Luke Dormehl is an idiot

Artificial intelligence achieved a lot in 2016. One of the goals in 2017 should be to make its workings more transparent. With plenty riding on it, this could be the year when, to coin a phrase, we begin to take back control.

Right, so we should all have a look at those algos and see how they work. Right on, accountability!

Today, AI and algorithms dominate our lives – from the way financial markets carry out trades to the discovery of new pharmaceutical drugs and the means by which we discover and consume our news.

But, like any invisible authority, such systems should be open to scrutiny.


Some of today’s most impressive advances in fields such as machine learning (the goal of getting a machine to, well, learn) rely on tools such as “deep learning neural networks”. These are systems patterned after the way the human brain works but which, ironically, are almost entirely inscrutable to humans. Trained with only inputs and outputs, and tweaking one or the other until the middle part “just works”, human creators have long since sacrificed understanding in favour of results.

Absolutely no one knows how they work which is going to make scrutiny a little difficult, no?

Luke Dormehl is an idiot.

Paul Mason is a numpty, isn’t he?

If you could automate traffic flows – that is, mandate certain cars to go in certain directions and at certain speeds – you would have the makings of an automotive social network. This is the question all the auto-industry futurology avoids: the question of cooperation and control. If 50 drivers are individually plotting a route via GPS from Leicester to Liverpool, and we are at the stage of automated cars, there is nothing to stop an intelligent system pooling that information, and mandating the car space to be shared, in order to reduce energy consumption; to simplify the journey; to allow a national traffic manager to prioritise or deprioritise what, effectively, would become a car-train.


Volvo’s been working on that for several years now…..only without the national bit.

JFK really was a bastard, wasn’t he?

‘Cubans’ have long been forbidden fruit in the US tobacco market. They were widely considered the best in the world even before the trade embargo which made them contraband beginning in 1962. Since then the mystique surrounding the cigars has only increased.

President John Kennedy, who implemented the embargo, famously ordered 1,200 hand-rolled Cuban cigars just hours before it went into effect. Legend has it that he waited for word that the cigars had been purchased before signing the order which meant his countrymen would no longer be allowed to buy them.

Thee but not me, eh

Not that he lived long enough to smoke them of course…..

Now they\’e just being silly

According to a Department for Transport report, some off-peak single tickets cost just 10p less than returns.

The report says: “Passengers who expect fares to be roughly consistent on a distance basis may perceive inconsistencies where in fact fares have been set on a commercial basis (within the constraints of fares regulation).

\”This may leave passengers feeling that they are paying more than they should, for example where a return is only marginally more expensive than a single.

Twattery, all around me nothing but twattery.

Off peak returns are deliberately cheap because railways have a large fixed cost and a very low marginal cost. Thus you\’ve large spare capacity in the middle of the day because you set things up to deal with peak demand. Why not offer tickets at above your marginal cost but below your average cost in order to fill some of that spare capacity? To encourage people who otherwise would not travel to give you some of their money? You know, awaydays.

If you\’re then going to start using those deliberately below average cost tickets as the baseline for the prices of all tickets you are being a massive and absolute twat.

Either that or we\’ve been infested by Marxists again. That very Soviet idea that the value of transport is the weight transported times the distance transported (no, really, that\’s how Soviet GDP figures were calculated. Moving 2,000 tonnes 3,000 km obviously, obviously, created more value than moving it 50 metres. Which is why you had plants using raw materials from 3,000 km away rather than building them next door to their supplies.).

On the appalling ignorance of Nick Shaxson

So our Nickie has teamed up with the NEF to do one of their \”Mythbuster\” series. as you might expect this series doesn\’t bust any myths, rather it proclaims them.

Here\’s the opening of the one on why tax competition isn\’t important:

A myth we\’re repeatedly told is that a country must be \”tax competitive\” in order to support a successful economy. It sounds so reasonable. We\’re taught that competition between companies keeps them on their toes and pressures them to produce better products and services, at better prices.

But here\’s the problem: competition between companies in a market bears no economic resemblance whatsoever to \”competition\” between countries on tax. They are utterly different economic beasts.

