SATIS Artificial Intelligence Part 1

This session was led by Trevor and centred around what he referred to as ‘weak Artificial Intelligence’ and its effects and potential effects on modern western society over the next 5 – 10 years or so. The next meeting in November will consider ‘strong AI’ and its potential effects over the next 50 years or so.

We started off brainstorming what we mean by ‘intelligence’ (the real stuff!). This is almost a philosophical discussion and as such, beyond the remit of this group, but the following words and phrases emerged;

Reasoning; Cognitive response; rationalization; problem solving; Intuitiveness; empathy; learning from experience; inquisitiveness; sensory awareness; collating information; creativity; intellect; language; memory; logic; knowledge; imagination; communication skills; learning; deduction; wisdom; thought; concept formation; analytical ability; ability to concentrate; the ability to make the most of any situation.

There was then a short discussion centred around the following questions, some of which may have further relevance to the November session;

  • Which of these characteristics / qualities are essential to intelligence?

  • Which of these characteristics could be absent from a person who in other respects would be regarded as very intelligent?

  • Which of these characteristics do we imagine could easily be built into an Artificial Intelligence system, and which would be very difficult or impossible?

Trevor then gave a short talk about Artificial intelligence as it currently exists, illustrated and informed by statistics on sheets which I’ve copied below.

\We then watched a TEDx video, link is

Mike Morris has also done some research in AI and had found a further three TEDx talks of interest and relevance; he’s sent those links to me with short descriptions so I’ve also copied those below. Thanks Mike!!

Trevor then tasked three groups to discuss different questions and feed back their thoughts to the wider groups, the following thoughts emerged from this discussion;

* Displacement of jobs will take place, having the largest impact on low skill activities.

* The pace of change is likely to be faster than during previous revolutions, and this will be disruptive.

* There is going to be increasing self-employment, with new jobs in niche areas.

* Major areas for jobs in the future will be in social and health care, and in the leisure sector (including sports, hobbies, crafts, art writing etc).

* Other areas which will be hard to automate will be teaching, design, manual trades which involve adaptable problem-solving (electrician,  plumber, decorator etc), and jobs involving one-to-one human interaction.

* If people have more leisure time, then there will be an increase in the amount of DIY, which will displace some further jobs.

* Education targetted at areas where employment is still required will be important, as will broader education to allow citizens to live rich lives when one's job may be a less crucial feature of it.

* It would make sense if people worked shorter hours, but how could this be enforced?

* A citizens' basic income has attractions, but funding it would be a challenge.

* Given the globalised nature of trade and business, effective social change to cope with the impact of automation would be much easier if there were a world government. However, this is not going to happen any time soon!

This was such an interesting meeting that we managed to go 20 minutes overtime basically by watching the clock on the wall which had stopped at 11.55!! As usual, I’ll aim to put this on the website sometime early next week, so let me know if there is anything you would like modified or added before it goes up.

Mike’s TEDx links;

Have a look at

Scared of superintelligent AI? You should be, says neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris -- and not just in some theoretical way. We're going to build superhuman machines, says Harris, but we haven't yet grappled with the problems associated with creating something that may treat us the way we treat ants.

Artificial intelligence is getting smarter by leaps and bounds -- within this century, research suggests, a computer AI could be as "smart" as a human being. And then, says Nick Bostrom, it will overtake us: "Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make." A philosopher and technologist, Bostrom asks us to think hard about the world we're building right now, driven by thinking machines. Will our smart machines help to preserve humanity and our values -- or will they have values of their own?

The actual path of a raindrop as it goes down the valley is unpredictable, but the general direction is inevitable," says digital visionary Kevin Kelly -- and technology is much the same, driven by patterns that are surprising but inevitable. Over the next 20 years, he says, our penchant for making things smarter and smarter will have a profound impact on nearly everything we do. Kelly explores three trends in AI we need to understand in order to embrace it and steer its development. "The most popular AI product 20 years from now that everyone uses has not been invented yet," Kelly says. "That means that you're not late."

Trevor’s Statistics sheets;


SATIS Science and technology in Society

The purpose of today’s meeting was to re-visit the central ‘themes’ of the group, ie. What is Science? What is Technology? What is the relationship between these two human activities, and how does this relationship impact on us?

We summarised the three sessions we did on this in previous meetings with the following three passages;---

Science is a relatively recent human activity which uses inductive reasoning to make predictions.

The scientific process which produces these predictions collects evidence in the form of empirical data and typically used experiments to test hypothesis.

Science has only been able to develop significantly since the development of the printing press allowed wide-spread sharing of ideas and experimental outcomes.

