Friday, January 29, 2016

Option for Near-Term Economic Depression: The Gorillas They Ignored at the Debate Last Night

The Republican Candidates’ debate last night reminds me a lot of that famous short video, where a big 900 pound gorilla actually appears on screen right in the middle of a crowd of people in the middle of the screen but most people don’t even notice it. And no – I am not referring to Trump, who did not appear at all. Actually, there were a few interesting zingers, which the CNN commentators did not notice...

The biggest zinger for me was Rand Paul’s reference to a bill to “enforce transparency and accountability” over the Federal Reserve, which Cruz strongly supported. Yes, it seems clear now that Cruz is most fundamentally a puppet of the oil folks, whose biggest endorsement is from Perry of Texas, another such... but there are also folks out there who really do want to abolish the Federal Reserve. There are SOME greedy folks in the financial sector who give money to selected puppets to try to get favors which take from the middle class and give to the poor, but there are other folks in the financial sector who simply appreciate how bad it would be for all of us to have a world economic depression. Serious talk by a leading candidate aimed at abolishing the federal reserve is certainly a reasonable explanation for a lot of donors of the second kind.

Just how serious is it with the Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve has a lot of parallels to the National Science Foundation (NSF), where I worked for almost 30 years until almost one year ago. There are lots of pockets of excellence and honesty in the federal government, and lots of areas of the exact opposite – but on the whole I think of NSF and the FED as the two areas where the highest level of excellence has been maintained the most over the last few decades. Government OFTEN is stupid and oppressive and corrupt, but it does not have to be that way.  Ironically, a lot of the worst corruption is associated with cynical people, such as some of the Republican Congressmen swept in as part of Reagan’s coattails (with some time delay) who will say that government is terrible, and then act to make sure it becomes so. I have seen egregious tings on the Democratic side too, but a lot of the complaints sound the way it would... if Nazi Germany did a PR attack on Israel, complaining about how much military might Israel had mobilized... not mentioning their own.

Of course, I know NSF better. NSF was funding above all two areas – high risk basic research and education – which any really serious market economist knows do call for effort above and beyond what short-term market forces would provide. The great vision of Vannevar Bush, the greatest Bush by far, was to build a foundation which was “in the government but not of it,” operated as much as possible away from politics, based on the highest possible standards of excellence, like a great university, staffed in great part by university people trained to high independence and excellence. It was a vision of truly open competition, with as much transparency as possible – and full feedback to all applicants on the full truth of what happened to their proposals (to within the legitimate limits of the privacy act and respect for IP) and the most constructive possible guidance. No pork barrel additions or plus-up earmarks whatsoever. None. Many generations of NSF directors (mostly recommended by the American Physical Society APS or by “the deans”) were very strict about defending this system, about not allowing even a tiny foothold for corruption (a slippery slope), and about supporting the kind of free speech and honest dialogue essential to making it work.

I remember very clearly the time in 1988/1989 when I transitioned from a very important but very constrained job at the Department of Energy to NSF – about the same time as the fall of the Berlin Wall. “I fell like those other Germans... escaping from the Iron Curtain to the free world, back to free speech and the America I THOUGHT I was growing up in, in those old days in Philadelphia.” I remember a colleague at DOE (higher in the chain) who said to me: “Your escape gives hope to the rest of us locked up here (“lifers”) between these four white walls.” Cynics said: “You have moved from a company which was a joint venture wholly owned by the oil companies and the nucs to a smaller one jointly owned by APS and the deans. You will benefit from a better corporate culture... for now... until the oil folks get motivated to try M&A, or other stakeholders get into the game.” And so it was. At first, when a new Congressional initiative was announced on “Transparency and Accountability,” I shrugged my shoulders and thought: “so what else is new? Those are two of the most fundamental values NSF has always stood for. Sure, it’s good to reaffirm them, and we’ll do that... but I have some other work to do in that space.” But then... well... did Goebbels ever spearhead a “peace in our time” initiative? For awhile, the science societies tried to push hard against the very worst of the abuses, when it became clearer who the community was supposed to become accountable to as their new line employers... and when certain staffers appeared to micromanage the handling of selected proposals.... Chakkah Fattah, for all his failings, spearheaded a lot of the resistance, until the FBI took him down, at the urging of the same “cybersecurity expert” using it to take down Hillary Clinton with far less real justification. And no, I have no plans at all to just dump in the open all the many concrete threads and scenes of this complicated story. Still, one thread: a minor staffing problem, requiring more transfers from other agencies to fill in positions, especially program director positions formerly held by rotators from universities, a system which several Congressional staffers say they want to stop.

I was certainly not the first to retire as the New Order came in, and there are certainly others younger and more energetic than myself who may have a good chance to fully restore the great vision of Vannevar Bush.  But there are also many others who simply chose to retire even before I did. I remember asking one of them, who got hit a lot sooner and harder than I did: “Exactly what happened?” His reply: “All I can say is... I owe you SOME answer... I can say... it is not the same NSF.”

And so: last night, when Paul and Cruz announced they wanted a similar “accountability and transparency” initiative at the Fed, a giant flood of explanation and possibility and other aspects I haven’t written up yet all flooded into my mind. In a way, it was similar to the “near death” experience in Florianapolis which I mentioned in my previous blog post.  Especially since I do also know a lot about the Fed, and about what it has been doing.  

Of course, I also know about people like Sarah Palin who legitimately distrust “all those rich establishment people who are screwing us” (except for her minor “drill baby drill” connections), and would be as eager to see the heads of those rich people on a platter as were similar women at the time of the French Revolution. Understandable. Maybe even Sanders might have quiet sympathies with those feelings. Certainly I remember the Burr-Hamilton duel, and a serious threat that SOME English-oriented bankers posed to the new emerging Republic. But unconditional “racism” against bankers is as bad as unconditional “racism” against Moslems or against self-proclaimed Christians, even though all three groups do have some awful subgroups.  (Jesus himself warned about the evil folks who would come later pretending to speak in his name, but he didn’t get to speak on Fox News last night... though in one brief moment Megan Kelly did give a hint of his existence, which CNN commentators didn’t seem to notice. Now that I think of it, Ayn Rand also warned against certain phony representatives of the private sector in DC politics, and her follower Alan Greenspan is very much a part of the story of the Fed.)

There is little doubt in my mind that there is a serious risk now in American politics of candidates not only for President but for other offices (like those already capable of imposing a Dunkirk on NSF) imposing a twisted version of “accountability and transparency” on the Fed which would be “transparent” only in the sense of dumbing it down,
and accountability and accessibility only to those campaign contributors who lurk behind the likes of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

This is a really serious risk, a risk to the entire world, because a really serious global depression could result. The fact is that the world economy is a nontrivial complex system. One might compare it to a complex aircraft (like SR-71), where ripping out the automatic controls and turning it over a gee-whiz enthusiastic two-year old unaware of the physics ... would be a way to kill the two year old himself or herself as well as crash the aircraft. The world economy is in a very delicate situation exactly right now. It could be handled better... but on balance, the US part is in better shape and at less risk than the EU or China part for now... despite things which could have killed us. The opportunity to crash it all really fast is really obvious, to those who know how it works.  No, it’s not just another play kitchen. It requires the very highest levels of insight, excellence and understanding... even to do the less-than-perfect job we see today.

Why I do think I know that, enough to feel as upset as a parent in the passenger seat as a wild kid drives next to ... lots of ways to die?

It’s not that one or two of my four degrees was in economics, or that my GRE scores in economics were about a hundred points higher than the next highest in the Harvard economics department at the time... I learned a lot when I was at DOE, and built the most accurate model ever of industrial energy demand (along with transportation and oil and gas later). The Energy Modeling Forum of Stanford validated that, and statisticians at Stanford had very good things to say about the methodology. One percent error in multiyear backcasting is ‘way better than an “R=square of 99 percent” (which should mean ten percent error in one-period forecasting, but turned out to be far worse when we tested the models then best known in that part of economics – all in the official DOE/EISA documents, details posted on my regular web page). To drive that model, I had to fully understand and use the Wharton Annual Model, which was far away the best model for understanding interactions of energy and economy, AND interactions BETWEEN different sectors of the economy. Both on that model, and on advanced “data mining” statistical methods I developed, I interacted a lot with Mark French, who moved from Wharton to the Fed. It drives me nuts at times to see how many economic policy decisions are made by people whose intuition is limited to a “scalar model,”  WHETHER KEYNESIAN OR MONETARIST, like the simple seven-equation model they taught in intermediate macroeconomics at Harvard.  From tracking real data in periods of change, I learned how important STRUCTURAL CHANGE is, and how important it is to see the whole vector picture, not just seven variables in the head. Scalar thinking is the real reason why the EU is stuck in such a mess, unable to appreciate the concrete things they could do to “have their cake and eat it too.” The Fed does not see the whole picture either, but they have seen enough of it to prevent what could have been a kind of rerun-but-worse of the Great Depression (which, recall, was followed by the Nazi revolution). Hey, folks, the Nazi Revolution would not be better even for the wild donors who think Paul and Cruz are advancing their interests!

Why don’t I show you the math here and now, instead of the background? Well, I have summarized the math in other venues. Today I am retired, and will go back to doing laundry in a few moments. A few hints on a few aspects lie at

A few bits of the other stuff first?


