Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Do cats and deer have "souls"?

Hey, if you think that the word "soul" has no real objective meaning, skip this one!
Likewise, if you think the "soul" is just a credit card where they rack up your sins, and check your status when you die, and nothing more, please do skip. But if you think that "soul" is an unfortunately fuzzy word which is misleading simple shorthand for something more complicated... that's fine. That's real.

Many blog posts ago, I argued that cats "really have souls," in a way that rocks and ice do not,
in a way more like humans. In a way, this makes sense, since the brains of all mammals are based on the same plan, but my views here are based more on personal experience than anything else.

Usually, when I talk to folks about this, I mention something which happened with "our" cat Husky (now long gone) years ago. When Luda and Chris were away on a trip, I made a very big bowl of miso soul for breakfast one day. (Fresh Hikari brand brown miso with bonito in it, plus powdered bonito, plus dried kelp, hard tofu and a can of clams). Since Husky was interested, I put a small bowl down for him, and he went wild with delight. Every day he was full of excitement.

But then when Luda returned, we started the same routine, with her sitting quietly, poker-faced
in her chair in the kitchen. She can make a pretty good poker face, but she hates that miso soup.
Instantly, Husky turned around from looking at the soup to look at her. No words or sounds exchanged, and not much body language... but then Husky turned and made a mournful puzzled face at the soup... and quietly walked away, radiating puzzlement why he ever thought it tasted good. He totally assimilated HER image of what miso soup tastes like.

Well, that's not why I believe cats have souls. It's just one nice little cameo.

I am writing now because Luda and I just had a very similar experience, but much more graphic,
with a deer in our backyard. It was a nice deer, but Luda does get very upset what the deer do to our flowers and herbs, both in front yard and in back. I was at the computer (like now!), and she said, upstairs, "Paul come here! Look at what this creature is doing!"... It was just standing there looking right at us, boldly, standing in the open next to a mulched garden box. "I threw a stone at it, and it went away, but came right back, and doesn't care at all what I say or do." And it smiled back at me, too, knowing I am not the kind of person who would hurt it; links to the forest and all that.
So I turned to Luda and said: "Maybe we should think of contacting Charlie (a neighbor who hunts).
Maybe if it were looking at Charlie, it would not be bold." As soon as I said (and loudly thought) that, the deer turned its head and looked straight at Charlie's house, to the place where Charlie probably WAS at that moment. It looked ever more worried. I quietly said towards Luda: "Yes, I did promise I would tell Charlie if a deer showed up, so maybe I should." Instantly it panicked, and ran away, exactly in a direction opposite to the direction to Charlie's house. It seems that this thought, expressed quite gently, was a lot more potent than a combination of heavy stones and loud threats.


But no, this was just entertainment and confirmation of what I have known for years.

I suppose I learned about dogs having souls long before cats or deer.

Back in 1971-1972, when I was starting work for my PhD thesis, I lived for a year "at home," because it was comfortable and I figured I could do thinking work better at home. I commuted about 50-50 between my father's house on Haws Lane in Flourtown (NW Philadelphia suburbs) where I grew up, and my mother's at Marple-Newtown. My mother had a superfriendly and sensitive Irish setter, "Ginger." One night, when I was thinking very hard and writing ideas in my notebook, sitting alone in the living room.. at about 2:30AM I felt a bit hungry, and wondered what to do.
I tried to imagine... and then an image of a nice slice of cheese came to mind. The instant when I thought of cheese, Ginger, sleeping upstairs, suddenly bolted up, ran down the stairs towards me,
and wagged her tail and smiled a certain kind of enthusiastic smile with some saliva... Would the thought of cheese wake the dead? Well, not them, but Ginger sure picked it up.

Prior to 1967, I was in the "Amazing Randi" camp, firmly disbelieving in anything "paranormal"
or "soul" like... until a severe experience forced me to become 50-50 open-minded.
(Details in my paper "WhySpace?" posted at, reprinted from a book edited by Krone.) In 1969-1972 I then had a series of several experiences which made me more convinced, and which made me pursue more actively the question: "How could this be happening? How does it work?"   In my last two years living in a very nice Harvard graduate dorm (mid-1973 to mid-1975), while working on my PhD thesis and a full-time job, I also had a bed-time ritual of
listening to new age music, trying to raise some kind of energy, and experimenting a little.
Every night, when the inner switch seemed to come on... at that instant, dogs would start howling
all around. And some poltergeist effects would turn on (once causing amusing confusion and giggling in the room next to mine, as in her saying "you touched me there"... "no I didn't...").

Bit by bit, my routines changed. I had MUCH less time for such things starting in December 1978 when I joined the US government. But through the years, I converged to the biggest part of my present spiritual life, three states experienced in bed: (1) "cosmic consciousness," a fully conscious state; (2) "astral dreams," which I see as something similar to internet chat rooms but in the noosphere rather than the internet; and (3) "assumption dreams," where I get to experience what life feels like for SOMEONE ELSE. In Neural Networks, 2012, I described a version of assumption dreams perfectly EXPECTED in a mundane model consistent with "Amazing Randi," but frankly, I intend that as a kind of Trojan Horse, encouraging the kind of openness and memory which can help people learn from their own experience that life is stranger than Randi. (Though PDE can do very strange things, and are not inconsistent with what we call souls or paranormal.)

In 1975-1976, I rented a townhouse in Laurel, Maryland, and agreed to take care of their two Siamese cats while they were away on sabbatical. I will never forget the assumption dream in which I experienced the life of a cat, or the moment when it projected an image of itself to me up in the bedroom when I had restricted it to the lower floor.

Of course, we have had lots and lots of other interactions with all manner of animals, but
these are the ones which strike me right now. I can see the back yard form where I am typing, and I don't see the deer coming back, despite the most edible of things back there.


Minor footnote:

Of course, at a certain stage of development the human fetus also has a soul, but I agree with medicine that it is not more special or advanced than any other mammal soul up to a very advanced age. (Also the process of a baby developing ITS OWN soul distinct from that of its mother is
a fuzzy process, for which the time of birth is a natural dividing line.) Thus legal restrictions on abortion could not possibly make spiritual sense (even if one were to tolerate legislation implementing one chosen religion!!!!)... unless they also came with laws mandating
no consumption of meat from any kind of mammal. For everyone. Is murder of cows by ANYONE to be tolerated in an enlightened country? Many think not.

