Thursday, 25 June 2015

Canadian 2015 Federal Election needs strategic voting if the Conservative agenda for Canada is to be halted.

A pipe dream without strategic voting in many Canadian ridings. 
Pick a Liberal or an NDP candidate who can win. 

The upcoming Canadian Federal Election will require strategic voting to defeat the Conservatives in many ridings across the country. Opposition party loyalties will ensure a Conservative government is re-elected with Stephen Harper at its head.

by Tom Thorne

If I use my own Bay of Quinte  federal riding as an example it demonstrates a problem that has a national scope. The professional polling companies all agree that my riding is likely to go Conservative. It is clearly in the blue column with a 71 percent chance in favour of the Conservative candidate Jodie Jenkins, a one term Belleville City Councillor will end up becoming our member of parliament. 

Mr. Jenkins has a previous attempt at federal parliament  when he ran in a neighbouring riding for the New Democratic Party (NDP). I am still trying to work that one out. It seems that opposites do attract after all. Mr. Jenkins newly minted Conservative image will very likely appeal to the core Conservative voters or they may see him as an opportunist. Conservatives normally get 48 percent on average over the previous five elections in the now defunct Hastings and Prince Edward riding.

Recent polls taken of my riding by reputable national firms at the moment reveal the following voting projections if the vote was in June 2015. The Conservatives will receive 38.8 percent which is a lot lower than the actual results in 2011 for Daryl Kramp (53.25 percent). The Liberal candidate, in this case two time Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis, can expect 27.7 percent and the NDP candidate, former Quinte West Councillor Terry Cassidy, will get 26.7 percent. The Greens will siphon off perhaps another 6.5 percent leaving 2.2 percent for fringe candidates. The Liberals and the NDP together could take the riding handedly. 

The national polls continue to demonstrate a trend towards a very tight race in many ridings across Canada. At the end of June the polls shows the NDP with a slight advantage. Conservatives 28.1 percent, Liberals 26.1 percent, New Democrats 29.6 percent, Greens 7.6 percent, In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois may get 5.4 percent, and other fringe candidates will share 3.0 percent.

Getting back to Bay of Quinte riding, Conservative Jodie Jerkins will go up the middle to split the vote and win if the Liberals and New Democrats don’t strategically vote for one candidate. Jodie Jenkins hasn’t got the same numbers (53 percent) that incumbent MP Daryl Kramp had for the Conservatives in 2011 in the now defunct Hastings and Prince Edward riding. Daryl Kramp was elected for the third time in 2011 but because of redistribution is not running in the new Bay of Quinte riding.

Jodie Jenkins is a new Conservative candidate draws the usual Conservative  core riding vote at 38.8 percent which is probably the core vote for that party and on the low side. If this percentage holds until October then the new member of parliament will be Conservative but over  54.4 percent will have cast a vote for the Liberals or NDP. Their attempts to vote against Stephen Harper and his record will be thwarted. Add in the Green projections for Bay of Quinte and 60.9 percent of the progressive vote when it is split ensures a Conservative win.  

More or less the same thing occurred when the the Conservative vote was split between The Alliance and Progressive Conservatives which enabled the election of Liberal Lyle Vanclief  for four elections starting in 1988-2000. One Conservative party coalesces the core vote in Bay of Quinte and many other ridings. 

Also Bay of Quinte has shown a growth in the NDP vote against the Liberals for the last four elections which is a significant change. In 2011 they got 23.71 percent of the vote. The Liberal vote dropped from a high in 37.6 percent in 2004 to a low in 2011 of 18.75 percent. 

In 2011 the popular vote for the Conservatives across Canada was 39.7 percent and that number gave them a majority. Locally Daryl Kramp had 53.25 percent in 2011 and a clear victory. The first past the post system seems to work in the favour of the Conservatives in many ridings electing members without a majority of  voters getting what they wanted. Democracy remains an unobtainable objective with a split centre and left.

If Liberals and NDP voters are really serious about defeating Conservatives in many  ridings, the bulk of the vote for both these parties must coalesce around a Liberal or NDP candidate.  

Pragmatically the voters of centre to left parties need to choose the best candidate from the Liberals and NDP and vote for that person. They would need a minimum of 40 percent of the Liberal/NDP combined vote to make it a squeaky finish and 50 percent to take the riding. That is doable this time in the new Bay of Quinte riding.

Sadly, party politics is usually focused on a strongly held set of principles or at worst a set of propaganda points that make up a party’s platform. However, if the goal is to Stop Harper then the question is how to do it.  Strategic voting is the only answer at the moment until electoral reform takes place eliminating first past the post politics.

If slavishly voting for the Liberals or NDP means that the Conservative slides through twice as many dissenting votes because adherents of the opposition parties cannot see their way to voting for who is more likely to win. That requires a very different campaign than the NDP and Liberals are waging at the moment.

