On Friday (September 30) , India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP), organised a panel discussion to commemorate the International Day of Non-Violence. The event, held at the UN headquarters in New York, saw a life-size hologram of Gandhi displayed.
Every year, since 2007, the day is observed on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Born in 1869 in the Porbandar town of Gujarat, Gandhi pioneered the philosophy of non-violence (Ahimsa) through his political marches against the British, and talks around India and the world.
Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, in January 2004, first proposed the idea of dedicating a day to non-violence, around the world.
On June 15, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution to commemorate October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence, with the core objective to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness.”
The UNGA, in its resolution, said “that non-violence, tolerance, full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, democracy, development, mutual understanding and respect for diversity are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.”
“Non-violence,” according to Gandhi, “is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man”.
The United Nations defines the term as a rejection of the “use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change.” The UNGA resolution reaffirms the “universal relevance of the principle of non-violence,” and establishes a desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence.”
The theory of non-violence emphasises that the “power of rulers depends on the consent of the populations, and non-violence therefore seeks to undermine such power through withdrawal of the consent and cooperation of the populace,” states the UN website.
Every year, the United Nations organises events underlining the importance of education and non-violence to commemorate the day. While panel discussions and speeches by global leaders are significant to the observance at the UN, the newly adopted time holograms – possible through AI technology – have become the talk of the moment.
Making an appearance thrice during the discussion, the hologram of Gandhi emphasised the meaning of “real education,” as “drawing the best out of yourself” and expressed concerns with people “hardly” giving “any thought to the improvement of character of the educated.”
A hologram refers to a “three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams from a laser or other coherent light source.”
It was not the first time that a hologram of Gandhi participated in a live panel discussion. On October 1, 2019, a life-like 3D hologram of the leader appeared at the fourth Ahinsa Lecture, organised by UNESCO MGIEP at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
The Ahinsa Lecture series was introduced in the year 2016 to facilitate lectures from public speakers on peace and non-violence, for “the benefit of peace-builders, policy makers, youth, UNESCO Member states, and international community.”
A dialogue with the hologram was envisioned in 2019, and was curated by Birad Rajaram Yajnik, director of the Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum in Hyderabad. This dialogue focused on raising awareness on the future of education and SDG 4 (to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all).
The holography was aimed at bringing the written works of Gandhi into “a life-like scenario.” It covered the leader’s writings on Satyagraha, non-violence (Ahinsa), kindness, critical inquiry and education.
According to the official website of UNESCO MGIEP, the 3D hologram of Gandhi was “created using photo-mapped images from 1930-1940 and advanced contouring software and 3D printing to create a life size wire-frame of the Mahatma.” To add colour and texture and produce a life-like image of the leader, “digital sculpting tools were used.”
The resultant image was further “animated and the voice lip-synced to produce a colour hologram with advanced reprographic techniques.”
Reprography refers to the “reproduction and duplication of documents, written materials, drawings, designs, etc., by any process making use of light rays or photographic means, including offset printing, microfilming, photography, … and the like.”
Yajnik curated the hologram along with the technical team of Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museums, in 2019. “The future of this hologram is to enable it with AI (Artificial Intelligence) voice engine that can engage the people of the world,” he told The Indian Express in 2022.