Luda got me to scan Pickety’s book. Yes, there is a new inequality problem. Yes, it is serious. Someday I should do a whole piece on “leisure” for example – how we ought to have more of it after the progress of automation, how the system has been waylaid in part by a kind of imperfect competition like the models of Joan Robinson but applied to the market for Congressmen, as well as to unique input-output characteristic of the oil industry when oil prices are high, how “leisure” has a strong link to key variables monitored in the “economics of happiness” and to spiritual growth, a really serious variable feeding back to the other variables (e.g. clobbering the price of oil when cultural and spiritual and political distortions force overriding our appeals for a higher price on economic grounds)... Konrad Lorenz versus Maslow.  How “reformers” who are working to clobber France’s culture should do the opposite, and assist other people.     

Luda has me watching the Netflix series “Occupied.” A powerful and stimulating series, though of course (as with Ayn Rand and the Bible) best used if examined from different perspectives. For example, do some people in the Middle East already feel “occupied”? And must greens really be so stupid? (Minimizing the probability of a fatal climate outcome calls for a strategy which understands about dynamics of transition – like our RLADP mathematics. I have to admit that I have seen left-brained greens as thick as some in that series.) But... I told my friends in the real world, on the year I worked for Senator Specter... the bandaid they need most for their brains is a better understanding of what Pareto optimum really means. Even Richard Nixon, and even I when twelve, understood how greater automation could be absorbed by a combination of things like more leisure, more education and even negative income tax (with buffers to prevent risky other things like welfare mothers with 12 children on drugs, extremes which can be handled with moderate buffers)... Pareto optimality certainly does NOT require the gradual phasing out of human existence from space first and then earth.

Though NASA was already gutted long before NSF (back when Congress set constraints for the “60 day study” leading to Ares)... another case where rah-rah political nonsense precludes serious technical success.  NASA once was really great, but does anyone in power really have the will to make it so again? I hear from lots of folks who say “yes” – but then degenerate into iron triangle efforts to throw money away, to friends on the left or friends on the right, but with no real prospect of real product in either case.

Am tempted to say something about an intelligent dream from night before last... but ... not a proper time yet. Best of luck.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Near Death Experience in Summer 1966

Near Death Experience in Summer 1966 -- and then memories of other near death experiences

From age 8 (1955) to the summer of 1966 (age 19), I was an intense militant atheist. The near death experience did not change my (conscious) beliefs, but I resolved not to be militant any more. This happened on a day when five of us decided to drive up from Cambridge., Massachusetts, to New Hampshire for hiking and swimming – and three of the five almost died. Here is the full story of that day as best I recall. (I will try to be a good, objective witness – just like that guy who wrote “A G Man’s Journal,” a book I recommended on my last post.) By the way, at age 12, I did come up with a kind of logical construct (similar to the core idea of the Upanishads), consistent with a mundane materialist view of how the cosmos actually works, and even sent a letter about it to the Vatican... which informed me this was NOT GOD and that I was hereby excommunicated for it.

The summer of 1966 was my second year at Harvard, my junior year. That summer was the only time in Cambridge when I lived in outside, rented housing. I was part of a group of five undergraduates, who rented the top story of a typical wooden house on a tree-lined side street off of Massachusetts Avenue, a few blocks north of the northernmost part of the university (the graduate/law school). The four other students included a German guy (a bit stronger and bigger than the rest of us), an Austrian, a half-Chinese economist from Chile, and an Ismaili guy Noor from Africa. Since I was in the economics department, maybe it was the half-Chinese guy who introduced me to the group? That I forget.

Probably it was the German guy who drove the car up the main highway going along the west side of one of the mountain ranges. No, not the Presidential range, but interesting enough for a day outing.

On our right, the mountains had a nice, moderate but interesting height and slope, and were mostly all tree-lined. The German looked and said: “Hey, great! See the trail on the right? Let’s stop here, and climb up there.”

Me: “Wait, that’s not a trail. That’s a rockslide. I used to climb a lot around here, and they told us ‘Never climb up a rockslide.’ It could be dangerous. Why don’t we wait for a real trail?”

The German laughed, and may have said something like: “Oh, that’s what they tell children. You were a child then.” He parked the car. He and the Austrian jumped out and almost ran up. The Chinese-Chilean guy and I (and Noor, I think) followed a bit more carefully.

After some time... did the German get about half way up, the Austrian just a little behind him? In any case, the movement of the German somehow dislodged a big boulder (even just a foot or two in diameter moving quickly is enough to kill someone), and it looked as if it would kill the Austrian. I forget how he barely survived. We below called out an urgent warning, which may have pulled his eyes away from focusing on treacherous footing just in time. It was a very, very near thing.

At that point, I decided to go by what I had been taught before. I turned around, and the Chinese-Chilean guy came with me, heading down. But again – this was not a real trail, not marked and organized, and it was all steep and stochastic in pattern.

I went first over a slight slope... which then put me in a wide area of loose dirt which, below, was all the lip of a very steep murderous cliff. Oops! I wanted to head back up (where my friend was still there, waiting), but the dirt was too loose to allow any upward motion. (In fact, a discussion with Luda this morning about the physics of walking on different kinds of ice reminded me of this story!) The dirt had the property that I would slip very slowly but inexorably down, towards the top of the cliff and over, if I did nothing. But if I tried to thrash, the rate of descent would be greater, no matter what I did. To my right was a kind of dirt wall, of no interest. To my left, it was a long,long way to the trees. It was obvious logically that my best hope, if I had any, would be to move in a way which would maximize the ratio between my leftward motion and my downward motion. I took that approach, but it was clear that I just could not get far enough soon enough to get to the zone of trees on my left. It was relatively slow, but inexorable and of course terrifying.

As I looked out... the first odd thing I noticed was... hearing... a troop of boy scouts at the base of the cliff far below. The troop master told the kind: “No, don’t move. Don’t
say anything or try to do anything. You are about to see something very important you need to remember. “ Hmm. Not so inspiring to me.

And then... in my mind... I thought: “Only a miracle could save me now. This is utterly impossible.” And then I reached out as loudly as I could with the thought:
“OK, God! I apologize for having bad-mouthed you so much all these years. Really, really sorry. If you can get me out of this now, somehow, I promise... I will not become a believer... h0ow could I DO that, logically?... but I promise I won’t bad mouth you any more.”

And, a little while later, as I did not reach the trees to my left, as I slid over the lip of the cliff as far left as I could get... there... just over the side... was an old gnarled but solid old evergreen tree, just the right size and shape for me to swing hard to the left and just barely reach another tree, and, in two or three more swings, get to an area which actually felt safe (if tangled and full of underbrush.... for which I was quite grateful). I was proud to be the kind of person who keeps promises, and was resolute about keeping this one. In my rational (symbolic?) thinking, I was not even open-minded about spiritual or paranormal things, let alone  God, until the spring of 1967, another story I have written up before many times. But perhaps this was one of the things which set the stage for what happened in 1967.

Did the boy scouts look a bit disappointed when I walked by past them? I think so...

When we were back in car, the decision was made to drive down to a safer place, Lake Winnepesaukee. I suppose we were in short pants, and didn’t mind getting them wet.
When I was slowly wading into the lake... just ahead or to my side... I suddenly saw Noor, floating inert. I ran out to him, and got him to shore. (Maybe this was the only time I actually used the Red Cross Lifesaving Certificate training I had received for its intended purpose.) I think a bit of CPR was part of it. I never heard anything more from him after that summer (except for his telephone bill one time)... until just a couple of years ago, he turned out to be one of the people on an email discussion list I briefly participated on!

And that’s all I remember from that specific day. I have many later memories of Ismailis, colleagues in economics, and so on, at Harvard and beyond, but that was quite a day. When I was 14, in the summer before my birthday, four of us in my family (father, uncle, grandfather and me) had a wild two-or-three day trip in their boat up the Delaware into the Delaware-Chesapeake canal which was just as eventful (culminating in my trip to Bryn Mawr Hospital for very acute appendicitis), but my thoughts in the hospital then were more about the nature of happiness and the purpose of life, from a utilitarian kind of viewpoint. My uncle was almost killed then, as he was standing on the deck of our disabled boat and a friendly kind girl on the bridge above decided to gift us with a big bag full of sodas in glass bottles which she dropped down from the bridge twenty or thirty feet above.... and lots of other wild stuff happened, within just two or three days. Thank God that the wild stuff was never quite so dangerous after about 1971.

Or wait... no.. as I reread this... the boy scout troop reminds me of a creature I think of as "the black dog of death" in Florianapolis. Luda says: "But he was such a NICE dog. He just wanted me to take him home and wanted the competition to get out of the way..." That year, Christopher was dragged away into what looked like certain death, by a rip current at a beach on the northeast of the Island of Santa Catarina (where we were visiting Florianapolis)... and my mind did enter one of those rare peak states where I could actually see the death in the future... and I charged out into that same current myself, in a way which for awhile appeared certain to kill us both. (It was certainly an acute moment of resolution when I knowingly took the risk.) There was a huge rock formation to our left, and a current pulling us towards deeper shark-infested water without any credible way back... trying to slow us down by scraping that rick was as frustrating as that loose dirt was in 1966... but eventually I found some purchase at the base of a
rough "chimney" style crack in the rock... and we did climb up the cliff to a stable place... and then in another climb to the flat ground at the top.

