Post Office scandal proves tech shouldn’t be trusted over humans

WHEN Fujitsu’s Horizon software was approved by New Labour in 1999 it was hailed as a revolutionary new technology that would change the lives of all who used it.

How many times have we heard that one?

Artificial Intelligence has the potential for mistakes on major scale – and humans should be protectedCredit: Getty

Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers proudly told Parliament: “For the first time ever, Post Offices will have an up-to-date automation platform, helping them provide a better service to their customers.” Sound familiar?

A similar mantra is trotted out by tech gurus in California over the supposed benefits of AI.

Jobs that take humans five days to achieve will be done in moments, disease diagnosed using data from your smartwatch, with the world’s population whizzing from A to B in self-driving cars.

The possibilities are seemingly limitless — until reality kicks in.
Surely, before we jump in head first, we need to  learn from past mistakes.

We now know the Horizon system was far from infallible.

Bugs meant the system went rogue and it falsely reported financial shortfalls,  often for many thousands of pounds.

When sub-postmasters attempted to say  the sums  didn’t add up, nobody believed them.

Some went to prison, some lost their livelihoods. They were made out to be liars and told the computer system they were using every day was faultless.

But after the heroic campaigning of Alan Bates — set out in  gripping ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office — the humans are finally being listened to.

This week Rishi Sunak vowed to bring in a new law to “swiftly exonerate and compensate victims” of the scandal.

Postmasters across the country saw their lives ruined by Fujitsu’s faulty computer systemCredit: EPA

But in AI, we face an altogether more sophisticated new technology — and the consequences could be all the greater.

So how are we going to protect those people caught up in the middle?

With its incredible powers to deceive, there are fears  AI  could spark a “disinformation warfare” as around half the world’s adult population head to the polls this year.

As vital elections are held here, in the US, India and across Europe, hostile states and actors are expected to exploit AI in order to influence voters.

The power of “deepfake” technology to sway elections has already been demon-strated.

In September, on the eve of Slovakia’s general election, a viral social media video appeared to show opposition candidate Michal Simecka plotting with a journalist to buy votes and rig the result.

It turned out to be a sophisticated hoax created with AI — and despite topping the exit polls, Simecka went on to lose to his pro-Russia rival Robert Fico.

So it is  not surprising that the World Economic Forum  ranked AI-generated disinformation as one of the most severe global risks in its 2024 report.

Revolution in full swing

Just this week, Taylor Swift fans were scammed out of cash thanks to the same technology.

Using AI, the  singer appeared to endorse a “giveaway” of  cookware.

The fake Taylor urged  fans to get their “free cookware set today” by filling out an online form and paying a shipping fee of £7.82. Those who gave over their card details were hit with recurring charges, the New York Times reported.

Then there are the concerns around the AI workplace revolution. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned last year that close to a third of jobs were at risk of being automated.

Tesla boss Elon Musk believes the technology will replace  ALL human employees.

But perhaps the biggest fear of all is that AI will evolve to be so intelligent that it becomes out of our control.

In a sense, the genie is already out of the bottle. Students are already using AI to write their essays, news bulletins in many countries are read by virtual presenters — some people have even fallen in love with their chatbot.

With the revolution in full swing, we must act now to make sure humans are protected. We need safeguards built in to protect Joe Public.

We can’t have a situation where this technology is believed over human doctors, policemen or scientists — or millions of lives could be destroyed.

And the smart-Alec artificial intelligence system that can think for itself will be having the last laugh.

IT would seem you’re better off having a baby in India these days than the UK.

January 22 is such an auspicious date in northern India, due to a temple being dedicated to the Hindu god Rama, that pregnant women are opting to have caesareans on that day believing their kids will grow up to lead utterly charmed lives.

Imagine the chaos in our overstretched maternity wards if that happened here.

Sharon Osbourne says she is not bothered about sex with husband Ozzy these daysCredit: PA

THESE days Sharon Osbourne says she “can’t be a***d” to have sex with Ozzy.

