Resurrecting the Concept of the Triad


At the close of the May 2023 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Hiroshima (Japan), the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the High Representative of the European Union (EU) released a long and informative statement. In a section titled ‘China’, the eight officials wrote that they ‘recognise the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China’ and that they ‘acknowledge the need to work together with China on global challenges as well as areas of common interest, including on climate change, biodiversity, global health security, and gender equality’. The diplomatic tone of the statement stands out in comparison to the heated rhetoric that these countries have adopted in recent years and is much softer than the language used at the G7 meeting itself, where the heads of government bandied about the phrase ‘economic coercion’, indirectly aimed at China.

A close reading of the speeches at the meeting suggests that there are differences of opinion amongst the leaders of the G7 countries, particularly when it comes to China and their own domestic industrial policies. Certainly, several European states are uneasy about the domestic economic consequences of prolonging the war in Ukraine and of a possible military conflict over Taiwan. It is perhaps this uneasiness that prompted US President Joe Biden to say, ‘We’re not looking to decouple from China, we’re looking to de-risk and diversify our relationship with China’.

For Europe, the notion of decoupling from China is inconceivable. In 2022, EU figures show that China was the third largest partner for goods exported from the region and the largest partner for good imported to the region, with most of the goods imported by China being high-end, value-added manufactured goods. Europe’s domestic economies have already been grievously injured by the West’s refusal to negotiate a peace agreement in Ukraine; being cut-off from the burgeoning Chinese market would be a fatal blow.

The G7 meeting reveals the gaps between the United States and its allies (Europe and Japan), but these differences of interest and opinion should not be overestimated. As part of our work at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we have been researching and analysing the nature of the cooperation between the United States, Europe, and Japan – the ‘Triad’, as Samir Amin called them; while our research is still ongoing, we present some of the data in this newsletter.

Following the end of the Second World War, the United States built an international system that was premised on the subordination and integration of Japan and Europe. This process of subordination and integration was evident in the military apparatus constructed by the United States, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) established in 1949 and US-Japan Security Treaty of 1951 being the lynchpins. Establishing a system of US military bases in the defeated powers – Germany, Italy, and Japan – allowed Washington to set aside any talk of a sovereign military or diplomatic project for either Europe or Japan (tantrums from France, inspired by Charles De Gaulle’s grand sense of French destiny, led not to a withdrawal from NATO but only to a removal of French forces from the alliance’s military command in 1966).

There are currently 408 known US military bases in the Five Eyes countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and – because they share intelligence with each other – Israel), in Europe, and in Japan. Stunningly, Japan alone has 120 US military bases, while Germany hosts 119 of them. It is important to understand that these bases are not merely instruments military power, but also political power. In 1965, Thomas Hughes of the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research authored an important memorandum, ‘The Significance of NATO – Present and Future’. NATO, Hughes wrote, ‘remains essential to the US as a well-established and easily available instrument for exercising American political influence in Europe’ and ultimately ‘it is important for the protection of American interests in Europe’. Such a system had already been put in place in Japan, as detailed in this US military memorandum from 1962. The network of US military bases in Europe and Japan are the symbol of their political subordination to Washington.

With the signing of the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1951, Japan’s Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida accepted the dominance of the US military over his country but hoped that the Japanese state would be able to focus on economic development. Similar doctrines were articulated in Europe.

In the post-war era, an economic bloc began to form between the United States, Europe, and Japan. In 1966, Raymond Vernon published a significant journal article, ‘International Investment and International Trade in the Product Cycle’, in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in which he showed how the large international corporations built a sequential structure: goods would be first produced and sold in the United States, then in Europe, and afterwards in Japan, after which they would finally be sold in other parts of the world. In 1985, Kenichi Ohmae, managing director of the global consulting firm McKinsey’s Tokyo office, shed further light on this arrangement in his book Triad Power: The Coming Shape of Global Competition. Ohmae illustrated how international corporations had to operate simultaneously in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan; increasing capital intensity, high research and development costs, a convergence of consumer taste, and the rise of protectionism made it essential for international corporations to work in these countries, which Ohmae collectively called the Triad, and then seek markets and opportunities elsewhere (where seven-tenths of the world lived).

Samir Amin used that term – Triad – for a very different purpose. In 1980, he wrote of the ‘gradual consolidation of the central zone of the world capitalist system (Europe, North America, Japan, Australia)’, and soon thereafter began to refer to this ‘central zone’ as the Triad. The elites in Europe and Japan subordinated their own national self-interest to what the US government had begun to call their ‘common interests’. New institutions and terms emerged in the 1970s, giving shape to these ‘common interests’, including the Trilateral Commission (set up by David Rockefeller in 1973 with headquarters in Paris, Tokyo, and Washington) and the concept of ‘trilateral diplomacy’ (which brought together Western Europe, Japan, and the United States under one unified diplomatic worldview).

Intellectuals in these trilateral circles saw the United States as the central power with its vassal states (Europe and Japan) empowered to maintain control over the tributary states (such as South Korea) in order to keep the rest of the world stable. Much harsher language was used by Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the architects of the Trilateral Commission and National Security Advisor to US President Jimmy Carter. In The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997), Brzezinski wrote, ‘To put it in terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together’. You can guess who the barbarians are in Brzezinski’s imagination.

In recent years, the concept of the Triad has largely fallen out of favour. But there is a need to recover this term to better understand the actual world order. The imperialist camp is not solely geographically defined; both the older term, Triad, and the more currently used term, Global North, are geopolitical concepts. The majority of the world – the Global South – now faces a US-led and dominated imperialist system that is rooted in an integrated military structure. This system is composed of three groups: (1) the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Anglo-American white settler states; (2) Europe; and (3) Japan. The Global North is home to a minority of the world’s population (14.2%) but is responsible for a clear majority of global military spending (66.0%). According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, total world military spending reached $2.2 trillion in 2022, with the Triad and its close partners responsible for $1.46 trillion of that amount (China’s military spending is $292 billion, while Russia spends $86 billion). It is this immense military power that allows the Triad to continue to assert itself over the world’s peoples, despite its weakening hold on the world economy.

