Monday, August 22, 2016

Questions about Future Jobs and Foresight

Questions about Future Jobs and Foresight

I was stunned a few weeks ago when a major new international study (see reported that there will only be enough jobs for one-third OR LESS of the work force in just a few decades, in all the many scenarios they considered plausible, based on inputs from many different informed points of view from all over the world!! That’s not a small issue.

While US politicians have worked hard to convince the voters that they all belong either in jail or in the insane asylum (along with all the major party officials responsible for the situation), the voters themselves clearly worry more and more about the future job situation and about terrorism. “The voice of the people is the voice of God”? Actually, the electorate is a major part of the noosphere, and it is a shame that political operatives underestimate and misunderstand what this means, not only in the US but worldwide.

People generally agree that the world is heading for disaster on the jobs front. Lately I often remember a classic anthology by Feierabend and Feierabend, when they talk about the “J curve”, about thwarted expectations leading to political upheavals.  I also remember the French revolution, which started with a “revolution from above” as the aristocracy played legal games oppressing the people (and the noosphere itself!), resulting in their losing their heads. What COULD be done to avoid disaster? How could we come up with a new social contract or covenant, building on the excellent spirit of the original US and German constitutions, but keeping that spirit alive in a new era?

In the new era, I would argue that a realistic “new deal” or “new covenant” requires a bit of basic situational awareness of the (nonzerosum) game we are playing here. As I see it, the emerging new world will be a balance of three really paramount information forces – the humans (still important but not the monopoly they imagine), the noosphere and the information technology (IT) especially as in the new all-embracing Internet of Things (IOT).

Is the IOT really THAT important? Yes, folks, it really is, and will be more and more. That is why a new, more conscious IOT platform will be more and more essential to avoiding disaster here. For example, AUTOMATION is the number one factor causing this jobs issue, and that’s part of the IT sector. And the cyberblitzkrieg concerns I have mentioned are urgent life-or-death, and just a first step in aiming for sustainable IT.


At another level, there are really serious intelligent groups of people looking at the future jobs issue, and the role of IT, which will be important EITHER in a “traditional” employment scenario or in a “new age everyone self-employed” scenario or in a freedom-based mix of the two.

I have noted before, this requires:

(1) A really urgent effort to prevent premature ossification of IT, by folks who are pushing very hard for an old-style top-down IOT control system, which could wipe out market-based internet companies in much the way that IBM’s old Wylbur system once crushed its more user-friendly competition years ago. (When PCs changed that, I had friends who said “Beware, the Empire will strike back.” And it already has, more than you know.)
(See for colorful slides on both the Empire’s plans and on a better way for IT.)

(2) Serious technical efforts to improve the core IT used in electric power systems like Independent System Operators (ISOs) and extend it as a paradigm for other sectors, not only in security but in market design.

But in truth, more thinking and research is needed for (2).

This past week, people designing IT to organize the job markets of the future (with some input to some candidates) have asked my views of new ideas for “employment dating services”. My response:



Your remind me of things I should have asked about that I haven't gotten around to analyzing seriously yet.

We are really entering a new world here, and I have been thinking about foundational issues -- and haven't even gotten around to simpler questions involving markets simpler in nature than employment/service markets. Even for simple electricity markets, there is a crucial foresight function (will I need more of this n the future? how do I prepare now for future needs) which somehow needs to be apportioned between humans thinking about the future and partially intelligent systems which can help do the same, How? I need to look up the recent work on collaboration systems for prediction which work better than the betting system markets which were fashionable a few years ago.

For humans... many of the systems designed recently are based on the simple type I error versus type II error metrics used for other purposes. But additional metrics may be important. It's not just a matter of average classification error, but of systemic effects which can come from different types of systemic biases. I suppose that people designing dating services are far down the line in experiencing such things, but how much is their experience available to learn from?

Some systemic effects to pay attention to in the design process are obvious. Even if you don't think about racial or ethnic effects on day one, others will, for you. But even so, there are unanswered tricky questions involved.

But there are organization culture aspects to consider. For example, I long ago had a long conversation with a guy in DOD who had studied the use of lie detectors in CIA. "For technical reasons," he said, "related to the issue of calibration questions, they automatically exclude that very small percentage of people who always tell the truth about everything. Since it's a small percentage, they don't think it matters much." Ah, but some work on corporate culture says that the adaptability and integrity of large institutions may be highly dependent on that minority, most of which gets integrated into the organization in a crucial and constructive way. The role of whistle-blower personalities is another tricky issue, from the viewpoint of society as a whole.

In many organizations... the role of the minority which pays attention to reality, and meets a certain level of sanity, is another systemic issue to consider. As is the question of experiences in the organization which may foster growth in those areas.

In things like dating services... some people might say: "The most important thing is not to miss the really best opportunities." Back when I was looking for good proposals at NSF, it was especially important not to miss the high-potential (even if risky) options. But with things like dating... I tried such a service long ago, when I was...a freshman in college... and if the first two are a total miss, one might not even evaluate later ones which might be better. In the NSF model, failure of a risky investment is not much of a problem (as universities give backup security and opportunities to people who do not get grants or who fail in risky projects), but people really want stability in their lives; in my very first job, at DOE, I remember it created huge problems when people at ORNL expected stable close relations and the folks at DOE leading a grant were not prepared to provide that (they just wanted the near-term product). When does management on the receiving end (or society in general) really ask itself "what is the best use I can make of these specific people, long-term? How can I do the best for these people?" (Is there an imbalance between the demand side of this market and the supply side?"