Sharon, pictured with Ozzy, reveals when he gets frisky she puts him off by asking, “Do we have to?”

He’s now 75 and a reformed sex addict. Imagine what he was like in his heyday before he underwent sex therapy. Exhausting.

A dolly good show

Nicola Peltz could dance like Victoria Beckham if she signs up to StrictlyCredit: YouTube

STRICTLY would be mad not to sign up Mrs Brooklyn Beckham, aka Nicola Peltz.

She apparently fancies the gig to boost her profile in the UK.

I think that would be a given because viewers would tune in just to see the Beckham clan in the crowd cheering and clapping furiously.

And then she could do her own follow-up dance show back in their Cotswold bolthole for Instagram where, if we are lucky, we might get another glimpse of David and Victoria jigging along to Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

GOD bless America and all that. But I do wish they would keep certain things to themselves, such as tipping.

I went out for a pizza last weekend and there was 12.5 per cent added to our bill.

It has become the norm for struggling restaurants to do this and in fancy-pants places it can go up to 15 per cent.

Our chatty waitress was lovely and the service was great, so fair enough.

But then midweek I caught an Uber and as I got out of his dirty car, the driver, who hadn’t even bothered to say hello to me, asked if I’d write him a five-star review and give him a tip.

For a second I contemplated telling him not to eat yellow snow.

Brave Sven

Sven-Goran Eriksson has revealed he is battling terminal cancerCredit: Filip Bohm

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON has hidden his terminal cancer from the world for the past year but has now bravely told he has a “year at best”.

The 75-year-old Swede has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer but says he vows to “fight as long” as he can.

While many would fall to pieces, Sven bravely says he now appreciates every day and is happy when he wakes up and feels OK in the morning.

There’s an amazing message in there for all of us. I hope he has many more mornings where he wakes up feeling OK.

Song is a J-Lo blow for exes

Jennifer Lopez has shown her passion for Ben Affleck through songCredit: Getty

J-LO has released a comeback track, Can’t Get Enough, which you would imagine is about hubby Ben Affleck.

She doesn’t hold back with her lyrics, which include: “Take me all night. I can feel the passion in your eyes. I’m still in love with you.”

And the killer line: “You’re always the one I needed.”

Which basically sticks two fingers up at all the fellas she had in between her first romance with Ben and this one. Ouch.

Faulty jeans

Abbey Clancy’s medical emergency was that her jeans were too tightCredit: Getty

I LIKE Abbey Clancy and leggy Pete. And the couple do a fantastic job getting attention for their podcast.

But I am struggling to believe one of their latest discussions on there.

Abbey says she went to see a doctor thinking she was seriously ill because of numbness around her groin.

She even tapped up a “top MS doctor”. But hey, guess what? It turned out her jeans were too tight.

Surely if you need to wriggle into your jeans you would kind of notice they were a bit nippy around your knicker line long before they cut off your circulation, wouldn’t you?

Tooth plan’s rotten

Teachers could be left picking up the slack for lazy parentsCredit: Getty

EVERY morning the Geordie and I try to dodge overseeing our four-year-old brushing his teeth because, frankly, it’s a dull, grim task.

Alex generally does a pitiful job so we have to take over as he either clenches his jaw shut or tries to run out of the bathroom, laughing, with his toothbrush in the air.

These days the biggest reason that kids go to hospital is down to tooth decay, so Labour has announced they want to bring in supervised teeth cleaning at school breakfast clubs.

Initially, the thought of chucking this job at a teacher sounds ace, with Alex in an environment where he’s receptive to learning with his peers.

But forming a habit of brushing your teeth in a room that doesn’t even have sinks, and is full of kids playing and eating breakfast, is bonkers.

Yes, dentistry is in crisis and we all need to be able to see more dentists.

But teachers shouldn’t be the ones picking up the slack.

That’s a job for parents who need to get into the habit of doing it at home.

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