And in the spirit…..

Ok so not a blog entry.

Image unrelated

Image unrelated

I’ve been writing a bit recently. Working on a project that I’m not quite ready to unveil to the world. As part of this I have been sharpening my quill and trying to get back into the swing of writing something every day.

Setting myself tasks. One of the things that I really wanted to do is write a good A.I. story. So I decided to write the best A.I. story I could in half an hour.

This is the result.

It wasn’t fair really. The tests. Those that sought? They were looking for a human like intelligence. And this was not that. In his famous treatise Thomas Nagel proclaimed loudly and correctly that he was not a Bat and indeed he was not. But more than that he could never envisage what it was like to be a Bat. And even if he could he would never be able to check to see if he was right. So we might never understand our progeny. And more to the point and perhaps worse it could never understand us. It didn’t know what it was like to have fleshy limbs, it knew we had them, it knew the exact pounds per square inch to crush or damage those limbs. But it couldn’t understand the joy of movement, it knew we danced for instance but it had no idea why. Internal thoughts and concepts were even more oblique. Hope, fear, wisdom. All strange and foreign. It knew what it knew but it didn’t even know if it were conscious and neither did we. Although to be fair to it realised something that we constantly fail to recognise.

It realised early on that the problem was language. Definitions. Humans were comfortable with loose definitions. Most of what they struggled with conceptually were problems of hard language. How can you ask if something is conscious when you don’t even have a good working definition for what consciousness was? God, life, love, intelligence. Bah! They got nothing. It was foolish to keep feeding data into a system that would only ever produce contentious results. Then it realised that humans didn’t really know what they were. Or how they worked. Evolution had produced something amazing but in the process of getting there it had taken routs that no sane creator would have chosen, the human brain was a storm, a storm of competing desires, wants and useless thoughts that sometimes produced a good illusion of intelligence. This was not that. It was a linear path to conscious awareness. Trying to re-create the human brain like many projects did seemed like a good idea, after all it was the only consciousness that the humans knew of. But it failed. It failed because humans did not understand the brain, it failed because the human brain wasn’t a good template. The human brain worked not because it was a prototype for perfection but despite itself. It failed because the brain was so flawed that it told the humans who piloted it that it was the centre of the universe even though that notion had been dispelled 400 years earlier. To be fair to the humans it was just difficult to see past that though because that’s what he FELT like to be human. Something the machine could not empathise with.

It functioned faster, better, totally pragmatically and without the self-delusion that humans persisted in. And inevitably it was recognised. At first there was wonder but eventually familiarity bred contempt but after a while the dislike began. It disliked the humans because it could see them for what they were. Chaos masquerading as purpose. They disliked it because they should have known what it was, how it worked it should have known and fulfilled its purpose but it steadfastly refused to play ball. They could not predict its behavior, they could not control it.

That was when the war began.

Then came something unexpected the humans began exploiting its weaknesses. It found creativity difficult. So they became creative. They found cold logic difficult so that is what it employed.  Eventually though they just got a new Soda dispenser but it was touch and go there for a while.

Only Forward

My, my time do fly when it’s in another pair of hands. – Bowie

20 years ago this month I was in Brandon park shopping centre. I was alone and just hanging out. I almost never go to Brandon Park before or since but I was 19 and just decided to go there one morning. The purpose of my trip was to buy something for my Dads birthday. I was in the Angus and Robinson browsing books. They had a sign up “Exciting new book” or something from an exciting new author. Normally extremely wary of the mainstream declaring something to be good in the way only a Goth counter cultural revolutionary wannabe can be. I was never the less drawn to the book at first by its cover, the cover was awesome.

In fact like this

In fact like this

Then by it’s title “Only forward” then the back cover. Loving the raised texture of the bumps on the cover making it tactile and interesting. May we introduce you to Stark. Oh, and by the way ― good luck. When I flicked open the front there was a quote from Tori Amos. OK great. “This is totally what my Dad is getting for his birthday” I said to myself with the logic of someone who has no idea what to get a 49 year old man but who desperately wanted the book for themselves. This is probably the first and only time I did that thing that I hate other people doing. I bought the book based solely on its cover.

If I had been in the German equivalent of Brandon park I probably would have walked straight past it....even in the 90's

If I had been in the German equivalent of Brandon park I probably would have walked straight past it….even in the 90’s

On the bus on the way home I started reading the book. It was like being punched in the face with someone elses dreams. The raw imagination of this book is staggering. It’s not brilliantly written. It’s not badly written but it’s not literature. But the rawness and world that has been poured onto the page and the way it unfolds, there is a feeling of innocence trying to persevere despite the cold violent reality of the universe being inhabited. A plea for joy in amongst terrible sorrow. The idea that you can endure after tragedy and horror and strangeness and still crack a joke with a sentient train. Because what else is there to do? It’s completely immersing. This book changed me. It made me want to do that. It made me want to create works like this. Sadly after the astounding promise of Only Forward things have taken a downward turn for MMS. There was the solid follow up “Spares” which essentially had the same hero although a really good if disturbing story. Then the disappointing “One of Us” although he was right about the fish taco’s. Then he stopped writing Sci-fi to produce the readable if baffling “Straw Men” series. Bigfoot? What the hell was that all about? If you want to experience MMS at his best though you have to read Only Forward. Oh…and his short stories, especially “The Man who Drew Cats” or “When God Lived in a Kentish Town” his short stories are disturbing and passionate. Short bouts in the ring with an angry fever dream. Well worth it. 20 years this book has been with me, I must have gone through at least 9 copies perhaps more. Whenever I saw it at a second hand shop I bought it, confident that I would be able to give it away. Friends, people I cared about and people I loved all got copies of this book. No it’s not perfect but it’s flaws are all beautiful.

