Posts Tagged ‘Plymouth University’

Vox Political: Why Is the Media Silent about Tory Anti-Semitism?

October 9, 2018

A few days ago Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece commenting on the lamestream media’s reaction, or lack of it, to the photos published in the Mirror of a group of Tory students at Plymouth University wearing some very offensive messages on their T-Shirts. These idiots had all thought it would be jolly japes to scrawl slogans like ‘F**K the NHS’ on their shirts. One of these clowns was wearing a Hitler moustache, and had drawn a Star of David and the word Jude. This was not the name Jude, as in the Beatles’ song ‘Hey, Jude’, or that of the actor, Jude Law. Or the Christian saint, St. Jude. No, this was the German Jude, meaning ‘Jew’. And the two together were a disgusting parody of the identifying marks Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, before they were deported and murdered wholesale under the Final Solution.

Mike in his article mentioned how the Beatles opened a fashion shop in the 1960s, only to find it physically attacked because of suspected anti-Semitism. They called it ‘Hey, Jude’, after their song. Unfortunately, some people thought that this was some kind of anti-Semitic message, as it brought back memories of Kristallnacht, the night when the Nazis systematically attacked Jewish shops and businesses, scrawling the word Jude on them. The night got its name, which means ‘Crystal Night’ in English, after the shards of broken glass when the Nazis smashed the shop windows. Now Macca and the Fab Four were and are anything but Nazis, but you can see how some people could make that mistake. And a decade later in the ’70s, some of the punks really did wear Nazi regalia in order to provoke that kind of outrage. Sid Vicious apparently went all the way through the Jewish section of Paris dressed as stormtrooper in a gratuitously tasteless and offensive display.

But while the media has gleefully seized upon and played up the entirely invented claims of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, they are very, very quiet about any such incidents in the Tories. The Mirror reported that the both the Tories and Plymouth University were planning to hold inquiries into the behaviour of these toff idiots and punish them. But that’s it. I think it was only the Mirror and possible one other newspaper that reported the incident. If it had been young members of the Labour party, there’d have been no end of outrage and denunciations in the media, by politicians and the public. And further calls for Corbyn to resign as he would be held responsible. But as it was the Tories all you could hear was a deafening silence.

Not only does the media not want to report Tory anti-Semitism, but the Jewish establishment wishes to deny that such a thing even exists. Marie van der Zyle (below) stated in one of her attacks on the Labour party that, in contrast to them, the Tories had always been ‘good friends of the Jews’.

You know I’m not going to get tired of this joke!

Van der Zyle’s bizarre claim whitewashes a very long history of anti-Semitism in the Tory party. One of the left-wing Jewish blogs was so upset by it, that they put up a list of some of the more notorious of incidents in the Tory party. This went, I seem to recall, from the British Brothers’ League and the passage of the Aliens Act by the Tory government at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th to ban Jewish immigration, to the comment by one Tory about the number of Jews in Thatcher’s government. He remarked that there were far Estonians there than Etonians. Apart from being anti-Semitic, it also shows the very distinct class prejudice and sense of entitlement in the Tory party. Etonians were expected to make up a good proportion of cabinet ministers, not the children of eastern European Jews.

In the 1930s a fair number of Tories sympathized with Nazi Germany and supported Oswald Mosley’s infamous British Union of Fascists. Amongst the various pro-Nazi outfits, like the Anglo-German Fellowship, was one specifically dedicated to purging Jews from the Tory party. By the 1970s certain sections of the Tory party had become so notorious for their anti-Semitism, that they had to take steps to assure the Jewish community that they were anything but. Thus the Monday Club, which has long been infamous for its racism and opposition to non-White immigration, opened its membership books to the Board of Deputies of British Jews to show that they didn’t have any Nazis among them.

David Cameron at the beginning of this century made gestures to expel and ban Nazis from the party during his modernization campaign. The party severed links with the Monday Club, and those with links to BNP and racist right were thrown out. But the Tories are still a very racist party, no matter how many BAME people they may make ministers or make MPs. Zac Goldsmith ran an islamophobic campaign against Sadiq Khan for mayor of London, smearing him as a supporter of terrorism. They put up posters and sent round vans calling on illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. And Tweezer herself was responsible for drafting the legislation that allowed them to deport the Windrush generation, who were British citizens and had every right to remain in this country. And I can remember when some branches of the Tory party, including the Union of Conservative Students, were debating adopting ‘racial nationalism’ as their official policy. That’s the doctrine of the BNP and NF: only those who are British by race, which here means ‘White’, are really citizens. Everyone else should be repatriated, voluntarily or involuntarily.

