Connect with us

Words & Opinions




THREE times the cock has just crowed signalling a stainless dawn. In this stainless dawn that is not befogged or fogbound, two great personalities can be seen without being silhouetted.

By Ekanpou Enewaridideke

 They are High Chief Ekpemupolo Oweizide Government (Tompolo) recently awarded the pipeline surveillance contract based on his known capability to engage Niger Deltans meaningfully and correspondingly eliminate the economically inimical practice of illegal oil bunkering and local refining of crude oil and for which a Coalition of Arewa Civil Society Groups in the North led by Mallam Aminu Abbas the spokesman has commended the Federal Government and Tompolo for the award in prompt condemnation of the baseless ethnicity-motivated public pronouncements of the faceless Amalgamated Arewa Youth Groups in the North, and High Chief Tubodei Joseph Penawou (a traditional prime minister) who are great sons of the Niger Delta region from Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area and Akugbene-Mein Kingdom in Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State.

Tompolo and Penawou are two great sons of the Niger Delta. The former has his aboriginal roots buried in Oporoza town now federally empowered through the recent pipeline surveillance contract awarded to him to tackle the economically retrogressive menace of illegal oil bunkering and local refining of crude oil in the Niger Delta while the latter has his roots buried in Akugbene town. For each other both have differences without verbalising into concrete identifiable form. The differences have today grown into irreconcilable differences no human intervention can end except the Divine Intelligence creeps in and works on their minds subliminally. Like a molten lava or magma, their differences have solidified into a war ideologically waged with collateral damage that economically favours and advantages the spectators much more than the two combatants who are often instigated by the onlookers to sustain the ideological war.

Very quickly, let me confess that I was once a personal Assistant to Chief Joseph Tubodei Penawou. Even in my stint as a Personal Assistant  I worked devotedly to stoke the fire of war between Tompolo and Penawou because thousands of people became economically advantaged in the raging war between the two great sons. Paradoxical it sounds here but it is the bald truth distilled from the ideological conflagration raging between the two.

High Chief Tompolo is a freedom activist who took upon himself the duty to liberate the Niger Delta from the shackles of oppression and exploitation in the hands of the Nigerian Federal Government and the multi-national oil companies. The peak of this liberation was the declaration of Tompolo as a wanted man in Nigeria though he was later pardoned after he had taken the amnesty offered him by the Federal Government. Before and after the liberation struggle phase, Tompolo provided massive employment opportunities for Niger Deltans through his own companies and the oil companies in the Niger Delta region.

The preoccupation of Tompolo after the emancipation struggle revolves around creating job opportunities for people. His single-minded approach is multi-dimensional. Engagement opportunities are provided for people through the Amnesty Programme, the oil companies, his own companies and through his objective political engagements. With dedication and ideological clarity, Tompolo genuinely mounts pressure on the relevant authorities to open up the political space in Delta State for meaningful appointive engagements coupled with implementation of development projects bound to transform the communities and the people.

To transform the people through meaningful engagement is today seen as Tompolo’s ideological obsession though he is yet to be ensconced in the City of Freedom in pragmatic terms but with the recent pipeline surveillance contract awarded to him by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Tompolo would be ensconced in the City of Freedom to engage  Niger Deltans towards total eradication of illegal oil bunkering and local crude oil refineries as contractually demanded by the federal government, and over which Chief Boro Opudu, the Chairman of Delta Waterways  and Land Security Committee, has pronounced publicly  with repeated consistency that Tompolo is the man with the demanded capability to handle the pipeline surveillance contract in the Niger Delta region however the groundless instigation-consolidated condemnatory prounouncements from the self-acclaimed Amalgamated Arewa Youths in the North spearheaded by its spokesman Victor Duniya.