Last week, I learned how a guy named Epictetus produced a popularized, watered down version of Aristotle's thinking, convenient to slaveowners, just as Zu Xi in China produced a version of Confucianism. It's sad how inability to understand the original led to the misunderstandings which opened the door to the many stages of nonsense now afflicting US politics, and threatening many very basic freedoms.

I still remember the small town in India where no people will eat the pigs, but the pigs do eat people.. many children who wander outside after dark.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Struggle Between Good and Evil in US and EU

New Struggle Between Good and Evil in US and EU

We live at a crossroads of history, a time of change which we are called to see as  determining whether our path leads to survival or extinction of the human species. This year in particular, 2016, is a time of acute political struggles both in the US and in the EU, struggles which feel to most people as a kind of titanic struggle between good and evil. Only – which side is good and which side is evil? Is there such a thing as good and evil? Is this an honest-to-god spiritual struggle?

I was mildly surprised in “cosmic consciousness” meditation time this morning that I am called to explain some of that. (Side note: some of my friends in the local Quaker meeting would call this early morning practice “conversations with God” or even “prayer”. Those conversations deserve to be reported too, but I will try to focus this morning on the issue of the morning.)

Yesterday I decided to bite the bullet, and try to figure out how to write a scientific paper connecting my prior work on brains and consciousness in mathematical theory and engineering to my new work getting very deep into actual brain recording data from the laboratory of the leading neuroscientist Buzsaki. I really enjoyed that new work, because it gave me a chance to just ignore the mental “speed limits” which hold our society back, and it let me experience the great pleasure of “chasing the rabbit of truth from field to field without any fences.” It was a bit painful to revive my ancient skills at debugging computer code and to depend on the healing powers of my wife Luda in using an ancient laptop ready to succumb to old age, but I kept reminding myself of the pleasure of climbing Mount Washington in bad weather a couple of years ago. But in actually writing the paper, or in explaining more of the struggles in US and EU... those boring speed limits and incessant tribal taboos, hangups and vendettas all come back. These two communication tasks – trying to explain some of the underlying reality of the brain, and trying to explain a little more about the underlying reality of these struggle, both bump up against a lot of the very same deep and important cultural pitfalls and struggles. I felt ready to just give up on them both yesterday afternoon... but... it is 5AM as I write, and I just used our code word “Muse” to Luda.

The focus right now is on EU (as in my baby hints posted yesterday), but of course the cultural and spiritual events in the EU reflect a struggle very similar to that in the US, as Trump has noted.

How could one possibly be as brief as a page or two blog, to depict what is important for you here, in such a complex system, where each one of you has a need to learn a little something new, and few of you have matured enough spiritually to actually enjoy the “new worldview every three days” which I enjoyed in playing with brain data?

If I had to do it one or two sentences: “We all need to chill and force time to maintain perspective, even amidst the most harried of schedules and responsibilities. So why not chill, and do what I did a couple of years ago, and watch the old Babylon 5 series available from Amazon, all the way to the high point near the start of the fourth series?” Yes, it is a mere TV sci fi, but it’s not such an oversimplification as the plays of Sophocles are, and there can be great value in serious thought building on such abstracted or simplified things. There are some interesting parallels between what the EU is going through (and US even?), and the story of Babylon 5. Certainly not an identical story line, but – the main theme of that series is the struggle between good and evil, and that’s why I went back and watched it, when developments in the US made it impossible for me to ignore that kind of struggle. This morning, I now feel I understand that struggle a lot better than I did yesterday, though I have a whole lot to digest here.

(By the way, it really grated me when Trump used “Pocohontas” as a curse word a few weeks ago. Don’t underestimate Mr. Disney, or the best of his company’s works!! Unlike Babylon 5 and Sophocles, that movie was made for children... in part... but I remember buying the sound track, and lying back in bed in the dark getting into the full feeling of the better version of the song “colors of the wind.” If only I could learn to be so concise and so powerful in making really important points more people need to appreciate more deeply! And no, that’s not a digression here. Insulting low energy puppets is one thing, but failing to appreciate Pocohontas is more serious. Elizabeth Warren is a totally different matter, however; Clinton needs a running mate with heavy line management experience.)

It am especially amused by the thought of what Angela Merkel (or Pope Francis?) might see in the Babylon 5 series – how some characters which Luda sees as too stereotyped might remind Merkel of some of the people she works with, people who fall into stereotypes all too easily as they half-consciously drift into their social roles and get stuck in narrow “worldviews”. (Worldviews or self-views? Heidegger talks about people with small and large “Being”... and yes... such stereotypical characters may be MORE prevalent in the EU than in Babylon 5! Who are the living stereotypes one must deal with? The UK even has a guy who looks like a Saturday Night Live imitation or shadow of Trump! Trump himself certainly must be amused by that. It reminds me of the very serious “shadows” I have seen of Luda, before I met her, but this is not like the kind of “shadow” they depict in Babylon 5. Both kind are important to understanding what is really going on here.)

I had many changes in my worldview over many years, as I joyfully “chased the rabbit” ... but I have never ever given into the visions in which all of life is a great struggle between good and evil. That has always struck me as a fundamentally flawed and illogical and unnatural concept, as unreal as those forms of Buddhism which strive for annihilation and nihilism as their long-term goals. Yes, there have been stories for ages of struggles between a brotherhood of light and a brotherhood of darkness; I once enjoyed a short novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley about the fall of Atlantis in such a struggle, and a similar sort of Fire and Ice story of spiritual struggles behind the scenes in Europe in the 1930’s and World War II. Those things emerged from real experience, and we should face up to such experience, but we can live the story without succumbing to past simple theories of what was actually happening. There have been plenty of struggles in human life, and in the lives of other mammals down through millions of years just on this one little planet, but overarching organized Good and Evil? (As in Babylon5, or even Star Wars series?)

The Catholic Church long ago put out some doctrine for the cognoscenti, saying that “God exists, but the Devil does not. More precisely, the devil does exist as a kind of dangerous illusion, as real as Santa Claus and Loki, but no more real than that. Less real than humans.” A kind of local emergent phenomenon, a kind of temporary fluctuating manifestation of error and entropy, things we should take more seriously at a fundamental level. (And yes, folks, error and entropy are things with very real mathematics explaining them, really important but really hard to explain truthfully in a page or two without equations. Be assured, the equations are there,
“on earth and in heaven.” It is interesting that Merkel, like Luda, might even be able to understand a few of them.)

