Exit And Exodus, Weaknesses Without Witnesses

Finally, Brexit! That was it. No awesome celebrations, no memorable fireworks, only recorded bongs from Big Ben. Winston Churchill was right after all. Britain will finally look to the open sea rather than to Europe. After 47 years as an important member of the European Union (EU), the Brits have decided to go their own way again and carve out a new direction for themselves – a more exciting and prosperous future that is for them to determine, not by anyone else, in Europe or otherwise. It took three governments, two elections and three and a half years to deliver to the people what they voted for in their 2016 referendum, i.e. to leave the EU. There are 21 republics and 6 monarchies left in the EU. Will Britain’s exit bring about an exodus of remaining members? It would not surprise me if this brings about a domino effect. Britain is not the only country to see a rise in nationalist sentiments. Austerity measures and immigration policies regarding refugees have also changed the economic landscape in Europe. Without Britain, the EU is £10 billion poorer every year – that is the net contribution by the Brits to help prop up the union. When there is financial stress, the divorce rate increases. It is no different for countries.

Another major event of historical significance that happened on the same day was the US Senate’s vote to dismiss the requirement for witnesses to appear in the impeachment trial of their President. It is a sad state of affairs that the lawmakers of the world’s champion of human rights can convince themselves that a trial to decide on the very serious charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress by their President can be carried out without any witnesses. Trump will be acquitted without any witnesses to provide the irrefutable evidence to reveal the truth about the quid pro quo demands on the Ukrainian President. Despite former national security adviser John Bolton’s willingness to contradict Trump’s “perfect” script that he did not tie the withholding of military aid to Ukraine pending the announcement of dirt-digging of 2020 election rival Joe Biden and his son. Despite two Republicans, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins breaking ranks with the Republican-dominated chamber. Despite retiring Republican Lamar Alexander’s admission that Trump acted improperly and “crossed the line”. It is a new low to see lawmakers concede extortions are wrong yet “are a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors”. What is there to prevent the opposite scenario next time? What if a future President requires sworn testimonies to prove his innocence but his right to have supporting witnesses is quashed by those who dominate the House? To deprive the accused of their right to call witnesses to testify on their behalf? How weak will the pursuit of justice become without witnesses? Urghhlings. They never disappoint with their hypocrisy and corrupt nature. Their ability to convince themselves and then others that black is white and white is black is breath-taking. For me, it is black and white that Trump acted improperly and should have been found guilty of the charges against him.

Fortunately, later that morning, I came across an article in the Weekend Australian Magazine by Cameron Stewart. It is a feel-good story that very quickly erased the frustration caused by the American lawmakers. Maybe, it was also that I am not an American, and therefore the sense of embarrassment and dismay about the growing weakness of their legal system did not linger. The story about Tan Le is mind-boggling. That a four year old Vietnamese girl who reached Australia in 1981 could grab her opportunities whilst growing up here and become the headline news about inventing an interface between mind and machine is a fantastic story to share. Tan Le was amongst the mass exodus of refugees fleeing their war-torn country after the defeat of the mighty American army. The GI Joes were equipped with far superior high-tech military weaponry than the Vietcong who were poor and poorly armed. Despite the lack of artillery, aircrafts, tanks and a naval fleet that only boasted a few Swatow- class patrol boats and torpedo boats, they were able to defeat their enemy who the world wrongly thought were their invincible nemesis. When Tan Le and her family (minus her father who remained in Vietnam in case he needed to support them) landed in Australia, her mother told her to bend and touch the ground. “Mum, it does not feel very special” she said as she touched the ground at the airport. Tan Le’s mother said, “Make it special in your mind.” Make it special, isn’t that just the most important attitude to teach a young child? Seventeen years later, Le would indeed be special – she was named Young Australian of the Year for her work in helping those in her community assimilate in their new country. In 2009 her company Emotiv Systems, headquartered in San Francisco, released their first neuro-headset – a mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) device that detects electrical activity in the brain. Since then she has been able to use this as an interface with machines. Her headsets can now translate brain signals into commands that instruct machines to operate specific functions, using computer algorithms. These machines with artificial intelligence (AI) allow people using their thoughts only to move objects, fly drones, command and control wheelchairs and cars, move robotic limbs and even create art and music. Mind over matter is no longer science fiction. A quadriplegic, Rodrigo Mendes was able to drive a Formula One car using only his mind. It offers life-changing opportunities especially for the physically impaired. Le says the holy grail of this technology is when her headset can self learn from its wearer and automatically feed data back to the brain. When AI becomes integrated with the human brain, it will be able to use its markedly superior intelligence and wisdom to limit the human from making stupid decisions and prevent them from committing cruel acts on other living things. This gives me hope that AI may one day curb the ugly inclinations of urghhlings.