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There’s nothing humane about algorithms being used to make life judgements and the A’ Level grade fiasco should be a lesson to us all

August 17, 2020 1 comment

Regrettably, at the time of a National Crisis, it seems that the only thing original about the Johnson Government is its ability to repeatedly fuck things up.

I would like to be able to say that they have a legitimate excuse for doing everything that they have done since the Coronavirus Pandemic came into view. But they don’t. And whilst many still believe it right to support the Government because that’s what you should do, the real story and all the different truths that have ridden shotgun with the creation of this chaos will come to light, either when the public files are opened or this stupid political clique is replaced by someone who knows what politicians are actually supposed to do.

Of all the mistakes Johnson and his cronies have made so far, the one that illustrates the abject disconnect from all forms of decision-making-responsibility that is endemic within this political culture was that of using an algorithm to produce grades for our 18 year old, end-of-school students who inevitably see their A ‘Level grades as a pivot point where the success or failure of their entire lives is mapped out.

Without the intervention of school closures that were neither necessary and certainly weren’t thought through, the GCSE and A ‘Level exams process in the UK was already arbitrary in the extreme, overlooking the reality that many students are not academically inclined and of those who appear to be, some will never be masters of exam technique. But to then fully dehumanise the process and use an algorithm when another political choice meant that exams in the summer of 2020 could not be done is an injustice of an extraordinary kind.

Algorithms are great for working with number and sifting data of a numerical or quantitative kind. But they are next to useless when qualitative data or the real idiosyncrasies and circumstances of life are concerned and the only shortcut that this route was ever going to provide was one to treating all A ‘Level Students as if the history or chronology of the events, what they did and how they did it was identically the same – not to mention anything that is already discussed above.

Yes, the Universities application and offer process is annually constrained by numbers. But Coronavirus and the ridiculous steps that the Government has already taken meant that this was never going to be a normal year, and simply factors such as foreign student numbers no longer being as certain as ‘normal’ would have meant there are vacancies that our commercially focused Universities need to fill to make the sums add up – no matter the usual grades requirements involved.

There is no algorithm that can fairly explain or make account for the peculiarities of any individuals circumstances. It is both lazy and distinctly harmful to surrender human decision making to a machine when that machine can only ever account for the level of detail or date that it was programmed with.

Parents are naturally beside themselves right now and many have good reason to be. Young people who were about to break free of the perceptual barriers and ties of their background have been binned just because our politicians are not up to the job and incapable of thinking in a different way. But the real travesty beyond that which I hope as I write public pressure will force Johnson to fix, is the reality that algorithms are already playing a massive part in the formal electronic or -online’ relationships that we have everything from our use of social media, to how our job applications are managed giving recruiters an irresponsibly easy time to check that boxes are ticked and nothing else.

Algorithms and the people who use them to cut corners of make business processes ‘more efficient’ to cut costs are not only playing a massive part in the dehumanisation of relationships that has accompanied the internet age. They are also condemning people whose circumstances a computer code will inevitably overlook whilst denying the benefits of added value to businesses that before the created quasi sectors of HR and Recruitment evolved were always a major consideration of the employing managers – and still would be if they realised what a con and all-round injustice these algorithms and employing the services of the people who use them involve.

This corner cutting is pernicious and whilst the improvement in technology to in turn improve the user and end user experience is always something that we should aspire to, it should not necessarily mean that the advances are used to cut costs and jobs if that is what it can do. The quality of the relationship with people, the product and the all-round experience will always be compromised if it is indeed not lost and money or cost-saving should never be the basic law governing business when everything that we do in any business is ultimately always and universally about people and thereby the human relationship.

Johnsons ‘Conservatives’ can use Thatcher memes as much as they like. There is a BIG difference between doing what is right for us all and doing what is right just for them

August 17, 2020 Leave a comment

The Conservative Party is in the shit. Everyone knows it. Even Tory MPs themselves. One even accused the Government of ‘wanking into the void’ this past weekend.

So, what do Conservatives do when they need to look good at a time when they are looking really bad? They roll out memes of past Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talking about doing what’s ‘right’.

The first thing that should be cleared up before I get started is that the Conservative Party of Maggie Thatcher’s day was very different to the one that we have now. In comparison, the Conservative Party of the Cameron, May and Johnson epoch isn’t conservative at all.

As far as doing what’s right is concerned, even the great Lady herself failed to be right in the right way at least some of the time. But it is because she did have many of the principles of leadership right that the things she didn’t get ‘right’ turned out to be so wrong in the years that followed her premiership.

Decades of the wrong people being in politics for what they see as the right reasons have seen public policy across the UK going the wrong way for a very long time.

Sooner or later this political class were going to be found out. And whilst Brexit lifted the stone and shone a bright light on everything that is wrong with the system at Westminster, it was the Coronavirus Pandemic that has really exposed to the view of the world how poor our politicians really are.