In recent years, the United States has encouraged a Japanese rearmament and a German military build-up, both of which were discouraged after the Second World War, so that these ‘vassals’ can strengthen Washington’s parochial New Cold War against Russia and China as well as the newly assertive states of the Global South. Although some elites in Europe and Japan are able to see the domestic crises in their countries that are being accelerated by the US foreign policy agenda, they lack the cultural and political confidence to stand on their own two feet.

In 2016, the European Union’s High Representative Federica Mogherini laid out the concept of Europe’s ‘strategic autonomy’ from the United States in the EU Global Strategy. Three years later, France’s Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was suffering ‘brain death’ and that ‘Europe has the capacity to defend itself’. Today, it is clear that neither assertion – Europe’s strategic autonomy nor its capacity to defend itself – holds any water. Modest returns of Gaullism in France do not offer the kind of courage required by European and Japanese leaders to break with the trilateral bargains that were set up seventy-eight years ago. Until that courage arrives, Europe and Japan will remain entrenched in their conditions of vassalage, and the Triad will remain alive and well.

Balancing Upsides and Risks of Superintelligence

by Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, and Ilya Sutskever

In the foreseeable future, artificial intelligence (AI) systems have the potential to surpass the expertise of human professionals in various fields and rival the productivity of today’s largest corporations. This advancement in AI, known as superintelligence, presents both immense benefits and significant risks that surpass those associated with previous technologies. While we can envision a highly prosperous future, it is crucial to proactively manage the risks involved. An analogy can be drawn to technologies like nuclear energy and synthetic biology, which possess similar characteristics and necessitate careful risk mitigation.

To navigate the development of superintelligence successfully, coordination among leading AI development initiatives is paramount. Establishing mechanisms for collaboration is vital to ensure that superintelligence is developed in a manner that prioritizes safety and facilitates smooth integration into society. Governments of major nations could initiate a project that incorporates existing efforts, or a collective agreement could limit the rate of AI capability growth at the frontier per year. Additionally, individual companies must adhere to exceptionally high standards of responsible conduct.

Furthermore, it is likely that we will eventually require an international authority akin to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to oversee superintelligence projects. Any initiative surpassing a certain capability or resource threshold should be subject to inspection, audits, compliance testing with safety standards, deployment restrictions, and security protocols mandated by this authority. Monitoring and regulating compute and energy consumption could serve as initial steps towards realizing this idea. Voluntary compliance by companies and subsequent implementation by individual countries would be instrumental. The focus of such an agency should primarily revolve around mitigating existential risks rather than regulating the content generated by AI systems, which should be left to individual countries.

Moreover, developing the technical capability to ensure the safety of superintelligence is a pressing research question that demands significant effort. Researchers and organizations are actively engaged in addressing this challenge, recognizing the criticality of creating robust safeguards.

It is important to note that regulation and oversight should not impede the development of AI models that fall below a certain capability threshold. Companies and open-source projects should be allowed to innovate freely without burdensome regulations, licenses, or audits. While these systems carry risks, they align with the level of risks associated with other Internet technologies, and society’s existing approaches appear appropriate for managing them.

However, for the governance and deployment of the most powerful AI systems, strong public oversight is essential. Decisions concerning these systems should be subject to democratic processes, allowing people worldwide to collectively define the boundaries and defaults for AI systems. The design of such a mechanism remains an ongoing challenge, but efforts are being made to experiment with its development. Within these broad boundaries, individual users should have significant control over the behavior of the AI they utilize.

Given the risks and challenges involved, it is essential to consider why we are pursuing the development of superintelligence. OpenAI identifies two fundamental reasons for their commitment to this technology. Firstly, they believe that superintelligence will lead to a significantly improved world, as evidenced by early examples in education, creative work, and personal productivity. These advancements can help tackle societal problems, enhance creative abilities, and generate astounding economic growth and quality of life improvements.

Secondly, OpenAI argues that halting the creation of superintelligence would be highly challenging and counterintuitively risky. The cost of development decreases annually, the number of actors engaged in this endeavor is rapidly increasing, and it aligns with the trajectory of technological progress. Stopping superintelligence development would require a global surveillance regime, which itself offers no guarantee of success. Therefore, getting the development and deployment of superintelligence right becomes imperative in order to maximize its potential benefits while minimizing the associated risks.

Click here to read the original article published in OpenAI

Sri Lankan Origins Young Scientist to Join Nobel Laureate Meeting


Two researchers from the University of Queensland have been selected to participate in the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which will take place in Germany in June. Dr Enakshi Sinniah, a Sri Lankan origins, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Dr David Klyne from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will be among 635 young scientists from across the globe at this year’s event, which is focused on Medicine and Physiology.

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which has been held since 1951, provides early-career researchers with the opportunity to learn from and interact with 40 Nobel Laureates and exchange ideas and knowledge. Dr Sinniah is researching stem cells and cardiovascular development, while Dr Klyne is investigating the development of chronic pain and methods to prevent it.

 The Australian Academy of Science (AAS), supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), is administering the fellowship that will allow Dr Klyne and Dr Sinniah to attend the distinguished event and participate in the SIEF Research Innovation Tour in Berlin. Additionally, the SIEF Research Innovation Tour will showcase some of Germany’s most advanced research and development facilities related to medicine and physiology.

It is noteworthy that Enakshi is the daughter of Travis Sinniah and Thiruni Ramanaden. Admiral Sinniah retired from his illustrious career as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy.

Academic Discreditation vs. Political Power: The Dilemma of Sri Lanka’s South Eastern University


 “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”


  • On 21 December 2022 the UGC informed Minister of Education in writing on the course of action to be taken for SEUSL in terms of powers vested upon the Minister by the Universities Act.
  • As of today, Rameez Aboobacker, a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud, continues to remain the chief executive officer and a professor at SEUSL, a national university run by the government of Sri Lanka at the expense of public funds.

