Swanthathralokam '15

Swathathralokam ’15 was a conference on rationality and free thought that happened during 24th and 25th of december 2015

This was my first experience of attending a non tech conference. Also, first one with malayalam as the primary language. I have been to conferences which dealt with intersection of technology with other things, like hillhacks and hackbeach. But SL caters to an entirely different crowd.

I was the only one actively using a laptop, first stint of culture difference. At Least I could tether my mobile internet without interfering wifi APs. Except two of the linux boxes organisers were running, everything else was windows. I guess desktop linux has to catch up a lot more than I previously thought.

SL is put together by an organisation called “Kerala Freethinkers Forum”, the way this community has come together using social media, esp facebook is amazing. It did push my dilema further about maintaining a facebook account. Definitely delayed the decision to eventually delete the account. Some more thinking is needed.

The conference had around 20 talks spanned over two days, I found the talks to be dense, more than my feeble brain could process. I had to take an extra break between talks (sadly, missing a part of next one) to reflect on the newly obtained information.

Language was a barrier. Malayalm has become a bit more cumbersome to process. I seem to have lost the fluidity in using it, like a machine that has kept unused for long. At this moment giving a formal talk is way too hard for me (this was also, my first malayalam talk)

I found that out during my ten minute pitch of Nemo’s Bug bounty for homeopathy. I had to switch languages - which I’m afraid got interpreted as an elitist talk. Anyway, it did produce results. I got to meet Dr. Manoj Komet who has written many articles against homeopathy and state of health sciences in general. I am going to go through all the content he pointed out and do something about it.

I got one more donor for bug bounty as well. :-)

These were my favourite talks from SL -

Megha’s talk on “Phantoms in human nature” was a spot on because I just finished “Thinking fast and slow” and was scouring LessWrong for more content. She did a good job of explaining. I enjoyed talking to her post session very much.

Nishad’s Talk on “Wason selection task and rational thinking”, He introduced wason selection task and went ahead to explain Necessary and sufficient conditions. The simplicity in which he introduced the math behind was amazing.

“Luca, Luci and me” was a talk by Dr. KP Aravindan on evolution. It was refreshing to go through those contents again. It made me dig up my old notes from my brilliant genetics teacher [a grad student in genetic engineering at that time] and refresh them when I was home.

I was told that recordings will be uploaded to youtube soon. Will try to link them as soon as they are up.

There was an open forum on “Family and rationality”. I felt it contained way too much anecdotal statements (of kind “I have this experience so I support this worldview of family”). It was also loosely structured, making it a bit difficult to follow. I guess that’s the difference between a debate and an open forum(?). I don’t think it helped me much. I would have been much happier with a proper debate with bit more moderation. The gender parity was at the forum was another concern. There were fewer women speakers.

Last but not least, I did encounter some cool tech in the conference venue. The org tech team, Rahul, Abhay, and Akhil setup a live feed using gstreamer. They used UDP multicast to stream the feed to monitors in surrounding buildings. It worked very well, except for a bit noisy audio signal due to poor earthing.

Overall, it was a nice conference,met a lot of old friends, made few new ones. perfect way to start the winter break.