Wednesday, January 18, 2023

 Frequent plane crashes

On the 15th of January, on Maghe Sankranti, a passenger plane carrying 72 people crashed near the newly inaugurated Pokhara International Airport. I am not an aviation expert, but what I have heard from some informal witnesses' reports suggests that the pilot diverted the plane to the gorge to save a human settlement because of engine failure. When we think of the plane crash in 2023, it feels like it is a dark spot regarding technological advancements.


Nepal has a history of frequent plane crashes, with several factors contributing to the high rate of accidents. One of the other high-profile crashes occurred in March 2018, when a US-Bangla Airlines plane carrying 71 people crashed while attempting to land at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport. The crash, which killed 51 people, was found to be the result of pilot error and poor communication between the pilots and air traffic controller.


These incidents, along with several other crashes and near-misses in recent years, have raised serious concerns about the safety of air travel in Nepal. The country's small and poorly-maintained airports and lack of proper safety regulations and oversight have been identified as major contributing factors to the high number of crashes.


The government has taken steps to address these issues, including upgrading infrastructure at airports and implementing stricter safety regulations. However, many experts believe that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of air travellers in Nepal.


One major issue is the lack of proper aircraft maintenance; many crashes were caused by poor maintenance of the planes, and pilot error, often due to a lack of adequate training. In addition, many of the airlines in Nepal are small, and they often need more resources to maintain their aircraft correctly. This can lead to mechanical failures and equipment malfunctions.


One major factor is the challenging terrain in Nepal. This further exacerbates the problem of inadequate safety measures. Despite these challenges, it is essential to note that air travel is still the most efficient and reliable way to travel within Nepal, especially in the remote areas. But the government and the related authorities need to improve the safety measures and the airlines to avoid frequent plane crashes.
The government and the aviation industry must proactively address the safety issues in Nepal's air travel if it ever wants to get out of the EU air safety blacklist. By investing in better training, equipment and infrastructure, the government can help to ensure the safety of air travelers in Nepal and help prevent future plane crashes.

 

Published: The Himalayan Times
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Thursday, January 12, 2023

ChatGPT: And the rise of artificial intelligence

Welcome. We are now in 2023. Last year in 2022, in a recent television interview after the Nepali general election results, the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he was surprised by the election results and the leading cause. And he said, "We cannot win the election just by stating we are working on making big infrastructure projects and political agendas for the country, but it seems we win if we have enriched the IT sector and know how to use social media better".

It is good that our Nepali politicians are now talking about the importance of the IT sector, digitalisation and the rise of social media in our country. ChatGPT is one AI-based viral IT project recently launched by OpenAI, an AI research and deployment company which has caught the Internet by storm. ChatGPT is the best chatbot released to the general public, with over a million people using it within five days.

ChatGPT and the rise of AI is a new hotcake, and people from Twitterverse to Youtube and social media are talking about this now.

In addition, there is a chatter that people's jobs are at stake and may impact various sectors, from the public, judiciary, journalism, human rights to health and agriculture, among many other industries and vertical sectors.

ChatGPT can write an article and is good at answering questions you can commonly ask, giving suggestions and predictions about who will win the next elections. It can also help software programmers spot and fix errors in their code.

The next wave in IT is artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, most chatbots we see are mainly "stateless", meaning they don't comprehend previous questions, e.g., your Siri in Apple iPhone or Alexa from Amazon. However, ChatGPT seems to remember the prior conversation, which may lead to innovation and a boom in Personalized Stress and Therapy Bots.

ChatGPT could be better, but currently, it is not perfect. The ChatGPT doesn't crawl the web for information, and its knowledge is restricted to things it learned before 2021, as a large language model is trained by OpenAI. Its training data include books, articles and websites on various topics.

Therefore, it has yet to have information about recent events or developments since then. It also cannot browse the Internet as it cannot provide information by looking up specific information. So expect it to answer questions only in its training data.

Research conducted by The Accenture Institute for High Performance shows that by 2035, the US will grow by 5 per cent compared to the present 3 per cent because of the use of AI technologies. However, in the Nepali market, only a few companies are working in the AI sector (for example, waiter robots).We have yet to move to avoid long queues or go paperless in public sectors, and there is a shortage of "digitalisation" in most public and private sectors.

