Friday, December 15, 2017

are they nuking the world internet? No joke....

IEEE folks recently asked me for a quick assessment of what's really happening with net neutrality, after the President's new order.  WAS net neutrality actually the right position for folks who believe in orderly free markets instead of dark ages chaos? Is there a good analogy to electric power regulation (a subject we understand very well at IEEE)? (And are we on the edge of real chaos now?)

Here is my dense but concise reply for technical experts:
=============================================
Subject: Re: Open Internet Order
Hi, Roger!

The decision to separate transmission and generation back under Reagan was based on the fact that bundling them together resulted in so much concentration of power that higher levels of regulation were really unavoidable, with bad side effects. For years before Reagan, it was mostly assumed that this was a textbook example of a sector so far from standard market economic efficiency theorems that a radically different, government type regime was necessary. That in turn was due to all kinds of bad stuff which preceded regulation. But by splitting it up, and working VERY hard on rational market design (through collaboration of economists and engineers, much of it funded by the group I worked in at NSF), the DEGREE of market competition was increased and regulation became less onerous. (More can still be done in that direction, of course.) IEEE standards are a similar paradox: standards sound like violation of market freedom to some, but in practice they allow more market competition and are good for customers, companies and the nations. Net neutrality versus no net neutrality is a similar thing; if net neutrality were replaced by something EVEN MORE like the modern way of managing electric power grids, maybe improvements would be possible, but ham-handed getting rid of it may be more of a disaster than people begin to know as yet. The whole It sector is in flux, and dark ages thinking is not a path to anything workable.

This is actually just one aspect of a complex of issues I've been discussing with a lot of folks lately. New ways of thinking about cybersecurity is also one of the most urgent needs.

==================

For a more coherent discussion for less technical people, see:

www.linkedin.com/pulse/net-neutrality-chicken-little-right-paul-werbos/?published=t

I am very glad that Google and ACLU will be fighting to reverse the net neutrality decision.
But as I think about it, I realize how important it is for EVERYONE to truly understand more of what is at stake here.
I hope that a few additional thoughts may be useful to Google, ACLU and the rest of you in that important outreach.
So here are my thoughts, a bit more reflective and serious than the initial reactions:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jones versus Moore outcome: view from the spirit watch

Because there are so many delicate things happening in the world, I have mostly not posted what I see directly in the noosphere, even after Quaker friends and my collaborator Yeshua urged me to live up to the "watch."

But after the election tonight, and so much curious speculation, I feel some duty to say a bit.

The voters of Alabama want "drain the swamp" even more than ever. But Trump and Bannon have done more and more to convince people that they simply don't understand enough to really achieve that.

The tax bill is a one of several central examples of that. Just as China dumping solar panels is a way to get a narrow advantage, as in prisoner's dilemma or Nash equilibrium, at a net cost to the world as a whole (which I learned a lot about last month), so too is a tax bill trying to compete with other nations in a myopic mercantilist way (like UK's policy to US before free trade and American revolution). The EU is all concerned about Panama papers now; a TREATY with Europe on taxes, bringing money back from ALL tax havens and leveling the playing fields, would have been far better. Like the tariffs which led to the real Great Depression, such an initiative is rather risky, to say the least, and of course voters will see that THEY didn't benefit, if it goes through as now planned. I feel sorry I didn't comment before. The careless trashing of net neutrality is even bigger.

But I also hope factions in the Democratic party do not succumb to wishful thinking. I am reminded op some international negotiations decades ago when one side moved to a viable compromise position, the other side got emboldened and went off the deep end, and there was oscillation and damage for a long time. At the noosphere level... DON'T underestimate the issue of Moore's contempt for the US constitution, as opposed to just sex scandals!!! The mandate of heaven will not go to those who would tear up the core spirit holding the US together, and Trump himself would do well to pay more attention both to that and to the spirit of truth. Even as draining the swamp and rapprochement with Russia are also higher imperatives.

What should higher levels choose if Trump crosses the line too far, but the choice of sex scandals versus Russia phobia is really terrible? THAT much I do not see right now. I would sooner hope he wakes up, repents, and tells his dog Bannon which way is up in the swamp.

============

One reason I post despite the hold on confidential stuff... stronger feedback than usual....
very visible energy at work...

===========

Is Trump capable of a "return to Jesus" moment? One may hope. But as for Moore, despite his false pretense to represent the Ten Commandments (and his gross violations of his oath to support the Constitution), he has violated the Second Commandment on such a scale that I see little hope for him or his followers. But he probably doesn't even know what the Second Commandment is!!! (Hint: it wasn't in English.)



Sunday, November 26, 2017

Quantum Technology QT in China

First, I am very grateful to the people at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (actually, CASIA) who arranged for me to visit some of the most important places in China, this past week, in Beijing and in Guangzhou. For example, I am honored to have met a young researcher who instantly reminded me of the hero of one of those wushu movies, more so than anyone I ever saw on Wudanshan or Shao Lin.

Second, I am amazed at just how far China is coming in quantum technology, which I will call "QT" here. QT includes quantum information science and technology (QuIST), but is actually bigger than all of that.

Many people in the US have already been talking about the friendly race with China for leadership in QuIST, and have gotten some small growth of funding. But in many ways, it is like a race between a rickshaw (the US efforts) and a jet aircraft. We are ever so proud in the US of how many rosary beads we can attach to our rickshaw, but we mostly seem blind still to what is flying over our heads. 

