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Chapter 6 - Part 4 - Seminar, Madras - 31st December 1982 - ‘Intelligence, Computers and the Mechanical Mind’
Chapter 6 - Part 4 - Seminar, Madras - 31st December 1982 - ‘Intelligence, Computers and the Mechanical Mind’
Asit Chandmal: Sir, for the last two and a half years we have been talking about computers, the way they are progressing and the impact technology could have on the human mind and, therefore, the species. We have discussed its sociological impact and whether the computer can ever be like the human mind. The Government and the top computer scientists of Japan have decided to create a computer which will replicate the processes of the human brain and they have earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars for this project. They call it the fifth generation of computers. They say that they will do it by 1990 and that the computer will speak and understand many languages. Now, the problem they are facing is this: They don’t know what is intelligence.
There is enough knowledge about the hardware with which computers are built. The brain is matter made up of hydrogen, carbon and other molecules and it operates essentially as an electrical circuit and through chemical reactions. The computer is made of silicon molecules and it also operates essentially as a collection of electrical circuits of chips. So they can now make these chips smaller and smaller and faster and faster, they can put away more memory, more logic, than human beings ever can. They can put in a tremendous amount of logic circuits, but still the computer cannot, does not respond the way a human being does because it thinks out things sequentially; it cannot perceive immediately, it can’t work in parallel.
So they say that if we can understand how the human mind works, we can simulate it in a computer. They admit they do not understand the human mind, the brain or intelligence. They say in order to understand intelligence, we must understand the thinking process, because then we could understand intelligence. They also do not understand how creativity operates. What is creativity? Most people say that the human mind has the ability to make a leap. So they are looking into what is intelligence and what is the thinking process and what is creativity because they feel that if they can understand this, they can reproduce it in a computer and that will give it intelligence and creativity. And you are saying that intelligence has nothing to do with thought. We know only the thinking process and they are going to find out about that and put it into a computer.
K: You are almost certain they will do it?
A.C.: They call it a major attack on the unknown, which is the mind, and they say this is our perception of the future – future industry, future technology and all that. The Americans are very worried about it. So IBM, all of them, are putting hundreds of millions of dollars in similar research.
K: The Americans are doing it too!
A.C.: There is an organization in America which most people don’t know about, the National Security Agency. It has ten square miles covered with computers. It is so big it has its own university. It has more PhD’s than all the universities in Europe, all geared towards defence work. They are also working on such computers but they don’t get publicity. There is an incredible amount of money, and highly educated specialists are working on creating a machine which will perform like the human mind. So what I want to ask you is this: If they succeed in doing this, then as I see it, the present human mind has to eventually die out: it is obsolete; it cannot compete. In terms of evolution, it can’t survive. So what is our response to this? Then again, if the present human mind is different from merely being a thinking machine, what is the difference? Is it creativity, is it intelligence, and if so, then what is creativity and what is intelligence? So shall we take the first question sir: Are our minds merely programmed thinking machines, are our minds mechanical?
K: Where do we start in discussing, in exploring this?
A.C.: I think we should start from the way we actually operate in our daily life. All action is based on thought and thought is a material process. It seems to me fairly clear that such a mind has to die out because it will be replaced by superior technology.
K: Would you differentiate between the mind and the brain or would you only use the word ‘mind’ to convey the wholeness of the human mind?
A.C.: I am using the word ‘mind’ in terms of what a human being is. He has a brain with thought, emotions and all the reactions.
K: So you are using the word ‘mind’ in the sense that it includes all the reactions, emotions, remembrances, the confusion, desire, pleasure, sorrow, affection. If all that is the mind, then what is the relationship between that and the brain?
A.C.: What do you mean by the brain ?
K: Is that brain an individual brain, or a result of the entire evolutionary process of the human being?
A.C.: Physically, it is a separate brain. But are you saying that the cells in my brain or someone else’s brain have the same content?
K: Is the brain, which has evolved, my brain or the brain of this tremendous evolution?
A.C.: It is obviously evolution.
K: So it is not my brain; not my thinking. It is thinking. Whether it is a poor man or a rich man or a professor, it is thinking. You may think differently, I may think differently, but it is still thinking. Are you saying then that thinking is an integral part of the brain?
A.C.: It seems to be.
