Voices in the Mist

Lately, I have found myself trudging through a veiled like fog of theories, explanations, opinions, whole truths, biases, misdirection and interpretations of information and Artificial Intelligence (AI).  These can be swung much like an antique grandfather clocks rhythmic sway of the pendulum, in either direction to ensure it meets with any viewpoints or arguments that are posited. Sifting through the plethora of journal articles, carefully following my erudite lecturers’ instructions to scrutinise how many times it has been cited and deciphering what the credibility or angle is, I find that I have become even more critical of what I read and accept as perceived truth. For what is the academic truth but an opinion in a sea of opinions.

Within the blanket of dense mists of half-truths and unknowns, how do I really know if the information I am using is the best?  In all honesty, I can’t, for even if it is well cited and in a reputable journal I don’t know if it’s been cited for a positive reason or not, is there academic nepotism at play and will any biases negatively affect my study if I quote this? Finding some clarity in the murky gloom that surrounds the misinformation and disinformation we have to wrestle with is paramount to assignment survival.

Sitting here in the early hours, robbed of sleep as we have a soon to be evicted mouse in our roof,  I came across a journal article by Alison Scammell entitled ‘Visions of the Information Future’  it discusses the future of information in ‘i in the Sky: Visions of the Information Future’ many of which are examined within LIS and our DITA module.  Inside this 1999 millennium book, over 40 authors very bravely share their visions and predictions of the future one of which was:

The blurring of information boundaries in our lives will be accompanied by more widespread changes. The authors repeatedly emphasise the relatively minor role technology has to play in the future information age and instead the cultural, political and socioeconomic changes are stressed’ (Scammell.2000:67).

With the virtue of hindsight, this article has helped me to put into perspective some of what we are striving to grapple with in our current modules and assignments, as the future they discuss is our present.  This shows that no one can successfully predict the future it is all trend analysis at best or guesswork at worst. Confucius, a famous Chinese teacher, political moralist and philosopher said: “Study the past if you would define the future….” (551–479 BC). Sound advice indeed as so many different voices are calling to me through the academic mists at least here some truth exists.

The present 4th Revolution or second ‘machine age’ mirrors in part other industrial revolutions, although, Klaus Schwab in his book The Fourth Revolution in which he argues the challenges to what it means to be human would most likely disagree with me.  He proposes that ‘The resulting shifts and disruptions mean that we live in a time of great promise and great peril’ (2017).  Now this obvious statement covers all eventualities, for haven’t we always lived in an age of great peril or promise? History shows: Vikings, Romans the Crusades and many others all brought peril and promise for someone. Each age has brought about change, new tools, machines and movement of skills and jobs, which in turn changed our social history and trends show we as humans survive. AI is another such invasion.

Now, getting my head around Floridi’s philosophical meanderings on AIdom as he casts his condemnation upon Singularitarians and AItheists describing their views as ‘diatribes’ (2016:9) and ponders such preposterous musings as Turkzilla to AIzilla is a challenge.  His voice is one who influences me through the rolling mist that surrounds AI theories.  He proposes that we sort out the troubles of today and not to obsess about tomorrows possibles that may never happen. In other words, get a grip on your imaginations! Yet his theories are also conjecture, leading to academic fame and retelling via citations that make him more credible.

Today’s tools, machines and educational levels are more intricate and technologically dissimilar but currency and globalisation are the same the drivers.  So I would suggest that in essence although we now own more and are more educated people, as human beings we are still much like our ancestors. We still have a social conscience, belief systems, love and raise their children to survive. Some still make war on global neighbours for their own gain, exploit poor workers and the less educated and blame progress for all mankind’s flaws or woes. The vehicles of the 4th Revolution (technology, computers, the net and internet etc) are just like the locomotive or machinery of the 1800s and 1900s machines serve us and not the other way around. For now at least.

As LIS professionals we can only signpost, teach and inform, drawing upon concrete, credible and well-informed research for those who come to us seeking our expertise and advice.  Technology can be both our partner or shackle as we do our best to perform these tasks and it remains simply a tool, not a monster.

Answers loom in the mists and envelop me within an intricate dance of academic practice, self-discovery and a new way of thinking. At times those mists give up pockets of clarity as I find some truth and at others, I am shrouded in thick fog, but that is what true learning is about for me.

Finally, I must say a grudging thank you to the mouse that woke me in order to write this my last blog as part of the module and now as we are fast approaching Christmas Tide all that remains is to say:

‘Twas the night before Uni, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, apart from a mouse…

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night! 

Frohe Weihnachten everyone!



Economic Forum. (2017). The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab. [online] Available at: https://www.weforum.org/about/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-by-klaus-schwab [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].

Encyclopedia Britannica (2017)- Confucius- Chinese Philosopher. Britannica Online Encyclopedia [Online]https://www.britannica.com/biography/ConfuciusWorld [Accessed 6th Dec.2017].

Floridi, L. (2016). True AI is both logically possible and utterly implausible – Luciano Floridi | Aeon Essays. [online] Available at: https://aeon.co/essays/true-ai-is-both-logically-possible-and-utterly-implausible [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].

Moore, C.C. (1873)  A Visit from St. Nicholas [online] Available at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43171/a-visit-from-st-nicholas [Accessed 8th Dec. 2017].

Scammell, A. (2000) “Visions of the information future”, Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 52 Issue: 7, pp.264-269, https://doi.org/10.1108/EUM0000000007020 [Acessed online]

The image was taken from, adamburtonphotography.com

Poem: A Visit from St. Nicholas BY CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE


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