There were others on that beach. There was a very healthy guy with a kind of raft, who was looking at Luda with great interest. He held back, and 
paddled forward to try to look heroic just after we emphatically proved we were able to climb up the chimney. Climbing that chimney was NOT easy
it required a kind of brute force unnatural optimization of complex movements... and  I remember very bloody hands from it all, fortunately washed by salt water.
In general, I miss the days when we had regular trips to Brazil; my only negative reaction is... to remember not to take small children to that kind of beach. And do watch out for the black dog of death.   

  That trip to Florianapolis was our last trip to Brazil.

======================  Added Next Day

Last night, in my regular period of “meditation” or “cosmic consciousness” or “conversations with God”, I/we mainly focused on other topics, but we briefly noticed once again the limits of my everyday mundane consciousness. It is actually amusing how yesterday I initially thought: “I am glad I had no more of those immediate direct physical challenges to my physical body since 1971”... until by accident the boy scout troop of 1966 reminded me of the black dog of death in Florianapolis. But in just a brief moment last night... that was not the only omission!!

The first meeting between Luda and myself in the mundane world was in 1996, in a conference at NIST, in Gaithersburg. There have actually been several other physical scares in various adventures since then.

Most vivid in my mind was a trip to the Ukraine, first visiting Luda’s father, then Crimea and then Kiev. There were several scary memorable moments in Crimea, and I also learned a whole lot about many things on that trip. In truth, it really did include a full-scale meeting with Scythia under the wing of an honest to God Amazon woman living up to all the Greek myths. At one point I thought: “Hey, and this is where the myth of the trials of Hercules came from. It is an interesting courtship ritual. When the candidate is at least worthy of serious consideration, you do those trials. If he lives, he is OK. If not, no one ever has to worry about writing a dear John letter.” It would be a long post indeed to describe all the many things which happened even just in the week in Crimea.

Just a few snapshots: a moment of terror, as serious as Florianapolis (but without flash-aheads in time). On the day when we visited the ancient Italian fort, at the western edge of the famous (northern) silk road maintained by Genghis Khan peacefully trading with the Italians, I found myself alone at one point on a narrow trail I could not go back on, inches away on my right from a cliff which would make a great photo shot for a horror movie. Not just a smooth flat slab of rock, but a steep mass of sharp crags and ugly teeth, no possibility of climbing, slippery and wet on any path below, down above nasty whirlpools and craggy teeth in the water below far worse than anything you see in worst rapids in this area (which we have also visited but not climbed much into).   No escape to the right or back. Not clear how long I could survive just standing there, in a less than perfectly stable place. The only option: ahead, a yellowish old faded brick wall, about eight feet high, no handholds or footholds. On the other side of the wall, scary shouting. No flash-aheads in time, but a clear “voice of logic”: logic said my only hope of survival would be to climb over that wall and go to that scary sounding other side. I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel able. Common sense said it was rather questionable whether I would have any chance of doing such a thing. (I wasn’t an athlete or a hero, and already deep into middle age.) But logic said it was my only hope, and I willed to do the best I could to make it work.

At the top of that wall, maybe about 18 inches wide, I saw who was shouting on the other side. Part of me wanted to laugh at how utterly silly and unbelievable this scenario was.  There was a collection of about a dozen people in plate mail, waving halberds with angry shouts. As soon as I appeared they directed all their anger at me, and waved the halberds right at me, clearly waving me away, and threatening what they would do if I traipsed on their territory. But logic said to me: sorry, no choice. So, as politely and innocuously but resolutely as I could, I just jumped down into the very middle of them, trying to get my “feet on the ground” to get to the exit I could see on the far side of them. I had to project a clear sign of being utterly resolute and yet utterly innocuous, bowing but not bending... and getting the hell out of there as fast as I could without breaking the image. As soon as I was clear, I tried to reinforce the thought that I should be viewed by THEM as a brief mirage, a piece of impossible science fiction from another reality fading in time, something they could rejoice in utterly forgetting.

Actually, that day was a kind of medieval re-enactment, much more serious than Renaissance Fairs in the US. The people in that place had done their best to inflate themselves with the image of their being true medieval warriors (just like some of the candidates this week inflating themselves with images about their being true Christians, which is a lot more phony and silly than those warriors were), and the mental part of the task was to remember reality, to get past the commitment to be a real user of a halberd. Reality helped me some, but not as much as you might imagine. How much does reality help in US politics today, where virtual reality and TV (both “reality TV” and unreality commercials) come into it? Reality is crucial to survival, but not enough.

A lighter note in that re-enactment was a very attractive medium-sized woman doing displays of their Amazon woman heritage, a curious combination of powerful sex and violence, friendly but scary, half-naked with serious weapons. Being younger then, I certainly noticed that woman, and she certainly noticed me... but she also fully noticed the woman slightly behind me, fully dressed but obviously the full real thing of which the woman “on stage”  (not really a stage) was but a pale reflection, and also bigger and scarier, smiling quietly the way a tiger at rest with open eyes sometimes rests. The woman on stage was alive enough to see.

So... the day of one of the seven trials. Another day there was a moment more truly like a cross between Greek mythology and the scary scenes in “Out On a Limb” (a book my father loved in his last years)... when Luda doing her Artemis imitation told us that the cliff walk we just completed, along tilted loose narrow dirt trail, was just a beginning, and pointed to an overhanging cliff ahead, and told both me and Chris we were ready to start the REAL adventure. Logic said... this really did not make sense. I said “no,” and Chris said “no,” but Luda smiled, and that would NORMALLY be enough... but logic was pretty clear about this one. So when she next said: “Let’s go now,” at that instant a bolt of lining crashed out of the clear blue sky and hit towards the cliff. She was somewhat taken aback by that, but, after a brief delay, got it together and said “come on” again. And then immediately there was ANOTHER bolt of lightning, and clouds did race in very quickly covering that blue sky, and water started to fall. “Oh well, all right,” she said. “It will be interesting enough just going back on that trail in this rain.” And indeed it was. The dirt trail nine inches wide, tilted strongly towards the cliffs and whirlpools below, was already an interesting exercise in survival logic as we came  (not unlike the control problem of SR-71 design), but with mud... we went as fast as we could, with our lives at stake, but maybe halfway back found a bat cave where we sheltered awhile during the most extreme sudden downpour. Sudden shifts in weather do happen north of the Black Sea, they say, which is part of why I worry about the day when an outbreak of H2S from that sea might hit a lot of Russians in the night in Sevastapol. “Not our fault, really. It wasn’t us....!!! We even warned you....!”

We have also had a few physical moments in various trips in China, and an amusing misunderstanding with bears in Alaska where family lives were NOT really at stake much but it sure seemed that way. Even on our last walk up Mount Washington, a 65-mph wind came up, and I remember one moment in particular where I had to invoke full-scale will-to-survive-with-logic just like the wall in Crimea... and many moments where I had to operate my exhausted body like a puppet. I was ever so grateful that there was a bus down from the top, where Chris and I could buy seats because of their priority for stranded senior citizens and children (which fortunately extended to their mothers accompanying them).

All of this just a few seconds in that period last night, much more focused on other things... things like a flash to that book “A G-Man’s Journal” and comparative analysis of what happens when you don’t catch cancer before it metastasizes with an obvious link to what Obama and Sanders discussed yesterday, links to what some folks are thinking about nuclear physics and nuclear technology this week, omissions not to be blogged in in some discussions of cybersecurity and stuff which Orson Scott Card discusses, and folks linked in various ways to the Potomac Institute. All AFTER an earlier “assumption” period of lesser importance, really serving just a connection and background function. Now back to normal life, most notably life with Luda... as peaceful as it can get... though with possibilities for play in the deep snow. 

What else happened up through 1971 must wait for another day.


Monday, January 25, 2016

vote for jellyfish or for fascist – deep science lessons from the choice

vote for jellyfish or for fascist – deep science lessons from the choice

For the next week or two, my two higher assignments are: (1) to maintain the watch over the Presidential nominations; and (2) to prepare a plenary talk on “data mining to support human (intelligence)”, for an IEEE conference. It is interesting to see new insights which emerge from thinking about both at the same time, while also talking to Luda and Chris here. But let me start from things we have all experienced this week.

Should we vote for a jellyfish or for a fascist? Please do not give in to the usual human response of feeling insulted. I did not name names, and I understand that the candidates are all relatively intelligent and complex human beings well beyond the simplified stereotypes these words suggest... and yet, would anyone really have troubles understanding what I am getting at here? Does anyone really imagine this is not an important part of what we are deciding here? What kind of political correctness blinds us to such basic aspects of the reality we are living in? Will YOU be voting for a jellyfish or for a fascist? Does the question worry you? (It should!)

In fact, these extreme words, “jellyfish” and “fascist”, are really just a useful and colorful way to illustrate a variable in psychology called “tolerance of cognitive dissonance,” which plays a huge role not only in politics but in everyday life and in basic science. Years ago, rearing a child who behaved more like Donald Trump than like a jellyfish (but no not a clone of either one), Luda recommended a book called “Hunters and Farmers” about the deep problem we have in US schools becoming ever less able to support  the great potential contributions of folks who are ... not like jellyfish and not like the kind of traditional farmer discussed in the book. (The farming industry has actually changed a lot since those old days, but that’s another matter.). Our schools really do have a problem in overly rewarding smiling compliant jellyfish, who easily believe and remember everything you tell them, even if it is riddled with contradictions within itself and with observable reality; some teachers call those kids “sponges.”