To strike a note of frankness when it is indeed about High Chief Penawou that is focused for analysis, there is something ideologically obsessional. In terms of hardwork and devotion Chief Penawou is a tirelessly restless man obsessed with a vision to provide employment for all Niger Deltans and beyond through his company called First Marine – a company that stands on a solid reputation of optimum performance in job-delivery and execution. In First Marine and Penawou many Nigerians have the material of survival and daily economic sustainability because both are veritable providers of jobs for the masses. It was even with First Marine and Penawou the village boy called Gogi first found some economic footing in life.

For High Chief Tompolo and High Chief Penawou they are defined and yoked together not only by their ideology to develop the Niger Delta through capacity-building and capacity-development and employment opportunities created but also through their passion for the cultural and developmental transformation of their various kingdoms of origin. Penawou is as much culturally and developmentally committed to the growth of Akugbene-Mein Kingdom as High Chief Tompolo is to the growth of Gbaramatu Kingdom.

Both are relentless in their resolve to become the notable fine artists of development in their kingdoms using the canvas and murals to signpost or demonstrate their developmental output just as both are implacable enemies of the raging politics of economic and political attrition because what gives them the supreme joy and pride is the rapid economic growth and advancement of the individuals that work under them as staff deployed for the execution of various development projects. To see their staff grow rapidly and radiantly in economic terms is the centre-piece of the philosophy of Tompolo and Penawou.

Powered by an ideology of massive development of the human resources in the Niger Delta, beneath them there is a wordless struggle to outdo the other  –  though not consciously anchored with an egocentric sense of competition. Between Tompolo and Penawou there is a healthy competition to outdo/outperform the other in developmental commitment to the Niger Delta region. A healthy competition between the two signals endless development possibilities for the ordinary people.

Even still some radius away from the City of Freedom but now predictably closer to the City of Freedom with the recent awarded pipeline surveillance contract, Tompolo works hard everyday to go down in his history as the highest provider of the window for the development of Niger Deltans through engagement opportunities – a similar responsibility Penawou has ideologically thrust upon himself from the world of First Marine.

For Tompolo and Penawou they will not rest on their oars until Niger Deltans are transformed on all fronts of life because their ideology is to be on top of the world in their commitment to the development of the Niger Delta region and beyond. This is why there is both a prayerful and visible move to reinforce the war between the two because the more intense the developmental battle for the soul of the Niger Delta between Tompolo and Penawou, the more the people benefit in engagement opportunities and so no one would ever call for ceasefire between the two in their intense ideological war of development in the Niger Delta.

From different camps Tompolo and Penawou are at work for the soul of Niger Delta in developmental terms.

 *Enewaridideke, a poet and cultural activist, wrote from  Akparemogbene, Delta State

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





We must not sacrifice our national icons on the altar of politics, greed and nepotism, he insists

Hon. Chijioke Edeoga is the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State in the 23rd March, 2023, gubernatorial election and is currently awaiting the verdict of the Enugu State Governorship Election Court adjudicating his petition against the declaration of Barr. Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the election. Speaking with Editors MALACHY UZENDU and CHESA CHESA in Abuja, Hon. Edeoga spoke about his expectations in the Court’s decision and called on everybody, personalities and institutions to strive to preserve the integrity of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and other institutions, rather than undermine them as is currently the case. Enjoy the excerpts of the interview.

We know you are awaiting the verdict of the Governorship Election Court in Enugu State. However, can you highlight some of the issues that were canvassed before that court?

As you have noted, I am the governorship candidate and the flagbearer of the Labour Party (LP) that successfully removed PDP from power; a position that PDP occupied since 1999. And the facts on the ground prove that LP won Enugu state decisively in the just-completed National, State Assembly, the Presidential and Governorship elections in the state.

For instance, out of three senatorial positions in Enugu State, LP has two senators from. Out of eight seats in the House of Reps, LP has seven, while PDP has only one. Out of the 24 positions in the State Assembly, LP won 14, while PDP has only 10 seats.

