Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fake News

Yesterday, an anti-fake news bill was tabled in the Malaysian Parliament.

Fake news are now defined as "inaccurate news" which are "any kind of news, information, data and reports published which, in part or whole and in whatever form including write-ups and visual or audio recordings are false.

This presents a very interesting philosophical issue for us to try to resolve - what is truth?

Wise men throughout the last few thousands of years had tried to find out what is the truth and no one has the one and right answer.

Fake news as inaccurate news is a double-edged sword for the legislator.

The government has never been known to be accurate in the information that it presents to the general public, ostensibly to maintain "public calm" in times of unsettling emotions. More realistically, the government is also composed of ordinary people who have the difficult jobs of having to have a complete picture of the national situation as well as having to forecast the future when managing national economic and financial affairs.

Will the government be charged with fake news if its economic forecast for next year turned out not to be precisely on the dot?

The whole exercise of establishing the truth has drawn upon much of the best resources of any nation. This is where the modern institutional triangulation of the legislative, executive and judicial is laid out in order to ensure that what we have is not further from the truth even if it is not the truth.

Truth as conceived by the anti-fake news act is a point of truth and not a range or an idea of truth.

It is very difficult to have a point hit on anything. This is why when surgeons operate on the tumour in the brain, you either leave some of the tumour in in order not to cut away some part of the brain (Type I error in statistics) or you cut away some bit of the good brain in order to not leave any bit of the tumour around (Type II error).

The implementation of the anti-fake news act, if it is passed in parliament, is likely to commit the sins of Type II error, whereby those who are innocent are also charged in the hope that the fear will scare people from writing anything at all, be it accurate or not. This Type II error has been seen in the implementation of the GST when GST amount are imputed for retailers when there is no information to prove things one way or the other.

It is not inaccuracy that the act will the fighting - it will be ignorance that will be punished and at the same time fostered.

Now, for the poor bloggers who are writing opinions of which much of them are sentiment rather than facts. They could be charged for having aroused the wrong sentiment, or should we now say inaccurate sentiment.

In a world where ignorance casts its cloud upon the whole humanity, the chase for accuracy is as good as the reference of the judge of the accuracy.

As an afterthought, accuracy can be accuracy of the truth and of the falsehood. Accuracy does not necessarily equate with truth. A perfect fake painting is an accurate reproduction of the real painting; the only issue is the claim to authenticity.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Brexit - Revisit

What is happening with Brexit?

Brexit started from the simple idea that there was a need for Britain to control immigration because of the heavy influx and the pressure it was putting on social services. When Britain appealed to the EU to allow it to do so, the EU rejected the idea of a controlled border.

The decision was then to put to the general public through a referendum as it whether Britain should leave the EU (if it so desperately wants to control immigration) or stay. The resumption was that most people would choose to stay and therefore decide once and for all that Britain then would have to accept the uncontrolled immigration with all its costs and the implications on subsequent fiscal decisions such as taxes.

The referendum decided on Brexit which the EU subsequently vehemently opposed by imposing all kinds of restrictions and costs on on the idea that you cannot leave this place alive. Britain must die if it wants to leave the EU.

The EU consists of a bunch of bureaucrats who are not at all directly related to the various constituents of the EU except the home country from which they come from. But the political forces of the EU come from Germany and France, apart from Britain. It looks a bit like a another war where Britain is now defending itself against Germany and France.

The money costs may be a burden for the immediate future but not in the long run. The restrictions especially on trade may have some legitimacy if the common market is the focal point. The common market is important only if its very existence is the underlying force for the economic survival of the EU. In the sense that by the free movement of goods within the EU, EU can develop happily without the rest of the world. It seems strange that while there is a loophole whereby the movement of people from outside the EU can be free once they have gained a foothold in some obscure part of the EU, this cannot be applied to goods. There is a prejudice for the free movement of people from all over the world, but not of goods. It does seem therefore that the EU is really a political entity which is using trade sanctions to punish those who disobey the EU political masters.

Britain's decision to leave the EU is a political decision. It is a war and war has its consequences. Britain has been involved in two major wars in Europe and it has recovered since. So this is not the first time that Britain is facing a situation such as this.

Businesses of course are worried because they are the target of the EU response to Brexit. This applies especially to those who are in the EU because of the EU common market advantage. After Brexit, a new profile of the British economy will emerge which will be shaped according to the new reality of being outside the EU.

But the EU is not the world. The EU bureaucrats have not taken into their calculations that Brexit will only be detrimental to Britain and not the EU. If that is the case, they should let Britain go and concentrate on the joyful development of the EU in future. But the EU will also suffer without Britain because Britain is a major economy in Europe. Within the EU, Britain acts as the financial centre and some manufacturing for Europe while neglecting its agriculture. Outside the EU, Britain may lose some of its financial services; but not all but it will also be able to recover some of its traditional industries.

The future growth engines of the world will be China and Russia. There is much of European and British that the Chinese would wish to consume. Even if India were to become a substantial economic power outside itself, it will also be a major consumer of European goods and services including British. Economic growth of European countries depend on their relationships with countries outside Europe. Europe is a major tourist destination which can be sold by entertaining the tourists.

The EU is merely flexing its political muscles in the negotiation. Whatever the final outcome, it is good for Britain to be out of the EU and be as free as before to be its captivating self.