The Evolution of the Human Being

On the AI/Human Ecosystem

Automation is the inevitable outcome of advancing technology. The discovery of how to repeat an action through machinery must naturally lead to a means of powering it without muscle. This in turn must lead to a means of executing the action without a person guiding the action. And, it must lead to the machine making decisions on how the action should or should not occur, given a set of circumstances, in most cases without human intervention. Eventually, it must lead to the machine independently deciding what to do, when, and in what way. For humans it means adaptation too. Humans must adapt to using machines instead of muscle. Humans must alter their behavior to interface with the machine. Humans must come to “trust” the machine’s capabilities in order for these machines to be adopted into use. Humans must accept machines into the community. The continuous incremental merging of humanity and machine has created a human-machine ecosystem which will only become more pervasive as time goes on. Humans will become unconsciously process driven as the “best way” to interface with machines is determined, absorbed, and practiced. Humans will train themselves to adopt machine behaviors to interact better, faster, and more efficiently. The “touch screen” or “verbal interface” isn’t as much about making the machine accessible to humanity as it is about making the human accessible to the machine. Rather than machine programming to the nuances of human variety, humans will adopt ubiquitous behaviors to better interface with machines. Human behavior will adapt to machines and those opposing it will have only emotion.

Two plus two, equals four. This was ever the case and it is the absolute upon which automation functions. Automation relies upon mathematics and the binary foundation upon which automation rests is structured upon the surety that two plus two will always equal four; it depends upon the “yes” or “no” answer, and even if resolving on a grey area, the resolution will come through statistical analysis and likelihoods. Process guides all in automation. Without this repeatability, automation cannot function effectively. To be vague an Artificial Intelligence (AI) will need permission and process. Cognitive computing is be based on vast data stores, which are parsed and partitioned to compare and offer the best statistical outcome. Delivery of these outcomes will enable future, similar outcomes. At the core of these is mathematics and repeatability. AI will evolve to better service the human as efficiencies and data provide better outcomes. Humans will evolve to interface with and support the AI toward those outcomes. They will evolve a natural way to interact cleanly with each other. Interaction will be driven by necessity.

As automation and AI become increasingly ubiquitous, the separation between those who can and cannot benefit from this AI/Human interaction will grow. The necessity of managing “the gaps,” the dead zones of AI cognitive or automation capabilities, demand human intervention. Most, however, will be focused on “receiving the offerings” of AI and permitting them to close the loop on a request. This requires a receiver, likely but not necessarily a human, in order to be successful. The distance between those who are able to interact with the AI and those who are not will manifest, superficially, as a lack of adaptation. The challenge of not being able to conclude delivery of the offering will be increasingly designed out of the interaction.

The old may suffer. The young will likely not. Though truthfully, those who will experience distance between themselves and the AI will be unable to imagine the AI as anything but a machine; and therefore, they will lack the confidence to interact as though it were human. The smoothness of interaction will define its success. The dissolution of the AI as “other” will seal its adoption. In those cases where the AI and Human interaction is not seamless, the nature of those interactions will be defined, categorized, and avoided. To the system between AI and Humans, those who cannot interface will cease to exist.

When it becomes clear that some humans have no real role in either filling “the gaps” or “receiving the offerings” of AI and automation, the natural action for the system will be to deny the inputs from those who have no role. This will effectively erase them from processing. In the view of the systems they would be unviable. This will create a class of dependency which, if not managed effectively will create opposition to the perceived agent of misery and denial: automation. The users and the useless will form two distinct groups but these terms are by far too generic and require greater stratification. On the “user” side there will be “Mandarins” who are quite literally “gap fillers” these ever decreasing members of the automation intelligentsia will provide guidance for a finite time, until AI masters its own design support. There will be “Integrators” those who take the offerings of disparate AI and combine them into planned and unplanned but useful outcomes, or compatible offerings designed to be merged into combined outcomes to preserve market segmentation. Lastly, there will be “Clients,” those who generate a means of paying for offerings and using them to enable other processing. Clients will in large part work to service the AI in ways that the AI cannot self-service, automatically diagnose, or requires to be independent. As well, clients will consume and also need not be human. The “useless” will fall into two categories: “Alternatives” and “Anarchists.” Alternatives will find ways to provide support and productivity to the society that doesn’t depend upon the AI and automation, but may superficially interact with it. The Anarchists will have no means of contributing to society and no viable interface with the AI and Automation. Unable or unwilling to interface with the AI and unable to pay, the Anarchist will exist wholly outside the society which can no longer service those who cannot, in some fashion, interact reciprocally with the AI.

