Monday, May 21, 2018

But now will ALL of us/you die? Seriously?

I was very glad to hear last month about a new group of people outside the US seriously focused on how to prevent the extinction of the human species. I could not make it to their first big meeting, but maybe someone out there might care. Here is my response to them this morning:

Thank you for your patience....!

This global survival issue keeps looking more problematic every time I look at it. A week ago, I did not exactly give up, but  decided to make time to rethink. I am glad to make contact with someone else who actually cares whether we all live or die as a species, because rethinking can easily degenerate without some discussion. 

One of the things that I wanted to do was talk about getting a group of experts (not necessary all those participating in the forum) to write a paper on measures that can simultaneously reduce 5 global-scale risks to human-wellbeing:

It is worthwhile to discuss collaboration in how to address these things and more. I am feeling a bit unmoved today in putting formal words to paper. 
The limits to my communication skills are part of how I explain the incredible failures and gaps which persist in all these areas and more. 
global warming

Climate change would also be on my list of top three to five :"final executioners." But not global warming as such. 
In 2009, I had access to the best climate information available to the top levels of the US government, where I happened to be for a year. 
The IPCC report projected that a business as usual scenario would lead to only 5% loss of GNP over a century, real money but not as serious as the other threats. Ocean acidification turned out to be even less of an issue. Sea level rise a bit more. But the REAL issue in my view is not warming as such, but the impact of losing the ocean currents which bring oxygen to the oceans. When I talk about "euxinia," most people assume it couldn't be important, because no one has told them about it yet, but the best available evidence indicates we are on course to H2S coming out of the oceans enough to cause death of all humans on earth (and all other mammals larger than a mouse, possibly the mouse too). Given the politics in play today, and the difficulty of the problem, it is hard for me to visualize a possible path to survival. 

I attach the twelve slides I delivered last month in Chile, which were very well received... but concluded with a brief mention of this problem. (Link to those slides is also posted at The two papers it cites, and, give more details. The latter is fully citeable as well as available on the internet. The latter also includes some web citations you might find interesting, such as the Senate hearing which was supposed to be THEIR best assessment of global threats. 

nuclear war

Misuse of nuclear technology is also on my list of 3 to 5 main topics. For three years, I was actually coordinator of the interagency research initiative looking for new ways to cope with nuclear terrorism and proliferation. A couple of years ago, I spoke at a NATO workshop on those challenges, and contributed a chapter to the (published, citeable) NATO book on that topic, which I reposted at

The core problems are actually cultural in nature. In principle, I can imagine a viable/sustainable end state but the obstacles to moving forward in today's environment really overwhelm me right now.  

Nuclear war is certainly not the ONLY possible final executioner in this region of state space. 
global disease pandemic

I have a neighbor who would add misuse of biotech in all its forms to the list of 3-5. Global disease, either natural or dleiberate or a mix, is a major part of that, but not one of my specialities. 
cyber-attack on electricity grids

Actually, I do not view this as one of the final executioners. If a cyberblitzkrieg or a massive EMP event shuts down half the generators or big transformers in the US, it might bring the country back to the Stone Age as a whole series of dominoes start to fall. (Sandia has at times studied such "system of systems" effects.) Few people appreciate how much the global food supply now depends on technology, not only for fertilizers but for seeds. 
(The heard of ARPAE used to recommend we all read "The Alchemy of Air.") But massive famine in US and other countries and nuclear war are easily entangled. 

Two of the papers I just cited (NATO and GridIOT) give a brief but specific discussion of the NEW cyberthreat, which hardly anyone seems to know about despite all the ignorant hoopla out there. Like climate change, I suppose, where many say it's important but few know what it is. I also attach a DRAFT IEEEUSA position paper on urgent action needed for cybersecurity, but until May 30 I have no idea whether it will be approved. Whenever I try to save people's butts, there are smug lobby groups who try to prevent anyone from rocking their leaky little boat. I often think back to life guard class, where the first lesson was "Be prepared for the person you are trying to save to thrash and try to drown you first." 

large-scale radiation exposure from a nuclear power accident

Formally, I would fit this under misuse of nuclear technology, but again I don 't see it as a direct executioner. ONE more Chernobyl probably wouldn't do it. But a whole series might well have political and ecological impacts enough to kill us all, all entangled into the nuclear item. 