And you can bet that it isn’t just non-Whites that certain sections of the Tories loathe and despise. Somewhere there’s going to be real, anti-Semitism, no matter what Cameron, Tweezer and van der Zyle may say.

But the lamestream media aren’t going to poke their noses into this question. The press is almost wholly dominated by the Tory party, especially now that the Guardian and Observer have decided to throw in their lot with them. And just about all the papers seem to want to see Corbyn thrown out of power because of the threat he poses to Thatcherite neoliberalism.

And so the media is going to continue the lie, that on the one hand the Labour party is a party of anti-Semites, led by an anti-Semite, and on the other hand that the Tories are completely innocent of such ugly racism. No wonder people are choosing to get their information instead from the Net.

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RT: Jacob Rees-Mogg Sneers at Libya as ‘People’s Republic of Jam Jar’

October 4, 2018

It wouldn’t be the Tory conference without a bit of casual racism. The Tory students down at Plymouth were photographed in their T-shirts saying ‘F**k the NHS’, and with Stars of David drawn on and captioned ‘Jude’ – the German for ‘Jew’. One of their number even drew a Hitler moustache on himself. One of the many great commenters on this blog, Kate Blair, alerted me to the article about it in Jewish News, who unsurprisingly really, really weren’t impressed. See: https://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/tory-students-criticised-over-hitler-moustache-and-star-of-david-on-night-out/

And a few days ago the young master, Jacob Rees-Mogg, also had a sneer at Libya under Colonel Gaddafi. In the video below, the presenter and reporter Anastasia Churkina discuss Rees-Mogg’s sneer at Colonel Gaddafi’s full name for his country. This was the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahariya. The latter term is Arabic, and means ‘state of the masses’.

Rees-Mogg had drawled that the countries, who were least interested in their people always called themselves ‘peoples’, and referred to Gaddafi’s Libya as the ‘People’s Republic of Jam Jar, or something.’

Rees-Mogg sneer brought down condemnation from the MPs Alex Sobel, Liz Innes, and the Lib Dem’s Christine Jardine. They made the point that these sneers were becoming very common from the Brexiteers. It showed how Rees-Mogg and the others were ‘Little Englanders’, and Sobel even wondered if Mogg had had the same geography teacher at Eton as Boris Johnson.

Churkina and the presenter suggested that this comment had touched a raw nerve because of BoJo’s own casual racism in his remark about women in burkas looking like letter boxes or bin bags. Churkina also said it was remarkable, given Britain’s own role in Libyan affairs.

Actually, it shows the completely dismissive attitude towards this country from the Patrician, neocon elite. Which includes not just Rees-Mogg and Johnson, but also Tony Blair.

Gaddafi was a monster, who killed and tortured his political opponents in Libya, and had them assassinated abroad, in Africa and the Middle East. But under him, his people had free education and healthcare, and his country was the most prosperous in Africa. And while he used the Islamists as weapons to murder his rivals outside Libya, they were never allowed to operate within its borders. He also believed in African solidarity, and Blacks in his country were treated as equals.

All this vanished when Obama, Blair and Sarkozy decided to overthrow his regime, helping the Islamists to seize power. As a result, Libya has two parliaments, one part of the country is ruled by a coalition of Islamist warlords, and Black Africans are being enslaved. And the person chiefly responsible for agitating for Western aid to the rebels was Tony Blair.

And Boris Johnson showed his own unconcern for the victims of the civil war a year or so ago, when he told a conference that there were investors lining up to put their money into one Libyan city, ‘when they’ve cleared the bodies away’.

Gaddafi was a tyrant, but he was better for his people than what Obama, Blair and Sarko unleashed in his stead. And the remarks from Johnson and Rees-Mogg shows what they really think of the smaller countries and their people, who get in the way of Western imperialism.

Tory MP Condemns Tory Students for T-Shirts Revealing their True Nature

October 4, 2018

Oh dear! It seems the attempts of the Tory party in the 1980s and ’90s to purge the offensively extreme right-wing element among the party’s youth and student organisations hasn’t entirely been successful. According to today’s I, Thursday, 4th October 2018, a group of students from Plymouth University Student’s Union Conservative Society have been condemned by the Tory MP Robert Halfon after a photo of them appeared in yesterday’s Mirror wearing very offensive T-shirt. These showed what they really thought of the NHS and Adolf Hitler.