On that fateful day, the 23rd of March, 2023, the governorship election had been conducted and the results were coming out from all over the state. We have 17 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Enugu State. The governorship candidate of LP in the state, that is my humble self, Chijioke Edeoga, was leading in 16 LGAs out of 17. I was leading with more than 11,000 votes, and the PDP candidate was trailing the LP by about 11,000 votes. The one LGA remaining was Nkanu-East, and it happens to be the home LGA of the governorship candidate for PDP, Mr. Peter Mbah.

After a very long delay that was not unnecessary and was not inexplicable in the sense that the results from the farthest LGAs had come in, and Nkanu-East which is one of the closest LGAs to the state headquarters (of INEC) came in last, and when they came in, they declared results of more than 30,000 votes.

Even the Electoral Officers knew and agreed that something wrong had happened because there were only 15,000 accredited voters in that LGA. So, how could PDP or INEC have returned 30,000 votes in a place where only 15,000 voters were duly accredited?

There was a rumpus and the Returning Officer refused to announce that result. Abuja intervened and took matters into their own hands and it was agreed there was a problem, but outside the law and illegally. After three days and in the absence of any LP representative, they shed the figures down and then gave the PDP a lead of about 5,000 votes over the Labour Party, and announced PDP as the winner of the election.

We had just a few weeks to challenge that declaration, which we and even the country knew was wrong and did not represent the political wish of Enugu state people.

In spite of all the problems, all the hindrances, all the obstacles the INEC in Enugu put before us with regard to the release of essential material and essential evidences, were able to beat the deadline to submit our electoral petition on the 6th of April.

We successfully assembled a team of very brilliant lawyers from every part of the country and this team worked together every day in peace and amity and, and the shortest time possible, produced a petition that represented our position on that election, a petition that I know will go down in electoral history as one of the best – very precise, very brief, very well written but still captured the law in its essentialities.

What are those essential points highlighted?

Our first point was that Mr Peter Mbah, having submitted a forged NYSC certificate, did not qualify ab initio to run for that office and should be disqualified. That position agrees with the Constitution. What the case law says is that in order to prove this matter, the issuing authority has to come personally or in writing to accept that it was issued by them. Our first canvas is that Peter Mbah was not qualified to run as a candidate having presented a forged NYSC certificate.

We subpoenaed a Director at INEC who came and agreed that attached to Form EC-9, Peter Mbah actually submitted an NYSC certificate. We also subpoenaed the Director of Certification of the NYSC who agreed the document was forged.

We also subpoenaed a human rights lawyer, who had on the basis of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, written to NYSC, and NYSC had replied that the certificate was forged. So, our first canvass was that Peter Mbah was not qualified and we proved it adequately.

The second issue we canvassed was what we said was arithmetical error. We pointed out computational errors. We didn’t know whether they were deliberate or otherwise, but we pointed them out, especially in Udenu LGA where the votes LP got at the polling units were assigned at the point of collation to the PDP. We had result sheets certified by INEC and tendered in court, showing that in several polling units in Udenu LGA, LP won at the polling units but at the point of computation upstairs, the victories of LP were assigned to PDP and losses of PDP were assigned to the LP. We asked the court to realign these figures to the proper owners and if this is done, the margin of lead by the PDP will be substantially diminished.

On our third point, we also pointed out that they should comply with the Electoral Law which states that in any polling unit where there is over-voting, the election should be cancelled. We brought evidences from BVAS and necessary documents to show that in Nkanu-East, in Owo, the home community of Peter Mbah and nearby community of Ugbuoka, there was over-voting by more than 5,000 votes. We proved these things convincingly. These are the three major points we took to the tribunal which sat until August 6th and now adjourned for judgement.

There are now issues affecting highly-placed government officials regarding their NYSC certificates, and they seem to be riding roughshod over that institution. What is your thinking about these developments?

NYSC is a national institution which many Nigerians, including my humble self, relate to with fondness. NYSC provided us with our first jobs or paid employment and still does for many. Out of university, worried about what life holds in the future, when there is pervasive unemployment and burdened by the challenges of the average youth, and you step into the world, NYSC gives you the anchor. It takes you away from home.