Technology is a very much older human activity, arguably as old as Homo sapiens.

It can be defined as the use of tools to make tools.

Technology has developed over millions of years by trial and error and by passing on knowledge and skills from one generation to the next.

This has only been possible due to the development of language

In the very recent past (arguably starting seriously in the First World War and gaining considerable momentum in the Second) Science has been used to greatly speed up the development of Technology by removing the need for trial and error.

More recently Science has not only speeded up Technology but has allowed it to develop new Technologies which could not possibly have been produced by trial and error.

Arguably, this has happened within our lifetime.

There was some discussion about this, including mention of the importance of peer review as part of the Scientific Process, and a more detailed summary of the Scientific Process, which we had previously explored as the following flowchart diagram with an embedded example.

 The accompanying argument for this diagram can be found under the notes for our first ‘proper’ meeting on 20th April 2015 on the website.

We then split into groups to consider three technologies which have developed during our lifetime. The technologies were;

  • The Automatic Washing Machine

  • The Family Motor Car

  • Synthetic Fibres such as acrylic and polyester in clothing

For each of these technologies the groups were asked to consider;

  • The effects of these technologies on our lives

  • What ‘secondary technologies’ have been developed or affected by the development of the primary technology

  • What scientific research so you imagine (or hope) was done in the process of developing these technologies?

There was some interesting discussion and feedback; summarised as follows;

The Family Motor Car

Increases mobility, increasing ‘active radius’ for activities including work and leisure. This improves cultural awareness and allows professional expertise and experience to be utilised more widely. On the other hand it fragments communities, driving the move from extended to nuclear family, though also providing means for those fragmented families to maintain some degree of contact.

Problems include accidents, noise, light and chemical pollution, disruption and destruction of habitats, opportunities for crime, and urbans sprawl as towns and suburbs are planned around the use of the motor car.

Secondary technologies include road building, bridges, safety devices such as seat belts and air bags, pollution reducing devices such as catalytic converters, tyre technology, production line technology, battery technology, robotics and oil-refining, many of which have spin-offs outside the motor industry.

Synthetic Fibres

Resulted in the destruction of whole home-based industries based on production of natural fibres such as wool, linen and cotton, and production of clothing from them. Much of the production of clothes has now been outsourced to other countries.

Synthetic fibres are more resilient/long-lasting that natural fibres and also cheaper. Paradoxically however, we seem to change clothes / buy new clothes much more frequently than before.

Synthetic fibres are more convenient (eg non-crease) and more flexible (clothes that drape, or can stretch in an elastic fashion) providing new tools to the fashion industry.

Wool can irritate the skin.

Safety issues; allergies; fire-proofing etc.

Release of non-biodegradable micro-fibres into ecosystems

New factory processes have been developed to produce both the fabrics and the clothes; largely outsource to other countries. New dyes and dying techniques needed. New materials with very specific uses, eg. Kevlar used in Army clothing.

Automatic Washing Machine

The end of the disruption and heavy work of ‘washing day’, releasing time and energy for other pursuits.

Possibly uses less energy, especially given move towards more energy-efficient modern machines. In contrast to this however, clothes are washed very much more frequently.

Increase or decrease in water use?? Again, increase in frequency of washing probably pushes up water use.

Cleaner clothes may reduce infection rates

Detergents in waste water may affect ecosystems. Release of non-biodegradable micro-fibres and micro-beads into ecosystems increased by harsher washing process and increased frequency of washing.

Their use may go hand in hand with development of artificial fibres, research needed on how these fibres will stand up to this sort of washing process. Detergents – zeolites – developed alongside increased use of washing machines. Increase in free time/leisure time may have impacted on lifestyles and related technologies.

Research needed on safety within the home ( recent problems with tumble driers ).

SATIS Telecommunications and its influence on society

This session was led by Alan, who had a long career in this area. I've copied Alan’s notes in full below (many thanks once again to him for such extensive research). The TEDx talk we watched (in French with subtitles) can be found by following this link;

Telecommunications – Transforming Society

Telecommunications, also known as telecom, is the exchange of information over significant distances by electronic means and refers to all types of voice, data and video transmission.

Starting with the first commercial telegraph in 1837 telecommunications rapidly developed to become the foremost growth industry of the past 100 years.

Each new communications technology has had a greater impact on society than the one before.

Information transmitting technologies now encompass the telegraph, telephone, radio and television broadcasting, microwave communication, fibre optic, satellite, mobile phone and the internet.