Nepal needs more policy-level intervention in AI, but using AI-based technologies in banks and health sectors shows that Nepal is still catching up in technological advancements. Nevertheless, we may benefit from the rise of AI and must adopt our policy accordingly by investing in this emerging field.

There are many forms of AI, and the exact number can vary depending on how AI is defined and classified.

Some common forms of AI include machine learning, natural language processing and robotics. Machine learning is a type of AI that involves training algorithms on large datasets to make predictions based on the data. This can include image recognition, speech recognition and language translation. Natural language processing is a type of AI that involves understanding and generating human language. This can include language translation, text summarisation and sentiment analysis.

Robotics is a type of AI that involves the design and control of robots. This can include tasks such as navigation, manipulation and object recognition. There are also many other subfields and applications of AI, such as computer vision, deep learning and evolutionary computation. The field of AI is constantly evolving and growing.

The AI that ChatGPT uses is based on unsupervised and semi-supervised machine learning algorithms, incredibly generative AI models that are diverse. For example, they can take images, longer text formats, emails, social media content, voice recordings, programme code and structured data. In addition, they can output new content, translations, answers to questions, sentiment analysis, summaries, and even videos.

AI is a powerful technology that has the potential to improve many aspects of our lives, such as healthcare, transportation and education. However, AI has limitations and can only solve some of humanity's challenges where sustainability is the key.

One of the critical limitations of AI is how good the quality of data and algorithms it is trained on is. This means that AI systems can only make predictions based on the information they have been given. Another limitation of AI is that it is incapable of creativity, empathy or other uniquely human traits. AI systems are designed to perform specific tasks, and they cannot think outside the box or understand complex human emotions.

A coalition of the CPN (Maoist), CPM(UML) and the National Independent Partyhas now formed a new government. Good that our politicians and policymakers are also starting to talk about using digital technology. The sooner they realise the rise of "digitalisation" and the importance of the IT sector's role, the better it can boost the economy and provide better service delivery in Nepal.

Overall, while AI has the potential to help us solve many problems, it is only capable of solving some of humanity's challenges on its own. Therefore, it is essential to use AI responsibly and in combination with other technologies and approaches to achieve the best results.


Published: The Himalayan Times
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

 What a game

On December 18th, Argentina made history by becoming the champions after winning against France for the first time since 1986. Captain cool and popularly called "goat", led by superstar Lionel Messi, the team battled its way through the tournament, eventually edging out France in a thrilling match that ended in a penalty kick-out win 4-2.


The entire country of Argentina will now celebrate the World Cup's victory, as the team was seen as underdogs when they lost the game against Saudi Arabia.


The tournament was a roller coaster for the team, which had to overcome several tough opponents, including powerhouse Netherlands and Croatia. But Argentina was able to rise to the challenge and ultimately emerged victorious.


Messi has recreated history in Argentina Football with about a thousand games, 789 goals and 300 assists by winning the La Liga, UEFA Champions League, Olympics Gold, Copa America, and finally, FIFA World Cup 2022.


 


Kylian Mbappe, who is only 23 years old and has scored 12 world goals in 14 games, is the sixthhighest men's World Cup scorer He scored their first hat-trick in the men's final since 1966 and almost led France to the back-to-back title in the final World Cup match.


There may be no winners or losers in the final match as both teams in the Qatari desert showed incredible play, one of the greatest games ever played. France had the better play for much of the second half of the game, and it seemed like they were on track to win the World Cup. Mbappe's penalty kick-out in the extra minute changed everything, sending both countries' supporters into a frenzy.


There was a lot of noise about Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, and Modric's last World Cup, but who can forget it was also Angel Di Maria's final World Cup? It may be Messi's last game of the World Cup, and Argentina's performance showed there is always hope, and dreams do come true.


The victory is crucial to Argentina, as it is a chance for the country to unite and celebrate something that had been a long time in coming.


Football is a team game, and it is not the individual who wins the matches. In addition, football teaches vital life lessons, such as discipline, perseverance and sportsmanship.


Congratulations to Argentina's World Cup victory, which will be remembered for years. The team's victory is a sign of hope for the future and the upcoming New Year, 2023 — a moment that will be remembered for generations to come.