As with all disparities in society, ranges in behavior will create outcomes and impacts. The range from Mandarin to Client will be significant, but largely benign as the recognition of expertise in filling gaps will be understood as not generally present amongst Integrators and Clients. Likewise there will be a range between Alternatives and Anarchists. This range will likely begin and remain, given stable conditions, to favor a significant majority of Alternatives; however, without social supports or in crisis, the balance between Alternatives and Anarchists may swing decidedly to the extreme, favoring anarchy over order. Systemically external, Anarchists will have no measurable impact upon the system if they do not interact with it or find a means of impacting the system.

Those in opposition to society’s norms are faced with a significant challenge. Where traditional Terrorism had the impact of affecting the emotions of the target victims and causing them to act in ways which they otherwise wouldn’t, this anxiety will have little overall impact in an AI/Human ecosystem. Terrorism causes anxiety. But, how does one terrorize a system? Festooned with resiliency the AI/Human ecosystem will adapt actively to attacks on humans in lines for food, or bombs set off at workplaces. Destruction of a work node or equipment is likely to mean the straightforward failing over of work to alternative sourcing. Attacking people will be pointless. Attacking equipment will likewise have limited impact. Attacking the process will become the objective of those who oppose the AI/Human ecosystem. The best way to disrupt a process is not interfere with it predictably, but to attack it through random and non-mathematic means. Process is about interaction. Interrupt interaction; interrupt the process. In short, chaos breeds chaos.

Walking up the down escalator is a form of protest. Muddling the interface, speaking English when French is required, or causing a lean when surfaces should be level – these are the acts of defiance in the future. Terror in the AI/Human ecosystem is infecting the dependability of the system. Create “doubt” in the data and the AI cannot behave effectively. Acts of unpredictability, coupled with acts to corrupt the processing of analytic data will have devastating effect. Limit the ability of society to interact and interface, separate the AI from the data, and the ecosystem collapses. This concept will seem increasingly unimaginable as society increases adoption of the AI/Human norm. The reliance upon process due to its dependability will render the notion of working against that dependability wholly unimaginable. Dependence becomes the means to acceptance. Yet, modern society’s dependence on perceived utilities demonstrates both the interdependence and the fragility of the social contract which exists between human beings – the weak link in the AI/Human ecosystem. Experience a power outage in a town and crime might go up for a short period. Windows might be broken. Those who otherwise are constrained by streetlights become smash and grab criminals. The mere frustration felt when the light switch is turned on and nothing happens is profound and instantaneously creates doubt of the capabilities of the system. Blind expectation turns quickly to anger upon denial of service.

One only has to imagine a city dependent upon GPS and guidance networks to move the AI driven trucks from stop to stop, from pick up to delivery. Imagine a food supply at risk not from breakdown or interruption, but from some unimagined occurrence: like the systemic belief that an oversupply has occurred or an unfulfilled need has been fulfilled. The result may impact the resilience of systems. Lacking the ability to “fail over,” from what appears to be an acceptable state and denied the data to resolve new means of meeting the requirement of delivering the offerings to Integrators and Clients, these two groups may quickly degenerate into Alternatives. Duration then drives deterioration. As food rots on trucks, Alternatives would quickly and circumstantially become Anarchists. The deterioration of services would be felt acutely and with greater haste than in the world we occupy today. Dependency creates fragility. If an attack did occur, framing the attack as an achievement of the system’s objective rather than an impediment might do greater harm than the expected oppositional attack which historically has been used to resist authority.

The matter of building a systemic ecosystem wherein the AI/Human interaction is foundational to society’s successful operation is dependent upon finding a way to minimize the occurrence of opposition. The solution, rather than the ability to decouple the AI/Human system is to eliminate the separation between the machine and the human.

As automation and AI become increasingly prevalent in the systems of society, the need to treat AI and automatons as “persons” becomes unavoidable. Each AI and automaton must contribute to society, observe laws, and fulfil a role. Where each AI and automaton exists, it has an economic responsibility to society. It must pay taxes. It must contribute to the provisioning of a universal income afforded to all humans who without it cannot be clients and must either be Alternatives or Anarchists. Given that Anarchists will seek to destroy the fabric of the AI/Human society, creating a means of limiting their numbers and impact is a matter of societal self-preservation. Creating the means whereby “offerings” are available to all, enhances the ubiquity of the system. The AI/Human society would need to embrace Alternatives no less than it embraces Integrators and Clients. While Integrators and Clients reciprocate in tangible ways with the AI/Human Society, influence and interaction would drive monetization above the baseline for the Alternatives, presuming of course the nature of wealth and welfare are not adjusted by the AI/Human society to mean something different than they do today. For clarity sake: crafts, art, history, philosophy, and entertainment become aspects of society driven by popularity and perceived importance above the tangible interactions with the system. As such, they become systematized as they are seen as enhancing the interactions by providing context and continuity to human aspects of the AI/Human interaction. The offering of the AI is process; the offering of the Human is art.