But... as the forces left by Cheney gather ground, and the survival of the human species is ever more in doubt, and as many organized humans push very hard for things likely to destroy the species... can we naively dismiss the concept of a great struggle between good and evil? When it feels like that? How can we cope with such struggles more realistically? Above all, how can we begin to understand what the clashing forces really are? Are they a manifestation of our own internal struggles at the level of the noosphere? Or are they so bad that we have to wonder? (Is ISIS proof that there really does exist some kind of devil or force of evil or collective thanatos? Hard to believe, but it would not be sane to just ignore what we see.)

So... Babylon 5: like Star Wars, ONE picture of what a struggle between good and evil might be, a picture linked to SEVERAL parts of what we are actually struggling with here. In the end, like Star Wars, it provides a path to reasserting the common-sense position that Evil does not exist.. **after** we peel enough layers of the onion to see deeply enough.

But after one peels enough layers of the onion... from a practical point of view, the concerns of the European people about population movements, terrorism and demographics in general must be taken seriously, with respect. “Good” which accounts for only one side of reality is not the pure and overarching good which can guide the outcome. The moral highground for Europe in this year’s struggles is more like a kind of intense properly designed compromise, not a victory of either partial side. (Could Merkel empathize with Sheridan, who takes one side but then understands and stands up for balance, with the energy needed to make it real? I hope she does not just let herself be drifted into becoming just another lame duck, as Obama sometimes has, no matter how hard he tries to thrash.)

I am certainly glad she spoke up for avoiding nastiness and exercising due diligence here! Hope lies in the EU having its own kind of itzjihad. That’s especially important given the complexities of the unresolved, inadequately addressed challenges re austerity versus growth, entangled somewhat with the situation here.

This year... I don’t see the intellectual or technology resources in Europe yet (not in any of the major nations, including UK) to find the great moral highground on austerity versus growth, which is sad and important, but real. That challenge will be important to the world economy, and the hopes of all humanity, but... one things at a time.   The core issues in brexit are tricky enough.

But.. the solution to tricky problems often lies in a relatively simple vision, and in persisting in making it real, connecting to the details, making the deals to get it through. The obvious “deal” here would be to preserve the market and the union in general, but change the immigration and citizenship policies in a way which the UK public can accept, recognizing that the EU is threatened by a whole lot more than the UK. A balanced sustainable situation is needed as soon as possible before things unravel. It may or may not be a good thing for a new union of Scotland and Northern Ireland to be part of this; the dynamics of transition might be more workable that way, and it wouldn’t be bad if they all end up part of the same EU anyway. (Yes, the Catholics in Northern Ireland would prefer union with Ireland proper, but since that is clearly not possible and would resurrect old violence, as would brexit applied to northern Ireland... there is a great need for a way out. Catholics in Northern Ireland remember bad experiences with local Scots, but Scots back in Scotland are not such a bad lot, eh?, and the full human connections to southern Ireland would remain open. Better than the other options, no?) A "second referendum" -- both for brexit and for Scotland+NIreland independence -- could be both designed and justified as a FOLLOWUP CLARIFICATION questionnaire, to dispel come of the ambiguity left by the previous brief referenda.,

The evolution of the noosphere proper in general, and of the CONNECTION between the noosphere and the specific organisms developing on this planet, is a very complex matter – but for all its complexity, it is a crucial force behind the scenes, not only in EU but elsewhere. Again, as in Babylon 5. (The poor US is stuck more with guys like Palpatine of Star Wars, unfortunately, but that’s another story for another time.)

As for austerity and growth, a bigger issue in Spain than immigration in the elections there this week... that would require getting past silly baby economics theories based on “scalar thinking.” REAL mathematical economics (alas poor Wharton annual model, we knew it well..)... suggests that a huge turnaround is possible, especially benefitting Spain, if only we could find communication channels with enough bandwidth!! To keep it simple: two halves: (1) “radical middle” reorganization which STRENGTHENS European unity (which UK eocnomy needs too!); and (2) a proper pittance well-focused on unmet opportunities in solar energy. Ironically, my best hope this week is that a guy from one of the development banks would be willing and able to follow up on a $20 million demo project to be located at a school in Uganda (AAH), to create practical availability of a technology which could then be deployed massively and quickly in EU and Latin America, BUT REQUIRES that demo. BOTH levels must be tuned, to get Europe out of the economic hole. Yes, there has been a lot of empty religious nonsense said about “green jobs,” but with real low-cost scaleable technology and truly intelligent market design, the hopes really could be made real. New trillion dollar markets can actually change a few things in the economy, IF one understands the numbers.  

(Small footnote: on my year as a Brookings Fellow at the Senate... I was happy that the head of CBO attended and appreciated my deconstruction and analysis of what is real and what isn’t on green jobs. They posted the video somewhere... maybe I should add the URL later. It is very serious technical economics.)


Afterthought: important as Babylon 5 is to issues in play this year, and deserving as it is on a SHORT LIST of valuable science fiction... it is important of course, in the bigger picture, to balance it out with other pieces which bring out other aspects. ("Even Sophocles did not write just one play!")
Things by Dan Simmons and by Orson Scott Card also have their place. In a way, I hated Card's 
Empire trilogy, but was glad I read it... and sad how it reflects some very serious perverted thinking
very important to current problems and misconceptions in the US, entangled with economic forces in the Middle East. It's hard to imagine Bernie Sanders as an ambassador to the Middle East... but a lot of folks there would benefit from waking up to pernicious difficulties with many of THEIR billionnaires... if only it were easier to work with Putin, if only he had a deeper sense of honor... but he may yet grow to have a bigger role on behalf of greater humanity. All of us will need to grow a lot,
to have a realistic chance at species survival, let alone anything else we desire.

It was also very jarring to see a guy next to Merkel complaining about "populism," which has become a suddenly powerful word. I found it somewhat positive when one of the Trump folks used that word
to describe what he liked... but the vigor and clarity of objections to populism as such are not encouraging. This too is a big topic, but this blog post is too long already.


Added later: several months ago, in discussing tradeoffs in options for handling refugees from the Middle East to Europe, I said something like: "PLEASE, whatever you do, don't trample on the munchkins... the munchens." And now, many have seen the netflix video "Guess Who's Back?"
It was a bit nerve-wracking to read about violent left wing storm troopers in the US, openly disdaining the constitution, taking the initiative to attack poor peaceful Nazis... who did not stay that way (surprise...?!). From the noosphere... in Germany... many curious words emanate. Unacceptable as it is, one of them is too funny to ignore: "Drumpfkopf."   More serious: "uberklutz" as a description of the new right wing. Will they do to DNA what Lamar Smith does to American aerospace? 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Possible breakup of EU and UK: Bigger Picture

Possible breakup of EU and UK: Bigger Picture

I have not reported anything on the large daily political struggles of this world for months – not for lack of important things going on but the opposite, a level of complexity out there in the real world hard to fit in in a brief blog, demanding too much background to fully explain. The “watch” continues, exactly as I mentioned in earlier blog posts on discussions with Yeshua ben David, discussions which have continued to grow.

