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.

Tolerance, habit and respect.

As time goes by, I find it hard to accept so may changes to what I thought was a confirmed view of democracy. Firstly I assumed that democracies exist for the common good. This meant essentially behaving within the law and to the spirit of the law.

Now, I was born when the nuclear family was the basis of Christian Democracy, both terms Christian and democracy stood as important foundation ideas for the way we hoped to live. During my lifetime the Christian and its associated religious ideals have waned, though many would still claim that even without religious connotations the ideas and ideals of the philosophy still hold good.

The other great principle of democracy is, of course, individual freedom within the law, including freedom of speech, assembly, and the written or broadcast word.

All these liberating freedoms are circumscribed within the law. The law from Magna Carta to this day has evolved reflecting changes especially the migration of people and ideas, religious or not. There have been many instances where the acceptance of ideas and religions have not been received easily or without resistance, so that democracy itself has been subverted.

Democracy, I always thought, was a system of Government in which power invested in the people and exercised by them through freely elected representatives. So, consequently, Democratic Government should, or is it must, reflect the majority view? What about the freedom of the minority? How does democratic government respond to change?

Change has, as ever, been rampant, sometimes clearly for the good and espousing the basic values of selflessness and kindness. The realisation that history has shown that mans evolution is full of community and tribal defences and aggressions, some clearly evil by today’s standards. The changes are usually wrought through minority intervention, and almost inevitably ridiculed by the majority that favours the status quo. Some even attempt to subvert ‘progress’ by attempting to change into backward steps, for example the Trumpian effort to undermine the democratic elective process in the US.

The minority have views that are crazy sometimes, progressive sometimes, the big question is how do we make room institutionally to accommodate both the crazy and the progressive and then to reject or accept that which is right and progressive?

It all boils down to the idea of voting by individual for a government that will reflect our views and beliefs. This is clearly a deeply flawed system, but its the only one we have, if we espouse the idea of democracy. Can we accommodate the debate that democracy maybe the wrong way to go, and we should go the totalitarian route of the Chinese republic, for example. We have seen the dangers of ‘couldn’t care less’ electorates, the lopsided conspiracists, and the populist ‘last idea is best’ and the simply ‘crooked’. All these have evolved from so called democratic governments.

Accommodating change within the continued prospect of mass migration, the richer getting richer and the poor poorer, the planet either drowning or burning, is beyond most of our comprehension. Yet we must decide if the idea of a just democracy is worth sustaining. What are we going to do about it?

Amongst the most troubling issues that face us all are race and gender. Two of the great empirics of human kind. That they are seen as major issues is in itself astonishing, and expressions on these issues are so often hateful. How sad is that?

The issues of misogyny, race and democracy all depend on the human race to put aside our tribal differences and to respect one another. Respect is a big word. Respect those who have impaired abilities, respect those of different colour, gender or view. The very basis of democracy is the respect of the elected for the electorate and vice versa. We all have a way to go, and very little time to get there.

Time to wake up, with respect to us all.

Passports for what?

Government, even in Wales, are hesitant about vaccination passports. Why?

I am travelling to Spain and I have been given no option other than to get vaccination certificates, or vax passporta by any other name. The government, at least in Wales, insists I pay through the nose for Covid tests after my return, it is compulsary! So why not have a vax passport, while we are excluding choice.

We all received little cards recording our vaccination and apparently these cards can’t be used as passports because they can be forged or copied.. Anybody with the slightest wit would have secured the original card and we’d be all done.

These shortfalls in Government forward thinking would not be tolerated in any half decent business. A simple process has become impossibly complicated because the Governments of the UK are flaffing about the restrictive issues associated with vaccination passports. Again, why?

On my travels I wield my UK passport with a certitude that the Uk is respected, and that I will be given elemental safe passage as a citizen of the UK.

If I were not vaccinated, by choice , then surely the powers that be have the duty to protect the majority and insist that I can prove my vaccination status. Not to do so is a free license to spread the disease and maybe kill my fellow citizens.

I am aware that a minority cannot receive Covid vaccinations, if there is just cause it should be noted. Otherwise I see no reason that the Governments in the UK pander to the balmy conspiracists who insist on avoiding vaccination. It is their choice and if they want to be excluded from social interaction or travel then fine, let it be so.

Liberty, antivaxers,conspiracies, and the law.

Following Matthew Syed’s article regarding fundamentalist religious founded terrorism, I was intrigued to understand the limits of freedom to cause harm, whether through assassination by gun or by lie.

My premise is, that though blowing people up is evil and obvious, antivaxrs for example, cause multiple deaths but in a less obvious and indirect way. Many of them claim that compulsary vaccination is a breach of civil rights.

As for the conspiracists and the snake oil brigade, then any wild assertion such as the establishment injecting poisons and chips (electronic) so that they can spy on us. Well, they are clearly fabricating harmful lies which influence the vulnerable and contribute to the spread of pandemics and multiple deaths.

The issue here is, causing the deaths of unknown humans is by any definition is wrong. However, the right wing lobby insists that vaccinations should be a free choice. They are aginst vaccination passports despite the well known fact that Corona virus kills.