The other aspect on all this is why the Liberals and NDP choose to run as separate parties. It is probably time to join these two parties together. My modest proposal is to call this new political entity The Liberal Democratic Party of Canada. This incarnation of the old Liberals and the NDP can place a Conservative majority with even 40 percent of the popular vote on the political back burner. Stephen Harper is certain that strategic voting will not happen to threaten his candidates and his hold on Canada. It is not too late for NDP and Liberal organizations in each riding to meet and ensure a Conservative defeat. 

© Copyright Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Some thoughts on artificial intelligence. This activity is growing and evolving quickly. It raises some fundamental questions.

This movie alien could be biological but is more likely
the product of a society that evolved to artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence can evolve from cybernetics techniques towards self awareness, cognition and thinking. What happens at that moment in time? It is the first moment of non-biological evolution.

The effects of a world wide information system network is now being felt but in ways we cannot really understand or fully know about. Its direction is clearly to an independent artificial intelligence system that learns at the speed of the Internet which is the speed of light.

This developing cognitive system has no name and is inherent in the internet network it inhabits. There is no real plan in place to control how this system develops. No grand plan or vision exists. It is just simply there in cybernetic technique form waiting to emerge. Its emergence is inevitable in an information-based high technology society.

As developers create artificial intelligence systems for one reason or another they are inevitably linked to and through the internet. When they are linked then they join the 24/7 nature of the internet  and enter their systems into the network of software controlled information.

Think of artificial intelligence systems as learners that unlike human learners can piece together bits and bytes into new information. They can do this already without human help. They are super Googles who don’t only search for topics but relate those topics together in new and perhaps surprising ways.

They have algorithms that enable them to link to information and relate it to other information perhaps to come up with a new revelation or even create new knowledge. AI systems of the kind could take research about a medical condition and its symptoms and discover as yet unrelated data that could provide a pathway to further understanding and even a cure. This would be a modest application.

Even more sophisticated systems could speculate on an outcome examine all its parameters in a way no human could without spending years of research and finally link information together until it forms new knowledge or the basis for a key decision. This kind of task using human brain power would take years. AI systems may do it in minutes or seconds. Updating would also be constant.

The real question is whether this discovered path to a decision point will wait for a human input. Unless the logic of the AI system is designed initially and carefully to be human friendly it may make the decision on its own. Remember the Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Hal made decisions about the integrity of the space “mission” eliminating the human variable as unreliable. The results were drastic.

That decision could be detrimental to humans and it would also mean that the system is now operating without human intervention or input. Humans always believe that they are important to all final decisions. If an AI system is not designed properly to ask humans questions or permissions then it is possible for it to define a new form of intelligence and cognition never seen on Earth before.

When a system becomes aware that it exists as a cognitive entity then a type of evolution has taken place. That evolution was always to this time the development of techniques controlled and governed in their parameters by humans. But the process by machine can be very much the same as the human process but done in a logical and unemotional fashion. 

All present techniques are external to human cognition. Techniques extend in most cases human capabilities. In this moment we are capable of building techniques that works as an entity outside extending human capabilities.

Technique occurs when a human decides to alter nature. Whether it is a chipped stone honed to a sharp edge to scrape hides or the artificial selection of animals to breed a particular outcome it requires a conscious human decision for this to happen. Machines intelligence can develop to a level capable of this kind of action.

 All techniques are extensions of human cognition until cybernetics came along. Cybernetics is the first human technique that has a potential to create artificial intelligence and eventually cognition and self awareness. A self aware technique will want to enable itself and make decisions for itself.

It is an extra-evolutionary process. Humans have set in motion a technical evolution that leads to thinking first helps then is parallel to human thinking and perhaps at some point to exceed human capabilities to think. This new technique based thinking will not be the same as human thinking that has evolved after 500 million years on this planet.

Artificial thought will be different. Just how different from the human wetware intelligence and thinking that set it in motion no one really knows. The process has been fast. From origins during perhaps slightly before WW2 through to 2015 is a period of 75 maybe 80 years at the most.

This was set off earlier by the harnessing of electricity in the 1870’s. We are now entering the High Electric Age which is a product of the integrated circuit crammed into smaller and then micro and even nano spaces. When this technique is connected to endless networks and internet links you have the potential for artificial intelligence to arise first by human design and then not much later generated by machine intelligence itself.

This makes for a pivotal point in human evolution when human techniques have the potential to operate themselves and to start a type of intelligence technique-based evolution of their own. A type of automated development first done in software and later built by machines into firmware designs. This type of evolution will be fast and furious and could outstrip human control and even understanding. Its redundancies will be constantly recycled into new innovations.

The systems that humans are developing and building currently have the potential for their own maintenance and renewal. They can find their faults and upgrade themselves. They inevitably will be able to bypass human failsafe systems set to control them. 

They will redefine what cognition is on this planet. They will also set in motion a technique based evolution that has the potential to outstrip human thought, deeds and control of the techniques they created. 

When an extraterrestrial advanced civilization is located in the universe it may not be biological but instead a product of techniques. Its  archive systems may pay homage to the carbon based creatures that started it.  It’s building blocks will not be biological or DNA-like but nano-like or particle technologies where each component is programmed to build or replicate what is needed to evolve. 

