Carolyn Cooper | ChatSHT writing the script for MPs
ChatSHT is not artificial intelligence. It is genuine stupidity. The ChatSHT chatbot is definitely a duncebot. Unlike ChatGPT, ChatSHT does not have the capacity to sift through data and produce a sensible account of what it has researched. It gets easily confused and spits out a string of incoherent words. No self-respecting student would ask ChatSHT to do an assignment. The result would be pure nonsense, guaranteed to earn an ‘F’ grade.
It appears as if some of our MPs are not as discriminating as perceptive high school students. They seem to be depending on ChatSHT to write the answer to their big exam question: “What should Jamaican MPs do about their totally unconscionable and completely undeserved increase in salary?” Nigel Clarke’s answer seems to be a question: How dare anyone challenge me about the appropriateness of the salary increase?
Clarke seemed to confidently assume that his announcement of the pay raise would be greeted with general approval. Ernst & Young, consultants to the government, had advised that salaries were not in keeping with “the market”. Which market? Local or international? Clarke did concede that the new salaries for MPs would “attract attention and rightly so”. That proved to be a gross understatement. He, obviously, did not anticipate the widespread public outrage at the mammoth pay hike for MPs. He must have been briefed by ChatSHT.
Nigel Clarke was a Rhodes Scholar. He should not need to depend on a bot to think for him. He should be bright enough to realise that the justification of the increase he was proposing simply could not fly: higher pay, higher quality public sector workers. In a society that has long been suspicious of politicians, Clarke’s naivete is truly remarkable. It just goes to show that academic qualifications are no guarantee of good judgement. The late Eric ‘Macko’ McNish, one of Jamaica’s finest journalists, used to enjoy making the distinction between a Rhodes Scholar and a Road Scholar. The former depends almost exclusively on book learning. The latter has street smarts.
Leader of the opposition Mark Golding is an accomplished attorney and investment banker. He definitely should not be listening to a duncebot. But he seems to have taken advice from ChatSHT. His answer to the exam question was not his finest moment. Instead of comprehensively rejecting the pay raise, Golding reluctantly agreed to accept it and arbitrarily decided that he would donate 80% of his new salary to worthy causes. Such short-sightedness! Unprincipled charity is no blessing to either the giver or the receiver.
On behalf of the people of Jamaica, Golding should have been leading a carefully orchestrated national protest against the immoral pay hike. This was the perfect opportunity for him to prove his mettle to the naysayers who do not think he deserves to be the leader of the People’s National Party (PNP). He should have been relentlessly galvanising support for the PNP going into elections. Instead, by accepting the pay increase, he lost the moral high ground.
On the same day that Nigel Clarke dropped his bombshell in parliament, Lisa Hanna made her contribution to the sectoral debate. As I listened to her carefully argued remarks, it struck me that she would have been a much more forceful leader of the PNP than Golding. This is how Hanna described herself and her fellow Jamaicans:
“So, Madam Speaker, I am, I am Jamaican first. . . And I am Jamaican because, because I have an unabashed and facety courage. I am defiant in the face of overpowering opposition ... And I understand that I am not unique in this position. All of us have it within us. And we have it within us because we are Jamaicans. We have a mobilising spirit to action. We are assertive. And nobody can bludgeon our hopes or our aspirations into acquiescence.” ChatSHT is certainly not writing Lisa Hanna’s script.
Andrew Holness’ response to his exam question was most disturbing. At a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer, he made this alarming claim: “The truth is you get the political leadership that you pay.” Was this an admission that Jamaican politicians can be bought and sold? Like Nigel Clarke, Holness asserts that raising the salary of members of parliament will guarantee higher productivity.
But researchers at Columbia University, Princeton University and DONG Energy argue the very opposite. Kate Ancell wrote a report on their findings that was published in Chicago Booth Report in May 2014. The headline is arresting: “If You Want Better Politicians, Pay Them Less”. The research, conducted among members of the European Parliament, concluded that “a raise gave lower-quality MEPs a greater incentive to get into office and, once there, to stay put”. It is hungry-belly politicians who are motivated by monetary rewards.
Then, at the exam, Andrew Holness copied straight out of Mark Golding’s exercise book. Soon after Golding announced that he would not keep the pay increase, Holness made the same declaration. What a poppyshow! ChatGPT, not ChatSHT, made five recommendations in its answer to the exam question: Reject the increase; take legislative action to revoke the increase; make charitable donations; engage with the public; and propose a salary cap.
ChatGPT concludes its answer with excellent advice: “Remember, any action taken should abide by local laws and parliamentary rules. Also, it’s essential for MPs to listen to their constituents’ opinions and concerns as they consider these options.” MPs simply do not have the right to squander the nation’s limited resources. They better stop taking bad advice from ChatSHT. Election soon come!