A letter from UGC Chairman Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga to the Ministry of Education officials has recently surfaced making note of the fact that the UGC had informed Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha on 21 December 2022 on the course of action to be taken with regard to the situation at SEUSL following their own attention to the matters related to academic and administrative affairs at SEUSL while it is headed by Rameez Aboobacker. Details on the academic and research fraudulences committed by Rameez Aboobacker were brought to light by several articles on various national news media including Sri Lanka Guardian, Daily Mirror, Lankadeepa and TamilMirror. An ultimate summary of the said course of action is widely understood to have been concisely phrased as “a competent authority would be appointed for the Southeastern [sic] University soon” in the minutes of a meeting held between the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) and the UGC held on 27 January 2023 – a statement to have been made by the UGC Chairman Senior Professor Sampath Amaratunga, the top-most academic administrative official in the hierarchy of Sri Lankan higher education. As a side note, FUTA should be commended for taking such an uncompromising firm stand on matters of academic fraud in such simple cases of right vs wrong. For the layperson the above information from UGC means that the topmost academics of the Sri Lankan higher education establishment have already decided that Rameez Aboobacker is not fit for the job while there is need for further investigation into what appears to be just the tip of an iceberg for an academic scam at scale – more on that in future expositions.

What remains then?

As is indicated in the letter by the UGC Chairman, the power to remove the vice chancellor of a state university lies in the hands of the minister at the least, as per the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. In other words, the UGC cannot directly execute the removal of a Vice Chancellor from position. The execution of the recommendation by UGC has to be performed by an elected Peoples’ representative or any other Parliamentarian serving as the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Higher Education, if officially vested with power.

In this account, we point out to the mere fact that despite the written information provided to the Minister of Education, no action has been seen on the matter of Rameez Aboobacker. What lacks? Or better put, what works to safeguard outright corrupt individuals like Rameez Aboobacker while the Sri Lankan academia has decided to no longer leave him with credentials and power that he is no more fit to be entrusted with? We ask this question because the resolution for the matter is well established among the academic community and that the ball is now in the courts of those who deal with ordinary national politics – perhaps we have too many wildly behaving variables at action now than when the matter was under academic and administrative investigation/ scrutiny by the UGC.

The Ministry of Education, has all the authoritative rights to take the necessary actions against Rameez Aboobacker, the current vice chancellor of SEUSL. But the delay shown by The Ministry of Education raises several questions. The biggest one is whether the autonomy of the Sri Lankan Education System is practically superseded by the political willpower. If that is the fact, which is in direct contradiction to the status quo of all places advanced and developed among all of the democratic nations in the world, then it would be an alarming sign for systematic impedance to the maintenance of the quality of the education provided in this country. The influence of politics and politicians in determining the fate of a higher education institution, practically neglecting and eventually contradicting the national expert decisions and even tolerating obvious cases of globally-unacceptable absolute academic wrongdoing, can demolish the opportunity for a higher education of quality that future generations of this beautiful nation can continue to take pride in. The situation worsens even further at a time when the country has come under the watch of many international bodies including IMF – especially when we as a nation demonstrate that we are not even capable of properly handling academic corruption at a state-run university sitting at some periphery of our national higher education system. This issue has the potential to get itself evolve into a national crisis that can have a much greater impact on the course of economic recovery and overall development anticipated by both the government and IMF, at least for the sake of argument.

Literally, Rameez Aboobacker has been identified ineligible to serve as the chief academic and administrative officer at South Eastern University of Sri Lanka since 21st December 2022. But Rameez Aboobacker is still holding the position of Vice Chancellor of SEUSL to date and this is bringing to light an obvious dilemma whether the UGC has its autonomy and power in deciding the quality of higher education in this country; or is it the political system that has the ultimate power, making UGC a mere instrument that’s used as an excuse for bureaucratic time delays, in matters as serious as this? This imbalance in power can be witnessed at the moment through what’s happening in the case of Rameez Aboobacker. A public-funded institution is still being run by a fraud – a failed vice chancellor, whilst UGC has identified serious impact on the academic and administrative affairs at this institute. Another rational question is whether those in power within the government are purposefully destroying the fate of this university. But it should be emphasized that there are more than 6000 students from all parts of the Island and this is a national university – no profiling, be it region-based, ethnic or otherwise, is practically valid considering the actual student demography that is currently benefitting at this university. The government is demolishing the future of these students by maintaining such an undecipherable silence in this issue. His Excellency the President Ranil Wickremesinghe made some strong remarks about SEUSL in his speech a few months back and it is surprising to see his lack of interest in maintaining the quality of this Higher Educational Institute by practically exercising his powers to do what’s right in this crisis of absolute right vs absolute wrong.

Rameez Aboobacker is preparing to hold the Annual General Convocation of this institute in the near future. While UGC considers him ineligible to hold the position of Vice Chancellor, it only makes sense to question whether he will be seen academically and morally eligible to confer degrees to graduates at this moment. He is an academic fraud and conferring degrees under his chairmanship will perhaps be an unpreceded joke in this country since the dawn of Sri Lankan university education system. An ineligible, shameless Vice Chancellor is chairing a convocation to grace the occasion of some of the most precious moments in the life of a graduate – a shame and a humiliating situation brought upon the Sri Lankan higher education system by the political leadership within the Ministry.

In a parliamentary note on 04th April 2023, Hon. Susil Premajayantha stated that the Minister has no power in removing a vice chancellor as he is not the appointing authority. He made this statement in the context of the ongoing conflict regarding the Vice Chancellor of the Ruhuna University. But there is precedence in this country where the Ministers of Higher Education have removed vice chancellors and appointed Competent Authorities. UGC’s letter (Dated 16th March 2023) states that it has informed the Hon. Minister of Education through a letter dated 21.12.2022 regarding the course of action which could be taken in terms of the powers vested in him under the provisions of the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. The Minister and the Ministry of Education have not acted for more than 04 months since the recommendations were given by the UGC. It is then apparent that it is the political power that decides the nature of the Education in this country and not the top-most academic hierarchy such as UGC nor the academic unions such as FUTA. This is a clear case for an education system that’s gone corrupt by means of political power, either by exercising of it or by exercising negligence with authority. Rameez Aboobacker is a practical demonstration for the fact that one may easily become a vice chancellor and a professor (19 of 23 sociology journal articles within almost a year, all except for 3 articles in journals of questionable quality and a sociological recommendation for free medicine for elderly people in Sri Lanka in the year 2015) in this system with fake and fraudulent academic track records. A shame for the whole academic community! If this was a case in other countries, the Vice Chancellors who were found guilty would have resigned themselves or would be removed from their positions by the relevant authorities and their whole academic careers would be in trouble. On the contrary today in Sri Lanka, where we proudly boast about our free education system and the higher literacy rate, we are gradually losing the grip of the integrity and quality of our education system by politically letting fraudulent academics like Rameez Aboobacker go scot-free.