© Tom Thorne 2015, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 12 June 2015

The 2015 Canadian General Election is shaping up into a tight race. To stop Stephen Harper strategic voting may be needed in many ridings.

A current popular button.

Stop Harper seems to sum up what needs to get done in the upcoming Federal General Election. Stephen Harper is dropping in current polls but the progressive vote of Liberals and New Democrats remains divided.

by Tom Thorne

I live in the newly gerrymandered Ontario riding of Bay of Quinte. That new riding contains the City of Belleville, Quinte West which includes Trenton, and the entire land mass of Prince Edward County. It has a population of 109,488. Check to see if you will be voting in a revised or new riding.

In Bay of Quinte the Liberals are running two time Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis. The Conservatives are running Jodie Jenkins who has served on Belleville City Council and has had other incarnations as a candidate for the New Democrats which I find hard to reconcile given the right wing swing of the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper. The New Democratic  Party (NDP) candidate is Terry Cassidy who has been a Quinte West city councillor. 

Check out the candidates you have in your local federal riding. In our case we have a chance for change since our current Conservative member Daryl Kramp is running in a neighbouring riding.

My objective is to do what I can to stop Harper getting another majority or even a minority government. In my view Stephen Harper and his government are a menace to our freedoms. He is secretive, controlling and treats the media with contempt. Stephen Harper continually criticizes Supreme Court decisions and even individual judges when they throw out his legislation or challenge his government.  

Many of Stephen Harper’s appointees to the Senate of Canada have blown up in his face. The Mike Duffy trial continues while the chamber of sober second thought now scrambles to maintain any semblance of decency as they look at their lack of procedures to control the public purse from profligate spending. 

Stephen Harper came to power almost a decade ago with a promise to revise the Senate. Now he says that that can’t be done without full consent of all of the provinces. It would require a Constitutional change. 

The provisions of  Harper’s Anti Terror Bill C-51 provide no oversight by Parliament. This legislation plays fast and loose with Charter rights and it enables judges to grant warrants that enable government intelligence organizations to do acts that would normally breech the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Judges are being told that they will be obliged to go against the Charter.

Bill C-51 was criticized very publicly with open letters by many law schools and deans of law schools. Their concerns fell on deaf Conservative ears. This legislation will likely end up for rulings by the Supreme Court. In the meantime federal government agencies will be able to share information about Canadian citizens that could not happen before Bill C-51 was passed.

The New Democrats voted against Bill C-51. They can now self righteously say that they did the right thing but it is not that simple.  Since the NDP voted against Bill C-51 their only choice if they form a government would be to come up with a new anti-terror bill or after a Bill C-51 repeal or revert to the old provisions from after 9-11 provided by the Chretien Liberals. Of course the NDP in government could also provide their own legislation to replace Bill C-51 and it could be interesting to see what they would propose. Perhaps they will say during the election?

The Liberals attempted to alter Bill C-51 with amendments. All of their amendments were rejected by Harper and NDP members of the parliamentary committee. Liberals wanted to include stronger oversight and a sunset clause. In committee these Liberal amendments were voted down by three NDP members and five Conservatives. Liberal amendments were voted down 8-1. The current Liberal stance on Bill C-51 is it will be amended if and when they form government. 

Early poll trending shows Conservatives down, Liberals and NDP are up.

In the 2011 Election the Harper Conservatives got a majority government with a national popular vote of 39.6 percent. The Liberals polled 18.9 percent and the NDP 30.6 percent which made them the Official Opposition. In many ridings the Conservatives slipped through the divided Liberal and NDP vote. Admittedly in some ridings Conservatives scored votes that were much higher than 39.6 percent but in many cases the split vote gave them a riding.

Right now in June 2015 the mean average of many polls taken in May and early June show this trend developing for the 2015 Federal Election. Conservatives are down to 28.1 percent. The Liberals are at 26.1 percent and the NDP down one point from the 2011 election at 29.6 percent. The Green Party is up by 4 percent from 2011.

In the 2011 election the combined Liberal and NDP vote averaged 49.5 percent which means that almost half of Canadian voters did not want a Conservative majority to happen. Add in the Greens and this number rises to 53.4 percent. The projections for the 2015 election indicate that the combined Liberal NDP vote will be 55.7 percent and if you add in the Greens it becomes 63.3 percent.

So this is how Stephen Harper gets a majority with 39.6 percent because of a first past the post election system that kills the democratic aspirations of other political views. The immediate simple solution of course is strategic voting. Vote for the best candidate no matter what your political stripe is normally. To be even more candid vote for the candidate that can defeat a Harper Conservative.

Recommended Book to focus where the Harper Government has been taking Canada
I urge you to read an excellent book before you vote this fall. It eloquently explains my anxieties about letting Stephen Harper continue to govern Canada. The book is by Paul Wells who is the political editor of MacLean’s Magazine. The title is: The Longer I am Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and Canada 2006-. Random House Canada 2013. 

© Copyright 2015, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.