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Sanskrit and artificial intelligence: A shot in the dark!
A few weeks ago, our President Ram Nath Kovind, in his convocation address at LB Shastri Vidyapeeth stated:

"Sanskrit is not restricted to spiritualism, philosophy, or literature. Experts believe that the language is most appropriate for writing algorithms besides use in machine learning and artificial intelligence. The tradition of Sanskrit language, literature and science has been the most effective chapter in the glorious journey of our intellectual growth. It is said that India's soul is reflected in Sanskrit language, which is the mother of several languages. The most important thing is that proliferation of the knowledge available in Sanskrit is very relevant for the welfare of the world."

Ruminating on our President's observations on Sanskrit, I scanned existing literature as regards the status of Sanskrit with regard to present or future possibilities of its usage for computer programming or for artificial intelligence. My own thoughts and findings are jotted below:

Sanskrit by common consensus is the oldest mode of formalised human communication and storage of knowledge. It exhibits every attribute for meeting precise needs of communication, be it human emotions or stringent scientific expositions. (Tamil, another very ancient language claims to be even older.)

One cannot think of Sanskrit and its attributes, without its grammatical foundations laid by Panini (circa 5th century BC). His Ashtadhyayi contains 3,959 sutras. It is said that these rules on 'linguistics, syntax and semantics' can be used as a matrix, to examine every possible human communication: from the most primitive tribal languages to the most developed of modern languages.

Obviously, this would lead some to assume that Sanskrit is the language best suited for computer programming. So it was not surprising that the claim: "Sanskrit is considered the most suitable language for computer software" had gone viral since the last few years, and is being bandied around in the most uninformed manner.

According to Dilip D'Souza, it all started with a 1980 paper by Rick Briggs published in the journal 'AI', which is dedicated to artificial intelligence. 'The paper makes a case that natural languages are not that difficult to use for computer programming. He cites Sanskrit as an example as its grammar can be easily translated to a form understandable by a computer. But nowhere does it say that using Sanskrit is the best way to program a computer'.

Around 1985, my own initial steps to get acquainted with computer programming, was by learning to write instructions on my hand-held Casio computer, in BASIC (Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) artificial language. I realised that as of now no human language is suited for directly writing computer programs: be it English or Sanskrit!

Human languages have to be translated into artificial languages like BASIC, COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), C++ or Java. 'Of these BASIC and COBOL are the simplest languages closest to the computer machine language, since here the task and the data locations are defined in human-understandable names and then a "compiler", another master program for the language concerned, converts the program written in to machine language of 0's and 1's.'

The exercise for translating Sanskrit into an intermediate artificial language, for writing computer programs has not yet started. To the best of my knowledge, unless we reach a stage that a Sanskrit 'compiler' is handy; there is no point in making a song and a dance about it!

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a computer science which includes among others, speech recognition, learning, planning and problem solving, just the way we humans do! Using Sanskrit for AI can follow, only after instructions to computers in Sanskrit are established.

Those interested in getting at the bottom of various dubious boasts about India, should read Sidin Vadukut's book 'The Sceptical Patriot', in which he has thoroughly investigated ten boasts, including the Sanskrit/Computer programming claims.

He has also investigated the following false claim made in our Rajya Sabha that:

38% of Doctors, 12% of Scientists, 36% of NASA employees, 34% of Microsoft employees, 28% of IBM employee, 17% of INTEL employees, 13% of XEROX employees in America are Indians.

Also, Times of India correspondent in Washington, DC, Chidananda Rajghatta wrote:

'It's an Internet myth that has taken on a life of its own. No matter how often you slay this phony legend, it keeps popping up again like some hydra-headed beast.

But on Monday, the Indian government itself consecrated the oft-circulated fiction as fact in Parliament, possibly laying itself open to a breach of privilege. By relaying to Rajya Sabha members (as reported in The Times of India) a host of unsubstantiated and inflated figures about Indian professionals in US, the government also made a laughing stock of itself.

The figures provided by the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Purandeshwari included claims that 38 per cent of doctors in US are Indians, as are 36 per cent of NASA scientists and 34 per cent of Microsoft employees.

There is no survey that establishes these numbers, and absent a government clarification, it appears that the figures come from a shop-worn Internet chain mail that has been in circulation for many years. Spam has finally found its way into the Indian parliament dressed up as fact'.

India and its great ancient heritage are an acknowledged and an acclaimed fact. We don't have to lap it up with half baked boasts!!!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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