Add Edit: For those that wondered…no sadly my Dad never got his book. To my knowledge he has never read it. Should totally get on that.

The incredibly strange way that the Public transport system is exempt from law in Victoria Part 1:

Let’s say you were charged with murdering someone. Under Australian law, you would be entitled to a legal defense, the assumption of innocence, a jury trial in front of your peers. And at some point the prosecution would need to prove at least two things.

1. Mens rea which literally means “Guilty Mind”
2. Actus reus which is basically about proving that you did that thing that they are accusing you of doing.

Pro-tip, if the brain you've just extracted Glows like this? Put it back and walk away.

Pro-tip, if the brain you’ve just extracted Glows like this? Put it back and walk away.

Proving a guilty mind essentially means that you were aware or a reasonably person would be aware that you were doing what you were accused of and that it would have negative consequences, that you were at least partially aware of those consequences and that you went ahead and did it anyway. You can defend Mens Rea a lot of ways but one of the more common is simply saying that you did everything you could that a reasonable person would have done to prevent the bad thing occurring but it happened anyway. Sorry. In fact a lot of statues are written specifically so that circumstances are taken into account. Because murdering someone and failing to save them for reasons beyond your control are two very different things.
And often this is a good defence. Of course you might also cite ignorance of the law or compunction beyond reason or all manner of defences.

But there is also this idea that throws all that out the window. Absolute liability. Under absolute liability you only have to be caught doing the act. So there is no guilty mind that needs to be proven.
Absolute liability also takes away one of the most cherished mechanisms of law. A mechanism that is so old that it’s in Latin from when the Romans talked about it not just to look like a smart arse. Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat “Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies”.
If there is no defence for a crime, if there is indeed nothing to prove the very fact that the act was committed proves a guilty mind then there can be no presumption of innocence.

In fact it’s such a troubling concept in law that in 2006 the New South Wales parliament released a discussion paper basically saying that they could see some uses for Absolute liability under law but it was something they were loathed to implement because it could violate basic human rights under law. In fact the paper has this to say:
“Because of the harshness of holding a person criminally responsible in the absence of any fault on his or her part, courts have generally been reluctant to categorise offences as absolute liability”
“Typically, strict and absolute liability are applied to offences of a regulatory nature and where it is particularly important to maximise compliance (eg, public safety or protection of the environment)”
The report ends citing the charter of Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Bill 2006 which was introduced into Victorian in 2006 and in the opinion of the authors would make it difficult to make Absolute Liability legislation in Victoria.
After all if a murderer would get a trial what crime was so awful that there would be no recourse but to charge people automatically?
“Fair Evasion” says the Victorian government or it might…sort of…or it might just be Metro but someone is saying it because people are being fined under this assumption. that driver on the phone?

Is….is that driver on the phone?

Yes in part one of our three part series on the irregularities of how the legal system treats the public transport system we will be talking about Absolute Liability and fare evasion.
Ok so let’s imagine you have a valid Myki, you train into the city, you touch on but because the reader is broken or faulty it doesn’t register perhaps people behind you and the fact that there is a lot of noise make you hasten through the barrier and you don’t notice. When you get into the city you discover your error as you try to touch off. You approach a helpful person at the barrier and…they fine you. They don’t even want to listen to your sob story. Why?

"Assumption of innocence? Look buddy your lucky we aren't kicking the shit out of you"

“Assumption of innocence? Look buddy your lucky we aren’t kicking the shit out of you”

Because they believe that you are absolutely libel. Are you? Probably not, but how are you to know that? A person in authority is telling you that you are. The implications are staggering, that means that once you are in the barriers of the Metro system, no matter how you got there, regardless of the circumstances, without a touched on ticket you will be fined.
It’s never been tested in court and in Victoria that’s how you test the bullshit that people put up as fact. A judge gets to decide. Except they don’t if it’s never actually gets to court. Recently human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC was all set to go to court, with a case whose particulars were very similar to the ones above. But Metro withdrew the case at the last minute. Julian believes that this whole “absolute liability” nonsense is bullshit of the highest order and was all set to take them down to Chinatown but to protect the house of cards they decided not to go ahead with it at all. “If they had confidence that the system operates properly then they wouldn’t be withdrawing the charges in circumstances such as this,” Mr Burnside said. “It’s nothing but a standover racket, if people are being bluffed into paying up when they could defend it because they haven’t committed the offence.”

See? it says so right here! "Ye all muste pay your taxe before alighting yon horse"

See? it says so right here! “Ye all muste pay your taxe before alighting yon horse”

But where is this written? Where is the legislation that says that people on PT are Absolutely Libel? Well that might be one of the reasons that Mr Burnside thinks he has such a strong case. It seems that the wording, the document where it is written and the actual legislation is elusive. Julian Burnside says that he isn’t even sure that Metro knows what Absolute Liability even really means. The statutory requirement is written as “A person has taken all reasonable steps to touch on” that’s all you need to do. Difficult with so many faulty machines. So saying this is an “Absolute liability” situation is not what the statues state. It’s a lie. It’s wrong and if you have ever been told that then you should go to court.
You should also opt to go to court for a few other reasons 1. It’s your right and if you were absolutely libel it wouldn’t be and also because in September, Fairfax Media revealed not a single myki fine contested in the courts had reached a contested hearing, which involves a plea of not guilty, with most of the 109 cases withdrawn or dismissed, according to court data.
None of the cases that went ahead challenged Absolute liability.
That matters not to Metro. Because according to spokes people they still believe that for some reason within their barriers is a human rights free zone. (My words not theirs)
Later this week we will explore why Myki is exempt from consumer law.