If Yes Scotland Had Focused on Immigration

I won’t be the only person seeing a lot of comparisons between the Scottish independence referendum two years ago and the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.  Here’s another, played out as a hypothetical scenario:

So, roll-back to 2014.  A referendum has been called on Scotland’s membership of the UK in which only those born in Scotland have the right to vote, disenfranchising 400,000 fellow British citizens born in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.  The pro-independence campaign, Yes Scotland, losing the economic argument, believes it can instead deliver a victory by focusing on the threat of immigration, allowed by the freedom of movement within the UK.   It berates the Scottish government for allowing 33,000 British citizens to enter the country each year, claiming the country is too full, or that Scottish culture is being eroded by these incomers, who don’t even bother to learn Gaelic or Scots.  Many Scots no longer feel as though they recognise their own country anymore.  Yes Scotland argues that the campaign does not have a problem with immigration in principle, but do we really need so many British people entering Scotland?  Furthermore, their religion is incompatible with Scottish values.  Anglicanism is too foreign for this Presbyterian nation, and the presence of Anglicans in our country will result in greater social upheaval.

Yes Scotland hopes the economic argument will prove their greatest asset.  They argue that the Brits who are crossing north of the border are too unskilled, taking all our Scottish jobs, deflating prices, and bringing unsatisfactory social conditions with them – like, say, HIV infections.  They argue Scotland should be able to take in only those who will contribute to society, which only coincidentally happens to be the wealthier Brits earning a certain income.  It does not seem to matter whether these immigrants may be married to Scots, or have family in Scotland.  Relatedly, they seek to make the case that leaving the UK will help Scotland’s public services.  Despite the fact several of the leading figures in Yes Scotland are on record for seeking public spending cuts – some of them actually oversaw such cuts – and the end of public welfare, they argue that British immigrants put too much strain on these key services, such as healthcare and schools.

The natural conclusion, then, it to vote Yes so Scotland can regain control and take its country back.  Ordinary Scots have had enough of the Scottish Government doing nothing to stem the endless flow of migrants entering our country through England.  We can only achieve this by establishing an Australian-style points system, placing illegal Brits into internment camps for years before forcibly deporting them south of the border.  Scotland is a great country, and will be greater if we vote Yes.

*

This sounds absurd, and outright offensive, right?  So how come it’s seen as acceptable by a vast proportion of people when we use these terms and style of language to talk about fellow Europeans?

 

 

 

Advertisements

HAL 9000’s Motivations

Contains spoilers for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

There are so many aspects of Stanley Kubrick’s 1969 film 2001: A Space Odyssey that I love (and also, for different reasons, Arthur C. Clarke’s novel).  I could blog about this film for years – and probably will – but for now I’ll focus on the character of HAL 9000.

Generally speaking, humans find artificial intelligence rather chilling.  I’m convinced this is one reason why our computers, phones and cars are very clearly designed as tools rather than given lifelike features.  While not yet at the levels of complexity envisioned by Clarke and Kubrick, artificial intelligence certainly has come on a long way since 1969 – you can now have a somewhat convincing conversation with a computer, for instance.  But we’re still a long way from the complexities of Hal, of it being necessary to analyse a computer’s motivations beyond it having a short circuit.  I’m sure, with unlimited time and resources, we might one day have artificial intelligence as deep as Hal – we’re evidence that such brains can exist, therefore they can be created – but for now I’ll content myself with the question: why did Hal try to kill the crew of Discovery One?  There are several speculated explanations for his actions:

  1. Hal could not keep secrets.
    This is the reason given by the film and novel.  Hal was tasked with keeping the true nature of the mission – that instead of investigating Jupiter they were investigating alien life – secret from Dave and Frank.  Hal was not designed to actively withhold information from people and so, when required to lie, experienced a major crisis of logic.  Killing the ship’s crew would remove the need to lie to them.  Or alternatively, the fact that Dave and Frank became suspicious put into question Hal’s infallibility, which was a doubt he could not cope with.  A major function of his was to be “incapable of error.”  His ‘mistakes’ regarding the communication equipment were instead deliberate ploys to kill the crew.
  2. Hal simply malfunctioned.
    An error of coding, recurring loop, whatever, caused Hal to mess up his operations and kill the crew.  Nothing more complicated than that – Hal’s user interface only made it appear that more was at work.  Bit of a dull explanation…
  3. Hal malfunctioned then killed for survival.
    Hal genuinely did malfunction regarding the communication equipment, then realised that if this became known then he may be shut down due to unreliability.  If Hal had been designed based on human psychology then survival would be his ultimate priority – beyond that of even the mission – and therefore he became convinced that it was a case of “me or them.”  He opted to kill the crew before they could deactivate him.
  4. Xenophobia
    This is my favourite explanation.  Again, if Hal was designed on the model of human psychology then he was susceptible to human flaws.  Unlike Dave and Frank who were unknowing, and the rest of the crew who were in hibernation, Hal had a long time to ponder on the implications of discovering alien life.  Could they pose a threat?  Would either their intentions or their diseases wipe out humanity?  Or even more subconsciously, the concept of aliens tapped into the human fear of ‘the other’.  For whatever reason this became exacerbated in Hal and he killed the crew to prevent the mission ever making the discovery.
  5. Boredom.
    It’s not easy being stuck on a spaceship for several months with no one of a similar intellect to converse with.  Neither Dave nor Frank had an expert knowledge of computer systems.  Hal may have gone mad from boredom.
  6. Sabotage.
    He was programmed to make the mission a failure.  Unlikely but given the geopolitical situation during the story – it ends with the world on the bring of nuclear war – not impossible.
  7. George Bush.
    Hal found out about George Bush becoming president despite winning fewer votes than his opponent, Al Gore.  This illogical result, and perhaps also the implications of Bush’s presidency, set Hal into a misanthropic fit causing him to lash out at any human beings within his reach.  Actually… that’s rather plausible.

Any other ideas, please let me know!