28th October – What is ‘Quantum Supremacy’?

This week, Google has announced that it has reached ‘Quantum Supremacy’ in computing.

What is ‘Quantum Supremacy’?

  • It is a term proposed in 2012 by John Preskill, professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.
  • It describes the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers cannot. In Google’s case, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have claimed to have developed a processor that took 200 seconds to do a calculation that would have taken a classical computer 10,000 years.

What is a quantum computer?

Our traditional computers work on the basis of the laws of classical physics, specifically by utilising the flow of electricity. A quantum computer, on the other hand, seeks to exploit the laws that govern the behaviour of atoms and subatomic particles. At that tiny scale, many laws of classical physics cease to apply, and the unique laws of quantum physics come into play.

What difference would such a simulation make?

  • It is about processing speed. Let us look at how a classical computer processes information. Bits of information are stored as either 0 or 1. Every string of such digits (bitstrings) represents a unique character or instruction; for example, 01100001 represents the lowercase “a”.
  • In a quantum computer, information is stored in quantum bits, or qubits. And a qubit can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. Quantum physics involves concepts that even physicists describe as weird.
  • The higher the number of qubits, the higher the amount of information stored in them. Compared to the information stored in the same number of bits, the information in qubits rises exponentially. That is what makes a quantum computer so powerful.

Significance –

None, as far as practical applications are concerned. The task performed isn’t super important for this milestone; it’s much more about the fact that the milestone happened in the first place.

Way forward –

The scientists are looking to improve on their work, including detecting and fixing errors. The University of California, Santa Barbara noted that the research has already achieved a very real tool for generating random numbers. Random numbers can be useful in a variety of fields — including protecting encrypted keys for decryption, which could be a potentially thorny issue for governments.

Conclusion –

Quantum computers could one day result in huge advances in science research and technology. Among areas that stand to gain are artificial intelligence, and new drug therapies. All that, however, is a long way away.

SourceThe Indian Express

13rd April – Fixing FAME-II

Fixing FAME-II

The government’s FAME-II (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles in India) programme has received some criticism about its parameters. Most recently, a critique has accused it of seeking to accelerate manufacturing in India without ensuring there is adequate demand for the electric and hybrid vehicles so produced.

Fixing FAME-II

 

Details –

  • FAME-II, which was passed by the Union Cabinet in February, will cost Rs 10,000 crore over three years and intends to provide incentives to the manufacturers of electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Its mandate requires that automakers should be directed to produce a certain percentage of electric vehicles per year. It believes that incentives are the best path towards a faster adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Concerns –

  • It creates a relative disincentive for smaller vehicles since the amount of incentive is tied to the size of the battery in the vehicle.
  • It should be noted that electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers are most appropriate for Indian conditions. In fact, small electric scooters have the capability of revolutionising urban transport in India.
  • FAME-II should have been structured towards the creation of demand, not the localisation of production. Currently, for vehicles to benefit from the scheme, 50 per cent must have been produced locally. The government should have learned from the battle over solar panels: It is better to ensure adoption first, and then a local industry can be created.
  • This is doubly true in the case of electric and hybrid vehicles since India has considerable expertise when it comes to automobiles, two- and three-wheelers, bicycles and auto components.
  • CRISIL has pointed out that 95 per cent of the electric two-wheeler models currently produced in India will not be given incentives under FAME-II.

Way forward –

  • The government should ensure that FAME-II is structured in such a way that the adoption of electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers is not hampered but instead sped up.
  • The focus must be on ensuring it is easy and cheap for consumers to switch to using electric vehicles.
  • Another focus should be on retrofitting existing small vehicles at a nominal cost. The CNG fleet of auto-rickshaws in Delhi, for example, can at a relatively small cost to owners be transformed into an all-electric or hybrid fleet. This would require some innovative finance, which the government could backstop.
  • Lobbying by automobile manufacturers should not be allowed to succeed. The government must tweak FAME-II keeping these issues in mind.

SourceBusiness Standard

Also Read: A rare opportunity

Should we fear Artificial Intelligence? | Livemint

Introduction –
Artificial intelligence, which is a system that has human-level intelligence, i.e., it can do multiple tasks as easily as a human can and can engage in a “thought” process that closely resembles humans. Should one fear Artificial Intelligence? As with most things, the answer is both yes and no.
Why we must not?

