Saturday, March 12, 2016

From DOD question about research priorities to larger issues about our freedom and our future

A guy from DOD recently posed a question to one of the leading lists in computational intelligence and to many others:

My question for you is as follows. Putting all political stances and ideologies aside, what is the scientific problem most in need of a solution, broadly defined (e.g., utilitarianism)? My answer to that question follows. May I invite you to share your (dissenting) answer with everyone on this list? Please feel free to expand the list of contacts as you see fit.


My reply:

This is an enormous question. Today, at lunch with a former ass't secy of defense, we agreed: "We are called above all to learn how to drink from a firehose." That does not exactly mean generating a wider spectrum of input data, at all levels which come to us; rather, it means working as hard and as fast as we can to COPE effectively and properly with that spectrum of data, in part by every one of us pressing our limits as to what we can handle, not only in terms of volume but in terms of diversity and depth.  

To be completely honest, I felt seriously moved by part of what Hillary Clinton said in her victory speech in South Carolina, when she said her top goal was to help every single one of us to fully attain our "God-given human potential." In almost all of my talks lately
(e.g. slides posted at top of, I include my "flag of neural networks and COPN", which includes an arrow from the brain icon to an icon representing human potential -- a rose on top of a yin-yang. The neural network field, especially, can develop the kind of fundamental mathematical understanding we need to better understand ourselves at all levels, to reconcile complementary viewpoints on the same issue, and help us be more conscious (more self-conscious really) and more effective in this most important of goals. 

But... in my recent IEEE summer school talk (slides posted there), I do mention other important areas for application, related to issues such as making human life both on earth and in space settlements more viable and sustainable for the long-term. (Also part of the "flag" slide.) Someday I might contact one of those places which makes meter-by-meter glass or ceramic images, and ask them to put the "flag" slide on such an image, to hang up on an outside wall and an inside wall of my house. 

All five of the big arrows on that slide represents a major, complex area of research, in need of many more specific contributions flowing into the larger picture. For example, my paper in IEEE CIM magazine on the intelligent grid listed about twenty new research projects we need just in that one part of the field, any of which I would have been happy to fund when I was at NSF (retired one year ago).

We also talked about fuzzy and evolutionary computing at that summer school, but the neural part was enough to take up most of the hour and a half allocated to me. A big subject here.

Best of luck,


 He then made various comments offline, and here is part of that next stage:

He said:

I visited,
Your comment, "the psychopathic human defends its ego by a misuse of words
(like ideologies and dogmas) so as to avoid learning anything except more
collections of meaningless words and pointless tricks"
reminds me of the problems with the medical establishment. Here, ego-centric
behaviors and greed seem to roadblock scientific advancement.

My reply:

This in turn reminds me of a discussion just yesterday about someone working hard to be responsive to Congressman Lamar Smith, and about the guy wanting to know who this guy Smith really is and what he has been doing to us all. Smith has a long public record -- but I reminisced yesterday about the reporter who asked him "As you take over the House Science and Technology Committee, what is your background and interest in science?" His reply(as best I recall): "The only science which really matters, Christian Science."
"Yet," I said, "He doesn't really represent that spiritual tradition. The record at that time said he had advanced lots of things making money for the medical establishment, very much at variance with the things which Mary Baker Eddy said. It seems as if his real religion is money..." And then I remembered his huge emphasis on pushing Brain Computer Interface, and what Khargonekar said at a conversation depicted in one of the colorful slides I posted yesterday at history/NN_BigData_2016_v2.pdf

They even sent out a wide diktat the other day telling lots of people to discuss BCI with the press, because of someone's great sensitivities. They really want to make a lot of money on this, just as the drug folks did with cocaine and heroin, and don't want it to be discussed just how awful it is. 

The issue here is not about one Congressman caught up in the larger Washington system. The bad impact of corruption based on money from that source goes well beyond the BCI risk (huge as that risk is). 
Last night, as I listened to the Republican debate (much, much better than all of its predecessors)... I was sad that no one seemed to understand the reality and validity of what Trump said specifically on the deficit, in the discussion of social security. He mentioned defense contracting, not the medical sector, but similar issues apply. (In defense contracting, what really concerns me is our failure to move towards low-cost access to space, badly needed for many reasons, in the face of other little deals Lamar Smith has been involved in. Much more than the deficit implications, I am concerned about the loss of capabilities. McCain has been asking good questions lately, but the gatekeepers and filters are rather intimidating, and friends of mine wonder whether even he may be totally helpless in the present situation, even himself caught up in something too big for him to do anything about. 


