Artificial Intelligence, it is already here, and there!

Can Alexa think? Can Google predict what I will want to buy? Can machines think? These are all very big questions. because if the answer is yes, then are humans in jeopardy of becoming redundant. Is AI challenging the prime issue of human reason?

In the 1950’s it was standard belief that if a machine could produce results equal to humans, then it could be called intelligent. However, despite these limited results it was understood, even then, that results of machine processing would always be without sentience, emotion or sympathetic awareness of external issues which are influenced by, but not part of the problem or issue to be solved.

AI can now exceed the old measure of Intelligence, for example, computer programs can now extrapolate complex relationships and patterns to the extent that far exceed human capability. A language model has been developed that trains itself by consuming freely available texts and extrapolating new sentences and paragraphs by detecting patterns in sequential elements. AI is now able to facilitate the production and composition of new texts that meet our definition of human intelligence.

In a book that I am writing I imagined a politician in a major political event leading to an election flooding social media with generative artificial intelligence phrases that then floods the social media with extrapolated ideas. The antithesis of democracy, at least to my mind.

Political polarisation is already a major issue exacerbated by false news, further degradation of truth by the extrapolation of the extreme views and the amplification by media algorithms that encourage clicks by serving users’ increasing extreme views.

The above are bad consequences of AI, but there are many excellent consequences as well, including the development of everything from self-driving vehicles to the development of new antibiotics.

It is worth mentioning that in terms of world concentration and control of the development of AI China leads by quite a long shot. Like all processes the value of the finished product is only as good as the input. The moral standpoint for the development AI is an absolute imperative. Will we acquiesce to a world where the infallibility of demagogues such as Putin and Xi is right by algorism rote, or will be use AI via free human thinking and democratic systems?

The jury is out, but the wakeup call is there.

COP26 – I’m sorry but……

The conferences in Kyoto and Paris, remember them? Kyoto was meant to enshrine in International law global resposibilty for climate regulation. Paris on the other hand recognised that The Kyoto treaty was multinational and meant to be binding on all the signatories but since 1997 the enforcement of Kyoto had become hopelessly complicated and illusary. So in Paris, lower thresholds were set enshring a much more acceptable compromise; Nationally Determined Contributions.

Fundamentally, despite a dawning realisation that the whole world faces the same threat, these NDC’s have allowed countries to persue whatever energy policies they see as to their advatage. The panoply of widely diverse scenarios is mindboggling, some, if not all understandable. However the consequences are dire. The COP’s have signally failed to produce a model of global governance that can counter power politics, let alone share a sense of a common destiny.

Examples of the political shinnanikins, include Brazil trying to get paid to decrease deforestation, President Xi arguing its not his turn to do his bit and should not be seen as the same as developed economies, who got rich before China, on the back of industrial polution. Mr Putin will not turn up at all..

What to do? How can we ensure firstly that we all see the common threat of climate change. There are glimpses that this happening and that the jamboree in Glasgow is at least, furthering that realisation. But it is all for nothing, if there is not a common agenda shared by all. This aspiration, for it still is just that, is not being improved by the richer nations having reneged on their promise to put up $100mn for poorer countries to arm themselves against climate change. What message does that send?

The problem extends beyong UN climate change conferences. Whilst globalisation has liften millions out of poverty, it ha s fueled increasing concentrations of wealth. The poor and the rich have very different ideas and aspirations, because actions on climate change have very different rewards for the rich or the poor. Hence the politics of power and envy all mitigate against agreement. Since Paris and the NDC’s the world has failed miserably to contain the climate change challenge. Already we are way behind on the challenge to contain global warmimg to 1.5 dgrees.

The answer is not that somebody else will fix the problem, climate change is above all a common problem – the world is burning and flooding! Unless there is a international binding treaty based on science COP26 will just be another talking shop.