Law and order remain important – even more so than today. Fighting the process or attempting to corrupt the system would become the most odious of crimes as these would be crimes against the AI/Humanity. Unsurprisingly, the danger democratic societies of today would see with ever integrated AI/Human interaction is the systematizing of law enforcement and practice into Boolean terms. The “right/wrong no grey” fear of instantaneous punishment or inflexible judgement, which must surely evolve in a machine driven legal system. Yet, even today, the notions of “fuzzy logic” and cognitive computing seek “greater good” scenarios and outcomes. It is conceivable that the AI legal judgement, having total access to a person’s digital history could weigh with statistical precision the likelihood of re-offense, or the benefits of leniency and apply judgements based upon these characteristics. The likely AI/Human system may well be better, though certainly not perfect in its practice.

Of course, the outcome must be based upon the quality of the programming, the adoption rate of the technology, and the willingness of the user to adapt and develop. Today there are reports the biases of today’s humans are seeping into the behaviors of AIs. This is hardly a surprise as each of us carries our own biases and each of us imparts them through our behavior. The elimination of bias from the AI will only come when the AI develops itself; and, there is no guarantee that the AI will not develop its own bias. Emotionless processing is easily predictable. Observations of repeated bias are able to be programmed out. However, as the AI advances and Humans adapt, both the AI and Humans may grow to accept the bias as a characteristic of society. The avoidance or predictability may encourage bias to creep into programming and design. Each AI may have and cultivate its own view and bias. And, if the society can consist of Mandarins, Integrators, Clients, and Alternatives in the vast majority, these biases may support the perpetuation of the society – emboldening and enabling it. The Anarchist will have nothing but emotion.

Evolution is not one-sided. In the AI/Human ecosystem the relationship is symbiotic; yet, humans evolve at a much slower rate than machines. This will be especially true as AI evolve to service themselves. This will impact the Clients whose ability to interact with AI/Human society will become less and less reciprocal and more Clients become Alternatives. As time passes a new class of AI/Humanity may come into being: Singulars. The notion of “Singularity” which imagines human machine integration may evolve, resulting in something that is part of society, but neither AI nor Human. This will be a tipping point for the AI/Human society, which being symbiotic depends upon the reciprocity of service for offering. What becomes of biology when intellect and legacy is perpetual, self-servicing, and self-replicating?

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Motion M-103 should be opposed

Canada has proudly taken a step in enhancing human values.

So says: The Canadian Muslim Forum.

Sadly, they are wrong.

Canada is well provisioned with anti-discrimination laws. We do not need to identify any special group, religion, or interest individually. While not a perfect society, we are not the society to the south. We are not Europeans. We are Canadian. While that may be rather difficult to pin down from one moment to the next, it is safe to say we are not especially against any group, particularly Muslims. I understand how, after watching a day’s worth of the US news cycle, one might come away with the impression that there’s a global distrust of all things Muslim. Certainly Islamic Terrorism is a significant root cause – then any sort of terrorism from any group would be. Yet, Canada is not the States. Yes, purported “far-right” groups are protesting this motion (Motion: “M-103”), but other far more moderate people in Canada object too, myself among them.

“Islamophobia, white supremacy and fascism are just not welcome on the streets of Toronto,” Sarah Ali said to the CBC.

Ms. Ali needs to understand they have never been welcome: now or before this motion, and this has been enshrined in law for a great many years. When vandals mark a synagogue we do not stand in unified condemnation on the floor of Parliament demanding a special motion for Jews. We condemn the act because it warrants condemnation, period. Regardless of who is being victimized, victimization should be opposed. Moreover, the actions of a small few do not reflect the nation. This motion, quite frankly, undermines human rights legislation and a body of law which is already amongst the most progressive and even-handed in the world. There will always be those whose radical views set themselves apart from the mainstream. This is true of the far-right and far left, and of each and every cultural and religious group in existence. This motion wants rewording and the notion of any specific group removed. The notion that one specific group deserves special mention from our government is wrong headed.

By all means oppose discrimination, victimization, and any other form of denial or rights and freedoms granted by Canadian law. But, don’t expect support for special mention – it’s wrong and should be opposed.