This morning, the possible breakup of both EU and UK dominate the news, as they should; this is one of a number of threads which might tip the balance either towards human survival or human species extinction.

When people react, it is important, at a minimum, for decision-makers in Europe (including UK) to remember what drove the results of this election, at the immediate (surface) level. “Remain” would have had a great victory, as Cameron had initially expected, BUT FOR THE CONCERN about immigration, about control of borders, and above all about opening doors to terrorists.

There is a deeper level to what happened, but it mostly reinforces this simplified story, even though the simplified story is not the whole thing.

As I went to bed last night, at a lower level of consciousness than what I have now as I type, after hearing the brexit news and a few other jarring things, I imagined a thin reed of hope: “Since Trump is over there, wouldn’t it be nice if he held a truly secret meeting with Cameron and the head of that British independence party, to talk about where they go now, to seek a good deal? For example, how to maintain FOR NOW – to be reassessed later – the full package of UK in the EU EXCEPT for the UK’s right/ability to control its borders, what the people really demanded?”

Cameron could say: “Now it is time to figure how can we best IMPLEMENT what the people have really been telling us, and how to give people even more control over their future. (Then the deal.) As part of that respect, we must also admit that the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland have a new view of their needs and their future, and we have an equal duty to give them what they want, a new referendum on whether they want independence on the condition that they are accepted and join the EU as an independent nation.” (A bit of humor: if England keeps out immigrants from the same places Trump wants to keep out, but Scotland and Northern Ireland choose the opposite, has anyone ever thought of building a wall with many doors between England and Scotland? Actually, it did work the last time, though in this millennium it would need a lot more, bigger doors. But then again, in this millennium, small boats and airplanes are all over the place around the UK.)

But is it possible? I wish.

It involves the art of the deal. Some folks say that there is nothing you can learn from the Harvard Business School that you couldn’t learn better at Trump University, but I have to admit I disagree. At Harvard there is a professor Howard Raiffa (and once Professor Schelling) who have a lot to say about the art of the deal, who actually know some real things Trump never quite put together, though certainly he learned a lot of other things from experience and from Wharton, another place deserving of maximum intellectual respect.

Calling things what they REALLY are... and not being inhibited by political correctness or the political demand to dumb things down and distort them... the art of the deal is really the art of obtaining a local Pareto optimum in a game of mixed cooperation and competition. It is an important art, and certainly goes beyond formal game theory. Trump rightly says it requires some imagination, much more than what we have seen from any of his political competitors. But it also requires some understand of the “rules of the game,” especially in a game like international politics where “winning” often turns out to be losing on the next round, and where sometimes it is vice-versa. There is an old French saying “Nothing endures like the temporary provisional agreement,” and that is just one of the many important paradoxes in this realm.

The terms of “the watch” are a bit like what the New York Times asked its reporters for years ago: don’t take sides, but dig as deep as you can into all sides, expose both positive and negative possibilities and facts, and separate the news from the editorials. That applies to me in spades right now regarding Trump, Clinton and Sanders. On the one hand, we certainly do need a new “Teddy Roosevelt,” as Icahn has said (for domestic policy).  Probably the Republican party should not just be replaced by a new third and fourth party, but it requires really massive cleanup at a deep level if there is any hope it can go back to supporting the real spirit of the constitution and past the many horrid forms of corruption which have crept in in recent years. A major part of this corruption is what I think of as “the fifth column,”
folks like Cheney (more like Palpatine than Darth Vader, though the confusion is understandable) influenced by flows of money traceable back to the same billionnaires in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who also fund ISIS, the Moslem Brotherhood, Erdogan and anything which supports their particular vision of how a global Third Caliphate should work.  (Their view of the Bush family was a bit like the ancient Chinese view of how to deal with barbarian tribes, depicted in a very pleasant novel I just read, Under Heaven, depicting safer and more peaceful times than what we live in today.)

BUT CAN TRUMP DO IT? Only if he really means to, and only if he understands what is going on, which takes a whole lot of self-discipline and fast learning. One may hope. ON the positive side, he resisted the Firth Column pressure to create a new war between US and Israel versus Russia and Iran, scheduled for this year. He deserves great personal credit for that – but should he be rewarded with the presidency or with a new business deal that could earn him a trillion dollars? (Certainly I wish he were prepared for the latter; it is a serious objective opportunity, as the world energy industry fluctuates.) Also on the positive side –
the discussions of US deficit have been incredibly thin this year, but he said a few things casually a lot closer to the Way Out than what anyone else said in these debates.

A technical practical point: Cameron could ask for a schedule in which departure of England from EU is coordinated with creation and entry of independent Scotland and Northern Ireland (importantly one entity, if the next referendum supports that) into EU.  

But on the negative, worry side: “Does he have enough respect for women?” We all know that people are asking this; it’s a big part of the noosphere, and we are all connected to the noosphere (some more consciously than others). For me, the most worrisome sign is what he keeps saying about Hillary Clinton’s emails.  “Hey, those are Obama’s people who say she is a criminal.” Ah, but are they? It suggests that he is totally oblivious to what Cheney and his comrades in the fifth column have been doing. “But what was Obama doing?”  “Off playing golf.” (Another reason we need more of a real hands-on CEO right now.  And I have even wished Specter were alive still, and available to be a VP candidate, to help root out the bad guys embedded
in so many agencies with bad wires plugged into them.) Response: “Oh, maybe *I** should try playing golf ...”  

For the EU, this has been the year of Three Great Challenges –  austerity and “reform” versus growth, immigration and now brexit. But the EU was stuck in mud even on the first of these, and not well prepared to move on. The danger of the US being the one to initiate a world economic depression was already on the table. I was surprised, a bit, that the space movement came closer to understanding the way out on challenge one (see than the supposed great economists in play there, economists stuck in scalar thinking.