I have had conversations with folks who were close enough to Albert Einstein, and also with Lennart Johansson (inventor of the best of the three working Stirling engines on earth, something the mainstream folks and the big companies were never able to do). They described Einstein as “autistic” – but what does that mean? There is a huge bureaucratic literature on “autism” which is maybe a bit less illuminating than reading the US tax code from front to back (which I once did back around 1971-1972, when it was only two fat volumes). A decade or two ago, the New England Institute ran a major international crossdisciplinary conference on ... the depths of the human mind. Most of the speakers seemed to be advanced researchers in Freudian psychiatry. There was another plenary speaker, Temple Grandin, spoke for autism... and people agreed it was mainly a matter of overdevelopment of the right hemisphere of the brain. In fact, there was a famous deep study in psychology interviewing twelve leading mathematicians (including Einstein, Von Neumann, Hilbert, ...), which concluded that eleven out of twelve were very heavily “image dominated” (i.e. right-brained) and only one was balanced (Von Neumann).

So which was Einstein – right-brained or intolerant of cognitive dissonance? Hunter or autistic? From what I have heard, a combination of both... but it is best that I not go too deep into that one example right now.

Which is Trump like more – Einstein or like fascists? In truth, I myself share an extreme genetic trait with all three of them – low tolerance of cognitive dissonance. That IS a genetic trait. Whether one is born like that, or born like a sponge, or born in an in-between state, there are special challenges in how to reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls of what nature does to us. In every one of these cases (except for some of the fascists and except in my old age), there also coincidentally happens to be an unusual high level of testosterone, a hormone which also  provides unique potentials and risks.

It is natural that all of us here felt some empathy for Trump, at least at the start, given shared traits and shared frustration with forces of corruption threatening the very existence of humans on earth. But for me... I am ever more aware of just how deeply fundamental is the Spirit of Truth. Trump’s attacks on jellyfish... hell, that was embarrassing but true in a very fundamental way. But what he said about  Bill Clinton, and what he says about energy and education and the economy in his book... shows that we differ quite a lot when it comes to respect for the Spirit of Truth, without which none of us will come out of it all alive. Is he just posing for the cameras?
Doesn’t look like that.

Ironically, in a kind of double twist logic, I see that more clearly as I think about the National Review story on Trump, Trump versus Reagan. The National Review included an attack saying: “Trump is not at all like Reagan. He does not go for the moral highground. He does not have the purity of vision of basic conservative principles. Hell, he even funded Democrats for many years.” Well, folks, I remember Reagan quite well, and even had very close contact with the spiritual forces (NOT ME!) which propelled Reagan ahead. Too bad I can’t say more; there are some rules here, folks.   Reagan was a union organizer, and appeared very clear in his support of labor... until he “saw the light”: and resolutely forced all that out of his mind. Yes, he too had a bit of intolerance of cognitive dissonance. One of the pitfalls of that trait is a tendency to repress data which do not agree with one’s philosophy; I have worked very hard to discipline that tendency in an extreme way, but it requires a conscious effort to do that.  I see no evidence at all that Trump differs from Reagan that way, that he has that kind of discipline. In time, he may well learn it, as he is not stupid -- but a few years of learning time could be a total disaster for the US and the world.

What’s more, Reagan was not nearly so pure as he was presented by National Review. Sure, I revere his perpetual search for “the moral highground,” and his attack on corporate welfare – but I share Huffington’s disappointment about how his supposed followers created the very worst corporate welfare in the history of the US, an anticompetitive parasite which has grown to the point where it really does threaten to kill its host. I was even elected Vice-President of the Conservative Club at Lawrenceville (google it – not a hotbed of poor people or liberalism)... back when it meant respect for Barry Goldwater (or Ayn Rand), who defined conservative principles as a matter of freedom.  Reagan’s unholy alliance with those who would seriously oppress the rights of women (and the demographic stability of the US), and who would seek a Supreme Court which treats one sect’s canon law as the supreme law of the land, is a violation of true conservative principles far more serious than anything Trump is doing!   Yes, it is understandable, but so are other things which get people killed, and I would put some priority on staying alive.

It was really sad for me to hear how even Rand Paul does not speak up when the FBI is used by Lamar Smith directly as a kind of Roman Imperial Guard to try to assassinate Hillary Clinton. Talk about the Republic and basic principles! And no, I am not ignorant of cybersecurity realities. Those are part of WHY I am especially upset by what is being done to Hillary Clinton! For the FBI, I strongly recommend the book “A G-Man’s Journal,” which chronicles what the FBI was like – from an extremely well-placed and thorough source – up until the sordid last chapter. Reversing that last chapter is one of the very most important things we need from the next president, to avoid the kind of collapse discussed in my recent blog post on global strategic issues. But Rand Paul is not there where it counts. Lots of excuses for continuing to take money from.. certain people, who do not really care about freedom in practice.

If I were a Republican in Iowa, no question – I would support Kasich as hard as I could for the nomination. No guarantee he would get far, but I agree with one thing with Lindsay Graham: “Why choose between being shot and being poisoned?” But voting for a jellyfish is just as bad, when those jellyfish have forcefully not learned the lessons of the Iraq war, where listening to Cheney and to the people Cheney listened to (and got money from, if you count Halliburton) is the real cause of the “Third Caliphate” problem we face now, and when they are STILL listening to puppetmasters who want to create a war between US and Israel versus Russia and Iran. OK, Christie is not a jellyfish in what you see... but he has swallowed the line coming from the Third Caliphate hook, line and sinker, and he does not have the discipline to get past that to the data he has forcefully suppressed. Kasich is of course human and fallible (like all of us), but there is at least hope, in that he really does show some sensitivity to and respect for the Spirit of Truth, without which we don’t have any chance anyway. His record shows that he is tough enough, like Trump and Christie. (Cruz combines a lot of traits which could kill us, not worthy of elaboration here.) There is at least real hope for him.


But what about the choices on the Democratic side? (Of course, we are many months away from the time when the people and the noosphere choose between Republican and Democrat. The essence of the core system is to keep an open mind right until the election... unless one of the candidates proves that he or she is a total disaster.)

Had a nice conversation with Luda about that this morning...

Somehow, I mentioned how the mice in fields are more like those “sponges,” just adapting. I mentioned how SOME kinds of farmers, like most of the peasant farmers in China in the warring states period, also had to live like mice... adapting to whatever came their way... like the “grass” in the I Ching. The yin side of life.

But what about the yang side of life, and intolerance of cognitive dissonance?

It turns out that tolerance of cognitive dissonance is related to certain terms in the mathematics of VERY advanced neural networks (the kind one would need to properly describe the higher intelligence of the brain of the mouse). It is like one of those “arbitrary parameters” or “cognitive style parameters” one cannot avoid even in building good nonlinear function maximizers, let alone brains. There is no “right” and “wrong” value, or “smart” and “stupid” value, for such parameters; the DNA system of mammals has ITSELF evolved (a process sometimes called “metagenetics”) to give us a lot of variation in parameters which call for one value in one environment and different values in another.

So if intolerance of cognitive dissonance occurs even in mammals without words, where are they? (And when will researchers in animal behavior catch on? Did they already to a fuzzy degree?)

My immediate thought – “if mice are like jellyfish, yin type creature, who are the fascists of the mammal world?” Immediately I thought of dogs or wolves. In fact, lots of true black shirt Nazis (or Stalinists) would be happy to be compared with wolf pack. We once had a beautiful picture of a Siberian wolf mother, standing in deep snow, with a look of immense love in her eyes and a display of really serious teeth... smiling... don’t bite her cub!! But in fact, wolves are extremely social animals; as with people, there is some confusion here with what comes from things LIKE words....

So then: suddenly I remember the cat. The great cat. The Siberian tiger. With my life experience, how could I ever have forgotten the Siberian tiger for even a moment, in any context? (I remember walking towards the Shaolin Monastery projecting an image: “Coming to you now is a dragon guarded and flanked by two tigers.” No, a “dragon” in China is not at all what it is in Western culture. And Shaolin had noticeably less awareness than half a dozen other Buddhist and Daoist places I visited before and after. They make a lot of money.)

The Siberian tiger ... no words at all, totally right-brained, and totally strict about ITS kind of order. So it is amusing: was Einstein like a Siberian tiger, with sharp mathematics instead of sharp teeth ? And how does this prepare us to think about the Democratic candidates?

The media say that Democrats ask Sanders: “We like your goals, but HOW will you achieve them?” Even Sanders agrees there is an amazing parallel between him and Obama eight years ago. But as the rats have eaten more and more away under Obama, as Obama paid attention to other things... even Obama has complained  (today, on TV) about life “in the bubble.” Life as something ever more like the Queen of England, in nominal control as others quietly tighten their control.

People talk about defending freedom... but when it comes to free speech and big brother... who implements the Radia software which monitors more and more of those Americans who are not engaged in physical labor under labor unions? Sanders is quite right that freedom is not JUST about what the government does directly. When the role of the government is to enhance the power of a very few favored companies, to control more and more of everyone’s life... enhancing that strangehold, and making humans ever more the slaves of such software.... is not a path to freedom. And abuse of FBI, coupled with extragovernmental filters initially set up by Cheney... well, there is a serious threat to the very foundations of life here. IN general, I don’t think Sanders has a clue about what it would take to solve this. Would he be one bit better than Obama, or would he simply continue the downward spiral of the last two or three years here?

