My latest: the betrayal of the Chong family


It’s a bigger scandal.

The harm facing Michael Chong’s family, that is. And it’s arguably bigger than the Aga Khan, SNC-Lavalin and the WE “charity” scandals.

Each of those previous Trudeau government scandals was, ultimately, about money and graft. At the sordid, seamy centre of each of those was something that could be quantified with dollar signs.

Aga Khan was about a lobbyist supplying the Prime Minister of Canada with lavish gifts, contrary to every ethics rule extant. SNC-Lavalin was about Trudeau and his circle obstructing justice, and pressuring prosecutors to go easy on a Liberal Party donor facing corruption charges.

And the WE scandal, of course, was about money – hundreds of thousands of dollars – landing in the pockets of Trudeau family members, and a lucrative contract then going to WE.

So why is the Michael Chong story more of a scandal?

Forget, for a moment, that Chong is an MP, and an effective Opposition Member. At the end of the day, he is a Canadian citizen, one who – like all of us – deserves to be protected by his country’s government.

So, too, his family. It’s important to know that some of Chong’s family, on his father’s side, still live in Hong Kong. And, now, we know that the Chongs have been targeted for harassment, intimidation, and threats by the Chinese regime – which is corrupt, brutal, and regularly abuses human rights.

It is because they abuse human rights – Muslims, specifically – that Michael Chong condemned China in the House of Commons. China’s dictatorship thereafter barred the long-serving MP and former cabinet minister from travelling to China.

So what, one might say. Being reproached by China is truly a badge of honor, these days. But China went a step further, and put together a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and threats against the Chong family.

And here is where the real scandal is revealed. Justin Trudeau and some within his government knew all that. They were briefed about what China planned for the Chongs.

And Trudeau said, and did, nothing. He didn’t warn the Chongs, or try and get them out of Hong Kong.

Since the story broke in the pages of Globe and Mail, TruAnon winged monkeys have been swarming social media, actually claiming that Michael Chong wasn’t really, truly threatened because he didn’t know about the threats until he read them in a newspaper.

That is deeply dishonest, and it is idiotic. And it ignores the obvious and real scandal: that the Prime Minister of Canada knew what the Chongs were facing, and did nothing.

What if one of them had been beaten? What if one of them had been killed? What if something has, in fact, happened, and don’t even know about it yet? That is why it feels worse than any previous scandal.

Trudeau knows it is one, too. That is why he scrambled to meet with Chong on Tuesday, bringing along his ineffectual national security advisor and Canadian Security Intelligence Service director. But that meeting took place long, long after the fact. Too late.

So, we have to ask, why? Why would Trudeau not warn Michael Chong about what he knew? Was it because Chong is a Conservative who criticizes him? Perhaps.

More likely it is this: the Trudeau Foundation illicitly received thousands from a Chinese front company, to influence his decision-making. His brother, Sacha, was apparently personally involved in that “gift,” and is finally testifying on his role in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

So, at the end, this scandal – which is worse than all the others, because it is about human lives being placed at risk – also involves graft and money.

When investigating a scandal, follow the money, they always say.

And, every single time, it leads you back to the Trudeau family, doesn’t it?

My latest: SkyNet is active

Artificial intelligence is a benign kind of description, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound demonic at all.

So too its acronym, AI. We hear and see “AI” all the time, these days. It’s so ubiquitous, so commonplace, it just makes people shrug, now.

For an entire generation, all of us have been carrying around little machines — iPhones, whatever — that operate on the same principle as AI. In basic terms, they benignly collect information from us when we interact with them.

Except AI takes that a step further, a big step. Artificial Intelligence takes the information it collects on us to actually mimic us. To learn, to plan, to reason, to problem-solve. To, as the Oxford Dictionary people put it, “develop computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require humans.”

If that sounds to you like “machines replacing humans,” you’re right. It is. AI is about replacing humans — computer people (coders, programmers, software engineers, data analysts), media people (in advertising, content creation, technical writing, journalism), legal people (paralegals, legal assistants to start, lawyers later), people who create (artists, writers, musicians). And, of course, people who teach, people in finance and accounting, people who deal with the public.

People: if you are on the above list, AI can do what you do, but better and faster and cheaper. And, the now-anxious AI experts say, it’s not a case of you losing your job or vocation to AI, maybe.

You will.

Not surprisingly, the usual arguments in favour of this radical change are being trotted out to justify the expansion and use of AI. Efficiency, prosperity, competitiveness, productivity — and, of course, those hoary old chestnuts, “eliminating duplication” and “freeing up your time to let you do what you love.”

Except, what if what we love is what we already do?

Well, get ready. It won’t be SkyNet, as in the Terminator movie series, which foretold a world being enslaved by AI-enabled death machines. No, it’ll arguably be qualitatively worse, because it’s arriving on tiny feet.

Is it too late? Well, AI is already metastasizing at a speed that cannot (ironically) be put into words. So say the people who used to advocate for it.

Dr. Geoffrey Hinton is one. Hinton, along with two graduate students, has been working on developing Artificial Intelligence for more than two decades. At the University of Toronto, the trio essentially created what the New York Times called “the intellectual foundation for AI systems.”

Except now Dr. Hinton — who quit his job at Google so he could speak out — is saying: stop.

AI is already being used for misinformation, and soon it will be a real risk to humans with jobs. Eventually, the New York Times’ report soberly notes, “it could be a risk to humanity.”

Said Dr. Hinton to the Times: “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.” For starters, he says, AI will be used to flood the Internet with faked photos, videos and information: “(We will) not be able to know what is true anymore.”

And, inevitably, people will get replaced. Sure, at the outset, menial tasks — the drudge work — will be taken over by AI. But eventually, Hinton says, “it might take away more than that.”

Can anything stop it, or even slow it down? Not at the moment. Right now, Google and Microsoft, who are more wealthy and more powerful than most nations, are in a type of arms race to perfect AI first. Scientists (Elon Musk among them, interestingly) have signed open letters warning of the risks. But few are listening.

We need to. AI isn’t just coming, it’s here. And we need to get ready.

As Musk, no less, says: “With artificial intelligence, we’re summoning the demon.”

A truth