In fact... between these elevated questions and the simpler questions I was asking about electric power, I told myself a day or two ago that I need to think more about monopsony effects and how they can very seriously interfere with the quality of these kinds of markets, unless we are very careful to understand what we are doing and where it may lead. If society jumps ahead and implements things before we know what we are doing, it could be very hard to fix it later.

(Of course, I should also have mentioned the need to consider how people might game such systems. And also what we can learn from the great innovation of test-based employment going back to the Song dynasty of China.)


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Joys of simple life

Displaying IMG_20160821_133055.jpg

Today Luda suggested: “We should just take a picture of this to send to those people who talk about healthy eating.” For lunch today at home, we each had about a half a pound of tuna sashimi, with a whole lot of Greek salad (with spicy mozzarella instead of feta cheese), and a kind of white wine sangria on the side. Typical of the many insanely special tasty and healthy meals Luda often comes up with.

I certainly did not marry Luda for her cooking. She was very amused when, near the start of the marriage, I would tell people: “She is an amazingly good cook, especially for raw fish.” But in fact, it does take real knowledge to find and prepare the best fish for sashimi, gravlox and other such dishes. And she has managed many other gourmet dishes, from cuisines all over the world.

I guess I should not have been surprised. After all, an intelligent woman, one of whose PhDs is in chemistry with links to biology... who has experienced so many of the cultures all over the world. And who has an extremely acute sense of what she likes, with acute senses, fortunately close enough to what I like too. And there are so many cost-effective sources of good ingredients in this area....


It is actually possible that our household income is now a little lower than the average in this area, but this area is very lucky in general. It really comes home to me how lucky we are, and how high our REAL standard of living is, well beyond the naked calculations a bean counter would look to.

Driving in this area, such as driving to Quaker meeting, we do see huge mansions, many times larger than our house. But I understand very clearly how much better off we are living in our house instead of one of them. Three people (soon to be two) do not really need more than four bedrooms, and there is enough room for all our many bookshelves. Land enough for big gardens, but none which needs mowing. Forest view and creek below and behind us, belonging to the county, but ten minutes drive from Congress and White House under normal traffic.

Years ago, we somehow accidentally had a free subscription to the Financial Times. (We still don’t know how.) There were times when it was hard to suppress a bit of envy feeling about the millions upon millions of pounds readers were expected to dispose of.. but then when they described what kind of houses people could buy with 3 million pounds in the London area, suddenly we felt richer than them. Much better food, better place to live, and for me being with Luda is the most extreme good fortune.

When we first moved into this house (see earlier post on "house between the world"), I felt a little uncomfortable, because there were so many windows and so much light in all directions that it felt a little like camping out in a sleeping bag in the woods. Luda did put in some blinds. But most mornings, we wake up to
the sight of trees we can see from bed, to cool breezes and to incredibly rich bird songs. 

I just wish others could have more like what we do now. It is not a wasteful existence, and our carbon footprint is not high. But it is very far from being a sacrifice!!

What of education opportunities and such for the next generation? Well, my youngest son goes off to college on Wednesday, and we will see.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Funeral for a Cherry Tree: Just a Glimpse of Everyday Life

Funeral for a Cherry Tree: Just a Glimpse of Everyday Life

No great theory or politics in this post – just a glimpse of everyday life.

Yesterday Luda said to me: “Paul, it is time to cut down that cherry tree in the front yard(garden). It is old and no longer bears fruit. Do you want to say goodbye to it? In a few minutes I could use your help in cutting it down.” “OK,” I said. I felt this was one of those moments deserving just the proper amount of attention.

We planted that tree together in the early years of our marriage, celebrating a new house and so on. We went together to tree stores, and found a small tree said to be self-pollinating and said to grow several types of cherry on one tree. We feared it might die soon after, when cicadas really went wild in our area. It suffered a lot back then, but we worked hard to save it; it missed a year, but burst again into fruit the next year. Year after year it produced huge volumes of delicious big red cherries. (It is odd how I feel a shiver up my spine as I type this.) At difficult times I even worked to project healing and love into that little (and bigger) tree.

So yesterday, I followed Luda. I really defer to her in such things; in many ways, our whole front yard, small as I am glad it is, is her garden, as is most of the back yard now as well.

She had an electric chain saw in hand, and asked me to help brace some limbs as she cut them, and then carry them to a pile in the street where they pick up such things. (“No piece more than ten feet long, but no, please don’t cut them so much smaller. “ A few limbs she cut in half on the ground with the chain saw.)

It was a strange feeling carrying some of those branches, still full of green leaves and the appearance and feeling of life. I suppose that many people feel the same when taking a beloved trusting dog to be put down at the vet, but here... it felt more like a soft loving child, not at all dying or old (at least not in some parts).

I told Luda this morning... I felt three very distinct feelings about this: regret, acceptance and love. No conflict between the regret and the acceptance, as both had been weighed and the net result was clear. In a way, I replied to the tree as its branches seemed to return/reciprocate to me the love I had projected to it in many times past.

