THE TELEGRAPH | 11 October 2022


Ai-Da’s appearance in the House of Lords is commented upon by Tim Stanley in an article for The Telegraph.


The sight of Ai-Da giving vague answers to a Lords committee makes one think, how did we get here and could MPs’ jobs be at risk?

Here’s something to tell the grandchildren: “I saw a robot give evidence to the House of Lords.”

Ai-Da, as she’s known, wears dungarees and resembles Johnny Five, from the film Short Circuit, with a mannequin’s head stuck on top. She stands eerily still (the lady has no feet) as her head clicks from side to side, taking photos of the House of Lords communications and digital committee room and, apparently, learning from what she sees. 

One day, said creator Aidan Meller, she will be capable of genuine inspiration. Asked when she is likely to begin this evolutionary leap, he replied: “Yesterday.”

Ai-Da is the future, and I say it’s a vote of confidence in the British economy that this modern marvel is happening here.

Not the reset we had in mind

“The next question,” announced the committee chairman, “is directed at Ai-Da, from Baroness Featherstone.”

The Baroness, all excited, said: “Hello, Ai-Da!”

The robot said nothing.

It seemed that Ai-Da had temporarily broken down, so Mr Meller asked if we could bear with him while he reset her. From where I was sitting, this seemed to involve switching the old girl on and off again, much like the photocopier that’s always giving us gyp at The Telegraph, as well as covering her eyes with a pair of sunglasses. 

Are you doing that to reset the cameras, asked the chairman? No, replied the inventor, as he fiddled with a wire. It’s because Aida makes some “interesting faces” when being reset.

The mind boggles. I shall have nightmares about an army of robots conquering the Earth with eyes like Marty Feldman.

Commons rebooted

While we waited for Ai-Da’s paper jam to clear, minds turned to the debate on economics in the Commons – the first time since the mini-Budget that Kwasi Kwarteng faced a jury of his peers. It’s a pity more of them didn’t turn up.

Most Tories appear satisfied by the removal of the 45p cut, though there is a new Muller Corner of backbench rebels to watch. 

Mel Stride said that he hopes the spending plans will be spelt out soon. George Freeman expressed the widely held fear that investment will be cut. 

Michael Gove captured our attention without saying anything. Occasionally he smiled, frowned or shook his head. Mostly, he toyed with his phone. As always, one can never tell what it all means. He might be planning a coup. He might be playing Candy Crush. 

Behind him, in a breathtaking red dress, sat Priti Patel, who gave the Chancellor the side-eye throughout. She stood for a question – we hoped about inflation or poverty. Instead, it was about the dualling of the A130 road.

How the mighty are fallen. One minute you’re policing the nation’s borders, the next you are minding the traffic.

An unclear future?

Back at the Lords committee, Ai-Da finally booted up and delivered a lecture on art that sounded suspiciously like something Mr Meller had said. Either this thing was a carnival trick – in which case, rest easy Homo sapiens – or it really will replace us – in which case, the most sensible thing to do would be to hack it to pieces with an axe.

Asked where the world is headed, Ai-Da replied: “There is no clear answer.” 

With answers that vague, the people whose jobs are most at risk are the politicians.

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