If you don't to waste time reading my stuff, I suggest you begin by reading the great story of Pan Jianwei:

https://www.shine.cn/archive/sunday/people/Making-a-quantum-leap-in-space-research/

Everyone I met in China was impressed by the personal meetings between Pan and Xi Jinping. Could you imagine Donald Trump having a long and serious discussion with any of the serious quantum physicists of the US, and actually understanding and acting on it?

Pan made his mark as a graduate student in Austria, where he made possible a breakthrough in experiments aimed at telling us about the basic nature of reality. Most people in the US thought that this "GHZ" experiment was just an academic issue, but Anton Zeilinger and others had struggled for years to do such an experiment without success. Years ago, I already googled and read many of the papers of Zeilinger, who was perhaps the world's number one leader in using quantum optics for QuIST. If Pan was decisive in helping HIM, then who is the world leader now?

The whole world knows that China has the record for more conventional two-photon entangled secure communication systems. There are folks in US and Europe proud that THEY have the record for secure long-distance communications by land lines (rickshaw). But what about the secure conversation by satellite between China and Zeilinger? And is it all still mainly just the old two-photon digital qubit stuff? Yet, given Pan's background, and given that China has SEVERAL places which have active abilities in GHZ (versus only one outside China, Zeilinger himself), I hoped that it would not all be just rickshaws. And it wasn't.

Because I was mainly looking for a place to do the all-angles triphoton experiment which I proposed just a few years ago, I did a little googling on the "academic issue" of GHZ. For example, I did a Google when I was in Guangzhou on "Zeilinger Guangzhou." Most interesting for my purposes was a paper by Zhao Rui-Tong, Liang Rui-Sheng and Wang fa-qiang of the laboratory for nanophotonic functional devices (a state key lab) in South China Normal University, on the "science city" campus outside Guangzhou which hosts about ten universities together.  They only wrote about a diagnostic system for GHZ states, but that may be quite important.

There was also an article by Xiaoqing Tan of the mathematics department of Jinan university, describing work supported by the NSF of China (NSFC) as part of the community working on the use of GHZ for a new level of security in communications, beyond what is there in the satellites and landlines now in operation. I also saw a curious paper by W. LiMing and Zhilie Tang, also in South China Normal, suggesting an interest in some of the very deep and heretical issues in physics which I pursue mostly quietly on a different track, though in truth they are much more heretical than I am now. This is just a small sampling. Of course, they also have continuous quantum computing work for another level of security, and ... all for now.

People noted that Pan has published work on SQUIDs, not just photons. That's important. In fact, the moment when they told me about that was the most exciting moment of a very positive, encouraging trip (most of which was on subjects other than QT as such). However, this is not the time or place to get into all the details. It was also exciting to see serious attention by important people to issues I raised in www.werbos.com/IT_big_picture.pdf.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The danger is IOT, not just AI. More on risk of human extinction and what we could do.

This was sent to the Lifeboat list today:

Since we should ALWAYS keep remembering the basic mission of this list
-- to address threats of extinction of human species, let me first
repeat my view that there are four really big "final" threats of
species extinction for the next few millennia, whose importance dwarfs
all else:

1. Catastrophic climate change, especially the H2S threat, the main
cause of actual mass extinctions in life on earth in the past (per
Peter Ward, Under a Green Sky)

2. Misuse of nuclear technology, most obviously through nuclear war or
terrorism, but perhaps through other channels as well

3. Misuse of information technology, which includes BUT IS NOT limited
to the "Terminator scenarios"

4. Misuse of biotechnology, an area I do not know as well but which I
hear about from time to time.

Because I am scheduled to give a plenary talk next week at the ICONIP
conference on the future of deep learning and brain research, I have
decided this week to face up more completely to the very sticky issues
associated with threat number 3.

It is extremely important that AI as such IS NOT the whole threat.
That became starkly apparent to me 17 years ago, from discussions of
leading roboticists at a workshop I organized for NSF and NASA in the
year 2000:

https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=0075691

There was great excitement by then about the "minimal payload needed
to extract materials from the moon for use in the economy (including
earth orbit)." The obvious way to minimize payload would be to develop
and land self-replicating robots, which would bootstrap lunar
materials and spread to exploit the entire planet without human
involvement. But it was clear that we should expect Darwinian
evolution in such a large-scale system. The vision of an entire planet
infested by metallic cockroaches... well, they don't need an IQ of 200
to be a threat to humans.

A better formulation of the threat at hand, in my view, is given at:

http://drpauljohn.blogspot.com/2017/10/questions-needing-addressing-as-iot.html

building on the six slides at www.werbos.com/IT_big_picture.pdf.

The key point is that the Internet of Things (IOT) **IS** on course to
taking over the entire world, VERY QUICKLY, and that this entails
really serious risks as well as opportunities, of which rogue AI is
only one. And many of the people hoping to gain money or power via IOT
are uninhibited or unscrupulous in ways which should make us worried,
here and now. Some of the worst risks are for events which could
happen within the year!!

A key slide simply depicts a binary choice (OK, oversimplified a bit)
between a disastrous path, like the one we are on now regardless of
lots of lip service about human-centered internet, versus what we
could achieve if we worked very consciously to develop a new kind of
platform, at least, and take other related steps.