Currently the Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, having not brought into action what was recommended by UGC in December 2022, has handed over all the Duties, Institutes and Power related to higher education to Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan (the State Minister of Higher Education) through a gazette notification on 27th April 2023. Currently the State Minister of Higher Education has the power to execute the Universities Act 16 of 1978. Hon. Minister Dr. Suren Raghavan must certainly be well aware of the seriousness of these absolute academic issues and we believe that he won’t tolerate the academic fraudulences and wrongdoings committed by Rameez Aboobacker and what appears to be a larger ring of academic underworld at SEUSL, of which Rameez Aboobacker just seems to be a prominent and popular figure. These are natural expectations and hopes one normally has on an academic with reputed scholarly track record turned politician. Quite interestingly, Rameez Aboobacker has also been found guilty of plagiarizing content from Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan’s article (published in 2013; ) and has published a full paper at SEUSL in 2014 while he was a PhD student at the National University of Singapore. This fraudulent article by Rameez Aboobacker was titled “The wave of Sinhala Buddhist Supremacism and Muslims of Sri Lanka” and it can be found in the proceedings of the 4th International Symposium of SEUSL in 2014, from page number 166 to 171. This paper is reportedly made up with nearly 80% of content stolen from the paper published by Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan, the current Minister of Higher Education. What more the Minister needs to better understand this serial plagiarist! The details on this case of plagiarism by Rameez Aboobacker can be discussed in a separate article. The various cases of plagiarism and research fraudulence committed by Rameez Aboobacker and his associates can be made as reference materials for future researchers and academics; and Rameez Aboobacker, without doubt, can be considered the most prominent national case study example to quote when training the future academics and researchers on how not be a researcher. Not a single university Vice Chancellor, at present or in the past, in this country has been identified with this level of academic fraudulences and emergence of Rameez Aboobacker is a shame to the Higher Educational System in this country; the fall can only be our pride – and it’s not too late except for the fact that the SEUSL students who entered the university by the time Rameez Aboobacker took over, have already spent nearly half of their undergraduate life in an academic training under the leadership of an academically corrupt leadership. When the Rameez Aboobacker phenomenon was confined within the academic territory of SEUSL Arts and Humanities, it was one thing; spill over is much more likely and is even reportedly witnessed once the fraud is in power – more on this in a much more detailed coverage of systematic academic fraudulences at SEUSL later. It is surprising to see how the Vice Chancellors from other reputed universities of Sri Lanka allow someone like Rameez Aboobacker to sit next to them in an equal position at various occasions jointly making serious decisions that have impact on the whole of Sri Lankan academia, while being fully aware that Rameez Aboobacker is a demonstrated academic fraud and possibly even knowing that Rameez Aboobacker has been recommended by UGC to be ousted!

The powers from the Universities Act now lie in the hands of Hon. State Minister Dr. Raghavan and it is widely believed that Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan will act promptly to implement the recommendations made by UGC in 21st December 2022 to the Minister of Education Hon. Susil Premajayantha.

Finally, some food for thought for our regular readership:

  1. If a research fraud can be a professor and a university vice chancellor in this country and then imagine the quality of Education provided at this institute under such leadership! No wonder SEUSL couldn’t recover from being the last preference of significant proportions of newcomer students from many streams.
  2. There must be individuals, politicians, authorities, power brokers, corrupt academics and various other influencing characters helping Rameez Aboobacker to hold on to the position of Vice Chancellor to date. These individuals, if any, certainly are a curse to the whole nation due to the fact they directly or indirectly contribute to the demolition of this institute and the future of generations of what could otherwise become invaluable human capital for this economically suffering nation!
  3. When UGC has already recommended to remove Rameez Aboobacker from his position after he has been demonstrated to be a plagiarist and a research fraud, is he still academically and morally (legality aside) eligible to serve as a Vice Chancellor and would the decisions made by him be respected by an academic community after the fact of 21 December 2022 UGC decisions is brought to light?
  4. A Vice Chancellor identified as incompetent in terms of academic integrity and administration and recommended to be ousted by UGC chairs a convocation at SEUSL!
  5. Is there an autonomy for the UGC in this country or can the Politicians simply overrule or neglect the decisions made by the topmost officials of higher education hierarchy even in such black and white matters of absolute academic fraudulence?
  6. Why Rameez Aboobacker is still kept in the position of vice chancellor despite the fact there is a severe impact on the academic and administrative activities at SEUSL?
  7. Does the Academic Community at SEUSL consider the seriousness of this issue and have they acted promptly in this matter?
  8. A Research fraud without any academic integrity is chairing the academic and administrative meetings, conferences and all the evets at SEUSL. But the majority of the SEUSL academic community is keeping quiet in the cases of research fraudulency and academic integrity. Does this allow and accept the wrongdoings of Rameez Aboobacker?
  9. The Universities Act 16 of 1978 gives power to the Minister to exercise all or any of the following matters (a-c) relating to such Higher Educational Institution and what are the recommendations made by the UGC in addition to appointing a Competent Authority at SEUSL among the course of actions a-c?
  10. The closure of such Higher Educational Institution;
  11. The appointment of any person by the name or by office, to be a competent authority for the purpose of exercising, performing or discharging, in lieu of any officer, Authority or other body of such Higher Educational Institution, any power, duty or function under this Act or any appropriate instrument, and
  12. Any other matter connected with or relating to any of the matters aforesaid. 


a. Parliamentary speech by Hon. Dr. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Education (link: from 11:42 to 11:56)

b. Gazette notification transferring powers to Hon. Dr. Suren Raghavan (link:

c. Speech by H.E. the President Ranil Wickramasinghe (link: from 10:13 to 11:17)

Chinese scientists find passion fruit can kill fruit fly eggs

Chinese scientists have recently discovered that passion fruit can directly kill the eggs of fruit flies, providing a new method to control the pest, according to a Science and Technology Daily report published Thursday.

The fruit fly is a major pest species that reduces the yield of commercial fruits, vegetables and nuts. Passion fruit, native to South America, was introduced to south China in 2012 for large-scale commercial planting.

The scientists observed that passion fruit attracted native fruit flies to lay eggs in the fruits, but most of the eggs did not hatch.