  • Beginning with why one must not “fear” Artificial Intelligence, such systems are actually pretty dumb. This is because even the most intelligent systems today have artificial specific intelligence, which means they can perform one task better than any human can, but only that one task.
  • Any task that it is not specifically programmed for, howsoever simple it may seem to us, such a system would find impossible to undertake.
  • Artificial general intelligence, however, has so far remained theoretical, and is possibly decades away from being developed in any concrete manner, if at all. Therefore, any fear of a super-intelligent system that can turn on humans in the near future is quite baseless.

 
Why we must fear?

  • First, and most importantly, jobs. A May 2017 study by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute, argues that in the past, automation did not have any negative effect on the job market, but actually increased the number of available jobs. There can be no doubt that at least some jobs will be negatively affected by Artificial Intelligence, but the nature of these jobs and the nature of the jobs that may replace them, if at all, is hazy at best. It is this lack of clarity that one must be wary of.
  • Second, the use of Artificial Intelligence in weapons leading to ‘autonomous weapons’. Whether a machine that has been given the ability to make life and death decisions on the battlefield can adequately account for subjective principles of war such as proportionality and precautions. The underlying issue here is not that weaponized Artificial Intelligence would be smart, but that it would not be smart enough.
  • Third, privacy and data security. It must be remembered that the entire Artificial Intelligence ecosystem is built on the availability of great amounts of data and enhancing efficiency requires continued availability of such data. Constant inputs and feedback loops are required to make Artificial Intelligence more intelligent. This raises the question of where the required data comes from, and who owns and controls it. The possible authoritarian implications of this, ranging from indiscriminate surveillance to predictive policing, can be seen in the recent plan released by China’s state council to make China an Artificial Intelligence superpower by 2030.

Conclusion –
It is necessary to be open-eyed and clearheaded about the practical benefits and risks associated with the increasing prevalence of Artificial Intelligence. It is not going to go “rogue” and turn on humans (at least in the near future), and talk of such a theoretical existential risk must not blind policymakers, analysts, and academics to the very real issues raised by Artificial Intelligence.

Regulating Online Pharmacy Business

A sub-committee had been constituted by the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) to examine issues relating to Online Pharmacy Business and sale of drugs. The Sub-Committee has submitted its report to the Drugs Consultative Committee.

The Sub-Committee has inter alia recommended

  • Creation of a National Portal to act as the nodal platform for transacting and monitoring Online Pharmacy Business and sale of drugs.
  • Necessity of evolving a mechanism to register e-pharmacies. 
  • Geographical restrictions for operation of e-pharmacies.
  • Existing licensees involved in retail sale of drugs could also register on the National Portal for carrying out online sale of drugs.
  • Requirement of registration with CDSCO under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. 
  • Certain categories of drugs viz. the Narcotic and Psychotropic drugs, tranquilizers, habit forming drugs and Schedule X drugs that are prone to being abused or misused be excluded from sale through e-pharmacies. 

Analysis

  • Online pharmacies laws in India are still in nascent stage and there are no dedicated online pharmacy laws in India. The Information Technology Act 2000 governs some of the legal issues pertaining to online dealings but it is silent on the aspect of online pharmacy. As a result, illegal online pharmacies have been increasing in India. If properly regulated, Online pharmacies in India could prove beneficial to various stakeholders.
  • The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, have guidelines on the sale of Schedule H and Schedule X drugs. These can be sold only on prescription and there are specific rules, including for labelling. As most of the online pharmacies in India are not complying with Indian laws and the laws of other jurisdictions, they have been facing regulatory sanctions.

Conclusion

The Government has issued a notice seeking public comments on regulation of sale of drugs including introduction of an electronic platform for regulation of sale of drugs in the country.

National Strategic Plan For Malaria Elimination | PIB

Shri J P Nadda, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare launched the National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination 2017-22.

National Strategic Plan For Malaria Elimination | Details

  • The Strategic Plan gives details about year wise elimination targets in various parts of the country depending upon the endemicity of malaria in the next 5 years.
  • Recalling the launch of the National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) last year, Shri Nadda had stated that NFME outlined India’s commitment for eliminating malaria by 2030.
  • National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination (2017-22) gives strategies for working towards the ultimate goal of elimination of malaria by 2030.
  • Encouraging results have been achieved in the North East India and the efforts are now focussed in other states such as Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

National Strategic Plan For Malaria Elimination | Features of the plan

The strategies involve strengthening malaria surveillance, establishing a mechanism for early detection and prevention of outbreaks of malaria, promoting the prevention of malaria by the use of Long Lasting Impregnated Nets (LLINs), effective indoor residual spray and augmenting the manpower and capacities for effective implementation for the next five years.