(that is, I would leave at "famines" as I don't see it as an independent risk, but rather, as a consequence of one or more of the above).

I do not see famine as final executioner either, but more as a pathway to a final executioner like nuclear war. But then again, famine might be what kills off the last few humans. In the H2S scenario, the loss of all food animals MIGHT be a kind of final executioner, but I tend to expect that radiation would kill us all first. 


Besides those three, one or two other items would make it to my final list.

I often pick the (VERY serious) Terminator scenario as one of the two. Frankly, I have more formal academic credentials in that area than in the others -- basically forty years versus one to three. But perhaps "misuse of IT" is a better way to describe it; the Internet of things (IOT) is the focus, more than one or two thousand or million or billion little robots under its control. 

Misuse of brain-computer interface is also on the list.


Must run.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

One page obituary of my mother

Margaret Mary Donohue (Mom) died in her sleep two nights ago at the age of 93.  She had outlived two husbands, Walter Werbos and Gordon (Buddy) Smith, and asked more and more what the purpose was in her still living on after her three children were well-established and even the grandchildren all finished college (except the youngest).
            Mom started life in Bucks County, but became an orphan in the Great Depression. Her Aunt, Mary McFadden, leader of the Pennsylvania Economy League (and a key supporter of the anti-prohibition movement and the FDR campaign) took her and her sisters in, and funded her to go to a Catholic girl’s boarding school in the Poconos, where she won the mathematics prize and made life-long friends. She even boarded with one of them in the rural part of northern Virginia, as she commuted to the Treasury department in World War II, where she handled classified documents which were a great eye-opener to her at the time.
            She left Treasury to study nursing, to help wounded war veterans,  but caught TB herself from soldiers she was treating. In the hospital, she met her first husband, Walter Werbos, then a naval officer on ROTC, assigned to go to the Pacific. When the war ended as he was halfway across to Japan, he married her, and moved into the advertising/marketing business, gradually taking over and running the Harry P. Bridge Company of Philadelphia.
            Mom was a deeply devout Catholic, not the formal rules-based kind, but the kind who revered the sacred heart and brought her children up with a degree of intense, real, and palpable love which we wish more children could experience. She talked to her plants, and listened to their needs, creating huge green gardens inside the house.  She laughed at times at how strict Aunt Mary was, but she also talked a lot about Aunt Mary’s many accomplishments, and we were not surprised years later to learn that DNA analysis showed they shared a maternal haplotype straight from Scythia, the land of the original Amazon women. Soft and sociable but as intense as a laser in her way. Aunt Mary did genealogy work, confirmed by Walter, showing that Mom’s father’s was a direct descendant of Mortimer Donohue, who provided the first ships to the US Navy, for his in-law Commodore John Barry, and traced back to the “flight of the nobles” from Ireland. Why fight the British king in Ireland, when a whole new land was available?
     During her first marriage, Mom was a Democrat, wildly enthusiastic about John Kennedy and Teilhard de Chardin, unlike her husband, who became more completely absorbed in his business, his German heritage and support for Ronald Reagan. Circa 1971, she divorced and remarried to Gordon Smith, a very tough former Marine Sergeant who had actually fought in the “trench warfare” of the Pacific, of a more conservative upstate Pennsylvania family prominent in Freemasons and receivers of a land grant from William Penn, but Buddy mostly stayed away from such fancy stuff. Mom traveled with Buddy around the world at times, as Boeing called him in to fix helicopters, until they retired to the waterfront house they built in Avalon, New Jersey. There they led a pleasant sporty life, becoming a bit stricter themselves (but not teetotalers) as they hobnobbed with local political leaders and watched Fox News. But as she approached 90, Buddy died of disease due in part to malaria he caught in the Pacific reasserting itself, and she chose to sell the house and move in with her younger son, John, after comparing his house in New Jersey with the two others which were offered to her. She enjoyed living with him, with John’s three kids and their many dogs, until they also started moving on and her health became so bad she had to move into Brandywine/Haddonfield.  John’s son Rob was with her at the end, before that night, so that she experienced the full level of warmth, understanding support and intelligent professionalism which she deserved.


