Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Vladimir Putin is my Man of The Year choice....

President Putin shows considerable
surprise by the eJournal's choice of
him as their Man of the Year.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The World Wide Web is a chaotic place where artificial intelligence can evolve.

The Web and Artificial Intelligence: heading towards a profound technical change and non biological evolution.

The Web has no beginning, middle or end. It is a vast network of connections, computers and servers. It cannot be shut down or turned off. It is almost alive.
The Web grows on fragmentation and complexity. It is not a linear system but an endless loop within many other loops. It can be compared to neural pathways of a human brain.

The truth is no one really controls the Web short of building protocols for its technical cross platform performance. It is omnipresent and users carry devices with nodes that are connected to it and  its corporate form. Any one of these nodes can originate information content and launch it onto the Web. They can also receive information. It enables painless access to launch personal information onto the system. Many people using this device have been surprised when what they wrote went “viral”.

The Web is also a vast memory of what individuals launch onto it. It builds information and its search engines retrieve that information at the speed of light. Obscure facts can emerge from millions of informational documents stored on host and server computers.
The Web is a software for archiving and retrieving information. Each human user is connected through devices to this vast information entity.

The Web is now sitting on he edge of making its great stores of information into knowledge and content when artificial intelligence operates the information storage, retrieval and search systems. This new approach will constantly and automatically organize information first into modules of interest and then refine those interests into knowledge bases. Disparate  seemingly unrelated data will graduate to information and then knowledge under automated process controls. Information will be gathered into knowledge first by human input but eventually without human intervention.

A simple example of this version of The Web would be capable of creating a news module that could search the latest information about any newsworthy topic. It could automatically filter and check information. It could automate a human news gathering efforts of a newsroom applying all the principles of good journalism. It could do this without human help or interference. Such systems already work on and present stock market information often making decisions about the timing of trades and the fate of companies in the marketplace.

Facebook is a social media service that stores and retrieves millions of information pieces placed there by its users. This system can already pull together like interests of its users painlessly. Its first role is for advertisers to find groups of useful likely consumers. Equally it could be used by intelligence services to filter for ISIS activity and probably is already doing that. Anyone with a Facebook account is an open book to automated systems.

Add artificial intelligence to Facebook and information on any topic discussed by its users can be accessed and accumulated into a knowledge base. President-elect Donald Trump is a big topic on Facebook and generally across the Web. The system could assemble information in time and space and build a knowledge base of some depth on him and everything associated with him. This knowledge base could be used by artificial intelligence systems to write a book or put together an online magazine or provide an intelligence service with his vulnerabilities on the world stage.

Such a publication would never rest. It would be constantly updated and altered. Humans would have little to do but read the knowledge accumulated. Perhaps a few experts would be able to strip apart the systems to see how the information was assembled, edited and presented. Most of us would simply see the finished product on our screens.

Properly designed with safeguards this could work very well. Each piece of information about any topic would be tagged about its origins and reliability with detailed references similar to academic bibliographies. However, designing how to check facts and reliability if it is automated fully would be hard to control as the false news debate has indicated recently about Web reliability. Could we trust or even design the artificial intelligence systems that devised themselves through new Web pathways to do this work in the interest of humans. The anxiety about high information automation under the control of artificial intelligence is that humans could become the last consideration in an AI set of protocols created by the system itself.

Artificial intelligence can create and build its own reality. It can choose what is important to itself. The human dimension in this situation may be foreign to the reality built by AI that does much more than process information. When AI chooses and interprets what is important it may be doing it only for itself and its perceptions of a situation. The cognition of AI may first mirror and complement humans but at some point it will take its own viewpoints of all situations it works with as the truth and that truth could well be in conflict with human views of the world.

AI cognition can at first simply be an assistant to human decision making. However, the moment that a machine and software intelligence becomes self-aware there is a fundamental change on this planet. It is a new evolution which can be built into cyborgs and robots but more likely it will evolve in the chaos of the World Wide Web and like its host humans will be unable to turn it off. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Brexit negotiations will open many European Union cans of worms.


Brexit: The fragmentation of EU insensitive largeness.

By Tom Thorne

I have purposely let a couple of weeks go by before commenting on Britain leaving the European Union. The main reason for waiting is simply chaos of this kind usually generates a lot of flack. It also takes a few weeks for the dust to settle and political trends to begin to emerge. Markets and currencies go through a down cycle. The market takes a dip and the smart money buys value cheap and then allows normalcy to a reassert itself. All this masquerades as a recovery after profits have been siphoned and reinvested by the smart money experts.

The failures of those who promoted staying in the EU resign before their heads roll. And in this case it is now clear that David Cameron is already replaced by Theresa May whom I suspect is a kind of Thatcher Lite in the annals and ranks of the Conservative Party. David Cameron announced yesterday that he is leaving the PM job within 48 hours. It looks like he has been packing his stuff at 10 Downing Street for the past three weeks. He is surrendering the mess he created to Madame May. His original plan was to cling to the PMship until the fall was a pipe dream. The Conservative parliamentary group unloaded a lame duck as soon as possible.

