|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.
|Kevin Warwick: This prof takes his subject
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
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
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
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.
There could be rebellion by humans against cyborgs
and other technological upgrades. There could be rebellion by cyborgs
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.