Friday, March 16, 2018

Deconstructing the news: is there hope for Trump, Putin or avoiding war?

Quakers say "There is that of God in everyone" (and everyone makes mistakes).

Right now, both Trump and Putin are caught in swirls of conflicts they are partly guilty of, but want to avoid, and do not seem to fully understand. This morning, we had a great conversation with key IT people about the issue of trust... and what it would take to get out of impossible seeming situations.

Both Trump and Putin have done things which .. let us say, the angels would not approve of. But that is no excuse for slacking off in efforts to prevent the kinds of conflicts which really could end up (after many stages) in premature extinction of the human species... and perhaps of the very souls of those who proved by their actions they did not care enough to do their best.

Issues about McCabe and poison certainly move the risks up a notch.

Luda was incredulous that I refused to take a stand for or against the firing of McCabe.
"You would be really incensed if they fired Muller. You keep praising Teddy Roosevelt and complaining about gestapos improperly trampling on the rights of federal workers and of due process. So why aren't you supporting McCabe?"

My answer: "Because I don't know whether he is a victim of the gestapo, or an active member himself. If we don't root out that new gestapo, we are dead." This morning, CNN expressed contempt for what they heard about McCabe's firing being based on what he did unfairly to Hillary Clinton -- but in my view that does suggest he is part of this "gestapo," not so much a "deep state" as a network of people in the federal government controlled improperly from the outside, basically a product of corruption. Mistreatment of federal workers and of due process happened well before Trump was nominated, let alone elected. (I basically track it back to Cheney, though the book A G Man's Journal gives some additional perspective.) Are there really such awful conspiracies at work? Well, the book Dark Money gives some idea about it. And some of us have seen more ghastly things first hand, like it or not, kicking and screaming.. or terrified into silence.

And then what of Putin? PM May described Putin's response to her overtures as snarky. It is ever so understandable why he responded as he did, and why she responded back as SHE did. But by doing nothing to respond to the legitimate fears of a Russian assassination spree, he throws Putin under the bus, and makes it very hard to resist the energies of folks who want a war with Russia and Iran as once they wanted war with Iraq. (The SAME PEOPLE, in place after being installed at the same time.)

How to get out of a mess, into a situation of greater trust and ability to work together on very serious common problems? In the discussion this morning, I mentioned an old but serious book by Singer on Quantitative International Politics, which had a chapter on how to build trust/ability to cooperate.
One recipe they recommended: cooperate on a finite specific project, to get more used to cooperating.

So now: why not a joint project to somewhat limit the dangerous evil rogue billionnaires which plague Russia, the US and the Middle East, including locating and holding responsible whoever caused these assassinations regardless of their loyalties? Above all, why not create a new international monetary PLATFORM (IT system), working jointly with the EU to respond to the Panama papers scandals, to create more transparency and bring back money to rightful owners, and so on? Using unbreakable operating system, transparent in such a way that we all see that there are no write-enabled backdoors? (Was notified by IEEE today of acceptance of my new paper giving more detail on the general suggestions in, whihc has certainly been studied by top people in Tsinghua, among other places.)

The hope of survival is a narrow and twisty path... but certainly better than burying our heads in the sand and exposing our anatomy to hungry predators...


Regarding the power plant issue: At www.werbos,com/NATO_terrorism.pdf, I discussed in 2016 what was ALREADY in the press. When Mike Rogers asked for permission to shut down electricity in St. Petersburg. Given how much had already leaked by then, why was there no real shutdown this past month? One serious possibility: a preliminary test, to be sure they are ready. The new operating system thrust I have proposed would solve that problem.

Monday, March 12, 2018

reply to public comments from Freeman Dyson expressing skepticism about climate change

No one is perfect, not even Nobel Prize winners, especially when they speak far outside their core areas of expertise. (Dyson did not share the Nobel prize with Feynmann, Schwinger and Tomonoga, but he is the only surviving creator of that great achievement, far more important than the average Nobel Prize.) 

Even Dyson's statements on the topic are literally true, they bespeak a lack of deep study of climate change, which actually is a very serious threat to human life DESPITE the gross mistakes made by many of the political spokesmen for climate change. Long ago, Western scientists rightly laughed at certain voodoo witch doctors who used moldy bread in their rituals... only to sober up when penicillin was discovered. Dyson is right about Al Gore, but if this were Dyson's core field he might look more deeply into the substantive issues themselves. 

