ending was either too ambiguous or at least left sufficiently open-ended for a sequel. I’ll quote one reader word for word:

I thought it was brilliant – but I was so disappointed by the ending!

Is that how you felt? Now I don’t deny that there is an open-ended, er, ending. I borrowed the idea from Mortal Kombat, at the end of which Lui Kang defeats the sorcerer Shang Tsung and the world is saved. But just as Lui Kang leaves the temple with Raiden, Kitana, Johnny and Sonya, the evil emperor Shao Kahn suddenly appears as a giant crashing through a tower, and announces he has come for their souls. Raiden says: ‘I don’t think so.’ And the fighters all pose for the next battle.

‘You humans are so unpredictable’

Hitoshi Katayama

Hitoshi Katayama

That to me was a perfectly wrapped-up-and-yet-open-ended close to the movie, and I wanted to do something similar. So I wrapped up my story up as far as possible in the last few pages, in particular the hospital scene where Aaron and Elise discover what Hitoshi had really found at Creux Island. And at the nightclub, I ended with Hitoshi’s devilish smile to imply that the fight will go on.

But some of you said you would have liked to see the world change in a more definitive way by the end. Others were upset that Hitoshi destroyed the data from the original Systems Experiment, because it would have proved once and for all that Omar’s Libredux model proved an ideal society was possible. (Apparently, one of Hitoshi’s many lies that the Systems Experiment results were ‘inconclusive’ may have put doubt in some readers’ minds.)

I took this complaint seriously. I was concerned that I had failed to communicate the point of the ending well enough. I wrote in confidence to a friend that I was thinking of tinkering with the ending – not to change it but to extend it and clearly show that Hitoshi was similarly tinkering with the Paragon3 code, which was better than having the original data. My friend’s emphatic response:

Please, no. I liked the ending very much. The destruction of the disc is not evil because what it implied for me was that the Truth is not even dependent on one-time data. It will find some other way of manifesting itself.

Well, at least he got it. But he doesn’t count, since he also happens to be a genius. :) My instincts on this are that my original ending was right. I would never show how the world changed at the end, because that would conflict with my convictions that one should never seek to provide a ready-made blueprint of a vision for an ideal society. (Remember: Jinnah and Iqbal never provided blueprints either). But I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I have come to realise where the issue might really lie. And it’s not the Systems Experiment.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – A mirror opposite

One or two readers have compared Systems to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and I can see the resemblance. Orwell’s novel is set in a future and a dystopian world run by Big Brother. In fact, it’s set exactly 30 years before mine, which essentially begins in 2014. My fictional world is a semi-utopia that is later revealed to be a dystopia run by E3. In both novels, the bad guys deal with rebels by murdering and then writing them out of history.

The Triumvirate Committee - aka E3

The Triumvirate Committee – aka E3

Whereas Nineteen Eighty-Four has an undoubtedly tragic and pessimistic ending, Systems ends on a decidedly positive note. But in both stories, the evil rulers persist, and we don’t see them get the comeuppance they deserve. And this, it seems, is the real offending issue in Systems. It’s not the Experiment, or the data, but E3 … the appearance of E3 ultimately getting away with everything.

The penny finally dropped for me after a conversation with an academic who said she wanted to know what would happen to E3 in a sequel. I immediately thought: ‘But E3 is already doomed, once the good guys go back to Creux Island…’ And then I realised that I hadn’t explicitly stated this in the novel. Or rather, it had only been implied, and probably not clearly enough.

Know the Truth and Return to Liberty

So why wasn’t E3 finished off properly, or at least exposed? Well, aside from the fact E3 does lose (albeit after the closing pages) that isn’t even the point of the story. The end of Systems is not about the battle against an external evil, but about an inner battle … of human self-belief. That’s why it’s visionary fiction. It reaffirms a belief, in Manner’s words, ‘in all that is possible’ … what we think is ‘ideal’, but which is not only absolutely possible, but moreover necessary for our evolution. The end of Systems (see what I did there?) was to show that no matter how powerful our dictators and tyrants might seem, it’s a deception. All it takes to defeat the sorcerers is to see through the illusion. Whatever they tell us, human destiny really lies in our own hands, and unlocking our potential is a simple case of knowing it, and acting on it.