According to Wu Weijian at South China Agricultural University, the lead researcher of the study, when a fruit fly penetrates into the middle layer of the fruit wall to lay eggs, it causes the plant tissue to break down and release hydrogen cyanide, which kills most of the eggs.

Wu said this is the first instance of finding a living plant which can directly kill the eggs of pests in the study of interaction between plants and herbivorous insects.

Passion fruit can be recommended as a pest trap crop to plant at the border of an orchard or melon field to control fruit flies, said Liao Yonglin at Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, one of the researchers.

Although ecological traps can usually be offset by the learning ability or evolution of herbivorous insects, the ecological trap provided by passion fruit may be permanent in the case of fruit flies, according to the study which was published in the journal Pest Management Science.

Why Do Passengers On Planes Pee On Others?


“When people try to rain on your parade, pee on theirs.” ― Josh Stern, And That’s Why I’m Single: What Good Is Having A Lucky Horseshoe Up Your Butt When The Horse Is Still Attached?

It happened again!!

On Monday, April 24th, a passenger on American Airlines flight 292 out of John F. Kennedy Airport, New York, bound for Indira Ghandhi International Airport, New Delhi was arrested on arrival by Indian police for  allegedly urinating on another passenger on board. This is admittedly a long 15 hour flight which is highly likely to cause frayed nerves in the most patient of the human species.  However, one wonders whether an undesirable natural corollary to irritation between two passengers could justify one of the quarreling passengers resorting to directing his urinary flow towards his opponent to prove his point and win the fight. Of course, the intoxicated state of the offender which would have facilitated an enhanced proclivity to evacuate his bladder, was no excuse for the affront seemingly executed with malicious intent. 

The BBC, on 9 January 2023 reported on an incident that had taken place on 26 November 2022 in which a drunken male passenger (who else but a male?) had allegedly urinated on a female passenger on board a flight operated by Air India. The victim had filed a complaint sometime later after the alleged assaultThere was general consensus among the Indian public that the airline had not handled the incident professionally (partly because the cabin crew had indiscreetly brought the offending passenger to the victim after the fact so he could apologize). 

Another incident in February 2022 occurred on a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Burbank, California where a passenger  was arrested after he urinated near a galley door and threatened flight attendants. It was reported that “The Southwest Airlines flight diverted to Albuquerque because the crew members “feared for their safety as well as that of the flight…It was the latest example of the rise in unruly passenger behavior that has prompted stepped-up enforcement by federal officials and calls from the airline industry to add disruptive fliers to a national no-fly list”.  The facts pertaining to the incident are curious as much as bizarre.  “According to the complaint…the incident began when passenger Samson Hardridge, 33, of Lancaster, Calif., got up during the flight to use the lavatory at the back of the plane. A flight attendant asked him to stand in the aisle because space was tight in the galley. At that point, according to the complaint, Hardridge had his hands in his pants and asked if the flight attendant wanted to see his genitals. The answer was no” . The crew had, with the minimum loss of patience, repeatedly reminded the offender to remain in the aisle but he had “proceeded to the aft galley door of the aircraft and began urinating in the corner of the aircraft”.

On March 9th 2021, on a flight from Seattle to Denver on board an Alaska Airlines flight, a passenger on board who had been repeatedly requested by the cabin crew to wear a face mask had blatantly ignored the requests and repeatedly struck a cabin crew member on the arm. Evidence provided by other passengers revealed that “the individual was standing up and urinating on his seat”. The charge against the 24 year old offender is that he was “interfering with a flight crew in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 46504.” This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

In March 2019 it was reported that a drunk American Airlines passenger urinated on another passenger’s luggage during a flight from Chicago to Charlotte, North Carolina. The 28-year-old complainant had said that the offender had soiled her carry-on luggage with urine.

My Take

Enuresis, or urinating in inappropriate places, is usually an involuntary act attributed to children after the age of 5 years old, at which point they normally develop control of their bladder. Most of the time, the episodes are involuntary, but they can also be intentional

In my 40 years of working in air transport, I have not come across an instance where a passenger committed an offence on board by unburdening the contents of his bladder on a fellow passenger.  I have dealt with and taught aviation law under both the Montreal Convention of 1999 and the Tokyo Convention of 1963 where the former speaks of death or injury caused by accidents on board or in the process of embarkation or disembarkation, and, more to the point of this case, the latter addresses offences committed on board aircraft.  Between the offender and the direct victim, the law is straightforward: an offence is an offence, whether one physically assaults another or empties his bladder on another. Peeing on board whether specifically directed at another or directed anywhere else in the cabin  comes under Article 1 of the Tokyo Convention which says inter alia that the Convention applies in respect of: (a) offences against penal law; (b) acts which, whether or not they are offences, may or do jeopardize the safety of the aircraft or of persons or property therein or which jeopardize good order and discipline on board. The “good order and discipline” element is what is applicable here.

But this is not the end of the story.  Whereas any other offence envisions hurt caused only to the victim a public pee on board an aircraft may be termed a public nuisance.  A public nuisance is any act, condition, or thing that is illegal because it interferes with the rights of the public generally.

In the ordinary course of business, aircraft carry thieves, con men, pick pockets, sexual predators…you name it, but when they commit offences on board they do not, and indeed have not (to my understanding) urinated on others. Therefore, this trend which is recent must have other connotations.  There must be a psychological factor attached that is linked to the hectic world we live in which is getting busier by the day.  Or, is it that peeing gives a sense of release from an opponent with the final insult? Is it because, as Tom Holt said “There are few moments of clarity more profound than those that follow the emptying of an overcharged bladder. The world slows down, the focus sharpens, the brain comes back online. Huge nebulous difficulties prove on close calm examination to be merely cloud giants”?

Perhaps these public pee-ers are descendants of Diogenes who is reputed to have urinated in public.  His argument was that human society infused us with all kinds of unacceptable constraints and we should strip ourselves of these corrupting man-made constructs, so we’re able to live how we’re supposed to live: in agreement with nature.

I am waiting for the psychologists to weigh in on this interesting trend.

Pleasure – and Superego of Pleasure-Seekers


In a recent viral video, the Dalai Lama can be seen asking a seven-year-old boy, at a widely attended public ceremony, to give him a hug and then, “Suck my tongue.” The immediate reaction from many in the West was to condemn the Dalai Lama for behaving inappropriately, with many speculating that he is senile, a pedophile, or both. Others, more charitably, noted that sticking out one’s tongue is a traditional practice in Tibetan culture – a sign of benevolence (demonstrating that one’s tongue is not dark, which indicates evil). Still, asking someone to suck it has no place in the tradition.

