Monday, May 2, 2016

Election 2016 versus human species survival

Election 2016 versus human species survival

For as long as I live, I will regularly ask myself the questions: (1) what hope still exists that the human species will mobilize its consciousness in order to avoid the clear likelihood of extinction within just a few thousand years? ; (2) what near-term opportunities and threats have impacts plus or minus on the probability of human extinction?; (3) what is going on in the noosphere here?

Election 2016 is certainly one of the things likely to have an impact. During recovery from surgery, when I couldn’t even handle my laptop until recently, I set my Verizon “favorites” to just three channels – CNN, France24 and RT, and spent hours watching. At times, I felt I was watching three distinct images in parallel – the actual transmission, the transmission as marked up by the graffiti of my .. subconscious mind, and an analytic image of what is really happening at an objective level few viewers are aware of.

For example, just today, just before Fiorina fell off the stage after a prediction of Cruz victory in Indiana, the graffiti image showed her talking about “dead Cruz.” Probably I should not say what else it has come up with lately, more amusing than things Trump has said. It is actually a sign of sanity that Trump is aware of the graffiti side of his mind… but does he have it under control? TBD.

More seriously, there was a key moment earlier when Kasich laughed about something Trump had said, and said: “I have news for you. There is no department of waste, fraud and abuse.” At that very instant, the higher analytic part said: “Finit. End of that.” Of course, Kasich, like many of us, is aware of the ancient history of politicians who promise to balance budgets the easy way, by fictional reductions in waste fraud and abuse which end up being tiny nasty token efforts at best. Kasich’s achievements in creating a bandaid for the US deficit were huge, and it is weird that the press has so totally ignored that this year, in preference to endless discussion of Trump’s body parts and such. However.. the real world of the US budget, economy and technology require much more than a bandaid, for us to survive at all long-term, and Kasich’s comment was a heavy signal that he doesn’t have the kind of awareness needed to get to stage two. Trump has not spoken on TV about the details of more competitive and demanding procurement, tax loopholes and efficiency in medical spending, but all three currently involve really gross inefficiencies and even legalized corruption, and he has been clear about wanting Teddy Roosevelt scale changes in all three. Trump is certainly a high risk candidate, but when the alternative is no hope.. it did not surprise me at that point that forces which seemed to be opening to a Kasich possibility evaporated.

Likewise, it did not surprise me when Boehner came out agreeing with Kasich that Cruz is the closest thing we have to a real prince of darkness in this race. He who knows Cruz the best of all the strong Republican spokesmen is clearest on this point. (Ok, the graffiti side says I should give away at least one of ITS images. My wife has played the Netflix series The Borgias lately, and the resonance between the face of Fiorina and the face of Catarina Sforza as she creates a fraudulent relic for pilgrims going to Rome… How can anyone fail to see that specific type of face, the kind which would stone innocent people to death, and make a big deal of an obvious fraudulent video about Planned Parenthood, making claims which are transparently absurd?)

Long ago, I was stunned when Cruz and Paul joint sponsored a bill to do something to the federal reserve which would substantially increase the probability of massive world economic depression even within my own limited life expectancy. That would also substantially reduce the probability of humanity doing what it needs to do to avoid extinction. (Our collective situation is “grow or die.”)

This is ever so important, but how to explain the many dimensions of it?

One way is our friend’s old method of using parables.

Ted Cruz is like unto a man whose laptop has been misbehaving (like me here now!), who gets so frustrated and angry that he smiles a pretend smile (to keep the laptop from worrying?), picks up a huge hammer, and simply smashes the thing to bits. That’s exactly what he intends to do to the banking system, and others. Some say Sanders is similar, but without the false smile. In fact, that “laptop” (the world financial system) has lots of very serious problems and limitations, but it would require something a whole lot smarter than a hammer to do more good than harm.

But then.. to understand what is really at stake and what is really going on… I may not have time today but will try some.

To really understand.. I draw heavily on what I learned from 1988 to 2015 as a Program Director at NSF, an institution which in my view had one of the two most powerful cultures of excellence in the US government, the other being the Federal Reserve. Luda tells me that the phrases “corporate culture” and “corporate anthropology” have gone out of favor lately, but, if so, that would be a huge and dangerous blind spot in people’s thinking, similar to the time when folks like Condoleeza Rice ignored the literature on the prerequisites for democracy and thus  created monsters and wars that could have been  avoided ever so easily. At a certain point, Congressman Lamar Smith (from a local political culture similar to Cruz’s?) implemented a new “accountability and transparency” program for NSF which in my view relates to real accountability and transparency as much as the “ministry of peace” in 1984 related to peace. For those with a certain kind of political or jihadi dedication, it is a common PR tactic to choose words as numbing as possible, to pave the way for their opposite. It is well known on the Hill how Smith’s folks got so far that they even had Congressional staffers come in and examine proposals and reviews before funding decisions were made. Transparent and accountable to the same PACmen who control other iron triangle sites of legalized corruption. That extreme abuse was stopped… but the Congressman who fought hardest against it was removed by the FBI, which is also following Smith’s guidance in their project for Hillary Clinton. It is also well known that Smith is fighting to end the rotation system, under which half the serious technical Program Director positions are held for just a few years by leading university researchers… that, after about half the long-term tenured program directors (like me) retired for undocumented reasons…. Who needs technical leadership?

And so, the same pattern is planned for the Fed… a new “accountability and transparency” push likely to show even less respect for excellence and truth. If Cruz is elected and picks Sarah Palin as new head of the Fed, maybe a few folks will then wake up a bit from their stupor. Or not.