Theoretical arguments used to support tax \”competition\” between countries were first made in a 1956 paper by the economist Charles Tiebout. He argued that in a globalised world, people would naturally migrate to the countries with the most efficiently run public services for the least amount of tax possible. This would lead to countries \”competing\” with one another by running public services better and with less money, and everything would organically improve. But how many people do you know who will rip their kids out of school and flee to a foreign country as soon as it tweaks its tax code? It doesn\’t take a tax expert to see how silly this theory is.

I refute him thus: Lady Green.

And this is what is so damn fucking stupid about the argument that is being made here. The idiots at the TJN have just spent the last decade complaining that people, money and companies have been buggering off out of high tax jurisdictions and into low tax ones. Their response being that of course we should close down all of the low tax jurisdictions.

So, why would you campaign for a decade to stop people being able to bugger off if you didn\’t think that people do bugger off?

Their own actions for these ten years show that even they don\’t believe this tripe they\’re spouting as a \”mythbuster\”.

The rest of it is the highly selective and biased nonsense you would expect it to be.

And they don\’t even mention the major point in favour of tax competition: that by being able to bugger off a limit is put on the possible exactions of the State. Without that possibility of exit the bastards would rip us off even more.

Vince Cable can be a twat

Starbucks has paid only £8.6m income tax since 1998 on £3.1bn sales, thanks to reporting consistent losses. Cable said: \”It is worrying and frankly a bit of a disgrace that Starbucks is a tip of the iceberg.\”

Pointing to similar arrangements among other multinationals with UK operations, he added: \”They are taking a lot of value out of the British economy and British consumers, and putting little in.\”

Err, the value runs the other way.

It is the consumers who value what is produced. Thus the value must, by definition, be with the consumers in the UK. No fucker is \”taking value out of the UK\” at all. They cannot, by definition, be doing so.

Racial illogic

What bugs me here is these people not getting the implications of the very things they themselves are saying.

Actors from black, Asian or other ethnic minority groups appeared in only 5% of the almost 35,000 TV ads screened in the UK last year, according to a report.

The report by Clearcast, the body that vets all commercials before they are broadcast, found that TV advertising is \”drastically under-representing\” the ethnic minority groups. Black, Asian and those of other ethnic minorities account for about 13% of the UK population.

Clearcast\’s report, which marks the first in-depth look at the racial makeup of UK television advertising, found that of the total of 34,499 commercials given the green light last year just 1,845, or 5.3%, used actors from a non-white background.

OK, maybe that\’s very naughty, terrible, or who gives a shit.

But then they say:

\”People react better to advertising when they see themselves reflected in it,\” said Saraf. \”I would therefore advise [advertisers] to take a better look at who their customers are and hope that these figures will become markedly more representative over the coming years.\”

Well quite. 87% of potential customers are slightly pinkish so why are we surprised that most of those in the ads reflect this reality of the audience?

Note that we\’re talking about TV ads here, you know, things broadcast to the wider population. Where there is greater segmentation of the audience along racial or ethnic lines none of us are in the least surprised that advertising is similarly specific. The Voice and Weekly Gleaner will have more Afro-Caribbean peeps in ads, London\’s Deccan News (if such a title exists) is likely to have South Asian models demonstrating the skin lighteners.

As I say, it\’s not that these fools are the usual race baiters that annoys me, it\’s that they aren\’t taking in the implications of the very things that they themselves are saying. When you\’ve got broadcast advertising, something of a hit and miss proposition in the first place, of course you\’re going to go for the lowest common denominator. If 87% of the potential customer base is pink then you\’re going to use pink actors.

With the potential exception of people who are sufficiently famous to not have \”a race\”. Which is where Lenny Henry comes in. He\’s Lenny Henry, not some pink/black/slant eye/Hindoo with which the audience is supposed to see itself reflected.


Some people.

Complaining that halls of residence are being built for students in London.

When I were a student in London we were all screaming that more such halls should be built, for you\’d only be able to live in hall for one of your three years and even then you\’d be sharing a bedroom.

Apparently the use of profit making firms to supply an extant demand makes it all icky or something.