In fact, the correct Tibetan phrase is “Che le sa,” which translates roughly to “Eat my tongue.” Grandparents often use it lovingly to tease a grandchild, as if to say: “I’ve given you everything, so the only thing left is for you to eat my tongue.” Needless to say, the meaning was lost in translation. (Although English is the Dalai Lama’s second language, he does not possess native-level mastery.)

To be sure, the fact that something is part of a tradition does not necessarily preclude it from scrutiny or criticism. Clitoridectomy is also a part of ancient Tibetan tradition, but we certainly would not defend it today. And even sticking out one’s tongue has undergone a strange evolution in the last half-century. As Wang Lixiong and Tsering Shakya write in The Struggle for Tibet:

“During the Cultural Revolution, if an old landowner met emancipated serfs on the road he would stand to the side, at a distance, putting a sleeve over his shoulder, bowing down and sticking out his tongue – a courtesy paid by those of lower status to their superiors – and would only dare to resume his journey after the former serfs had passed by. Now [after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms] things have changed back: the former serfs stand at the side of the road, bow and stick out their tongues, making way for their old lords. This has been a subtle process, completely voluntary, neither imposed by anyone nor explained.”

Here, sticking out one’s tongue signals self-humiliation, not loving care. Following Deng’s “reforms,” ex-serfs understood that they were again at the bottom of the social scale. Even more interesting is the fact that the same ritual survived such tremendous social transformations.

Returning to the Dalai Lama, it is probable – and certainly plausible – that Chinese authorities orchestrated or facilitated the wide dissemination of a clip that could besmirch the figure who most embodies Tibetan resistance to Chinese domination.

In any case, we have all now gotten a glimpse of the Dalai Lama as our “neighbor” in the Lacanian sense of the term: an Other who cannot be reduced to someone like us, whose otherness represents an impenetrable abyss. Western observers’ highly sexualized interpretation of his antics reflects an unbridgeable gap in cultural understanding.

But similar cases of impenetrable otherness are easy to find within Western culture. Years ago, when I read about how the Nazis tortured prisoners, I was quite traumatized to learn that they even resorted to industrial testicle-crushers to cause unbearable pain.

Yet lo and behold, I recently came across the same product in an online advertisement:

“Pick your poison for pleasure … STAINLESS STEEL BALL CRUSHER, STAINLESS BALL CLAMP TORTURE DEVICE, BRUTAL COCK VICE TORTURE TOY, HARDCORE STAINLESS BALL TORTURE … So if you lie in bed with your partner, melancholic and tired of life, the time is right. Your slave’s nuts are ripe for crushing! It is the moment you have been waiting for – to find the right tool to brutalize his balls!”

Now, suppose I walked by a room where two men were enjoying this device. Hearing one of them moan and cry in pain, I would probably misread what was happening. Should I knock on the door and politely ask, at the risk of being an idiot, “Is this really consensual?” After all, if I just kept walking, I would be ignoring the possibility that it really was an act of torture.

Or, imagine a scenario where a man is doing something similar to a woman – torturing her consensually. In this age of political correctness, many people would automatically presume coercion, or they would conclude that the woman had internalized male repression and begun to identify with the enemy.

It is impossible to render this situation without ambiguity, uncertainty, or confusion, because there really are some men and women who genuinely enjoy some degree of torture, especially if it is enacted as if it was nonconsensual. In these sadomasochistic rituals, the act of punishment signals the presence of some underlying desire that warrants it. For example, in a culture where rape is punished by flogging, a man might ask his neighbor to flog him brutally, not as some kind of atonement, but because he harbors a deep-seated desire to rape women.

In one sense, the passage from Nazi ball crushers to the erotic kind used in sadomasochist games can be seen as a sign of historical progress. But it runs parallel to the “progress” that leads some people to purge classic works of art of any content that might hurt or offend somebody.

We are left with a culture in which it is okay to engage in consensual discomfort at the level of bodily pleasures, but not in the realm of words and ideas. The irony, of course, is that efforts to prohibit or suppress certain words and ideas will merely make them more attractive and powerful as secret, profane desires. The fact that some superego has enjoined them furnishes them with a pleasure – and pleasure-seekers – that they otherwise would not have had.

Why does increasing permissiveness seem to entail increasing impotence and fragility. And why, under certain conditions, can pleasure be enjoyed only through pain? Contrary to what Freud’s critics have long claimed, psychoanalysis’s moment has only just arrived, because it is the only framework that can render visible the big inconsistent mess that we call “sexuality.”

Source: Project Syndicate

The sky at night?


People watch many events at night but star gazers today (April 23, 2023) had a spectacle which hardly occurs visible to the naked eye, except when there is a cloudburst or a “meteor shower “to light up the dawn skies.

I had the occasion to witness a similar “meteor shower,” when I visited Sydney, Australia, on a Backpackers holiday in mid-December 2003, sleeping on the top of a bunk bed at 5 am, during their summer season. It was awesome. The celestial display was something out of this world. The peak came just after the New Moon, which meant views of this once in a lifetime spectacle, was not impeded by moonlight.

We were warned yesterday as late as yesterday by Professor of Physics, Don Pollacco at the University of Warwick of this event in UK, but to my surprise, we could hardly witness it in London, as the sky was overcast with thick cloud.

According to Dr. Pollacco, as the Earth passes through the comet’s orbit any material deposited by the Comet could become “meteors” or shooting stars in the sky. He states: “these bodies are usually the size of dust particles but when they fall into the Earth’s atmosphere, they travel as such speed that they are vaporised. Along the path that the dust particle travels, the gas molecules are superheated and give out light – this is called a Meteor”.

He further stated these meteors are called “Lyrids” and are a regular occurrence every year in the Northern Hemisphere between April 16-25 and approaching summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

How do meteors affect life on Earth? 

The melting of rocks at impact, would have released carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere, resulting in greenhouse warming. This in turn could have increased acid rains, igniting fires. The majority of smaller meteors burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. But the larger ones can leave huge craters in the surface of the planet.

