Letters to the editor: December 12 to 18 2014

The road to HAL: A reader asks what sex a robot ought to be. (Supplied)

The road to HAL: A reader asks what sex a robot ought to be. (Supplied)

Zuma-Gupta ‘deals’  fit old colonial rhetoric

  If there were any truth to the historical (some would say hysterical) racist rumour that many colonised African countries started off with the chiefs selling land, minerals and people’s rights to foreigners for bright, shiny baubles, bangles and beads, then chief Jacob Zuma’s recent “deals” with the New Age colonists should come as no surprise. His deals with the Guptas, the Russians and the Chinese may help politically correct historians have another dig at the roots of those ancient racist rumours (The age of Mandarin is upon us).

Sadly, by the time the people woke up from the dreams of promise, the Trojan horses (apologies to the Greeks) were inside and law, order and culture – colonial style – had to be maintained. Until then, the chiefs would smile and dance and insist that the deals were for the benefit of the people.

By the way, if I were an imperial capitalist in search of a good future share deal, I’d invest my zeros and ones in Southern African cartography. Picture it: just as the French, English and Belgian colonists and the American slave traders colluded to divide and rule for the spoils of Africa and its many cultures centuries ago, we will have the GRG (Gupta Republic of Gauteng) and the CPCGH (Chinese People’s Cape of Good Hope), with its capital in Camps Bay and its Parliament in Beijing, and the rest of Azania will be divided into smaller nationalist tribal republics, collectively known as the AFPUSTTR (Azanian Federation of the People’s United Socialist Traditional and Tribal Republics) – and the capital, of course, will be Nkandla. – David Marks, secretary general of the newly formed PPPPPPaPoP (Previously Privileged Pale People’s Pensioners Political after Party of Pumula), Pumula, KwaZulu-Natal

Good government weighs on Zuma

As ever, Professor Ziyad Motala’s contribution to the constitutional debate is to give the presidency’s arse a thorough licking ( Out of tune with the world’s democracies). He attacks Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke for saying that the president’s powers of appointment are too broad and should be limited. Motala assumes that Moseneke says this because he’s politically unhappy with the specific choices the president has made.

Motala envisages an “energetic executive that scrupulously operates under principles of legality”. But what if we don’t have one? What if the executive does things that are not only illegal but unconstitutional? Yes, as Motala says, we should then vote that party out of power. But, if we don’t manage to, does that mean we endorse everything it does? Motala is basically pushing the Jacob Zuma line, which can be summed up thus: “We won the elections, so we can do whatever we want.” That is not constitutional government.

Moreover, Zuma’s appointments to key positions, especially in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), have indeed been very bad, not just politically but also jurisprudentially. He looks very much like Motala’s “toxic emperor” who puts “flunkies” in important jobs (and let’s not even mention the Cabinet). Menzi Simelane comes to mind, and that’s when Zuma was actually able to make an appointment after a long period of “acting” heads of the NPA.

SABC chairperson Ellen Tshabalala is another – but maybe Zuma doesn’t consider lying a dismissible offence?

  Shame, the poor presidency, having such “onerous obligations” placed on it by the judiciary. The need to uphold good governance and adhere to the Constitution is indeed very “onerous” for this executive. – Miles Seward, Cape Town

Is M&G’s science ed a machine?

Sarah Wild’s article on artificial intelligence (AI) raises some interesting issues ( Dawn of the planet of machines).

  First we may ask: Will artificial intelligence have an unconscious? In the classic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the HAL 9000 computer breaks down because his program can’t deal with the contradictory logic of human politics.

As a result he (with a male voice) becomes schizophrenic, as is explained to us by Dr Chandra (Bob Balbaran) in 2010, the film’s sequel.

Second, will AI be gendered?

I ask this because Wild applies the neuter pronoun “itself”, as opposed to “herself/himself”.

I wonder: Does she have issues with the linguistic marking of gender, or did she make an unconscious (Freudian) slip?

Or most intriguingly, is she not perhaps herself a machine?

  Imagine, we South Africans have cracked AI and the superior intelligence we have created is working for the Mail & Guardian.

It is almost too wonderful, too beautiful, and outrageously way too utopian to think about.

  Follow the white rabbit, Neo. – Damian

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