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  • rmacculloch

To All Talented Up-and-Coming Young Kiwis: If you want social recognition, go live in the UK or US.

The "Kings Birthday Honours" that our Labour Government has awarded reads like something out of the 1950s, or maybe more like the 19th Century. Former politicians, civil servants, judiciary, rugby coaches. Even a journalist was given an award. Maybe in election year its good politics to honor the media. Bravo, jolly good show, chin up, I say.


Who has the UK honored? Kiwi Shane Legg who was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2019 when he was 45 years old, having co-founded Deep Mind, a company aimed at achieving Artificial General Intelligence. It is now on course to transform our world, including its economic foundations. One reason was to recognize his amazing achievements. Another, no doubt, was to keep Legg in the UK, which wants to be a global leader in the subject. He presently works in London as Chief Scientist for Deep Mind, which he sold to Google, along with fellow co-founders, Hassibis and Suleyman. I met him briefly 6 years ago in London, partly since a relative of mine had been a pioneer in Automated Reasoning, an early attempt at AI, based on logic, which Legg explained had largely been dumped in favor of computers learning in similar ways to humans, through observation and trial & error.


Where is Legg from in NZ? Rotorua, having attended Rotorua Lakes High School. Yes, the wonderboy from Geyserland is set to transform business, health-care, education & just about everything in between. Yet instead of looking outward, the Kiwi PM goes & delivers a parochial, inward-looking, small-minded honors list, reflective of his instincts. Meanwhile the UK PM met last week with Legg's co-founder to discuss existential threats coming from AI (machines taking over) and whether it should be regulated. How can Kiwis complain about our near zero productivity growth when folks like Legg, whose ideas are set to throw us into a new industrial revolution, don't figure in our honors? Just shows where the PM's priorities lie - somewhere between the Hutt & Wellington Central it seems (and I trust the All Blacks do well in the World Cup and Hipkins gives knighthoods to every one of them).


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