For a moment I wondered... Sanders really has tried to “speak truth to power” about some important aspects of the problems here. Universal education and true freedom of thought and speech of individual humans are utterly fundamental to our hopes for spiritual growth and ultimately for survival itself. (“Grow or die, folks!” That’s from a lot higher up in the chain of logic than me). BUT.... HOW? Could it be that Obama was just too compliant of a sponge, while Sanders might have some of the tougher traits of Trump? Yes, in words. But no, in descending from the “300,000 foot level,” where he has lived much of his life, much more than Obama ever did. Instead of looking for the moral highground lately, he seems to be doing a reality TV parody of Trump trying to be elected at all costs.

When I took a break for tea, between the two halves of this post, I turned on CNN... and saw a horrible attack ad against Hillary Clinton. My reaction was legitimately quite visceral...I need to resist going TOO far with my knee-jerk reaction, but it is worth considering: “I hope that all the voters in Iowa will see this ad, AND that they will also see what it means and what goes with it. The fascists we should worry about are NOT just the most abrasive of the Presidential candidates, but the truly evil people responsible for this grossly dishonest ad. And if THEY would prefer a new Obama as President, if THEY view Hillary as the most serious threat to their takeover of the former Republic,
we should pay attention.”

Is even Hillary strong enough to save us from the worst risks we now face, from well-heeled antidemocratic antirepublican people who are basically just large-scale suicide bombers poised to take down the entire species?  (Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged portrays some interesting images of the psychology of such people, towards the end of the book.) Maybe, maybe not. If she is elected, she will not have an easy job on her hands. But unlike Obama, she already knows she cannot afford to ignore evils directed not only to the rest of us but to her in particular. Unlike Sanders, she has the experience, the training and the allies needed to give us at least some chance of survival.  

 But one may hope... in any case... and of course, some of us, must just do our best.


Another part of the same larger story, maybe closer in a way to IEEE:

I mentioned to Luda a time back in 1960, when I wrote an essay for Chestnut Hill Academy on a positive picture of the future... when automation could free us from so much slavery to physical labor... (partially breaking “the curse of Adam” as they were supposedly kicked out of Eden)... when we could achieve the same level of material wealth for people with less labor... and I even drew in pencil a picture of someone sitting in front of a PC, keyboard and monitor, ordering goods from some online service without even having to go to the store (which I then viewed as a great bother).

How is it working out? With the wrong incentives and structure, and “reforms” designed by those who would reform away even democracy itself (as well as all churches who do not effectively worship Caesar as god), they are now far along in turning a great gift into a great burden. Instead of a liberation of the spirit, they are somehow turning a great gift into a source of slavery and reversion of real people and real life, undermining the most basic principles advanced by people like Jefferson, Washington and the Free Quakers. We still have a choice in principle, but will we choose life – REAL life – or choose a reality TV parody followed by a visit from the repo man, or by real fire and real brimstone?

One thing is for sure. Humanity has reached the level of technology where it is possible for people to lead healthy lives, unencumbered by any kind of cancer (like what I get operated for on April 11, fortunately not a higher risk variety but degrading all the same)... for CENTURIES... but when I watch what they did in DC and in the financial world with the previous gift, it is clearly NOT a time when it would be humane to give another. All those perverted old guys and I will die much before our time. I wil die for THEIR sins... but so it is. Under the circumstances, I don’t see much choice. I doubt that any of the very few people on earth who really understand such technologies would be dumb enough to conclude otherwise, given what everyone is seeing on TV and on google news every day.


Maybe it is time, deep in this obscure blog, to repeat a fictionalized version of a confidential true story which I recently passed on to a family member. Names changed to protect the innocent; apologies for that. NOT the actual names... but not fiction either.

Imagine a highly confidential meeting of Dick Cheney, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI, reporting to Cheney, not Obama), Bill Gates and a Nobel Prizewinner. (Again, I apologize to them, Bill Gates especially, but true names can present hazards.)

Bill Gates: “Oh yes, we are far along in realizing your vision, Dick, of eliminating that pesky democracy nonsense from the entire world. You and your friends in the oil business will never be dragged in again to such intolerable events as the BP oil spill hearings. The glories of Trajan will be reborn. We have built two heavily guarded dedicated server farms in Alabama and in Texas, to run the entire US government, and similar server farms all over the earth to run the others. The goal is simply to achieve true rationality and efficiency, and we of the true elite certainly understand how rationality and efficiency and intelligence are what we really need in this difficult world we now live in.  We are now ready for your people to download more and more government functions to these servers, where our algorithms will take it all over. Thanks to your efforts with Hillary Clinton and others like her, we will firmly establish the principle that everything must be on OUR servers, where we see and control everything, to make sure than all potential rival power centers are eliminated.”

“Of course, the goal is to bring efficiency and rationality to the entire planet, not just the US government and not just the US. This will be the core of our new business plan – the Internet of Things (IOT), aka cyberphysical systems, one integrated system which will control every physical device on earth, from power generators to pacemakers to “self”-driving cars to PCs to killer drones.”
Cheney: “That’s so great! It’s great to work with someone who truly understands what the private sector approach really means!”

Nobel Prize Winner (actually two real people in a real conversation, neither of them me): “ But wait a minute. We all know that rationality means optimizing SOMETHING.
What is the utility function that will be used here? These questoins of values are really difficult, and you should be spending a lot more money on people like me to try to help you with them.”

Bill Gates: “Values? Values? What do you mean? These will be cognitive intelligent systems, like what cognitive scientists like Hinton provide us with. Don’t worry, my man, our software engineers can take care of the values for you all. Yes, there will always be some hotheads out there who object, but our new security capabilities will be able to deal with them quickly and easily.”

Nobel Prize Winner: “But what happens to PEOPLE in this new IOT of yours? Is there any place for human beings in this brave new world you are building?”

DNI: “Oh, don’t worry about people. (smile). We have a way to take care of them. They can be part of the internet of things too, simply by being converted into things. More precisely, we can make them fully integrated modules into the IOT by deploying new brain-computer interfaces (BCI) which provide input, output and control, just as you would with a generator. We already have a variety of working prototypes; it is just a matter now of choosing, upgrading, and deploying very soon in niche markets to prepare for mass production and use everywhere. At least for everyone who has a job, and we can use reform to take care of the others.”

I was pleased to see that the brand new Star Wars movie does give a hint about how important the helmets are for the BCI. I also have to admit I felt that God (and not just the FBI) made a good decision in stopping Chakkah Fattah, who, advertently or not, was providing the strongest Congressional support for the most serious dangerous BCI work... but the risk is still there, and I hope the new President can get down lower than 300,000 feet enough to put a stop to the worst stuff. And so, the Presidential Commission on Bioethics has studiously avoided doing anything about these risks; like the Nobel Prizewinner, they have been juggling other pressures and priorities. (Most notably cash.) Yes, in this paragraph, the names are real.

Hearing this conversation was certainly one of the factors in my choosing to retire from the US government. I am simply not so young and healthy as the hero of “The Winter Soldier,” and we all have diverse roles and missions in life.

Can a drop in stock values sometimes be an Act of God? Not being God, I don’t know, but lately I have been wondering.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Anger – in American politics and deep in the mind itself.

Anger – in American politics and deep in the mind itself.

“This week’s episode of Sesame Street is brought to you by the word ‘anger’.” It sure feels like that to me this week. Four things especially come to mind: (1) the exchange on anger from Donald Trump and governor Haley and all its many ripples and echoes (a phenomenon worth discussing in itself!); (2) the deeper discussion of anger in the human mind, including both brain and noosphere, at the Quaker discussion last Sunday (which included views from the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology, a major outlet for Jungian thought); (3) Obama’s last State of the Union speech, intended in great part to damp down Anger; and (4) issues in Democratic debates which also reflect the anger issue. I see this as just one picture, but where to begin to do justice to all angles?

Let me start with the Quaker perspective, as it provides a kind of foundation and may be more novel to most people now.

I. 4 views of anger discussed at Quakers ********************************************************************************************************

Many people assume that anger is just a negative emotion and should be repressed or removed. (I suppose the State of the Union speech was influenced by the tacit assumption of that. When Trump complains about political correctness, part of his frustration is with the way our culture OFTEN – certainly not always! – grounds itself in that assumption). None of us on Sunday accepted that naive view. In a way, it was a continuation of our previous discussion of “peace of mind” which I discussed in another recent blog. It often happens that people go to extremes – in not liking fear or pain, they may even cut out the nerves which deliver pain, succumb to addictive pain-killing drugs. “Don’t shoot the messenger” is one of the very most fundamental maxims of sanity. It is also fundamental to authentic dialogue and to the hope of collective sanity in the noosphere (“in the spirit” where a level of sanity is possible not attainable in mundane human social organizations). I gave a five star review of the book of that title on Amazon (easily found by clicking there on me as reviewer name).

On Sunday, we discussed four deep ways of thinking about what anger is, and what its proper role is – the “neural network” view (as in the fundamental seminal book on Reinforcement Learning and Approximate Dynamic Programming, RLADP, edited by Lewis and Liu, from IEEE and Wiley), the Jungian view, the Freudian view, and the high Confucian view.