 

Published: The Himalayan Times
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

No place called home

The term "Sukumbasi" does not directly translate to homelessness; however, it is often used pejoratively for "people living in slums". In general terms, homelessness is a growing problem in Nepal. With the country's population increasing and its economy struggling, more and more people are being forced to be homeless.

According to a recent informal report, an estimated 200,000 people are homeless in Nepal. The causes of homelessness in Nepal are complex and interrelated.

Many inhabitants and people live near the Bagmati riverbank without proper homes and mainly in slums. Poverty and economic inequality are the primary culprits of homelessness.

In addition, a lack of access to education and employment opportunities and limited access to health care contribute to the problem. Other factors include gender-based discrimination, displacement due to natural disasters or conflict, and the country's civil war effects.


 

 

Homelessness is a complex and persistent problem in Nepal, and it is essential that all levels of society – from the government to individuals – work together to address this global challenge. There is an urgent need for more resources, including housing, jobs and health care, as well as targeted measures to reduce poverty and inequality.

To address this issue, it is essential to understand the root causes of homelessness. Many people are homeless due to poverty, unemployment and displacement due to natural disasters or civil conflict.

One solution to this issue is to provide safe and affordable housing for people who are homeless. This could include building shelters or providing access to existing housing. Additionally, it is crucial to provide access to essential services, such as healthcare, sanitation and education. This will ensure that homeless people can access and get the resources they need to live healthy lives.

Another solution is to create job opportunities for those who are homeless. This could include setting up job training and placement programmes and providing access to microloans for starting a business.

Additionally, government programmes such as food stamps and other social safety nets could be used to help those in need.

Finally, it is crucial to provide resources and support to homeless people. This could include providing access to mental health services, addiction treatment, and other forms of support. By providing access to safe and affordable housing, essential services, job opportunities, and resources and support, it is possible to make a difference for those who are homeless in Nepal.

 

Published: The Himalayan Times
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Monday, November 7, 2022

The Fall


I was reading a short novel by I Camus, "The Fall", which immediately started me to question a visualisation portrayed in the book when Camus sees a crying young woman on the bridge, and he passes by her. The young woman is alone and watches him pass by. He hesitates to turn his head back to her. Finally, after some time, he turns his head and tries to look back at the young woman but cannot see her on the bridge.


The gist of this short story is clear: life may seem absurd; however, never be afraid to talk to someone. Recently, there have been many reported cases of people jumping and committing suicide from the Narayani Bridge in Chitwan, which is alarming. Over August this year, there were reported cases of more than five such incidents where people jumped off the Narayani Bridge. The suicide rate in the country is slowly on the rise. According to some informal estimates, the suicide rate has escalated by 72 per cent in a decade, where about 19 people commit suicide almost every day.


 


WHO reports that more than 700,000 people die of suicide across the globe every year. In addition, the UN says one in four people worldwide is affected by mental health problems, and about 450 million people currently have a mental disorder.


I will not go deeper into the minds of those people having hard times in their lives and the causes behind them. However, you may already be aware that there could be many reasons behind these upticks: mental health, neurological disorder, substance abuse, emotional turmoil, loneliness, chronic diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic woes, migration, urbanizations, and social and financial misbalance, and so on.


There are no easy solutions to suicide and mental health problems, and the suicide solution song by Ozzy Osbourne, which goes "Wine is fine, but whiskeys quicker. Suicide is slow with liquor. Take a bottle, drown your sorrow. Then it floods away tomorrows...", is not going to help either. We don't live in a perfect world. We live in a fragile and sometimes meaningless world where reality is questioned.
Some even question our very existence and argue that we may live in a simulation where there has been a debate about the nature of our reality. As a result, life is hard and killing yourself or feeling like things will never get better may not be the solution.


In conclusion, I argue that, as Camus claims in his novel, men are guilty of something. We are guilty not only of our actions but of our inactions or failure to act. Crimes we fail to stop are just as much our fault as those we commit ourselves. Hopefully, in our general election, we will elect someone who will make mental health issues their priority, not with words but with action.

 

Published: The Himalayan Times (THT)
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

Monday, October 10, 2022

End of our world?

