Are politicians worried about being ‘replaced by AI’, too?

So far, so predictable. But what were those ministers’ actual responses, to all the accusations that they had ‘betrayed’ those (mostly) women in the audience?

It always makes me laugh, you know, when ‘politicians’ – a here I use that term loosely, to describe any person (or institution) who attempts to wield any form of ‘political power’, anywhere in the world – come out saying things like:

“We’re going to regulate Artificial Intelligence!”

Erm... really? You so sure about that? Because I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s actually going to work out the other way round, you know.

I mean: look at what’s happening all around us, for starters. Governments worldwide – including our own – are already ceding significant chunks of their own responsibilities to ‘AI’, even as we speak.

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has already told us, for instance, that our tax returns are now going to be vetted by “a high-end, statistical analysis system (SAS) that uses artificial intelligence to draw data from different registries and bank accounts, to...”

Well, you can probably work out the rest for yourself: “to assess the individual’s cash deposits and illiquid assets, like property, land, vehicles and boats, in a bid to help the tax department keep tabs on income and tax dues far more quickly and efficiently”, etc. etc.

In other words: “to do the job of the Malta Inland Revenue Department.” That’s right, folks: ALL the job, of the ENTIRE Malta Inland Revenue Department...

At which point, the question almost asks itself, doesn’t it? (Or rather, gets asked by SIRI, in the background).

If that’s how the Maltese government intends to collect taxes, from now on, then... why bother even having a ‘Malta Inland Revenue Department’, at all? Why waste so much tax-payers’ money – you know: the same money that government is supposed to be collecting – on the combined salaries, of all the human employees, of an entire Government Department, that is now manifestly... REDUNDANT?

And I could extend that to other areas of governance, too. Take ‘inflation’, for instance. If the only response a country can ever come up with, to that particular phenomenon – and now I’m talking about ALL countries, everywhere: not just Malta - is to ‘raise interest rates’, so as to ‘calm the markets’... sorry, but do we even need ‘Central Bank Governor’, to do any of that?

Both those desicions – i.e., to raise interest rates; by how much to raise them – can just as easily be taken by an algorithm, you know. Indeed, they involve PRECISELY the same sort of mathematical computations, that artificial intelligence was originally conceived to ‘compute’.

Even I – with my limited memories of having once tried to learn a computer language called ‘BASIC’ - could probably write up the code for you myself, on my trusty old ‘ZX Spectrum 48K’.

It would look something like:

IF [Inflation] >= X;

THEN SET [Interest Rates] TO [Interest Rates + Y]. (with ‘Y’ representing the pre-agreed variable by which rates have to be raised).


There: not exactly very difficult, is it now? Nothing an application like ChatGPT couldn’t handle, just as well as any old Governor of Central Bank (and much more cost-effectively, too. Let’s face it: ChatGPT doesn’t exactly need a six-digit salary, or a chauffeur-driven limousine, just to work that one out. And you can’t even bribe it with money, either! I mean... what’s an application like that even going to spend it on, anyway? ‘Algorithmic Porn’? )

While I’m at it: why stop at the Inland Revenue Department, or the Central Bank? (Or even Identity Malta, come to think of it. Surely, an algorithm can do a much better jobbing of ‘vetting Passport applications’, than... well, THAT?!)

But what about Clyde Caruana himself? Is there any part of his entire portfolio, as Finance Minister, that couldn’t just as easily be carried out by  “a high-end, statistical analysis system (SAS) that uses artificial intelligence”?

Not that I can see, there isn’t. For let’s face it: the Finance Minister’s entire function, at the moment, seems to consist in an endlessly repeated loop, of the same old impulse/reaction operations we have been observing since 2022:

a) Keep telling us that ‘Malta’s economic model needs to change’;

b) Keep doing nothing to actually ‘change Malta’s economic model.’

c) Keep ignoring all his colleagues in Robert Abela’s Cabinet (including Robert Abela himself, and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri) when they keep telling us that... um... ‘Malta’s economic model does NOT need to change’;

d) Repeat, over and over again.

