Blogging Catch up

Pandering to the UKIP mob

Teresa May’s speech on immigration was something that got the news commentator’s talking. In it she claimed that the benefits of immigration are zero….which is somewhat at odds with the data from within her own department. As the Guardian points out  on every one of her claims not only does the data not support her claim, it strongly suggests the opposite conclusion.


All such claims are of course just myths put out by closet racists. The UK is not “full or overcrowded by any stretch of the imagination. Migrants are not a threat to British culture, they do not push up crime (actually crime rates often fall when migrants move into an area…because they generally work for a living!) and they are not putting undue pressure on the NHS. Indeed without the taxes paid by migrants its questionable how the UK can afford to continue to fund the NHS or the generous pension provisions.

More worryingly is that this speech confirms that the Tories have completely lost the plot on this issue. They plan to ignore any and all data that happens to contradict the mantra of the tabloids and push ahead with a radical policy. Of course the whole point of responsible government is to prevent rule by the mob.

But if the Tories want to pander to UKIP why not just go the whole hog and have a racist themed costume party next time. Cameron can go as a pig-screwing upper class twit (he won’t even have to put on a costume), Theresa May can go as Eva Braun, Eric Pickles as can go as Goering, Osborne as Himmler, etc.

Syrian Refugee’s

Indeed speaking of tabloid miss-information, the Daily Mail has recently claimed that only 20% of those arriving in Europe from across the Mediterranean are Syrians. However, a more reasoned analysis of the data, suggests a very different picture. The data set they focus on precedes the recent influx. While it might have been only 20% before June, the UNHCR figures suggest 51% of documented arrivals are now Syrian refugees.

And of course, this only accounts for “documented” refugee’s but most of the Syrians aren’t being documented. And we’re assuming that Syria is the only country where people have a legitimate right to flee from. However, it is a known fact that many of the refugee’s are coming from other war zones such as Eritrea and Afghanistan.

This highlights the dangers of letting right-wing tabloids set policy. They have a nasty habit of being wrong and manipulating data to suit their own ends.

Tax does have to be Taxing

I recall pointing out in the lead up to the last election that the Tories spending plans were unaffordable without major welfare cuts. And the fact is that the bulk of welfare spending is not spent on unemployment benefits or welfare to the disabled (3% of the welfare budget). Instead its working tax credits and pensions (about 50% of welfare budget).

Thus the only way the Tories could pull off their plans is by significant cuts to working tax credits…or pensions. The latter of course is unlikely given how many pensioners vote Tory. So anyone voting Tory was more or less guaranteeing that tax credits would go.

The Tories naturally, denied this. However, blink and a few months later and now working tax credit cuts are on the agenda. Needless to say, this is the reward for all those who were silly enough to vote Tory!

The Billion dollar flat


The impoverished East European state of Moldova has been hit by a number of dodgy corruption scandals, including what was basically a massive pyramid scheme. As much as 1/8th of the country’s GDP has essentially been stolen. However, more surprising is the connection between this theft and a modest two bedroom flat in a Scottish council estate.

This flat is the headquarters to 530 companies, many of them involved in the recent theft. Yet, despite this nothing has been done by the British authorities. The attitude of the Tory government seems to be its okay to rob people, so long as they are abroad. And no doubt when hordes of Moldovans start migrating to the UK they will complain about how the plight of these people is hardly their problem.

Security Theater

An interesting wee video from comedian Adam Conover, in which he points out the ridiculous nature of airport security. The reality is that the TSA (the American security drones who waste your time at airports, boss people around and make you go through the “smut machines”) are a massive waste of time and money. Not only have they never caught an actual terrorists (including the shoe or underpants bombers, nor the 9/11 hijackers) but when they’ve been tested by the FBI, they failed to find dummy weapons on 95% of the occasions.

In essence its what’s called “security theatre. Whereby the TSA engage in a ritual meant to reassure people about security for the benefit of the closet racists who are scared of any dark skinned people on the same plane. Frankly, they may as well start sacrificing chickens to the gods of the air for all the good it actually does.

Failing the AI test


An American Professor has a thought experiment to highlight what he claims is a flaw in so-called artificial intelligence. Basically machines think differently to us, so they perceive things in a very different way.

Imagine the scenario where you are on a road in a wood and you see a underground bunker door leading into a dark room. Standing in the doorway is a clown smiling next to a sign saying “free hugs. Now to a human, no way we’d go down to a creepy bunker to go near an even creepier looking clown. But an AI would think, well clowns are good, hugs are good, and free hugs are better.

In essence, what our Professor is trying to do is create a form of intelligence test, or perhaps more precisely a common sense test for AI’s. Often when the topic of artificial intelligence comes up, many point to the Turing test. This has never sat well with me, as I’d argue its flawed. It relies on the fact that a human can’t be fooled by a machine, if the machine is less smart the human. I’ve known situations where dogs and cats have outsmarted their owners, so that’s not really an appropriate benchmark.

So a more effective test of future artificial intelligence would be to apply tests to it that test the machines ability to reason, its common sense, its ability to learn new things independently, its morality and its capacity for independent thought. Several similar tests like this “clown test” could produce a more objective AI test with which to gauge artificial intelligence.

Of course, one flaw in this is that we have to ask the question, would all humans pass our test? Let us take this idea of perceiving risks. Recently a school kid in the US was arrested because his teacher thought a clock he’d build himself was a bomb. And this is one of a whole host of similar incidents. I myself have seem airport security take holy water off some old fella. And the US TSA have a reputation for taking all sorts of stuff off people.

Now I suspect computers won’t have to advance much further to realise that an Irish grandad with holy water is no threat to anyone…..other than vampire’s and Tories 😉 . So by this logic we have to conclude that many in the security services lack sufficient common sense and fail the test and hence do not count as intelligent concious beings.

And similar we have the issue of bible literalism or the likes of ISIS and other religious puritans. Again, most of us will understand that works such as the Bible or the Koran are not to be interpreted as literally true word for word (not least because there is ample scientific and historical evidence to counter a literal interpretation). They are instead works of allegorical literature, which was a common writing style at the time of their creation. So again, by this yardstick, as Baptists (or ISIS) can’t exert basic common sense, we would have to judge that they fail any AI test.

And lets not even get onto climate change deniers, anti-vaccine quacks, Gun nuts  who follow a literal interpretation of the 2nd amendment or those tinfoil hat wearers who still think MH17 wasn’t shot down by the Russians Separatists…..

The point I’m trying to get across here is that any test by which we judge a future AI has to be fair. If a large proportion of the human race would fail it also, or demonstrate that they too lack basic common sense, then perhaps we judge machines a little too harshly….or maybe we let our fellow humans off a little too easily!


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