Saturday, January 21

Big data

In Australia politicians are becoming excited over the application of the use of the so called “big data” to be adopted by the mega government departments. The reason is it offers the prospect of streamlining the payments system and uncovering fraud or overpayments with subsequent savings to the public purse. My concerns is any such system which relies more heavily on artificial intelligence must contain an ethical basis and at some point build in “human intervention” so that we do not become slaves to technology rather than its master.    
Hence I think Judy Bamberger’s letter (Centrelink’s proposed robo –assistant a joke) - AFR 19th January 2017, is spot on in condemning the inappropriate use of algorithms to determine who owes Centrelink money. Might I suggest the same robotic approach be applied to assess past claims paid to MP’s under their travel allowances, with the prospect of a high recovery for the benefit of the public purse. 

But innocent MP’s in receipt of such computer generated letters advising them of a potential past overpayment, and demanding an on online response within 21 days, with the prospect they may also need to justify such claims with travel documents and eligibility criteria, might feel justifiably aggrieved. The bottom line is these so called enquiry letters which were sent out “ en masse” and carried with them the warning any failure to respond will automatically triggers debt recovery action.      
Politicians and the management of Centrelink need to stop boasting about collecting another 300 million principally from the application of big data, if that practice relies heavily on robotics, already demonstrated to lead to numerous errors. 

Voters do expect Centrelink to have in place a system to cross check to taxation records and to be diligent in uncovering any false claims. One also welcomes any sensible efficiency measures, but not to assign responsibility to mindless robotics, whose recent debacle is all too evident. This is not innovation but rather a total lack of integrity.

Monday, January 2

Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It.

I have just read “Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It, by philosopher Daniel Klein, an erudite writer who takes one effortlessly through a thoughtful but light-hearted stroll of his so called ‘pithiest’ notes, scribbled down when studying philosophy at College. The genesis of his book was the re-discovery of these old notes, which had remained dormant for over 40 years and initially shocked him by their youthful naivety.
But the youthful thoughts reignited an interest in what had motivated him to make notes, so he decided to write a fresh narrative. The scope covers philosophers from the enduring wisdom of the ancients, to the existentialists and post-modernists, but the quotes and supporting narrative are all guaranteed to get you thinking, But I must confess, thinking, like singing and reading is becoming more of my favourite pastime in life, since a crook back curtails me getting out on the golf course and doing battle with the little white ball when you can’t ever think of anything else. But I like the idea the journey being more important than the destination, just as Klein leaves us with more questions than answers.  

One example is from the Roman Emperor and Philosopher Marcus Aurelius “Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life”. 
But another question he does not pose is "Can we have faith without doubt? 
Even the word faith, in modernity, conjures up the notion of a "blind faith" as opposed to one , conditional to our conscious perceptions and or experiences. For faith, by necessity, arises from our doubts to savior a hope and hopefully in the process shuns arrogance and intolerance.