The Spider's House

A trap – but a flimsy one

Truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider’s house; if they but knew. - The Quran *

When I first started writing this post, I was going to announce my intention to change the ending. But since then, my conversations with some readers have shown me that I only need to change maybe a line. As Roz Morris has recently suggested at her blog, readers are usually right when something is wrong. But they are not always right about what is wrong.

So the ending will stay the same. Phew! But I am planning an edited edition (including that added line, obviously), with some extras …

More information will be made available on the first anniversary edition of Systems, in January 2013. Stay tuned.

* Incidentally, that Quranic quote is directly responsible for the title of Chapter 33 (The Spider’s House), and is a massive clue to the reader as to whether E3 is going to really get away in the end (especially since the Quranic ‘spider’s house’ is a literal allegory for Pharoah, Hamaan and Qaroon, the three symbols of tyranny on which E3 is based!). And Chapter 34’s title, Know the Truth, aside from being the tag line to the novel, is borrowed from the Biblical You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. That too is a clue linking Aaron and Elise’s discovery of the truth to the implications for their world … and for E3.

Can sci-fi redefine our political system?

Ballots for the world - DemocracyCompletely by accident this morning I have seen a post at the Science Fiction & Political Thought blog that briefly reviews my novel. The blog’s name is pretty self-explanatory. Its author, Dadrocant, is interested in exploring the links between sci-fi and political thought. In his latest post, ‘Can Science Fiction help us redefine our political system?‘, he mentions Systems as an example of sci-fi that questions whether or not democracy really is the best possible political system. This passage from that post caught my attention:

The center dilemma of this story lies in a social experiment simulation conducted 20 years before the events of the book, where several political systems are put to the test in a comparison, and even though there is no explanation as to what exactly the ideal system that is the center of the test [Libredux] is exactly like, it does hint at some interesting points, which can be seen today in some of the discourses from those who are discontented about the current state of affairs in western democracies …

That, of course, is the point Systems attempts to make. There is no such thing as a fixed ideal system. The distinguishing characteristic of an ideal system is that it is never fixed. That’s why you won’t find a blueprint for the Libredux model in Systems. And for any Pakistanis reading this post, this should be big clue as to why Iqbal also never offered any sort of blueprint for an ideal political system, and why even that epitome of pragmatism, Mr Jinnah, was supposedly ‘vague’ about what Pakistan’s system would be like. ;)

So, does Systems question democracy? Yes, it questions the modern democratic state – just as it questions all fixed ideologies – but not democracy in principle, which is based on both the ideals of liberty and justice. In fact, I always assumed that the Libredux model would likely be set up as some sort of democracy and evolve from there, in line with what I have said in SJ2 about ideal systems being able to develop by using any contemporary polity as a starting point. To reiterate: A ‘Libredux’ system would be one that theoretically takes the shape of almost any system, as long as it was fit to survive in the conditions of its time, and it retained its ideals (as per the theorem). Like a living organism, its body or structure can take any shape but its ethical DNA remains ultimately the same. I wrote this in an earlier draft of the manuscript for Systems – in its long-winded synopsis, actually – but it never made it into the final version of the novel. I didn’t want too much technical stuff to get in the way of the story.

The whole post on sci-fi as a medium for exploring future political systems can be found here.

René Raison – rebirth of reason

Note: I accidentally titled this ‘Rebirth of Thought’ when it should have said ‘Reason (for) Rebirth’. Corrected now. I’m half asleep today!

Note (again): It was really bugging me why I had thought ‘raison’ meant thought, so I double-checked. Turns out that when I originally chose the word ‘raison’ (some years go), I picked it for its second meaning: reason, mind. So my memory wasn’t mixed up after all. Note to self: Never second-guess yourself during a migraine!


Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Dr Muhammad Iqbal – Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

I intended to put up an entirely different post today, but will leave that for later (though that one is important too). Just wanted to mention something that has come up at the Marghdeen Learning Centre’s present course, The Wisdom of Moses, where Systems also happens to be part of its required reading list.

This week’s question was asking about what is common between two seemingly unrelated passages written by Iqbal. They are quite long so I won’t reproduce them in full here, but in short both of them mention the passage in the Quran in which there is a reference to ‘resurrection’ or ‘rebirth’.

As Iqbal quotes it:

Your creation and resurrection are like the creation and resurrection of a single soul. (31:28)

Aside from a few who believe that this is literally a reference to reincarnation on earth (and yes, I used reincarnation as a metaphor in Systems), most understand that this is a comment on the recycling of the universe (including life), and it is also a statement on the birth and rebirth of humanity as a whole, treated as a ‘single soul’. In addition, it’s saying that the fate of human society rests equally on each and every one of us. So each of us is also society (or humanity), and what every one of us does will affect its evolution.

But there is a bit more to it than even that – from Iqbal’s viewpoint. He was interested in the method for reviving society. His comments from the two aforementioned passages are as follows:

First passage: Allahabad Address: Is it possible for you to achieve the organic wholeness of a unified will? Yes, it is. … Pass from matter to spirit. Matter is diversity; spirit is light, life and unity. … One of the profoundest verses in the Holy Quran teaches us that the birth and rebirth of the whole of humanity is like the birth and rebirth of a single individual. Why cannot you … as a people, … live and move and have your being as a single individual?

Second passage: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam: A living experience of the kind of biological unity, embodied in this verse [as cited above], requires today a method physiologically less violent and psychologically more suitable to a concrete type of mind.

Now this has caused a stir over at the course. What is biological unity? What is ‘rebirth’? How do we achieve it? What does Iqbal mean when he says about society: live and move and have your being as a single individual?

Brain, mind - Two-in-one

Brain, mind – Two-in-one

The question becomes easier to answer if it is reworded: How do we reboot the mind (of society)? Obviously, through re-education, or, in biological terms, by rewiring the brain. We know how difficult it is in science to differentiate between brain and mind anyway. (Now you also know why reincarnation and psychic ability – what Hitoshi called a ‘worldwide neuron network’ – appear together in Systems.) If a society can achieve this, it will also achieve unity of collective thought – and unity of purpose. This is what the theorem (and the Systems Experiment) in the novel highlights as well (Chapter 11). Oh, and it was something I mentioned a few times in SJ2 as well, though there it was phrased ‘intellectual unity’. ;)

In other words, this is all theorem stuff again. My favourite Iqbal line, the one I call the ‘muse’ for the theorem, speaks of rendering the three intangible ideals (equality, freedom, solidarity) as ‘space-time forces':

Muse line (Reconstruction): The essence of ‘Tauhid’ [Unity of God] as a working idea is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The State … is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realise them in a definite human organisation.

As far as I understand it, there is scant difference between this passage about the ‘state’ and the ones about ‘biological’ unity. Both are describing the meaning of true Unity. It’s just the subject that differs. One is the human being; the other the political state. In fact, the muse line technically mentions both ‘state’ and the human being (‘human organisation’).

René Descartes

René Descartes

Incidentally – more trivia for you – a key location (and a chapter) in Systems was quite deliberately named René Raison dam. It was a wink and a nod to René Descartes, the father of the dualist doctrine, as well as a phrase in French –  ignoring the bad grammar. :) Literal meaning is in the title of this article, and its implication is that we need to rethink what reality means. Is it split into spirit and matter, unseen and seen, thought and material, body and mind, space and time?

Or is it Unified?

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 3: The missing principle

As SJ1’s readership grew, so did the requests for a sequel. At first I only intended to release a revised edition and call it SJ2. And yet, all sorts of new information kept cropping up on the Pakistan story. My minor list of revisions soon became a monster file of notes which couldn’t be organised except in the form of a new book.

EVOLUTION

Then between late 2006 and mid-2007, two things happened to affect both the as-yet unwritten SJ2 and Systems. First, I came up with the ‘theorem’ for the novel in a kind of eureka moment, though this had been building up for some time. As I mentioned in Part 2, before this point my ‘ideal’ system model for the fictional Systems Experiment had been nothing more than a name. This was because I’d been semi-consciously aware that a fixed system was problematic. If I described the features of this system in the fiction in detail, it might be set in stone and treated as some fixed ideology. Fictional or not, I’d instinctively known I wanted to avoid that.

Single Source PrincipleThe fact that an ideal system is never fixed (because evolution itself is a Natural Law) now registered in my conscious knowledge for the first time. This was thanks largely to my in-depth study of the Pakistan story and in particular the thoughts of Jinnah and Iqbal (in that order. Jinnah’s  intelligence and acute ethical awareness remains greatly under-appreciated even among the experts). And so all the pieces came together. The idea (it had no name at first) was very simple and based on common sense. If you assume that everything in the universe has a common starting point of some sort, and you assume that the laws of nature also have the same starting point, then all ideals have the same starting point too … in principle. And just as the universe – with its zillions of atoms and subatomic particles and other seemingly separated bits and pieces called gravity and black holes and dark matter and space and time – actually remains one in principle, then all universal ideals must really be aspects or derivatives of a single common ideal.

I also remembered my old issue with that SJ1 appendix – the two irreducible ideals of justice and freedom. As it turns out, the two really are irreducible for reasons I won’t explain here, but whilst we often treat them as separate and ultimately incompatible, they really are not. In combination they represent one ultimate principle. I would later call this the Single Source Principle (though this part of the theorem was never explained in detail in the novel). Of course to many people it’s better known as Oneness, or Unity.

DNA cross section

Computer-generated cross section of DNA, from a top-down view.

THE THEOREM

At any rate, I finally had the essence of a testable ‘theorem’ (for the fiction, at least). As I put it in Systems:

… justice and liberty are the only universal ideals; all other ethical principles are either derivatives or aspects of these ideals. But justice and liberty are themselves interconnected because they come, just like the physical universe and every law of nature, from a single source.

It seemed natural to call this relationship cohesive ethics; like a kind of ‘theory of everything’ for universal ideals. (I later tacked on the word ‘theorem’ in the novel for effect). To my mind, any social system built around the ideals of both justice and liberty together would be acting in harmony with the Natural Order and so was bound to succeed. Its exact structure – the minor details – wouldn’t matter. What would matter was its type … what it aimed for … its spirit … its ethical DNA. And by virtue of a beautiful accident, I already had the perfect name for this type of system: Libredux.

a social system with no fixed rules, except for one binding principle which could not be broken under any circumstances.

Now I had almost everything I needed for the novel. But it still wouldn’t be finished for another five years.

CONSTITUTION

Second, in around May 2007 I had some interesting correspondence with the late Pakistani parliamentarian MP Bhandara, which led to my inadvertently becoming involved with his constitutional bill to make the 11 August 1947 speech of MA Jinnah a ‘substantive’ part of Pakistan’s constitution. Again, details aren’t important (though we’ll touch on it in the next part; the whole story is in SJ2’s appendix in any case). But that experience showed me just how important a strong constitution is. It also alerted me to the fact that something extremely important might be missing in Pakistan’s constitution – something that was leaving its fundamental sections open to misinterpretation.

Next: Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series:

Introduction … Pt 1: The first book 

Pt 2: Libredux … Pt 3: The missing principle 

 

(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

How Secular Jinnah inspired Systems Part 2: Libredux

A couple of years before SJ1, I was in the middle of a personal journey that was transforming my way of thinking. Details are not important, but the result of it was that I’d learned some incredible things about the untapped potential that is present within each and every one of us. And inevitably this found expression in the novel. To an extent I was using the novel as a space to record my developing ideas, albeit in embryonic form.

Snapshot from Systems trailer

Snapshot from Systems trailer

At this time I was thinking about the possibility of an ideal society, an environment that enables us all to unlock that potential. What’s really stopping us from creating a civilization that resembles something out of Star Trek or Iqbal’s fictional world ‘Marghdeen’ in Javid Nama?

Like many Pakistanis, I’d heard about those who genuinely believed that part of the idea behind Pakistan was to create a society that would aim for the highest of ideals. At this point I didn’t know enough about it to say I had any sort of opinion about this. But it was an intriguing concept. In Pakistan of course, it hasn’t been realised to date, even if it continues to capture the imagination of Pakistan’s youth.

THE SYSTEMS EXPERIMENT

The metaphor of an ideal societyMeanwhile my novel was developing slowly. I had an idea for an experiment that would simulate history and test social systems, including an ‘ideal’ one. Computer simulations are commonly used for predicting weather patterns and observing changes in ecosystems. To my mind a social system simulation seemed perfectly feasible – more feasible, than say, trying to set up an experimental ideal society within an existing country where all sorts of practical obstacles would get in the way. A simulation would provide a controlled environment and in fact would be a more reliable test. In the novel, the Systems Experiment would prove that an ideal society was possible, and then the bad guys would go and ruin it all … as they always do. :)

The only problem was I didn’t know how to test an ideal system when I couldn’t even describe it. ‘Never mind,’ I thought. ‘It’s fiction anyway.’ Still, I did come up with a name for it: Libredux. The word means ‘return to liberty and justice’, since lib means both ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ (the latter by virtue of the Latin libra – literally, ‘balance’). That was as far as I got with the idea at this stage.

THREE MAGIC WORDS

Around this time I also happened to acquire a copy of Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. I was awed by this book, which was the first truly philosophical piece on Islam that I had ever seen. The passages that interested me most were those on the ‘unity of God’ – called Tauheed in the Quran.  Tauheed is the philosophical basis of the so-called ‘Islamic worldview’ – which treats matter and spirit as one (and not two separate things as we do in the West). One of my favourite passages from the book was:

Dr Muhammad Iqbal

Dr. Iqbal. Courtesy allamaiqbal.com

The essence of ‘Tauhid’ as a working idea is equality, solidarity, and freedom. The State, from the Islamic viewpoint, is an endeavour to transform these ideal principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realise them in a definite human organisation.

I quoted this and similar passages in SJ1 to try and explain the idealism that motivated many supporters (not all of them Muslim) of the Pakistan idea. But for a very long time, I didn’t see the connection between this passage and my word, libredux. Nor did anything click when I wrote that appendix and only listed freedom and justice as the simplest ideals. I didn’t even connect that appendix to the word libredux. (I’m a bit slow sometimes.) The obvious reason was that since I hadn’t come to the theorem yet – and since I also hadn’t realised the final value of ‘unity’ (solidarity) yet – I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Next: Pt 3: The missing principle … Pt 4 (final): Reversal

Earlier posts in this mini-series:

IntroductionPt 1: The first book … Pt 2: Libredux 

(Some images in this post are copyrighted)

Systems: What the title says

Despite having seen a lot of people get the wrong end of the stick about the title Secular Jinnah (and though I admit I let that happen on purpose), I had never thought that the title of the novel might be similarly open to misinterpretation.

Imran S Bhinder is a young Pakistani philosopher who gained notoriety after he exposed a major literary scholar for plagiarism through translation. When he heard that my novel was titled Systems, he emailed me with the comment that my choice of title was interesting, given that it has become fashionable to be anti system – or, more specifically, that philosophers tend to dismiss any concept of a system based on ‘metaphysical categories’. And that got me, because in the first place it hadn’t occurred to me that the title might appear to be advocating a particular type of system, when in fact it’s just a title on the themes of the story, and of course the Systems Experiment.

In fact he’d raised a good point and I felt it was worth mentioning here. In the Systems Experiment, five social systems are put to the test in a supercomputer simulation. Two of them, theocracy (or religious state) and monarchy (kingdoms) are the control, since they are accepted as historical failures. The next two are modern capitalist democracy and communism, which are down in the novel as the systems ‘still being tried in history’ (never mind that in real life there is a debate as to whether communism has already failed or not). The fifth is based on the Cohesive Ethics Theorem. In the novel the theorem is described as follows:

Omar believed that justice and liberty are the only universal ideals; all other ethical principles are either derivatives or aspects of these ideals. But justice and liberty are themselves interconnected because they come, just like the physical universe and every law of nature, from a single source. He called this universal relationship cohesive ethics.

The social system based on the theorem is described as:

The fifth represented Omar’s theorem in action, and it was the only one without a name. Omar wasn’t keen on giving the model a formal designation. To his mind it created the false impression that his model was offering a fixed system, when in fact dynamism was its driving force. Nevertheless for the sake of the experiment he gave his model a descriptive name: Libredux.”

So in short, the title ‘Systems’ is a reference to the experiment itself. The ‘libredux’ system is based on a metaphysical theory, but it’s not a fixed ideology. And whereas metaphysics is generally treated as something that cannot be tested in a lab, in this story the Systems Experiment is an empirical test for the theorem.

By the way, any resemblance to the idea that Pakistan was a ‘laboratory’ is completely coincidental. (What do you mean, you don’t believe me?)

Note: There is a page coming (not too difficult, I promise) to explain the idea behind the theorem. I’ll update this post when it’s ready.