K: That is, that thinking has created all the human problems as well as technological problems. And thinking is trying to solve those problems and finds that it cannot.
A.C.: And it says that it cannot because I am not thinking well enough.
K: Thinking itself says that: It is general to all mankind, whether it is the top scientist or the poor ignorant villager, and that thinking has created war, division of people, churches, temples, mosques. It has created all those divisions and it tries to create one god, who is not divisible. In human relationship thought has created problems and it has not solved them. It cannot because thought itself is limited. Thought is the result of experience, knowledge, memory. Knowledge is never complete. Therefore, thought can never be complete.
As knowledge is limited, thought must be limited, and that limited thought creates the problems. All limitations must create problems and then that very thought which has created the problem tries to solve the problem. So it cannot solve the problem.
A.C.: Are you saying that problems are created because knowledge is limited and the instruments of knowledge are limited?
K: And thought is limited because of knowledge.
A.C.: Are you saying that thought is limited because it has not been able to know everything?
K: Thought is the result of vast experience, memory, all that. You have seen the computer. It is a form of computer which has had a great deal of experience, a great deal of knowledge, and thought and knowledge are limited.
P.J.: What is the distinction between thought and mind?
K: They are both the same movements.
A.C.: In other words, you are saying that all new knowledge is essentially contained in the old knowledge and is a result of thought.
K: Of course. All knowledge is the result of thought.
A.C.: Are you saying that discovering a new thing in physics or mathematics is not creativity; is the same limited knowledge increasing?
K: Look, we must keep creation out for the moment, for it may have different meaning to you or to her. Let us be clear; all knowledge is limited. Scientists are adding; that will go on for the next thousand years, but still whatever is being added to must be limited because there is always something more to be added.
A.C.: Is it limited at any given point of time?
K: Of course. So, knowledge must always go with ignorance. Thought is born of knowledge. If you have no knowledge, you wouldn’t think. You may reach a total state of amnesia or whatever it is called; you will be completely blank.
A.C.: As you are saying that all knowledge is limited, I have to ask this question of creativity as we know it. Today, if somebody composes a new symphony or writes a new equation in physics, would you say that it is not creativity in the true sense?
K: I won’t call that creativity. I may be wrong. I am not laying down the law.
A.C.: In that case, sir, you are in fact saying that our minds, as we know them and as they operate in our daily life, are entirely mechanical. In which case, that is what the Japanese are going to do – build a computer which has a vast storehouse of knowledge, and an extremely ‘intelligent’, logical – deductive and inductive – brain much better than the human brain. So, what happens to our brain?
P.J.: The human mind – which Krishnaji says is both the individual mind and the mind of mankind – has itself been a storehouse for the mind of mankind to probe into and draw out of. The memory bank of the computer can never be the memory bank of the racial mind.
A.C.: Why do you say that?
Q: The racial mind is the result of evolution. So, in a sense, while all the options within it may still be limited, all the options of the memory of mankind are available to it.
A.C.: It may have more options, more memory than the computer, but essentially it is still doing the same thing – operating out of memory and knowledge.
K: Of course, of course.
A.C.: Computer scientists are saying that we can put a much vaster storehouse of knowledge in the computer by networking computers, etc. Now, superficially, that is true; no human being can remember everything in the encyclopaedia. So, outwardly, the memory of the computer is much better. In a much deeper sense, since it does not have subconscious or racial memories, the human brain can have much more access to knowledge and more memory, but it is still the same thing – access to more memory.
K: Yes, sir, move from there.
A.C.: And you say any act of that mind is not creative including the composing of symphonies, Einstein’s discovery, writing poetry – none of that. It is all a projection of knowledge, memory, may be just permutations and combinations.
K: Of course, of course.
A.C.: The moment you accept that, the computer will definitely become superior to man, the human mind, in this function.
A.P.: What you say is tantamount to saying that the evolutionary process of the brain has come to an end.
A.C.: That is correct.
A.P. Now, I question this.
A.C.: I am saying that the mind as it is, the brain as it is, has come to an end because that particular brain is going to be replaced by a brain, the computer, which can perform these functions.
A.P.: This is just a hypothesis.
A.C.: It is not a hypothesis. Already it is performing a lot of functions far better than the human mind. It can’t do all of them, so they are working on that. Why should you believe that matter made of hydrogen and carbon molecules is inherently superior to something made of silicon molecules or that the human brain’s electrical circuits are inherently and forever superior to those of computers?