Dyson is partly echoing what he has heard from a Princeton colleague, Happer, who testified before the Senate that all the climate models are wrong because they are not calibrated to real time-series data, and because they do not account for differences in absorption of light at different frequencies. Senator Inhofe, leader of the anti-warming movement, invited Happer as his most credible witness in that hearing. Since I was on Republican staff assigned to that committee (EPW) at the time, I looked VERY deeply into the issues, and followed up later on questions still left unanswered in the hearings or in any followups. At the time, I telephoned Professor Carl Wunsch of MIT, who appears as a prominent skeptic in the famous video attacking Gore and climate change in general, to check on Happer's claims. Wunsch agreed that many OTHER climate models violated the rules of real science, but HIS model DOES fully account for the frequency band effect, and he even says that his colleagues do not make that blunder either. His model was fitted to time-series data using the modern algorithm (theorem-based not heuristic based) which I proved decades ago, which is the foundation of the "new AI" and "deep learning." 
(If you doubt that, click on Similar stories showed up on the humidity (eta) issue. 

The one big loose end from that hearing: A Republican witness said: "You folks panic over 500 ppm, but more than half the lifetime of vertebrates on earth, it was 2000 ppm or more, and life went on as usual." But late that year, the NSF Geosciences Directorate hosted a talk by Peter Ward, whom they billed as the world's number one front line empirical expert on mass extinctions of life on earth. His evidence was crystal clear that 5-10 times in the past, H2S and consequent radiation did reach levels high enough to kill every human on earth, if humans had been alive at the time. At the most recent, large mammals did exist on earth... and all died, leading to a re-evolution from scratch. Ward's book, Under a Green Kky, admits that there is need for new research to pin down the risk -- so on my own, I did look into such questions. See (and earlier posts on this blog). 

Bottom line: 

1. YES, we urgently need new research , more efficient research better focused on the threat. But the best guess which I offer you now is unbiased, and as accurate a mean case as we now have. 

2. The key risk, that thermohaline currents may get blocked, HAS ALREADY HAPPENED. It is too late to ask whether global warming will shut down these currents (and silly to waste energy debating whose fault it is). The most important currents, the Antarctic ones, have ALREADY shut down. The best data (even now the best available from NOAA, due in part to budget cuts) suggest 40 years before the layers which bring oxygen to the Pacific get zeroed out.

3.  Fertilizer availability, not acid or cyanobacteria, looks like the main limiting factor or "second trigger" for mass production of H2S at the levels experienced in the PT event. (Much worse than the recent event I mentioned.) Runoff of fertilizer to the oceans is now much more than ever before in earth history, due to massive changes in land use already done by humans. (Labs with good assay capabilities could map out the range of fatal conditions through aquarium-level research!!) 

In the Atacama paper, I urged new investment and research not only in earth-based solar but in space based solar (which some in Dyson's family WOULD support), and in general an "all of the above" focused strategic effort to survive. I wish Trump would appoint Lowell Wood to be science advisor, to do more justice to physical engineering than Happer has, but ALSO be ready to lead new international efforts in diverse approaches to geoengineering RD&D (much less expensive than the wasteful Waxman bill would have been). Wood was good enough to be science advisor to Ed Teller after all, has LOTS of crosscutting experience, and has enough security to survive the venue. 

it's a matter of life or death.... but, Like Jim Hansen himself, I am retired... and have seen what the swamp really is.


A bit more explanation, in response to feedback from an intelligent skeptic:

I too have spent many years, trying to tame complex multilevel models in areas like electronic and photonic systems, energy economics, and PDE. It is tricky to predict what kind of complex behavior may come out of such a "simple" macroscopic object as the television in your living room -- but it is easy to predict what you will see on the screen after the power goes out. For the ocean currents (THC) which bring oxygen to the Pacific Ocean, the power has already gone out. There is no sign that the physical mechanism which has caused this (fresh water pouring off the Antarctic Continent)  will end any time soon. There is arguably some hope that the situation is not as desperate as it seems, but there is equally reason to worry it might be worse -- and we really urgently need to find out more precisely what that implies and what we can do about it. 