There were three “later” reactions, some at the time. I thought of the future of that tree, especially: would a new tree emerge from the stump? (I had seen that before with an apple tree years before in the one other house I bought in my life, in College Park Maryland, and a holly tree here.) This morning I realized: I do not even know what is the optimal height to leave for the stump to make that possible. (Curious I did not even think of any ‘afterlife’ noosphere aspect, even as energy was flowing.) I also thought a bit about a metaphor: how much am I like this tree, with only a normal length of time left ahead of me in this world? I too have had odd, conscious grafts leading to improbable fruits; will the roots left behind result in a similar species, but more wild, without the richness of what came with special effort? And yes, I had questions about the parts I cannot be sure of as a tough skeptic who did not study the details: Was this really the right time? Could the new, less visible activity of cicadas be causing a more lull in fruit, not to be taken overly seriously? Were the leaves so withered as Luda suggested? Will the new wilder tree last longer, like a cherry tree I remembered from College Park? Would it be better just to prune the higher branches rather than cut down the tree?

No wild maudlin grief, just the clear reactions and flows as discussed above.

Luda asked why I reacted so much more to this than I did when our “totem tree” (planted by nature, and already dead) fell a week or two ago, or to the times when we had the county come and cut down giant old trees in the park behind us possible threatening our house.

But actually, she and I both did go out to the back to study what happened to the totem tree when it fell. I did feel regret about the other trees, but not the same DEGREE of connections.
“Didn’t you care about the house?” I emphasized... the rational feeling (as rational as RLADP and zhengqi)... is a sum of two terms, the positive (removing the risks to the house which I did not argue with) and the negative, accepting how the balance worked out. I felt real regret, as I remember my joy at seeing those huge trees like Robin Hood’s band guarding the rear of our house when we first bought it... but did not question Luda’s judgment on the balance.

I did work hard to save many trees when the four-foot snow hit a few years ago (when Chris and Luda were in the sun in California, visiting Leon Chua). I put in lots of mundane energy and feeling then too, struggling through deep snow, and losing only that holly tree (which grew back).

As for the totem tree... it had a figure of a deer on top, and the face of a human in the middle. It was already aging, and we had a bit of an argument with the deer (recorded in this blog) a few weeks ago. Sorted out more or less by now, but no, deer are not on top.

Best of luck...    

Clear and Present Danger to Your Life As Of Now From Cyberblitzkrieg

Clear and Present Danger to Your Life As Of Now From Cyberblitzkrieg



This week, the immediate risk to our lives through cyberblitzkrieg has suddenly risen dramatically, due to new events in cyberspace. If there does occur a cyberblitzkrieg on electric power and other critical infrastructure, the level of damage would comparable in general to the kind of damage we feared at the height of the Cold War, when something like half the world could be lost suddenly and the rest in a cascade of events. “Cyberblitzkrieg” is simply a coordinated cyberattack on multiple physical plants, like power generators or large transformers, hard to replace in less than, say, six months. Gingrich wrote the foreword to a novel, “One Second After” (see Amazon), vividly describing what a big EMP event could mean to the US; the possible damage here is similar, and I really hope something can be done to close the doors in time. We really need to get serious about this, because your life and mine are both at risk, really, here and now, starting this very week.  

For me, the week began after I thought through two international meetings led by the Millennium Project ( in the DC area, one on the future of work and one on new ways to cope with terrorism.( ). These two challenges, taken together, require new, more conscious strategies for developing the future of IT, and new directions in technology. With any new directions, we naturally ask: “What is the first discrete step we could and should do?” The first step in this case would be to close the loopholes which make our critical infrastructure vulnerable, here and now, and limit what we could do in the future with the Internet of Things. I sent an email on what we need to do to a friend well-placed in cybersecurity. (I post that email below; it gives the technical idea.) I did not send this out more widely, because the folks who actually might want to pull a cyberblitzkrieg here and now tend to be more responsive and agile than our own people, and I did not want to generate the wrong kind of excitement in the worng place.

BUT: this past week, “all hell came loose,” and the risk has become much more visible and much larger. CNN ran a visible story on vulnerability of our power system, with pictures of what cyberattack has done to Ukraine. (Of course, there are other sources which I mentioned below). More important, the widespread nature of backdoors and holes in firewalls and in servers, and tools to exploit them, have been widely publicized; see . Finally, news came out about NSA21, a major restructuring of the NSA which many fear would reduce the capabilities of the Information Assurance part of NSA to actually implement the kind of patch we need most urgently. (Just search for NSA21 on google news!) One guy hinted to me: “The problem now is that we are too busy with political kinds of reorganization even to consider these kinds of changes.” So maybe we are fried. Really.

A Few Details

I do not know whether NSA21 will make our prospects much better, much worse, or whether it will be a mixed bag or of limited impact. I do not know, of course, because many details are not yet final, and many are not open to us publics. Nevertheless, since NSA is the only US institution with leadership in the area of “rainbow book” technology, it will certainly be important here. There are excellent reasons to believe that NSA21 may be very important, one way or another. In an interview, Rogers stressed “fundamentals,” which is what we need. (We really need to understand what we are doing.) But will Information Assurance be strengthened? Will we be enabling a greater fulfillment of the intent of the US Constitution, enhancing the freedom of a free people, or will we be enabling a top-down vision I have seen of IOT as a top-down control system which could suffocate us all to death in the end? The stakes are high.

The news of the week reminds us that router servers and communication systems are just as important, in the long-term, as operating systems. My plan would have a phase two extending the new approach to them as well, and even tacitly accounting for the huge implications of new quantum technology. (This week, the Chinese launched a secure-communication quantum satellite, and our paper in Quantum Information Processing describes how China is a full generation ahead of the US now in critical quantum areas, thanks to the ‘reforms’ of Lamar Smith; see for a link to a copy of the paper, in case you do not have journal access.)


The Email I sent a week ago with overview proposal for immediate action:
A few years ago, when I handled electric power grid research at the National Science Foundation (see, Congressman Trent Franks did a beautiful job of explaining why he was so concerned about risks of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events hitting the US power grid. If half the big transformers in the US were taken down, the damage could be a lot greater than the mere $1-2 trillion predicted in the official report from the National Academy of Sciences; it would be more like a return to the Stone Age, as depicted in a novel by Gingrich on that subject. Yet in 2009, folks at the National Defense University showed how a cyberattack could accomplish the same thing, if it could get all the way to the software which controls generators.

As a technical person, I am tempted to talk at great length about the growing threats in this area, and about how all the good, worthwhile things now in the pipeline are not yet enough to prevent disaster. Even as we cope every day with a deluge of small, gradual attacks, our vulnerability to one vast unexpected cyberbltizkreig from people like hostile state actors is growing and growing. I do hope your contacts would be willing to discuss adding a new program, intended to be a FIRST STEP towards a more comprehensive solution.

The key idea:

Move all critical infrastructure ASAP to control by a new generation of operating systems, which meet the NSA "rainbow book" standards for absolute unbreakability, with open-source machine verification of unbreakability and privacy, EXCEPT for a standard "wiretap observer" subroutine which would be black but whose inputs and outputs and potential actions are visible in open source.  

This would be a huge change in today's practice. Because this is a complex issue, I would be grateful for a chance to be available to answer questions, after I give you just a few highlights of the long discussions behind the new proposal. One of the last things I did at NSF before my retirement was a review of larger issues with the INternet of Things (see attached paper), and we have had many follow-on discussions. Here below is my crude attempt to summarize the first wave of tradeoffs. 

Electric power utilities are already a lot more secure than financial institutions, for example, in control of critical infrastructure like what NDU has alerted us to. They generally use some dialect of SE-Linux for critical operations. SE Linux, guided by NSA, is informed by the best knowledge in the "rainbow books" (like the Multics "orange book" I learned about when developing software for Multics in 1973-1975) about theorem-based unbreakability. But utilities are totally dependent on vendors like AB&B who "take their time to update compliance," and backdoors have become a growing problem in all dialects of Linux and unix. For many years, standard practice was for the US to use a few known backdoors to enable its crucial "wiretap" kinds of functions, hoping that adversaries would never find the backdoors -- but a couple of years ago we narrowly avoided a really huge crisis when  a backdoor in linux embedded control chips became known, and the time for adversaries to discover backdoors has become shorter and shorter. It may be that China has already long had the ability to shut the US down, and is gently holding it in reserve for a good time, but more and more other high-capability actors are showing up. GIven how much is at stake, and where things are going, it is time to bite the bullet and change the way we do business as soon as we can.

Unfortunately, "as soon as we can" is not overnight. Open source machine-verified compliance before deployment is essential to eliminating "taking time to get to compliance"; the technology is known (at least to NSA and a few specialists in places like Berkeley and relevant contractors) but the wiretap subroutine is essential in practice, and an open public demo of the technology is needed first. Someone should fund the project to do that demo, and make it 100% global open source. And then would come the phase in of a new requirement that a growing circle of critical infrastructures must meet the new standards, as OS's are developed in full, open transparent compliance. Also, of course, design of an acceptable wiretap subroutine and policy needs to go forward, in parallel with the development of the initial demo.

There are some futurists who argue that there should be total transparency in the future, such that all operating systems and computer databases should have read-only access to the entire world. At best, that is not a near-term option. But it is true that law enforcement does have a right to investigate criminals with a warrant, and that a new security system must not overturn that right. Policies on warrants and wiretaps are complicated, but we cannot afford to waste time reinventing the wheel; the job for us tech people now is to build a clean READ-ONLY interface and make sure it goes to the right level of respectable constitutional and international lawyers to handle what they do with their side of it. We do need to asking for operating systems which would not be shut down de facto in a mission-critical way by denial of service attacks based on the wiretap subroutine; thus compliance should include verification that the outputs of that subroutine could not have that effect.
("Quiet times" or "quiet cores" useful in reporting may be crucial parts of design... something like that.)

In a way, the “warrant subroutine” suggestion preserves the kind of backdoor access which folks like the intelligence gathering parts of NSA and FBI rely on very heavily; however, since it is READ-ONLY, the threat of someone taking down the US power grid would go away. The tradeoffs are similar to those of mutual nuclear disarmament, without the worries about cheating (because each nation has an incentive to protect itself, and its own protection depends on its deploying better software).

Attached: , an earlier vision (2014) with citation to the rainbow book story.

Thanks for your consideration! There is a lot at stake in really getting this right, ASAP.


A week or two later:

There have been interesting follow-on discussions here, though I am worried that the lag between White House level initiatives on critical infrastructure protection and NSA21 may reduce the probability of "stopping the bleeding" in time and increase the probability of other types of quick action on other fronts which make it harder to get out of the hole.

On the positive side, I look forward to receiving a link from the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society to a talk I gave last week in Missourri putting the big picture together in a clear way.
The security of operating systems is just one level of what we need to do, for sustainable IT and IOT. There is a communications level, and, trickiest of all, there is a need for new apps for examples like better management of power grids, financial networks and employment networks.