That's long for an obituary. I wish we had found a nice way to check and edit and insert just a few more details while she was alive. 

There are LOTS more details we remember, of course. Zillions of pictures of her 90th birthday party, when John and Suzie rented a huge boat in Avalon to accommodate so many family members we wished we could stay more in touch with somehow. She joked that this was like an Irish wake, except that she got to attend her own funeral.

We have pictures of the little house in Oreland, Pennsylvania (Montgomery County) where we lived from about 1948 (when I turned one) until 1955 or 1956 (when I turned eight, when Suzie was two years old, and John was born, and we moved to Haws Lane in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, Chestnut Hill ZIp code). I actually have some memory of the time before I was one, when we lived with my father's parents in a rented row house -- and of the great excitement of moving to Oreland, and exploring the forest and creek across the street. For about a year (the 1959-1960 school year?), my mother and father were separated, and we kids lived with her in a row house on Gravers Lane in Chestnut Hill proper, from which I could walk to school to Chestnut Hill Academy and to the train station to University of Pennsylvania. I remember her inviting over a local Catholic priest, who showed me Teilhard de Chardin's book The Phenomenon of Man, and discussed it with her in the house. And I remember a very large Halloween party there which made me somewhat uncomfortable, with the whole big family, and my Aunt Loretta's husband wearing a scary skeleton suit and actually making me feel a bit scared. 

Of course, I also remember Mom's two sisters, Aunt Loretta (still alive) and Aunt Eleanor (who virtually died in front of my mother when they had a brief experiment living in the same retirement building in WestChester, Pa). And her brothers, John and Frankie... and.. a story of a brother older yet who died of shock when young, diving into the cold river north of Manhattan. John compiled his own book of family history; not a small family, on the Irish side.

John actually lived for a time with Buddy's mother Margaret, who had a big old house in Bucks County and rented out rooms, some said to be haunted. She also had a small beach house by the inland water off a small island in the Avalon complex, and that's why Buddy decided to build a big beach house next door to her; he did not do the plumbing himself, but he acted like a typical construction boss, supervising the groups who did the various pieces, relying mainly on money from my mother's divorce settlement.  Lots and lots of boating, clamming, fishing, kayaking and so on, and sometimes the twenty minute walk to the beach, and some cycling. Mom handled the books. 

When my mother felt she had to separate form my father, she first moved into a nice small house in the Gwynned suburbs of Philadelphia, near the Catholic girls day school , Gwynned Mercy, which Suzie went to at the time. By then, I was mostly away at Harvard, so Suzie and John were the ones who lived through the brunt of the difficult year. After that, after final divorce and remarriage, they went to live in Buddy's house in Marple-Newton (SW suburb of Philadelphia). For about a year I commuted 50-50 between Marple-Newton and Flourtown as I worked on my PhD thesis project. 

At Marple Newton, especially, there was also a long succession of dogs and cats I won't say much about, though it's hard to resist.

In fact, many many stories...


Yes, there were times when our visits to the island of Avalon reminded me a lot of the Arthurian legends...

and I had a feeling that my father associated her at an early time with Little Orphan Annie.

My mother

Thursday, May 10, 2018

international debate on interface of soul and brain, and quantum stuff

On the Vedanta discussion list, there has been serious discussion about Pribram's views of the mind, and about the role of quantum mechanics in consciousness.
Here is what I sent them this morning, with a few extra details at the bottom:

From Pribram to quantum and brain-soul interface

Yesterday, Alex mentioned the traditional debate about whether quantum mechanics tells us anything real or useful about the soul or about consciousness, I was impressed to learn that Alex studied under Stephen Weinberg, who is one of the two or three most accomplished theoretical physicists alive today. 

But this morning, as I think about an assumption dream which might well be precognitive, I realize that we might be better off thinking about sensitive or critical systems rather than quantum, in order to better understand (and expand) such experiences. Someone on this list (Alex? Kashyap?) mentioned long ago the importance of "edge of chaos" critical systems in understanding consciousness, and maybe I see that more clearly now than at that time. 