As I post this, I first think of some caveats and explanations, and then I am reminded of the larger dialogue for and against freedom which is a very big part of life and the noosphere today. And yes... believe it or not,
in the "conversations with God" this morning, God really did have very positive things to say about Hillary Clinton;
it surprised me at one level, but I get the idea now.

Caveats and explanations: excessive power of money over politics in DC has roughly three types of terrible effects:
(1) busting the budget of the government, through inability to reduce either the rate of growth of medical spending without loss in efficiency, or to reduce large nonproductive types of tax loopholes for corporate welfare -- the main reason why all the Republican candidates except Trump want to cut social security and some would adopt policies likely to cause a global great economic depression; (2) changing the mix of RD&D -- a hugely important factor in shaping our future -- away from things that could increase our chances of avoiding species extinction and assist our spiritual growth, towards things which may endanger and oppress us far more than most people realize may be coming; and (3) by reducing choices and freedom available to all but a very few people (themselves caught up in sticky chains of their own making), directly impeding spiritual growth. Notice that, unlike Trump, I did not point towards DOD contracting as an important part of (1); however, a stronger CEO leadership and demand for honorable competition (bringing back Admiral Steidel even, with some discussion of missions first??) could help a lot with serious low cost access to space, a technology far more important than most people realize and far more endangered than the usual PR money grubbers let you know. 

Some might say that Sanders and Trump have been far more clear about how serious the problem of legalized corruption has become in DC, and how it calls for really focused action. Hillary can see how awful the things are which hit her directly and personally, but does she understand that it's a lot bigger than personal and that it requires SOME kind of systemic approach? Is she capable of an effective but constructive systemic approach? That's a serious question which has worried me. Some of us eased up a bit on Sanders just recently, because we really need a clear dialogue on that issue. Yet... in the conversations-with-God discussion... I have to admit that Hillary's victory speech in South Carolina, with the memorable news clip of what she said about everyone attaining their god-given potential... (I only saw that clip...)... that's even more fundamental and essential, and it fits into item (3)!


So, before I got out of bed, this entire "homework assignment" was fleshed out in detail in my mind, but then came a bit of a zinger, a jangling memory of where we REALLY are here on this earth.

The issue of human potential, human freedom and human empowerment is still a cause at issue, and not well understood by people.

For example, at some level, freedom is all about choices. There are folks who think: "We want to defend and advance freedom, and to make that secure, we will create a world where no one has any choices. People don't REALLY want choices. They want to be told what to do." Ironically, part of the problem is that there are people who say they want freedom, and in some cases came to the US to get more freedom, but carry with them much of the culture of other places, where they do not really respect the possibility and need for other people to be more empowered, all of them, and have more choices in their very own lives. Such people pay more attention to the freedom of factories to put poison into the water or the air, into the "commons," than to the freedom of people in everyday life. "It is easier when you know what you are supposed to do."

I suppose I do not have time this morning to get really deep into this large and important basic issue, but I should note a few aspects.

First -- in discussions between Yeshua ben David this year (something like an avatar of peace and love, from an old Jewish family which has tried really hard to teach that to the world) and myself (animated a lot by the spirit of truth and the search for truth, more even than anyone I ever met at NSF or leading universities, perhaps the best place to look in recent decades)... I began to realize that the principle of Rational Impedance Matching (RIM) may even be co-equal in importance to these others. Impedance matching.... we are ALL called to stretch our spiritual limits in learning to handle more and more... just as we are called at a lower level to push what our physical muscles can handle... to strengthen them... but not to push beyond the breaking point. We each of us need to maintain a balance, between stretching but not spraining... AND WE NEED TO WORK AS PART OF THE NOOSPHERE AS A WHOLE to do the same for others.

But what do we stretch? Certainly we aren't supposed to do the kind of stretching that Chinese aristocrats once imposed on their women, tying their feet up in tiny knots. That's unnatural and destructive, in a serious way, and preventing such destruction is one of the greatest spiritual imperatives in our world today. Minds and brains are meant to be used, and strengthened... and making choices is part of what they do when used. Tyranny is tyranny, whether implemented by government or by the private sector. It is difficult to foster the kind of national cultures and corporate cultures which truly nurture and support human choices and empowerment and growth, but that's what it is about.    


Am tempted to say more about the candidates, but then I remember privacy rules, which are also part of RIM. There are illegitimate and dangerous secrets in this world, but there are also serious considerations justified at his levels. 

Best of luck



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