The positive side is SO hard, and requires SO MUCH in the way of new
efforts and thinking, that it really does depress me at times,
especially as I see more deeply into many of the major political
players in the world today, and possibilities like that of my own home
in Virginia being blotted out if we ultimately do nothing about North
Korea's plans (an illustration of how well the world cannot work
together even for threats which a child could understand). I am not
surprised that folks like the Third Caliphate movement hope to just
knock out our technology, and create a stabler world their way. It was
also depressing this week to read the last 20% of Dan Brown's new
novel, Origin, which basically concludes "Borgs are us. You WILL be
assimilated. Resistance is futile." (Yes, misuse of brain-computer
interface BCI is VERY much on the horizon right now, as big medical
companies lick their jobs and exert power to rush things through FDA,
and military folks actually write about the benefits of better
controlled soldiers.)

The decision tree here reminds me a bit of the first major decision
tree, in Von Neumann's Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, where we
are asked to choose between certainty of hamburger and 50-50 starve or
steak. (Again, please forgive simplification.) Given a 50-50 choice of
great IT versus spiritual and material extinction, or certainty of
sharia, which would we prefer?

But as I reflect on this, I do not really think that stability is a
choice anymore. For example, both sharia and the Christian equivalents
force nonsustainable population growth (already a HUGE threat in the
Middle East, where unemployed youth may well cause beheading of ALL
the folks in power in coming decades). In a world with nuclear weapons
and other such capabilities, decay into war would simply near-certain
extinction, in my view. Interdependency has grown far beyond what most
people seem to know about, such that it really is extinction, not loss
of half the population, that would be implied.

For those of us who believe there is SOME kind of higher intelligence on earth
(see http://drpauljohn.blogspot.com/2017/11/international-debate-on-what-is-god-and.html
for several serious views), maybe we might expect SOME kind of good
luck or break in trying to avoid the very worst development of the
IOT. But for Dan Brown's "clones R us" scenario, what is our basis for
avoiding that? Hope, only hope. But regardless of whether he is right
or not, it seems we have no choice but accept that IOT WILL take over
the earth, and the best we can do is fight to put spin on the
development in a way which avoids the worst.

============================

So what is needed to do that?

In my view, the first and most urgent step is still simply to develop
openly verified, internationally used unbreakable operating systems,
as described in www.werbos.com/NATO_terrorism.pdf.

Next, to go with that, quantum communication systems openly designed
to extend the unbreakability to the entire network of hard servers
worldwide. (IBM has such a network, but not yet unbreakable or open or
shated as much as needed.)

And then perhaps an international agreement on a distributed ledger
system simply to define currency holdings, for a diversity of
currencies controlled by their primary owners, to run on the secure
servers, to provide extra security and scaleability.

And then, most crucial, an Integrated Market Platform (IMP) to run on
those servers with that operating system, to perform transactions of
transparently designed securities AND all objects to be controlled by
the "internet of things" (IOT), PLUS standards for qualifying apps to
run in distributed instances of the unbreakable operating system
guaranteeing that the owner of an object has full control of it.

I remember someone who thought this was an academic issue, until he
learned how many things in his house already are not under his
control.

AI should ONLY be used for decisions too fast for humans to make them
to acceptable levels of performance. Self-driving cars should not be
part of it, in my view. Minimal real value to society, huge risks.
(Folks serious about the AI threat should also watch Terminator 3!).

But I must run now. More later.

====================================================================
===============================================================

This was a slightly cleaner if less detailed version of some thoughts on the same subject a few days earlier:

Discussions which .... got started have made me wonder more and more: how could we design a new Integrated Market Platform (IMP) , a software system to include an operating system, which would really be sustainable in the face of all the incredible security AND OTHER challenges (like risks of Terminator II or death by Artificial Stupidity) which are growing rapidly now? And yes, for trading financial instruments as part of it, which Frank and his friend Tom said might be more virgin  open territory than health care is.

I don't have a clear enough answer, even now, but a couple of weeks ago I posted a list of some key requirements and questions:


I am intrigued that someone may have gone to MIT, which provided a much more beautiful and literature response and explanation for one part of one of the four questions, related to the AI aspect:

On a very quick scan, he does seem to have understood one piece which I have taken for granted: the use of neural network types of design,  not just as a local black box, but as a system design. But the truth is that this guy at MIT, much brighter than most people, is still not one of the developers of that type of design, and the details really matter a lot when you want a system to work. I am. In fact, the book I cited in my post, be Lewis and Liu, begins with chapter one by me giving a thorough review of what is now known about this type of technology, which goes FAR beyond the simple designs which Google used for its Go playing machine (still intelligent enough to learn how to beat any human player, following an approach to Go which I published long before the Google folks got involved). 

One of the key elements of that technology, which I didn't notice in his post the first time around, is the central crucial role of foresight, and of asset valuation based on foresight.,

This morning, I woke with an idea for a place to start in trying to make sense of this incredibly difficult design challenge: interest rates.

Many people think that interest rates, like operating systems, are simple things not really important to the design of software for exchanging financial instruments or commodities or control or information content. This is a great mistake.

The simple issue of interest rates and risk premiums for commodities like mortgages is a very deep issue, beyond the simplified version of efficient market theories as known to formal economics. (For example, people tell me that the new Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Models still assume that everyone has the same ;probability distribution.) I have looked somewhat into what caused the great market collapse of 2008, and would claim that treatment of Correlated Risk was one of the major factors. Certainly mortgage defaults were the trigger, and human tendencies to lie and steal when they can get away with it, were also crucial. But at the end of the day a few points emerge:

1. If we develop a new ironclad IMP, secure from the worst meddling of governments, what happens to it **IF AND WHEN** such an instability occurs and government meddling, the historical deus ex machina, is no longer there?