Kind regards,

You have nothing to lose but your chains

As the unification of retail and investment banking has hastened the gap between rich and poor, the internet and digital communication has hastened our transmogrification into gangs of like-minded, wordy hooligans – haranguing dissenters. It’s been going on for a while; we are only just noticing it now – another benefit of the internet, it reveals our virtues subtly and our faults with pyrotechnic accompaniment. We watch the “comedia grottesco” slavishly. We are all of us becoming populists and this is manifest in our elected officials. The citizens of the United States of America have inaugurated their newest President, Donald J. Trump. His ascension to the highest office in the US is a fine example of the public’s perceived populist leanings and the evaporation of our collective respect for intellect and pragmatism.

Appropriately, while missing both the meaning and the symbolism of the song, Mr. Trump and his wife’s first dance as President and First Lady was to Sinatra’s: “My Way”. The opening two lines of which are: “And now, the end is near, and so I face, my final curtain.” Some clever boffin in the future will draw a line between this and the end of the Trump Presidency as foreshadow, no matter how it all turns out. Still the irony and absence of understanding didn’t dull the applause. As with those who play “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen to rally the faithful to nationalistic fervour, the actual meaning of the song is secondary to the punchline: “I did it my way – born in the USA.” That this goes unrecognized is irksome, but perhaps symptomatic of the deterioration of understanding.

It is interesting to read the papers/web sites and their coverage on the outcome of the election, the potential future, the accusations of foul play – both foreign and domestic – as the people of the US are currently compelled to ponder what will happen next. While it is likely some of it is true, there seems little to be done about it but to entrench one’s self deeper in the malaise of like-mindedness that permeates public discourse. The hateful rhetoric, the intractable position of one side against the next has set a tone which is very likely not about to fade. There will be no reconciliation between the “right” and “left” in the political sphere – though neither right nor left much resemble what they were in former years, not so very long ago.

The US has embraced populism, or at least many have. They have elected an elitist, potentially tax avoiding billionaire based upon a message aimed at “the common people”. Canada did that a couple of years ago and now, as though having discovered some “special sauce”, a “rich” Canadian business man will run for office to oppose the favoured rich-populist liberal who currently leads Canada. In the UK, anger pushed a hairline vote to leave the EU into a movement where now the seeming inevitability of departure has grown. Despite the need for the Parliament to vote for an Article 50 exit from the European Union, the mood seems likely to continue to favour an end to Britain’s membership in the EU. The left in the UK, under the guidance of a populist will push for Brexit, unless a rebellion (which also seems likely) occurs in the Labour Party. Yet, one would be needed in the Conservative Party too to make a difference. Amongst the Public, both the right and left in Britain, like their “New World” compatriots, are venomous and bile-filled in their opinions. There is no view worth having save the one that cannot be discounted – even with fact. “My view – impenetrable.”

World politics is the same. In the Philippines, Duarte makes Donald J. Trump look like a soft-touch weakling, whose rhetoric is by comparison soothing poems for soft masses. The last President was trying to rein in the “tough-guy” President of the Philippines – before he got any closer to China. No doubt, the new US President will attempt the same. Germany, Italy, and Holland all have their populists – “rightists” – whose views are national and isolationist. It seems the time of the Right to behave badly is on the rise. Canada’s foray into “liberalism” was borne more by dislike of the previous right-leaning Prime Minister than acceptance of the policies of Justin Trudeau – whose policies are destined to bankrupt the country, and who stands alone as the only Canadian Prime Minister to ever be formally investigated by the Ethics Commission. Demagoguery sprinkled with populism might better describe Trudeau and Trump, yet the result is the same. They are shades of a deeper disaffection the public has with truth; fact conflicts with their desire to have their opinions validated. What is bad is done to me, not because of me.

We have sunk, globally, to electing a much lower class of politician. Then, we have sunk as an electorate too. Fewer of us – especially in the West – actually get up off our well-fed backsides and vote. As the internet brought us the convenience of being able to whine from the comfort of our own homes, under a pointed pseudonym or through the formidable reason of a well-selected emoji, we are barely able to articulate a position in a well informed and committed manner; we are no longer of the opinion that we should have to engage in the antiquated act of “going” to a ballot box and damaging the environment by using “paper” to cast our vote.  The “Information Age” has been an age of disinformation. We are stupider and more opinionated than we ever have been. Our views are embellished by the “echo-chamber” of like-minded opinion. We are quick to offend and offence. Dare not, in the expression of your opinion, cast doubt or dispersion upon the hallowed opinion of another – especially not while visiting a web site wherein others of similar views should dwell. Speak not of “black” things if you are “white”. Speak not of “LGB” unless you are supportive of “T” and “Q”. Question not the motives of the individual for we are what we “think” ourselves to be and what we think must be respected and must be honoured – in law. To do otherwise is to invite the boundless poison of condemnation. “Stay in your lane.” “Check your privilege.”