Matthew Syed point is that we should recognise that terrorist attacks are very much driven by religion. That the terrorist who kowingly blow themselves up, really are driven by religious fervour. I agree with him.

What then drives the antivaxers, the freedom from government and the conspiracist lobbies? Their beliefs are in most cases firmly held. Many to a fundamental beleif that is unmoveable. They share that fundamental belief with their kind. Some refuse to acknowledge the immutable fact that pandemics kill. Others acknowledge the danger but are committed to the belief that freedom of choice is a fundamental and immutable right, even if it kills tens of thousands of people.

I might argue that killing is wrong either through religious fervour of obstinate defense of individual right. Is it their right to kill by denying fact, as witnessed by the millions of deaths around the world?

Do those who lead us politically, have the guts and gumption to see that sometimes there must be clear leadership? An ethical decision must surely be made to protect and defend all of us from proven danger. Terror and lies both kill, we should defend against both.

Who will put out the fires?

Has the USA conciously given up the role of the leader of the free world? Does the shambles in Afghanistan signal a surrender to the angst and loathing of idealist states, they vary from Totalitarian to Theocracy, all convnced of their infallibiity. China to Iran and noow Afghanistan, Venezuala to Brazil. All, wild examples of belief and political systems, that many think are out of balance with the perceived needs of humanity.

In Europe, The British are having an identity crisis ex Brexit, (where has the Great gone in old Great Britain?) as is most of Europe, from the Gaulist elitism of the French to the German fear of their future now that the Chancellor Merkell is coming to the end of her reign. The PIGS and Euro crisis is still very much alive, and battles about sovereinty rage amongst several members of the club.

Africa, with few exceptions is locked in corruption and violence, whilst Australia is shackled in the fierce embrace of a coal burning China, struggling to resist their almost total reliance on Chinese exports. The examples are just a few of the many strains that exist

The world is physically and literally on fire, and can such a disparate group of political systems have any chance of coming together to save humanity from itself? It does not look good.

The upcoming conference on climate change may possibly bring these disparate factions together in order to save the planet. Let’s hope so, but if human history is anything to go by, the premise is set to fail. The nearer we get to conflagration of our species the more likely we are to recognise our desperate mutual dependency.

This is an idea that has escaped President Biden of America, let us pray that the future will be led by wise men who recognise their destiny.

How liberal are we?

As we pull out of Afghanistan, following American leadership, is it time to ask ourselves whether democracy should evolve, or be imposed? It seems that the Taliban have complete control of Afghanistan, and maybe their influence is their business and not ours. After all, I hear you say, it’s their country and no business of ours.

I guess we could say the same thing about China and the Uighers, or the Christians in Iraq, or the Kurds, or people of colour in America. Now there’s a progression that is very uncomfortable. The good old USA has been a beacon of democracy for the rest of the world. Or has it?

A tragic mass shooting in the UK this weekend was the first fot many years, we are all moved with sorow and horror. Yet in the liberal USA mass shootings are a regular ocurrance, apparently gun control has nothing to do with these awful happenings and the right to bear arms is more valuable than the innocent lives lost. (My assumption)

Mr Xi in China has created hundreds of thousands of middle class chinese, lifted from dreary poverty. He has done this by absolute rule. What he says, goes! He beleives he’s a good guy, and the persecution of the non conformist is OK for the good of the majority. This guy is Karl Marx and Jesus Christ all rolled into one, he is the absolute ruler of China and is, right now, steam rollering the world in China’s favour.

It all boils down, the cynic would say, to shooting folk if it suits or doing what one man says. Stark choices to be sure, the middle road seems obscure, yet it’s what many of us seek to do. Don’t kid yourself, liberism and democracy have their extremes too.

Killing the sacred cow.

We all love the NHS. We all know that nurses and doctors have worked heroically throughout the pandemic. Yet, we know that the NHS fails to deliver a satisfactory support service in so many ways, not least the failure of a multitude of Governments who have all failed to sort out the intergration of medical and social care.

The consequence of this shortfall is that many people find it difficult to see a doctor, many people are waiting for ambulances for hours, others wait in ambulances outside hospitals, and people wait in A & E sometimes with dire consequences, for hours.

Don’t blame us, they say, the hospital is full, there are no beds. There are no beds because we cannot let chronically unwell people go. It is not our fault. But it is someone’s fault, or something of the system’s fault. The fault exists. Our usual reaction is to pour more money into the NHS.

This is not a question of ‘nobody cares’, of course they do, but nevertheless the whole system, health and social care falls short of what Nye Bevan had in mind. Adequate care that is free at the point of delivery. Even with enormous charitable support, the Hospice movement is buckling under the strain of the demand of the chronically ill, not to mention those who just about manage a declining and misreable old age.

Care workers are undervalued and under paid, many are wonderful a few are not. Why are we surprised? The Local Authorities are charged with providing care packages, whilst the NHS have responsibility for ‘Continuous care plans’. It is clearly a nonsence.

Increasingly, due to the short falls in the system, many are turning to private medicine. Many people even those of a deeply socialist nature are increasingly turning to private medical insurance. Many are re-mortgageing their homes to fund elective surgery. “Elective” it often is not, as the persons concerned are suffering really badly, ruining longevity and what quailiy of life they have left.

