Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Chinese Room

A British police officer was acquitted of dereliction of duty despite admitting he spent 20 minutes in his office having sex with a woman he met on an Internet dating site. "But he claimed that he was always poised and ready to respond to an emergency because he had his [communications] earpiece in."

British Transport Police Inspector Masood Khan, 41, was charged with misconduct in a public office after a 20-minute tryst in a police office with a woman he had met on an Internet dating site.

The officer, who signed up for the website using the name Michael K Plod, told jurors: "It was an absolutely wrong thing to do, morally and professionally, and I shouldn't have done that." ...

"If there was a call for me I would have answered it and dealt with it,' he said. It took the jury at Southwark Crown Court only ten minutes to clear him but Khan still faces a disciplinary hearing. The ultimate penalty is the sack.

But the incident does bring up the legitimate question of just when, in this communications age, a person is "present". For many people today the realistic definition of presence means the attendance of a communications device. In my own personal case being "at work" really means having my computer turned on and connected to the network. The location of computer itself and whether or not it may be moving seems to be of not interest to individuals who are concerned with whether they get a response from my workstation with whatever they want. One of my workstations is in fact designed to be completely mobile and works even while on the open road or walking through a field so one could argue its design implies an acceptance of the irrelevance of location. As long as my workstation can be found on the network and responds with work, I'm at work.

Early researchers in the field of artificial intelligence a constructed a scenario called the "Chinese Room" in which a human Chinese speaker passed little slips of paper into a locked room and carried on a conversation in Chinese with whatever was within. If there was no way to discover from the outside whether or not the mysterious interlocutor was a real Chinese, a computer program or someone who, though totally lacking any knowledge of the language, but using a sophisticated set of rules and dictionaries, carried on the exchange, there was no way to validly decide which of the three was inside. One was as good as the other.

As universal connectivity becomes a reality that odds that we will be attending our communications devices, in some form, will be very high. DirecTV's deal with Internet broadband provider Current to offer broadband over power lines in the Dallas/Fort Worth area means it will soon be possible to connect at 3 Mbps simply by plugging into an electric socket. Gizmodo Australia comments and provides a diagram of how the concept works. It's one more step toward making everyone connected, all time. How long, I wonder, when the next challenge becomes not how to get connected but to switch off.


Blogger NahnCee said...

How did they catch him?

Any chance we could set up a bunch of sting operations with cooperative females to seduce *all* Muslims working within the British government, military and BBC, and bust them all?

Is there a Mrs. Khan/Plod and how does *she* feel about his escapade?

8/15/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Its still tough to do two things at once really well. Sex for example, does require attention to detail. So if the man was really jazzing the woman--then likely he wasn't paying much attention to the earphone.

But likely pertinent question as to his guilt or innocence was not pitched to the woman. "Dear did Mr Khan/Plod really jazz you?"

(If so then the man was guilty of dereliction of duty.)

Listening on the phone is much the same way. Laws have been passed to prevent people from using the cell phones while driving because so many accidents have happened to people with one hand on the driving wheel and one hand on a cell phone. Even hands free phones let the mind wander far from the road just ahead.

So you might know what's going to happen 20 years from now but the next several seconds are a mystery.

In fact, that's what everyone used to say when I lived in New York City. Everyone knew what would happen in 20 years. It was tomorrow or next week that were such mysteries.

I have long since left New York City. Now I don't even like to talk to someone in the car while I'm driving. I can talk or I can drive but if I try to do both--soon enough ...I'm missing turns.

8/15/2007 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ivan Douglas said...

Every unit in war MUST have a command. In Europe there is effort to have command - at that of wrong side - EU.
Forces trying to save West can find such command in Rome.
Question is "why Rome is numb and deaf."

8/15/2007 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

How about using a cell phone while on the job having sex?

8/15/2007 11:30:00 PM  
Blogger Panday said...

Would he have been found guilty if his name was John Smith?

8/16/2007 02:35:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Doug said...

How about using a cell phone while on the job having sex?
That's typically a firing offense unless the job is prostitution

8/16/2007 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Thank you again for sharing your insights...

But, broadband over power lines has produced a great deal of interference for HF communications in several locations. As an amateur radio operator, I realize that most folks might think that archaic form of communications can just fade away...but if you examine how amateur radio operators and their personal equipment provide communications when the infrastructure fails (storms, earthquakes, or just cell network overload), you might consider that these old forms have lasting value. Remember the utility of Morse code when Mars Attacked!

Let broadband go over the air (instead of wires) - it's much better that way.

Best wishes, David (K5KH)

8/16/2007 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger Jrod said...

Transport Dispatch: Officer Khan, there's a disturbance in the Picadilly platform. Are you coming?

Kahn: Coming? I'm not even breathing hard...

8/16/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

how many of ur readers will actually get the reference to John Searles Chinese Room?
none but me i bet.

do you think, O Educated Cat, the homosapiens is actually differentiating into two subspecies, the haves and the havenots in terms of IQ and education?

8/16/2007 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

Oh..I don't know wheeler's. Do you mean like that is the power of the computer (the mind), it just shuffles symbols. It just manipulates symbols. So I am [my mind is] a computer?

All us rednecks are not as dumb as you think we are. Certainly not as dumb as an "educated have" [idiot] like your self.

Papa Ray
West Texas

8/16/2007 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger js said...

Okay, the whole point of the Chinese Room analogy is to disprove the notion of "artificial intelligence" since there is no way to say that the Room or the operator "knows" Chinese.

As for the stupid-dispatcher thing, stuff like this happens all the time in the US, too. So Brits shouldn't feel bad. Same lame excuses, too.

8/16/2007 08:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is really condemned act by Khan, he should act in a professional way when he is on the duty. If he wants something do it in personal, he could do that by taking leave or in his leisure time, no one going to complain about that. But doing things like that, while on the duty is highly offensive & punishable....
Car Roadside Assistance Students

8/18/2007 07:36:00 AM  

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