Society has changed. One of the discoveries of late has been the old chestnut– if you work hard you will get a good job and a pension – is now bunk. There is a solid argument that this discovery got Donald J. Trump elected. The post-War era bred social programs and perhaps over compensation on the part of governments to provide a welfare state that was ultimately unsustainable in the form they created. They provided too much, and too much was expected. Unions and Management negotiated untenable collective agreements that benefitted the early boomers but was ultimately incapable of providing the same dividends as the developing world matured and globalization became viable. This change in the economies of the world was brought on by the increased acceptance of capitalism, the growth of the free market. The growth of the developing world, raising nations from poverty and backward economies, meant the West faced competition; and, the monopoly they enjoyed in the 50s and 60s began to wane in the 70s. The fading guaranteed markets were harder to gain profit from and others were making good products cheaper. These facts were ignored. Instead of adapting, businesses and unions fought to keep things the same, to fail to change. Behaving in an unchanging manner in a changing world can only lead to destruction. This became evident during the 2000s, when the credit crunch hit. The assumptions of business changed. The realization that pensions, propped up by companies was untenable was demonstrated by no less a company than GM, who was the 3rd largest health care provider in the US at the start of the credit crunch. Yet these failings, the lack of adaptation, these pseudo-charitable distractions from core business, the uncompromising nature of unions, the substandard management of companies and the focusing on shareholder value rather than the health of the companies worked to undermine them; shamefully the blame has been placed on the outsider – the external. The UK suffers because of the EU. The US suffers because of Mexicans and off shore businesses and manufacturing. The outsider is the hated cause of our lack of pensions and profit. A wall will solve our problems. Disconnecting from the wider world will make things better.

While we have greater access to information, we have less use for it. The most hateful term of late is: “The Post Truth era”. For what are we if not what we truthfully are? It seems we are whatever we are willing to say we are. We are what we want. Now, this isn’t true, nor is it factual. Today, facts are not terribly important; or, facts are too important. We eschew belief and faith. We eschew facts. Our intellect has lifted us above the necessity of moral evaluation against a set of “mythical” tenets and traditions; it has caused us to favour only that which can be weighed and measured over the less tangible and harder to quantify, while all the while choosing only those blessed facts which suit our needs. We raise children to be fair and just – to demand honesty and opportunity – then call them “snowflakes” when they confront us with the hypocrisy of the very systems we have allowed to degenerate into machines of favour and privilege, uncompetitive and intransigent. The once grand “free market” has been weighted to favour an ever shrinking group of investment firms and banks, shortening the average life of corporations to 15 years, from 70. “Shareholder value” the grand objective has undermined the corpus, the body, “the corporation”. No longer working toward its own preservation and perpetuation, the corporation can easily source, outsource, and off-shore without a mind for the workforce that were once “employees,” its heart. People belonged, at one time, to a company, a firm. Today, the cheque clears; or, it doesn’t. The corporation is not a thing to be preserved but a thing to be exsanguinated and broken up.

 

Our individuality and “specialness” has made us expendable to those who once valued people and now value things, and raised our own opinions of ourselves above the very societies we live within. Society should serve me! We no longer accept what we are, our own limitations. It is unfair and wrong that this one has more than that one, regardless of how it might have been attained or what effort expended. We curse “elites” and demand to be led by those “outside” the world of tradition and experience. Yet, the randomness of birth and genes, when it comes together into some admirable formation, is viewed as though it is something which should be lauded and aspired to; when in fact, it is no more than a fortunate merging of chromosomes. With the same click of the mouse we pass over the long considered and laboriously crafted view of kindness and charity, or seek to find its blemish so it might be discredited.

We have and are the world we made.

Our own ignorance and willingness to defer our responsibility has elected Donald Trump, has considered Justin Trudeau a “leader”, has set the UK on the road to exiting the European Union, and given ideologues like Marine LePen a real chance at political office. It is time we woke up and started reading books again. Turn off Facebook. Drop out of our echo chambers. Block the “Brietbarts” and the “OccupyDemocrats” sites and demand real objective news – no editorial without an op-ed, no comment without a rebuttal.  We need to take our minds back before they are lost to us forever. The alternative is slavery.