So -- LIKE three levels, OS, comm and apps. 

Even the OS level has important complications beyond the urgent need for machine-verified "rainbow book" compliance as I propose above. The theorems which underlie the rainbow books guarantee that an OS cannot be broken UNDER certain conditions. The open source programs which validate source code as compliant are essential and urgent... but what if the actual physical hardware does not actually implement the source code? What about "hardware hacks"?

It is fortunate that hardware hacking is not so widely available yet as the software hacks which make us vulnerable right now to cyberblitzkrieg! But it is coming. There are two types I know about now.

This week, information came out about a program which can stress a chip in a way which causes a breakdown which software attacks can exploit, able to destroy even a compliant unbreakable OS!!
I am happy to hear that error correcting codes in the software, and/or new memory management  
procedures, can handle that. This is a serious problem, but it seems solvable enough. Folks like electric power systems could upgrade urgently to things LIKE hard drives with ECC (though I sure hope folks like Information Assurance will be prepared to help them and guarantee quality control!),
and a "phase two" of the software compliance program could make sure that standards are upgraded to include the new memory management, as soon as possible, but not to delay the urgent phase one changes I proposed above. 

That's the easy part.

But what about HARDWARE backdoors, which some of us have discussed for years? 
When lots of money was being funnelled into software things, including cybersecurity, at NSF, 
several of us in Engineering proposed that there also be some effort to try to cope with hardware backdoors, such as what some folks in China could do when making a chip. I am not sure how far all that got. But in fact, testing chips to find hardware backdoors may be a kind of "NP hard problem," a kind of problem which could be solved much better using Analog Quantum Computing, a line of technology discussed in our paper this year in Quantum Information Processing. (I posted a link at Bottom line: this is one of several technology capabilities which 
will become available only AFTER some initial experiments are performed and followed up on;
only China and Austria have the ability to do those experiments today, in part because of what folks like Lamar Smith have done to reorganize all the government agencies in their jurisdiction. 
(I just hope the new NSA reorganization will not be similar in impact!) But perhaps it is just as well that
this security capability will take longer to implement, since hardware backdoors installed by the chip maker are not quite as urgent as protecting us from malicious hackers anywhere on earth. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

why the workforce is angry and how to really pay attention

In a discussion of the jobs problem, someone wrote:

My reply:

To some extent, more bots and more automation are the problem, not the solution... if our concern is to address growing hidden unemployment, perhaps leading to outright growing unemployment. A growing part of the workforce is upset and so angry they decided months ago "I'd sooner vote for a dog than for anyone who would continue the present trends (whether Bush or Clinton)". But now they are asking would they sooner vote for a rabid hyena.  I am not saying they are right, but I am saying that this is the world we seem to be living in right now, and we are called to pay attention to why these people are upset.

Of course being angry they look for something or someone to blame. That is entirely natural, and easy to understand. (There is actually a very serious mathematical field of "credit assignment" which I helped get going, in the area some folks call machine learning, which actually underlies a lot of the possibilities for automation.) Some folks are telling the workforce "You are losing your jobs because of rotten trade deals and evil Chinese and Mexicans." Well, yes, even highly intelligent Germans found folks to scapegoat in the 1930's when unemployment problems grew, and if scapegoats are all they are offered, I see no reason to assume Americans will behave more intelligently than Germans did at that time.

But we know that automation is also part of why they have been losing jobs, and why there may be less jobs in the future. In fact, when I look at specific manufacturing areas which might come back to the US, a major factor is that costs might become lower here in the US precisely because of automation. That brings back money, but not jobs. Simply adding automation to what Trump calls "rotten trade deals" makes the problems of the people in the workforce worse.

I owe great thanks to ... AND to the Millennium Project for helping me understand that this issue, the future of the workforce over the next few decades, really deserves sharp focused attention, just as much as some other issues I have spent more time thinking about in the past (like the scariest aspects of climate change and nuclear proliferation and terrorism). It is just as serious, and it goes 'way beyond the short term issues of employment which I had thought about in macroeconomics. Stage one in solving such a serious problem is to keep the key variables, the key problem, very firm and clear and permanently etched into our minds.  

As a general matter -- this decadal employment problem seems to be a mix of BOTH of the things we might blame, "the rotten trade deals" (which we need to think about more deeply) and the rotten way
we have actually been deploying automation over the last few years (perhaps going back to 1980 as a prior post suggested). Trade deals and automation both raise "potential GNP," and SHOULD result in a better life for  he bulk of humanity, but only if they are phased in in a constructive, sustainable way. It looks to me as if the present trends are in fact nonsustainable, and are likely to lead to some kind of catastrophe if not changed dramatically. Will we make major changes now, when it need not be expensive, or will the politics in the US (and the entire earth) change in a way which makes Trump seem like a quiet angel?

What is required, so far as I can tell, is an analysis of the two-headed problem (rotten trade deals and rotten ways on injecting automation), an analysis of what could be done to inject more international trade and automation in a more sustainable way, and, of course, effective political implementation. I do hope others can take care of the politics more than I can; I know something of the political mechanisms (having gotten my PhD under Karl Deutsch, whose work in that area is an easy google and google scholar), but more than knowledge is required. Still, without some understanding of the problem, the folks working the politics won't be able to improve things much.

So here is how I would give a first order analysis of the two problems.

The trade deal aspect is simpler. International trade theory long ago told us that trade can be a win-win, Pareto optimal deal, if we do it right. (I wonder how many courses Trump ever took at Wharton outside of basic marketing and applied real estate kinds of things. Ironically, my father actually taught some applied marketing courses there 'way back, and I have wondered...) But this comes with two well-known caveats: (1) shifting allocations can cause pain to some players, unless we exploit the clear possibility of side payments of some kind to restore balance; (2) if the size of the labor supply in some areas is not fixed, but growing exponentially, reduction in wages can become unbounded.  Long ago, a first order global deal was proposed (developed by the International Labor Organization, ILO, in great part), where international trade deals were supposed to come with standards to cope with these caveats, and make sure we all do benefit. 

This vision of a global deal started to emerge long ago, in many places. For example, I remember an interagency meeting circa 1990, related to DARPA's big new push on display technologies ("Who will own the TV industry of the future?"), when there were major sessions on how to protect US jobs from the Japanese. Some folks rehashed old crude ideas like new tariffs, the limits of which are known to any even halfway competent economist. I suggested, in Trumpian language (targetted to the base, of whom there were many in the conference): "Hey, why don't we consider exporting more lawyers? If we worry that Japan has an unfair advantage because of low wages and how they treat their workers, instead of playing with risky tariffs, why not push the moral highground, to defend those Japanese workers so that they have a better life and also cost more?"   In essence, this IS the more sustainable Pareto optimum.

This "moral highground" calls us to push two key things harder: (1) to make sure that standards really do get updated to reflect new realities, and not just "reform" away the presence and rights of human beings,
exactly as ILO now says it wants to do; and (2) put a much stronger spotlight on the actual implementation of standards, exactly as Kaine was alluding to in discussing TTP. But in the background... if we do not account well enough for issues of population growth, it will be very hard to keep the system sustainable even by this vision; better treatment of population instability is also necessary in avoiding catastrophe. (Will surplus population simply cross international borders? But important as that topic is, maybe it's beyond the scope of this already long email.)

But what about automation?

The sheer technology of automation is certainly an area I know about, enough to know that it is relevant to all jobs in all sectors, and that even the largest IT players are at risk because of things beyond the usual radar screens. (In a way that was the biggest part of my job at NSF the past 30 years. The old NSF was an incredibly rich source of real-time information about the very most advanced technologies.)

I found it depressing when Trump unveiled his solution to these kinds of problems, which included "bringing together the right people," one of whom talked to the press. "Of course a $15 per hour minimum wage would not work. If they do that, we will simply automate their jobs out of existence. We will sooner or later anyway." That's a clear example of continuation of a trend which is nonsustainable. But in fact, it is not Trump's fault; he is merely one member of a large subculture, and the only unique and weird thing about his version is that he has come out of the closet. A lot of the folks he competed with report back, in a calm and polished way, to folks in that same closet, deeper in the dark recesses of that closet.

Years ago, when I was an active Young Republican, coming from a culture more like the 1% culture,
I remember how annoyed I was by Galbraith's new book (new in the late 1960's) arguing that we really cannot reconstruct the "small is beautiful" world Goldwater advocated, and that our best hope of preserving human freedom was a balance of power of strong corporations, strong labor unions and strong government (and universities!!!). It was annoying because it was right, an unpleasant truth. Yes, we need a system which devolves much more choice to much more nodes in our society (as in the Goldwater vision), but this is only sustainable with a balance of power and a division of power at the top, because of the centralizing nature of new technology. That was true then, and automation simply continues that trend to a more extreme degree, which opens the door to even more extreme oppression of human life. I see no way out of the serious problems we are facing unless we are really clear about reality, including the reality of what Galbraith said.

That Galbraith vision opened the door to a very clear and simple vision of how to solve the unemployment-due-to-automation problem, which I think of as "the French solution" or the "Franco-German solution." (OK, David might suggest more precise language.) The idea is that we should all share in the benefits of automation, by reducing  hours worked and pain experienced per person, rather than reducing the number of jobs. It is such a simple old idea, but perhaps we need to work hard to remember it and make sure we make it real, if we want to avoid some very frightening scenarios (some of which remind me of how the French revolution played out.). "Reform" approaches which try to reverse the French solution are a lot like injections of opiates, which reduce some kind of short-term pain even as they put the patient closer to a combination of addiction and death. It's much harder work to maintain economic growth in a world of "anti-reform" (or pro-human reform), just as it's harder to live without opiates after major surgery... but .. hey, I just recovered from major surgery myself, and I am ever so glad I did things the hard way which is the right way.

How do we move back to serious pro-human reform, reversing the recent damage to political forces other than one biased leg of Galbraith's triad, while still expanding choice and well-designed market mechanisms and competition in life?

One crucial aspect of improving how we deal with automation is simply how we design and deploy the IT itself. No joke.  For example, some folks naively want to implement the Internet of Things as a new order, governing all of human life, following simple antique notions of top-down  control in the spirit of a thermostat (but less responsive to feedback). If you think that is an "unAmerican pessimistic view of where we are headed," you haven't seen what's being injected into certain server farms. But there are alternative paradigms for more distributed, market-like networks, which won't just happen all by themselves. The Independent System Operators in the new deregulated electric power system are a great example of a kind of middle way, a hint as to how we could do IOT better. Anyone who thinks that IOT is just one small part of the world economy (and future jobs picture) needs to catch up to changes already well-underway here on earth.

Better security and privacy technology in IT is one immediate urgent step in the right direction which I have started to discuss with various folks. If we want to expand the ISO paradigm, that paradigm itself needs a more solid foundation.

