Is the UK the best country in the world?

15th in maths and science
33rd in life expectancy,
20th for public debt
36th for education expenditure
34th in infant mortality,
27th for renewables
2nd biggest arms exporter, including to 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s human rights watch list
146th in savings
10th in press freedom
10th in purchasing power
22nd in happiness, only 1 ahead of Oman
Most expensive city in the world
14th in environmental performance
17th in wellbeing – behind Brazil and Panama
28th in beer consumption
19th in median household income,
10th in exports.

With reference to the opening scene of The Newsroom

Migration policy suggestions from “The Strange Death of Europe”

Summary of the suggestions outlined by Douglas Murray in his bookThe Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam:

  1. Actually try to make it nicer where they are
  2. Admit there’s nothing wrong with being proud of being European
  3. Offer temporary asylum only, where appropriate
  4. Pay for refugees to do work in Middle Eastern countries
  5. Decide who has legitimate claims to asylum before they arrive in Europe
  6. Deport those without a viable claim
  7. Acknowledge whatever errors have been made in pro-immigration arguments so far, primarily:
    1. Demographic offset: to counter our aging population, whilst failing to acknowledge that the immigrant population will also age
    2. Diversity: is great, but there is a diminishing return. The 5,000,000th immigrant probably doesn’t add as much that the 500th did.
  8. Stop branding ALL concerns as fascism since it supresses the more rational debate. Don’t, however, shy away at all from naming fascism for what it is wherever it occurs.

Posted here without judgement, and for easy reference.


SpaceTech – what humans get up to when they aren’t worrying about with which country they belong to, who technically gets to make the laws they’ll have no control over anyway, which non-existent god to bother, which bathroom to use, or what height to be at whilst a bit of music is playing.


Mind you, at least that keeps everyone else busy whilst science just turns up and gets the job done.



Use primary sources

It turns out there is little more likely to galvanise me to action than a bunch of people doing the intellectual equivalent of moaning about the long toilet queues without actually checking the cubicles.

Life timestamp reminder: you’d just listened to Dangerous by Milo Y. 

What rules should govern AI?

Many people know Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics (basically humans come before robots), but as they develop more and more capabilities it’s time to look deeper at the guidance and governance which should apply to artificial intelligence (AI) to keep us safe and maximise benefits.

The UN has already discussed (but not yet concluded) international agreements on whether AI should be able to control weapons systems and take kill-decisions. This list goes further.

I love the fact that this list starts with the goal, is written in plain language, and emphasises collaboration. It learns a great deal from history and best practise. Hopefully the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee will adopt these principles and encode them into UK law.

“I believe that AI will create profound change even before it is ‘advanced’ and thus we need to plan and manage growth of the technology. As humans we are not good at long-term planning because our civil systems don’t encourage it, however, this is an area in which we must develop our abilities to ensure a responsible and beneficial partnership between man and machine.”

Kay Firth-Butterfield, Executive Director of, and an adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin

Research Issues

1) Research Goal: The goal of AI research should be to create not undirected intelligence, but beneficial intelligence.

2) Research Funding: Investments in AI should be accompanied by funding for research on ensuring its beneficial use, including thorny questions in computer science, economics, law, ethics, and social studies, such as:

  • How can we make future AI systems highly robust, so that they do what we want without malfunctioning or getting hacked?
  • How can we grow our prosperity through automation while maintaining people’s resources and purpose?
  • How can we update our legal systems to be more fair and efficient, to keep pace with AI, and to manage the risks associated with AI?
  • What set of values should AI be aligned with, and what legal and ethical status should it have?

3) Science-Policy Link: There should be constructive and healthy exchange between AI researchers and policy-makers.

4) Research Culture: A culture of cooperation, trust, and transparency should be fostered among researchers and developers of AI.

5) Race Avoidance: Teams developing AI systems should actively cooperate to avoid corner-cutting on safety standards.

Ethics and Values

6) Safety: AI systems should be safe and secure throughout their operational lifetime, and verifiably so where applicable and feasible.

7) Failure Transparency: If an AI system causes harm, it should be possible to ascertain why.

8) Judicial Transparency: Any involvement by an autonomous system in judicial decision-making should provide a satisfactory explanation auditable by a competent human authority.

9) Responsibility: Designers and builders of advanced AI systems are stakeholders in the moral implications of their use, misuse, and actions, with a responsibility and opportunity to shape those implications.

10) Value Alignment: Highly autonomous AI systems should be designed so that their goals and behaviors can be assured to align with human values throughout their operation.

11) Human Values: AI systems should be designed and operated so as to be compatible with ideals of human dignity, rights, freedoms, and cultural diversity.

12) Personal Privacy: People should have the right to access, manage and control the data they generate, given AI systems’ power to analyze and utilize that data.

13) Liberty and Privacy: The application of AI to personal data must not unreasonably curtail people’s real or perceived liberty.

14) Shared Benefit: AI technologies should benefit and empower as many people as possible.

15) Shared Prosperity: The economic prosperity created by AI should be shared broadly, to benefit all of humanity.

16) Human Control: Humans should choose how and whether to delegate decisions to AI systems, to accomplish human-chosen objectives.

17) Non-subversion: The power conferred by control of highly advanced AI systems should respect and improve, rather than subvert, the social and civic processes on which the health of society depends.

18) AI Arms Race: An arms race in lethal autonomous weapons should be avoided.

Longer-term Issues

19) Capability Caution: There being no consensus, we should avoid strong assumptions regarding upper limits on future AI capabilities.

20) Importance: Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources.

21) Risks: Risks posed by AI systems, especially catastrophic or existential risks, must be subject to planning and mitigation efforts commensurate with their expected impact.

22) Recursive Self-Improvement: AI systems designed to recursively self-improve or self-replicate in a manner that could lead to rapidly increasing quality or quantity must be subject to strict safety and control measures.

23) Common Good: Superintelligence should only be developed in the service of widely shared ethical ideals, and for the benefit of all humanity rather than one state or organization.

 These principles were developed in conjunction with the 2017 Asilomar conference (videos here), through the process described here.

The narcissism of difference

The human condition: in which we are all dismayed by the same things at the same time, but because we’re dismayed for entirely different reasons we focus on that rather than actually addressing the problem.