Physical movement and trade

The wire telegraph initially made little direct impact on most people's lives. It was a 'specialist' technology, owned by companies and operated by professionals. But the indirect impact of the telegraph was huge starting with railways and quickly extending to the transport of goods and materials all over the world using the new international undersea cables.

In July 1897 The Marconi Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company was formed and Ship to Ship to Shore communication became possible increasing safety at sea.


Impact on prices and trade

The telegraph enabled markets to respond more efficiently and rapidly. For the first time, detailed information about shipments could be sent faster than the goods themselves.


The rise of market sensitive information

Advance information eased shipments, helped markets grow and reduced price fluctuations. It also meant there was a value in the information, as well as the goods. Knowing when a ship or train would arrive, and what was on it, was market sensitive information - a message with financial value. This made people understand there was real value in knowledge - and in knowing things first.


The impact on business

Telecommunications changed business and industry in the late 19th century. Large corporations used the telegraph to control regional operations from a central head office. International lines made it possible to run overseas subsidiaries and by 1912 businesses had access to the UK’s first unified telephone system. But the greatest impact was in the creation of international markets in stocks and commodities. These markets moved faster. Sometimes that was a recipe for disaster.


The early impact on society

The news explosion. For hundreds of years, mail coaches and couriers were the typical means of getting dispatches back to newspapers. But from the late 1850’s onwards all that changed.

The electric telegraph brought information transmission time down from weeks or days to hours and minutes. The faster flow of news from around the world created a new market for daily newspapers. Feeding these newspapers with much of their news was a new breed of businesses for the telegraph age - the wire agencies.


Family and personal communications

The early telegraph was only really used for business and official messages. Most ordinary people relied chiefly on posted letters to exchange news and views with their friends and families. But telegrams became the channel of last resort for really important and urgent personal news. The telephone was slow to influence social and family life - but as the network extended with more subscribers its impact was profound.


Law and order

Faster communications aided the fight against crime, making it increasingly difficult for criminals to disappear or to use distance to evade justice. At the same time, however, criminals were able to use the new technology to their advantage allowing them to plan more carefully.


Impact on government

Telecommunications has a wide and profound impact on the way governments operate.

By the 1860s, the telegraph had begun to change the machinery of government, making it easier for administrators to exercise central control, and changing the relationship between nations. Before long, the advent of fast news and mass information had also begun to make governments more accountable to public opinion.


Strategic implications of telecommunications

The telegraph, wireless and telephone facilitated more centralised control over nation states - and later over whole continents or global empires. At one end of the scale, this changed the structure of governments and administrations. At the other, it changed the relationship between governments and the governed - particularly in communities remote from the central seats of power.

 As the machinery of government became increasingly reliant on these technologies so administrations around the world came to understand the strategic power of telecommunications.


Impact on diplomacy

Telecommunications also affected world society - especially the relationships between nations. For the first time, governments could talk to each other in real time through the medium of diplomatic telegrams between embassies. Alliances became easier to manage - with provisions that would take effect far more quickly.

Perhaps the greatest impact is the way it has changed diplomacy, power politics and the balances between peace and war.


In peace and war

Wireless goes to war. The first field wireless telegraphy (W/T) equipment reached the British army in 1916 and by the following year reconnaissance aircraft were fitted with wireless as well.

By the time of the Armistice in 1918, wireless had matured from an exotic novelty into a universal device with which many servicemen and women had come into contact communicating via morse code.


Changing the face of war

A major effect of telecommunications has been acceleration: the faster information can pass back and forth, the more rapidly things can happen; from the escalation of diplomatic crises to their resolution - or the slide into war.


Radio Telephony

By the 1920s, radio had found its voice and it became possible to speak over the airwaves. W/T had turned into R/T - Radio Telephony.


Enter the code breakers

Telegraph lines were essentially safe from eavesdropping from enemy powers - so long as the whole line ran along secure routes. Radio signals, however, went out into the ether and could be intercepted by anyone with an aerial, even hundreds of miles away. This meant any messages could be intercepted - and deciphered if you had the skill. As the telegraph and radio became increasingly integral to operations of war so a new branch of military strategy evolved - the art of telecommunications interception and deception.


Wireless and television broadcasting

Wireless followed by television broadcasting helped to create a sense of a more equal society. It also created a sense of shared experience, uniting whole sections of national populations. The General Strike of 1926 saw newspapers off the streets and wireless the only source of news.

The Second World War was the first global conflict to be broadcast, with populations following the course of the war via their wireless sets. Propaganda became a weapon of war, fighting to maintain the morale of one's own population - whilst undermining that of the enemy.

From the 1950s onwards, television began to unite global populations. For the first time, there was simultaneous proof of landmark events: wars, crises, assassinations, triumphs and tragedies, with the same images shared around the world.