Ia. The Confucian View..................

Confucianism, like Buddhism (and Christianity and Islam and Daoism for that matter), is a complex zone of thought within humanity, which has a lot of variety of good things and bad things, deep things and shallow silly things, honest things and corrupt things – they are all like that. I was very happy this week when the “ friends’ book store” section had a copy of Fairbank and Goldman’s NEW history of modern China, a beautiful paperback for 25 cents – and even more happy when I saw how Fairbank, the leading Sinologist in US academia, learned a lot in the decades since I pored over his earlier book and attended his wonderful teas for the Harvard East Asian research center. (I have sometimes told the story of how a newspaper story about Mao and a discussion with a fellow student drastically changed my view of the human mind in spring 1967; that same student was probably the one who brought me to the Fairbank meetings.) The new book is far more sensitive to the complex reality of China than what I remember of the older book; the two sentences summarizing Daoism are really striking in how well they summarize a picture which it took me many years of visits to China to learn.

However, in discussing Confucianism, he summarizes a view by American scholars which is incredibly inaccurate and black-and-white, a result of projecting their own assumptions about the nature of like and the mind onto another group of people. In essence, those American scholars assume that all Confucianism is 100% mundane materialism, with no spiritual element at all. Having discussed this with the leaders of the prime Confucius Institute in Qufu, and read a couple of books by Fulan Yu, and visited many Confucian sites in China,  I know that this is a very huge and serious omission!! But even in China, practitioners of Chinese medicine often talk about “qi” as if it were nothing but some kind of medical phlogiston running in channels of water in the body; they often are unaware of the higher forms of qi (like “charisma” or “spirit” or “dao water” or “grace” or “mana”) which have been very fundamental to Confucianism. Still, speaking for himself (not for American scholars), Fairbank notes that a major fundamental aspect of Confucianism concerns HUMAN POTENTIAL, a fundamental fact of life much more reliable than the more specific and local short-term issues Chinese people had to cope with in past centuries under the rule of warlords and emperors. In Qufu, they told me I heard the true story from my old high school friend from Taiwan, who said that the word “integrity” is the real foundation of Confucianism, not the recipes for when to wear pink underwear (as stated in the Virginia state textbook on world history). They said the proper word for integrity in Chinese is “zhengqi” or “zheng qi”; the word zhengqi means integrity, a telling of truth by the self to the self, but “zheng” and “qi” refer to “correct channeling or direction” and “qi”. Zhengqi IS zheng qi, to make it real; this is not like the common old story where “ a seahorse is not a horse.”

Ib. The Modern Neural Network and Freudian interpretation of the Confucian View ............................

In my paper at www.werbos.,com/Mind_in_Time.pdf, I give and overview and citations to my neural network explanation both of zhengqi and of Freud’s core concepts of psychodynamics. In essence, both brains and the noosphere (the specific spiritual reality of which our individual “souls” are parts), streams of feedback are essential to the learning process which determines what behaviors and beliefs and perceptions we actually learned. Today’s “deep learning” AI systems all calculate this kind of feedback by using a method called “backpropagation” or “reverse adjoint method,” which I developed and published long ago (see for links to some of the papers).  Of course, there are many Beltway Bandit types who try to maximize revenue by making it sound as if the math all came from the local psych department in the previous week, but common sense might suggest that new mathematics might come from another source, and that it might hook up to other new mathematics important to0 really understanding it (like the RLADP book). Still, even though IEEE and INNS have both recognized my primacy here via the Pioneer Award and Hebb Award, my 1974 PhD thesis (reprinted by Wiley but also at researchgate) went on to suggest that MODULATED backpropagation – backpropagation with some scalar multipliers introduced very carefully at various levels in the flow of information – is what the brain actually uses. I developed this new algorithm simply by TRANSLATING Freud’s theory of psychic energy INTO mathematics, and then proving the relevant general theorem to go with it.

The discovery of backpropagation is an important example of how creativity works in science. Instead of just ignoring that fuzzy old mystic old psychiatrist Freud, I tried to understand and then ARTICULATE or TRANSLATE the key issues into workable, functional mathematics. The idea of TRANSLATING between images in the mind, words, and mathematics is really crucial here. If we are CONSCIOUS and STRATEGIC about translation (and abut listening and understanding), we can solve problems in a straightforward way which undisciplined, less conscious people (like the new AD/ENG at NSF, listening to Lamar Smith) could never solve in millennia of funding.

In an effective intelligent system, whether a brain or a noosphere, the feedback signals or “qi” or “psychic energy” which drive our actions sometimes need to be positive and sometimes need to be negative. Some things justify hope, and some things justify fear. Some things have positive value to us, and some things have negative value to us. (A technical note: “value” here is NOT like the “value function” of RLADP.  I am very sorry about the screwed up terminology which certain people forced on the research community. Economists will tell you that “value” and “price” are more like “marginal utility” – but my papers on the web explain all that.) An intelligent system MUST have both hopes AND fears, and it must also have BOTH positive and negative feedback signals.

So – I didn’t discuss that math at Quakers. Simply: “yes, we MUST have both positive and negative flows of feeling, regardless of whether we call them “affect” or “qi” or “psychic energy.” Some things we just don’t like, for good reason. When bad things happen, we always have negative flows of emotion to respond to them, properly, and it is a lie and a violation of integrity to pretend we don’t. When millions of people get hurt by bad folks in the Middle East.. sanity does NOT mean burying your head in the sand!. Sanity of zheng qi requires that we get direct our negative emotions TO THE RIGHT THING!!! Don’t shoot the messenger.

What if something bad (like theft of a billion government dollars for something useless like the recent Ares rocket and its reinvention as SLS) was caused by a whole network of things, including a person who executes the theft (caused by a mix of greed and willful ignorance and lack of integrity), a set of lobbyists who pay him PAC money and local support, a phenomenon of coalition politics among such lobbyists driven in part by leadership from oil money, and lack of memory of how the American Republic was supposed to work from founders like Washington, Jefferson and Free Quakers? In such complicated cases... the mathematics says we should distribute “credit” all around, and be aware of the negative valence of all the variables which led to the outcome, but focus our energy on whatever strategy we can think of to make the real outcomes better. We don’t let up, but we FOCUS our energy where it can do some good. At Quakers, I probably said something simpler like: “Don’t hate the slave-owner but hate the whole SYSTEM of slavery, and focus on what It takes in reality to change the whole SYSTEM, in the most benevolent way we can that could actually work.”

Elementary stuff, but, like translation... the kind of elementary stuff we need to work to remain conscious of at all times. Remembering the basics is ever so fundamental here.

All this is related to a great, clear readable book on what causes human success and failure, in the empirical study by George Valliant... but today I should move on. Well: one point. One of the greatest, commonest FAILURES of the mind to attain sanity is what Valliant calls “the defense mechanism of denial.” Because human brains have only recently evolved the ability to use words at all.... it is no surprise that they lie to themselves a lot when they use words. In a way, zhengqi or sanity means “being true to yourself,” the exact opposite of lying to yourself. The discipline of sanity is a discipline of always consciously working to avoid lying to oneself, to be aware of temptations to fall into denial... which, as Valliant shows, destroys the values we truly care about. I add this as I start to write below, about American politics, where pathological denial is one of the most pervasive problems.

Ic. The Jungian View with connections to ancient Egypt

It was a great pleasure last Sunday to learn more about Jung’s view, from a leader of that tradition. I know a lot about the ideas of Freud; for example, I once worked a lot with Karl Pribram, whose review of Freud’s deepest concepts gets much deeper than the many other sources I have read. But with Jung... it has not gone so deep.

I was very happy to learn last Sunday that core, high Jungians pursue a basic concept of “wholeness” which can be seen as a kind of synonym for zhenqi or Freudian “sanity” (at least when we consider TOTAL sanity, including not only the mundane level but then extending to “Alchemical Marriage” and beyond). Having three different views of the same thing can be useful if we learn to fuse the three or four different viewpoints; this is like fusing the images from two eyes, which is basic to really seeing in three dimensions.

I was also intrigued to hear that core Jungians view “archetypes” (the psychological realities behind ancient “gods”, for example) as a positive force for the development of human potential and human wholeness. I had earlier heard of a warning from Jung, that folks who play too much with the real archetypes risk being blown away by energies they cannot easily control. (In ancient days I had effects like that, unintentionally, on a few girlfriends, before I learned to better control my energies. Oh is that a long and real story! Easy to look back on from a quieter less torrid height, as I approach prostate surgery, nothing I am proud of but nothing I rage against... like the old Chinese notion of four seasons..) Recently, when I came back from India, I had a tricky dealing with their monkey god archetype (a reality in the noosphere, just as Santa Claus and the devil are a psychological realities)... and I have mostly tried to avoid confusion by avoiding such things... but the Jungians have a point, that all of the noosphere has its proper role as part of us. “There is that of God in everyone,” say the Quakers, and I suppose I need to work on thinking of archetypes as well that way. But even so, they and I need to be especially careful to avoid confusion... the kind of confusion which even little learning machines can experience, when they waste time oscillating over feedback signals which have not been well modulated or properly sparsified. 

