Category Archives: human

Politicians vs Humans

It’s been a while since I’ve done a ‘Vs’ post (the last one was back in February of last year, the provocatively named Women Vs Men) but the arrival of BoosterBoy to the Palace’s ranks – well, rank – has caused an element of competition, so here we are.

A common thread through some of my posts is about social responsibility and how the government is creating an ever more nannying state due to the hordes of people who haven’t got the common sense1 to look after themselves. I’m talking about obesity, education, that sort of thing: important social “stuff”.

As I’ve mentioned before, it seems clear to me that the nanny state exists because the Government feels that it has to help out the barely cogent hordes out there who fuck up their lives just a little bit more every day. So, rather than let them fuck it up and deal with the social and political fallout, they get a bit proactive and remove the responsibility which they’ve proven incabable of shouldering.

The point is that it is the few that force the changes, which means minority rules. Now, I’ve got a piece of paper round here somewhere that says we live in a democracy (from the Greek demos people + kratos strength) where the people decide what goes down. What we have is more like a fuckoffracy (from the Palace of Righteous Justice fuckoff people can fuck off + racy politicians can do what they like), where the politicians bend us over.

Elections are pointless anyway, because the politicians do what they want. Elections exist to give the electorate the illusion of control, that somehow we decide how the country is run. And they wonder why electoral turn-out is so low. I haven’t voted ever – not true; I voted once, for the Green Party, back when I though it mattered – because, as the years roll on and governments come and go, nothing changes. Labour got in a while back; can’t say that I noticed the difference.

So, we elect a new government because they tell us lots of good stuff about lower taxes and more cops and nurses; all good, progressive stuff. However, they then spend the next four years doing the following;
a) shoring up the mess left by the last lot (or at least blaming them for it),
b) spending all the cash looking after;
1) the people who can’t look after themselves,
2) the people who could look after themselves if they could be bothered.
c) try to sort some foreign dispute,
d) while failing to address pressing domestic issues.

Not forgetting the big omission which is to fail, spectacularly and conspicuously, to deliver on any of the promises they made during the election campaign. Now, we know all this. If you were to collar Joe Public in the street and ask him whether he believed that the government will lower taxes, he’ll scoff and walk on. So why do we even bother going through the whole rigmarole?

It is the job of the Opposition party to keep the pressure on the ruling party, which boils down to them standing up in the Commons and saying “Does the Honourable Gentleman really expect us to believe…”, to which the Rt Hon. Mr P. Minister replies, with utter conviction, “Yes, I bloody well do!”, to which the Opposition laughs, makes loud scoffing noises and mutters “Well, we don’t” under it’s breath.

None of the above advances society a jot. It doesn’t change peoples lives for the better. In fact, I’m struggling to see what governments actually do for us.

Anyone?

1 Is there anthing less common than Common Sense?

Brave New World

I found the linked video on BoingBoing. It was created by Michael Wesch, an assistant Cultural Anthropology Professor at KSU. It goes into the way that Web 2.0, the advent of social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies, will affect how we live from here on out. It’s a great piece of work.

However, there are cautionary elements in there, elements which the fatalist movie lover in me picked up straightaway. Every time we tag something, or add a link, or mail something to someone, a computer somewhere is taking notes. As the video says, we are teaching the machine and the machine is learning to think.

Now, where have we heard that before, children? Armed robot gunships, memetic polyalloy assassins, self-aware machines; naked Austrians? How long before Google responds to your search request with “I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle?” Suddenly, terms like “search bot” and “web spider” have a jackboot soundtrack.

Leaving aside the possibility of a self-aware, self-replicating web of killing machines, I like the way the shiny side of the web is going. I like that I can write this drivel and ignore the fact that no-one bar me will ever read it. It gives me a sense of empowerment, that somehow my writing this will add to the pool of human knowledge. But if Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Blogger, etc are really listening to everything I commit to the Ether, then I’m actually contributing to the eventual pool of human blood.

So, could the internet morph into a sentient entity? “Sentience is a by-product of the complexity required for the ability to self-evolve.”, said the internet when I asked it1. Now, the router tables that know how to get from every server in the world to every other server in the world do precisely this. When a broken connection is detected, the router re-routes data through alternate connections. When you buy things online, the site suggests other things you might like to buy.

From the Web 2.0 sites, a computer could determine the characteristics of the human race. Yes, based on what books we buy on Amazon. From there, it’s not too far a leap to the point where it starts to alter the user experience. If you wanted to buy a book on World War II, the site might say, “Many customers decided not to buy this and bought a book about existentialism instead.” or “You have been added to the Nazi sympathisers list”.

We have some time. We have years of shared web nirvana in our future. But we would do well to consider that our utopia, our brave new world, may be but a veneer of fantasy over the grimy, pixellated reality of a machine world that is coldly and dispassionately shaping our lives through a web page2.

Thank you for reading this post. Blogger is adding your name to the list.

1 If the internet was self-aware, it would not have told me that the possibility exists. So, we’re safe, for the time being.
2 If you’re getting Matrix overtones, that’s fine. So was I.