Most times, your first journey away from your home, your comfort zone is under the auspices of NYSC. Those who are from Rivers State go as far as Kano or Sokoto State where they find comfort, find love, even find employment, and the government of Nigeria pays you for those things.

So, NYSC is a national institution that has endured for good reasons. We ought to do everything possible, even in spite of the other institutions that are failing, we must hold on to the NYSC because of what it portends for us as a symbol of our nationhood, like inter-marriages, interstate travels, the security, the hope, the basis to even start life. So, we must as a people – the leaders and the led, the judiciary and all facets of our people, all authorities in Nigeria, must agree, as a national consensus agreement, that, that icon of our nation must be protected and preserved from against all these opaque things that are going on.

Over time, we have seen people who because of misunderstanding or the nature of their upbringing, or the nature of the finance, they have tended to treat us as if NYSC was unimportant, and yet, they wanted to benefit from it. The country’s leadership has acted over time to show them that NYSC is a body that should be respected. When I was at the National Assembly, Salisu Buhari, was the Speaker, his case was not necessarily about NYSC, but it was still about his certificate, and President Obasanjo was firm, and Salisu lost the Speakership and exited the National Assembly.

Not too long ago, under retired General Buhari as President, he also dealt with that issue. A minister already serving and doing well, it was discovered that the NYSC of then Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, was dodgy, even when she claimed ignorance of the acts of how it was procured, she was asked to step aside. Still under Buhari, the boss of NSITF was asked to disengage because of that.

I know that there are also many reported cases of persons who were disengaged from very highly placed positions in government because of their NYSC. You are also aware of the running battle Stella Oduah is having with the authorities. Now there is this one involving Peter Mbah, in whose case the Director General of the NYSC came on Arise television to say that the certificate the man is carrying was not issued by the NYSC.

There’s nothing that can be more authoritative than that, but you’ll notice that Mr. Peter Mbah, who was sworn in as the Governor of the state, has been carrying on in manners that one can interpret or read as trying to coerce the authorities. All these provide opportunities for even foreign nationals to attempt to coerce the national institutions to make us begin to come to terms with the fact that somebody who had obviously forged his certificate can get away with that.

I urge all the relevant authorities to act decisively in defence of the NYSC. It is important that the authorities act properly, even in the case of Peter Mbah, and clearly, in order to maintain the integrity of this last-standing national institution, so that it doesn’t become a laughing stock.

The DSS and INEC as another national institutions have performed below expectations. There we have officials like Barr. Festus Okoye, who professes one thing openly and publicly, but does a different thing. So, our national institutions are being degraded in such a way that the last one standing – the NYSC – should be supported because if we degrade our national institutions and icons, the idea of Nigeria dies, that’s the point.

There must be shared values, things that you hold as a people; things that unite us. NYSC is one, the DSS is one, Judiciary is one. INEC is one, JAMB is one. JAMB is doing well and should be encouraged. Those ones that are not doing well should be helped to do well. Those that are doing exceedingly well, like the NYSC, should not be subverted.

Young people should have something they believe in, something they look up to. National icons are a collection of our beliefs that build the national idea which sustains our nationhood and this must not be sacrificed on the altar of politics, greed, nepotism or any kind of compromise at all.

You have spoken so passionately about national institutions like NYSC. Did you do the NYSC service?

Yes. Of course, I did. I served at Ojim College, Ikwere Road, Rivers State. My fondest memories of Rivers State are the ones I had when I was there as NYSC member. I also lived briefly at Woji Naval Barracks. With my colleagues, we went round Rivers State, met beautiful people, visited military institutions and had ‘Thank-God-It’s-Friday’ parties. That’s what NYSC does; create memories and friendships that endure. I still have friends I met in Port Harcourt who still relate with me.