The Labour Party is in tatters. Jeremy Corbyn its frazzled rudderless leader is denying the inevitable. Corbyn picked up the scattered Labour pieces after the 2015  general election when a throughly thrashed Labour Party and its then leader Ed Milliband became a pariah by Labour parliamentary members after a lacklustre result at the polls in 2015. Both these Labour leaders seem to be victims of internal Labour Party battles and discontent.

Madame May will now see the Queen and form a new government by playing musical chairs with the Conservative parliamentary group that enabled her to froth to the top. Surely this astute monarch will ask questions about how the EU departure will be implemented. Perhaps this is a moment to discern whether an election is needed to confirm the non binding nature of the recent referendum. At any rate a new Prime Minister has the opportunity to provide leadership on this issue that will tamp down the anxiety. Will she do it?

Apparently not. She has decided to soldier on with Brexit despite being opposed to it herself. Then she appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister. This is a fax pas of giant proportions because Johnson is loathed in Europe after supporting Brexit. Comments from Euro leaders could best be described as restrained fuming. 

And it is really time for leadership. Brexit is not a done deal because it is not binding on the Conservative government.  It is 52-48 percent split and with parts of the country like Scotland  registering a 62 percent  pro Europe vote. Internally, if Scotland's wishes to remain in Europe are thwarted by Westminster, the separation of Scotland is much more likely. Scotland gets 59 seats in the House of Commons in 2015 The Scottish National Party (SNP) took 56 of them. The other three seats went one each to Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The turnout was 71 percent in 2015. Scotland is clearly for staying in Europe after the EU referendum and their heavy return of the SNP in the 2015 general election demonstrates they are interested in preserving their independence within Britain and getting more. Brexit changes this political dynamic profoundly. If Britain leaves the EU, Scotland will want to stay. Perhaps Northern Ireland as well. Brexit is a clear recipe for fragmenting Britain. Scotland make rue staying in Europe because their tiny population won't give them the same clout they had as part of Britain. It is all a accident looking for a place to happen.

Madame May must now walk a very tight line. She would be wise to call a general election soon although 2015 seems so close that that may be hard to do. However she shows right off the bat an inclination to execute Brexit negotiations with Brussels then Scotland's parliament will act on another separation referendum. With their Westminster mandate frustrated by a Conservative Government they may declare unilateral independence or at least petition Brussels for a direct seat at any negotiations. 

The word to describe this developing situation is the fragmentation of Britain's external policies. With Scots on the separation warpath it could spell the destruction of the 1707 Act of Union and it certainly can be seen as the final gasp of the British Empire. It looks bad because a fragmented Britain loses negotiation clout.

Britain is now overcome with an advanced case of Brexit Blues where the referendum results are seen as a bad dream. When this situation is combined with the European Union saying let's get on with the process, Britain is poised to look bad in Europe and the World. This situation confirms most of British history with Europe. Britain has always thought of Europe as troublesome, Scotland always sees Europe as an alliance. They are in a weak position because this is the first time in history that Europe has a political structure to enact pain on Britain.

Is Brexit the way to go to stop immigration you don't want or irritating trade rules from Brussels imposed upon members? Perhaps David Cameron should have approached the EU with a need for significant changes to the Union but that is a bit silly when the UK has retained its currency against the Euro and has tried to maintain its status all along as a member with different rules.

All is not good in the rest of the EU. The Eurozone has created much economic dislocation in Southern Europe probably because the Euro’s value inflates the economies of Spain, Portugal, Greece and even Italy leaving giant gaps in employment and government services that are inequitable to those offered in Northern Europe,

The trend in the EU may very well be like the British referendum experience. There is talk in Holland of leaving the EU. Certainly the economic devastation in Southern Europe is a cause for considerable alarm in Brussels because it too will foment change and demands to get a bigger share of the EU pie.  Think of the pressures of all the Syrian and other refugees passing through Greece, Sicily and the rest of Italy as they try to keep a fiscal lid on their debt. Something is going to give in Southern Europe creating a situation much more negative than Brexit.

Brexit has roots that go deep into a highly bureaucratic EU that makes both poor and solvent countries wonder what are the vital benefits of membership. If countries withdraw for reasons of poverty or opportunity trade and commerce will survive. Problems of British nationals working or living in Europe will hopefully be equitably dealt with. At least one would hope that the humans get a sunset clause in their employment and where they live.

I see it all as an Information Age phenomenon. The EU has been expanding east and has grown more complex and bureaucratic until it is now perhaps unmanageable. Southern Europe is losing faith in the EU model because they remain in unemployment and poverty.  British people think they are losing control of their borders. When the public wants to make sense of this large conglomerate they fragment their part of it to try and make sense of its effects. That leads to the politics of referendums. Fragmentation also leads to what they know. National pride, history,  culture, jobs and economic wellbeing  trumps what Brussels is doing.

The same phenomenon is happening in US politics where grid lock in Congress is leading to rebellion and fragmentation of largeness and control by elites. Fragmentation enables simple ideas and propaganda to emerge and in the hands of the people in referendums and elections that makes for change and perhaps changes that no one will really like in the final analysis.

© Copyright 2016, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.