To begin with -- it is a very practical issue for me in my life to try to understand how the noosphere ("soul") imprints messages on my brain. The relation between my brain and noosphere is not a one-way thing, nor is it limited to certain states of mind,  but in any serious study of psi (whether in third person science as in Dean Radin's activity or in first person approaches as I have taken), it is a central core issue how information gets from a nonmundane level to the consciousness of the brain. (This list has illustrated the social difficulty in learning form each other about that issue. If half the people think they have no mind  beyond brain, and the other half think they have no brain consciousness, it is difficult to analyze the connection between the two levels.)

It is clear that dreams are one of the most important mechanisms or vehicles for that communication. Those who prefer to read ancient books over seeing it for themselves should know that Mohammed and many of the prophets in the Judeo-Christian traditions, and shamans from  before the perversion of religion by politicians, all have included dreams as one major way in which spirit (I would say noosphere) impresses messages on the brain.

Why are dreams so powerful that way? Very simply, dream time is a time when higher parts of the brain are not locked into narrow specifics of the immediate programmed activities of the mundane self. In a way, it reminds me of old computers where memory and time where committed during the word day and cycles became free at night for other activities off of the urgent needs of the hour. Above all, the stochastic simulation capabilities of the brain (clear in LaBerge's work and mine) set loose a situation where the amount of energy needed to perturb the system to "see" things different from what comes to the eyes is far less than it would be when the eyes and brain are focused energetically on something in front of them. 

Many have been attracted to quantum effects AS A WAY for spirit or noosphere to perturb brains efficiently. Indeed, Roger Penrose seemed much more committed to quantum consciousness at Tucson this year than before -- yet his "ORCH" model assumes that gravity is what perturbs condensation of the wave function, and it remains a bit fringey to assume that it has a big effect on the brain. But pervasive "DELIBERATE" stochastic mechanisms, inserted by evolution to make brains more effective in maximizing "telos", are right there in front of us, in our dreams.

For millennia upon millenia, serious spiritual questers have experimented with various types of drugs, which, like dreams, can unleash the stochastic circuitry of the brain (which appears to be designed based on principles like chaos more than like quantum measurement, which reminds me of Walter Freeman). Karl Pribram did think about the question of what LSD might show us about the functioning of the brain (a natural question for anyone with true scientific or first person curiosity about mind and brain). Annie Besant, Ghandhi's spiritual teacher and a mentor of Krishnamurthy, had a little book called "thought forms", where she urged people NOT to use drugs, because the mind will open itself when it is ready, and we need to work on readiness.

In my one and only trip to India, with my wife on a Gate1 tour, we certainly saw Jodhpur, though perhaps it was Islamic mysticism more than Hindu which tried drugs so much. In Udaipur, people showed me an issue of Smithsonian magazine urging us to reconsider the total legal ban on any study let alone use of drugs like psilocybin associated with LSD. They argued that ancient shamans knew how to use psilocybin in particular in a safe and elevating way, and that proper protocols should be developed through research.

At the Tucson conference, I was impressed by what I learned on the fruits of that research. To put it simply -- even psilocybin is worse than I had imagined (when I read  the Smithsonian article), but MIT has developed a new system using computers which can prolong the hypnagogic and lucid state in a way which seems totally safe. Skip the drugs 100%, follow up on the MIT stuff. Even psilocybin (like ketamine and LSD) short circuits the primary reinforcement system in a way which should be 100% verboten, but the MIT protocols do not. 

Of course, there are even more natural and easier ways to stimulate hypnagogic states. Staring into a camp fire is a classic which i can relate to. Mhy wife reminds me of people who historically used water that way, which I can't relate to... but why not walk to the white water creek near us, and stare at it the way people stare into campfires? But I can remember connecting while staring at Niagara falls and in the place at China where they filmed the movie "Avatar". (The movie is a bit less fictional than one might imagine.) 

But no, it's not quantum mechanics. JS Bell, the Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics, explains nicely how the usual Bell state cannot be used to move actual information faster than light, even though it "feels" as if it should be possible. There has also been another Fermi paradox about FTL informationn flow, and limited impossibility theorems assuming traditional Copenhagen measurement rules. But current popular theories about measurement were not written on stone tablets, and experiments are certainly within reach which in my mind outweigh what Heisenberg thought he read in the Vedas.