About Malaria

  • Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals caused by parasitic protozoans (a group of single-celled microorganisms) belonging to the Plasmodium type.
  • Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, feeling tired, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, and / or death.
  • The methods used to prevent malaria include medications, mosquito elimination and the prevention of bites. There is no vaccine for malaria. The presence of malaria in an area requires a combination of high human population density, high anopheles’ mosquito population density and high rates of transmission from humans to mosquitoes and from mosquitoes to humans. 

Energy Diplomacy China India Relations | RSTV

In this post we shall see all the possible factors as to why energy diplomacy is important to India (with a special focus on Energy Diplomacy China India Relations ).

Away from the accolades that accompanied the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative of China, India has been quietly working on creating connectivity grids in its neighbourhood and moving beyond physical connectivity to energy as a tool for connectivity. From Indonesia to Mauritius, India is working on a web of relationships that seek to leverage India’s position as a big source of petroleum products, sharing of technology and building interdependencies. Mauritius, one of India’s closest partners in the Indian Ocean region could become a hub for petroleum storage and bunkering for which India has started building infrastructure. India already supplies petroleum products to Mauritius from its Mangalore Refineriesas well as a retail player in that country. As a petroleum hub, Mauritius can secure its own energy supplies while India can use it to market in other parts of Africa. On the other side of the Indian Ocean, India and Indonesia are beginning an energy relationship. Indonesia is one of the biggest sources of hydrocarbon and has been in and out of OPEC. We shall see all the possible factors as to why energy diplomacy is important to India (with a special focus on Energy Diplomacy China).

Energy security v/s national security

India is growing at a rate of 7-8 per cent per annum and sustaining this momentum of growth requires a continuous pace of energy consumption. This fact is in line with the argument that energy security of India is an integral part of India’s developmental as well as national security positioning. Due to the rapid expansion of their economies, both India and China present the world’s biggest appetite for energy. Energy Diplomacy China India relations take high importance as both these countries have high import dependence to secure their energy demands, this race between the two largest developing countries for energy security will determine the shape of the twenty-first-century world. It is somewhat similar to what happened in the last century between the Allied forces and Germany, during the peak of industrialization, of course with different contours.In the last few years, India and China’s face off has been concentrated around the sources of energy supplies (particularly oil and gas resources). As both these countries are highly dependent on coal for meeting their energy demands, the big question at this moment should be concentrated on the type of fuel that both these countries would adopt next in their economic growth trajectory.

Convergence of interests | Energy Diplomacy China

Both India and China are trying to shift to the renewable sources of energy, hence, they should rather cooperate at the optimum level to ensure a situation of win-win for both sides. Instead of this desirable cooperation, an unhealthy friction has been developed over the years due to the expansionist and neo-colonialist policies of China in India’s neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean. We have failed to effectively utilise the forum of ‘India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue’ since its inception in 2010. This forum can be a bulwark in securing effective cooperation to minimise friction over energy security of both our nations. For instance, formalising the trade in solar photovoltaic equipment which is importedby India from China can reap maximum benefits for both the nations.

Expanding horizons | Energy Diplomacy China Relations

Energy investments have a long gestation period, so what we are planning today will start producing the intended results in 2030. Therefore, India needs to prioritise what sources of energy it wishes to utilise in the next decade and the decisions for the same should be taken right now. According to this argument, investing in renewable sources of energy makes more sense, which is in fact what we are doing today. The concerns have been raised about the national security paradigm in terms of abrogating the safer channels of fossil fuels in return for sourcing energy demands through the unchartered territory of renewables for a comparatively long and crucial period of India’s growth. The issues of political and national sovereignty complement these concerns which have been outlined at the appropriate forums.

Renewable era

India is a responsible signatory to the Paris Climate Accord and a proud supporter of the UN-2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, we are poised to shift our focus to the renewable as evident from recent developments in India. The public support and understanding for this gigantic shift are positive which would go a long way in securing our intended contributions towards renewable sources of energy.

India and China are the stories of the future; hence they cannot afford to be non-accommodative towards each other in terms of securing energy supplies. The current cooperation at the small sub-group level between India’s NITI Aayog and National Development and Reform Commission of China should be replaced by the highest political and strategic cooperation.