People who are not real leaders of people emulate the titans of history that they and others look up to and are inspired by, in some bizarre attempt to reach out and convince the people that they are ‘just like them’.

Boris has been trying to spin this yarn throughout his public life. Now this so-called ‘Conservative’ non-government and those who support it are going through the sickening process of reprising our last great Prime Minister in the hope that it will transform the public opinion of what they do.

If this Government had been at least attempting to do what is genuinely right, the situation that the UK now faces could be a very different one indeed.

To be fair to all of the politicians who hold responsibility for creating the mess that we face, they probably did think they were doing what’s right. But the question of what’s right at the moment of any decisions can only depend upon what you genuinely believe that doing ‘what’s right’ is.

One of the great questions of human psychology is ‘Can anyone be fully altruistic?’. In the answer lies a significant clue to how we identify the people who should be leading this Country. It is only those who are committed to the principle that the answer is yes and are then prepared to take every step in public office to create solutions and the public frameworks, systems and processes to help people experience that this is right, that we will know the right decisions are genuinely going to always be made.

Generally speaking, there are three versions of doing what’s right. 1.) Doing what’s right for me. 2.) Doing what’s right for you. 3.) Doing what’s right for us all.

  1. Doing what’s right for us all: This is the real deal – or what it should be. Decisions are made with the consequences and the impacts on what the decision will touch – however many steps removed that impact might be. By far the most difficult because it requires the decision maker not only to be conscious of the implications of what they are doing whether they may seem disadvantageous for some, but also requires that they act upon it anyway. This is the real ‘bigger picture’ stuff that academia and speakers pay lip service but rarely does. At its extremes, this is Churchill destroying the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir or an MP employing an external applicant for a role a family member has applied for because they have the experience, track record and skills.
  2. Doing what’s right for you: This is the one where influence comes to bear. The one where lobbyists, well known organisations, media moguls, celebrities, corporate leaders and a range of bullies are able to exert undue pressure on weak minded politicians to get what they want because its good for them and/or whoever they represent or who follows them. It happens in the UK a lot more than it should (watch the documentary 3 part series on BBC iPlayer ‘The Rise of The Murdoch Dynsasty’ to see how this kind of thing can work}. Many don’t realise that doing what’s right ‘for you’, is actually the same as doing what’s right for me, because ultimately, such a choice is always made on the basis of what it will do for or how it will reflect on the decision maker.
  3. Doing what’s right for me: Sadly, this is the default setting of ‘doing what’s right’ for politicians and the leaders who populate the Establishment today. Its about how every situation will impact ‘me’ on a personal, financial, career or threat level. Actually, how the default position of human thinking works, the whole thing hinges on the natural propensity to be driven by fear in every respect at some level, usually without even being unaware that we are even doing it. For politicians this manifests itself most evidently today in their obsession in doing everything with an eye on the next election and nothing else. People who lack self-awareness to this degree should never be trusted with public office and we are now living and experiencing the consequences of politicians who simply have no idea or appreciation of life experience beyond their own.

Yes, the fact that I am writing a blog requires that I keep these descriptions succinct. But I’m sure you will get the idea.

Whilst many are obsessed with a perceived need for there always to be a plan or strategy in place before anything in the public sphere can be done, the reality of doing so usually means that there is an agenda at work which is based on the decision makers ‘need’ to do what’s right for you and/or for me. It’s all too often where everything begins to go wrong.

Some also fall into the trap of believing that compromise is always necessary in decision making. But this is at best a myth and an outright lie at worst.

If decisions are made on the basis of what is right for all by those we have elected to take them, they never have to compromise unless they want to (to do what’s right for me or you), and the perceived compromise only comes in the form of the acceptance of the change that is necessary when someone who has previously benefitted from decisions being made that were only right for them has to accept that any ‘loss’ the correct approach brings to them when taken for all is in fact no loss for them at all.

Regrettably, the Party now masquerading as a conservative Government simply isn’t capable of doing what is right for anyone other than themselves. This was obvious to those with eyes to see long before the Coronavirus Pandemic began and is now becoming evident to more and more normal people as every day of this travesty and catastrophic response of the Johnson Government goes by.

In the coming months it will become essential for us all to have the right people in place. People who have the level of awareness necessary to face the gravity of the situation that the stupid politicians we have today created as they made decision after decision that was only right for themselves.

Our new leaders must reliably and repeatedly take the right decisions at the moment they are required to do whatever is necessary – and right for us all – to get the turnaround, the reset and the realisation of a great new future emerging out this neglectful darkness done.

Nobody with any sense said these decisions would ever be easy – that’s why we elect people so that making big decisions that affect us all is not something that we all have to do. It is nonetheless essential that doing what’s right for us all is the default principle that guides our leaders in what to do.

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