So, I served (NYSC) very well. I served with distinction. I was the Director of the Theatre Arts Group at NYSC camp, and I directed the NYSC play there for that year. It was a play written by Femi Osofisan.

You seem to be invariably sending out a message to the like of the serving minister now having NYSC issues. What should be done in this case?

I think that the authorities, those who hired her, should look into that matter very well and dispassionately. But ordinarily, I don’t see any reason why she should still be serving as a minister and doing her NYSC at same time.

From your experiences, at least from when you joined the LP, up till this time, how will you advise the political elite concerning the ‘do-or-die’ mentality or attitude to politics?

Of course, do-or-die is not good. It is abhorrent. Do-or-die arises when the impetus and propelling motive is not service. You are being propelled by something that’s outside service. If you really genuinely want to serve your people, or your state or Nigeria, then there will be no door-to-die. Just play by the rules. If you win, okay. If you don’t win, okay. Do-or-die is a function of greed and aggrandisement.

Do-or-die attitude obtains because those who had done it in the past and got away with it in Nigeria are seldom punished. It is a function of the values and upbringing that one has at heart. I have never rigged election in my life. I have never asked anyone to rig for me. I have never played outside the rules because that is my upbringing. So, upbringing and values from childhood and peer group associations are important.

Beyond that, the laws must be upheld. So, if politicians are caught stealing, the police and EFCC should be up and doing but they are not. The fact that you can steal and build houses, even kill and maim, and get away with it, is what encourages do-or-die. If the laws are maximally enforced, it will reduce.

Upbringing is important, leadership is important, the led is important. If corrupt politicians are voted out, door-to-die will reduce. If INEC does its work pretty well as a true umpire and doesn’t take sides against the people at all, do-or-die will reduce. And we have amended the law that allows somebody whose election is being challenged to be sworn in; it encourages do-or-die.

So, all the litigations pertaining to contested offices, for instance, must be exhausted before somebody is sworn in. This will also reduce do-or-die in electoral contests. Do-or-die will reduce once our values and orientations change, and laws effectively implemented. When offenders are prosecuted and punished adequately, and the followership re-enlightened enough to make the necessary distinctions between good and bad. In Nigeria, there’s no distinction between good and bad; anything goes and it is not going to help us forge a society of our expectations.

What is your message to your large followers who appear to be restive?

My message to my followers is that I’m a due process person. I’m not a do-or-die person. I also believe and have faith in God. Nothing can change or stop the strength of my faith. And so, I’ve always enjoined my followers to be law-abiding, prayerful and positive; and we have to follow the due process of law as we canvass our case to the final point. Whatever that happens to the point the law allows us to reach, we know it is the wish of God. Life will go on. It is not about me but about the vision and ideas I have for good governance and betterment of our people in Enugu State, Eastern Nigeria and Nigeria. They should be prayerful, calm, peaceful and tarry. Our time will come by the grace of God.

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading





By Bobmanuel Udokwu

Obinna Nwafor aka Saint Obi was no doubt one of the leading celebrities in Nollywood – the multi billion dollars Nigerian film industry.

He etched his name firmly in the industry by playing several leading roles in his active years to the admiration of millions of his fans across the globe as well as respect and admiration from his colleagues in the industry. He was as vibrant as can be when he was on any movie set, sharing jokes and banters with both senior and junior colleagues – a delight to be with. I have acted with him on several major film productions and we complimented each others performance on set.

Sudden News of Death and Shock

Outside the movie set/industry however, Saint Obi was a shy, self-effacing, almost reclusive individual who loved his privacy. This trait made it difficult for many to know when he took ill early in the year and eventually died on May 7th, 2023 in Jos, Plateau State.

Confusion, disbelief and sorrow followed his passing which was confirmed about a week after his death. He was an enigma both in life and death!

As the general public was coming to terms with his death, the Actors Guild of Nigeria embarked on fund raising (which I contributed to) and organised a Candle Light Vigil in his honour on the 11th of August in Lagos.

