NOV. 10, 2002
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Q&A: Anshu Jain
The London-based Anshu Jain, Head of Deutsche Bank's Global Markets division and member of the bank's Group Executive Committee, was in Mumbai for a day recently. He spoke to BT about trends in global debt markets, banks' appetite for coprorate risk, derivatives and the implications for India.

Travel Agent Blues
India's big travel agents are feeling the heat. Commissions are getting squeezed, even as big-ticket travel-overseas particularly-is suffering. So, how are the travel biggies coping? Innovations. Ever paid a consultancy fee for your holiday advice? Better get used to it.

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Business Today,  October 27, 2002
Horse Trading
Batra Hospitality's sale of Centaur to Sahara could deal another blow to the already condemned disinvestment programme.
Sahara supremo, Subroto Roy: Why didn't he buy it off GOI?

This is the last thing the embattled disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie needed, but there it is. An ungainly controversy that will add several decibels to the anti-disinvestment voices. Batra Hospitality, which only in June this year snapped up the Centaur Hotel near the Airport in Mumbai for Rs 83 crore, has apparently sold the five-star property to Sahara Group for a steep Rs 115 crore, walking away with a profit of Rs 32 crore.

Understandably, both the critics of disinvestment and the disinvestment ministry itself are miffed. For, in effect, what's happened is that the government-or Air India, whose subsidiary Hotel Corporation of India (HCI) owns the Centaur hotels-has been stiffed. An enraged HCI has declared the sale illegal, but it's not clear if it has any locus standi, since the deal was full and final. Says a senior Ministry official: ''When we have sold the property lock, stock, and barrel to a private party, how can we prevent him from selling it to a new buyer?''

Still, there's a lesson the ministry seems to have learnt. Future disinvestment deals, BT learns, will have a specific no-sale period. If the buyer sells it in that period, he would have to share part of the profits with the government. Makes sense, but expect the private sector to cry foul.

Cyborg 1.0

Kevin Warwick: This prof takes his subject seriously

All mergers, some say, are takeovers. What about a man-machine merger? Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, UK, is the Brave New World's first prototype. A cyborg. In 1998, he had a chip surgically embedded in his arm that beeped his id to other machines. In 2002, he implanted a 'microelectrode array' linked to his nervous system that allows computers to not only read his neuro-signals, but stimulate them as well. Cyborgs, he wagers, will leave hapless humans behind. Here he is, speaking to BT's and .

Are you an exponent of free will or predestination?

Hmmm... I'm somewhere in the middle. As an individual, I think that individuals-we're talking about humans-have free will, but that free will comes from genetics, if you like, which is partly predestination, and from what they've learnt-experience, which you could say is predestination. If I decide anything, it's based on what I've experienced or based on genes. So, in a sense, I've not got free will if I knew exactly what my experiences were in life. But we never do so practically, therefore we call it free will.

But what's your stand as a cyborg?

It's the same fuzzy answer. I don't think it makes any difference other than looking at the cyborg being mentally half-human and half-machine. The machine part's free will depends on the robot-is it purely a programmed machine? Is it just surfing the web for information for the human part? Or has it learnt itself particular things?

Are market forces taking us to this cyborg society that you envision?

Very rapidly... intelligent machines, most definitely. In the military domain, the Americans have clearly laid out a picture: by 2020, no body bags. Which means completely autonomous fighting machines. Pilotless fighter planes are already being used.

I don't know if most political concerns have longer-term issues at heart. This is exemplified by the US at the moment, in terms of not worrying too much about energy resources. Most political democracies look short-term because they need to be re-elected. And 'Should we have cyborgs or not?' is a 10-20-year issue.

But do you see the human race as wanting to 'evolve' in this direction?

Yes. We're not content to stay as we are. We want to keep moving forwards. That's how it is. There might be a revolution, and somebody else comes to power, and the US is not the most powerful nation. But at the moment, that looks far less likely than the speed at which we're going in the direction of intelligent machines.

Will computer programming replace social programming of human beings?

Oh no... no. I think computer programming is a part of social programming, and social programming can dictate and target computer programming. The two go hand in hand. But all technology depends on social acceptance.

Do individualism, rebellion and iconoclasm have a future in the cyborg world?

Rebellion, yes. Individualism, yes. I mean you're looking at human nodes on an intelligent machine network. So, as cyborgs, we still have our individual human elements, but we have this common machine element which we'd all communally appreciate.

And iconoclasm?

There could be rebellion by humans against cyborgs and other technological upgrades. There could be rebellion by cyborgs against humans.

Iconoclasm? Humans have always had their icons-all different societies, groups. There's nothing to suggest that cyborgs wouldn't. But it's difficult to see why they would as well. So I think that one, the cyborgs will decide.