These meteors are literally defined as “space rocks that travel into the Earth’s atmosphere.

We called them “shooting stars”.

The most famous large Asteroid 65 million years ago eliminated the dinosaurs and created the 180 wide crater on the Yucatan Peninsula, off the coast of Mexico, spanning 93 miles and is 12 miles deep. How much of this theory is conjecture is to be researched?

Our understanding of our Universe, of meteorite impact events and their effects, is continually evolving.

Depending on your viewpoint the meteorites have resulted both good and bad outcomes for our planet and for life as we know it. Rare minerals have been exposed to the surface of the Earth for man to exploit, and spectacular views have been displayed for man to enjoy at the “wonder of our planet” thanks to these so called “Shooting Stars”.

We have a duty as custodians of our planet, Earth, to save it from extinction by greed and destruction.

The Fear of AI Is Overblown—and Here’s Why


by Bappa Sinha

The unprecedented popularity of ChatGPT has turbocharged the AI hype machine. We are being bombarded daily by news articles announcing humankind’s greatest invention—Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is “qualitatively different,” “transformational,” “revolutionary,” “will change everything,”—they say. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, announced a major upgrade of the technology behind ChatGPT called GPT4. Already, Microsoft researchers are claiming that GPT4 shows “sparks of Artificial General Intelligence” or human-like intelligence—the Holy grail of AI research. Fantastic claims are made about reaching the point of “AI Singularity” of machines equalling and then surpassing human intelligence.

The business press talks about hundreds of millions of job losses as AI would replace humans in a whole host of professions. Others worry about a sci-fi-like near future where super-intelligent AI goes rogue and destroys or enslaves humankind. Are these predictions grounded in reality, or is this just over-the-board hype that the Tech industry and the VC hype machine are so good at selling?

The current breed of AI Models are based on things called “Neural Networks.” While the term “neural” conjures up images of an artificial brain simulated using computer chips, the reality of AI is that neural networks are nothing like how the human brain actually works. These so-called neural networks have no similarity with the network of neurons in the brain. This terminology was, however, a major reason for the artificial “neural networks” to become popular and widely adopted despite its serious limitations and flaws.

“Machine Learning” algorithms currently used are an extension of statistical methods that lack theoretical justification for extending them this way. Traditional statistical methods have the virtue of simplicity. It is easy to understand what they do, when and why they work. They come with mathematical assurances that the results of their analysis are meaningful, assuming very specific conditions. Since the real world is complicated, those conditions never hold, and as a result, statistical predictions are seldom accurate. Economists, epidemiologists and statisticians acknowledge this and then use intuition to apply statistics to get approximate guidance for specific purposes in specific contexts. These caveats are often overlooked, leading to the misuse of traditional statistical methods with sometimes catastrophic consequences, as in the 2008 Great Financial Crisis or the LTCM blowup in 1998, which almost brought down the global financial system. Remember Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Lies, damned lies and Statistics.”

Machine learning relies on the complete abandonment of the caution which should be associated with the judicious use of statistical methods. The real world is messy and chaotic and hence impossible to model using traditional statistical methods. So the answer from the world of AI is to drop any pretense at theoretical justification on why and how these AI models, which are many orders of magnitude more complicated than traditional statistical methods, should work. Freedom from these principled constraints makes the AI Model “more powerful.” They are effectively elaborate and complicated curve-fitting exercises which empirically fit observed data without us understanding the underlying relationships.

But it’s also true that these AI Models can sometimes do things that no other technology can do at all. Some outputs are astonishing, such as the passages ChatGPT can generate or the images that DALL-E can create. This is fantastic at wowing people and creating hype. The reason they work “so well” is the mind-boggling quantities of training data—enough to cover almost all text and images created by humans. Even with this scale of training data and billions of parameters, the AI Models don’t work spontaneously but require kludgy ad-hoc workarounds to produce desirable results.

Even with all the hacks, the models often develop spurious correlations, i.e., they work for the wrong reasons. For example, it has been reported that many vision models work by exploiting correlations pertaining to image texture, background, angle of the photograph and specific features. These vision AI Models then give bad results in uncontrolled situations. For example, a leopard print sofa would be identified as a leopard; the models don’t work when a tiny amount of fixed pattern noise undetectable by humans is added to the images or the images are rotated, say in the case of a post-accident upside down car. ChatGPT, for all its impressive prose, poetry and essays, is unable to do simple multiplication of two large numbers, which a calculator from the 1970s can do easily.

The AI Models do not have any level of human-like understanding but are great at mimicry and fooling people into believing they are intelligent by parroting the vast trove of text they have ingested. For this reason, computational linguist Emily Bender called the Large Language Models such as ChatGPT and Google’s BART and BERT “Stochastic Parrots” in a 2021 paper. Her Google co-authors—Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell—were asked to take their names off the paper. When they refused, they were fired by Google.

This criticism is not just directed at the current large language models but at the entire paradigm of trying to develop artificial intelligence. We don’t get good at things just by reading about them, that comes from practice, of seeing what works and what doesn’t. This is true even for purely intellectual tasks such as reading and writing. Even for formal disciplines such as Maths, one can’t get good at Maths without practicing it. These AI Models have no purpose of their own. They, therefore, can’t understand meaning or produce meaningful text or images. Many AI critics have argued that real intelligence requires social “situatedness.

Doing physical things in the real world requires dealing with complexity, non-linearly and chaos. It also involves practice in actually doing those things. It is for this reason that progress has been exceedingly slow in Robotics: current Robots can only handle fixed repetitive tasks involving identical rigid objects, such as in an assembly line. Even after years of hype about driverless cars and vast amounts of funding for its research, fully automated driving still doesn’t appear feasible in the near future.

Current AI development based on detecting statistical correlations using “neural networks,” which are treated as black-boxes, promotes a pseudoscience-based myth of creating intelligence at the cost of developing a scientific understanding of how and why these networks work. Instead, they emphasize spectacles such as creating impressive demos and scoring in standardized tests based on memorized data.

The only significant commercial use cases of the current versions of AI are advertisements: targeting buyers for social media and video streaming platforms. This does not require the high degree of reliability demanded from other engineering solutions; they just need to be “good enough.” And bad outputs, such as the propagation of fake news and the creation of hate-filled filter bubbles, largely go unpunished.