I do not believe that the "new age" solution of making 70% of the workforce into entrepreneurs in the next few decades is realistic enough to count as a solution. Yes, we need more opportunities, but no, we should not ignore the diversity of human capabilities or underestimate the importance of long-term human relations.  


All for now. It is a huge problem, the world public demands change... but it is unclear whether our political systems will be able to get onto a sustainable course before something really ugly happens. 
(Yes, there are many VARIETIES of ugliness possible, but none end well.)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How a Mathematician Got Turned Into a Mystic

How a Mathematician Got Turned Into a Mystic

Ode to Pocohontas

The wind which blows
through all our souls,
The spirit, the qi
Can you not see?
Can you not see the colors of the wind?


From age one to age 8, my religion was Roman Catholic, really echoing the teachings from my mother with only distant respect for my father. From age 8 to age 15, my religion was mathematics, and logic, which I considered together. For example, when I was twelve, I remember riding on the train from the University of Pennsylvania (where I took the junior advanced calculus course for regular undergraduates) reading a book called Metamathematics (by Klein?) recommended by my revered mathematics teacher of that year, Dr. Schub, which I approached as a kind of guide to everything. At age 15, in my senior year at Lawrenceville, I took several courses in mathematics at Princeton, including a graduate course in logic taught by Alonzo Church; I finished the first half, and attended all the second half, but dropped out of full involvement, as I reconsidered just how far one can go with deductive logic.

========  Quick summary of that earlier stuff to age 15

In fact, even as I start to tell the story... I want to tell it differently from the way I would tell it then, when I would report the raw logic and verbal reasoning I went through. Now I understand that the nonverbal part of the brain (let alone the “soul”!) is fully conscious, and I easily access my memories of what I was thinking at a conscious nonverbal level in the early days. In a way I resent those psychologists who talk about the nonverbal level of brain intelligence as “the unconscious” or “the subconscious”.  When they look at a cat or a mouse, do they imagine that this creature is totally unconscious of what it experiences or what it does? Do they imagine that its brain is empty of all intelligence?”

But since I don’t want to spend too much time... I won’t really tell the stories about Catholic childhood, a bloody cross over my crib which puzzled me when I was eight months old and nonverbal, a picture of Jesus with the Sacred Heart at Holy Martyrs School which seemed more positive and reminded me of my mother’s spirit of love, the scary nuns who told us stories of kids turning into pillars of salt and who dreamed of how they could have enlightened poor Alexander when he built a temple to the unknown God... the book by Fred Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, which really got me thinking when I read it at eight age and thought about it on the way to the bathtub... the shot of male hormones which Dr. Bone gave me at age 8.(either as a precaution after a hernia operation at age 7 or intense poison ivy, both indicators of how much time I spent outdoors in the woods).. the beautiful babysitter I tried to impress who gave me her paperback “algebra made easy” book soon after... questions about ethics and the proper goal of life at age 12 (which earned me a letter from the Vatican saying I was officially ex communicato)... refusing to sing any words which declared a belief in God even in the very civilized private school I arranged to go to after I totally rejected Catholicism and theism altogether...
Feeling ever more powerful in my mind, as I learned more mathematics and science, and one day staring out at a snowstorm through a huge window and feeling as if I could swirl things... And the “Aunt Mary” story I told my kids later; you can find it via the search engine on this blog.

But even then, I was firmly, clearly, logically committed to the extreme “What You See Is What You get” materialist view of reality, with total rejection of religion, paranormal, and all that. I do remember my mother telling me many times I should respect the story of Ferdinand the bull, who needed to learn to smell the flowers. (But I also remember the day that John Von Neumann died and what my mother said about that, as she stood on the other side of a white enamel kitchen table in our small GI house in Oreland, Pennsylvania, which we moved out of when I was 8.) Oh, and I did some experiments with hypnosis, following a book by Estabrooks, linked to lots of thought about AI, neural networks, computers and so on, which I worked on even before the arrival of FORTRAN.

== logical transition number one: to first-level sanity

Age 15 was the time of my first major reworking of my “ego.” Freud SOMETIMES uses the word “ego” to refer to the complex of verbal, symbolic reasoning we humans often rely on very heavily.  At, a paper published in Russia, I describe how the formal axiomatic foundations we develop are ever so crucial to human develop, once we let logic into our lives, as I did at age 8. Some might even say we start becoming humans, and grow out of being animals, when we let logic into our lives (I apologize for the fuzziness of this, but it is an important stage) – but at age 15 I made a rather discrete transition from being a human to being a first-level sane human, a human who actually did “smell the flowers.” In my ego, the transition was basically simple: instead of grounding myself in deductive logic, I grounded myself in inductive logic, which applies the scientific method to life, which fully understands the importance of the flow of empirical data (i.e. direct experience) as co-equal with logic in developing rational, stochastic well-defined conclusions about the state and the dynamics of the world we live in (including the state of ourselves seen in the mirror). And which pays full attention to “primary affective feedback,” the raw feelings of “this good,” “this bad,” light and dark... and is not confused even by reading parts of what Nietzsche says about such things. Let me not repeat the paper. (See Mind_in_Time for details.)

