I was at beautiful campus of Indian Institute of Science(IISc) in Benglauru beginning of February for conference on which reviewed Indic tradition in the areas of science and technology. I have traveled to Bengaluru so many times, but this was my first time at this historic and landmark institution and its sprawling green campus. The title of this blog says it all, in terms of the theme of the conference. Any talk of science and technology in ancient India has earned bad name. And there are reasons for it which related to unrealistic claims.
This conference was different in its approach. It focused on Computational Positivism philosophy which is, in short, establishing concordance between what is observed and what is computed. It explored this theme and approach which seems to be prevalent in Indic tradition, across many fields of science, including astronomy etc. This approach is different than what is found in Greek tradition which is more towards axiomatic approach. Computational positivism employs aspects of computational thinking. And this is where it gets interesting, for me, who has been in field of computers. Computational thinking often involves abstraction, automation, algorithmic approach. This aspect has been argued by Prof Roddam Narasimha who was to be at the conference to talk about it.
After Y Narahari’s inaugural address, Prof Roddam Narasimha spoke about the very theme of the conference. Prof N N Jha, spoke about Navya Nyaya(Indian Logic). Indian mathematics and astronomy was reviewed by Prod M D Srinivas. Prof Sunadara Rajan baffled audiences by going over Amarkosha’s documentation of plant semantics. Prof Iyengar explored probability aspects are employed in Indian classical music. I could not attend last two sessions on the first day. One them was by Navajyoti Singh who explored Jain mathematics and other was Shabdabodha aspects in computational linguistics by Amba Kulkarni.
The second day had few more interesting topics in fields of astronomy, Ayurveda, concepts of consciousness and self, aspects of computational thinking in India mathematics. The most interesting from my perspective was review of various propositions of claims of science and technology in ancient India and highlighting how can it be approached, by Prof Mayank Vahia. He also briefly covered evolution of science. The conference concluded with panel discussion on the current relevance of Indic perspectives in the field of science and technology, which I could not attend. The conference had also tutorials on different topics. The first part of the tutorial was a day before the actual conference began and second part was after the conference concluded. I wish I could have attended but I was not, especially one on Tantrasangraha/Yuktibhashya which are important treatise on Indian astronomy works, belonging to Kerala school mathematics.
The conference talks are recorded and can be found here for those who want to listen and learn.
Last couple of words on the venue itself. This venue of this conference was Faculty Hall in Main Building of IISc. The full size statue of Sir Jamsetji Tata is located right in front of this huge stone building. He funded the construction of building of IISc, upon request from Swami Viveknanda, as the history tells. The walks during lunch break inside the campus impresses anyone and was amazing experience. I would like ti visit this place again, whenever I get opportunity next.