2. The risk estimates of 2008 were based on a combination of machine learning used to assess risk. (I know the guy who developed the first version, Hecht-Nielsen, still in touch with me, and then the later "improved versions" due to Vapnik which were more marketable to the Wall Street/Oprah crowd but less mathematically solid for the application). But the assumption was made in packaging them together, and in using the risk estimates, that the risks were INDEPENDENT, not statistically correlated between one mortgage and another. BUT THEY WEREN'T INDEPENDENT. At the critical time in late 2008, I saw many ordinary people interviewed on TV who said: "If gasoline prices keep rising as fast as they are doing now, I will have to default on my bills, maybe my mortgage." So many of them did -- not most, but enough to screw up the statistical assumptions, and pout the whole world into default. The issue has always been with us "Who insures against system-wide risks?" But in any case, risk assignment and types of risk are absolutely central here.

Two VERY TENTATIVE new thoughts:

On the technical design, maybe it is crucial to think in terms of three software layers, bound together but distinct, holding off for now on the content providing part:

(1) The enabling platform, operating system and communications system, where the hardest security and AI would be unlimited, on a global network of central servers;

(2) the trading level, where all foresight decisions are made by humans, living on that platform;

(3) the physical control (IOT) system made of certified market-compliant apps, still using the same operating system and communication system and key variable definitions (like current prices, but more) but running remotely. (Luda reminds that Ganesh Venayagamoorthy has some recent patents on technology for the electric power grid, which should ultimately be integrated into this kind of system but which is also a source of relevant technology). 

On a larger scale, Luda reminds me that we really need to take account of other human dimensions, as in:


I have not assessed that yet, but certainly any new global computer transactions system must take account of some of the most basic values of key players in the Middle East, which may be just as well. It may not be possible to preserve the narrowest ethno-centric values (if such are present in this new statement, I don't know) but it may actually HELP that broader, more universal concerns such as not killing humans with usury may be REQUIRED as part of broad adoption. 

But EXACTLY HOW? That is part of the design challenge. 

==================

Why no AI (let alone advanced quantum AI) in the trading level? That requires further thought and discussion, and maybe a little tweaking. Human politics in the world today is very discouraging, showing more signs of destructive pathological mundane groupthink and identity politics all over the world than of the true collective intelligence which I think is possible, which I have seen in the best-run NSF review panels and which Doug may have some thoughts about too. But use of AI to replace humans in that critical function entails MANY dangers, not least of which are dangers related to the unavoidable need to specify utility functions governing the AIs. Who gets to vote? But of course, who is to keep individual traders using the system from using AI in ways that could be risky? Again, more thought is needed, to prevent really serious systemic risks. A few kludges have been sold in recent years to restrain the worst rule by twitch traders, but we need something more principled and resilient. 

(Added later: if we just use "vector intelligence" in the trading level for the highest speed transactions, it should be OK. PARALLEL efforts to develop better human dialogue are important but not part of IMP design as such.)

============ EXAMPLE OF CORRELATED RISK
Meanwhile, the issue of correlated risk is not just an academic one. What happens even to a perfect IMP if H2S goes nuts and all humans die? There was yet another piece of bad news on the climate front yesterday:


Please forgive if I copy over a few paragraphs of what I sent the Lifeboat Foundation on this yesterday, updating previous analysis in the second part of www.werbos.com/Atacama.pdf

=========================
It does look (in the absence of that more precise research) that we
are well on course to mass death of humans, with little chance of
global GHG programs cooling the antarctic in time to reverse that (or
the sea level rise which Hansen once called "worst case" now
underway).

A few months ago, I started saying: "It may be time NOW to start
implementing Teller's geoengineering plan." So I simply did what I
should have long ago, googling Caldeira's latest work on that subject.
It is more depressing than I thought. The materials HE is pushing are
sulfates, the very worst materials to start pumping into the oceans
when they MIGHT be crucial to H2S archaea proliferation. (That makes
the aquarium level research all the more essential, and the need for
research to consider other aerosols.) Even worse, it works worse at
the poles, where we need it.

Sadly, what's really needed is a major international research program
aimed at deeper strategic push/study on OTHER hopes for
geoengineering... with or without US...  Maybe SSP is not our best
venue now for low cost launch R&D, among others, though we WOULD need




Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Blue Wave and jokes from the watch

Small background: "blue wave" is the term used today by CNN to describe the election results yesterday and their aftermath. Unlike CNN, we saw it first hand as election officials.

Folks who loved the Cold War are ever so delighted lately about the use of Russia as a universal scapegoat and universal taboo, almost like the McCarthy period revived, even as the John Birch Society has done much better than anyone imagined possible back in the 1960s. But the real situation in Russia, as in all large nations, is much more complicated. Even at its worst, and most sensitive, Russia has lots of folks who appreciate certain kinds of jokes. The "blue wave" was accompanied by many of those.