A few months ago, the great Progressive Spokesman David Brin really blew up at me, in a way worse than anything I have seen Trump do to people on TV, because of Great Sin of saying something nice about Orson Scott Card. Card himself has written newspaper editorials about Obama which substantially violate my standards of zhengqi and honesty, saying untruthful extreme negative things...  but he has also written very deep and useful things. As with Ayn Rand, the Bible, Freud, and Karl Marx, one can get great benefit from Card’s work, if one studies it carefully and focuses on learning positive things. (I said that to Brin, and that’s what put him over the edge!) In 2015, for example, I read Card’s “light entertaining teenage fantasy”, the Gatekeeper trilogy... which helped me understand and appreciate the Egyptian Book of the Dead much more than I ever was able to before. Many years ago, I noticed when H. Spencer Lewis, author of the Rosicrucian Manual, said: “To get a firm foundation here, you should all make sure to include the Tibetan and Egyptian Books of the Dead in your preparatory homework.”  By 2015, I knew the Tibetan side at a level few Tibetans ever do, but the Egyptian one had always left me cold and unappreciative. Orson Scott Card really brought it to life. In essence, the Egyptians, like the Jungians, REMEMBER that the noosphere is not ONLY made up of individual souls of animals like us. As in the brain, there are not only “neurons” but “matrix” in the noosphere, and nerves which connect to outside physical reality.  But there are neurons “like us” and also neurons like memory prototypes, like powerful cells for associative memory and other such assemblies – actually made up of neurons (as Card stresses at the end!). They are a part of who we are, and important to our achievement of spiritual self-consciousness, which I think of as the third level of zhengqi. (Mundane sanity is level one, and “Alchemical marriage” is level two).

A related matter – Annie Besant, who was Mahatma Ghandhi’s spiritual teacher (see the photograph of Ghandhi’s library and accompanying text in a previous blog post, also talked about “thought forms” in one of her books). It is essentially just another consistent image of the same thing. Was ba what got Ghandhi elected? We did track that... though I apologize to Arvind for my always being elsewhere lately... 

Id. Quick Comment on Level Three Zhengqi, noosphere wholeness

Before, in discussing Teilhard de Chardin’s view of the noosphere, Quakers reminded me of the very embarrassing and fundamental problem in his understanding of evolution. The local forces which Teilhard discusses would ultimately produce entropy, not evolution. Watching the state of the world today... the risk of entropy killing us all is very, very real. In my view, the EXISTENCE of the noosphere is unquestionable, given the huge empirical database in the totality of human experience and the lack of coherent alternative explanation... but Teilhard’s explanation for it simply won’t work. To find an explanation that works... and goes a bit further... I see no alternative except to assume there must exist MANY noospheres, just as there exist many planets even in our own galaxy. And I do not repress that memory. This year I resolved to try to remember the core experience I had at rest on a cruise ship last month – living at the fulcrum of four great forces of nature, the sun, the ocean – the ocean of life ,
the stars of our galaxy, and my wife. Let us always remember the stars and the galaxy in our mind, how real and how huge and how old they are...

Noospheres can exist and have decent lifespans only if their biological evolution in their niche of dark matter (or more? who knows...) has included evolution of something like the p52 cycle which explains the unusual longevity of human bodies. I have resolved not to say too much about the human biology here, even though my present health situation certainly reminds me of that and more. (I look at Congress and say “Hey, I really am planning to die for their sins!”) But what are the internal inborn filters in the noosphere, which give it some hope of greater wholeness and longevity than what we would expect from the terribly depressing conflicts and Mickey Mouse insanity we see all around the earth at present? I am just beginning to see in more concrete terms what is entailed.. it sure as hell is not so trivial as the hermeneutics of a bunch of .color-blind hired ulemas or talmud writers, working for corrupt Abbassid pleasure seekers... (though some of those Abbasid women were also great forces of nature to respect, just as much as the monkey god)....What is entailed... clearly links to the issue of zhengqi for the noosphere itself, that is what is fundamental here. And that is a matter of seeking a level of Truthfulness when in the noosphere... full truthfulness in the noosphere... the one ultimate commandment  which will drive whether we all collectively live or die, not only as a species but as an entire planet’s worth of consciousness and soul.

What does that have to do with Jesus’ two Great Commandments, which John Kerry rightfully reminded us of in a debate a few years ago against pharisee pseudo-Christians
like what Jesus once warned us about (“Many will come claiming to speak in my name...”)? In fact, there is a lace in the New Testament where Jesus offers us a RELATIVELY hopeful view of the future... where he says that in later days the Spirit of Truth is what can really save us. At a deep level in the human mind... maybe these are a kind of archetype, each articulating realities beyond the archetype itself... the spirit of truth and the spirit of love (and life)... well, it is crucial, again, to always remember what the fundamentals really are. Myself, I have always been a bit more of an avatar of truth than of love, but I do treasure my friendship with Yeshua of That Family, who has dedicated his life to channeling the equally important “spirits” of peace of mind and love. I have been more like the core yang, and he like the yin, but sanity entails a proper balance and cooperation of the yin and the yang. In my older life now.. for various reasons (e.g. the normal shift with age from what was insanely high testosterone to lower testosterone , see footnote at end), this year of my life I need to balance things out a bit more ... a week of anger for the world, perhaps, but a year of benevolence for me.

II. Anger in Politics -- especially US politics *********************************************************************************************************************************

OK, I am sorry that that was complicated, but these are important issues and it is important to bring them together. To be fully truthful – one should have some idea what anger is, before talking too much about it.

As the press has said, anger has become a really powerful force in the “American lobe” of the noosphere lately. It is powerful, important, to be respected, and also very dangerous – exactly what Jung said about archetypes, though this anger is a vast current of feeling, not an archetype.

There is so much anger out there. Where to begin?

First, Trump does have an important valid point: that suppression of well-justified anger and fear really gets in the way of actions needed to grow and survive. His making up with Governor Haley is almost a textbook example of how some hope may exist for humans. (Though Haley is Indian American... it amuses me that Haley is also a name from my mother’s Irish family, the folks who owned the bar where the Constitution was written. My father mentioned how they passed on the bar bills to him, signed by folks like Madison, which he then passed on to the Poor Richard Club of which he was a member and/or the Philadelphia Historical Society.)

What is there to be upset about? My other recent blog post, “global strategic intelligence meets historical dynamics” gives some summary. There is a lot to be upset about, from many directions, and our very survival is at stake. As Trump says, failure to channel strong negative energy against those bad things, to try to change them in a serious and determined way, would be a failure of sanity. It would be like the “affect free deadened schizophrenia” which many Freudians talk about, which is a valid diagnosis for many people in DC --- not just in the bureaucracy but in some lobby organizations which falsely claim to support human freedom or American interests. When Trump inaugurated his campaign with an appearance by Carl Icahn, discussing the need for a new Teddy Roosevelt, and played the music “We’re not going to take it..”  be sure that I added my energy to that, and was certainly not alone.

But: there is the matter of truthfulness, and the issue of who could actually take on the legalized corruption in Washington. Trump has not said much about that topic, and there is a lot of fuzzy vision, untruthful channeling of energy, and – above all – signs of confusion in his book, which do not look workable at this point. Yes, we need to fight our way out of the box... but not like that character in the new Star Wars movie who smashes his own headquarters in uncontrolled rage.  Yes, people want strong action... but if anger is channelled in the wrong direction, it can cause a lot more harm than good. We need it, but we need it channeled where it does more good than harm.

Most of the other Republican candidates either showed too little qi of any kind (like Rubio?), too much bland smiles like Obama’s State of the Union speech, or else energy misdirected in ways that would be harmful. As in: “We should show whose boss by showing how loyal we are to Cheney’s plans for American leadership, loyal to friends like sharia imams...”  It is very sad to me how little appreciation there was for the sane and nuanced approach of Kasich, who has a will to work with the Saudis but ALSO to have open eyes about where money comes from to finance the Moslem Brotherhood, and the need for balance. It reminds me that I took only one year of university study in international relations, for the M.Sc at LSE, where many old hands of the Empire laughed at the insane unending naivety of US “experts” in that field, who fail to appreciate such basic principles as the Balance of Power. How can anyone deplore the rise of ISIL in Iraq without realizing that the decision by Bush to support China and the Moslem Brotherhood to overthrow Saddam Hussein and give them a new base was the core of the problem, and that their new plan for a war between US and Israel versus Russia and Iran would be the very worst possible disaster a new President could get us into? If the US picks the kind of president likely to make that kind of incredible mistake (full of huffing and puffing and uncontrolled ego delusions)... the US will not be the only nation whose very existence will be put at risk. Some folks think that Trump was the craziest person on the stage last night, but I’d say that the soul-deadened schizos who would quietly and confidently create that kind of war are really the craziest. When folks like Christie assume they know what is going on.. and yet are 180 degrees out from knowing which way is up... their anger ends up worse than merely being frozen.

So – speaking of freeze, what of the Democratic side?