A word about carers. The word Carer applies to a huge range of activities that take place in hospitals, hospices and homes. They include assisting in meal preparation,, bathing, dressing, mobility and communication support. The work is intimate and exhausting. Not all of us are physically or mentally equipped for these roles, we must cherish and reward those who are blessed with patience, kindness and generosity of spirit to carry out this important work.

By doctors, (GP’s) not seeing patienst, the strain on A&E and ambulances increases. By not intergrating continuous care and social care we are blocking up valuable beds. So from both ends the NHS is squeezed. The ever increasing take up of private medicine increases strains on the avialbilty of specialists. Walk in to any private consulting room, it will be crowded!

The ageing population is a challenge that is only going to increase, so the pressures on the system in UK is only going one way – up and up! A radical review including the place of insured medical care is not only necessary, it is inevitable. Not only that, the Care sector must be intergrated with that of Health. It will cost, we must pay, and the government must face that. The Government must not rest, and we must sustain a viligence, until we have a sytem that works a good deal better than the one we have now.

Remind me, am I depressed?

Since the lockdown it has been a difficult time for everyone. It seems we have little else to talk about or write about for that matter. I sometimes think, that we are in a national wallowing in self pity. Everything seems about self awareness and group sensitivity. Wokeness and focus of individual issues has ballooned during our recent hideaway culture.

Is it not time we woke up, not Woke up, I mean be aware of the good things in life, the good we receive and the good we can do. Yes, of course many have suffered and many have mourned the premature passing of a loved one, there can be little consolation for them. But the rest of us! Let’s get to it.

Many of us are confused, about Covid and its consequences. Some, a minority, are locked in conspiratorial cabals of delusional nonsense, lets hope they do not infect the rest of us with their nonsense and their real threat of carrying and nurturing of the Covid virus in all its forms.

Now is the time for the majority to give thanks for their deliverance by vaccine and to think positively about rebuilding our lives , even if that does mean permanent change. The lockdown has been for many an excuse to do nothing, a time to switch off. You could call this depression, if you will. I prefer to think of it as laziness of spirit.

This idleness has truly infringed our life styles, it has paralysed our sense of initiative and closed us behind the cold doors of fear. All this has been stoked up by such luminaries as the Duke of Sussex and his mate who have rambled on about how hard the world is and how beastly everyone has been to them. Is it not time we all woke up and see the sun shine, watch the leaves change, watch the birds fledge, see the cricketers, and hear the choirs. For Goodness sake – wake up and lets get on with our wonderful lives.

In the UK we have a Government lead by a buffoon, who makes things up as he goes along. Probably as good a way as any, no one really knows. Devolution illustrates once and for all our tribal desires to be at odds with paper tigers and the fripperies of liberal politics.

In the long term we believe what we are conditioned to believe, the more we read of national depression, the ruination of education, the more we tend to absorb the bad news. Good new seldom make good headlines. The Vaccines works, there are matters as yet unresolved, but so there are about the mutations of influenza and pneumonia, yet we don’t harp on about then every day. Like ‘Flu we have to live with Covid. Let’s us face it, get on with it. It is after all a problem the human race has positively faced and is on the way to solving.

Tomorrow is another day full of opportunity or woe depending on your view. We are doomed if woe shuts out the light of opportunity.

Cummings and goings!

Are we surprised by the utterances of Mr Cummings, probably not! Do we believe him? Probably not!

Dom Cummings is a bright intelligent man who is obviously a huge egocentric believer in all things that Cummings sees and hears, whether real or imagined. This is a man who like Boris Johnson, who thinks what he says goes. Irrespective of considered logic.

Both Johnson and Cummings have common fetures mainly based around their super egos. Cummings is unpopular because he is humourless and Boris is popular because he is humorous. That tells us more about ‘us ‘ in general that it does about either of these figures.

Of course there were grains of truth in what Cummings told the select committee, I have no doubt that there were speculative thoughts about ‘what if’ scenarios. What if we did nothing? What if we allowed herd immunity? How many would die if…? What will be the cost to the economy if…? Of course there must have been scenario projections about all sorts of things, including travel restrictions, Mr Mohdi’s visit, etc etc.

Bye and large the UK has done well in terms of immunisation and curtailment of the corona virus, yes we have made mistakes, of course we have.

Sadly the truth will not out, nor, would some say. does it matter. Of course it does matter because as we screw up the planet more plagues will come and we had better be ready. The amazing thing is that the English will vote for centrist economics, the Welsh will vote for dependency of socialism and the Scots and Northern Irish for their nationalist causes, come what may. Overarching all these issues will have little to do with truth and fact.

Is it true that the NHS is wonderful? Yes and no. Is it true that UK is a international and leading power? Yes and no. Is it true that the Brexit issues are good for UK? Yes and No. All this ambiguity is too much for the average voter.

They are dominated by the cults of personality and tradition. Right now smiling at the PM dangling from a zip line is more appealing than a wrecked labour party. Mr Cummings has a point, but he is not a laughing matter.