K: Achyutji, Asit, would you agree on one point – that the computer has a cause as the human brain has a cause? Then what has a cause, has an end. Now, is there something which is causeless? If there is such a thing as a movement which is causeless, that is creation.
R.R.: What you are saying is that there is an extraordinary mind.
K: No I have not gone into it, yet. After forty or fifty thousand years, we have reached this point – the brain. The computer has reached this point. Between the two, there is not much difference; both are created by thought.
A.P.: I am not willing to concede that that which the human brain has created has come into total possession of all the faculties of its creator: Is that what you are saying, Asit?
K: No, sir. He does not say that. The computer cannot see the stars and look at the beauty of the stars.
R.R.: But it can simulate it.
K: Of course. But it hasn’t the perception of the human eye looking at the heavens and saying what a marvellous night this is.
R.R.: Why do you concede that point, Asit?
A.C.: I did not concede it. In fact, they can simulate all that.
K: Of course, they can simulate it.
R.R.: Are you saying that because emotions are also the result of sensory perception and thought?
K: Is there a perception which is not the product of thought?
A.C.: Does the human mind have such a thing?
K: Probably not.
A.C.: The computer hasn’t got it either. But they will have in twenty or thirty years’ time – the computer will be superior to human beings.
K: Of course, I am inclined to agree with you.
P.J.: I am inclined to question you, sir.
A.P.: If we observe the human mind which has gone into the making of the computer, you are assuming that it has exhausted its potential by creating the computer: Having created, having given birth to the baby, the mother dies. That is what you are saying.
K: No, no.
A.P.: I refuse to accept it.
A.C.: Why do you refuse to accept it? Having given birth to nuclear weapons... those weapons will wipe out human beings.
A.C.: So, having given birth to computers which are now designing and making new computers which will make better and faster computers, why do you say that they won’t be able to destroy man who has made them?
R.R.: And even if they did not destroy, why cannot the baby have all the potentialities of the mother?
Rupert Sheldrake: So why do I need, the Japanese need, all the top computer scientists and the Japanese Government and twenty-five international companies need, to produce these computers if computers can already do it?
A.C.: This is the target. Computers cannot already do it.
R.S.: The fact is, it is a target but it is nothing. Alchemists for the past so many years have tried to create gold but they have failed. We are talking about what amounts to in the mind as fantasy.
A.C.: Do you know what they are trying to do? Genetic scientists have got together with computer scientists. They are saying, why are you using silicon? The human brain has hydrogen and carbon molecules. So let us take hydrogen and carbon molecules, let us use brain cells to make computers: Another approach is: Our genes are programmed so that some cells become an eye, others become the nose and so on. If you can break that genetic code, you could programme it to become a brain or a computer. There is a lot of research going on in that.
R.S.: I know about this research. I regard that as fantasy too, because I think the whole thing is based on false premises about the nature of the brain, about the nature of life and so on. But this would be sidetracking the main issue. I think
I would rather come back to the point that in relation to producing bigger and better computers which may supersede certain powers of human beings, what is involved is human activity, call it thought or whatever you like. And these computers are the product of human activity. There is no doubt that many things human beings make exceed human capacities, but there is a limit. Machines can do many things which human beings can’t do. Nevertheless, they are the products of human beings and it seems to me unlikely that in any sense these things would supersede human beings. They may supersede particular faculties of human beings.
A.C.: What are the things they will not be able to supersede?
R.S.: They have not yet superseded the ability to invent the fifth generation of computers.
A.C.: Yes, but the Japanese cannot do it without computers. It is being done by the Japanese and by computers. And, if you actually measure it, perhaps 20 per cent of the effort will be human, 80 per cent will be that of the computer.
R.S.: Well, everything we do today in the modern world is aided by machine.
A.C.: What is it in a human being that you think cannot be done by machines in the next twenty-five or fifty years?
R.S.: Well, it is a subject which we are now coming to – creativity. Let us take a smaller point – humour. And one of the most striking things is that most of us are not behaving like desiccated calculating machines. Most people lead their lives with a certain sense of humour. You see people laughing about all sorts of things. I have never seen a computer laugh.
A.C.: If you heard the computer laugh, would you accept that it can do what human beings can?