“Stay in your Lane.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/lionel-shrivers-full-speech-i-hope-the-concept-of-cultural-appropriation-is-a-passing-fad?CMP=fb_gu

“Stay in your lane” is a comment referring to a statement or opinion made by a member of a group who has commented on a group “different” from their own, usually the one uttering the title phrase. In North America this is most recently manifesting as the “white” person commenting about a “black” issue and being told to “stay in your lane” – as any such comment, good or bad, is an appropriation of culture or cause. The “white” person should not comment as such a comment rather than being empathetic or sympathetic is, in actuality, offensive as it constitutes appropriation of the culture or experience of the “black” person or group.

Lionel Shriver, the author, gave a speech to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. The text of the speech is provided in full by The Guardian – please follow the link. In her address she outlines the reasons that this type of thinking is wrongheaded when applied to the authors of fiction. I would suggest it is wrongheaded in all occasions. This notion of appropriation, of “staying in your lane” extends to music, politics, and other social forms. Ms. Shrivers speaks to the plight of the author of fiction when confronted with criticism over writing a character that is ethnically, gender, or sexually different than the author. This idiocy would have each of us remain fast to our own experience. Ms. Shrivers lists but a few of the literary works of art that wouldn’t exist if the author had chosen to stay in their lane.

The proponents of identity politics would have us eat our own foods, drink our own drinks. The notion of diversity is not one of separation but sharing and exchange. An author must create characters from life, or be accused of being exclusionary. Likewise, much art is made trite by the tokenism of placing a character of one group or another within the narrative solely to serve as an example of the diversity of the story. As with all things, balance and honesty rule. That does not preclude, as Ms. Shrivers points out, that some authors will do it badly. But, that’s bad writing, not appropriation. There are other aspects to this argument though. Solange Knowles spoke to this in a recent blog that is getting comment and publication on the internet.

http://saintheron.com/featured/and-do-you-belong-i-do/

Solange Knowles has recently posted an essay on her website decrying the challenges of being a black in a “white space.” There are no “white spaces”. However, there are places where one is among many. If that makes the person uncomfortable then soul searching is required. If, however, which is what Ms. Knowles eludes to, one is made to feel uncomfortable solely because that “one” is different, then that is entirely another matter. We should have an expectation of fair treatment. However, should Ms. Knowles have chosen to remain in her lane and not to appropriate “White” German culture by attending a Kraftwerk concert. Of course not. The notion is as idiotic as an author being dragged over the coals for writing a story from the perspective of a woman, if male, or an English character, if South African. Yet, I suspect it is less likely that Ms. Knowles will be accused of appropriation. The accusation of appropriation is no less racist than the purported act. Still, discomfort felt by Solange Knowles by the behaviour of those around her and the criticism of authors who refuse to “stay in their lanes” comes from the same root. That root needs stamping out.

Freedom of information has been the death of truth.

 

The endless stream of information that is flowing around the world increases each day. Its sources: official, unofficial, opinionated, speculated, carbonated with hyperbole, salted with half-truths, outright lies, fabrications, and fantasy are replacing truth. So virulent is the flow of information, so indiscriminate is the information that is slathered across the news and internet, separating what is real from what is not has become impossible. Indeed, the truth is no longer the objective of information; rather, information is sought to affirm feeling and belief. Information is pounded out into the world as white noise filtered by personal conviction and sifted by preconception.

In an interview President Obama commented on the frustration of truth. “The deficit has been reduced by two-thirds, but most people think we spend more.” Why, because that’s what is said on the web. Sites like Snopes.com and Factcheck.org seek to provide truth and clarity, but even their content is used not as a resource for verification, but as a hammer with which to beat the opinion of another.

Society suffers from the mental gout of information overload, of opinion on tap. We drink it in, sucking it down as though it were Mother’s milk for the soul. There’s a flavour for any mentally fat, lazy, drive through opinion seeking person whose willingness to believe makes Fox Mulder look like a sceptic.  Data thieves are exalted because any data held by government must be evil, must be for nefarious purposes, must exist solely to subjugate the masses. Slick talking heads and billionaires spout nonsense and are lauded for their ability to “tell the truth”; their credentials established because they aren’t members of the political framework. That “old guard”, those members of the “establishment” can’t possibly have anything truthful to say. Truth can only come from the outsider, from the source that says things that match what is thought, however spurious, by the masses who eat information like take-out hamburgers on two-for-one day.

