Mark Andrews: Robo-judge and a man with no name

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

Read today's column from Mark Andrews.

Meet your new parking adjudicator

STRAIGHT from Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks comes the latest idea of Justice Secretary David Gauke, who believes that ‘robot judges’ could be used do adjudicate on parking-fine disputes. Let’s be honest, it’s bad enough that there are so many human robots out there in the guise of traffic wardens, or whatever they call themselves these days. For all the PR spin about ‘keeping the traffic moving’, we all know that they are really just there to issue fines. When was the last time a warden let you off a ticket, offering some constructive and helpful advice instead? Now given that most people who challenging parking tickets will already be doing so because they feel aggrieved by their treatment at the hands of faceless bureaucracy, who is going to have any confidence in an appeal system where the decision are made by Mr Smash out the potato adverts? How will a robot empathise with somebody issued with a ticket because they were taken ill during a shopping trip? Can a machine make a decision based on common sense and discretion? Anyone who has had to deal with those infuriating voice-activated banking lines will know that artificial intelligence really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Mr Gauke should be careful what he wishes for. Because if machines can take the place of judges, then surely they can take the place of politicians as well. And that might well be progress.

ONE of the neighbours who reported Boris Johnson to the police for his row with his girlfriend turns out not only to be a political activist but also an ‘experimental playwright’ and ‘former palm reader’. Aren’t we all? Just a thought, but if she can read people’s fortunes, surely she would have known the police would find no cause for action.

NOT that I am saying modern art is pretentious, or that some of today’s university courses lack rigour, but I do question the Royal College of Art’s wisdom in awarding an MA to a student for simply changing his name. The student in question has been given his masters degree for changing his name by deed poll to ‘Mx Name Surname’. “I wanted to minimise my identity on paper to as minimal as possible,” he says, trying to justify his ‘art’. And I’m sure you will agree he has a way with words that puts Dickens and Chaucer to shame. Visitors to his graduation show, which opens on Friday, will get to chat with the man himself about ‘identity, gender and bureaucracy, or indeed anything else’. So I might nip down and ask him for his thoughts on Aston Villa’s transfer policy, or whether hot mustard flavouring enhances the traditional pork scratching. Well he did say he was happy to chat about anything. Mx Surname says he did consider exhibiting ‘relevant material’ as part of the show, including the ‘bank card on a piece of paper that the bank sent it to me on’, which I am sure would have been more than a match for anything that Van Gogh, Turner or Rembrandt have ever produced, but in the end decided that would be a bit too extravagant. Yet despite his attempt to ‘minimise his identity’ by adopting a ‘gender neutral’ courtesy title, he does appear to have made one oversight in that area. Namely his big bushy beard. Really, though, I’m not quite sure who is the most gullible here. The university for give him a degree for no real work. Or the man himself for paying the tuition fees.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.


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