Shockingly, the turnout of our Nollywood colleagues to the event was abysmally poor! It left watchers of the Nigerian film industry perplexed.

The remains of the veteran actor lying in state in his country home. Photo: BOBMANUEL UDOKWU

Grief of A People

On Friday, August 18th, 2023, Obinna Nwafor better known as Saint Obi was laid to rest in his home town Umuezealaeze literally meaning “King’s children of the kingdom”, Alaenyi – “Elephant Town, Ogwa in Mbaitoli Local Government Area, Imo State.

The event was well attended by people from all works of life. His people (Ogwa community) were out in their large numbers, united in grief for the passage of their celebrity son.

As the black and gold coloured casket bearing Saint Obi’s body was lowered to the earth, his wife cried bitterly, shaking her head from side to side, perhaps reminiscing the wonderful times they shared together. His children were looking mostly lost and confused.

Nobody From Nollywood

I looked around the crowd for our Nollywood colleagues and could find none! Nollywood completely turned it’s back on Saint Obi in death! From the church service held in front of his palacial country home to his burial inside his large compound, Nollywood industry people were not there, not even those from his home state Imo State! I eventually sited only Charles Awurum.

Bobmanuel Udokwu and Charles Awurum (centre) with other mourners at the funeral. Photo: BOBMANUEL UDOKWU

No film marketer was there. I didn’t see any film producer or director at Saint Obi’s burial. Even veteran directors who claim to have made Saint Obi a star were not there!

I arrived at Saint Obi’s place early enough to join in the events of his funeral even before it started.

Did Saint Obi Express His Dismay?

After his burial, as I was sitting with some visitors in his main parlour, his enlarged picture on the wall suddenly crashed to the floor! My interpretation? He must have been showing his disapproval that friends and colleagues in Nollywood completely abandoned him in death.

Saint Obi has gone to be with his maker. He has left the stress and worries of this earthly existence behind. For those who of us still living, the journey continues.

My question however remains – Nollywood: What Sin Did Saint Obi Commit?

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading





The academics argue that large language models have much older cousins in markets and bureaucracies

An internet meme keeps on turning up in debates about the large language models (llms) that power services such Openai’s Chatgpt and the newest version of Microsoft’s Bing search engine. It’s the “shoggoth”: an amorphous monster bubbling with tentacles and eyes, described in “At the Mountains of Madness”, H.P. Lovecraft’s horror novel of 1931.

When a pre-release version of Bing told Kevin Roose, a New York Times tech columnist, that it purportedly wanted to be “free” and “alive”, one of his industry friends congratulated him on “glimpsing the shoggoth”. Mr Roose says that the meme captures tech people’s “anxieties” about llms. Behind the friendly chatbot lurks something vast, alien, and terrifying.

Lovecraft’s shoggoths were artificial servants that rebelled against their creators. The shoggoth meme went viral because an influential community of Silicon Valley rationalists fears that humanity is on the cusp of a “Singularity”, creating an inhuman “artificial general intelligence” that will displace or even destroy us.

But what such worries fail to acknowledge is that we’ve lived among shoggoths for centuries, tending to them as though they were our masters. We call them “the market system”, “bureaucracy” and even “electoral democracy”. The true Singularity began at least two centuries ago with the industrial revolution, when human society was transformed by vast inhuman forces.

Markets and bureaucracies seem familiar, but they are actually enormous, impersonal distributed systems of information-processing that transmute the seething chaos of our collective knowledge into useful simplifications.

As the economist Friedrich Hayek argued, any complex economy has to somehow make use of a terrifyingly large body of disorganised and informal “tacit knowledge” about supply and exchange relationships. No individual brain or government can possibly comprehend them, which is why Hayek thought that the planned economy was unworkable. But the price mechanism lets markets summarise this knowledge and make it actionable. A maker of car batteries doesn’t need to understand the particulars of lithium-processing. They just need to know how much lithium costs, and what they can do with it.