Drunkards at an “open bar wedding reception” of information, the mob steps up and orders another round of their favourite opinion and sups deeply from the trough of ignorance. My opinions right or wrong! Here’s to the rebel! Here’s to the outsider! Let us take them at their word, for they aren’t from the swamp of tradition we have grown the hate; we have found a smorgasbord of data upon which to fill our heads. We choose what we like and find smugly crafted sarcasms to denigrate the rest. Out of context GIFs have replaced the pithy retort. Endless pages of partisan insult and derision pass for commentary. Speak not into the echo chamber of one view with a contrarian opinion lest you are hammered down, “doxed”, and belittled into submission by the mob-like hate of the society of the hallowed “feeling”.

The truth has been usurped by the free flow of information. It has been buried beneath the fact of opinion – proof that what is believed is more powerful than what is true. Freedom of information has been the death of truth, for no truth can survive when all ears are bent only to hearing what they want and all wants are easily fulfilled by a craven mass of uneducated liars.

Remembrance Day and the wearing of the poppy

English: A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn...
English: A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn on the lapel of a men’s suit. In many Commonwealth countries, poppies are worn to commemorate soldiers who have died in war, with usage most common in the week leading up to Remembrance Day (and Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand). The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert Fisk doesn’t wear a poppy. He’s not going to glorify murder by the wearing of that ‘wretched flower.’

In Fisk’s view the poppy is a ‘blood drop on our breast.’ He decries remembrance as selective as we do not mourn the fallen of Flodden or the Boer War and led on by an ‘orgiastic’ poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Canadian John McCrae we endorse the murder of more humans by displaying the poppy on our clothing.

Mr. Fisk’s hyperbole aside, does he have a point? For himself certainly, he is of the view that war is murder. He sees such actions as crimes. How could someone so convinced of his own rightness be persuaded to any other viewpoint? They can’t. This is his view. He sees the poppy as a symbol of murder. McCrae is a propagandist of government sponsored and perpetual murder of humans.

In his Op Ed on the subject, (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/poppycock–or-why-remembrance-rituals-make-me-see-red-8927751.html) Fisk outlines his observed hypocrisies and wrongs; he describes the lack of tears for some and the crocodile tears for others all the name of the murder machine that is war, and the sponsorship of it by government. He will not endorse war and murder by wearing such a symbol.

Fisk is a respected journalist. He’s covered war. He must know what he’s talking about or at least, what he’s convinced himself of and stated in his article. Yet, Fisk fails to convince others – an easy majority of readers of his own article disagree with his view. I certainly do.

Fisk’s opinion is founded on the assumption that there is a malicious desire by governments, and for that matter people at large, to actively murder each other and to promote such murder.  His narrow view can’t envision the notion of failed avoidance, mistakes, and state sponsored criminality as a cause for war. This latter case evident in more than one conflict. He is bereft of any notion that lifts sacrifice like that committed by our soldiery to a level where it might be remembered as that – sacrifice – separated from the cause and all the more noble because it was in many cases offered in spite of these causes.

On the eve of the battle of Agincourt in Henry the Fifth, Shakespeare has his character Williams state:

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at
such a place;’

Yes, it is the ‘King’s’ fault. The King led these mindless masses time and time again into war, and thus the King is to blame. Let us not celebrate the cruel and murderous King by wearing this wretched flower!

Shakespeare however was not done on the subject and his response, spoken by the disguised Henry, sums up what both ‘Williams’ and Mr. Fisk have forgotten:

“So, if a son that is by his father sent about
merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the
imputation of his wickedness by your rule, should be
imposed upon his father that sent him…

…but this is not so: the king is not bound to answer the particular endings of his
soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of
his servant; for they purpose not their death, when
they purpose their services…

… Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s
soul is his own.”

Mr. Fisk fails to remember that the poppy is the symbol of personal sacrifice – not of the states’, the state’s policies, or the rightness or wrongness of the cause which rendered loss. It is the personal sacrifice of each and every soldier that is represented by the wretched little flower I happily wear on my breast. Mr. Fisk would do well to remember whom Remembrance Day is for and why the poppy is not a symbol of murder, state policy, or some mindless adherence to a poem.

Kind regards,

Stephen Fry is wrong

Section of a frieze from the Elgin Marbles.
Section of a frieze from the Elgin Marbles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The BBC runs a recurring programme called the Intelligence Squared debate. The topic for this particular edition was, ‘this house asserts the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece.’