Energy Diplomacy China | Securing energy channels

Unlike China, where the energy sector corporations do not need to seek approval of the Government to bid for energy sources abroad, Indian corporations need to seek Cabinet’s approval before venturing out for large investments abroad in the energy sector. This creates a safety cushion for Indian corporations but at the same time, it hinders the possibility to explore lucrative sources of energy at a quick pace in this competitive world. It must be remembered that many major investments by the Chinese private energy corporations have been disastrous for them in commercial terms, whereas Indian investments abroad have been more cautious, prudent and commercially viable.

In domestic terms, India has done reasonably well in the energy sector, both in terms of technical and the fuel aspects. It may be lagging behind China in securing sources of fuel from global channels due to non-adherence of colonial ambitions, but in terms of technological traits, we might have even outperformed China in establishing state of the art technology for transmission and distribution equipment and maintenance, boiler turbine generation manufacturing facility for thermal generation and we are gradually picking up in the spheres of renewable energy equipment sectors like solar photovoltaic cells.

Way forward | Energy Diplomacy China

Most of the capacity additions in electricity generation around the world are going to happen in India in the next ten years. India will move from its current capacity of 300,000 MW to 1,500,000 MW in the next decade. Therefore, India will be at the centre stage in terms of development in the energy sector, so we cannot afford inimical relationships with our resource line countries.

Conclusion

It is true that one cannot have energy security by being absolutely autarkic. India slipped into this mess in 1947 by clarifying that it will not look for energy supplies anywhere in the world and we will secure our energy sources to build-up. Until the frontiers of energy security are shifted out of the off-the-shelf sources to building up of own capacities in terms of technology, the ambition of sustainable economic growth would keep on dangling through the walls of uncertainty. A strong political commitment to secure theinvolvement of all the concerned stakeholders including the general public for swallowing the implications of this long-term investment would be required to ensure safe passage to the renewable mode of energy.

To See the Full Debate : Click Below

Using AI for Development Goals | Live Mint

A recent United Nations (UN) supported summit in Geneva, “AI for Good”, focused on the potential of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Essentially, any sector, which is data-driven (be it conventional, digital or geo-spatial), is open to the use of AI. In some areas, AI applications are relatively well-developed, while in others, they are in initial stages.

Development Goals | Health and nutrition

  • AI-based systems can sift through the collected data about malnourished children and track the progress of an individual child at various Anganwadi centres in terms of their cognitive development and health. 
  • Image-recognition techniques can help in early identification of stunted growth, epidemics and other health issues. This information can then be used by the programme officers to recommend corrective solutions.
  • Integrating information from other sources, the AI systems can assist in the diagnosis of problems being faced—from drought to poor sanitation and inadequate supplies.

Development Goals | Agriculture

  • Several start-ups in the US have used AI to develop “precision farming” practices, which lead to a more efficient use of inputs and higher yields.
  • Sensors gather information about the condition and colour of foliage and soil moisture content. This information is fed to the system, which determines the amount of water, and fertilizer to be provided.
  • It also specifies which part of the plant needs to be provided with these inputs.
  • These systems have reported higher yields and reduction in agricultural inputs.
  • The use of such technologies in Indian conditions will need to consider much smaller land-holding sizes and the socioeconomic conditions of farmers.

Development Goals | Education

  • AI-based systems can assist students with their learning experience, especially in changing the form and nature of content to suit the student.
  • “Smart content” is generated with text summaries, supported with related videos and simulations.
  • They can also help connect with students who are working on similar problems worldwide.
  • The systems can ensure that learning takes place through frequent testing which can be used as feedback to alter the course content and trajectory. 
  • Intelligent tutor systems like “personal robots” can work and interact with humans as peers. Some of them are even capable of identifying and correcting misconceptions of a student as they learn the material.
  • AI cannot entirely replace the human teacher, but an AI system can play an intermediate role by providing timely feedback to students and teachers. 

Development Goals | Concerns

Many of these interventions appear to be far-fetched today. But we said the same about language processing, self-driving cars and Google directions. AI is no magic bullet. It is a set of computational tools that can be used to improve decision-making. Some of the available AI technologies are expensive today. There are also ethical issues of privacy of data, equity and liability of actions. 

Conclusion

There is no denying that AI is in the middle of exponential growth and it has the potential to make game-changing transformations. The developmental challenges faced by India are also too big to be solved by the conventional linear approach. AI provides an opportunity for transformative solutions and India’s scale provides the possibility of rapid cost reduction of these technologies.

