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Freethought vs Thinking Machines

Artificial intelligence in computing always seems to be beyond the horizon.  The abilities of Google Search, Apple Siri and Microsoft Bing would have looked like successful artificial intelligence to someone in 1980 (I know, because I would have thought so!), but the goal posts keep shifting out. We always expect more.

Artificial intelligence is now used against human dissidents.  The NSA and GCHQ are using enormous computers to troll the networks and sniff out supposed terrorists.  There was even news that Russian systems use social network data to predict who are likely to be future trouble makers.

This is all due to a recent shift in policing from crime prosecution, to crime prevention.

"Cogito, ergo sum"
-- Descartes

In the interest of crime prevention, the bar has been lowered and to me, the really disturbing thing is not that these immature children are supporting terrorism - they have no clue what it really is - but that they are being prosecuted for thought crimes - they haven't actually done anything wrong yet:
26 May 2015: A 14-year-old boy has been convicted of terrorism offences in Austria, including a potential plot to bomb a railway station in the capital, Vienna.   A 16-year-old girl was facing charges in Vienna on Tuesday of supporting IS.

What have we become?  Should we really prosecute these children, or should we prosecute their parents?

"Prudentia est enim locata 
in dilectu bonorum et malorum officium"
-- Cicero

It is a fine line that we need to preserve between order and anarchy, dogma and freethought.  Now we also need to give thought to computers, devices with no wisdom or sense of morality, passing swift judgement on us.

Whereas we used to prosecute criminals
 for things they have done,
We now prosecute people for things they are thinking of, 
but haven't actually done yet,
and soon, 
we may be prosecuting people for things
 they haven't even thought of doing yet.

Maybe one day we will be able to predict life so accurately that we can simply terminate a pregnancy proactively and avoid the whole child terrorist problem.

"Errare humanum est, 
sed in errare perseverare diabolicum."
-- Seneca the Younger.

Here, there be dragons...


  1. Instead of ""Errare humanum est,
    sed in errare perseverare diabolicum."" perhaps it should be "Est humanum errare perseverare diabolicum"

    To err is human, to persevere is diabolical


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