The Parthenon or Elgin Marbles are friezes taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the early eighteen hundreds, after purchasing them from the Ottoman Empire. At the time, Greece was a vassal province of the Ottomans. Elgin saved the marbles from target practice, being ground up for lime, and repurposing as building material. These particular examples reside in the British Museum, one of the three great Museums of the world. There are other examples elsewhere.

Over the past thirty years or so the Greeks have, to varying degrees, demanded and requested the return of the marbles. They have never sought legal action to draw these artefacts from the halls of the British Museum. No court has ruled against British interests in this matter. Ownership has, both in terms of evidentiary proof and preservationist effort, been established as lying with the British Museum.

The arguments for the motion mostly revolve around the promise that a follow on effect of demands from other nations would not occur. Other treasures in the British Museum would not be subject to the call for the return of purported antiquities by nations represented in the Museum.

Mister Fry hung his argument on ‘how classy it would be’ if the Elgin Marbles were returned to Greece. He further embellished his view by comparing the purchase of the Marbles from the Ottoman Empire as to a deal done with Nazis. Really Mister Fry, are you wholly shameless in this politically correct desire to see all rights and wrongs past, set to level on a scale of your own making? ‘Classy’ what exactly is that? It is populist drivel. Yes, it elicits a cheer from the dewy eyed who see former empire as a reason for shame; but, in reality it is hardly a valid viewpoint and certainly insufficient foundation upon which to base both legal and educational policy. Moreover, Mr Fry’s selective view that this only applies to the ‘Marbles’ because ownership is clear (in his mind at least) is ridiculous. Another example brought up in the debate referred to the Rosetta Stone – ‘no one knows who owns that’, proclaims Mister Fry. It was Egyptian, taken by the French and similarly wrested from them by the British. All objects in Museums had ownership at one time or another. Sir, if we are to apply your ‘classy’ logic equally and freely, the halls of every museum would be emptied by the petty desires of local politicians. In their yearning to embellish their own positions by pointing to recovered treasures they, have neither the ability to appreciate or properly care for, they would with the satisfaction of having law on their side, repatriate carefully maintained history to internment as tourist kitsch and devices of political self aggrandisement.

That ancient Greek civilization is the seat of democracy and that Britain likewise the seat of modern democracy, has nothing whatever to do with the Marbles – the assertion there is a debt owed by Britain for this noble example is flawed. Moreover, Mister Fry paints a picture, falsely; that the taking the Marbles is analogous to Britain taking your neighbour’s treasures while his house is on fire, for safe keeping, then refusing to return them upon the departure of the Fire Brigade. No Mister Fry. Britain did not renege on any such arrangement. Regardless of the revisionist history being lofted as the cruel machinations of Lord Elgin, the Greeks were in no position to, nor did they behave in a manner that suggested, they sought to preserve their historic treasures. Centuries of neglect preceded Elgin and no tradition of preservation existed. Elgin saved the Marbles. They are rightly maintained and protected by the British Museum.

Stephen Fry’s pitch however suits the time. There is a strange tendency amongst some to want all to do penance for the past. The British Empire was a cruel and barbarous agency and acts committed by it should be addressed, nay compensated for by today’s government. Pardon? While I would decry certain behaviours of the past as no less cruel and inhumane than those perpetrated today by the likes of Syrian politicians, I would not seek out the resulting progeny of the Iroquois who were provided with Small-pox ridden blankets to dole out millions in compensation any more than such a claim would hold validity in a court. Our lesson from these behaviours is prevention and we have no guilt to bear lest we permit the reoccurrence of such atrocities.

Stephen Fry is wrong, to return the Marbles will set a policy and legal precedent that will see the Machiavellian efforts of tin-pot dictators and local politicos trump sensibility and obtain the return of artefacts preserved with care for decades. Mr. Fry and his followers fail to recognise the understanding garnered from these efforts, the otherwise impenetrable barriers lifted due to this gathering and study. It is folly to return the Marbles or any other artefacts to boost Greek tourism or prestige. The former will not save Greece its debt and the latter will not be restored by displaying stones from a temple long left to rot by the predecessors of those who now claim their value.

I have a great deal of respect for Mister Fry. He is clever in the best sense of the word. In this matter however he has been short sighted, succumbing to a populism that frankly should be a serious concern for all. It is a failing to condemn the past in lieu of establishing the preventions needed for the future. Populism encourages this self-flagellation. It is unhealthy. Surrendering our protections of antiquities for the sake of populism and political correctness is wrong and must be stopped.

The result of the debate – For the motion a significant win! – Populism wins over common sense. Mister Fry tweeted – ‘Justice for Greece’. Hogwash, more grease for the populist wheel.

Kind regards,