The article on page 8, by Serina Sandhu, reads

Students Condemned for Explicit T-Shirts

A Conservative MP has condemned a group of students believed to be part of a Tory university society for wearing T-shirts with explicit wording including “f**ck the NHS”.

An image of the group from the University of Plymouth on a night out was published by the Daily Mirror yesterday.

The students wore blue T-shirts with hand-written slogans and messages. One also appeared to have drawn a Hitler-style moustache on his face.

Denouncing the behavior, Harlow MP Robert Halfon said the image reinforced people’s stereotypes of the party.

The image came to light on the final day of the Tory conference but contrary to speculation, the picture was not taken at the event. It is not clear how many of the students are part of Plymouth University Students’ Union Conservative Society.

So, it seems that some Tory students, at least, are going back to the old days, when members of the Union of Conservative Students used to go around singing ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ and ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks and Asians’, the latter to the tune of Pink Floyd’s ‘Brick in the Wall’.

But it’s wrong for Halfon to complain that they’re presenting a stereotyped image of the party. While they are indeed reinforcing an established, negative view of the party, it’s also one that is also true.

The Tories are trying to privatise the NHS, whatever they say to the country. You only have to look at the stats showing the hospitals that have been given over to private firms to manage, and the operations and other NHS functions that have also been contracted out to private firms. And then there’s the speeches and attitudes of leading Tories themselves, beginning with Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher really did want to privatise the NHS, and was only prevented from doing so by a back-bench revolt and the findings of her own private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, about how dire the American private healthcare system was. So she contented herself with trying to get a certain percentage of the British public to take out private health insurance, and her party embarked on a forty-year programme of privatizing it by stealth. Which was also continued by Blair and his cronies when they were in power. And it wasn’t just Maggie. The Dorset Tory MEP Daniel Hannan also wants the NHS privatized. Philip Hammond, before he became health secretary, wrote that he wanted the health service to disappear and be merged with private healthcare. And I remember the furore a few years ago when another Tory privately declared that in a few years the NHS would cease to exist. Then someone at Tory Central Office took fright, and declared that the comments attributed to him in the press were incorrect, and that what he really said was that the Tories were cutting down on bureaucracy and combatting inefficiency. The usual Tory lies.

As for Nazism, there always has been a section of the party which supports the Far Right. Despite Cameron cutting links with the Monday Club and purging members with connections to the BNP. The Traditional Britain Group, whose annual dinner a few years ago was attended by Jacob Rees-Mogg, is led by a Tory activist with a very strong fascination with Hitler and the Third Reich. The Libertarians in the party, of which Paul Staines, AKA Guido Fawkes, was a part, invited over to their annual dinners the leaders of South American Fascist death squads. The late Alan Clarke insisted that he was a Nazi, and called his Rotweilers Himmler and Goering.

Quite apart from the barely disguised racism of Tweezer’s own administration – its unjust deportations of Windrush migrants, its hostile atmosphere policy to deter immigrants and the far right rantings of the Tory press, like the Heil and the Scum.

However embarrassing the students and their wretched T-shirts were for the Tory party, they honestly showed what a sizable, influential chunk of the party really thinks.

Hyper Evolution – The Rise of the Robots Part 2

August 5, 2017

Wednesday evening I sat down to watch the second part of the BBC 4 documentary, Hyperevolution: the Rise of the Robots, in which the evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod and the electronics engineer Prof. Danielle George trace the development of robots from the beginning of the 20th century to today. I blogged about the first part of the show on Tuesday in a post about another forthcoming programme on the negative consequences of IT and automation, Secrets of Silicon Valley. The tone of Hyperevolution is optimistic and enthusiastic, with one or two qualms from Garrod, who fears that robots may pose a threat to humanity. The programme states that robots are an evolving species, and that we are well on the way to developing true Artificial Intelligence.

Last week, Garrod went off to meet a Japanese robotics engineer, whose creation had been sent up to keep a Japanese astronaut company of the International Space Station. Rocket launches are notoriously expensive, and space is a very, very expensive premium. So it was no surprise that the robot was only about four inches tall. It’s been designed as a device to keep people company, which the programme explained was a growing problem in Japan. Japan has a falling birthrate and thus an aging population. The robot is programmed to ask and respond to questions, and to look at the person, who’s speaking to it. It doesn’t really understand what is being said, but simply gives an answer according to its programming. Nevertheless, it gives the impression of being able to follow and respond intelligently to conversation. It also has the very ‘cute’ look that characterizes much Japanese technology, and which I think comes from the conventions of Manga art. Garrod noted how it was like baby animals in having a large head and eyes, which made the parents love them.