One starts from Jerry Falwell today, who has said "DC should annex Arlington." (I don't THINK the 80% vote for Northram in Arlington decided the outcome here, but I haven't run THOSE numbers.) The first echo is a joke:"Most realistic proposal for DC statehood we have ever heard. Do a bipartisan deal where Dems get DC statehood LINKED TO their taking Arlington with them, and maybe even a little more of blueest Virginia, for Falwell. Who would really object with real power?" The counterjoke: "Hey, that's the best plan ever for a military coup d'etat finally getting rid of the last vestiges of democracy in the US. All you have to do is tell all the troops working for the Pentagon and the CIA (and a few other unnamed folks) that they will have to pay DC taxes and send their kids to DC public schools, and they will be ripe for Cheney's minions to lead them quickly into outright restructuring." (Guess what kind of federal employees are most common in Arlington, especially now that they have gotten rid of NSF from here?)

More seriously, Luda and I both signed up to work as election officials, and of course went through the required hoops to relearn the strict rules which Virginia now has. We woke up at 4AM, and were delighted that we were allowed to go home as early as 8 to 8:30, much earlier than we could after the Presidential election last year. Also delighted that it was possible because things went so incredibly smoothly, maybe in part because these were more experienced voters, and maybe in part because election officers and voters are both more familiar with the new systems in Virginia, introduced back when debates about fraud and hacking led the state to beef up security a few years ago. Almost everyone had a Virginia driver's license (a picture ID) or Virginia ID card (which looks the same for nondriver), easily scanned into a barcode checker which gives extra checks, or a US government military photo ID. In the few slack times when we were manning the poll books, Luda and I had friendly conversations with the poll watchers behind us, mainly just a Republican watcher, and she was upset today to hear I did not get his email address or tell her yesterday after our discussions of economics.

The long lines in the morning became a bit tricky to handle at times, especially given the sudden intense cold and rain outside (first cold day of the year). In truth, I enjoyed meeting neighbors and famous local people, and seeing them smile when I gently showed where to go when they were initially a bit confused. ("What happened to voting ON a computer? Why four stages?). Luda says I was running around like a smiling puppy.  And of course, no tense partisan debates; when one woman pleaded with me for information on whom to vote for, I did gently cite Virginia law forbidding us from even giving away our personal views. But I did tell one guy how much I liked his economics textbook, which I used many years ago when teaching graduate classes on policy analysis at the University of Maryland. Did my puppy good vibes actually help turnout in some esoteric way? Who knows. But all of us felt a bit like a winning football team towards the end of the day, when our "score" for how many people voted seemed to be breaking records.

Knowing the people, and knowing what they have been debating, I am skeptical about the interpretations I have heard on CNN, from analysts from both parties. Yes, a lot of people in this area know how money (and a few of the more confused billionnaires, who may or may not always know what their money has been buying) are not only wasting money but seriously interfering with national security. But they have mostly NOT become clones either of Trump or of Sanders. When I heard one of the Sanders folks gushing about the new order in detail this morning, my instant reaction: "If they had put HER on CNN the past few days, Northram would have come in third, after Gillespie in second, and a coywolf  in first." (I was going to say "wild hyena" but coywolves are more present in this area.) But in fact, Gillespie has worked hard to prove his loyalty to fake news and the ugliest swamp creatures, and really did that. CNN says "health care" was issue number one, but I wonder what fraction of that was about women's rights and the terrible realistic implications of some of the screwed up proposals we have seen from Congress which Trump meekly tried to sell. People are not stupid in this area, and they did notice the extreme bait-and-switch aspect of the health care plans which folks tried to ram through, which were blatantly pushed by blatant corrupt swamp creatures.

As for conspiracy theories -- a lot of folks in this neighborhood understand BOTH that the Binney stuff we heard about today was crazy, but they also know that this sad planet really is full of conspiracies lately, mainly because of people who no longer seem to have so much commitment as they did in the past to more unifying principles, all over the earth (A GAP WHICH HAS ALLOWED LOTS OF NOISY HYPOCRITES TO fill in part of the political gap, all over the world).

All for now. But for this week: TRY to wrap my full mind around China, and pull away from both basic math and CNN, to be revisited intensely when I get back (or on the final stages of my return).




Friday, November 3, 2017

international debate on "What is God" and What is Trump

There was a major conference in New Delhi recently on Hindu-Islam dialogue, which included representation from a few of the very deepest thinkers in those religions. Here is some of what was said, and my reactions, starting on a high plane and working down to debates about Trump:

===========
(1) My response to a later Islamic view:


On Thu, Nov 2, 2017 a... wrote:
> "First, I thank the sponsors of this list for informing us of a very
> important conference coming up in New Delhi, on the important topic of
> Hindu-Islam dialogue."
>
>
> Regarding the above, after having researched this topic for 35 years and
> having written a number of books on this subject and related topics, from
> the Quranic/Islamic/logical perspective, my conclusion is that this deity is
> a personal being and 'its' relation to space is unique and cannot even be
> understood as being transcendent or immanent but aspects of both in relation
> to 'space'.

Having a few minutes this morning, and being baffled by some other
issues, I did look at two of your utube presentations.

The viewpoint there is quite different from what I saw on the pages of
Mohsen Qomi (or Comey?) of Iran, one of the main presenters at the
conference.