R.S.: No. You can get a tape recorder to laugh.
A.C.: What will convince you?
A.C.: You have made up your mind.
R.S.: I am prejudiced.
A.C.: Why are you prejudiced? If you see a baby, you will say that the baby will be capable, when it grows, of doing a lot of things which computers cannot do. But if a group of people design a new type of computer, you will say a priori that computers will never be able to do what the baby can do. Why? What is it in that baby that persuades you?
R.S.: You see, there are a lot of things which we recognise and understand directly without being able to put everything into explicitly stored-up recognition programmes. I can recognise many different kinds of flowers, trees and animals. If I have to say how I recognise them, what is it that makes me recognize them, it will be very difficult for me to tell you. I think it will be difficult for you, too.
K: But, sir, when you recognize, it is based on memory.
A.C.: They are working on pattern recognition. There is tremendous research going into it today. Computers are beginning to recognise some things visually.
R.S.: But there is a certain intuitive sense.
A.C.: What is intuition?
R.S.: It is notoriously difficult to say what intuition is.
A.C.: It is just a word. Unless you know what it means, you cannot use that word.
R.S.: No. You don’t have to be able to spell out in mathematical formula whatever words mean.
A.C.: Spell it out in words. What is intuition?
R.S.: Intuition is grasping something more, seeing something more, insight into something which involves a direct kind of knowledge which does not have to go through a process of words, thought and action.
A. C.: How do you know it has not gone through the process of word or thought? It could have done it subconsciously in your mind, the brain has been working on it, and it emerges instantaneously, and you call it intuition. It does not mean that it has not gone through the process of thought.
R.S.: It may have gone through such processes. If, for everything I say, you are going to postulate hidden processes...
A.C.: I am not postulating.
R.S.: Yes, you are.
P.J.: Sir, the problem seems to be that if the brain is a closed circuit only, then what Asit says is true. But the ‘but’ comes in because the whole reason for our being here is, can there be an acceleration of the very capacity of the brain so that it ceases to be a process? Is the brain a closed circuit?
R.S.: The trouble is, it takes a long time to answer these questions. I have my own theory about biology which would deny most of these basic premises. You see, the conventional theory of biology, including the conventional theory of the brain, starts from the assumption that there are simply mechanical, chemical or physical processes within the organism. Now, only 99 per cent of biology is based on this assumption, and therefore, the kind of language in which we speak is based on that kind of thinking.
I disagree with the assumption, firstly, that the brain is a closed circuit. Secondly, that it works entirely mechanically or chemically or electrically and so on. So, I think we have a theory of life which says that living organisms are nothing but machines, and then we have a theory which says it has nothing to do with machines. Why can’t we model them by machines? This is the basis of your argument, and it seems quite reasonable on the face of it, but there are a number of assumptions.
P.J.: He posited three things: Whether the brain as it is today is a closed circuit; what is intelligence; and what creativity is.
A.C.: I didn’t say the brain was a closed circuit.
K: May I ask a question, sir? Would you consider that the brain has infinite capacity? Don’t say ‘no’ right away. Let us use the word ‘capacity’. I don’t like the word ‘capacity’ because for us capacity is educated knowledge and all that. But if I can use that word, the brain has infinite capacity. Look what it has done in the technological world, including the computer.
A.C.: You can’t say that thought is limited and then say that the brain has infinite capacity.
K: Yes, I am going to come to that. Thought has limited the brain, has conditioned the brain. Would you agree? I am a Hindu, I believe in all the superstitions, all the nonsense. Right?
A.C.: You are separating thought and brain.
K: No no I want to find out if the brain can ever be free from its own limitation, thought, knowledge, emotion. All right, call it thought. Can the brain which has been conditioned by thought, if that conditioning is somehow freed, it has got...
A.C.: You can’t say that.
K: It may. You are understanding now? You have been to the moon, the brain has created cruise missiles, it has had extraordinary technological movement. Agreed? Now, is there an instrument which is not thought? This is not romantic speculation. I am just asking; I am not saying there is or there is not. You understand my question? Thought is a worn-out instrument. I think it has reached its limit, tether, because it has not solved the human problem. So, is there a way of looking which is not thought but which can instead of going out there, going to the heavens and all that, turn inwards? That inward movement is the infinite:
R.R.: Still it has not solved the human problem.