I am withholding details on new empirical results in quantum optics which are very exciting to me, but not yet ready for a blog post, for many reasons. 

In Tucson, I made time to bring my Samsung Galaxy Tab A. On my brief, cryptic notes for Tuesday were: (1) the name Florio for MIT hypnagogic work (one of about seven projects in that group, all on the web);
and (2) empirical results typtophan serotonin DMT pineal for all 3 drugs mentioned above.

Monday, May 7, 2018

People much worse than Bannon are preparing to manipulate folks hard

On one of the technical committees reviewing the Facebook/Analytica scandal, a weighty colleague recently posted:
Never say, " can never get worse..."

I attended ... where the speaker gave a passionate/animated talk on neuro-ethics...that's not the electronics neural net but the actual brain and associated ethics. 

The investment in nanomedical technology by international players suggests that there are serious attempts being made towards human manipulation for therapeutic purposes but the potential for abuse makes social media manipulations look like child's play.  Hopefully, human beings can embrace the value in protecting there personal "beings"....if not, the future will be bleak.  [Our] efforts to characterize rational privacy legislation may actually help in defining some bio-chemical endeavors coming down the pike very soon...
My reply: 

Yes, I agree 100%. It reminds me of Trent Frank's old saying; "You folks are only worried because you don't have all the facts. if you had all the facts you would be terrified out of your mind." (When I heard him say this, he went on to describe how he himself gradually calmed down, after he took charge of the House committee which gets the hairiest threat information.)

One of several good sources on this problem is:
Because it was close to what I was working on at NSF at the time, I watched carefully the whole day. 

I still remember the AfroAmerican woman who got up (you can see her on the video!) and asked the NIH guy, roughly: "And if you guys decide you don't like our behavior, are you going to force this stuff on us, implant it against our will, to make us do and feel what you want us to do and feel?" His response: "Why not? Why are you making such a big deal of it? After all, that's what we ALREADY do with drugs. Society has the right to decide what is acceptable behavior and what is not."

I am also worried how far the concept of "inalienable rights" seems to have been forgotten in a lot of modern culture. So if an employer decides to require a brain implant as a condition of employment, who is to stop him, or even to limit him if he wants an implant designed to change the personality to make it more docile and obedient with less of any kind of independence or ethical values other than serving the employer, 24 hours per day? 

I still remember the day (not the date, the day) when a guy came to my office at NSF looking for money for his neural stimulation technology. "Look at the great things I have already accomplished on DOD funding. Here is my helmet which can beam microwaves to the reinforcement centers of the brain, and turn a soldier into an ideal warfighter,  not distracted by anything but his assignment. No fear, no inhibitions, no need for surgery. Noninvasive that way. But I can do more, so much more, just fund me.." He did have evidence of his accomplishments. 

I also remember a small workshop on "convergence," combining nanotechnology and cognitive technology, which was basically the same thing. The neuroscientists there certainly knew the classical story of Delgado, which made it to the press, but I learned of worse cases which had been hushed up, including a doctor/researcher who used brain stimulation on female patients in a predictable sort of way. 

There actually were folks who were surprised and upset that I never became a "team player" enthusiastically pushing this kind of thing further. But let me not go on at too great length... though I should mention how FDA has been stakeholder oriented for years. 

Congressman Chakkah Fattah and a guy at OSTP were among those who pushed especially hard for more of this kind of thing. Though Fattah did other more positive things, I have to admit he may have earned it when the FBI took him down (for yet other things, probably for less benevolent motives). Still, the lobby groups which crave the benefits of this are still very active and very powerful.

The analogy to drugs (made by the NIH guy) is actually quite precise, scientifically. The short circuiting of the primary reinforcement centers of the brain is serious  business.

Best of luck,

Monday, April 30, 2018

A beautiful new myth linked to stunning new experiments in quantum optics

You all know about the old myth of Eve handing Adam an apple from the tree of knowledge.
There is also a myth, somewhat more plausible, about an apple of knowledge falling on Newton under an apple tree. They came together for me in the past 24 hours.