We mark Dashain and Tihar to celebrate the victory of good over evil. But, on the other side of this world, the West and Russia may start a nuclear or winter war, which would be devastating for the new world order after all the COVID-19 sufferings.


The other day, I checked Twitter, and no wonder "World War III" was trending. We live amid this new world order and geo-political crisis. While listening to one of my friend's podcasts, he mentioned that we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. Something fishy is happening in this new world order, and it feels heavy what's happening elsewhere.


Recently, the Nord Stream gas pipeline was blasted by an unknown country, and this is the beginning of a "hybrid war" between the West and Russia. And Germany is bracing for an unthinkable scenario - an "energy crisis".


 


Europe is living in difficult times with the Ukraine war still continuing. In addition, there were persistent heatwaves across several countries in Europe. Those heatwaves killed people, and thousands of ordinary people died. Yet several months have passed since the Ukraine war, and Russia is not budging. Instead it has annexed large territories of Ukraine.


Just a few days ago, Putin threatened the West with its tactical nuclear bomb if the West kept interfering in his "special military operation".


Russian President Putin is closely watching what the free world leaders are doing with their strategic, political and so-called "democratic values". No wonder he does not care about the Western sanction, which has failed. All this has resulted in high inflation, and rising food and gas prices can be seen and felt everywhere worldwide, including in our homes.


And Finland and Sweden are in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) ratification process. NATO, however, does not represent only the world power of several developed countries. When its members get involved in a war between two countries, supplying weapons, resources, money, soldiers, and all unseen support, they are also at war with another country without being on "enemy" territory. As a result, it feels as if World War III has already started.


I am unsure if democracy is failing us as the winter approaches or if our discontent will lead to World War III. On the other hand, it looks like as if the free world's leaders are intent on escalating this situation against Russia and China. The very fact that we are flirting with a nuclear conflict with Russia is dangerous, and yet there has been no effort to avoid it in practical ways. Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," and if a nuclear war were to begin that will be the end of this world as we know it.

 

Published: The Himalayan Times (THT)
Nepal's leading daily newspaper

 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Dengue spreads in cities

A European friend wanted to travel to Kathmandu a few months ago when I accidentally met him in a doctor's clinic where he was taking precautionary medicine and injection for dengue and malaria. It is a well-known fact that Dengue cases are rising in the Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere.


Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease, is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito with four types: DENV-1 to DENV-4. The identical infected mosquito is also reported to transmit chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika viruses based on reports by the WHO. The incubation period of dengue is between 3-10 days, showing very little or no symptoms like fever, digestive problems, and fatigue. Therefore, it seems that dengue cannot spread directly from person to person, like the COVID virus. However, someone infected can infect mosquitoes, which can infect another human. According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, almost forty per cent of the world's population lives in areas at risk of dengue with over 100 countries.


 


Climate plays one of the crucial drivers of the current distribution and incidence of dengue. However, dengue in Nepal is found regardless of climate and weather situations. Dengue is not necessary to spread because of the monsoon season, but the country has also seen the spread in pre- and post-monsoon seasons. Based on the data from EDCD (Epidemiology and Disease Control Division), dengue cases are rising and have been reported in more than sixty districts this year alone. Besides climate, there are other socioeconomic factors at play as well. Examples include unplanned urbanisation, travel, increase in breeding sites, intensive farming, dams, irrigation, poor housing in urban areas and improper solid waste management.


Several campaigns against dengue from 2010 onwards have not been very effective because of a lack of active public participation. Raising awareness and allocating a budget is one thing, but the actual implementation must come from people and the community. Unfortunately, our typical Nepalese nature is not to take things seriously until they battered us.


It isn't easy to eliminate Aedes mosquitoes because of their adaptive nature. However, introducing an "early warning system" can be used to predict and prevent dengue outbreaks with public health interventions. The awareness campaign can start in schools where learners can be taught effective mosquito and repellent strategies. Some preventive measures can include: keeping water containers adequately covered to prevent mosquitoes from entering, regularly cleaning spaces where water is logged and becomes a breeding ground, wearing clothes with full sleeves, or regularly cleaning nearby areas where mosquito eggs might be rotting.

 

Published: The Himalayan Times
Nepal's leading daily newspaper