K: I am going to show it will. No, thought will not solve the human problems. Either it is a fact or it is not a fact. On the contrary, it is increasing human problems. Right?
Q: Your question is: Is there anything other than thought which could be an instrument?
K: Yes, you may not agree with what I am going to say presently. Then, perhaps, that instrument can look both outward and inward, and that is infinite.
Q: Psychologists try to discover what is within; at least they profess to do this.
K: I know, sir, what they say is all mechanical.
Q: I accept what you say.
K: Don’t accept, sir. I hesitate to accept what I say too. I want first to be quite clear that thought has not solved human problems. It has solved technological, not human problems – my relationship with my wife, my relationship with the community, my relationship with the heavens, and all the rest of it. And thought tries to resolve these problems and it has made things worse. It is so obvious. So I am now asking, is there something which is not thought, which is not mechanical?
A.C.: You are asking in other words what Pupulji was asking the other day: Is there a sensory perception without thought?
K: Yes: Will you listen to something? Life is a movement, going out and coming in, like the tide. I create the world, and the world then controls me. And I react to the world. It is movement. Would you agree to that? Now, if you see the same thing as I see – not that you must – it is a movement out and in, this is our life, action and reaction, reward and punishment. Can this movement stop?
P.J.: You have to move out of your closed circuit of the computer to even face that question.
K: No not move out of the circuit. This is our life. Now, as long as this movement exists, I am caught in time, that is evolution.
R.S.: Why not just say that is life, evolution?
K: Yes, and that is: I am evolving. This movement gets better, worse, it is always movement. So, as long as this movement exists, I am mechanical.
Q: Only mechanical?
K: Yes, I see a woman and I want her: I see a garden, I want it. It is action and reaction, reward and punishment, punishment and reward. Where is intelligence in that? As long as you are caught in that, your intelligence is out; it is a mechanical intelligence: You hate me and I hate you back.
A.C.: I follow that.
K: If you accept that, intelligence is something totally different from thought.
R.S.: If what you are saying is what I think it is, perhaps you could say it is cause and effect, action and reaction, instead of ‘mechanical’.
K: Yes, yes.
R.S.: Now there is a certain kind of low level activity, what people ordinarily call intelligence, which perhaps we can better call ingenuity, where, in order to get something you want – but you may not be able to get it in a straightforward way – you may have to resort to some fairly original way, some new kind of competence, making some bogus documents and so on. There is a certain kind of ingenuity which is not purely mechanical. It is subsumed down to a certain mechanical set of desires and within that is the framework of certain inventiveness. So the framework may be one of action-reaction but within that we exhibit considerable ingenuity and inventiveness.
K: I would not call that intelligence.
R.S.: No. But in ordinary language it is often called intelligence. An intelligent businessman is one who would think of ways of getting more of what he wants.
K: Yes. I would not call that intelligence.
R.S.: I would call it ingenuity or inventiveness.
K: Call it inventiveness. I won’t call it intuition because that is a different thing.
R.S.: No, ingenuity.
K: To be ingenious is solving problems of god, problems of heaven, problems of painting, etc. It is within the same area, in the same field. I may move from one corner to the other corner of the same field and I call that ingenuity and I say all that has nothing to do with intelligence. Intelligence is something totally different.
Q: Will you elaborate on what we call intelligence?
K: I don’t want to elaborate. Ingenuity, choice, cleverness, moving from one point to another, from one corner to another but within the same field, that is what we are doing.
P.J.: That is the field of the known.
K: Yes, yes. I don’t want to use that word for the moment.
A.C.: I was just wondering why we have evolved like that.
K: It is essentially based on reward and punishment.
A.C.: But I am asking what is the reason in particular that we have evolved like that?
K: What was the cause of it?
A.C.: It must have had tremendous advantage.
K: Of course, it is completely secure. Secure in the sense, at least for the time being, but the time being creates wars. So we don’t have to elaborate. Would you go along up to this point that this is not intelligence?
K: Right. Then let us enquire what is intelligence. If this is not a theory, if it is out of my system, that means the movement of reaction has stopped, and that is the movement of time. Agreed?
A.C.: When you say time, I don’t understand.
K: Time in the sense I have evolved in this process.
Q: That is the movement of life.
