22/06/2018 10:43 AM IST | Updated 22/06/2018 10:43 AM IST

Code For Supercomputers In Sanskrit, Says Minister Of State For Skill Development (Sigh!)

An oft-misread paper on AI from 1995 is at the root of this.

Betwa Sharma

Sanskrit shall be the coding language for future supercomputers, said Union Minister of State for Skill Development Ananta Kumar Hegde. Delivering an address on skill development, the BJP politician told reporters that Sanskrit is the right language to use for computer algorithm design.

He argued against the reliance on English in India, and said Sanskrit will be essential to build super computers, as the language can adapt to the needs of technology.

According to NDTV, he said: "While we are becoming too dependent on English in our country, we become unaware of the fact that eminent scientists of the world are coming to the view that Sanskrit is the language for future supercomputers."

He further added that Sanskrit is the only language which can adapt to the next generation of technology.

"The modern-day scientists have said that to be able to understand the next generation computer language, knowing English would not be enough" he said, according to Business standard. "One would have to learn Sanskrit. Whether we agree to this or not, Sanskrit is the only language that can adapt to the next generation technology.

Hegde did not, however, say anything about which scientists are saying this, or what facts his statements are based on, rather than just the vague allusion to "eminent scientists of the world".

The claim is most likely based on a paper by Rick Briggs about natural language programming and why Sanskrit is a good language for programming as it doesn't rely on word order in sentences. However, the article doesn't actually say that Sanskrit is the best way to program a computer, only that it is more easily parsed.

Further, the paper has nothing to do with supercomputers, and is instead of programming for artificial intelligence. The rules of Sanskrit might be useful for people working on AI to study, but actually writing code in Sanskrit is a different question altogether, with nothing to support the idea that writing code in Sanskrit makes any sense.

The BJP MP from Karnataka also talked about ayurveda, and how people would have to give up on modern medicines in favour of ayurveda. "The pharmaceutical industry is big in India and right now it is wholly dependent upon the chemical molecular drugs. But the US' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved ayurvedic medicine as a form of holistic medicine," he said.

However, this ignores the fact that that the FDA actually warns caution with ayurvedic products. Less than a year ago, the FDA issued a safety alert against certain ayurvedic medicines linked to lead poisoning. Recognising ayurveda as a form of holistic medicine is meant to make it easier to regulate, and not a sign of approval. And the FDA's latest import alert includes huge numbers of ayurvedic products that are used in India.

Hegde had also in the past called for the end of Islam, and then doubled-down, adding he was proud of what he said.

"They are living in India, they should obey to India. India means Hindu. There is no difference between India and Hindu because for the last thousands of years we have our own culture, our own living system. You so called intellectual people have divided that word. Hindu versus India," Hedge said to HuffPost India last year.