Not to be unkind or anything; but that might actually be too ‘basic’, to even be entrusted to an algorithm of the complexity of ChatGTP. By which I mean: it doesn’t seem to  require any form of ‘intelligence’ – real, or artificial – AT ALL...

Nor does it even stop there (indeed, this argument is beginning to resemble the inexorable onward advancement, of technological progress itself. It’s becoming ‘unstoppable’). Yesterday, we were given a perfect indication, of why it might actually not such a bad idea, after all, to replace our politicians (not just Clyde Caruana: the whole lot of them) with a bunch of... well, ‘Chat-bots’.

Picture the scene. Health Minister Chris Fearne, Justice Minister Justice Attard,  and Reforms Parliamentary Rebecca Buttigieg were among the government MPs present for a Parliamentary Committee Meeting about ‘Bill 28’: in which they – and Opposition members, too – were on the receiving end of dismayed, outraged reactions by pro-choice campaigners.

So far, so predictable. But what were those ministers’ actual responses, to all the accusations that they had ‘betrayed’ those (mostly) women in the audience?

Women like Prof. Marceline Naudi, who – conveniently enough -summed up the entire situation rather neatly, as: “You gave us hope, only to reverse on your previous position. You had the opportunity to instil change, and now you turned your back on human and women’s rights”?

As far as I can see, those Cabinet ministers responded by... well, simply repeating the same line they were ‘programmed’ to repeat (with a little variation of wording, here and there: just as you might expect, in fact, from an application like ChatGPT...)

Chris Fearne, for instance, said: “It is not true that a woman needs to be on the brink of death for a doctor to intervene. If a woman is in a condition that may eventually lead to death, the doctor can act. If that risk is immediate, the doctor can act alone.”

What he omitted to mention, however, is that – as a result of the same amendment he was defending - the decision of whether that woman is ‘in a condition that may eventually lead to death’, now has to be taken by a panel of THREE doctors (where before, it was only one): who, for all we know, might even end up facing cases in which they don’t actually agree on that very point, among themselves.

So... yes, I suppose. An individual doctor would be able to ‘act alone’, according to the terms of this legislaton. But only after all the hours (if not days) that would have been wasted, to:

a) establish the precise level of risk to woman’s life;

b) determine that she is (or is not) ‘at the brink of death’;

c) determine whether ‘the foetus can survive outside the womb’, and...

... do  I even need to go on? By that point, the woman in question would SURELY be ‘at the brink of death’ (even if she may not have been, when she was first admitted into hospital...)

But in any case: the point here, is not so much to ‘rebut Fearne’s arguments’ – Prof. Naudi has already done a much better job of that, than I ever could – but merely to raise a teenie-weenie little question:

Do we really need a Government Minister like Chris Fearne – still less, an entire Cabinet-full of them – to come up with an answer like that?  Isn’t there already some kind of ‘app’ you can download for that sort of thing, from the Internet, and install for free on your mobile phone...?

And yet, and yet: when you look at what’s happening all around us, right now...  it’s not politicians like Clyde Caruana, or Chris Fearne – nor even international institutions like the European Commission, or the European Central Bank – who are now genuinely concerned about being ‘replaced by AI’, sooner or later.

Oh no: it’s only the people who work in ‘creative industries’.

You know: the artists, the authors, the composers, the copy-writers, the computer-programmers (yes: ironically enough, those too!). They’re the ones who now live in the eternal fear of being rendered ‘obsolete’, from one nano-second to the next, by the sudden emeregence of a ‘new technology’, that was designed to ‘do their own job, better’.

Those people... not the ones who are (let’s face it) so much more eminently ‘replaceable’ - on practically every level you care to name - by ‘Artificial Intelligence’.

Just saying...