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November News from Cllr Charles Chapman

Dear Reader, another month has gone by and Christmas will soon be upon us. For me, over the past months, not many, but a few, worrying queries have come into my post regarding the ever growing use of smart machines in our everyday lives. Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some queries
have concerns over the growing reliance on the use of AI technology resulting in the loss of human contact; the loss of conversation as a human being; and a general lack in human functioning.

Some of you have actually complained about its use in healthcare resulting in a reduced or even lack in human empathy and understanding. Folks have complained that by being forced to use the phone or ‘online’ appointments, answering queries or just trying to contact organisations of all
sizes has made situations emotionalise; controlling, with a lack of personal responsibility, and the phrase ‘passing the buck’ to another operator, department even country was used repetitively, together with lack of privacy, discrimination and bias; with concentration of power seen not only as
a real concern but a deeply felt wrong.

Being of an older generation I felt a great empathy with such comments, as I fight each day with some new area of my daily life being taken over either by machine or hours spent trying to get through to some organisation or other. Now having to book an appointment for a blood test or
rubbish disposal ‘online’ is the norm. I find myself agreeing with folks over the loss of personal contact, loss of privacy, loss of human values, loss of conversation, especially when buying or ordering something or wanting advice and help. In fact, loosing human interaction. I watch my grandchildren and my own children using text to communicate. At a local BBQ during the summer, I watch two teenagers talking on their mobiles, and it was at least 10 minutes before I was told, that despite being across the table from each other, less than 60cm apart, that they were actually
talking to each other via their phones. Apparently this is not an uncommon activity! Needless to say it was to me, so I put my surprise down to my age and generation.

What has changed for me, over the past months; whilst most of my post box is still mainly taken up with comments on poorly planned housing estates being proposed and seemly approved by our council, numerous local concerns over the extension of buildings from Ryde joining Binstead, Appley to other local areas and then being, not so gradually, subsumed into one large town; closure of our first schools, supposedly for educational reasons, not money; and the poor state of our roads, it now includes AI. The increasing usage of AI in our everyday lives is now being raised by many of my readers, especially amongst younger generations. Worries about supervising their children’s use of smart appliances and how schools need to be more aware of parents concerns: the use, by their children, of smart phones and concerns about child grooming and bullying via chat sites has doubled. Will the increase use of AI in white and blue collar work, service industry and factories mean more job losses for the Island? I have to say, I don't know the answer. High flying industrialist, politicians and corporate CEOs all tell us that it will increase job opportunities and eliminate repetitive tasks. It could be that AI will be another tool for improving human productivity. Look at history and that is what all other technological advances have done.

As a historian, I include the stone axe, flint arrowheads, the washing machine, telephone, personal computers the internet and surprisingly the smart phone as identifying progressive AI. Against that, statistics seem to imply that over 40% of workers are worried that AI will relieve them of their
jobs and increase the social divide. A point worth debating!

So what is it that we, or significant percentage of us, are concerned about? Generally lack of understanding of what AI can and cannot do. Who is to police it? Can we humans trust it or at the very least the ‘people’ who control it? Will it mean that power will pass into the hands of the few:
Elon Musk, Bill Gates to name just two; or like me, I prefer to listen to the late Stephen Hawkins, who cautioned against an extreme form of AI, in which thinking machines would, as he said, “take off” on their own, modifying themselves and independently designing and building even more
capable systems. Or is, Artificial intelligence (AI) currently one of the most overstated, and for many, fearful buzzword in our society. The use of AI into our everyday lives has, since Covid, speeded up. We now need to use machines to perform even the most simplest task from rubbish collection to everyday activities at where we work; where we shop; and even to obtain a hospital or doctors appointment. Recent years have seen several life changing innovations and, for some, material advancements. For older people who can remember a programme called ‘Tomorrow's World’ we could look at the advancement of AI in terms of science fiction. The problem now is that science fiction is transforming into reality. AI is used in smart phones, cars, banking, children/adult games, play games designed to both to evolve and win; development of self driving cars and so on and on. AI may not be as obvious in our everyday lives as we think, but it is most certainly developing and growing. Currently the use of AI is now at a ‘crossroads’ in our society; AI, as used in robots, which are already used to solve problems, to think, to solve complex ideas. In short AI provides machines with the ability to provide solutions to problems: to reason: adapt: and provide solutions.

This is problem solving for AI. So what is the future? Currently AIs are being developed and improved. Will a time come when humans will have AI implants? This has certainly already been raised, including a possible date when this is likely to happen. Does this mean that AI will be declared an Entity in its own right, and therefore be awarded citizenship. ‘Data’ in the Star-trek series was deemed so; science fiction or possible fact! Or will we develop robots with a muscular skeletal system? Or will we concentrate in infusing the AI that can read our emotions? Or an AI that develops its own emotions over time! I’m already awarding such machines a human connection in this blog! Beware! Currently AI is built to work with and for humans but with the maturation of technology, and as citizens of the world we can only wait and watch. ‘So’ we know that AI is the science of making machines that can think like humans! It can do things that are considered ‘smart’. It can process large amount of data that we, as humans, could not hope to manage. It can recognise patterns, make decisions and judge, similar to us. It can also learn. But it is not human and does not have those unique gifts and abilities unlike any other. We have knowledge, conscience, and free will which makes us exceptional from all other living or man made creations. We can decide how to live our lives and treasure the emotions that make us unique. As once said to me, “to discover that every person is beautiful!” Under all the jobs that we are doing, with their responsibility, there is a human being. This, I believe, is what we must not lose, in our quest for progress.

I hope that I have given ‘food for thought’, I also trust that I have answered some of your queries, although I appreciate much of what I have written has raised as many doubts as I have tried to solve. I do believe in progress; schools, further education all need to change and adapt to how
and new ways of learning; and as an aging local resident, we need help to access the AI that is being required of us, in order to participate as an active citizen in the twenty first century. What I have learnt from my post bag, that it is not, as I had previously thought, only the older generation
that need help and support but our much younger citizens, parents of our grandchildren and children, who are also floundering with this new technology. Please continue to raise your issues, particularly those who have concerns about what is being taught in our schools. I must admit that it was a difficult decision as to whether to look at the school curriculum or AI.

Hope that you are all looking forward to planning a happy Christmas, whether at home on the Island or venturing abroad to the mainland.

Yours sincerely Charles Chapman.

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