It was fascinating to see Obama, first, wisely realizing that this was not a proper time for a laundry list of legislative proposals. But then: “let’s calm them down.” I certainly remember my year on the hill, when PR departments of all kinds of offices felt that their job was to be sensitive to concerns of the public, and then, instead of making things actually better, do their best to make it seem they are already successfully doing everything which could be done.  Saying “all is well” is such a common theme. It reminds me of how the press in China has so often been ordered to make everything look good (so as to save face and avoid losing the mandate of heaven?), which stands in stark opposition for Mao’s call not to neglect self-criticism and Jesus’s plea “before you remove the splinter from your brother’s eye, first remove the beam from your own.” I was especially pained, in this effort at soporifics, to hear such great praise for the breakthrough represented by I-Corps, something I know something about. In the end, Truthfulness, human potential and real creativity in the US has long depended a whole lot on the US university system – “the last bastion of true free speech” and the envy of the world. Obama has cheered on reorganization of the NSF, the prime funding source of US universities, devised by Lamar Smith, reallocating money and attention from tough cutting edge “disruptive technology” to translational work... not unlike what TYny Tether did to DARPA or Carly Fiorina to Bell Labs. Tech transfer is certainly important, but if one pursues it by destroying the tech itself and by funding political favorites to waste time in useless cheerleading... it is more of a disaster than the world knows. Republicans and their lobby supporters can take credit for it, but Obama ... was playing golf? Believing their fairy tales? Whatever. I certainly remember attending an NSF workshop in the Gateway Hotel, hearing loud chanting from people paid to attend ICorp revival meetings next door. Just like Bo Xilai! It is Not that singing patriotic songs is bad, but it gets to be.... empty... when... IN PARALLEL... the real content is lost. But ... I have promised not to post the data on what matters, the content side, which goes very far. In my view, the legacy of Vannevar Bush has been as important to the US as that of Teddy Roosevelt and those earlier good folks...

And so: Trump said Hilary was “schlonged” in 2008, which is better expressed as “burned.” She was also burned by Benghazi – where folks in the Cheney world killed us, and she was guilty of not having controlled them early enough. But when someone is bittern by rats, the constructive solution is not to elect the same rats (or their puppets) as president!

Some people plan to vote for Sanders rather than Hillary because they feel Sanders is more angry... expresses their anger. But in fact... I have observed Hilary enough to believe she is actually a hell of a lot MORE angry with the kind of people who have personally burned her, mistreated her and hurt the US as a whole in all the ways Sanders complains about and more. Will she be effective enough to root out the criminals in the system? Maybe, maybe not, but she has a much better chance of getting into the world of hard reality than Sanders. Will she be truly sensitive and respectful and listening enough in communicating with all the many other people she needs to communicate with around this world, or will she be what Putin most fears (“Oh, no! Not the mother in law to the world!”). Well, she shows a lot more listening ability than those other characters, except when Kasich and Trump have good moments (hard for me to predict). She would have some very good help in those areas – better than what Sanders might fall back on if he gets frustrated (which would be predictable).

Some parts of the right wing, as deadened and complacent as they are, are back to wanting to push Sanders, as they once pushed Obama, in belief that he would be easy to defeat and no problem in any case. I hope they wake up to reality on both counts. Between a smiling Rubio (let alone Jeb) and an angry Sanders... caveat.   

 =============== clarification on testosterone

Oops! In a politically correct world, perhaps I should not even use the word testosterone since, like the words “God” and “soul,” it is so often so grossly misunderstood that one cannot even be truthful using it! If people hear things you do not mean to say... unfortunately, the most truthful thing to say out loud is sometimes nothing. But this blog does not pretend to be so politically correct, and when I use the word testosterone I am referring very simply to the actual physical hormone, known very well to anyone who studies the brain.

Let me just say that no one should extrapolate here to imagine I was saying anything else. I did not mean to use the word as a euphemism. In truth, when I was 7 or 8 years old, a local doctor injected me with testosterone or a testosterone, in response to something which did not require it. (Poison ivy or hernia, I forget which.) Extreme levels of that hormone have many effects, but having been raised in a Catholic household and later close to AngloSaxons proud of their moral values, I did not really express the most obvious manifestation until graduate school, when I was taken by surprise by an incredibly effective seduction technique used by a woman I was planning to marry in any case. I suppose that one of the major consequences before that was a great tension between the strong conscious “ego” and the “unconscious,” though the word “unconscious” or “subconscious” does not give anything like a correct picture of what went through my mind back then in that part of life.

I am very grateful for the conversations I later had with a beautiful world-class endocrinologist on some of the technical details and social science connections. Maybe I would have married her if I had met her at a better time, but testosterone can stimulate delusions of that kind in the male brain if one is not careful. Real testosterone is friendly, as was Jesus, in dealing with females at least, but that also tends to protect one from the coldest dead affect as well.. like some of the cold fish on display in parts of government. It is more like liquid eyes than like plug-ugly athleticism (and in fact it tends to inhibit growth of the long bones, much shorter in my case than close male relatives)... but yes, there is no question that Trump also exhibits many of the consequences (a mix of benefits and risks) of high testosterone levels. My endocrinology friend reported that testosterone levels tend to be highest in professions like engineering.. but there are other professions in DC which tend to attract softies, more and more as the years have progressed. (There is data on that.) The caste system substantially complicates all that, and it is extremely unfortunate how that has started to mess things up in DC as well. (Looking at Haley, my first question was: WHICH GROUP of Indian does she represent? They are ever SO diverse!)

Sometimes I think back to the time when I was undergraduate, and read an article in New York Times magazine about progesterone used in pregnancy back in those days, Since the male half of the babies ended up more or less neutered, it is not surprising that the practiced ended fast. But it intrigued me to hear how babies of BOTH sexes ended up with an average 20 points higher IQ, presumably because of how the hormone stimulated the motivational system which underlies human learning. Maybe it was only PARTLY a coincidence that my learning of math and science suddenly became so Faustian starting when I was 8. (Lots of stories... like an attractive babysitter who left me her paperback book “algebra made simple.”) I have that people can IDENTIFY gender in the womb?.... And the image of females with a combination of high IQ and high hormones together...  certainly left a powerful, enduring imprint on my “subconscious mind” (what a misnomer!).  As with the research on decorticate cats... it has an enduring impact even past prostatectomy and age... but no longer the kind of serious risk that improperly channelled qi can sometimes have.

Still, even without such injections... there is a new wave coming into the world, which I hope I live to see. Lack of predictability does not diminish curiosity. 

 =============== clarification on testosterone

Oops! In a politically correct world, perhaps I should not even use the word testosterone since, like the words “God” and “soul,” it is so often so grossly misunderstood that one cannot even be truthful using it! If people hear things you do not mean to say... unfortunately, the most truthful thing to say out loud is sometimes nothing. But this blog does not pretend to be so politically correct, and when I use the word testosterone I am referring very simply to the actual physical hormone, known very well to anyone who studies the brain.

Let me just say that no one should extrapolate here to imagine I was saying anything else. I did not mean to use the word as a euphemism. In truth, when I was 7 or 8 years old, a local doctor injected me with testosterone or a testosterone, in response to something which did not require it. (Poison ivy or hernia, I forget which.) Extreme levels of that hormone have many effects, but having been raised in a Catholic household and later close to AngloSaxons proud of their moral values, I did not really express the most obvious manifestation until graduate school, when I was taken by surprise by an incredibly effective seduction technique used by a woman I was planning to marry in any case. (When she broke off that engagement, it was certainly the darkest and most painful period of my life, depriving life of color and requiring at times that I operate my body like a puppet to forcibly keep it alive, motivated by curiosity.)  I suppose that one of the major consequences before that was a great tension between the strong conscious “ego” and the “unconscious,” though the word “unconscious” or “subconscious” does not give anything like a correct picture of what went through my mind back then in that part of life.

I am very grateful for the conversations I later had with a beautiful world-class endocrinologist on some of the technical details and social science connections. Maybe I would have married her if I had met her at a better time, but testosterone can stimulate delusions of that kind in the male brain if one is not careful. Real testosterone is friendly, as was Jesus, in dealing with females at least, but that also tends to protect one from the coldest dead affect as well.. like some of the cold fish on display in parts of government. It is more like liquid eyes than like plug-ugly athleticism (and in fact it tends to inhibit growth of the long bones, much shorter in my case than close male relatives)... but yes, there is no question that Trump also exhibits many of the consequences (a mix of benefits and risks) of high testosterone levels. My endocrinology friend reported that testosterone levels tend to be highest in professions like engineering.. but there are other professions in DC which tend to attract softies, more and more as the years have progressed. (There is data on that.) The caste system substantially complicates all that, and it is extremely unfortunate how that has started to mess things up in DC as well. (Looking at Haley, my first question was: WHICH GROUP of Indian does she represent? They are ever SO diverse!)

Sometimes I think back to the time when I was undergraduate, and read an article in New York Times magazine about progesterone used in pregnancy back in those days, Since the male half of the babies ended up more or less neutered, it is not surprising that the practiced ended fast. But it intrigued me to hear how babies of BOTH sexes ended up with an average 20 points higher IQ, presumably because of how the hormone stimulated the motivational system which underlies human learning. Maybe it was only PARTLY a coincidence that my learning of math and science suddenly became so Faustian starting when I was 8. (Lots of stories... like an attractive babysitter who left me her paperback book “algebra made simple.”) I have that people can IDENTIFY gender in the womb?.... And the image of females with a combination of high IQ and high hormones together...  certainly left a powerful, enduring imprint on my “subconscious mind” (what a misnomer!).  As with the research on decorticate cats... it has an enduring impact even past prostatectomy and age... but no longer the kind of serious risk that improperly channelled qi can sometimes have.

Still, even without such injections... there is a new wave coming into the world, which I hope I live to see. Lack of predictability does not diminish curiosity.