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Will IT destroy us?
Category: Writing

A glance at history will show how so many discoveries started out as a boon and mutated into a bane.


Antibiotics were one of our finest medical breakthroughs. Used correctly, they still would be, but overprescription has led nature to develop infections resistant to any drug. Our saviour is suddenly potentially lethal.


Is IT the next antibiotics? Exponential growth of a connected and highly complex world offers myriad vulnerabilities to the unscrupulous. The ransomware attacks brought the UK National Health Service and giant corporations to their knees until solutions could be found. The next war has already started, devoid of bombs and bullets. Instead, some anonymous hacker, armed with a keyboard and mouse, can black out a country’s electricity supply at the touch of a button.


The hugely negative impact on society has hit the spotlight with the Facebook scandal. The tech giants have at last been outed as amoral profit seekers, pushing their technologies even when they knew of the dangers. Unfettered and unregulated, they have merely shrugged their shoulders at any suggestion that with power comes responsibility for the millions whose personal data has been violated.


A new individual morality – or is that immorality? – has surfaced. Many see nothing wrong in cyber bullying or hurling vile abuse across the ether that they would not countenance face to face. Taxed with the damage or even death that they have caused, such trolls remain unmoved. Somehow in their eyes, the remoteness of the attacks absolves them of any blame.


Today’s generation are born tech-savvy, but there is a growing realisation that screen addiction is damaging their learning abilities, their social skills and denying them a normal childhood. The head of one of UK’s best schools is in the van of a movement to ban screens in school, stating: ‘Digital devices have no place in childhood’.


For me, the greatest threat is as yet lurking in the wings. It is artificial intelligence, AI. These systems that self-learn and correct their own mistakes are poised to revolutionise life’s every facet. AI is at the heart of an upsurge in driverless vehicles that are supposedly programmed to recognise every hazard and increase their vocabulary by experience. Already they have caused two deaths because of their inability to recognise a danger and the driver’s to retake control in time.


Already too, scenarios are presaged where almost every task is undertaken by AI machines and virtually nobody works. Imagine the devastating impact on a world where you cannot earn a living. Who will provide the money for your needs and what will happen to our social structures and interactions?


The significant danger of AI is that the machines eventually take over and refuse any outside instructions. Robert Harris’ spine-chilling novel ‘The Fear Index’ graphically illustrates that very eventuality. Unless governments act immediately to regulate and contain AI, 1984 will become a reality.


I fear for mankind.





This Week 5 March 2018
Category: Site News

Formal Meeting 25 February: There were two key items at the meeting. The first was the decision to replace the magazine with a newsletter.  Lesley offered to set up and monitor a thread for content ideas, including pros and cons.  She also volunteered to take over the planner and has posted the June-September listings for comment.  Yo Lesley!

Ad Hoc: Angela, Chris, Sue and Laura have put pieces into this site.

Writing Room Forum: Jo reported that this has been deleted from the site and she will be contacting Spruz to try and recover it.

March Writing Challenges:  A variety on offer:,970

Blog: Sue described to us, complete with photos, her fascinating collection of books – some vintage – on the rules, the how to’s, the do’s and don’t’s of writing.  Problem is, she never looks at them.  Should she have a spring-clean?  Plus, should we be like Picasso, who learned the rules, tore them up and became very successful.

Secondary Contact Details: Following a suggestion from Sue, Jo has set up a file on site accessible to members to enter their details.

Hear Here

Declining years tend to mean declining faculties, especially sight and hearing. Glasses or lenses cope with the first, but age-related deafness creeps up on you. Low frequencies can still be heard, the deterioration is in the middle and higher tones. Vowels are low frequencies, consonants are higher; speech becomes less audible. The ability to filter conversations in crowded situations gets worse. We apparently hear between 25 and 50% of what is said and our brain fills in the blanks.


For some years, I’d been suffering age-related deafness, but it seemed to have plateaued at a level where I could still cope in both English and, importantly for me, French. For a foreign language, you need to understand more like 70%.


Then in July, disaster struck when a party balloon burst very loudly near my head. It left me almost completely deaf for two days and even after a couple of weeks, my hearing was only partially restored. Suddenly, I was in a different, almost silent world. My wife had to shout at me and repeat herself ad nauseam and the TV had to be at disco volume. Going out with friends or to a party became a nightmare, I simply couldn’t hear conversations. I don’t exaggerate when I say I became quite depressed and frustrated, not to say remote, uncommunicative and bad-tempered.


Why is this relevant to WA and writing? Because my desire to write just wilted. I no longer felt in control, my joie de vivre had gone, along with my motivation and my imagination. I did manage a couple of pieces, but purely by gritting my teeth and dragging myself to the keyboard. Where I sat and metaphorically sucked the end of my pencil.


The appointment with an ENT specialist took nearly a month. He examined me thoroughly, then conducted tests. They confirmed permanent damage to the mid and higher ranges – I needed hearing aids.


The French health system is wonderful, but pays very little towards hearing aids. In France, a pair will cost you some €3000! President Macron is promising free hearing aids, because thousands of citizens need but can’t afford them.


Guessing that I’d require the devices, I’d been doing some devilling on the web and discovered, who sell online at around a third of the French price. After discussion with their audiologist, I chose a pair, for which new stock was expected within a week. In reality, there was a delay of two months before delivery. My frustration just grew and grew, I simply wasn’t very nice to live with.


So, has normal service been resumed? Almost but not quite, they ameliorate your hearing, they don’t restore it. The aids themselves are practically invisible, sitting above each ear and connected by micro-tubes.


Until deafness hit me, I’d tended to dismiss it as something that affected other people. Now I truly understand the many difficulties and the screaming frustration caused by being unable to hear and communicate. It does change your life, your outlook, your drive, your enthusiasm.


But my mojo’s back, write on!

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