Saturday 19 October 2019

Rachel Dugan: 'Maybot proof AI overlords not a win-win'

Notebook

'The Maybot seems to be suffering from some sort of major meltdown' Photo: PA
'The Maybot seems to be suffering from some sort of major meltdown' Photo: PA

Rachel Dugan

A new study out this week claims that one in four Europeans would prefer to be governed by robots. It might sound less left of centre and more somewhere right of Mars, but in a world that has given us Trump, the Iraq war and the political omnishambles that is Brexit, can we really blame people for preferring to take their chances with an algorithm?

The research, carried out by a university in Spain, wanted to find out how Europeans felt about the rise of smart technologies in the workplace.

More than half of those surveyed said they were worried about the prospect of robots taking over human roles. But, oddly, one in four thought it would be fine if they took over the running of the state. I guess more people are worried about their own jobs becoming obsolete than installing our own (hopefully) benevolent robotic overlords.

The mindset "probably relates to the growing mistrust citizens feel towards governments and politicians", the study concluded. You don't say.

It did get me thinking about the things robots could do as well, or even better, than our current crop of Dáil dwellers.

Those tasks requiring a human touch - hand-shaking, funeral-attending, baby-kissing and all manner of flesh-pressing activities - might suffer. But surely an AI's logic and order would be an advantage when it comes to the important policy-making and implementation stuff.

And wouldn't the corridors of power benefit from a lack of ego, emotion and any ideology except doing what's in the country's best interests?

But we shouldn't forget that the UK has already tried installing a leader so close to robotic that her human traits are barely discernible beneath a cold-to-the-touch veneer of automation.

And now the Maybot seems to be suffering from some sort of major meltdown. Perhaps robotic overlords isn't such a great idea after all...

'Culchie carb' in need of a millennial makeover

A campaign to promote the humble spud to millennials is under way, with reports of a €1m Bord Bia bid to make potatoes trendy. But can they really convince hipsters to forego smashed avocado and kale salads?

I think it's fair to say most millennials don't do spuds, they're just too old-fashioned and parochial. The potato is seen as the 'culchie carb' - the backward, welly-wearing cousin of the eminently more exotic pasta and rice.

So extolling the nutritional benefits of our national tuber will only get them so far. The spud needs a makeover. It should be taken away, pimped, preened and told how to dress, its eyebrows plucked and its knobbly exterior exfoliated.

And it needs a new backstory. Who wants to be seen chowing down on something associated with one of the darkest periods in Irish history?

Then and only then the under-30s might embrace the spud. I'm sure they'll be microplaning it on to their salads and smoking it over whiskey-soaked wood chips quicker than you can say sous-vide pomme de terre.

Or, failing that, you could tell them a bag of chipper chips is the new superfood. I guess some spuds are sexy enough just as they are.

Uber Jackson fan left with name and shame

Since the airing of the 'Leaving Neverland' documentary, there has been a deluge of articles about whether we should still be still be listening to Michael Jackson's music or not.

While we all debate that one, perhaps spare a thought for 38-year-old Englishman John Lomas, or more accurately, John Michael Jackson, who, in a fit of uber fandom, legally changed his name by deed poll and is now crowdfunding to change it back.

So far, he hasn't received any donations.

Irish Independent

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