Development Goals and Society : Click Here to continue reading

PSLV-C38 Successfully Launches 31 Satellites

ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C38 successfully launched the 712 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites today from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. This is the thirty ninth consecutively successful mission of PSLV
Details of the satellites

  • One of the 30 co-passenger satellites carried by PSLV-C38 was the 15 kg NIUSAT, a University/Academic Institute satellite from Nurul Islam University, Tamil Nadu, India.
  • The remaining 29 co-passenger satellites carried were international customer satellites from
    • USA (10),
    • United Kingdom (3),
    • Belgium (3),
    • Italy (3),
    • Austria (1),
    • Chile (1),
    • Czech Republic (1),
    • Finland (1),
    • France (1),
    • Germany (1),
    • Japan (1),
    • Latvia (1),
    • Lithuania (1) and
    • Slovakia (1). 

Conclusion

With today’s successful launch, the total number of customer satellites from abroad placed in orbit by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV has reached 209.

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Deep Ocean Mission

Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India is all set to launch ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ by January 2018. This will improve India’s position in ocean research field.

Background | Deep Ocean Mission 

  • The program on Polymetallic nodules was initiated at CSIR-NIO with the collection of the first nodule sample from Arabian Sea on board the first Research Vessel Gaveshani on 26 January 1981.
  • India was the first country in the world to have been given the Pioneer Area for exploration of deep-sea mineral viz. Polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin in 1987.
  • This was based on the extensive surveys carried out by the scientists of CSIR-NIO, on several research ships leading to the allocation of an area of 150,000 sq km to the country with exclusive rights under the UN Law of the sea.

Details | Deep Ocean Mission 

  • Based on the resource evaluation, India has now retained an area of 75,000 sq km with an estimated resource of about 100 million tons of strategic metals such Copper, Nickel, Cobalt besides Manganese and Iron.
  • A First Generation Mine-site (FGM) with an area of 18,000 sq km has been identified. Latest technologies for extraction of metals from the minerals have also been developed under the programme.
  • Detailed environmental data has been collected for compliance with International Seabed Authorities requirements.
  • Besides identifying the mineral resource and developing technologies for mining and extraction, the programme has also resulted in high impact research as well as manpower development.

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Fuel Supply Agreement

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the signing of Fuel Supply Agreement (FSA) with the Letter of Assurance (LoA) holders.

Details of the Fuel Supply Agreement

  • Allocation of linkages for power sector shall be based on the auction of linkages or through Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) based on the competitive bidding of tariffs except for the State and the Central Power Generating companies and the exceptions provided in Tariff Policy, 2016. Coal drawal will be permitted against valid Long Term PPAs and to be concluded Medium Term PPAs.
  • The approved framework ensures that all projects with linkages are supplied coal as per their entitlement. This will ensure the rights of coal supplies for FSA holders and signing of FSA with LoA holders.
  • Allocation of linkages in future will be transparent and bidding based, barring some exceptions as per Tariff Policy. Future allocation/grant of linkages will be based on auction and/or tariff based bidding.  It attempts to make the optimal allocation of the vital natural resource across the power units.

Fuel Supply Agreement | Background 

  • The coal supply to the TPPs has been made as per the provisions of the New Coal Distribution Policy (NCDP), 2007. Till 2010, CIL had issued LoA for approximately 1,08,000 MW capacity and no new LoAs were issued thereafter due to the prevailing scarcity scenario.
  • The CCEA decision of 21.06.13 directed CIL to sign FSA with TPPs of about 78,000 MW capacity. The coal availability scenario has, now, emerged from scarcity to adequacy.
  • In this adequate coal availability scenario, the present policy proposes a fading away of the old linkage allocation policy and the emergence of a new linkage allocation policy based on transparent and objective criteria for the optimal utilization of the natural resources.
  • Coal linkage to the power sector is governed by provisions of the NCDP, 2007. Under the NCDP, a system of issuance of LoA was introduced wherein requests for Linkage/LoA are forwarded to MoP for its recommendations. These recommendations are placed before the Standing Linkage Committee (SLCLT) which authorizes the issue of LoA.

Fuel Supply Agreement | Benefits of the Policy

  • Coal available to all Power Plants in transparent and objective manner.
  • Auction to be made the basis of linkage allocations to IPPs; cheaper and affordable POWER FOR ALL.
  • The Stress on account of non-availability of linkages to Power Sector Projects shall be overcome. Good for the Infrastructure and banking Sector.
  • PPA holders to reduce tariff for linkage; the Direct benefit of the reduced tariff to Discom/consumers.