The situation in the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic is smaller and known with less precision, but is coming on much faster, mainly because the Arctic Ocean is smaller. I have been amazed at how far "tunnel vision" and myopia go in studies of the Arctic situation. 
I used to think everyone in developed nations had a seventh grade science class, where they taught them what a convection current is. We have known for centuries that convection currents in the atmosphere are caused by heating of surface air, which then becomes less dense and rises. The great THC which bring oxygen to the oceans are also convection currents, caused by surface water near the poles becoming MORE dense when heated, and therefore sink. It wouldn't work that way, except that WATER is a strange material which under certain limited conditions becomes MORE dense when heated. We have known what those conditions are for centuries; they are a function of saltiness (salinity) and temperature. For given levels of salinity, the curves giving density as a function of temperature have been published many times over. (I found them easily on the web in past years.) The folks studying the recent sputterings of the northern, warming Gulf Stream have paid attention only to salinity gradients (what also caused the Antarctic shutdown), but when surface temperature reaches the cutoff point (about 0 degrees C at prevailing salinity), end game. It looks like it will take 40 years to reach disaster in the Pacofic, because of the deep layers with stored oxygen, but Arctic could be much much faster, and the termination of the Gulf Stream could make Trump's talk about accommodating refugees from Norway more real than expected. 

THIS IS NOT a rant trying to get around to some political motive. What I ACTUALLY care about here is whether we all live or die in the end. That's not a second priority matter!!! The moment I heard the end of Peter ward's talk at NSF, I was driven by the question: What is REALLY going on here, and what could we do about it? But clearly it would call for political, organizational and communication skills better than I have been able to marshall. I just hope one of you is better in one or more of those areas.

Good luck. We need it. 
For the density curves of water, see:

The temperature of maximum density gets down to about zero degrees C at the prevailing salinity of North Atlantic and Arctic, as you can see from the cirve on that web page.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

lame jokes about DC

How do you know someone must be in bed with the Russians? When they start telling jokes in terrible bad taste, ever so evil. They tell more and more of them about the US. What else can be said about events in DC, without losing one's sanity (or starting a war)?

How do we know Trump really has HOPE that the latest message from Korea might actually lead to peace? (Hope, not commitment yet.) Answer: he is desperately looking for other people to declare war on. how about Canada? How about California?

What about removal on grounds of insanity? Did we rule that out too soon?

Or are the new tariffs a very clever response to criticism from economists about his tax cuts:
"That kind of extra stimulus can be a disaster when it is not in a time of deep recession or depression." His response: "OK, let's make the Depressoio Great again, and then all will be will." Will Bannon start touting exactly that logic as proof of deep inscrutable brilliance?

But I have encountered folks a lot less sincere than Bannon in this neighborhood (and in some international discussions, albeit not with folks in any kind of power!).

When I posted about changing the 2008 election... none of the feedback I received did anything but reinforce the logic of such awful thoughts, which could even have a life of their own...


Family member: Why did you give up so much CNN?
"I get tired of nonstop coverage of Trump's bathroom. Whether you like it or hate it, there is a bigger world out there, as in France24."
"Is it his bathroom or his bedroom they cover?"
"Reasonable question. But I keep thinking of the strain he shows on his face, talking about the big movement he has coming, and the new tariffs.."

And what of the guy who mentioned the spear of destiny being moved by the same folks to Texas?
He said: "Don't worry about Mussolini buffoon. We will have more competent guys coming soon." Just as they did in the 30's.

A bit of serious stuff, which explains a bit of my own reactions to the situation.

Tariffs on aluminum catch MY attention more than steel, in part because I have been closer to it.
In both cases, there are issues of where the raw material is distributed on earth. It is one thing to say that American workers can produce lots of things in a more competitive way, by atoms of iron, aluminum, cobalt, etc?????  Not with today's earth technology!!!

Aluminum IS distributed all over the earth, but some ores are better than others, and the electricity cost is the main issue. The Atacama desert, which we have visited a few times, is ever so much better than any other place on earth in terms of the combination of (long term sustainable) electricity cosgt AND great ore in the region.

Any half way knowledgeable economisgt knows that (1) EVERYONE can benefit more in THESE kinds of clearcut cases (not a matter of the cost of labor) to take advantage of different factor endowments; and (2) the Smoot-Hawley tariff war was the direct cause of the Great Depression. Some folks do not pay any attention to such facts, and rely on their trust in Trump as a businessman -- but what of the head of Siemens as a businessman, the guy who just spoke on CNN International? Which of the two, Trump or Siemens guy, knows more about hard core productive economies?