Layers of the onion. At a deeper level, I have long expected a certain kind of changing of the guard, which I can observe but have little impact on. Above the billionnaires and the fundamentalists... important as they are... but still in this neck of the woods... there is a different type of conservatism brewing... and we have only seen the early stages of something which will become much stronger and focused. I just hope it moves into constructive channels. I hope we don’t all blow it, the way the US blew it with Russia. (And for that matter, I hope the Russians think long and hard about Paulson’s book on how China did so much better with economics reform, and what that tells us at an analytic level which many Russians are able to understand if they bother to, if they control their pride.)

Best of luck.

P.S. The brexit vote was one of about four things which are challenges to me to assimilate this morning. More than the vote itself was the deeper flux of forces there. But also I received a reminder of how the stakeholder system has been implemented in the White House bureaucracy itself, perhaps in the shadow of Reid’s perception of how to do things right, which tries to balance power/money in a certain way, without enough respect for truth, strategic thinking and the need for parallel channels of information (reminding me of ADP mathematics and Sarbanes-Oxley, hints of what a more complete and functional system needs to have). But... too many vicissitudes for this morning.

And oops! I was supposed to mention: I really hope someone SERIOUSLY looks into the possibility of a four-way presidential debate, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Green. The latest CNN poll strongly suggests that would be good for the country, and would enrich the depth and seriousness of dialogue, which we badly need. Is it really constitutional to allow anonymous billionnaires to take out misleading hit jobs on major candidates, without any limits, while not allowing networks to hold debates between all candidates doing 5% or better in the polls? Allowing that option is itself a litmus test of who is serious about real free speech. Could CNN invite all four, or put a briefing before the courts (as was suggested re Cruz's citizenship)? We do need deeper dialogue, and a bit more entertainment, as the public begins to weary of predictable pie throwing.

Some additional key details:

If they really think it through, there will be a new referendum on Scotland AND Northern Ireland

Note the Northern Ireland aspect. This is not a small matter, nor do I mention it lightly.
Having an M.Sc. from LSE on international institutions with an emphasis on European institutions,
having been an active member both of the Bow Group (the "Heritage House" of Tories, albeit
a whole lot more rational and reasonable and Burkeian)_ and of the European student union...
and yet of half staunch Irish family... well, I have tracked this more than I can say.

After the brexit vote, lots of folks in northern Ireland were upset about the coming truncation of very deep and very important ties within Ireland, which was PARTIALLY reunited, in a nice humane way, via the EU. A serious worry. Northern Ireland has seen really serious conflicts of course, which could come back if we all act stupid (which does happen more and more these days). But in this case,
BOTH the Catholics (nativists) of northern Ireland and the "protestants" (as much Scotch settlers as protestants) would be better off in a new Scotland+Northern-Ireland as a new state in the EU.
And frankly... England would be a LOT better off being able to simply wash its hands of the Northern Ireland issues. WHO NEEDS them? Maybe people who have wet dreams of being Trajan... but I think/hope there is a bit more rationality about such things in the upper classes of UK than in
certain sectors of the US. I hope.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mideast conflict II: more details

Last night was the worst shooting in US history, but this morning at Quakers there were reminders of how we are called to keep trying to find a way forward, and of a few important hints. At a very discouraging time, with horrible news in many directions... the discussion was Romans 8, and the one message in meeting proper... that old Psalm about the valley of death. Maybe this was what we needed today, and a reminder of how important it is to get deeper into issues I raised in the previous blog.

Two weeks ago, a young weighty Quake talked about "bad seeds" threatening the most important freedoms we have come to take for granted in the US. I affirmed that strongly.. but noted how it is hard to fully understand and properly respond to.. the cancer.. because it is a complex phenomenon. Most important causes are misconstrued of faith, and the role of certain flows of money in a world which has become all too responsive to the wrong kinds of money. Both deteriorate life BOTH in MidEast and in US.

On the subject of faith I drew an analogy to the old James Bond movies, a story I blogged about before, and mentioned at Meeting. After I narrowly escaped being knifed in bed early in the summer of 1969, I started paying more attention to the kind of intuitive feeling which pulled me out of that bed in the night of the murder. But I also thought hard about the way I had drifted into.. love of James Bond movies playing at the time ; I never would have called it love back then, but examining my feelings, I could see how i did it, and how my life was moving that way. So I resolutely looked inside, and resolved to keep loving what I really liked (high tech, beautiful dangerous women, beaches, sunlight) and to steer as far as I could away from guns and knifes with the kind of nastiness that gets people to use them.

We as humanity need to get a firm grip on our attitude to FAITH, as firm as I did on those movies, holding a clear image of what is good and what is not. This kind of inner spiritual work is NOT like a hermit in the wilderness, because deep in each if us is also of humanity. Itzjihad IS an action. Guns are not the only real action. Yes they are part of it, but if we only have that part, we die, as if by a vitamin deficiency.  Yes, we should never lose the key good parts of faith, openness and respect of spirit and if our Father in heaven, and the confidence to move in a positive direction even in "the valley of the shadow of death." But we should also all be aware of crucial realities in the article "Are we a nation of mystics?" by Greeley and McReady, where they describe how humans afraid of their own shadow retreat into stupid ethnocentric nonsense, hiding from the obvious large and cosmopolitan character of spirit, and from our obvious ignorance, simply trying to believe what others in their own tribe tell them -- retreating from spirit and embracing local tribal nonsense instead.

But yes, flows of new billions from rich folks seeking power, seeking to be like the corrupt rulers of the first Caliphate, seeking to "purify" the entire earth, are a major part of the problem as well. In the previous blog, I mentioned Erdogan and ISIS and RT. Of course, the caliphate billionnaires are aware of how it has been exposing their puppet on a network which, though small, is widely known in the US. RT, and the proIsraeli group AIPAC, are very well known and open. But the caliphate billionnaires put a lot more money into trying to manipulate the US, and are far less open.

Thus I was not surprised when, after a major RT expose of Erdogan, one of the many puppets of caliphate funding introduced a bill to set up a special new unit in State to probe RT and Chinese, and try to shut down information they do not want to get out, but to steer clear of investigating the much larger and less overt operations traceable to their various funding streams. Having been drawn into the Mideast, we have been drawn in oblivious into a way of doing business and seeking power which has been real and horrible for millennia. Failure to appreciate just how deep the tendrils of the fifth column go is extremely dangerous. Certainly they wanted the US invasion of Iraq, and tried for a rerun in Iran this year.

Could it be that the action against Rousseff in Brazil was just a dress rehearsal for what they want to do to democracy in the U S?

