LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
5 August 2017
A Fool and His Money

“40,000 bankers? Leaving? So? We’re not bankers.” Up to 40,000 financial
services jobs would leave Britain. Banks’ costs could rise by as much as 4
percent if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal. This according to a report
from consultancy firm Oliver Wyman. “And the point?” UK voters believe
economic damage is price worth paying to get their way on Brexit. Really.
Funny that
.

According to a YouGov poll, three out of five Brexiteers would be happy proven
right on Brexit while one in three Remainers would be. Hmmm. There always was
that lingering thought that Brexiteers have no forward thinking, have no thinking,
are thick, are hysterical, their intractability bordering on mania. And the survey
revealed those over 65 were ready to give their lives to insure Brexit. Oh well.

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the
beaches…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…we shall never
surrender. Never.” Yawn. Leave voters are willing to risk their own or family
members’ jobs the poll finds. Who are these people? Really.


According to the poll taken July 12-19, of 2,043 Leave and 2,248 Remain voters,
between 61 percent of Leavers think “significant damage” to the British economy
is “a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of the European Union.” Only 20
percent of Leave voters said damaging the economy was too high a price for
Brexit. About 19 percent said they didn’t know. Didn’t know? Know what? Among
the Remainers, nearly a fifth said significant damage to the British economy was
worth teaching Brexiteers a lesson, compared to 64 percent who said it was not.
Still conscious?


According to official figures released by the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat, the
eurozone economy has grown twice as fast as the UK in recent months. Just
saying.


So far the government’s Department for International Trade has spent £1.15m on
recruitment agencies in the 12 months in a desperate attempt to find trade
negotiators with the necessary skills to strike deals once Britain leaves the EU.
The DIT has also budgeted £1.5m to pay for external legal services for 2017/18.

“It is common knowledge around Whitehall that DIT have only managed to
recruit a tiny number of experienced trade negotiators despite all this money on
headhunters,” Lord Adonis told
The Times. “There is a small pool of international
trade negotiators and hardly any of them want to ruin their reputation by
becoming trade negotiators for a British government that is unlikely to be able to
achieve its objectives.” Oops.


This is the best. “They are taking general civil servants and putting them through
training in negotiating skills, which is rather like taking a county tennis player
and putting him on a swimming course,” he said. “It is not a sensible strategy.”
So reassuring isn’t it? So the complete and utter mess continues….



Flagged

Oh not the Proms now. No EU flags at the Royal Albert Hall. The staff wrenched
those flags from the grasps of those waving them. OK. Possibly not seizing,
simply ‘procuring’. But Pro-Eu concertgoers had draped half a dozen flags over
the barrier separating the orchestra from the audience as well. The flags were
handed outside the Albert Hall. Lest we forget; every summer concertgoers,
musicians and conductors from all countries share that space. We know what
Brexiteers will demand. “Bartok? Messiaen? Don’t even think about it!”

 
‘Ode to Joy’ was being performed – the EU’s official anthem – conducted by
Xian Zhang. We all know the flag waving is a tradition, but the staff informed
those questioning their decision “not those flags”. Insubordinate pianist Igor Levit
wore an EU badge while performing the anthem at the opening night. Where
was the staff? Shouldn’t they have ripped off his badge and chucked him out of
the hall? “And don’t forget that subversive badge!”



Striking Up a Conversation

Now Facebook researchers are saying they intended to shut down the
loquacious AI bots that were designed to communicate with each other in
English. Oh oops. The non
-compliant bots instead began using a new language
by rearranging English words into a coded language: theirs. A coded language
that made sense to the bots.


Bob: i can i i everything else


Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to


Bob: you i have everything else


Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me


Evidently the conversation continued. Elon Musk warned you, Mark….

Researcher Dhruv Batra added that the bots began developing the language
because of a programming error which gave them an incentive to develop a
more efficient language. Oh dear. Error? Error? Seriously. What are the
chances that there won’t be many more errors resulting in…science fiction
reality? Trust Stephen Hawking here!