K: Yes. And that is unintelligence. Therefore, don’t call it intelligence. So, what is intelligence? As long as I am in this field there is no intelligence; it is adaptability.
A.C.: But one has to respond.
K: We will find out. If this is not intelligence, then we have to go into something quite different. Agreed? If I totally deny, not verbally but actually, this is not intelligence, then what happens to the mind which has been caught in this? Do you understand my question? As long as we are functioning in time, cause, effect, action, reaction, which is this movement of the tide going out and coming in, as long as my whole attitude to life is that and I refuse to move out of that, there is nothing to be said. But if I see that, that will not solve the problems of humanity; then I have to look in another direction.
P.J.: What is this looking?
K: My eyes have always been seeing in this direction only. And you come along and tell me, look in other directions. I can’t because my eyesight has been so conditioned that
I don’t even turn round to look. So I must be first free of this. I can’t look in any other direction if I am not free of this.
P.J.: I want to ask you a question. Can I look at my own instrument? Can perception look at its own instrument? Can perception, which is a flow, see itself?
K: Don’t call it an instrument.
P.J.: A faculty.
K: No, I won’t even call it a faculty.
P.J.: Can perception perceive itself?
K: Can perception see itself as perceiving? Perception seeing itself in action, in seeing itself a perception.
P.J.: Don’t bring in action.
K: Perception seeing itself perceiving – then it is not perception.
P.J.: You see, you posed a question which is totally unanswerable – that this movement, which is moving, reflects the movement... can I see the falsity of it and end it? I have always thought that a wrong question. It can never see that because perception is self-contained.
K: Would you say this movement is the wandering of desire?
P.J.: Yes. This movement is the wandering of desire.
K: Can this desire be seen as a whole, not the object of desire, but desire itself? Can it see itself as a movement of attraction?
P.J.: Instead, even without bringing in attraction, can desire see itself?
K: To understand if desire can see itself, one must go into desire. Desire exists only when thought comes into sensation.
A.C.: This question is very important. We are operating in that field. Anything operating in that field...
P.J.: Can never deny that field.
K: Of course. There is this movement. As long as I am in that movement, you cannot ask me to see it as the false and deny it.
P.J.: Therefore, where do I look?
K: You don’t have to look. The thing is, stop this movement. Find out, discover for yourself how to end this movement. Is that possible at all?
P.J. I think it is possible to cut.
K: Be careful when you use the word ‘cut’. Who is the cutter?
P.J.: Without the cutter.
K: Therefore, what does that mean? Go on. Don’t complicate the issue. Just see who is the cutter. There is no cutter. Then what happens? If there is no entity who can cut, stop, then...
P.J.: It is just perceiving.
K: That is all. There is only perceiving. There is not the perceiver perceiving nor the perceiver investigating what he is perceiving. There is only perception, right? Perception of that which is false.
P.J.: The perceiving throws light on the false. There is only perceiving.
K: There is only perceiving. Stick to that. Then we will enquire into what is perceiving. What is perception without the word, without the name, without remembrances, perceiving something which one calls intuition? I don’t like to use that word, forgive me. Perception is direct insight.
P.J.: Is the question one of being completely awake?
K: Would you call that attention?
P.J.: To be completely awake is attention.
K: That is all.
P.J: That the computer can never do.
K: Asit is taking it in, he is not answering. Sir, is there an end to thought? Time must have a stop, right?
A.C.: I understand.
R.R.: Can I ask you a question: What happens when we perceive with insight?
K: There is this perception of insight and the brain cells themselves change. Can your thought ever stop when your brain has been conditioned in time, in this movement... cause, effect, action, reaction and all that suddenly stops? Hasn’t the brain undergone a radical change? Of course it has.
R.R.: I have to ask you this question again. If there is such a seeing that the brain cells change, what happens after perceiving it?
A.C.: Only the physical brain has changed and I am afraid it dies.
K: That is why we are going into the question of consciousness.
A.C.: Does this end with death? Then all that will be different from the computer...
K: Sir, how will you translate all this to your friends who are computer experts?
A.C.: They are going to continue doing what they are doing – trying to produce super-computers.
P.J.: The question then comes in. How can man so accelerate the other to bring into being this new perception?
A.C.: One can only see this movement and do nothing else.
K: That is all.
Madras, 31st December 1982