Yesterday, I was really "banging my head on the wall," looking for how to upgrade my tentative new more general model of polarizers (glorified sunglasses!) to explain a stunning new set of experiments which not only disprove traditional quantum mechanics but do not even fit the previous version of my own measurement model. (No, the new series of experiments were not done in Maryland, and will not be discussed more specifically yet except per agreed collaboration arrangements.) What about "order from chaos"? How does one locate the right formula, or even a legitimate candidate, from the infinite sea of possibilities?

And then I turned to Luda. Even though I do not really believe in reincarnation, I do not totally disbelieve it either, and have some kind of vague sense that she might be some kind of reincarnation of Isaac Newton:

And so.. as I felt weak and humiliated from not finding the right formula to get order from chaos she said, roughly: "Don't feel bad. I know exactly how you feel. I have been there. So here, in the side of the back yard is a place I have set up to help you. It is under an apple tree on the right, and three entangled photonias on the left." Yes, literally three entangled photonias!!

So augment the myth... instead of Eve under the apple tree, a more enticing and beautiful woman, with a piercing mind and soul inside, offering a different apple for a new tree of knowledge...

I did not stay out long, however. It was in my "cosmic consciousness 3AM" period in bed that  I fully controlled my anxiety, and saw a way forward, which did work today in leading to a new generalized polarizer model which fits all our experiments so far, as well as past experiments of the same general family. Unlike the old Born rule. Lots more testing needed, maybe modification, maybe creative efforts to do the same thing more elegantly. But still it is a great feeling to have reached this watershed, one which I was not even aware of a few weeks ago.

Monday, April 23, 2018

DC bait and switch: what really happened to your taxes

Just now I downloaded a detailed highly professional review of what REALLY happened to taxes last year:

A few zingers:

p.58: $3.2 trillion in cuts, $2.4 in increases... sizable ... winners and losers.

p. 59: Multinational.. intellectual property [PJW: think Intel, google, Boeing].. face a new world of tax complexity and potentially higher rates...  In contrast,... real estates and ... will be clear winners.

[What was that about Trump wanting to zap Amazon and boost his own stuff? Will innovation improve if we screw the Amazons and Intels and become a real estate turnover society?]

p.60 .. the TCJA's pass-through provisions are enormously complex, create numerous tax-planning opportunities, and will create indfalls for those best positioned..

p.61. Several ideas that take aim at... universities... came to fruition... relatively small in the scope of the overall legislation... first step in a continuing effort to challenge the tax-exempt status of elite universities... go to the core of the universities...


In general, I tend to worry a lot when armies of lobbyists work hard on the bill of the year, because if what they do in the dark when they are set loose. I saw it from the very center in 2009, when I was the only senior staffer with access to BOTH the Republican AND Democratic senior staffers and strategy working the Senate climate bills of 2009 (the last year they seemed to have a real chance).

Even in the office of Senator Specter, perhaps the highest integrity Senator in the whole place, there was an interesting split between the PR people and the substantive policy people. When word came through that the workers in Pennsylvania wanted more focused attention to a certain issue (steel jobs), the PR office would naturally ask: "What can we do to show that we are already on the job?" (We were to SOME extent.) We would ask (with some encouragement from the Senator): What new could we do to help more, more effectively, in reality? Many other places in DC seem to be almost all PR, especially the bigger and bigger paid lobbies. More and more, groups will survey the public in depth to refine the public PR message, while other groups in parallel, largely in the dark, decide how to dish out the loot, sometimes as far from the message as you could possibly imagine, maximizing the political spoils and PAC support. Voters get the words, PACmen get the loot. Probably the new tax bill is not as bad as many other things (like the current NASA budget especially, or like Bannon's "drain the swamp" message), but it just might be true that people like the author of this piece in Harvard Magazine could have made it better in living up to the original message. Hell, secure financial transactions and attention to the Panama papers issues, on an international basis, could have done better in bringing back money to the US and other popular enterprises, away from criminals and from the specific types of rogue international billionnaires threatening all the major popular governments on earth.


By the way, this year we went to H&R Block for the first time, as the complexities and inherent fuzziness of tax laws became a bit too much for me. (I imagine Einstein saying: "No, I have to skip the unified field theory this year. I am forced by the government do spend "my" time instead this year on a harder task, figuring out how to pay my taxes.") As a final, unpaid gesture, they showed me actual tax liability to the US government, versus what it would be a year later under the new law. Under the new law, it would be more than 50% higher. The article shows I would not be alone.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Which environmentalists are working for the extinction of all mammalian life on earth?