Yesterday's mass murder was by a guy from a private security contractor. Do not assume this is as incongruous as it may sound. Do not assume that the witch-hunt against Hillary Clinton is as unique as many assume it just personal. The latest scientific American story on Arecibo talks about retirements which may not have been retirements or even constitutional. Also, of course, the caliphate folks are not the only ones aspiring to empire, with funds and access to tools such people did not have just a few decades ago.

Best of luck. We need it. Those of you who hope for Ragnarok may not enjoy it if it comes, by its own script.


For completeness... a couple of other things discussed last week at meeting.

In discussing the book of Romans, we discussed the intense debate back in those days:
should Christianity be a branch of Judaism, requiring full member ship in Judaism,
ro should it be something bigger and more inclusive? It was noted that the same question exists within Quakers for the past century: should it be a branch of Christianity, or should it be something larger and more inclusive ("Quaker universalism"), DRAWING on Christianity 
and on Jesus but also drawing on other great traditions, on the experience and ideas of all of humanity (and even of all life on earth)?

There is a more, but this is enough for now.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

response to a 13 trillion damage in violence especially MidEast

A friend passed on a report saying the world lost more than 13 trillion due to violence this past year, growing because of growing violence in the Middle East. My response:

This report on violence reminds me of a quick scene on CNN last week, a scene which stuck me very very hard.

A serious veteran analyst of military strategy, embedded with the group taking Fallujah, said: "I agree with their analysis that we are about to achieve
a great victory. But folks... this is the fourth time we have reported a great military victory. Each time it is worse than the time before. 
The fact is... we are losing, folks! Each time, we do win on the ground, in the end, but each time it is harder, because the plans and beliefs of all the people in the Middle East are in play. They are looking hard at us, and trying to decide whether it is workable to try to work with us and do it our way, or not. The ordinary people are looking, not just the puppetmasters. I have looked through all the reports on all the various options.. and folks... I am VERY worried. I don't see how we can stop losing, and I don't see how it doesn't just engulf the entire world."

My first thought: if ordinary people are calculating who they would support... which of the three remaining (for now) presidential candidates
MIGHT the people of the Middle East vote for... realistically... given how intensely they take insult either from words OR from other kinds of disrespect...
I am not a Sanders support, never have been, but at least his "millionnaires and billionnaires" line might get some traction out there.

At Quaker meeting last Sunday, in Meeting proper (when people are only supposed to speak up when they feel it is a message from God or equivalent),
a man got up and said: "We can sometimes hear the voice of God in many places... the words of a child in Kenya... a flower..... a...".
At the afterthoughts time, I got up and said: "Sometimes we can even hear it in the deeply sensitive and authentic words of a commentator in CNN...
It seems we need to find another way... that the level of life which calls for more true discernment and light... needs more than we are giving it...
I don't think God is calling us to DO X, to DO SOMETHING SPECIFIC he is calling us to do. Rather he is calling on us to listen to all the other voices of earth, and 
struggle inside ourselves, to work together a way forward..."

To be completely honest, I was extrapolating a bit from what came to me in meeting proper the week before, when I meditated on a totally different moral dilemma
I am facing, and felt I really did get that kind of feedback. Sometimes our Father in Heaven says: "Hey, kids, you and your sister really need to work things out between each other." And sometimes: "Do your own homework. Your mission is to use your own brain, and mind, and soul." To people in the Middle East, I would 
say that "we are all called to itzjihad, as individuals and as humanity as a whole."


In all fairness, though, I do also know the Russian point of view. Recovering from an operation for a month or two (until this week), I tuned our big TV to CNN
and France24 (main sources of information) but also to RT and CNBC to provide other perspectives and fill in when CNN is lost in rerun number ten and France24 gets too deep into fashion or sports. The ancient winning strategy in that neighborhood was: "If you can't win their hearts and minds, just do ethnic cleansing, 
one way or another, or at least move people around."   Eisenstadt's history of great empires in human history is very clear about how ancient Syrian empires were
founded in exactly that, and we would be true idiots if we did not account for the fact that a lot of these people know a lot more history than we do. 

France24 says... folks ultimately led by Russia or by Iran are winning now in THEIR part of the war on ISIL, very effectively, putting great emphasis on cutting the key supply lines to ISIL from Turkey which are the real heart of that enemy. 

Turkey? ISIL? The current problems in Turkey are a great dilemma, a great pain and a great embarrassment... and off the now limited budget of CNN.
But RT has said a lot; while RT is highly filtered and just plain dumb propaganda in some areas, this may be a key part of it.

At the mundane level, flows of money from billionnaires in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to ISIL, to the Moslem Brotherhood and to the pockets of
Erdogan is the very core of one of the primary loci of conflict...

Best of luck. We need it.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Nuclear threat of human extinction

Just how serious IS the nuclear pathway to human extinction?

Many of us would say that we should not spend too much time, even on this list, in trying to calibrate how great that threat is, because, even on this list, we can then move on to discuss ways to try to advance new technologies, like space solar power and such, which increase our probability of survival, considering not only the nuclear threat but some others. That sounds reasonable to me, and I will try to support efforts by others on this list to jump start some space technologies.

But if people imagine there are no threats at all.. that we live in a new era when corruption, war conflict and coups d'etat  have all disappeared into irrelevance... well, the nuclear threat of human extinction does deserve a bit more serious attention, at multiple levels.

Where to begin, since it is a complex issue, and I have looked at it from many vantage points?

4 parts --

apriori theory
discussions with Herman Kahn
discussions with DOE nonproliferation office
lessons when I ran interagency research in nuclear terrorism threat

1. Apriori theory

One worthwhile vantage point is theoretical, starting from perspectives Keith Henson has raised.
Keith has mentioned evolutionary psychology, which I view as a kind of modern sanitized cousin of E.O. Wilson's evolutionary biology, and at times a cousin of artificial life ala Stuart  Kauffmann and the Santa Fe Institute. It can be very instructive to run "artificial life" type simulations to 
get a picture of where biological populations might move, under natural selection and ecological/economic constraints. In a way, those simulations are a descendant of the classic book by May on stability and complexity in model ecosystems, where he shows how species extinction occurs far more easily and often than fuzzy headed ideologies had assumed in the past --- the usual sort of fuzzy-headed ideologies based on posturing, wishful thinking and other aspects of human groupthink ever so well known by now, and ever so relevant today still.  
Wilson's concepts, in Sociobiology, of r and k environments, and of what allows organisms to cooperate (avoiding things like total warfare or dark ages bandit-based economic inefficiency and stagnation) , could probably be simulated pretty easily in a Santa Fe kind of system. Probably someone at Santa Fe did it long ago; forgive me for not tracking down the citations.