Perhaps a silver lining in all this is, given the bleak prospects of AI singularity, the fear of super-intelligent malicious AIs destroying humankind is overblown. However, that is of little comfort for those at the receiving end of “AI decision systems.” We already have numerous examples of AI decision systems the world over denying people legitimate insurance claims, medical and hospitalization benefits and state welfare benefits. AI systems in the United States have been implicated in imprisoning minorities to longer prison terms. There have even been reports of withdrawal of parental rights to minority parents based on spurious statistical correlations, which often boil down to them not having enough money to properly feed and take care of their children. And, of course, on fostering hate speech on social media. As noted linguist Noam Chomsky wrote in a recent article, “ChatGPT exhibits something like the banality of evil: plagiarism and apathy and obviation.”

Credit Line: This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Author Bio: Bappa Sinha is a veteran technologist interested in the impact of technology on society and politics.

Deception Through the Ages: Tracing the Evolution of Cheating from Genetic Selfishness to Political Lies


Following excerpts adapted from the author’s most recent book, ‘The Liars of Nature and the Nature of Liars: Cheating and Deception in the Living World’ published by Princeton University Press

She is pregnant. Raising a child takes a lot of time and energy, yet she is short of both. Homeless, she has no choice but to find somebody else to take care of her baby—for free. It’s not easy, but she knows how to pull it off. She scouts around and spots a cozy house in a quiet neighborhood. The young wife of the family looks caring and has just given birth to a new baby, so is a perfect choice as a surrogate. She hides herself and waits in the vicinity, keeping watch on the house. Opportunity presents itself when the new mother takes a short trip to get some food. She sneaks in and switches the baby with her own. Then she heartlessly throws the victim’s infant in a dump.

What you have just read is a cold-blooded murder case, one that takes place in nature when a female cuckoo bird sneaks her egg into a warbler’s nest. The cuckoo is cheating, though the scenario doesn’t quite fit Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the verb “cheat”: to “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.” Cheating in humans usually involves an element of intention. In the larger biological world, however, establishing intent is neither easy nor necessary. For biologists, as long as organisms act to favor themselves at the expense of others—especially in situations when cooperation is expected—they are cheating.

This book is about the behavior, evolution, and natural history of cheating. Although, in common usage, the word “cheating” is often interchangeable with “lying” and “deceiving,” the three words differ in connotation, nonetheless. Furthermore, lying and deceiving involve two very dif­ferent biological processes, as we will unveil in the next two chapters. In light of this new insight, the word “cheating” refers to both lying and deceiving in the book.

Cheaters are everywhere in the biological world, according to our broadened definition of cheating. Monkeys sneak around for sex; possums, well, play “possum,” as they are famous for when pursued by a predator; birds scare rivals away from contested food by crying wolf— emitting alarm calls that are normally used to warn others about an approaching predator; amphibians and reptiles are master impostors, altering their body color to blend into their backgrounds; stickleback fish protect their eggs and babies by misdirecting their cannibal peers away from their nests; defenseless caterpillars ward off predators by masquerading as dangerous animals such as snakes with big false eyes (see color plate 1); squids escape from predators by ejecting ink to create a “smoke screen” in the water. Examples of lying and deceiving behavior in animals can go on and on.

What may surprise you is that cheating doesn’t require a brain, or even a neuron, as many plants are cheaters as well. For example, most orchids mimic the aromas of their pollinators’ food. Around 400 orchid species, however, evolved a more audacious tactic: they fool male pollinators by mimicking the smell and appearance of female insects to take advantage of eager males who seek opportunities to mate (see color plate 2). Even more amazing, these plants can keep male pollinators aroused by preventing them from ejaculating. Thus, the unsatisfied male pollinators will keep going in search of another female—including a female-apparent flower—to mate with. Since these males are highly promiscuous, they are extremely effective in spreading orchid pollen.

Fungi cheat too. For example, truffles—mushroom-like species that form fruiting bodies underground—emit a steroid called androstenol that mimics the pheromone of wild boars. Androstenol is produced in the testes of adult boars and has a musty odor to the human nose. When female pigs sense the truffle aroma, they will dig exuberantly for the source. What they don’t know is that they are being suckered by something bearing no resemblance to the swine beau they are hoping for. The only outcome of their passionate fervor is spreading spores for the truffles. Mission accomplished for the fungi that deceive.

Complex organisms such as plants and fungi cheat; so does singlecelled life. A good example is the slime mold (or social amoeba) known by its scientific name, Dictyostelium discoideum (or “Dicty” for short). When starved, the slime mold amoeba cells gather together to form a mobile, slug-like structure. The “slug” moves as a unit until it finds a suitable spot and then grows into a fruiting body made of a spore-producing head mounted on a thin stalk. The entire thing is shaped like a lollipop or a maraca (a rattle-like percussion instrument popular in Latin America) . The cells in the head, which consists of 80% of all cells, will seed the next generation when food becomes plentiful again. The other 20% of the cells consigned to the stalk, however, rot away after completing their mission—to raise the head so that the spores can scatter far and wide, like dandelions spreading their fluffy seeds in the wind. If you were a slime cell, where would you prefer to end up—the head or the stalk of the fruiting body? The head, of course! Because only in the head do you have the opportunity to pass your genes to the next generation.

If you were a cell in the stalk, your genes would be destined for an evolutionary dead end. Who, in the biological world, wants to be relegated to an inferior status, without a chance to reproduce? Fortunately, this isn’t a major issue when amoeba cells have the same genetic makeup, like identical twins. When cells share an identical set of genes, it matters little as to which cells seed the next generation. However, when a fruiting body is made of a chimera of two or more types of cells, where many of the genes are dif­ferent, conflict ensues. They all compete to be part of the fertile head rather than play a supporting role in the sterile stalk. As one might expect, dif­ferent cells play dirty in order to make it into the prized head by any means necessary, including cheating. Some types of cells, enabled by certain genetic mutations, defraud others by sending more than their fair share of “representatives” to the head, a maneuver similar to political gerrymandering. Moreover, once they have made it to the head, they produce noxious chemicals to prevent latecomers from getting into the lifeboat for the next generation. Recent studies have revealed that more than 100 mutant genes are implicated in this amoeba cheating scam.

Copyright © 2023 by Princeton University Press

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