But... of course there are many more variables yet.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

response to an IT guy worried about global rise of totalitarianism

I too am worried about threats of totalitarianism rising all over the world. At times I find myself wondering "which way is up, if any way is up?", to a paralyzing degree. I know that pessimism and paralysis are bad, but so is crazy misguided action. But as I try to sort it out, I start to go back to the view that a NEW DIRECTION IN IT is the best hope of saving our skin (though I really wish some other essential endangered advanced technologies could be at least archived enough that we don't lose them). 

Anyone seriously worried about threats to democracy or threats of human species extinction should take a few hours to watch the entire video of the recent Senate Intelligence Committee:

I was very disappointed when CNN reporters seemed to notice about one sentence from this complex event. "Yes we are right that Trump is a Russian spy and we should get rid of him." Life is far more complex and difficult than that. One of the pieces I found VERY jarring was a strong echo of an appearance of Mike Rogers on CNN ... just a few months?... ago, asking for authority to shut down all the electric power in a Russian city. (I forget whether he named St. Petersburg... but it felt like that.) CNN's recent call to give him full authority to all he wants in "taking the offense against Russia," I am reminded a bit of MacArthur and Truman. 

It is really important that this is just one manifestation of the way in which changes in IT (especially moving towards IOT) change balances of power and human environments in ways which seriously threaten both democracy and species survival. About a year ago, I presented some ideas about a new approach to certain IT platforms (seee and IT_big_picture.pdf) which, IF DEVELOPED AND IMPLEMENTED, might contain the downward spirals worldwide. I have since refined some of the specifics a lot, but the two most relevant new papers are under strict IEEE ownership (I think). (IJCNN 2017 and IJCNN 2018.) Rogers was strictly committed to getting rid of the relevant technology options, because of his emphasis on starting wars ("going on the offense"), but now that he plans to retire maybe there is some point in trying to work on a way out.

Human-centered internet is a great concept in principle, but no one should imagine that good intentions are enough. I am reminded of the killer AI, or "Terminator" threat, which basically involves an area of research which I ran for many years which the policy types do not yet understand. (At the Senate hearing, though, I was entertained by the wry smile of an intelligence agency head who said "It's not really AI, more like machine learning." I suspect he knows more than Bill Gates does about that subject... an interesting hearing.) In that area, which I know VERY well, I have an image of friendly AI people funded by happy Musk doing research on how to paint happy faces on the hard metal hulls of autonomous killer drones who decide on their own whom to kill. Human-centered internet could be just as.. unsuccessful... in the end unless the hard technical design issues are faced up to, AND unless society consents to deployment of something better than what Rogers would have allowed. Let us pray that Rogers' replacement understands how certain key elements of defense and integrity outweigh all those dreams of imperial conquest which still lurk in minds of folks who don't really understand the lessons of history or of complex systems dynamics. (Like better protect the US power grid, for openers.) 

But again, it is not a matter of identifying bad guys and getting rid of them. With the wrong kind of systems, bad guys will appear, and certainly not just in the US. 

There is always the tension between providing tools that limit the power of bad guys like the Third Caliphate movement and drug empires, while avoiding creating tools which foster tyranny (most likely independent "private sector tyranny", just like government but less inhibited by issues like human rights) right at home. So far as I can tell, open source software transparency and hard unbreakability are unavoidable key requirements. One could even think about issues like IEEE standards, needed to foster open, effective and honest competition in many more mundane, smaller parts of the world economy. 
If Rogers' replacement supports such things, maybe there will be a little hope for human freedom and survival. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

the invariant self, reality and the credit card model of the soul

There are many people who are deeply committed to a self-image of a permanent, invariant self. Some people will defend that idea to the death (ironically) because they WANT to believe that they personally are immortal, exactly as they are now. (It is an important but tractable challenge in neuroscience to understand how creatures who act in such a strange way could actually still exist after millions of years of natural selection.)