The first part of what i saw on HIS pages was very encouraging and
exciting to me. he talked about the great dilemma posed in the
conflict between those who oppose spirit
to excess, and threaten the whole world by possibly creating a world
which oppresses it -- versus the formalistic excess of false piety,
which also ends up oppressing the spirit "in the name" of God but
fighting all real manifestation. I agree very strongly with that very
important and fundamental concern. It reminded me of a book "Rumi and
Vedanta" which was given to me by a Dervish whom I met at a conference
on electrical engineering; it seems that Rumi, like this part of
Qomi's writings, was more in line with the spirit of bhatki, and less
like the dead formalism which threatens to choke it. However, the
second part degenerated into the worst racist identity politics. In a
way, it also reminded me of the Maoist soldiers I saw at one point in
Nepal, who identify with an ultrascientific view of life and politics
( like Jiang Zemin more than anyone in the US government), corrupted
by abject racism and identity politics. I am glad that your web page
emphasizes the need for all of us, all over the world, to resist such
decadence, decadence as bad as those ancient priest kings who would
sacrifice women to THEIR concept of god.

Lately I often think of the great wisdom of some of the native
Americans. For example, I was puzzled many years ago when a Mexican
woman suggested that we use a picture of a tree as an icon for our
joint workshop on neural network engineering, back in the 1990's. "Why
a TREE?" I asked. "This tree," she said, "symbolizes the sacred tree
of the Mayas, the great tree which provides some connection between
the people stuck in the mud and the people lost in the clouds." Yes,
that is also a key part of the real work before us.

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(2) A high view from India:

Thank you for creating this important inquiry. I often observe that most of the discussions in this list ignores the main points that are being presented by Sripad Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja, Ph.D. If the scientists and scholars in the list can try to understand what Sripad Puri Maharaja is trying to present then they can get some great benefit. I am hearing some of these important teachings of Sripad Puri Maharaja from Sripad Bhakti Niskama Shanta Maharaja, Ph.D. (who is a disciple of Sripad Puri Maharaja) during my participation in a last few conferences, where he delivered talks. I have also got the opportunity to participate in Indo-Iranian event at Delhi. I am summarizing some of the main points in this email and a detailed report of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute's contribution in recently concluded Indo-Iranian conference will be sent soon to this list.

1. Absolute is sentient and He is Supreme Personality of Godhead (Therefore all monistic claims of Vedanta are only a partial representation of real wisdom of Vedanta. Actually Vedanta offers personalist view of Absolute)
2. Reality is personal and it is the false ego of misconceived souls that forces them to see reality as impersonal and thus some are busy in finding a mechanistic explanation of reality (Hence matter is an experience of such misconceived souls who have not yet realized that everything [including themselves] is meant for the service of Absolute )
3. Absolute can be approached only by cultivation of love for the Absolute (through loving service - bhakti)
4. Bhakti is not a mental imagination and one can only attain true love (bhakti) for Absolute by engaging in loving devotional services under a devotee who has already awakened that love for the Supreme ("Bhakti comes from Bhakti" which is similar to the Vedic mantra that we often come across on this list - "Life comes from Life")

It is important to discuss and learn properly, these important Vedic conclusions.

In this Indo-Iranian conference at Delhi Dr. Bhakti Niskama Shanta challenged Swami Agnivesh's (Agnivesh is an Indian politician and a former Member of Legislative Assembly from the Indian state of Haryana, an Arya Samaj scholar, and a social activist) point "God cannot have form" by the argument that "If God can't do something then that is not the true concept of God." According to Vedic view Supreme can do-undo anything and everything -  kartum-akartum-samarthaŠł•. Everyone in the conference convinced by this argument of Dr. Shanta and all of them together said "Yes, if God cannot do something then He cannot be called God."

I will send soon a detailed report on the Indo-Iranian dialogue. Thanking you.
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(3) My thoughts on this today:


I am truly grateful for the inspired words of Sumangala Devi Dasi, and
for his mention of Bhakti Shanta whom I had the honor to meet in Nepal
(along with his colleague Bhakti Muni, who was a very kind guide to me
there).

It is good that we seek a balance between "looking to the sky", to the
great immensity rising up from earth to galaxy to cosmos (and
beyond?), and immersing ourselves in the need, spirit and growth of
the earth and of humanity in general.

I am sorry that when I look to the sky as far as I can manage, I still
find myself in a situation of multilayered ignorance, even more
ignorant than I started to feel I was a week or two ago.
It does not really worry me so much that all of us share some
ignorance, and can benefit from admitting it to ourselves, because "it
is enough for our purposes to understand what lies within 10 billion
years of here, at a level of life above 3 femtometers." But in trying
to understand the laws of physics at a level or two beyond the
mainstream today (still knowing that that is not necessarily the
absolute), there are still overwhelming questions.

I still wonder: are the ultimate, absolute laws of this cosmos exactly
expressable as a Lagrangian function over curved Minkowski space,
following the Lagrange/Euler mathematics? And if so, does that make
the cosmos a KIND of personal entity, with a Lagrangian function which
is actually a kind of "telos" like what Bhakt iMuni talked about in
Nepal, which we humans can try to be aligned with?

OF COURSE, I do not know. It is a question worthy of very serious
effort, of two sorts: (1) trying to figure out what the true
Lagrangian might be; and (2) in principle, looking for clear
predictive insight by some other type of model. For now, for me, (1)
is a task I have a better idea how to do, and I see no basic obstacles
now, after many years of learning how to surmount APPARENT obstacles.
But it is something of a lonely task, as mainstream physics today
needs more earthy experiments addressing much more elementary
issues/prerequisites.