It’s extremely clever, but it struck me as being a development of the Tamagotchi, the robotic ‘pet’ which was all over the place a few years ago. As for companionship, I could help thinking of a line from Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic Solaris, based on the novel by the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem. The film follow the cosmonaut, Kris, on his mission to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. The planet’s vast ocean is alive, and has attempted to establish contact with the station’s crew by dredging their memories, and sending them replicas of people they know. The planet does this to Kris, creating a replica of a former girlfriend. At one point, pondering the human condition in a vast, incomprehensible cosmos, Kris states ‘There are only four billion of us…a mere handful. We don’t need spaceships, aliens…What man needs is man.’ Or words to that effect. I forget the exact quote. I dare say robots will have their uses caring for and providing mental stimulation for the elderly, but this can’t replace real, human contact.

George went to America to NASA, where the space agency is building Valkyrie to help with the future exploration of Mars in 2030. Valkyrie is certainly not small and cute. She’s six foot, and built very much like the police machines in Andrew Blomkamp’s Chappie. George stated that they were trying to teach the robot how to walk through a door using trial and error. But each time the machine stumbled. The computer scientists then went through the robot’s programming trying to find and correct the error. After they thought they had solved it, they tried again. And again the machine stumbled.

George, however, remained optimistic. She told ‘those of you, who think this experiment is a failure’, that this was precisely what the learning process entailed, as the machine was meant to learn from its mistakes, just like her own toddler now learning to walk. She’s right, and I don’t doubt that the robot will eventually learn to walk upright, like the humanoid robots devised by their competitors over at DARPA. However, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. People do learn from their mistakes, but if mistakes keep being made and can’t be correctly, then it’s fair to say that a person has failed to learn from them. And if a robot fails to learn from its mistakes, then it would also be fair to say that the experiment has failed.

Holy Joe Smith! I was also a reminded of another piece of classic SF in this segment. Not film, but 2000 AD’s ‘Robohunter’ strip. In its debut story, the aged robohunter, Sam Slade – ‘that’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’ – his robometer, Kewtie and pilot, Kidd, are sent to Verdus to investigate what has happened to the human colonists. Verdus is so far away, that robots have been despatched to prepare it for human colonization, and a special hyperdrive has to be used to get Slade there. This rejuvenates him from an old man in his seventies to an energetic guy in his thirties. Kidd, his foul mouthed, obnoxious pilot, who is in his 30s, is transformed into a foul-mouthed, obnoxious, gun-toting baby.

The robot pioneers have indeed prepared Verdus for human habitation. They’ve built vast, sophisticated cities, with shops and apartments just waiting to be occupied, along with a plethora of entertainment channels, all of whose hosts and performers are robotic. However, their evolution has outpaced that of humanity, so that they are now superior, both physically and mentally. They continue to expect humans to be the superiors, and so when humans have come to Verdus, they’ve imprisoned, killed and experimented on them as ‘Sims’ – simulated humans, not realizing that these are the very beings they were created to serve. In which case, Martian colonists should beware. And carry a good blaster, just in case.

Garrod and George then went to another lab, where the robot unnerved Garrod by looking at him, and following him around with its eye. George really couldn’t understand why this should upset him. Talking about it afterwards, Garrod said that he was worried about the threat robots pose to humanity. George replied by stating her belief that they also promise to bring immense benefits, and that this was worth any possible danger. And that was the end of that conversation before they went on to the next adventure.

George’s reply isn’t entirely convincing. This is what opponents of nuclear power were told back in the ’50s and ’60s, however. Through nuclear energy we were going to have ships and planes that could span the globe in a couple of minutes, and electricity was going to be so plentiful and cheap that it would barely be metered. This failed, because the scientists and politicians advocating nuclear energy hadn’t really worked out what would need to be done to isolate and protect against the toxic waste products. Hence nearly six decades later, nuclear power and the real health and environmental problems it poses are still very much controversial issues. And there’s also that quote from Bertrand Russell. Russell was a very staunch member of CND. When he was asked why he opposed nuclear weapons, he stated that it was because they threatened to destroy humanity. ‘And some of us think that would be a very great pity’.