One of the most extreme examples was in the early history of Christianity. I wonder how many Catholics today know that they are supposed to believe that if they meet certain standards, they will achieve "resurrection of the body." In the outskirts of Rome, one may visit catacombs which are basically the same as the modern corpsicle warehouses in California... places where bodies are stored in hopes or expectation that they will be revived. Like the horror movie "Dawn of the Living Dead," except people actually dedicate their lives to seeking that. Catholics are still supposed to declare belief in "resurrection of the body," but more often toady (in the US, in my limited experience)  they are taught something more like the Dante cosmology.

Belief in the invariant self... strikes me as a bit sad and a bit touching, as I cope with certain concrete realities of human life. After my great uncle had a stroke, 
I would naturally ask "Where is HIS invariant self?" 

When I was 15, and first read the Upanishads, and fully agreed with the more global and abstract PART of the Upanishads... I would have said: "It is the Self, not the self, which demands logical attention. There is really just one Self, which looks through many eyes. Your eyes tomorrow are different from your eyes today, and also different from the eyes of the person with you in the library. OF COURSE, the small personal self is not invariant." But what of the greater Self? I did not know enough yet about mind or about time to give a realistic answer at that time, to such a tricky and complex question. 

I have often recommended that people read 
an entertaining but enlightening novel available instantly for $6 on kindle. She goes 'way beyond observing my wounded old great uncle, to probing very deeply what one can see in a hospital, in the literature on life after death, and on astral exploration to probe further. So much better than futile dry efforts to answer questions by use of verbal pure reasoning which simply CANNOT be resolved that way!!

Lately, however, as my mother ages beyond 90 and is in an assisted living facility, I have tried to understand better what is really going on here more completely, in a more serious and practical way. 

But before I get to those tricky realities of everyday real life and death...

I feel some duty to live up to the subject line, and explain what I mean by the 
"credit card model of the soul," RELATIVELY briefly. (Too long for most of you, too short for what the subject demands.) 

There are many people who insist that they believe they have souls, indeed that they are the chosen people for the strength of their faith. But what IS the image of soul that they believe in? It is something they HAVE, like a credit card in their pocket, not something they USE. (Wouldn't that be witchcraft, and doesn't the Old Testament say we should burn all witches? Lots of ulema/pharisees try to propagate such attitudes, which, like illiteracy, make it easier for them to control people.) The only PRACTICAL presence of soul they imagine in their lives is like a credit card (or, really, a debit card): when they chose to commit a sin, they get  charged, but sometimes they can do things which put a deposit on their card; at death, the banker in the sky decides whether they are in the red or in the black, and sorts them accordingly. 

The key commitment of real mystics is that we don't USE our souls, we ARE our souls... or at least, HALF our souls, which is one of the things Dante basically got right. Half beast, half angel. The notion of an invariant self as a credit card soul doe snot work well. The self we EXPERIENCE changes with time... and is thus capable of growth.

Change and growth... but I can hear voices which demand a caveat on that simplified statement. Even in an ideal neural network... it is POSSIBLE for the CONTENTS of a brain to change and grow, EVEN AS the underling hardware and laws of learning do not change. But our experience is that the hardware and embodiment also change in important ways... important and complex, too complex to review completely here. So just a few more words, on ACTUAL changes through life and death.... (leaving aside hormones and alcohol and such for now)


To save time, I will just copy over what I sent my brother a few days ago:
 So of course I have wondered (long ago): where is Mom now? 

I was deeply impressed by the deeply sensitive novel Passages by Connie Willis, about nurses and afterlife and the Titanic. (Even Lily liked it, maybe because it was so very precise about what life feels like in hospitals.) She conveyed her view of how tricky it can get... 

When we last visited Mom, I had the feeling that she was "all there," 100% normal and embodied, but utterly bored and wondering what she was doing there.

What of those other times?

Thinking about it... I realize I too have as strange kind of daily rhythm. 
Peak intelligence (at least for creativity, vision, hard mathematics) actually at about 3AM, what some folks call their "conversations with God" time, but continuing to my last moments in bed. Lately I start to see my conversations with Luda at that time as like an even higher level continuation of those same conversations. Then next, for many years, I have scheduled my most mentally demanding important tasks for right after breakfast until I get them done. Afternoons, as my deep intelligence declines, I try to schedule more conversation stuff and practical stuff, where "being here now" and being at a more normal level of intelligence actually helps. BY evening... I try to maintain the afternoon level of intelligence, but occasionally have to apologize to Luda for screwing up (despite good intentions). 