Two weeks ago, I was excited by the full implications of a cosmos
which maximizes a Lagrangian function, implications I had not fully
understood before that. But on further consideration, such an
all-powerful cosmos (a system maximizing over all possible states of
all fields across space-time)... would it really entail so much
approximation and imperfection as we see around us? Maybe, but I feel
a bit more skeptical... HIGHLY uncertain... but this week it seems
most likely to me that the next big step in deeper understanding,
deeper than the best version of quantum field theory I am aware of,
would involve a MINMAX cosmos SUBJECT TO EQUALITY CONSTRAINTS. In a
way, that seems closer to the old Zoroastrian concept, of a kind of
cosmic war between a minimizer and a maximizer, with the addition of
an umpire enforcing rules (the constraint). This is not my
grandmother's holy trinity! But it seems most likely to me today that
life as we know it "is posshible only in the middle zone, between the
fire and the ice," the minimizer and the maximizer." And it may be
that the constraint, which I was not fully aware of until this year
(and which I only BEGIN to understand) is absolutely essential and
fundamental.

The emerging picture seems much more natural and plausible as a law of
everything than any version of quantum theory that I know, and it CAN
replicate MQED as a statistical approximation (thus correctly predict
what MQED already predicts), yet it does seem a bit contrived. I would
 not argue so much if any of you argues, intuitively, that it sounds
SO contrived that someone , or Someone, must have cooked this up
behind the scenes, far beyond our vision. But then again, my own
"personal goddess," my wife notes that this is just a concrete version
of stage 3 of a four-step plan we discussed when cruising to the
Arctic a few months back, and perhaps her ideas about stage 4 might
work out to be more beautiful and absolute... when I reach that level.
For now, stage 3 is hard enough.

But then: IF we live in a minmax cosmos, to what does bhakti naturally apply?

THE OPPOSITE extreme vision of the cosmos is given the trilogy, The
Three Body Problem, representing a Chinese viewpoint, more like Jiang
Zemin than like Xi Jinping.
(Xi is more moderate, but I am not sure how HE balances the swirling,
conflicting energies he must deal with.) It envisions a cosmos like a
cdark forest, where we are all alone in a very dangerous way.

Between these extremes... back to native Americans (and Kurds!). The
earth and the galaxy are not so impeccably perfect as many wish the
absolute could be, but neither is life itself.
Bhakti or alignment with earth, and even with galaxy, are enough for
us small creatures. For most of our life, we need to remember not to
imagine we are so much bigger than either of these anyway. Yes,
physics must work to see beyond them, but for our lives, we need to
really deeply feel how earth and galaxy are large enough, and
deserving enough of our respect.

With sincere best regards and best wishes...

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(4) A few days earlier, getting down to earth (and Trump):

Eric from the West said:

That's a good point ... about DNA and bottom-up philosophy. But you missed something far more damaging and dangerous to human society. That is self proclaimed Godly or "religiously" oriented individuals or groups that are only fraudulent. This is a much bigger problem than the secular sect even, because so many people of less intelligence will buy what they're selling, only to be completely cheated. And the whole society or country or world may then be cheated and misled, leading to ruination. 
      We see so much of that currently, witness Bill O'Reilly's rant on his show yesterday blaming God for his falldown due to his rampant sexual harassment in the workplace at Fox News, rather than accept his own responsibility. Of course before him it was the Fox News head himself Roger Ailes accused of the very same thing. This coming from self proclaimed conservative "Christian family values" champions who slam anyone not adhering to their strict view. Hypocrisy, so common in today's world. Even worse than an honest despot.
     Anyway there is an old saying: Who claims they are holy are not holy. This is the problem today, fake prophets calling real ones fake. Fake leaders calling real leaders fake. Fake news, etc. And the people believing them. Those who are claiming the higher platform while slamming a lower one, but who are anything but exemplary in reality.

My response (after Stephen's less sanguine response):

As I read what Eric said, I find more than just a little truth in it.
It is extremely important and broad.

It is when we read between the lines that we may get nervous. Eric did
not use the word "Trump" but Stephen is right in hearing echoes of
that word in what Eric said.

In fact, last night I attended a meeting where many people from the
Middle East were present, and of course many of them associated
many evils directly with the personality of one man, Donald Trump.
Certainly Trump has been a great delight to Jungian psychiatrists
lately, and certainly he has proposed some bad things, but to avoid
going bad ourselves, a few key points:

(1) We should always remember that our brains are wired the same way
his is, and that we are all capable of making the same TYPES of
mistakes. All of us benefit
from regularly "looking in the  mirror" (and maybe even looking at
Trump at the same time) and asking: "Where are **I** making
assumptions or taking actions or indulging reactive emotions which are
as transparently silly to someone looking at me from afar, more
objectively and with more perspective than I have when just being
subjective?"

(2) Blaming EVERYTHING on Trump gets other people off the hook,
including the people responsible for the deep wave of discontent which
by 2016 made many people feel "I would sooner vote for a dog than vote
for a continuation of 'the swamp.'" I certainly knew of situations
where one politician would expose the scandal of an opponent getting
money from bad sources with bad understandings, gain power by doing
so, even though he was getting four times as much money from even more
evil vested interests with destructive consequences. (I feel that the
word "evil" is not SO misleading or oversimplified, since I have met a
few of those funding source people and saw what they were doing, a
long set of stories.)

There is more to be said about these issues. And Eric is right to ask
on this list: What kinds of spiritual education and exercise REDUCE
corruption, destruction and the long-term risks to the very survival
of the human species, and which kinds INCREASE it? The issue of
spiritual education and training, from yoga to K-12, is certainly
appropriate here, and relevant to the coming meeting in New Delhi.