Back in America, George went to a bar to meet Alpha, a robot created by a British inventor/showman in 1932. Alpha was claimed to be an autonomous robot, answering questions by choosing appropriate answers from recordings on wax cylinders. George noted that this was extremely advanced for the time, if true. Finding the machine resting in a display case, filled with other bizarre items like bongo drums, she took an access plate off the machine to examine its innards. She was disappointed. Although there were wires to work the machine’s limbs, there were no wax cylinders or any other similar devices. She concluded that the robot was probably worked by a human operator hiding behind a curtain.

Then it was off to Japan again, to see another robot, which, like Valkyrie, was learning for itself. This was to be a robot shop assistant. In order to teach it to be shop assistant, its creators had built an entire replica camera shop, and employed real shop workers to play out their roles, surrounded by various cameras recording the proceedings. So Garrod also entered the scenario, where he pretended to be interested in buying a camera, asking questions about shutter speeds and such like. The robot duly answered his questions, and moved about the shop showing him various cameras at different prices. Like the robotic companion, the machine didn’t really know or understand what it was saying or doing. It was just following the motions it had learned from its human counterparts.

I was left wondering how realistic the role-playing had actually been. The way it was presented on camera, everything was very polite and straightforward, with the customer politely asking the price, thanking the assistant and moving on to ask to see the next of their wares. I wondered if they had ever played at being a difficult customer in front of it. Someone who came in and, when asked what they were looking for, sucked their teeth and said, ‘I dunno really,’ or who got angry at the prices being asked, or otherwise got irate at not being able to find something suitable.

Through the programme, Japanese society is held up as being admirably progressive and accepting of robots. Earlier in that edition, Garrod finished a piece on one Japanese robot by asking why it was that a car manufacturer was turning to robotics. The answer’s simple. The market for Japanese cars and motorcycles is more or less glutted, and they’re facing competition from other countries, like Indonesia and Tokyo. So the manufacturers are turning to electronics.

The positive attitude the Japanese have to computers and robots is also questionable. The Japanese are very interested in developing these machines, but actually don’t like using them themselves. The number of robots in Japan can easily be exaggerated, as they include any machine tool as a robot. And while many British shops and businesses will use a computer, the Japanese prefer to do things the old way by hand. For example, if you go to a post office in Japan, the assistant, rather than look something up on computer, will pull out a ledger. Way back in the 1990s someone worked out that if the Japanese were to mechanise their industry to the same extent as the West, they’d throw half their population out of work.

As for using robots, there’s a racist and sexist dimension to this. The Japanese birthrate it falling, and so there is real fear of a labour shortage. Robots are being developed to fill it. But Japanese society is also extremely nationalistic and xenophobic. Only people, whose parents are both Japanese, are properly Japanese citizens with full civil rights. There are third-generation Koreans, constituting an underclass, who, despite having lived there for three generations, are still a discriminated against underclass. The Japanese are developing robots, so they don’t have to import foreign workers, and so face the problems and strains of a multicultural society.

Japanese society also has some very conservative attitudes towards women. So much so, in fact, that the chapter on the subject in a book I read two decades ago on Japan, written by a Times journalist, was entitled ‘A Woman’s Place Is In the Wrong’. Married women are expected to stay at home to raise the kids, and the removal of a large number of women from the workplace was one cause of the low unemployment rate in Japan. There’s clearly a conflict between opening up the workplace to allow more married women to have a career, and employing more robots.

Garrod also went off to Bristol University, where he met the ‘turtles’ created by the neuroscientist, Grey Walter. Walter was interested in using robots to explore how the brain functioned. The turtles were simple robots, consisting of a light-detecting diode. The machine was constructed to follow and move towards light sources. As Garrod himself pointed out, this was like the very primitive organisms he’d studied, which also only had a light-sensitive spot.

However, the view that the human brain is really a form of computer have also been discredited by recent research. Hubert L. Dreyfus in his book, What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Intelligence, describes how, after the failure of Good Old Fashioned A.I. (GOFAI), computer engineers then hoped to create it through exploring the connections between different computing elements, modelled on the way individual brain cells are connected to each by a complex web of neurons. Way back in 1966, Walter Rosenblith of MIT, one of the pioneers in the use of computers in neuropsychology, wrote

We no longer hold the earlier widespread belief that the so-called all-or-none law from nerve impulses makes it legitimate to think of relays as adequate models for neurons. In addition, we have become increasingly impressed with the interactions that take place among neurons: in some instances a sequence of nerve impulses may reflect the activities of literally thousands of neurons in a finely graded manner. In a system whose numerous elements interact so strongly with each other, the functioning of the system is not necessarily best understood by proceeding on a neuron-by-neuron basis as if each had an independent personality…Detailed comparisons of the organization of computer systems and brains would prove equally frustrating and inconclusive. (Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do, p. 162).