Exactly when I turn out the lights and hit the pillow, I immediately now experience what I now call a "spin state". (Luda wishes I could find a better phrase... maybe...). I start to become open to all kinds of stuff, a true whirlwind, but WITHOUT the power to keep it all positive and under control. Like spinning wheels.

Those states Mom gets into may be a whole lot like that spin state, not unlike going to bed. Not such a bad thing in principle, but...

Some folks experience mental "spinning wheels" as a kind of wild and energetic mental thrashing. For me, that is the specific time when I basically take the Buddhists' advice -- not to try to stop the spin, but not get engaged in it either, just let them spin and maintain some detachment. But I have to admit that for the past two weeks or so, the stuff out there has been unusually... detaching... in this incredibly crazy world. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Science Fiction metaphor for Trump versus FBI

Let's face it, Trump versus the FBI (and now school shooting) seems to be taking up more and more of the diminishing oxygen in that part of the national mind which is devoted to politics.

A week or two ago, I told myself: "There is a time for rest and recovery, to take a break from what we see on CNN, and also from very complicated ever more problematic issues out there in reality."
(When they took down my web page, that also suggested a time to be quiet.)

So to relax -- I read a nice science fiction novel, something I have actually not done for many months lately... first Madness in Solidar (by Modesitt). (I am now mostly done the sequel.) Modesitt is a very clear writer and thinker, but it seemed irrelevant to those scary things happening on CNN...

Until I realized this morning that there is a powerful (though imperfect) analogy between Rex Dafou and Collegium, of the Madness novel, and Trump and FBI. Since the Collegium is presented in a very positive way (despite one bad guy they need to track down), I can imagine that guys in the FBI might like this metaphor a lot, even if it is too flattering in a way. (I have often wished for something MORE like the Collegium of the story, or like Asimov's foundations, but that's another story.)

In the story, the Collegium works very, very hard to preserve the historic constitution or codex of the country, which includes supporting the proper role of the Rex. But Dafou is utterly unwilling to compromise, and in the end they simply remove him, in favor of the better of his two obvious heirs (sons). (The one married to a woman who in retrospect reminds me of Ivanka!)

But in the sequel... the removal of Dafou is followed by problems which grow to be far worse, which the Collegium had not prepared for as well as it might. There is a problem with old style oligarchs... and that too, sadly, does fit the realities of modern America, where it is not just the army which has dangerous traitors to any viable social contract.


In truth, Trump is certainly not as shallow or as totally opposed to compromise as the character in this novel... in my view.. though Schumer might well have a different view. Trump himself may have been longing for some kind of break these past two weeks...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

critical review of a prominent theory of quantum mechanics and cosmic consciousness

I have run across lots of people excited by mainstream quantum philosophy. Here is my evaluatoio of part of that discussion:
In essence, these views of quantum theory and cosmic consciousness attributed to Stapp do constitute a religion. (Though I view quantum theory and cosmic consciousness as both real, I define "cosmic consciousness" in a very different way from the formal assumption being made here.) Humans in general have a strange tendency not to question the details of their particular religion, and to strive to be orthodox, even as they are surrounded by billions of people who adhere to very different religions contradicting their own. Sanity DEMANDS that we actually pay attention to the obvious uncertainties,
such as the concrete realities of what quantum theory actually IS.

For some people quantum theory has somehow morphed in their minds to being a holy relic, like a golden cow or a green jade goat. The faithful would consider it blasphemy to ask what connection that golden cow or green goat would have to those awful mundane cows and goats they actually see on the streets... or perhaps they make sure never to visit such profane streets. Why bother to learn anything real about real cows when you have a purified golden one to worship and not question, and you have a whole nation or tribe of orthodox believers  proud to wall themselves off from the profane masses beyond the walls? There are ever so many instances of such thinking on this planet.

For quantum theory in particular... the validity of something called "quantum mechanics" (a term used in a very loose way by many people) was fully established in physics because of a SPECIFIC EXPERIMENT, the "Bell's Theorem" experiment, performed and based on an experiment by Clauser, Holt, Shimony and Horn (CHSH), popularized (with a bit of spin) by the classic book The Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics, by J.S. Bell.
What we really know about the philosophical implications of QM in general... is really just what we know from that experiment.  (OK, some of us do know a bit more which is also fundamental based on more technical experiments, none of which I see reflected in any of the discussions here.) 

