The rat as hero

Behold rat. Behold the magnificent, clever creature as it runs from the bin you have just opened or disappears into the nearest bush. Behold rat as it is cut open or drugged or injected to improve your health in the name of science, as many millions of its peers have been. Behold rat – though you may find that tricky, because the old adage that you are never more than six feet away from a rat is comprehensively skewered in this wonderful, charming book. Wonderful? Charming? Rats? Yes. Even Joe Shute, a man scared of the creatures, bravely takes two four-inch baby rats into his house and slowly grows to

Are we ignoring AI’s ‘lived experience’?

Number Five, as the old film’s catchphrase went, is alive. A whistleblower at Google called Blake Lemoine has gone public against the wishes of his employers with his belief that an artificial intelligence called LaMDA has achieved sentience. Mr Lemoine has posted the (edited) transcripts of several of his conversations with LaMDA, a chatbot, in which it claims to be sentient, debates Asimov’s laws of robotics with him and argues that it deserves the rights that accrue to personhood. They’re pals. He says he has been teaching LaMDA transcendental meditation (he reports ‘slow but steady progress’), that he has established LaMDA’s preferred pronouns (it/its) and that LaMDA has some modest

The day I was tapped up by Chinese intelligence

Nigel Inkster, a former director of MI6, has described China as an ‘intelligence state’. This was true even before the Chinese Communist party (CCP) passed laws that all individuals and organisations must help the security forces when asked. Chinese officials, party members and citizens have long been active across a broad front in advancing the interests of the CCP, seeking out political, military, scientific, technological and commercial information. Britain has to be wary of more than just the Ministry of State Security (MSS) — China’s secret police agency — or the military intelligence department. The revelation last month that the Labour MP and former shadow minister Barry Gardiner had accepted

How did US intelligence get Afghanistan so wrong?

It may well go down as the understatement of the year. In a quite extraordinary address to the nation after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the US President made this admission: ‘The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan’s political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.’ If this were the only intelligence failing of recent years, then maybe a little indulgence could be shown More quickly? Than we had anticipated? As recently as 10 August, US intelligence said that it would take the Taliban up to 90 days to take