Put simply, brain’s don’t work like computers. This was written fifty years ago, but it’s fair to ask if the problem still exists today, despite some of the highly optimistic statements to the contrary.

Almost inevitably, driverless cars made their appearance. The Germans have been developing them, and Garrod went for a spin in one, surrounded by two or three engineers. He laughed with delight when the car told him he could take his hands off the wheel and let the vehicle continue on its own. However, the car only works in the comparatively simply environment of the autobahn. When it came off the junction, back into the normal road system, the machine told him to start driving himself. So, not quite the victory for A.I. it at first appears.

Garrod did raise the question of the legal issues. Who would be responsible if the car crashed while working automatically – the car, or the driver? The engineers told him it would be the car. Garrod nevertheless concluded that segment by noting that there were still knotty legal issues around it. But I don’t know anyone who wants one, or necessarily would trust one to operate on its own. A recent Counterpunch article I blogged about stated that driverless cars are largely being pushed by a car industry, trying to expand a market that is already saturated, and the insurance companies. The latter see it as a golden opportunity to charge people, who don’t want one, higher premiums on the grounds that driverless cars are safer.

Garrod also went to meet researchers in A.I. at Plymouth University, who were also developing a robot which as part of their research into the future creation of genuine consciousness in machines. Talking to one of the scientists afterwards, Garrod heard that there could indeed be a disruptive aspect to this research. Human society was based on conscious decision making. But if the creation of consciousness was comparatively easy, so that it could be done in an afternoon, it could have a ‘disruptive’ effect. It may indeed be the case that machines will one day arise which will be conscious, sentient entities, but this does not mean that the development of consciousness is easy. You think of the vast ages of geologic time it took evolution to go from simple, single-celled organisms to complex creatures like worms, fish, insects and so on, right up to the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens within the last 200,000 years.

Nevertheless, the programme ended with Garrod and George talking the matter over on the banks of the Thames in London. George concluded that the rise of robots would bring immense benefits and the development of A.I. was ‘inevitable’.

This is very optimistic, to the point where I think you could be justified by calling it hype. I’ve said in a previous article how Dreyfus’ book describes how robotics scientists and engineers have made endless predictions since Norbert Wiener and Alan Turing, predicting the rise of Artificial Intelligence, and each time they’ve been wrong. He’s also described the sheer rage with which many of those same researchers respond to criticism and doubt. In one passage he discusses a secret meeting of scientists at MIT to discuss A.I., in which a previous edition of his book came up. The scientists present howled at it with derision and abuse. He comments that why scientists should persist in responding so hostilely to criticism, and to persist in their optimistic belief that they will eventually solve the problem of A.I., is a question for psychology and the sociology of knowledge.

But there are also very strong issues about human rights, which would have to be confronted if genuine A.I. was ever created. Back in the 1970s or early ’80s, the British SF magazine, New Voyager, reviewed Roderick Random. Subtitled, ‘The Education of a Young Machine’, this is all about the creation of a robot child. The reviewer stated that the development of truly sentient machines would constitute the return of slavery. A similar point was made in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in an episode where another ship’s captain wished to take Data apart, so that he could be properly investigated and more like him built. Data refused, and so the captain sued to gain custody of him, arguing that he wasn’t really sentient, and so should be legally considered property. And in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the book that launched the Cyberpunk SF genre, the hero, Case, finds out that the vast computer for which he’s working, Wintermute, has Swiss citizenship, but its programming are the property of the company that built it. This, he considers, is like humans having their thoughts and memories made the property of a corporation.

Back to 2000 AD, the Robusters strip portrayed exactly what such slavery would mean for genuinely intelligent machines. Hammerstein, an old war droid, and his crude sidekick, the sewer droid Rojaws and their fellows live with the constant threat of outliving their usefulness, and taking a trip down to be torn apart by the thick and sadistic Mek-Quake. Such a situation should, if it ever became a reality, be utterly intolerable to anyone who believes in the dignity of sentient beings.

I think we’re a long way off that point just yet. And despite Prof. George’s statements to the contrary, I’m not sure we will ever get there. Hyperevolution is a fascinating programme, but like many of the depictions of cutting edge research, it’s probably wise to take some of its optimistic pronouncements with a pinch of salt.