Thursday, January 5, 2017

Signs, science and sighs

According to Yuval Noah Harari’s brilliant book Sapiens, the earliest human signature belongs to a person named Kushim. We are not really sure that it was a guy but going by the professional dominance men enjoyed in that era (not that a lot has changed since then; take this list—not even one woman on it) we can safely assume that Kushim was a male accountant. He signed his name centuries ago in Mesopotamia on a tablet. Isn’t a privilege? Even if the practise of taking credit or responsibility for something in text was in vogue before Kushim, only his tablets are around for posterity. No one else’s. I thought of him while watching The Accountant (2016), a movie that remains true to the art of storytelling despite so many digressions. While watching it, i was struck by how important bookkeeping is to our society. Numbers must add up whether you’re dealing with carrots or carats or for that matter, Jews. (Had it not been for the diligence showcased by Nazis in maintaining accounts, we wouldn’t have known Holocaust’s actual wickedness.) There are people who work in isolation and use calculator faster than you use your keypad and they are responsible for making every single paisa/grain/cartel accountable. Some may argue that computers are fast taking their place but that’s letting the machines get ahead of ourselves. The irony here being machines, unlike us, operate solely on our sign language.

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