Conversations: A Philosophy for Technology

Archives at NCBS:  Informal Talks

Conversations: A Philosophy for Technology
Usha Ramanathan, in conversation with Maya Rao and Sundar Sarukkai


When: Mon, Nov 27, 2023 – Thu, Nov 30, 2023. 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Registration required:
Capacity: Limited to 15-25 participants. First come, first served to registered participants.
Venue: Champaca Bookstore, 7/1, Edward Rd, off Queens Road, Bengaluru


The 21st century began with a stir of excitement about technology: the spread of the Internet, the mobile phone, instant communication, and finding people long forgotten. It just seemed to get better and better in the second decade with the world in your pocket and widely accessible instant messaging. We developed a virtual existence far removed from the grime and grit of the reality around. Taxis, lunch and dinner, and cleaning up our homes started to be on call more than before. And payments started to be processed quickly, at our fingertips. And then, the shift with a new range of words and phrases: the filter bubble, the black box, surveillance, smart technology and suspect people, artificial intelligence, ChatGPT, redundancy, human augmentation, data as resource, control, autonomy, consent, and presenceless. And all these in a world created by technology. 

Do we then need to re-think the human: who are we? How do we see ourselves, and how do we see others seeing us? What happens when Jeremy Bentham meets Franz Kafka, and when Kafka and Bentham’s philosophies meet Aldous Huxley’s worldview? What happens when we confront ourselves in the mirror that is being set up to reflect us?

This abstract sets the tone for a series of lectures that Usha will deliver, along with holding conversations with Maya Rao and Sundar Sarukkai


Nov 27: Usha Ramanathan with Sundar Sarukkai
Nov 28: Usha Ramanathan with Sundar Sarukkai
Nov 29: Usha Ramanathan with Maya Rao
Nov 30: Usha Ramanathan


These conversations are follow-ups to past events:
2019, Recent history of technology and databases in governance in India:
2023, informal talk on a philosophy for technology:



Usha Ramanathan works on the jurisprudence of law, poverty and rights. She researches, writes and speaks on issues that include the nature of law, Bhopal Gas Disaster, mass displacement, eminent domain, manual scavenging, civil liberties including the death penalty, beggary, criminal law, custodial institutions, the environment, judicial process. Ramanathan has been tracking, and engaging with, the Indian national ID project and has written, and debated extensively, on the subject. She has been writing and debating issues of technology and the human conditions of freedom and liberty over the years. She has served as a member of diverse expert committees, including one for privacy set up in the Planning Commission of India, one for the Human DNA Profiling Bill set up in the Department of Biotechnology, and one for studying the socio-economic status of tribal communities set up by the Prime Minister's Office. For her body of work, in 2019, Usha Ramanathan was awarded Access Now's Human Rights Heroes Award.


Sundar Sarukkai works primarily in the philosophy of the natural and the social sciences. He is the founder of Barefoot Philosophers ( He has held positions of professor of philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Founder-Director of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, and Visiting Faculty at the Centre for Society and Policy, Indian Institute of Science. He is also the author of numerous books including Translating the World: Science and Language, Philosophy of Symmetry, Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science, and What is Science? His book, The Social Life of Democracy, a response to the problems of global democracy today and extending Ambedkar's vision of social democracy, was released in 2022. He is the Series Editor of Routledge's Science and Technology Studies, as well as the Co-Chief Editor of the Springer Handbook of Logical Thought in India.


Maya Krishna Rao is a theatre maker and teacher. She is a national award winning theatre artist, who creates her shows in collaboration with sound, space and video designers. Her shows range from dance, theatre to comedy and cross-media creations, with her training in Kathakali being a source of inspiration for many of her works. She has received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for her contribution to Indian theatre in 2010. She has taught at various universities, including the National School of Drama and Shiv Nadar University, and the focus of her recent programmes has been in theatre for social education and transformation. Maya also works with schools teachers in the use of drama as a classroom teaching methodology.