MANY, and it is serious. Here I will analyze a post from a colleague:
Many object to shielding the planet from the sun’s rays by injecting particles into the atmosphere, but a small band of researchers think the approach is worth studying before it’s too late

"In 2010, the Convention of Biological Diversity, an institute of the United Nations with more than 190 parties—excluding the U.S.—issued what amounts to a moratorium on any large-scale climate intervention activitiesincluding solar geoengineering or carbon capture, until there is enough scientific evidence to justify such strategies."

It's like they are riding along in a car, seatbelts unbuckled, while heading for an imminent and foreseeable collision. Sheer madness. 

-- Steve

To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old
problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination
and marks real advance in science. -- Albert Einstein
Thank you, Steve.

I agree that the group you are referring to is an example of group insanity and hysteria so severe that it threatens our very existence.

It reminds me of an informal discussion I had with some IT executives last week, where we summed it up: "To understand how it really works in Congress, there are two things which drive it all: economics, and psychiatry." For many years, large and powerful lobby groups have been drooling over all the cash they expected to extract from the taxpayer from things like the Waxman climate bill of 2009. (I still remember a hearing where an advocate stood up, looked rapturous, saying something like "You really need to envision the great new ecology which could emerge from the flow of this $500 billion per year in allowances which this bill will pour into the environment."
This was before Trump changed the language... I envisioned a great swamp full of crocodiles and malaria carrying mosquitoes... )

So those folks view geoengineering as a threat to their expected bonanza. Group response to a threat. Waxman did not pass in the US, but something similar passed in the EU, and lots of crocodiles were fed for awhile, so of course they respond to threats, and of course their feeding is what matters to them, not the survival either of the species or of the planet. 

Many more honest environmentalists say "All known geoengineering is risky, so we should wait until the last ditch." (The statement you found is more like "let's wait until we are provably dead before we stir ourselves.") Problem with that:
(1) IF it is risky, and if there is SOME possibility we might need it, the rational response is to explore a wide variety of possible geoengineering solutions, get a better understanding of its impacts, and find the best we can, with aggressive technology development. NOT JUST DO NOTHING!!! One of the things we would do, if rationally trying to survive, is do full justice to space-based options, among others (as Abdul Kalam emphasized) by developing truly low-cost truly real launch capabilities, and studying ways we could exploit them, IN PARALLEL.
(2) Sadly, there is evidence that the last ditch is already here. It is dumb that we debate whether global warming might shut down the main thermohaline currents ("lungs of the planet") which bring oxygen to the ocean; they have already shut down:
In my view, the environmentalists who do not face up to that are a demonstration of groupthink insanity just as serious as... whatever your favorite example of group hysteria may be. 

Best regards,


P.S. Of course, there were better, simpler, and more rational climate bills proposed in 2009. Why did Reid insist on Waxman-like bill? Well, that's more like the swamp which Trump has talked about, which is certainly not just Democrats.

A defender of the UN position wrote back :
You seem to have overlooked the words "large scale" in the phrase "large-scale climate intervention."

They certainly did NOT advocate doing anything at all. 

It reminds me of how Mike Rogers recently DID NOT cancel NSA's efforts in information assurance, needed urgently to 
harden our power grid. "We are just sending the functions elsewhere on a distributed basis." 

Political speak for strenuous efforts to get rid of competition. 

Thanks, Steve!

I am ever so glad that someone else really cares about that boring old issue of whether we live or die in the end.

I had a chance last night to probe a little further. You and I were BASICALLY right, but ... 

What really happened was classic reactive group thinking. Some folks in the UN system became aware of just how serious the H2S threat is, and probed the possibility of international action (with an open door to US participation, but not requiring it or waiting for it). And then... the announcement was just a fancy way of saying NO. Many hired hands at the UN have their own interests guiding their behavior, just like lobbyists who make money as representatives of some company or group in Washington. 

Why not just live and let live? Well, what if they are hard committed to a policy which DOESN'T let us live?