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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.

Forget planning a way out of the Government’s Coronavirus mess. Decisions have to be made in the moment and on the basis of doing what’s right

August 13, 2020 1 comment

Paying attention to the different schools of thought that exist on the Government handling of Coronavirus, the Lockdown and Social Distancing provides an invaluable insight into how people are really feeling about everything right now.

No matter what side or position people have taken, all are talking and hinting of increasing desperation as the search begins for some kind of plan that will get us out of this wholly avoidable mess.

Sadly, the common theme is a lack of confidence in there being any clear way to deal with the problems the Government has created – all of which are set to get considerably worse.

There is a way to deal with what happens next, along with everything that will continue for the UK and us all thereafter. But the solution and its application doesn’t offer the surety that desperate people believe that they need in the time of a massive crisis.

The perceived need for any kind of immediate relief leaves many vulnerable people at the whim of any charlatan with a platform who starts preaching that they have a plan of some kind.

Meanwhile, there are very significant injustices present within society. But the establishment and mainstream media narratives that things are good for everyone simply because we have had peace for a long time and our lives have been improved by the advancement in technology facilitate the rather convincing argument that we have never had things so good.

The flipside or dark side of this cultural two-edged sword is a level of complacency and taking what we have for granted that may never have been seen before.

This regrettably includes a complete absence or lack of regard for what good or genuine leadership from the political class should look like and what will happen without it – as it now is – when things go wrong.

Peace and the apparent stability of the neoliberal age tells us that plans can either be created or that they already exist in the form of systems and processes to cover everything. This is where the Government response to Coronavirus has gone so tragically wrong with no guide to managing this crisis for politicians existing on record or being fixed in place.

What we need as we go forward through this horrid situation and face the coming reset, is a method, an approach or a way of doing things that works without the false security provided by having or identifying some kind of plan.

Plans are simply the projected method of doing something. They are the anticipated route map of how to reach the end of a journey before we step off. Yet our cultural default position has for too long been to reframe plans as the aim itself and to develop them as if we begin every journey from a standing start.

We have lost the ability to collectively visualise what we want as a Country. We no longer understand or relate to what it feels like to be inspired or to have faith and therefore be motivated to accept hardships, to take steps or to have them taken on our behalf to get there.

The facilitation of such inspiration is what genuine leadership is all about. It has been absent from Westminster for a very long time.

Influence, bias, self interest and myopic thinking have led the political circus for decades and as one set of self-serving politicians has been replaced by yet another, the rot has become institutionalised to the point where even the cleverest and most empathetic amongst them have no idea how to use or harness the power and responsibility they have to help and guide the lives of others.

Decisions are made with no respect for the basic law that governs the reality and consequences of what happens when any decisions are made; that the power of any decision lies only in the present and we cannot now make the decisions for choices that will follow thereafter.

The myth of assumed respect for politicians, government and those with public responsibility that we gain through conditioning is suggestive that at government level, the simple laws of life that affect you and I as we make daily decisions are different when they are taken with official responsibility for others. That they affect us all and that as such they would never work in the same way as they do when they are taken just for you or I.

Yet they do. The ways decision making works is just the same for everyone. The politicians we have are not special in any single way.

So when we consider what we want to happen next, whether it be for the Lockdown and Social Distancing to come to an end, for businesses to immediately go back to work, Schools to return full-time without restriction in September, or decisions to be made on the basis that life for us all can be improved, these decisions must be based only upon the factors under the decision makers control at the very moment in time they are made.

It simply defies all the rules of logic to think or believe that a plan can be made that cannot be influenced by the passage of even the smallest amount of time and that events and the actions of others that take place within that tiny time frame do not have the power to impact events in some way.

When we can and do accept that this is what real leaders do when they lead, and that the gift of any good leader is their ability to weigh up all of the information that they have at their disposal at that very moment when each and every decision is made, always making the decision that is right – not for them – but for us all, that is when we will have people running this Country who are suitable, qualified and above all READY to be in control.

That is when we can all have confidence in the future of this Country and won’t need the security of any plan.

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