GOLD, FRANKINCENSE & MERCHANDISE.

Image result for christmas lights images

Back on September 16th, it was a really hot day and as a few of us wandered through a Garden Centre in Ditchling, Sussex, our eyes naturally lingered lovingly over Christmas trees and decorations thinking how close it must be to Christmas and that we should place a tree and a Christmas pudding in our basket. Say what?

No! What actually happened was that the sight of a nearly a third of the Garden Centre sectioned off entirely for Christmas stuff so infuriated me I vowed never to go there again. After remonstrating with one of the employees I was advised that it took their ‘team’ a long time to set up the displays and get them all done before Christmas. The thought of maybe employing more people to do it later on didn’t seem to occur.

You’ve got to appreciate that we were there on a glorious late Summer day and didn’t want to be thrown post haste into the Winter and a festival which was still three months off. Now, this is nothing new  but I am sure the Christmas period is starting earlier each year. Soon it will start in the New Year sales and we won’t know which year’s Christmas we are celebrating. It appears to me that merchandise has long ago taken the place of the original myrrh but there’s still gold in them thar tills.

This rant was ignited this week by the sight of a neighbouring house all lit up with trees external and internal and it’s still only mid November. So what, you might ask? People who are             pre-emptory with their decorations often say they enjoy Christmas so much they cannot wait to do their decorating. Others see it as some sort of status or competition to win for first display in their area. But do they really like Christmas? Surely, waiting for Christmas Day is part of the joy?

Is it not surprising that Christmas trees are now taken down much earlier, often the day after Boxing Day, rather than kept up for the traditional twelve days, and I don’t mean for superstitious reasons. Apparently, everyone is  fed up with seeing the things and forever sweeping up needles, unplugging or treading on wires, that the tree falls from grace more swiftly than a Trump at a Clinton rally.  Now, if the tree had only been seen for a few days I’m sure most people would like to prolong the agony…I mean celebration.

The point is, those who unilaterally start Christmas in November or earlier are forcing others to endure it too. Garish illuminations shatter the quiet darkness of which, as an amateur astronomer, I am quite fond. The waiting is removed and by the time Christmas week actually arrives nearly everyone has had enough of Christmas adverts and  Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ blaring out from every shop etc. Far from enhancing Christmas, it is spoiling it.

No wonder many prefer to shop online these days. I can remember when shops didn’t display any festive trimmings until the first or second week in December. Yes, I’m that old. As children we would peer in the windows and get excited by the knowledge the big day was really near.The waiting should be half the pleasure but in today’s instant, ‘always on’ culture where anyone can buy anything immediately with a credit card, the mystery and dare I say joy, is going.

But this isn’t just the curmudgeonly ravings of a bitter old person who goes down Memory Lane and forgets to turn off because there is no Sat. Nav. direction. No. I enjoy Christmas when it’s actually Christmas. The anticipation of presents, good food and drink, proper Christmas Carols, the stories of the Magi and looking up at the stars (if I can find somewhere dark enough) wondering what that special star might have been.

I think that’s why children and grandchildren can help capture that excitement and joy again. So what if  we lie to them saying the International Space Station trajectory  is Father Christmas on his sleigh? Christmas should be a special time of wonder and mystery. It’s how the original Christmas night was.

As for premature Christmas lights…perhaps I should ‘lighten’ up and face the electric facts rather than ‘conducting’ my own campaign against it. Currently, as a variation of  Ohm’s Law, it seems resistance is useless.

Does anyone agree?

K.L.F.

TOMORROW IS YOUR LAST DAY….

Well, hopefully not but it is for getting An Element Of Time at a bargain price of 0.99p. On Saturday evening the price goes up to £1.99 and then back to the full price three days after that. So, if you fancy a gripping Victorian thriller set in the period of time up to and including Christmas Day, get it now while it’s at the cheapest price it ever has been.

An Element Of Time by [Freeman, K]

HURRY! THE REDUCED PRICES ARE ONLY AVAILABLE UNTIL WEDNESDAY 16TH NOVEMBER – THEN IT REVERTS BACK TO THE FULL PRICE.

So just click here to get a bargain at amazon.co.uk

Or here for amazon.com   

An Element Of Time is an enthralling journey back and forth through history, starting with Queen Victoria mourning the death of her beloved Albert. Becoming convinced that she will be able to communicate with him once again using the mystical powers of the gold given to the infant Christ by the Magi, the story incorporates myth and legend by way of murder, secret societies, séances and the search for true love.

 An Element Of Time. “It is a gripping Victorian supernatural adventure with a new twist on the Grail legends. Conan Doyle meets Dan Brown”, said one reviewer.

Perfect for reading around Christmas time as the story reveals what happened to the gold of the Magi, or for anyone who just enjoys a really good adventure thriller; the book is available as a paperback or on Kindle from amazon.co.uk

Click here to get the bargain price.

No Kindle? No worries. Just download the Kindle App for your tablet, phone or computer and you can then read the books just as easily. 

Don’t like Amazon? You can also order here from smashwords.com for non Kindle users (where it is entitled The Time Element and can also be ordered from bookshops). Just insert the code FL89P at checkout to get a 60% discount. 

Any problems just email me at keithfreeman@differentvue.com

The cover for the Kindle version is shown above but there is also a paperback version shown below.

GOOD NEWS! TODAY AND FOR ONE WEEK ONLY.

An Element Of Time by [Freeman, K]

Thanks for being a follower of my blog. I have a little gift for you.

The world is changing. It has always done so. History often repeats itself. It has to. Nobody listens the first time! Today we might get tumultuous news individually or collectively that delights or disturbs us. But what if there was a way to reverse decisions? To change decisions in parts of Time to our way of thinking? Would we get it right?

Well, that is the problem facing Dr Richard Warhurst, Queen Victoria’s Secret Field Police and The Knights of The Golden Circle from America in An Element Of Time.

So, I am letting you know that  as a precursor to the arrival of my next novel,The Sword Of Facilis,  Amazon are running a ‘timely’ Kindle Countdown Deal from November 9th to November 16th for An Element Of Time.

During this time the price will be reduced to 0.99p and then increase in two more increments until it reaches the normal selling price of  £3.49 again on the 16th November.

HURRY! THE REDUCED PRICES ARE ONLY AVAILABLE UNTIL WEDNESDAY 16TH NOVEMBER – THEN IT REVERTS BACK TO THE FULL PRICE.

So just click here to get a bargain at amazon.co.uk

Or here for amazon.com   

An Element Of Time is an enthralling journey back and forth through history, starting with Queen Victoria mourning the death of her beloved Albert. Becoming convinced that she will be able to communicate with him once again using the mystical powers of the gold given to the infant Christ by the Magi, the story incorporates myth and legend by way of murder, secret societies, séances and the search for true love.

 An Element Of Time. “It is a gripping Victorian supernatural adventure with a new twist on the Grail legends. Conan Doyle meets Dan Brown”, said one reviewer.

Perfect for reading around Christmas time as the story reveals what happened to the gold of the Magi, or for anyone who just enjoys a really good adventure thriller; the book is available as a paperback or on Kindle from amazon.co.uk

Click here to get a bargain price.

No Kindle? No worries. Just download the Kindle App for your tablet, phone or computer and you can then read the books just as easily. 

Don’t like Amazon? You can also order here from smashwords.com for non Kindle users (where it is entitled The Time Element and can also be ordered from bookshops). Just insert the code FL89P at checkout to get a 60% discount. 

Any problems just email me at keithfreeman@differentvue.com

The cover for the Kindle version is shown above but there is also a paperback version shown below.

Remember, Remember Not Just In November.

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So, F.I.F.A. want to ban football players from wearing poppies during matches on Remembrance week in Britain. This is just another example of ridiculous Political Correctness which has infiltrated our society and mostly to its detriment. What always amazes me about these so called P.C. attitudes is that they are in fact not correct or political!

Some P.C. attitudes started as something commendable but have now dissolved into petty restrictions, intrusion into beliefs, phoney outrage and inferring malice where none was intended. Apparently Football authorities  have told the players to ignore the F.I.F.A. ruling so the F.A. etc run the risk of a heavy fine. Let’s hope common sense prevails. The  spirit of any Law should always prevail over the letter.

Anyway, I am going to re-post a poem and comments I did last year on this Blog. I make no apology for this. We owe so much to the memory of these people.

Thinking about people like my father and grandfather who fought in the two World Wars, prompted me to write this poem a few years back. I think it is still appropriate  today.

Remembrance Day

As the bell tolled and vibrated

It was though the dead were listening.

In those two minutes;

Was this the total time it took

For the millions dead in two World Wars,

Actually to die –

The cumulative total of their dying seconds

Adds up to what?

Two minutes – a minute for each war?

Two minutes silence in a day where elsewhere

The guns still chatter to solve petty squabbles,

Where bombs fragment more than dreams,

Where some people don’t need a knife when they have a cudgel for a tongue,

Where eyes appear open

But hands are closed – tight.

Two minutes silence, and hard though I tried,

I couldn’t hear a trumpet call from Heaven,

But felt the eyes of a father

Upon his children, watching their growth,

And maybe just sometimes wondering

Whether the death of his only son

Was really appreciated or understood,

Among so many deaths,

Among so many deaths…

K.L.F.

THE VAULT IN OUR STARS.

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Have you ever witnessed something that  you are reluctant to share with other people? Does your reluctance stem from the fact that they may think you’re a bit crazy? Well, you are not alone.

(To regular readers of my blog I apologise for the lack of activity in the recent weeks but I’ve been concerned with other personal things and, frankly, during the hot weather couldn’t be bothered to sit in front of the computer screen.)

Anyway, back to reluctant sharing. No doubt you would agree that aircraft pilots, policemen or women and magistrates are all upstanding members of the community and are likely to be believed when they say they have seen certain things. Well, you would think so wouldn’t you? However, there is one subject which if any of these people mention it, they are almost certainly immediately ignored or considered to be not quite the ticket. Yes, you’re ahead of me and have already guessed that I’m talking about unidentified flying objects. When it comes to these things, it would seem that perfectly sane people have been subject to a delusion or momentary madness.

I was recently watching a broadcast by a pilot who had flown President Obama in Air Force One. He had broken ranks with other pilots and people in the industry by speaking about something he had seen and which he can only conclude was a UFO. Apparently, such sightings are very common but there is an unwritten law amongst pilots both in the military and commercial airlines that they do not talk about it. When asked why he thought this was, he replied that it was simply they did not want to have their careers affected by people thinking they were crazy or not of sound judgement. You can understand their concern. I have seen many interviews with people who claim to have seen alien craft, or even aliens, and each time it’s been hard for me to take their report seriously. Yet these are people who are generally well respected in the community and have never been prone to exaggerated stories before. Even Paul Hellyer, the former Canadian Minister of Defence, has recently spoken of his experience and  belief in UFOs and how many accounts are true but inexplicable and kept secret.

However, I was particularly impressed with the account by this pilot who had flown President Obama as he seemed a very levelheaded and articulate person. His description was accurate and reasoned and explained why the object was nothing that can be seen normally in our atmosphere. The sighting was also witnessed by his co-pilot and when they had reported the matter to the authorities, they had been advised to say nothing further. Why was this? If these accounts of sightings of UFOs are correct, why does the relevant government (and this happens in many countries) lean on the people concerned to keep quiet? Do they envisage public panic if the revelations are made known and proved?

Well, here’s a confession. I actually saw a UFO some years ago. I’m not saying it was an alien craft but simply that it was an object that defied description and was categorised by the lightning speed it travelled from being stationary at one side of the horizon to the other. Nothing known to man can do that. The person I was with witnessed the same thing. When I spoke to someone else about it their first response was “F off”.to which I jokingly replied, “No, UFO!”

Now, as an amateur astronomer I am puzzled by the fact that very few astronomers seem to see UFOs. Also, the so-called footage of these objects is never very clear or definitive. This leads most people to think that the films are hoaxes and it is quite understandable that we would think this. Nevertheless, the earnestness and honesty of most of the people claiming to see alien craft is not doubted. The result is that we are left with a conundrum which is a bit like having religious faith. Nobody can prove it but similarly no one can disprove it.

The aspect which is quite common to most of these UFO sightings is the fact that the object travels at great speed across the sky, often moving through an arc of 45° or so in a second. By all our known physics, this is not possible, yet people swear it happens. This is probably why such objects are believed to be alien craft. However, this gives rise to another problem. Our science at the moment tells us that the nearest galaxy, Andromeda, is 2.5 million light-years away. You would have to travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) for over 2.5 million years to reach the nearest one. The distances to our nearest stars, and therefore any habitable planet, are so vast that even travelling at the speed of light a human could not survive. How then could an alien life form arrive here? We could talk of Black Holes and Wormholes in Space and how using them by some form of centrifugal or other force could propel us into other galaxies but all that is very much in the realm of science fiction and certainly not within the scope of theoretical or practical astrophysics with our current knowledge.

So, how can we reconcile all the stories of UFOs seen by sane and intelligent people with the science that we have? I think the answer lies in the fact that so much of our universe is unseen. We know there is Dark Energy and Dark Matter even though it cannot be seen. We know something of the effect these forces can have on the universe around us. What we can’t measure is how big the universe is or what we can’t see. It is literally immeasurable or, in Hawaiian, Laniakea, which means “immeasurable heaven”.

There may well be some form of space portal  which enables something to vault across the galaxy in a fraction of a second and someday we may find that. However, in the meantime, I am very much drawn to the suggestion of multiverses; the theory that there are other dimensions or universes running parallel with ours which we cannot see. There is already some evidence to show this from the examination of Dark Energy and Dark Matter and if we ever prove this theory, it will go a long way to explaining two of the questions which concern us most. Namely, what are UFOs and where is Heaven?

As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

SLUGGING IT OUT WITH THE VAMPIRE BUTTERFLY.

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Well, many people were asking for it and now they’ve got it, they don’t want it!

Not the Referendum Brexit result but hot weather. The other night the temperature in most of England was 27 C at midnight (having been around 36 C during the day) and many did not get much sleep. As well as heat there was a very strong warm wind which, with all the windows open, kept the curtains flapping about. Coupling that with a full Moon it’s not really surprising strange things occurred the next day and tiredness was rife.

Although the recent heat has done some funny things to people, it appears it is affecting the wildlife too. Yesterday I saw a butterfly (Red Admiral?) attack a slug. Well, that’s what it looked like. It landed on this slug and seemed to try to eat it or sucked on it for about 4 minutes. The slug seemed helpless. It didn’t seem to put up much of a fight. Well, shell-less terrestrial gastropods don’t move that fast at the best of times and have no automatic weaponry as far as malacologists know. Slugs are not generally known for their fighting prowess; although the great Mohammed Ali once remarked that he had slugged it out with Sonny Liston. Perhaps he had something there with his ‘float like a butterfly’ mantra which we never realised.

Here are three photos. the first two with the butterfly on the slug and the third when it had landed on a chair, seemingly having satiated its blood lust. It was hard to get close for a decent photo and the thing kept flapping its wings in a sort of protest. Is this a new breed of vampire butterfly that can go out in daylight but hate paparazzi? That’s a documentary for the Discovery Channel to ponder.

Butterfly Slug enhanced0481Butterfly Slug Cropped 2

Here is another photo after the vicious attack.

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Notice  in this  photo how the butterfly appears to have changed colour slightly after draining the slug?  It ‘s not the camera, as I was using my top Nikon which is a great camera. If you enlarge the pics you can see great detail on the second image.

A friend of mine, Drew, said that, ‘I’m no authority on these things but what you might have witnessed was the butterfly getting moisture off the slug, in the absence of any local puddles due to the excessive heat. That’s what an old boy told me once. It’s a theory anyway.’

Drew’s old boy could be right. I hope so. Otherwise, it’s  another winged pest to watch out for and means  we would have to wear garlic and crosses when enjoying a nice snooze in the garden or park to ward off potential vampire butterflies.

Sleep easy in the garden, won’t you?

JUST BECAUSE I’M NOT PARANOID DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE NOT WATCHING ME!

entrepreneur-paranoid

So, you are out shopping or walking in a park when, unbeknown to you, someone has identified you from a phone App and then sends you a ‘Friend’ request on social media, or should I say anti-social media?

The new FindFace App allows users to photograph people in a crowd and work out their identities, with 70% reliability. This is very peculiar I find but is going down well in Russia. Why? I don’t know. I mean, who wants to be identified by a passer-by and then have that person send a ‘Friend’ request on Facebook without any idea who they are? Crazy? No, that’s what will happen if Facebook allows compatibility with the programme. I guess it’s more likely that Facebook will develop its own version of FindFace and if that happens it’s ‘Goodnight’ from me and many others to FB. Or is it just me that thinks meeting up with a stranger who has covertly identified me by taking my picture just a bit weird?

Many years ago, Cher sang a song called The Shoop Shoop Song. In view of recent developments she should sing a new one called, If you want to know…. The Snoop Snoop song. I say this because if you believe the latest information about Facebook and FindFace and couple that with the so-called Snooper’s Charter, our lives will never be private again.

Home Secretary Theresa May is hoping that The Investigatory Powers Bill (the proper name for the Snooper’s Charter) will be pushed through the House of Lords. If so, in its current state, your phone calls, text messages, emails and browsing history may be subject to the scrutiny of governmental departments and law-enforcement agencies. Of course, the government claim that this bill has our best interests at heart because by compelling Internet Providers to hold the last 12 months of their customers online data, it would give GCHQ and other surveillance and security agencies the tools to detect any potential terrorist threats more efficiently. On one hand I’m quite happy with this, but I suspect that I’m not alone in having just a slight, niggling anxiety about the government knowing everything I am doing. I’m not a criminal or terrorist and therefore have nothing to fear. However, just imagine the future if a totalitarian government could use the information to know who was against them and maybe use the information to hinder those people’s lives by subtly interfering with their employment, creditworthiness or other aspects.

As I said, I’m not particularly concerned personally, as if some government agent wants to wade through my dreary emails and relatively unexciting details, they are welcome but there must be many people with reservations and I don’t just mean booking clerks. Also, I am sure that Secret Service Agents will be fascinated to read on Facebook what people have been having for meals, or looking at their holiday snaps and photos of children and dogs. The Human Rights organisation, Liberty said, “This bill would create a detailed profile on each of us, which could be made available to hundreds of organisations to speculatively trawl and analyse. It will all but end online privacy, put our personal security at risk and swamp law-enforcement agencies with swathes of useless information.”  There is no evidence that mass surveillance is effective in preventing serious crime, according to Liberty.

Although the bill was passed in the House of Commons on 7 June with a vote of 444 to 69, it is subject to a number of concessions, including a “privacy clause”. This is meant to restrict intrusive snooping unless no other means are available but still allows the use of mass surveillance whether an individual or group is suspected of committing a crime or not.

This only demonstrates how important it is to have a committed and strong opposition party to any government. Ironically, it protects an M.P.’s right to privacy and only the Prime Minister can give explicit approval for any agency to request an MP’s phone and Internet records. That’s a comfort for us, isn’t it?

if that is not enough to contend with there is now a report that Facebook has been accused of eavesdropping on users’ private phone conversations by the microphone on their mobile devices. Apparently, this theory has been tested by a communications professor in America by discussing certain topics privately on her phone and then being subsequently presented with related adverts in her Facebook feed. Facebook have denied the accusation but they do admit that the Facebook app will “access your microphone if you have given our App permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio”.  So far, this is only relevant to America but what happens over there soon follows here.

Therefore, be careful to check what App permissions you are granting when installing anything. As I said in the headline; just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you. Appen they might.

K.L.F.

 

 

 

 

BETTER OUT THAN IN?

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(The not so silence of the lamb.)

After an embarrassing personal noise, you often hear someone say apologetically, ‘Better out than in’. All this fuss about the forthcoming British referendum on the E.U. brought that phrase to mind. It’s a wonder the Leave Campaign haven’t adopted it.

Anyway, this isn’t another article to persuade you how to vote,  or prompt a massed debate about In or Out.  I reckon there have been enough mass debaters to have had their say on that already. No thank EU. Whoops! Sorry, couldn’t resist another sheep joke.

No, what concerns me is the rather ruthless way in which both campaigns have used fear and a bending of the truth to promote their views. I suppose this is to be expected because we are dealing with the unknown; the future. There are prophecies of what will happen if Britain stays or leaves but I cannot help thinking that these are more motivated by profits than prophets.

Another thing that intrigues me is that there is an age component between the Leave or Stay parties. From all the people I’ve heard speak about this it seems that younger people under 40 want to stay but those over 45 mostly want to leave. If you’re 43 you’re clearly on the fence then. (The Government have maybe recognised this as they extended the deadline for the voting register.) Is that because younger people have never known what it was what like in Britain before we joined the E.U. and are scared of what may happen? Or maybe the older ones think it is a question of sovereignty and want our elected M.P.s to make their own rules rather than having rules imposed on them?

So which way do you vote? In or Out? It’s a dilemma, as most people will vote for their own interests rather than the Country’s. I suspect the case for many is that they are still undecided. It’s not my job to tell you how to vote. All I would hope is that you vote according to your conscience. We should all use our vote to do what we know in our hearts might be right. not just for us but for the Country.

Still, as I said last year when we in Britain were facing the General Election,  ‘If you are sitting on the horns of a dilemma; ask the dilemma to use lubricant.’  You need something to help you decide, to grease the wheels as it were.

Or, here’s a radical thought. Have a Day of Prayer to guide the Nation. We did this in the last two World Wars and we got the right result then.

 

Sheep picture from Shutterstock, with thanks.

THE SEVEN CERTAINTIES OF A ROAD TRIP. BANK ON IT.

'Road trips are getting lonelier & lonelier.'

‘Road trips are getting lonelier & lonelier.’

Going on a car trip or holiday this Bank Holiday weekend? If you are, and you’re taking children, then these are the things that will happen,,, most likely.

1) You will not leave on time. Get over it. No matter how carefully you’ve planned things something will delay you so start half an hour earlier from the time that you really wanted to go.

2) No matter how many times you asked the children, or anyone else, if they wanted to go to the toilet, within 20 minutes of the journey you will hear the  welcome strains of  “I need a wee” – or “I need a poo”. Naturally, this will come when you are on a motorway with no service station for miles, or a dual carriageway where you cannot stop. It is worth carrying an empty juice bottle with a wide neck in the car for the emergency wee. For the poo, well, good luck with that. However, you may get an early warning of an imminent toilet stop being needed by the sudden wafting of a certain odour and the children laughing and asking, “Who let one go?”.

3) if your toddler has a favourite toy, doll, teddy bear or comforter, it WILL be dropped at least three times during the journey forcing either the passenger or the driver to extricate it from the rear floor well by means of a twisted arm or pulled shoulder muscle. Yes, we know the driver shouldn’t do it, but if you are unable to stop for a long time then it is a risk worth taking just to stop the incessant whining of “I want my,,,” for 10 miles.

4) Approximately a quarter of the way into your journey you will become racked with doubt about whether you, locked the back door, shut the windows, or forgot to pack something. This is normal. Forget it. You did all of those things, except maybe the last one.

5) You will enjoy many hold-ups on the road and also people cutting you up, tailgating and driving too slowly. Studies have shown that there is very little difference in the time taken to get to your destination whether you do 70 miles an hour or 80 or 90 miles an hour. The time saved is negligible. Relax; let them have the stress and the heart attack. There will be times when you long for a robot driver (see previous blog).

6) Try not to repeatedly hit your head on the steering wheel when you are asked for the umpteenth time, “Are we there yet?”.

7) if it’s a Bank holiday and an outdoor event is planned, wear waterproof clothing.

So, on your way rejoicing and remember, you can do it all again on the way back.

K.L.F.

DRIVING US CRAZY?

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Stephen Hawking thinks that Artificial Intelligence could spell ‘the end of the human race’. Well, that’s not really that hard is it? It’s only six words and pretty easy ones to spell. However, he is making a serious point that will become an issue eventually  as our computers get more advanced and robots become a big part of our culture.

You may have seen the ads where a Ford Focus parks itself without human help. However, that is nothing to what is coming in the next fifteen years or so. I predict we will soon have electrically driven vehicles that will be driver-less automatons that you simply say where you want to go and the vehicle does the rest; just as in the Sci-Fi films like Total Recall. Too far fetched? Not at all. The proto types are already being made and with a few tweaks will be available within a few years.

This will create significant problems for many people. Will everyone have to have one to make sure our roads are accident free? Some people don’t like automatic transmission cars now so they will be apoplectic at the thought of not being able to control the vehicle at all. Personally, I love automatic cars and not having the hassle of clutch control and having to change gear manually. There is nothing manly or macho about having to do that although some  men try to pretend there is.

Can you imagine autonomous cars, presumably electrically powered. competing with each other to race away from the traffic lights? Or shouting at the one in front that is keeping to the speed limit meticulously?

Will governments be able to force electric automated cars upon us? Will manufacturers go along with it or have ‘sweeteners’ to induce them? Well, the way some governments are acting now in forcing undemocratic actions upon us in schools and health care does not auger well for that not happening. If the car manufacturers cease producing petrol driven manual vehicles, then what choice would we have?

There would be many other spin offs too as I see it. Without the need for petrol engines the Middle East will  no longer control economies and will see their  wealth diminishing. There will be less involvement politically in those areas and fanatical groups will not get funds so easily. America would undergo vast change too as the oil fields become less important. However, it’s easy to imagine what corruption and chicanery would take place to stop oil companies and related businesses losing their power and profit.

On the plus side you would not need companies like confused.com  as motor insurance would be practically redundant. Think of the money saved! You might need robotic insurance though. So, there are many problems ahead before fully automated electric cars are the norm.

Let  us imagine that people who love the environment and want the best for our planet have their way and all vehicles are electric, fully automated and driver-less. Accidents will be rare because all speed limits will be obeyed and computers will use sensors to make the correct decisions. Or will they?

Completely automated cars pose a moral dilemma and I am not certain that everyone involved has thought this through thoroughly. In an emergency, with limited options, how will the car computer choose how to protect or save  passengers, pedestrians or other road users and in what precedence? For example, on a narrow cliff pass and where a person, say a child, falls into the road from another vehicle giving no time to brake sufficiently, does the computer car decide to swerve and thereby go over the cliff killing the passengers, or carry on braking knowing the child will be run over?

Or, imagine a robot car faced with a pedestrian running out in to the road and there is no time to brake sufficiently. The car has to swerve or continue on. On the offside of the road is an oncoming car and to the nearside is a group of pedestrians standing on the pavement waiting for, let’s call it,  an auto bus. Who does it choose to save? In a fraction of a second it will have to compute the degree of injury or death to each pedestrian or passenger. Maybe take into account the life expectancy of each person in each category; whether pregnant or not or other family values. Does it decide that the person running into the road is negligent and run them over? See the problem? In certain situations, who does the computer decide to save? How will a programmer  create a programme to do this? Who will be responsible for building in morality into the computer brain and whose morality will it be?

There is a school of thought that ‘the moral action is that which causes the maximum happiness to the maximum number of people’; a form of unilateralism. Therefore, should the car be programmed just to save the maximum number of people whether passenger or pedestrian, child or adult?

And what would be the effect on Case Law for claims of compensation? When I studied Law, we were taught that an error of judgement is not necessarily negligence. So, could a computer decision be immune from such claims because its programmer  made an error in the code to help it make a decision? Again, going back to principles of English Law  there is the principle of Volenti non fit injuria. (A willing man suffers no injury.) Will passengers in robot cars deemed to be automatically running the risk? If you purchase such a car or ride in one would you be deemed to be accepting you have waived any rights to compensation?

In a 1942 short story Runaround,  Isaac Asimov proposed three Laws of Robotics :  A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law. Later, Asimov added a fourth, or zeroth law, that preceded the others in terms of priority: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

I think there is another law which should be incorporated into any programming of AI. It should not be allowed to be self aware or conscious, i.e. it should not be sentient. To ignore this would probably mean the slave becoming our master. For a robot or AI endowed with super-human intelligence how difficult would it be for it to figure out how to access and revise its core programming? As scientist Tim Helm inferred, isn’t it dangerous to create what philosophers might label, ‘beings of moral significance’? We have been created with a consciousness that instils ethical liability. Can programmers really do that accurately to replicate a human brain? We have the free will to choose which decisions to make. That’s why we are not perfect. To be that we would not have free will. Can a computer really be altruistic?

If robots and A.I. proliferate, could humans become a sub species? I don’t think so. If our programmers are ethical people then surely they will find a way to prevent this…or maybe get  an AI robot to solve it for us? On the bright side, A.I. could mean an end to wars, disease and world poverty. We could revert to ancient classical Greece with robots as our slaves doing everything needed to produce food and products while we sit around philosophising and playing musical instruments.That world might be safe but a bit boring?

And I wonder what the media would make of it all? What virtues would they find to ‘celebrate’ in a cyborg or a robot? Would they make ‘celebrities’ out of some of them? In a world that seems to make a celebrity out of just being on television in so called reality programmes and people of limited talent are made famous; where soap operas are alleged to reflect real life (they don’t by the way) would cyborgs and robots have to have a programmed personality? How would they act? A bit better than some so called stars? Actors wouldn’t be called ‘wooden’ any more. They might be described as metallic or would that be taking the Metal Mickey? Maybe Talent Shows where all the contestants sound like Stephen Hawking? Which is where we came in.

So no, I don’t really think the human race will cease because of Artificial Intelligence. It might cease because of Human ‘Intelligence’ though if warning signs about the ecology of our planet are not heeded or political morality declines even further.

K.L.F.