Television also enabled global participation and celebration in world festivals and sporting events. By the end of the 20th century, we felt as if we really were living in a Global Village.


The impact on working life

Behind the power of the dial or button, lay huge communities of people who kept the telecommunication networks running.


Working conditions

Telecommunications is an industry that extends back over 160 years. In that time the conditions under which people work have been transformed, reflecting the changes in society.

From the days of the telegraph, telecommunications has played a leading role in integrating women into the world of work. First as operators, then as supervisors, and now in every area of business, women are playing a leading role using telecommunication technology.


Safety and training

Telecommunications may not seem a particularly dangerous industry - but it has always had an element of risk linked with it, usually relating to working with high voltage electricity or on top of high structures - or both! Each new technology has brought changed methods of working and new risks that the industry has been quick to address with health and safety campaigns aimed at staff, users and customers alike.


Shrinking the world

The advent of live radio and television link-ups between continents has helped people become better acquainted internationally. As the technology has evolved it has brought ordinary people together from different parts of the world to make it a smaller place. We now share in global shocks, global tragedies, global responses and global parties.


Global communications

The arrival of satellite television was perhaps the defining moment in the creation of the global village. Being able to share television images and events with a global audience of two billion or more completely transforms the scale of international events - making each one potentially world-changing.

The rise of 'instant' news, made possible by telecommunications, has raised awareness of the trouble spots of the world stirring people’s consciences and fueling demands for governments to 'do something.' This awareness has had an increasingly powerful effect on international politics and society.


The impact of the mobile telephone

With the introduction of cell phone technology in 1983 for the first time the ordinary person was able to connect to the world’s telephone networks on the move. This new freedom was readily accepted and the networks were quickly extended in populated areas to provide voice and text messaging.

People quickly became addicted to their mobile phones and evidence now suggests that the higher the number of messages and notifications a person receives the less likely they are able to focus on important tasks that require extreme concentration. Being constantly alert to these interruptions encourages people to use their phone in situations that may be inappropriate, such as work, school and family gatherings.

Mobile telephone technology has enabled developing countries to introduce much needed telecommunication services in remote areas where fixed land line telephone networks were not cost effective.


The impact of the Internet

With the rise of the Internet, the global village has gone online, making the villagers not just spectators but active participants.

The telecommunication age enables us to live increasingly in a world where we can know all that we need and maybe more than we want!

The Internet has shortened the link between stimulus and response, enabling ordinary people to share feelings, ideas and reactions to events within minutes. It's also created a network over which far more than words can be exchanged.


Encryption in the Internet age

Today, every Internet user has access to encryption. Many internet transactions are encoded automatically without us being aware. There is an ongoing war being fought in cyberspace - between those who want to see all internet traffic transparent to law enforcement and other agencies of the state - and those who believe that absolute privacy and security are not only fundamental rights but also commercially vital to the future development of the Internet.


Policing this information

In this telecommunication age information has become the most important commodity of all. Access to information has become a goal in itself for a new breed of criminal - hackers and virus pranksters - whose aim is to break into other people's systems. Keeping them out has become one of the fastest growing communications industries of all.


Information assurance

It is now vital for organisations to manage the risks related to the use, processing, storage, and transmission of their information and data including their systems and processes used for those purposes. This includes the protection of the integrity, availability, authenticity, non-repudiation and confidentiality of user data.


The information society

Information technology (IT) is transforming every aspect of cultural, political, and social life based on the production and distribution of information

With the high-bandwidth 4G revolution many new applications are now possible. Low-cost ubiquitous video streaming over the internet may very well lead to a surveillance state where all our actions are monitored and recorded in the name of security. To a large extent, this has already happened in many parts of the world.

Our society has become information rich affecting every aspect of our daily lives and routine. It is influencing our education, family, work and culture changing the way we think about what we do and how we relate to others.

Communication has never been so easy, anyone or anything with an internet connection can now exchange information at very little cost. We’re always connected to our friends and to potentially millions of other people with our smart phones and social media. We can easily exchange messages, get all sorts of notifications and information, we can read books, listen to music, take pictures, watch videos, play games, create documents, store data and much more.

It’s fair to say that Twitter’s influence on society as a whole has been immense. The way that people use it has had considerable influence on the real world, for good and bad.

The internet has undoubtedly changed our lives; there is evidence to suggest that by making information accessible to everyone there have been unexpected effects on people’s behaviour and social lives.

The benefits of the internet are huge but do they outweigh the negative aspects? We are a generation that is constantly checking our phones, emails, Facebook’s, Twitters for updates and notifications. We expect instant gratification from the internet.