Wilson identified the earlier pastoral niche or way of life as absolutely crucial to the kind of cooperation which made possible and led to the level of cooperation behind the "great civilizations", which I would identify with the twenty-odd civilizations Toynbee talked about. It's not perfect, but it fits relatively well. (Lately, I think of that old history as people of the horse versus people of the boat versus people of the vegetable, but no need for such detail here.) 
One can easily envision a Santa Fe style simulation, giving mathematical vividness to Wilson's picture of an idealized ancient Afghanistan, where a stable though dynamic competition between tribes gave rise to loyalty to tribe, a machine constantly cranking out people who could cooperate with their brothers taking over the rest of the world again and again, even as the core of that world remained much the same.

However: a game or niche which results in that kind of situation can change when a few parameters of the game change. Add nuclear weapons to the tribes, and the prediction of everyone dying becomes pretty much inevitable. Work it out. Long ago, when I first became aware of these things.. I often thought of a less realistic "generation starship game," considering what would happen with an internal competition on the ship, and a series of weapons ever riskier to the survival of the ship itself... and the selection pressures which     
would gradually make it inevitable that they WOULD be used, and the starship WOULD die. 
If any of you do computer simulations as a hobby, you could have fun with making these obvious things more clear to those who don't have a clue.

"Just add nuclear weapons to the same old game"... 

This does not tell us the probability that our game, too, will explode, but I see no rational basis for blithely assuming it won't.

2. Slightly more real: Herman Kahn's discussion

Some of you may remember when Herman Kahn's book, Thinking about the Unthinkable, was pretty much the leading text on nuclear strategy for the US. (I also remember a lot of noise attacking Von Neumann for being "the real life Dr. Strangelove," who dared to try to be rational about thinking about such things.) 

Years ago, for reasons I can only speculate on, I received a kind of scholarship to attend Kahn's summer course seminar on key principles in national security, held at the Hudson Institute when it was really by the Hudson. That was a great experience, a very intense week or two getting really deep into the real roots of his thinking. There was a whole lot of history there.

At one point, he said, in essence: "For millennia and millennia you can see how new weapons were developed, which vastly extended the killing power available to people. In some cases
(he gave examples) the growth in the death count was truly overwhelming, and all the religious authorities and leaders agreed it would be an insult to god (or gods) himself. There were many successful bans on the use of such weapons, lasting for a long long time. But in every case, there was a first use... after which the next potential user could say 'he did it first, I couldn't change anything, it was too late." (Does anyone doubt that this kind of human psychology is still in effect in power circles all over this world, and in populations???) And then it moved to the Nash equilibrium, regardless of the larger consequences, regardless of the fact that the
outcome was far, far worse than the Pareto optimum which was theoretically available to people.

There was also discussion of the experience of "kembi," a kind of propagation of conflict studied very well and precisely in Africa, very similar to what can happen in our world today.
Nuclear kembi... one of the key risks.

Some people would say: "But there ALREADY was first use of nuclear weapons on a human population. So if your concerns are realistic, why isn't everyone just saying 'Hey, the US did it already, so now we will..?" If we are honest, we will admit we understand why this hasn't fully happened YET, but that we are not out of the woods. The event was so far back in history, and so remote for most people, that it doesn't have the current competitive flavor of an event within the past generation. In the first generation or two, the Soviet Union was the only other place which COULD start a large-scale nuclear war (let alone a kembi), and frankly we did stand close to extinction in the 1960's. (Many at the time doubted that, and many believed in Adam and Eve, but the literature was not exactly small.) The key point: the OBJECTIVE parameters are far worse now than they were then, and nuclear kembi and nuclear war far easier to envision, than then. The kembi psychology is evident...  

Caveat: would nuclear war at the height of the Cold War only have killed, say, 95% of the human population (due to "system of systems" effects, studied, e.g., at Los Alamos and Sandia), allowing the rest to eventually work their way back to civilization millennia later?  
There was a lot of discussion of that. Rational people would generally say -- "Hey, whether it's 95% or 100%, let's just work together to prevent it." But no, Kelly, you don't just lob a nuc or two at your neighbor, and expect it to end there. That's not how it works. And the system of system effects look greater now than they did then. When people THINK they can just lob a nuc or two, and have it end there, the probability of nuclear kembi grows much larger.

3. Discussions at DOE 1980's

In the 1980's, I worked at DOE headquarters, and one of my closest friends there moved to the nuclear proliferation office, where we discussed these things a lot in the cafeteria.
My friend was an economist, who took a somewhat jaded, cynical view of all these things. 
"The prevailing view is... we will show the flag on this issue, but everyone knows the cat is out of the bag. We can't really stop it anyway, so why create mess in the world trying to do so."

My reply was: we need to think in mathematical terms. It's one thing when a cat is out of the bag, but consider what changes when that cat is simply ten times larger. Would you put out a news release to the local village: "A big tiger is out of the zoo. Since it is already out of the zoo, just pay no attention, live life as usual?" Would you say: "The vampire is already out of the coffin, flying in your neighborhood, so relax and live life as usual?"

Numbers matter. From the game scenarios... not only the number but the diversity of actors with access to nuclear technology matter hugely. What can be contained with great effort when there are two relatively predictable actors becomes hopeless with twenty to a hundred 
with a much more high-variance and intractible diversity of game plans and beliefs.
The less our probability of survival, the more rational it is to grasp for what hope we have.

Of course, calm and normal ostriches can say, "That's nice, but it's all science fiction. We live in such a nice and friendly new world. Nothing like that could ever happen here..."
Psychiatry really is an important ingredient in whatever hope of survival we have. 

In all fairness... I really can envision a "global Chernobyl" scenario in which humans really do put the genie back into the bottle after a first REAL use of nuclear weapons. 
At the end of the day, the scenario which haunted me the most in the 1980s was a very detailed scenario...  where a certain exchange of nuclear weapons (maybe by terrorist, maybe by rocket).. maybe In India/Pakistan...  led to revulsion and fear in the world far beyond anything humanity has ever experienced before, beyond what Herman Kahn ever saw in past history. When we look at how serious the reaction was to Chernobyl... multiply the deaths by 1000, and get rid of reasons to think it stops there... I really could envision almost all of the governments of the world falling, followed by a very determined movement to stop all nuclear technology. But... well... think of Robespierre... there is a certain momentum in such things. My concern was with a dark age so deep and so severe... that... system of systems effects considered.. THAT actually winds up being a path to extinction too, if a bit slower. 
By the way, for more than half my time at DOE, I too wore an economist hat, and it was a very interesting community to be part of. The best economists would grouse: "You spend your whole life trying to figure out how economies really work... and then they just go to a bar to come up with random ways to throw a monkey wrench into the system. They wouldn't do that with their surgeon...." Sure, established economists have a thousand ways to go off the mark, but will sheer drunken randomness solve any of our problems either? And are drunken billionnaires any better than drinken communists or jihadis? Sometimes THEY think so, which almost by definition makes them a bigger risk. (But of course some billionnaires do know the importance of working hard to make things actually work... while others grew up in the "take the money and run" school of VC.)

