20170414 Three campaigns for Easter.

I seem to be neglecting my website and, therefore, you. For that I'm sorry.

It's Friday, it's good and we should all think good thoughts and do good deeds.

So let's get started.

I've done with my sojourn through Europe and after getting back to London, sold the Mercedes. Now, and here you are going to giggle, I really am travelling the world, carrying a backpack, hopping onto low-cost carrier flights to anywhere I can get without a visa (a diminishing range of countries, sadly but, perhaps when I have a British, not EU passport, that will change for the better).

Campaign Number One:

BRING BACK the dark blue hard cover passports that, incredibly, many well travelled and well educated people around the world still think we have.

Because I've spent so much of my life on aeroplanes, often on a tight schedule, I was genuinely shocked by the video of the attack by "security officers" on the passenger on a United Airlines' plane in the USA. On the single occasion I missed a flight (my fault) and one that was the airline's fault the knock-on effects were enormous, both in terms of failure to meet obligations and, therefore causing both directly financial and harm to my reputation plus having to re-arrange a packed schedule and, of course, the destruction of , at that time, carefully planned, rare, family time. For sure, I would not have accepted a measly USD800 and a hotel room for a night to have that level of disruption to my business and personal life and, if I'd been "randomly selected" I'd have kicked up a fuss and refused to surrender my seat: that's what contracts are for, isn't it?

The point is that I have been genuinely unsettled by that video: if I'm to have my face smashed in and to be dragged along the floor of the aircraft (plus whatever happened outside the view of the camera-phones that documented the victim's suffering), simply because I relied on the fact that I had been accepted for carriage and that acceptance was revoked on a whim by the airline, I really think twice about flying.

Campaign Number Two:

A CLASS ACTION brought in the USA on behalf of people like me who have been upset by the documented actions of United and its representatives.

Shit: I'm due to leave my hotel and head for the airport in an hour. I'm already jittery. This from someone who has spent decades hopping on and off planes like most people would hop on and off buses if there were any.

I've been thinking about artificial intelligence. A UK academic once said "it's not artificial and it's not intelligent." Prof Angel was right then and he's right now. But, I've also been thinking about Douglas Adams and the worlds he created in "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy." In particular, I've been thinking about Slartibarfast and his experimental world, which turns out to be Earth. We've been promised effective AI since the mid 1980s and we have been sold, both in business to business and in business to consumer products what is claimed to be the next generation of AI. But the simple fact is that we have not yet reached the first generation that works as it should. It's still nothing more than a series of algorithms that are told what to do and what to do with information they find. The machines do not "think" in the way that animals do. Is a plant that bends to the light "intelligent?"

Computers are responsive. They can use information they have been fed to produce possible future developments but only within the parameters of the imagination of their developers. So are we living in Slartibarfast's version of earth; is this really just a giant beta-test for the world that will come after it?

For sure, we are being used as alpha-testers by those who seek the holy grail of a truly thinking machine.

But then the hard questions start: will it have discretion, morals, a conscience, a sense of being and a sense of self ?

When we disrupt a column of ants, there is a scattering of those from further away. Are they telepathic, are there ant-screams that carry across, in their terms, a vast distance? Are ants intelligent or do they simply move quickly, in numbers, making and discounting lots of erroneous possibilities? Do they tell each other of their successes or failures or do they lay down different scents or chemical compounds depending on success or failure? At what point do we consider a response to programming ( genetic, social or in computer code) to become intelligence?

I don't know but I do know that, if we define intelligence as gathering, analysing and acting upon knowledge, then much of the world seems to be falling away from that state of affairs: the rise of unthinking following of religions, the growth of internet trolls that simply jump on bandwagons without thought beyond like, share or comment are a sign that intelligence is being subjugated to response and compliance, where we lose discretion, morals, conscience and a sense of being and a sense of self? Are we simply staying in the mindset of the school bully who laughs at a child for wearing an unfashionable brand of clothing (let's leave the tyranny of so-called dress-down Friday for another essay).

Are we moving towards a future where, perhaps, a handful of people will find a way to make a machine that is actually intelligent while the majority of people take the role of reactive device that computers currently have.

It's hard not to look at the direction that the world is taking without coming to that conclusion.

That's why so many people, not only the majority in Britain, want to leave the EU: their right to self-determination is being taken away and they want to re-assert themselves before all personal independence is being lost. The freedom to cross borders, to live and work anywhere in the EU and to do internet shopping anywhere within the recognised tax regime is not the same as being free to determine one's own fate.

It's why Airlines need to put passengers first and fire staff who screw up. And it's why we need to compel developers of e.g. mobile phone operating systems to give us full control over our devices and what data they store and transmit and what "apps" the system runs. We need to take back our lives, from distant governments so that true democracy can function and from corporations that deny us freedom to keep our lives private and who think that "customer service" is a bolt-on rather than the core reason they exist.

So-called social media has become a platform for the anti-social and those who are driving the new machine-like existence that so many mistake for life.

It's why a growing number of intelligent people are leaving mass social media, other than as a promotional tool. Even corporations have to consider the costs and risks of inviting the world and his entourage to comment on a page they provide for marketing purposes.

Campaign Number Three:

RESTORE FREEDOMS and stop treating me like part of your government or corporate machine.

Right. Offski. Time to get the willies at the airport. Bloody United. Thanks for spoiling a very important part of my life.

 


 

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