> Keeping within the bounds of god-vs-genes, both sides are flawed. Why?
> Because the “because god” argument is of as little explanatory value as
> “because genes”. “Not-god” and the dumb-luck paradigm on which it depends,
> is as daft as the “because god” sky-daddy.
Though I do not entirely agree with the person who typed this (I lost
track!), the words were psychically or spiritually inspired, in my
view.

Just yesterday, in the discussion of "can a computer or robot have a
soul?" , migrating to the MoM list, we got deep into the DNA and PK
aspects.
On the issue of HUMAN capabilities, we end up at the old-but-true
insights of people like Cloninger, who say it is wrong to argue
"nature versus nurture," since human traits are driven by a mixture of
both.
More broadly, our individual capabilities and traits are based on a
COMBINATION of DNA, mundane experience, and influences from the
"spirit" side -- all three being complex systems,
interacting in complex ways, startlingly different from person to
person in practice. So OK, both extremes are flawed.

But .. the words... "daft.... sky-daddy" raise a flag here. Yes, there
are lots of daft followers of assorted sky-daddy archetypes out there.
But these words also remind me of the disgust my wife expressed when
she saw me one day lying in bad listening to the sound track of
"Colors of the Wind" from the Disney Pocohontas sound track. Such
disgustingly babyish stuff... (and only one version of the song worked
for me). Babyish in its way, but maybe we should not totally
underestimate those babies.

Last year, up around Lake Titikaka in Peru, I had a great chance to
talk with native people, including an energetic young and sincere
shaman and a more mature graduate of the local culture university.
as well as ordinary people. They do have a powerful tradition of
worship of pachamamma and pachatata, a kind of earth-mother and sky
father figure. I think it was Joseph Campbell people always cite, to
say that earth-mother and sky father are pervasive in all old cultures
of earth. Baby stuff, usually interpreted in baby terms with silly
interpretations and theology. Yet could it be like that bread mold
once used by shaman healers in Africa, which turned out to be
penicillin? In my view, it is.

More precisely, it is very difficult to explain human paranormal
abilities (IF YOU TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY, which may of us do, apologies
to others)... in a manner fully consistent with the hardest of hard
science EXCEPT by accepting the existence of a "noosphere," a kind of
"spiritual" (or dark matter) reality very much like that pachamama or
earth-mother or Gaia. Temples to pachamma may be as silly as that
bread mold, but the penicillin inside may be quite real.

So far, it's like Teilhard de Chardin or Verdansky, but science
rejected Teilhard because his concept of evolution simply could not
justify his version of noosphere. It was not plausible as an outcome
of the evolutionary process JUST ON EARTH. But hey, folks, the cosmos
is a wee bit bigger than the earth. The vast and ancient ocean of dark
matter and dark energy is more than enough to allow the evolution of a
whole SPECIES of noospheres, of which earth's may just be one baby or
adolescent member. (In danger of adolescent self-destruction of
course.) One main consequence of that shift in viewpoints is that
earth is not alone. And so, be careful about dissing that sky father.
Even be careful about assuming Jesus/Yeshua was just a mundane guy
imagining someone. Was it just an archetype he was in touch with?
Well, it didn't seem exactly like the local archetypes previously
present in his sector of the noosphere... though then again, what do
we know about his local web of connections?

Best of luck,

    Paul

P.S. I do wonder whether the Hindu-Islam conference coming up in New
Delhi will do honest justice to Kurds and Yezidis, who have often been
lied about by the kind of priest-kings Eric rightly complains about?
On my trip home from :Peru, the car driver in Virginia was one of
those, mountain people from the Middle East, and he was astounded to
hear how much identity there was between the actual beliefs of those
Andean people and the actual beliefs of his people, even in respect to
details beyond the scope of this email.
9 older messages

Bruno Marchal via googlegroups.com 

Oct 30 (4 days ago)
to Online_Sadhu_S.
On 27 Oct 2017, at 20:54, Whit Blauvelt wrote:

On Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 05:11:29PM +0200, Bruno Marchal wrote:

Why "imitate"? We can be inspired by someone without imitating it.

Honesty and courage, is the fundamental base.

Hi Bruno,

The question comes to what inspiration is. In one variety of inspiration,
the other person becomes internalized, in a fairly literal way. If I meet
someone new who holds my attention -- whether in normal life or in some
staged setting (including cinema) -- I can subsequently feel as if I'm
wearing their face, feeling their feelings, and thinking in the pattern of
their speech. It is as if I were, in a small way and without loss of myself,
possessed of their spirit; my world is colored by their presence.

This spiritual contagion makes sense, considering the evidence of mirror
neurons, as well as how much of human culture is structured. This isn't at
the level of "I'm going to imitate so-and-so," so much as it is one of an
organic experience of embodying, to an extent, the spirits of others.

In a more abstract way, it's also my experience with music and abstract art,
that it shifts my spirit, as if there's a contagion from the artist.

This is how the concept of spirits can make sense without requiring any sort
of dualism or second world for them to dwell in.
(Well, I don't really believe in the first world). I assume only number (and Mechanism at the meta-level).




It can also explain such
usages as "school spirit" and "national spirit." Those may seem trite; but
anyone who has visited different nations, and even different schools, might
recognize some truth in them.
Thank you for your precision. I understand better.  My tongue language is French, and "imitate"  has a more narrow, and rather pejorative sense in French, that is why I have to translate it with the term "inspire". But what you say makes sense now.

Best,