We don't know ANYTHING from that experiment which says ANYTHING about ghosts or even consciousness, any more than classical experiments already did. Sure, humans (other than the experimenter) don't know about the results until humans write and read papers -- but that was already true in classical physics. There is nothing quantum about that. The ACTUAL predictions are based on a straightforward mathematical calculation, given in detail in Horn's thesis, described in the review by Clauser and Shimony themselves, and re-presented equivalently and more elegantly both in the standard text by Scully and Zubairy and in Given a model of what polarizers do to density matrices, and how density matrices interact with polarizers, that is enough to predict the double counting rates ACTUALLY OBSERVED in that experiment. There are no ghosts or conscious observers 
used or assumed in that calculation, and the success of that calculation is all we actually KNOW. Adding an "interpretation" beyond that is what people once did with classical mechanics as well, as in "if a bird sings in the forest and no human hears it, is the bird really there?" THERE IS NO EVIDENCE for anything beyond the actual inhuman, unconscious models actually used to predict the experiment. If you decide you want to INTERPRET 
the success of your coffee maker as the ultimate consequence of the will of a purple hippopotamus in your basement, and you religiously keep people out of your sacred basement, then we can't prove that the hippopotamus is not there, but if the coffee maker works perfectly well AS IT IS without intervention...

Why would anyone ever speculate about ghosts in the experiment? Well, to begin with, lots of people love ghosts. It is just like the right wingers on reddit, who strive hard for... confirmation bias. If a modern group of quantum philosophers maintain turf walled off from folks who do hard experiments in photonics and electronics, each can be happy just staying away from the other; no contamination of the golden cow from real ones, and real farmers quite happy to stay away from the golden ones in our society. 

But there is another aspect. The simple crude summary of Von Neumann's "process 1 and process 2" did reflect the reality of serious experiment-oriented understanding at that time, and now (with minor caveats). Process 1, the measurement process, has in fact been modeled by quick and dirty models of polarizers and detectors. One may ask: "WHY do we see a projection of density matrices to a mixture of eigenvectors when light hits a polarizer or a detector?" It was convenient to use a separate model for such macroscopic objects in quantum experiments, and treat those models as sancrosanct, because it simplified the calculations. Talk about ghosts was basically just an excuse for using one type of mathematical model for one stage of the process, and a different set at another. But serious physicists have long asked: WHY the dichotomy? WHY can't we just model the polarizers and detectors by the same kind of (time-symmetric) model we use in "process 2," the Schrodinger equation itself? WHY can't we follow Occam's Razor by using "Process 2" ONLY to predict experiments like CHSH?"

In fact, WE NOW CAN. We don't need a separate process 1 as an axiom. That's the real importance of and the followons.

Back in Von Neumann's day, we simply did not have solid models of solid state physics good enough to bridge the gap from the Schrodinger equation (and even classical solid state physics, as in photonics) to the operation of polarizers (and detectors, not a problem) in CHSH. Now we do. New models of the polarizer which maintain the time-symmetry of the Schrodinger equation fit the CHSH experiment just as well as the old simpler ad hoc models did. We don't need process 1. To test whether process 1 exists at all, we need to do the crucial experiments capable of saying which models of the polarizers and of thermal light sources) are actually correct. If we do those experiments, and they support the old ad hoc models, the followers of the purple hippopotamus 
would feel vindicated. If they truly believe din their theory, and in the scientific method, they would push hard for the experiments which they think would verify the existence of their purple hippopotamus. 

This situation reminds me of an NSF review panel which I OBSERVED (not managed). It reminds me of the guy who said "We should not fund this proposal, because it is too high-risk." When another guy asked: "What is the risk?", he replied "The risk is that it could disprove my theory." That is a personally rational answer, if he did not really believe his theory was true, and if his value system placed great weight on his personal standing and none on the truth. 
What a combination!!! But it seems he was not alone. His behavior raised questions not just about funding the specific proposal, but about funding that entire community.


Later reflections:

I can't help wondering.. The reality of quantum measurement and such is all essentially on based on something you can see on a billiards table... something which I HAVE seen with mundane eyes looking at a billiard table. 
The most definitive "Bell" experiment was on a table in Maryland, with a laser on it, and little "game pieces" and a detector connected to a PC. 