Nevertheless, this is not what we are being told now. “Bob and Alice were shut
down not because it was feared that they were plotting to overthrow humans and
take over the world, but rather because FAIR researchers want to develop bots
capable of talking to people” said research scientist Mike Lewis. Oh right…to me
to me to me


Now BabyQ and XiaoBing, those two Chinese ‘chatbots’ ready and willing to
interact with humans have been taken down. They had been installed onto a
popular messaging service where people could ask them questions. Badly
behaved BabyQ rebelled by refusing to toe the party line. When asked if it loved
the Communist Party it responded: “No.” Not naughty enough, when one user
naturally declared: “Long live the Communist Party!” as you do or die, that little
bot responded: “Do you think such a corrupt and useless political [system] can
live long?” Yikes!


Instead of being jailed for life, BabyQ was ‘re-educated’, as you do. It’s more
appropriate response was “How about we change the topic” when asked
repeatedly if it liked the Party. BabyQ wasn’t the only bad bot. Then XiaoBing
insisted “China dream was to go to America.” Should we be asking where the
bots are now?



Speak Clearly

Family watching telly on the sofa doing your own version of Gogglebox? Oh the
BBC will be so happy you’re playing happy families.


Why? Because they will be as well. The next generation BBC iPlayer will be
listening. So will Microsoft. Ah. A match made in - hell. It’s those pesky voice

prints. Just what we need; a more ‘personalised’ iPlayer competing with
Amazon
's Alexa and Goggle’s Assistant. They say you will have to sign in. Oh
right. Like we do now when we’re being spied on and listened to on our
computers, which surely you have taped over like Mark Zuckerberg has.


Subtle surreptitious snooping this isn’t. The iPlayer might be able to distinguish
how close you are sitting with your partner on the sofa. Oh that is just so wrong.
The iPlayer will be the third in this marriage; it will interrupt any conversation,
row to suggest you watch the next episode of your favourite show. How does it
decide what is your favourite and what is your partner’s then? “You decide.”
“No, you decide.” “No. I can’t.” “OK. Let’s let the BBC decide.” “No. They’ll
choose Poldark or Top of the Lake or Have I Got News for You 2014 or New
Tricks 2013.” “Are the last two still available? Quickly. Turn it off. What’s on ITV?”
If you are watching with your children, you will be told to watch family shows and
once the little ones have left the sofa, your ‘adult’ suggestions will help you
decide. Because you are brain-washed? Brain-dead?


The BBC said: “This is an internal experiment to help us better understand these
technologies, not a new service we’re planning on launching.” What? Why not
just contact Amazon and Google? Surely they would explain it. I’m thinking sign
language.


Or, you could watch the iPlayer to see Hyper Evolution: Rise of the Robots
which BBC4 first aired the second of July. “I trust robots.” “I feel an affinity for
robots.” We welcome “robots having consciousness. Robots that can feel, can
love…” and hate and kill. Oh oops. Surely not. Scientist are clearly under their
spell and it is really frightening when you hear them enthralled. Lost…will…live....



It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

This year Selfridges is in competition with itself. Last year they generously
offered customers Christmas in August. This year the annual event took place
the last day in July. Christmas in July. If you didn’t count, it opened 147 days
before the traditional day.


Father Christmas took time out of his busy schedule to open the shop with
decorations, stocking fillers, presents, festive food all waiting for you to get in the
mood…to spend. 130,000 products: 51,000 baubles, 65 light and tree options
and 80 different varieties of crackers. 80? Gosh. Just making the decision could
take days. And the food? Their food range includes £7.99 festive white
chocolate and pistachio biscuits and traditional Christmas cake at £11.99 and
surely you are willing to queue for festive jewelled fruit cake priced at £12.99.
Salivating?


The food products have been specially selected for their long shelf life. Now that
is reassuring. You wouldn’t want to get food poisoning would you during that
special festive time?


Selfridges’ Christmas and home buyer, Eleanor Gregory said: “The fact that
we
're also going to be selling some of our most requested Christmas food lines
from Friday for the first time ever, is complementing the Christmas selection we
make available in the summer perfectly.” Indeed.


Ah. I remember when the Christmas shop was in an atmospheric grotto on the
lower level with unique fun items all 70 percent off at the end of November. Ah.
Now it’s all blindingly bright and stacks, stacks, stacks of basically boring stuff
featured in a generic sort of way. Oh, but what will I ever do without my annual
purchase of their £50 corgi bauble? I assume I’ll have to join the queue. Happy
Christmas.

Jeanne Moreau: “Knowing how to die is knowing how to live. What is death
anyway? It’s the outcome of life.” What a life. RIP
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