P&J Column 8.12.16


Artificial Intelligence set to replace actual gypes.

Hector Schlenk, Senior Research Fellow, Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, I’m always being asked questions like “Does Fermat’s Theorum apply to negative integers?”, “Will the Cassini space probe take photos from inside Saturn’s rings?” and “Can humans of different backgrounds communicate with each other in binary language?”.  To which the answers are No, Yes, and 00100.

But lately, people have been asking me if there’s any truth in Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney’s warning that Robots will take 15m of our jobs.  Of course, I tell them, there is no immediate danger of this until a machine has passed the Turing Test and exhibited intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, a human. And by ‘human’ , I don’t include cast members of structured reality shows on ITV or certain holders of US high office, on whom my old rubber-keyed Spectrum 48K had the edge!  Then I laugh, but they look worried and try to back away. So I go on to inform them that in science, one must be prepared to test any hypothesis. To evaluate properly whether a robotic worker could be a threat means building one. I did this yesterday, using 2,500 paper clips, some superconducting cable, and my entire collection of Lego Technic.  I then installed the resultant automaton at an empty desk in the Bogton Institute’s admin offices and programmed it to intermittently utter certain key phrases like “Did you see Strictly on Saturday?” “Is it me or is it cold in here?” and “Fag break”. I then hid and monitored it discreetly from behind some potted plants, until someone noticed me squatting amongst the weeping figs with my phone in my hand and called security. However, before my ejection, I observed that sadly, the machine did nothing – remaining entirely motionless in front of the monitor screen.

From my researches it would seem that there’s at least one person in every office who could easily be replaced by a robot like mine.

The Reverend Edmund Everend, Minister for Holburn North North West

So Theresa May has seen fit to stand on a warship and declare that she wishes to see a Brexit that is neither hard nor soft, grey or white, but “red, white and blue.”  No doubt her more ardent adherents will have imagined that she was referring to the Union Flags that flanked her as she spoke.  But as we near the season of goodwill I hope it is not too fanciful to hope that even if the rhetoric is nationalstic, the real truth lies beneath.  For the Prime Minister might just as easily have been describing the tricolor so beloved of our French neighbours or indeed the flags of Liberia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands or Nepal.  In flags, as in so many things, there is more that unites the nations than divides us.  Of course, red white and blue are also the colours of North Korea.  But that is one example that can be discounted; for that is a country where the leader uses the language of violence and equipment of war to hammer home a jingoistic message to a downtrodden people.  Whereas here, in the UK…Ah.

As you were.

God bless.

Cava Kenny Cordiner, the football pundit who lets you know he’s there early doors.

I could not believe my eyes when I heard Man City and Chelsea have got into hot water bottles over the aggro at their match on Saturday. Has football gone soft? Back when I was playing, Sergio Aguerro’s tackle on David Luiz would have earned him a pat on the back and a pint of 80 shilling in the bar afterwards. Instead he got his jotters and a 4 match ban. Mental. And as for that bus-stop at the close of play, I’ve seen worse outside the Clover Leaf when the landlord called time.

Speaking of calling time, my ears got a shock when I seen that Formula 1 champion Nico Iceberg is hanging up his driving gloves just days after he won the title. My Melody says to me, she says “talk about quitting while you’re a head!” But he’s not just a head, he’s got arms and legs as well, though to be fair to Melody, you wouldn’t not know that from looking at him in his car. I suppose I understand why he would want to retire, though. Sitting in a motor for hours every day seeing the same road over and over again must drive you mad after awhile. Just ask anyone who works in Altens.