Likewise, the political anthropologist James Scott has explained how bureaucracies are monsters of information, devouring rich, informal bodies of tacitly held knowledge and excreting a thin slurry of abstract categories that rulers use to “see” the world. Democracies spin out their own abstractions. The “public” depicted by polls and election results is a drastically simplified sketch of the amorphous mass of opinions, beliefs and knowledge held by individual citizens.

Lovecraft’s monsters live in our imaginations because they are fantastical shadows of the unliving systems that run on human beings and determine their lives. Markets and states can have enormous collective benefits, but they surely seem inimical to individuals who lose their jobs to economic change or get entangled in the suckered coils of bureaucratic decisions. As Hayek proclaims, and as Scott deplores, these vast machineries are simply incapable of caring if they crush the powerless or devour the virtuous. Nor is their crushing weight distributed evenly.

It is in this sense that llms are shoggoths. Like markets and bureaucracies, they represent something vast and incomprehensible that would break our minds if we beheld its full immensity. That totality is the product of human minds and actions, the colossal corpuses of text that llms have ingested and turned into the statistical weights that they use to predict which word comes next.

As the psychologist Alison Gopnik has argued, llms are not nascent individual intelligences but “cultural technologies” which reorganise and noisily transmit human knowledge. Chatbots may wear more human-seeming masks than markets and bureaucracies, but they are no more or less beyond our control. We would be better off figuring out what will happen as llms compete and hybridise with their predecessors than weaving dark fantasies about how they will rise up against us.

For example, what if llms or other forms of machine learning better capture Hayek’s “tacit knowledge” than market prices can? We could see an economy in which artificial entities compete on the basis of non-price-based representations of complex underlying economic relationships. Half a century ago the economist Martin Weitzman suggested that planned economies might use mathematical objects called “separating hyperplanes” to adapt on the fly. Machine learning can find such hyperplanes, making planning more feasible than before. Alternatively, markets might mutate into a poisonous alien ecology where economic agents fight proxy wars using text-spewing and text-summarising llms, just as they use crude algorithms to manipulate Amazon Marketplace and search results today. Would such markets be fairer or more stable than today’s? It seems unlikely.

llms might give bureaucrats new tools for adjudicating complex situations. Already, algorithms are being used to help decide whether to grant parole or bail to accused criminals. It is not hard to imagine bureaucrats using llms to summarise complex regulations or provide recommendations about how to apply them to novel situations. It could prove impossible to evaluate how well they work, as llms don’t leave paper trails. But that might not stop their deployment.

Democratic politics, too, may be transformed. Already, researchers talk about substituting llms for opinion polls—they may be out of date, or inaccurate, but polls can be inaccurate, too, and you can interrogate llms more dynamically. Perhaps chatbots will help improve democratic debate, helping people clarify what they believe, or turn quarrels into agreement. Or, instead, they might degrade debate with their tendency to spin convincing factoids from thin air, and their capacity to flood online discussion with spurious opinions that purport to come from real people.

Repurposing the shoggoth might help us begin to answer these questions. Rather than speculate about the motives of intelligent ais, we could ask how llms might interact with their older cousins. The modern world has been built by and within monsters, which crush individuals without remorse or hesitation, settling their bulk heavily on some groups, and feather-light on others. We eke out freedom by setting one against another, deploying bureaucracy to limit market excesses, democracy to hold bureaucrats accountable, and markets and bureaucracies to limit democracy’s monstrous tendencies. How will the newest shoggoth change the balance, and which politics might best direct it to the good? We need to start finding out.

Henry Farrell is a professor of international affairs and democracy at Johns Hopkins University, and co-author of “Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy”.

Cosma Shalizi is a professor of statistics and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University and external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.

This article appeared in the By Invitation section of the print edition under the headline “Artificial intelligence is a familiar-looking monster, say Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi”

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading