Hallowe’en is upon us and trickster prime minister Rishi Sunak is treating the country by ditching his ‘InAction Man’ costume and donning Dr Death to battle the existential threat posed by AI.
Hard to believe, but it could be worse. The PM might have changed into an outfit based on the increasingly prophetic anagram of his name, ‘Hi Risk Anus’. And go trick-or-treating with home secretary Suella ‘tersorium’ Braverman dressed as ‘The Shit Sponge’ and playing Robin to Hi Risk’s Batman-esque Anus.
The mind boggles. Which is apt given that was exactly the response to tech-bro Sunak’s keynote statement this week on the apocalyptic risks versus utopian rewards of artificial intelligence technology and what exactly his government will or won’t do about it.
Having worked so hard to polish brand-Rishi, the PM has been desperate to shake off Sir Keir Starmer’s withering naming of him as ‘InAction Man’. Unfortunately for ‘scrapper’ Sunak, he is already being referred to by an even more damaging sobriquet: Dr Death.
In a delicious twist of fate, the scientist responsible for Sunak’s deadly new nomenclature has been working alongside the PM to develop his AI strategy.
Dame Angela McLean was chief scientific advisor at the Ministry of Defence when she labelled Sunak “Dr Death” in a WhatsApp message to another scientist in 2020. The Covid inquiry heard the message was sent in the wake of the then chancellor’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme at the height of the pandemic.
McLean has since replaced Sir Patrick Vallance as the government’s most senior scientist and has been playing a key role in preparations for Sunak’s global AI conference to be held next week at Bletchley Park.
At this week’s curtain raiser at London’s Royal Society, Dr Death warned that the world has less than a year to get a grip of AI and expressed fears of far more powerful AI models due for imminent release.
“Get this wrong, and AI could make it easier to build chemical or biological weapons. Terrorist groups could use AI to spread fear and destruction on an even greater scale. Criminals could exploit AI for cyber attacks, disinformation, fraud, or even child sexual abuse.
“And in the most unlikely but extreme cases, there is even the risk that humanity could lose control of AI completely through the kind of AI sometimes referred to as ‘super intelligence’.”
Having spooked the audience, Dr Death sought to soothe. Only not very much. He continued: “This is not a risk that people need to be losing sleep over right now. I don’t want to be alarmist. And there is a real debate about this – some experts think it will never happen at all. But however uncertain and unlikely these risks are, if they did manifest themselves, the consequences would be incredibly serious.”
In his best bedside manner, Dr Death spoke of the potential benefits of AI for humanity – nuclear fusion producing abundant clean energy, better agriculture solving world hunger and cancer vaccines.
But slipping back into his InAction Man mode, Sunak said regulating “something you don’t fully understand” is hard so that’s not something the UK will be in a rush to push for.
Another major concern about AI surrounds deep fakes and their potential to pollute public information and manipulate elections.
Dr Death will be as haunted as the rest of us then by today’s (October 27) news that the biggest polluter of public information, arch manipulator of votes and deepest fake of all is making a comeback. Of sorts. Because Sunak’s former boss-turned-foe, the dead-souled Boris Johnson is being resurrected and fluffed up for his very own TV show – and just in time, we’ve been informed, to “play a key role” in next year’s UK and US elections.
Even atheists can be heard muttering, “god help us”.
The disgraced blond-bombsite, who cowardly fled Westminster before he was kicked out by colleagues, has been signed up by GB ‘News’ as a presenter, programme maker and commentator. Johnson – who’s trousered almost £5 million since fleeing the Commons – has already promised to share his “unvarnished views” on the biggest misnomer of a channel this side of the Atlantic.
Ofcom has repeatedly investigated GB News for breaches of broadcasting rules, the channel’s finances and employment of politicians as presenters. Meaning Johnson will fit right in, especially given the voids left by Lawrence Fox’s sacking and Dan Wooton’s suspension for their outrageous comments and behaviour.
The channel is so toxic that this week it was banned from the Welsh parliament after a broadcast was found to be “deliberately offensive”.
Nigel Farage is outraged. Almost as much as he still is over Coutts cancelling his bank account. The right wing TV channel being cancelled in Cardiff is all the fault, he roared, of the Welsh Labour administration, and shows “just how awful” they are.
Except, of course (because this is Farage), it isn’t. The decision to ban GB News from the parliament’s TV system, has been taken by the Senedd Commission, not Mark Drakeford’s Welsh government.
Elin Jones, speaking for the presiding officer said the ban is because of a recent broadcast on the channel that was “deliberately offensive, demeaning to public debate and contrary to our parliament’s values”.
Add wilfully dishonest and that would pretty much cover why Johnson got his own parliamentary ban – his appearances there now limited to giving evidence to inquiries into his government’s actions.
The former PM still lusts for power and being the focus of attention. The narcissist still dreams of a political return, Cincinnatus-like as dictator.
So, in search of a way back up the greasy pole, Johnson has joined the gaggle of Tory MPs presenting on GB News, including ex-minister for Brexit opoortunities Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and current Tory deputy chair Lee ‘30p’ Anderson.
Their brand of slap and tickle Tory-tainment is a format viewers of the BBC might soon be watching given this week’s “unusual” private meeting between the state broadcaster’s director general Tim Davie and the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee.
Eyes were raised and mouths fell wide open at news that the former Tory candidate-cum-BBC DG Davie met with Conservative MPs in the wake of last week’s historic double byeelction disaster. On current polling and performance the party faces being wiped-out in the next general election.
Unless of course, something changes.
It’s unlikely InAction Man’s transformation into Dr Death will prove the change required to revive Tory fortunes, no matter how deep the fakes get, or how much an AI rich Hi Risk Anus can manipulate, even if he has a tersorium as his sidekick and a full moon at Hallowe’en for cover.