4. NSF/DHS era

From 1988 or 1989 to 2014, I worked as a program director for engineering at NSF.
(Two of my degrees were economics, and two applied math from the Engineering Division at Harvard, part of why such movement was possible.) Of course, since I retired from NSF in 2014, nothing I say represents its view.

Not so long ago, a former colleague, a Republican, set up a new collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and NSF, the Academic Research Initiative (ARI). ARI was intended to open the door to all kinds of new and better ways of doing things.
In a way... this was a decently funded, systematic, broad and official effort to address the nuclear extinction threat which we talk about less formally here. A guy like Kelly might say: "Hey, they are already onto it, very serious, so why don't the rest of us just forget it. Isn't it a solved problem?" And indeed, I have great respect for the colleague who started this. 
(To be honest, there were times when I wondered why I didn't try to marry her sometime back then.) The idea was to draw on the full intellectual resources and creativity of the entire technical community in the US, not just the limited resources we usually see in the depths of government agencies, to address the full long-term picture and find a better way forwards. Great idea.

ARI was conceived as a kind of 50-50 partnership of DHS and NSF, though DHS provided almost all of the money and NSF the front line administration. For various political reasons, the position of administrator was rotated as a one-year position from one NSF engineer to another.  I remember one of those one-year administrators was especially sincere and intellectually serious and honest, but still, a chemical engineer, doing his best.

And then... I remember vividly the guy who said: "Paul, shouldn't it be your turn?" So I ended up managing this thing for three years, not the one which was supposed to be the term. 
Probably I was the first guy running it who actually had taken a course in nuclear physics, let alone international politics and machine learning, all major parts of the research. Or even modern electronics. 

It was a wonderfully entertaining learning experience at first, and, as you know, I am fully committed to and fully serious about what they were all trying to accomplish. But it was also a very sobering and scary experience.

Maybe it was then that I started saying: "You are only worried because you don't have all the facts. If you did, you would be terrified out of your mind." Or am I just repeating what someone else said? Many others did... 

Though I had no security clearance... there is a whole lot of stuff out there in the open.
For example, there are colorful slides out there showing the layers of protection, the series of walls, between us and a nuc going off in some big city in the US. But...

Turns out that most of those walls are paper tigers. I summarized the situation, in official contexts, as: "The US is like a house with twenty doors, ten locked firmly with better and better locks, and ten swinging wide open for all the world to see."

Hey, folks, if any of you live in or near a big city in the US, this is your life and your future we are talking about now, and maybe a lot sooner than you think.

It turns out that the main reason, by far, that it hasn't hit us yet, is the tight limited amount of PRIMARY nuclear material, like HEU and plutonium, around the world. But if various changes in the world energy economy should lead to a ten or 100 fold multiplication of the use of fission (as many strongly push for and predict even today, people so happy about the psychological recovery form Chernobyl), that changes. China has been a major new buyer for that... yet China has more terrorists hostile to its own state within its own borders than the US does, by far, with ties to ISIL type folks. (Believe it or not, I still remember when my Russian wife 
asked me to stay in the room when she went down to the elevator to deal with Afghan pilgrims in the main hotel they inhabited in Xinjiang province, which is also the main base of China's nuclear program. Just comic relief, and it was pretty comic at times ... but life keeps reminding me that this stuff is very very real.)

In my view... the number one thing we as a species could do to prevent this risk reaching unmanageable proportions is to  work much more effectively to reduce costs and facilitate
alternative nonfossil sources of electricity generation. (And no, we don't use oil for this in the continental US, so oil industry lobbyists shouldn't feel a kneejerk reaction to kill us all. Please don't. I sure wish Boeing PR people hadn't tried to sell such wrongheaded and inflammatory notions in Texas, where I do believe one of the dead bodies was one of the consequences.)
AFFORDABLE space solar power, and LESS EXPENSIVE solar thermal solar farms, are enormous unmet opportunities, which could also have great economic benefits and create a few new well-deserved billionaires. The barriers are very daunting now, and the problems Jens talks about really have frozen progress on those fronts, as we can discuss... but the goal should not be to cast blame (what a stupid game!) but to find SOME way to break the logjams. But yes, Jens is right, that if the entire earth freezes into being one big logjam, whether of sharia or of canon law or of nutzoid beancounters, the technologies which could have saved us won't get through. And, ironically, grand pooh-bahs devoted to concepts of stability could end up just killing everyone including themselves in the name of stability.

Of course, alternate energy is certainly NOT the only useful way to reduce the probability of those nuclear terrorism and war scenarios. Absolutely not.

Still... I retired as NSF manager of ARI, after which they cancelled NSF involvement, because the emerging political constraints limited what could be accomplished. The bottom line on nuclear survival is ever so vital, but huge efforts which do not really have enough value added on the goal... warrant reconfiguration, and reallocation of resources. I suppose I view NASA in a similar light these days, though there is still maybe some hope. Or maybe not. Hard to tell.
So no, the ARI agenda is not at all a solved problem. We are not home free. 

On a final note... the discussion above mainly focuses on the usual kinds of fission, thermonuclear or dirty bombs, all of which could be discussed in much more detail, covering important aspects I did not mention here.  There are other nuclear technologies which I also find quite interesting, beyond the scope of this email -- with a variety of extinction implications, but also some positive opportunities. Laser-induced fusion in space looks especially benign and discussable. (It's not so easy for a random lone wolf jihadi to get to geosynchronous orbit and back, let alone make use of it..) 

Best of luck. You need it. 


That came from a lifeboat discussion.

For this blog, I should add that issues like internet privacy and tracking and spiritual issues also will have a major impact on the probability of extinction by nuclear pathways. Exactly how, and what are the tradeoffs?
But I have already posted a lot related to those topics, and this post is long enough.