There is now evidence to suggest that all this technology is decreasing our attention span and ability to be patient which in turn is impairing our social skills. We expect everything to occur instantly, at the click of a button and whilst we are doing this we are increasingly unaware of our immediate environment. We prefer the virtual world often choosing to send messages rather than interact with those around us.


Alan Wood FIET 23rd January 2017

source reference:

SATIS The 'Three parent baby'

SATIS The ‘Three parent baby’.

This topic was chosen following an item in the news, reported in the Guardian December 15th 2016; ‘First UK baby with DNA from three people could be born next year’. ‘The UK’s fertility regulator gave the green light for clinics to seek licences for this procedure’. ‘The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced that it would accept applications from clinics wanting to offer this controversial therapy after it met to consider the latest scientific evidence for the safety of the procedure’. ‘The regulator’s decision was described as a “momentous and historic step” by Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, and ‘comes nearly two years after Parliament voted to legalise the procedure’. ‘Doctors in Newcastle are ready to offer the experimental treatment, called ‘Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy’ (MRT) to women whose faulty DNA puts them at risk of passing on devastating genetic diseases to their children. They intend to apply for a licence immediately and could begin treating patients as early as Spring 2017’.

(the process was licenced in the USA two years ago)

Read the full article at;

Some basic cell biology.

With a few exceptions, all human cells contain cytoplasm within a cell membrane. Inside the cytoplasm there is a nucleus, but also many other much smaller ‘organelles’, including mitochondria. Mitochondria are responsible for generating energy from glucose and oxygen, and as such are more numerous in cells which need a lot of energy.

The nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, one of each pair originating from the male parent the other from the female. The chromosomes are made up of a large number of genes, and the genes are composed of a complex chemical called Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA). It is these genes which are responsible for inherited characteristics.

However, the mitochondria also contain some DNA, though not organised onto Chromosome-like structures.

Faults, or ‘mutations’ of this mitochondrial DNA can be responsible for cells which do not produce energy correctly and this gives rise to a number of inherited ‘mitochondrial diseases’ which occur in about 1 in 10,000 babies. These diseases cause brain, heart, muscle and other energy-demanding tissues to fail resulting in a long debilitating disease and early death.

The Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy works by removing the nucleus from the egg of a mother who is carrying the mutated mitochondrial DNA and injecting into an egg from a healthy donor. This egg is then fertilised in-vitreo by sperm from the mother’s partner and replaced into the mother at a very early stage of development.

Thus the only DNA from the donor is the mitochondrial DNA which is not concerned with inherited features.

An article in Nature outlined some concerns with this process. Primarily there seems to be some chance of removing some ‘diseased’ mitochondria along with the Mother’s nucleus, with the risk of the disease re-appearing in the developing child.

Read full article at;


  • Is the phrase ‘three parent baby’ a misleading media ‘hype’?

  • Are the mitochondria with mutated DNA produced as a result of damaged / mutated DNA in the nucleus, in which case the procedure will not work?

  • If a child is born as a result of this procedure, but then develops an inherited  mitochondrial disease, will there be a case for litigation?

  • Where does funding for this process come from and is it justified?

The group then watched a TEDx video in a different but related area.

This lecture, by Jennifer Kahn focussed initially on a project which resulted in mosquitoes which were unable to carry the malarial parasite;---potentially a major development in the fight against this highly significant disease. The problem then would be how to breed and release enough mosquitoes with this genetic trait to make a difference to the spread of the disease.

A genetic tool known as CRISPR has been produced which effectively by-passes normal ‘Mendelian’ genetics and results in extremely rapid transfer of a new genetic trait to a whole population. This has been demonstrated in fruit flies and in some fish including Asiatic Carp. It seems to be a very simple procedure that could be ‘carried out by a reasonably intelligent High School student’. The implication is that it could be used to create significant alterations in whole species.

Link to this 10 minute video;


  • Is there evidence as yet that this process would work in ‘higher animals’ including humans?

  • Could this be used as a weapon? Eg. Producing a wasp with a much more dangerous sting which could then spread across a whole species?

  • If use of this tool could be used to eliminate Malaria; --- should it be? And in any case, what control could be exerted over its use?

  • Producing and rapidly disseminating a genetic trait which resulted in infertility could result in a species becoming extinct within a very short space of time. What would be the cost/benefits of using this? Japanese Knotweed? Encroaching  species of crayfish? Grey squirrels?

  • Could CRISPR be used as a therapeutic tool to ‘correct’ genetic mutations in an adult?