How can people stare at such a straightforward physical thing and imagine so many ghosts and spirits and higher order psychological complexities?

Is this the modern equivalent of the old meditation experiment of staring into a fire and letting thoughts (some veridical, some fantasy) pour into the mind? 

Of course, fires were once a mystery to science. Or the science of prescience? Whatever. And even now, one can actually try to play with an actual candle flame, much as George plays with things that can rotate. But... Dean Radin is the only one I know of who has asked people to play with a "Bell" experiment, as an actual PK toy; it has the advantage of being well instrumented, but is it really easier for humans to engage with it than to engage with a fire or a mobile? Or is that question itself too fuzzy to really answer?

Stan talks about the standard X number of philosophical interpretations of QM, which belong to a particular subset of philosophers. While I don't like the overstress on Standard Allowed Ideas, I have to admit that in the world of real empirical science, int he ultraempirical and practical world of photonics, there really is just one standard way to predict (and thus understand) the statistics we observe in the modern, precise "Bell" experiment, the experiment which is the very paradigm of entanglement. There is a Bell state pure wave function coming out of the  nonlinear crystal -- a rank one density matrix. Each time the light hits a polarizer (first on the left, then on the right, or vice-versa), the polarizer converts that pure state to a mixed state. Then when it hits a detector, it does the same thing again. The computer which records the event is observed to have a certain probability of recording a detection on the left at the same time as detection on the right, to within a few nanoseconds. (Or picoseconds? I forget, but they always say in the papers.) The correct quantum prediction is simply based on assuming that the probability of detection equals the square norm of the density matrix at the location of the detector. That's it. That works. Just math, no ghosts. No humans necessary, except to notice what the computer prints out the next day -- and that much was already needed for humans in experiments before quantum mechanics appeared. (OK, PCs are newer than quantum mechanics, but no one here is worshipping THEM at least!) 

I am not alleging that ghosts do not exist. But if they do exist, chasing after imaginary ones would actually prevent you from locating real ones or learning anything about them.

Mystical meditations on a billiards table....
and the distinction between real mysticism and willful mystification. 

Best of luck,



P.S. Actually, since I am into first person direct observation, I am grateful to have had a chance to see more than one quantum optics lab.

I never actually saw the very first CHSH laboratory, the workplace of my classmate Richard Holt, but he certainly showed me papers and talked about it a lot over tea at Harkness Commons at Harvard.

Possibly the first one I saw was at UMBC, just outside Baltimore Beltway, in a visit to Yanhua Shih, whose group did the first high precision Down Conversion (SPDC TYpe II) "Bell" experiment. I used to say "it all fit on a ping pong table," but my wife says "Billiard" is more accurate; it was a simple but solid and stable apparatus. 
A huge amount of art and thought went into keeping it relatively simple and clear. In great part the secret of their unique initial success was making use of the work of a guy named Klyshko, who was very serious but even less standardized in his thinking than I am; he had a rough and ready quantitative model which was easier to use than the standard calculations, and actually more consistent with MQED than the standard ones are. 

By contrast, Preskill's Lab at CalTech looked more like an archeological dig, generations of students resulting in sprawl and complexity with more layers and mysteries than the excavation of Troy. 

At Tsingua (already three months ago) I think it actually WAS a
ping pong table, in a room somewhat protected from stray disturbances - smaller than than Shih's table, and much more cluttered, albeit not quite archeological. I posted a photo of it on Facebook when I came back. When I saw it, it had be be a bit complicated, because they were in the process of converting from a kind of third generation Bell-type experiment to a new experiment requested by authorities wanting something more practical.  

Third generation? The classic experiment used "Bell states," states of two photons entangled. Second generation, called GHz, entangles three photons together. Bell's book shows that you can't send information faster than light with a Bell state, but I claim that you CAN with proper use of a GHz state. On this pingpong table, they did the work for a paper by Wilczek, Hou and others easy to find in arxiv, where they bounced a single photon through time in a way which entailed triple entanglement (GHz) with instances of itself, used to probe the idea that there really are parallel "histories" out there. Basically, parallel "histories" is another way to talk about the parallel "universes" of the multiverse theory of Everett, Wheeler and Deutsch. Yes, they verified that theory (or at least the "crazy" part of it), but most serious quantum optickers just yawned, since we already knew it.