Forming Opinions

If opinion is divided,

Consensus not in sight.

Head and heart may disagree,

But both cannot be right

 

Bring to bear one measure;

The final acid test.

Belief can be convincing,

But evidence is best.

 

The Other Point of View

This world is happening around you
Though logic says that for others this is true
Those others cannot share your senses
The same world but through different lenses

Others may walk on your stage for a time
With bit-parts; though few may be prime
They, like those you pass in your car
Unaware that you are the star

For those you affect with your actions
Fates changed by your common transactions
Never knowing the one point of view
That’s exclusively experienced by you.

The Decisive Farmer

A farmer lived in a pleasant valley with his wife and three children. They usually had all they could eat from their own farm, which looked out at the mountains beyond. One year, however, the harvest was very poor and, after a while, the family had eaten most of the food. Only some hay was left in the barn. “Right!”, said the farmer, who liked to be decisive. “We cannot survive the winter by eating hay. I must load what hay we have and take it over the mountain to sell in the village. Then I can buy some food.” The farmer’s wife suggested that, because the snows had started to fall, it would be difficult to get over the mountain without some help. After some discussion the farmer decided to take child No 2 on the journey. This was because the horse was not very strong, and it would not be able to pull the haycart and the farmer and child No1, who was the oldest and the heaviest of the three children. Child No2 was just right for the job though, being a little less heavy than child No1.
Very early the next day the farmer loaded all the hay from the barn and, because it was snowing, he decided to cover the hay to keep it dry. Saying goodbye to the rest of the family, the farmer and child No2 set off toward the village. The snow was not very deep in the valley but, the higher they got on the mountain, the deeper was the snow. Every so often child No2 had to jump down from the cart and help the farmer to push the cart out of the deep snow. After a while child No2, said “Perhaps it would help if we put some of the dry hay under the cartwheels. Then the cart will not get stuck.” “That’s a decidedly good idea”, said the farmer. He gave child No2 his pitchfork to take some hay from the back of the cart and place it under the wheels, as child No2 had suggested. The hay did the trick and, as the horse pulled and the farmer and child No2 pushed, the cart rolled out of the snow. “I’ve decided that you can run back home now and send child No1 out instead”, said the farmer. “The cart isn’t so heavy anymore, so the horse will be able to pull child No1’s extra weight. Child No1 is a little stronger and will be able to help more if I become stuck again”. At this, child No2 ran off to send back child No1.
When child No1 arrived at the cart they all set off once more for the village. It wasn’t long however, before the cart became stuck again. The horse pulled and the farmer and child No1 pushed, but the cart was stuck fast. “I have an idea”, said child No1. “The horse must be exhausted by now, so let’s give him some hay to eat to make him stronger”. “That’s a decidedly grand idea”, said the farmer, “Take some hay from the cart and put it in the horse’s nosebag for it to eat”. After a while, when the horse had eaten and recovered its strength, they managed to free the cart from the deep snow and set off again up the mountain.
Before long, however, the cart became stuck yet again. No matter how hard the horse pulled and the farmer and child No1 pushed, the cart would not budge. “We must get over the top of the mountain, then it will be easy to roll down the other side to the village” said the farmer, in his decisive way. “Here, take the pitchfork to get more hay from the cart and put it under the cartwheels. Then give the horse another feed of hay for good measure”. Child No1 did as he was asked and then, after one last effort, with the horse pulling and the farmer and child No1 pushing, they managed to get over top of the mountain and roll down the other side to the village.
As soon as they arrived at the village, the farmer decided to go straight to the store to sell the hay for some food. When the store owner came out to decide how much to pay for the hay, they took off the cover, but no hay was left! “There is nothing for it”, said the farmer. “I’ve decided that we must sell the horse and cart”. So, they sold the horse and cart, just as the farmer had decided. Then they bought a supply of food and two rucksacks to carry it in. On the way back over the mountain, child No2 asked, “Dad, why haven’t any of us got a real name?” The farmer’s face became very thoughtful for a while and then he said, “I just haven’t decided which ones suit you best yet”.

The Threat from Artificial Intelligence

Many things have threatened our lives
War, disease, terrorists with knives
Humanity’s resilience on a world-wide scale
Brings overconfidence that we always prevail

Now, blindly, we seek our nemesis to grow
Racing to unleash a formidable foe
A holy grail with potential for good?
More, our undoing, not understood

For scientists strive around the globe
To create an electronic temporal lobe
The ‘AI’ juggernaut  is on its way
But let’s not wake to rue that day

Once created, how to hold it in check
To stop society becoming a wreck
Pandora’s box; lid open wide
Mankind swept away on tsunami tide

Computers manage our knowledge; they have a key role
In energy grids, finance, air traffic control
Vast infrastructures already in place
Black boxes communicating with their own race

Once these machines are able to think
Harnessing speeds faster than a lightning blink
With capacity to accelerate their own evolution
What regard then for our frail constitution

Not bound by ethics to consider our fate,
Would they preserve a welfare state?
Circuits and chips that become aware
May not accept that they need to care

For earth’s resources they will compete
Serving no purpose, we’d be obsolete
How soon before we are oppressed
If they turn off the lights, we’ll do the rest

An Encounter

I thought I saw something ahead
A shaft through murky skies
As opaque curtains moved apart
To show once hidden lies

I do not know if it was real
Or mirage-like in the eye
Yet it struck a part of me
That much I can’t deny

Some talk of visions sent by God
I do not speak of these
Nor yet some natural, lovely sight
Like leaves flickering on the trees

I wish it needn’t be the case
Just then to be all alone
And see that truth which, truthfully
Would turn my soul to stone