But in actuality, the losses we have already experienced are quite worrisome, and relate to the fundamental realities of how corporate cultures work.

A much more positive story about corporate culture is Paulson’s recent book Dealing with China. To bridge the gap between economic theory and the realities of human life and human minds, Paulson’s book is a must read. (I have a review at easily found on another book on making money in China which is complementary.) A really crucial ingredient in China’s rapid economic growth so far has been a planned change in corporate culture, mobilizing he power of market design to get a level of effective collective intelligence far beyond old style religious or Maoist pieties.

What really worries me is this: the threats to human survival today clearly require a level of collective intelligence yet another level beyond that (and many levels beyond the dumb “Watson” level which IBM financiers are trying to foist on us). In many, many arenas it seems as if our future is summarized in Ben Franklin’s old (rewritten) poem: “For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost.” It’s that basic. If we can’t find and cultivate the key “nails,” we all become cockroach food.

Quick summary: we need a component of collective intelligence with orders of magnitude more resolution and vividness than today’s guangxi/DC/Smith system OR VC system, not to handle everything but to do justice to the  ‘nails.” Among the nails, in my informed view, are things like hot structures technology for re-entry vehicles, high efficiency Stirling engines for solar arrays and even vehicles, our best options for rechargeable metal-air batteries, early warning for H2S archaea buildup…. not to mention whole new branches of electronics and photonics now off the table.

I know a lot about those things because the old NSF culture, due to Vannevar Bush, ALLOWED those who care to really find out the true story, to the greatest extent that humans are capable of learning the true story, after a whole lot of very hard work and unceasing learning.

Of course, that culture was really just an extension of earlier insights by people like John Stuart Mill, George Washington, Jefferson, Francis Bacon, Emmanuel Kant, Von Neumann, Raiffa..
There are great accounts of what was really behind US S&T strength in the book edited by William Bainbridge (Sage) on that subject.

And it is such a tragedy to see it now lost due to neo-medievalists. The graffiti side says: “Oh, just old style evilists, fake grand poohbahs like ancient Sumerian priest kings, the revenge of the people of the vegetable. Mention the accountability ideas in the new Captain America movie..”

The NASA watchers are shocked this month to see how Smith is so actively ejecting the remains of advanced S&T at NASA…

I am skeptical of whether Clinton or Trump could now prevent the loss of this once great beacon of light and of economic progress… but one can hope and one can pray, and one can try to be graceful in shifting weight to the afterlife.

These being large and important topics, perhaps I should say a bit more.

Clinton certainly looks like a strong favorite right now for many reasons in the general election. 
(Trump's recent lines of attack on Clinton hurt him more deeply than he knows. She is no Jeb Bush, and people know that.)  But what about Lamar Smith's role as point man to use the FBI to get rid of her at the most embarrassing possible moment? And what about her overly personal responses to Putin and to Charles Koch, who has twice recently tried to extend a serious olive branch? These challenges would be very tough for anyone, but I have often felt her chances of coping with them would be better with a relatively strong guy at her side as VP, like Kerry. Kerry is not superman either, but who else could fill in her weak points as well as he could? Certainly not Elizabeth Warren, and I would doubt Elon Musk. Proper response to olive branches, not subservient but not dismissive, is really essential for any President. As is a kind of probing constructive skepticism, not like Musk's too-quick fixes or Gore's ego games. (Maybe the new CEO of HP?) 

Clinton has sometimes elicited laughs with her comments about vast right-wing conspiracy against her, but in many ways (as with the operation using the FBI) she may be underestimating and overly personalizing the threats. In recent years, it becomes ever more dangerous even to assume that the words "conservative" or "right wing" have some kind of objective meaning; there are vast clusters of mutually inconsistent ideologies and vested interests floating around in shifting though potent coalitions and networks out there. Even some key individual players harbor vast internal inconsistencies. Paulson's book about China does note a few parallels with their experiences... Hey, reality is not easy.

Clinton's people show great awareness of books like Brock's and like "Dark Money," but they would be a bit less blind-sided (and a bit more worried, properly so) if they were to read "A G-Man's Journal" through to the last chapter. Even Dark Money, which makes it sound almost as if Charles Koch is now the secret all-powerful emperor of America, contains strong indicators of a more complex story.

In fact, whenever I think of Charles Koch, I immediately think of many important connections needed for a more three-dimensional view. For example... I wonder how they would respond to really meet a guy I know in Michigan who embodies the core spirit of their dead father Fred much more than anyone else I have met on earth. If only they did! His core concerns were not with politics in the usual sense, but with the horrible barriers our society imposes on folks ready to do real serious technology innovation and not just inferior fuzzy schmoozing bullshit. If only... the best thing they could do would be all business, almost no link to political stuff at all. But would they really appreciate the spirit of their own father, now that they themselves have spent so many years interacting with the political class? Would an honest upside potential on the order of a trillion dollars per year mean as much to them now as it should?

Much more could be said... but this may be too long already.

A key point: Charles Koch is not the only player out there behind guys like Lamar Smith or even Jeb Bush. Those Saudis who give billions to ISIL, and the Halliburton network, for example.  Even IBM has found a way to join the empire game. Not to mention "simple" out of control iron triangles. If Trump were truly a new Teddy Roosevelt type of CEO, maybe he could sort out the worst of this; people still hope, but fewer and fewer really believe, and the general election period may be even less happy than the Republican debates have been.

Best of luck... we really need it..

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