But none of that implies mysticism. Quite the contrary. In many ways, first level sanity is a recipe for living an energetic meaningful life in the total absence of any “supernatural.” I suspect that the transition which I made at age 8 is a lot like a major transition which John Stuart Mills made (described in the book Male Hysteria). He (and I) was a utilitarian both before and after, but more aware of feeling and of the real ground of our thoughts (even at the purely brain level).
At the end of age 15, just before starting Harvard, I was deeply inspired by reading D.O. Hebb, the Organization of Behavior, which begins by describing how proper Bayesian reasoning tells us to reject all those silly ideas about parapsychology despite what might seem like persuasive research studies; I agreed. One of my motives in embarking on a deep study of intelligence and neural networks was the drive to get the whole world to understand this better, and to become more sane in its behavior. (This was also the summer of Barry Goldwater’s peak.)

I remember a friend at Harvard who later said that age 15 was when I changed from being a pure mathematician to being an applied mathematician. But no, Dr. Schub. I never gave up my mathematics.

I should probably say at least a little bit about Lincoln Kaye, Lucy Schneider (hi!), and Bertrand Russell, all of whom had an effect on this transition. For example, I was repelled by what Linc told me about the concept of yin and yang; the idea that being female must be associated with being small and dark and wimpy and mousy really upset me. I had an image of the ideal woman I longed for who would be an exact opposite of that, and it’s funny that the image in my mind at that time was so close to Luda, whom I did not meet in mundane reality until late 1996! But when I opened myself to Lucy (as much as Catholic upbringing would allow), I had feelings on course to marrying her – certainly not a mouse, but certainly not such an Amazon woman as Luda. That ended by her choice. I also have a letter in my files (and scanned) from Betrand Russell to me, kindly explaining some simple points about logic, and nailing down key aspects of the transition in my ego.

Before age 15, I was somewhat deep into classical music, but Linc urged me to really let music “inside me.” I was a bit puzzled by his love of Mahler (who seemed a bit shallow and silly to me at the time, compared for example with Stravinsky and Bartok). After I made my ego transition, I certainly did let music get more “inside me,”  and listening to my stereo was a big part of my life by senior year at Harvard.

First order sanity basically gives one all the powers which Estabrooks describes as the power of autohypnosis, available all the time (though in drowsy afternoons that may be limited).

==== logical transition number two, spring 1967

As I look back on the curious things I had seen by 1967 (age 19, when I was a senior at Harvard living on the “Gold Coast” of Adams House), it is a bit amazing to me now how firmly I rejected them all. Like the Aunt Mary story. Like personal experiences my mother told me about. By the Bayesian logic seemed overwhelming: based on what we know of physics, it seemed very clear that the prior probability of such things being real is incredibly low. Also, the accounts of paranormal and spirit in world culture get to be so extreme and self-contradictory and obviously biased and silly that I would not count them as much for evidence, in proper Bayesian convolution. (Hey folks, I still think in mathematics. I often feel like a bit of a fraud when I make it seem as if I am thinking in English! Mathematics and images first, English much later, English mainly as part of how to find crude fuzzy structure in the space of strategic planning. Hey, is that sentence an example proving how I don’t really think in English?)

I still remember the day (March something) in 1967 when that all changed. I have already written up and spoken that story many times. For example, in my chapter on “Why Space?” in a book on space policy edited by Krone from Apogee, posted at I remember feeling unusual new energy when I retold it out loud to an audience of about a thousand people near Qufu, the “Vatican of Confucianism,” in a talk on “Neural Networks and Confiucianism.” I felt a special shiver up my spine as I told the story there, because the story involves Mao Tse Tung, and it seemed to reflect more of the future than it seemed to back at that time in 1967.

But let me be brief. One day, at lunch in Adams House, we had an intense debate about whether Mao might be open to trade with the US. Since I read the New York Times from cover to cover every morning back then (lying in bed, after quickly dragging it from my door)... I quoted two earlier speeches by Mao, and the “if” conditions he gave, which I felt the US could meet without abandoning Mao or giving up the principles of us on the executive committee of the Young Republicans. (I was still an intense moderate Republican then, working with Ripon Society; I even had a nice conversation with Nixon in a Boston bar in 1966.) The SDS folks in the debate disagreed; “OUR Mao would never trade with you dirty rats, at least not before the full occupation of Taiwan by the red army.” So then I quoted verbatim a new speech I remembered from Mao, from when I was reading in bed... the page numbers (from and something like page 31, NOW I forget the number)... the new “if.” When the SDS folks look dumbfounded, I “moved in for the kill.” (Oops. Sorry. I was sane, but not yet Quaker.) Loudly quoted every sentence, and my young Republican friends loved the moment.

Until dinner time. I had just let that go, and gone back to my serious work of the day, probably related to a professor at MIT. (Minsky or Saloma, both of whom I took independent studies with.) Dinner that day was incredibly depressing. The SDS people and the Young Republicans had both scoured all the resources available at Harvard very energetically, and did not find the story I had quoted in such detail. They had found just how many different editions there were of the New York Times, and verified that not a one of them had that story. The Young Republicans really tried to be helpful and said they could try even more newspapers beyond UPI and AP and Globe (which they had checked)... but I said, no, I remembered it quite clearly in the New York Times, the only paper I subscribed to... if it’s not there... Have I lost my mind? My mind really SEEMED to be working so well, but...?

The following morning was a real shocker not only for me but for the others. There it was exactly as described... but I had not quoted the date, which was the next morning. I really wondered: “NOW what do I do with may Bayesian reasoning? How can I do Bayesian reasoning if I just discount the whole stream of most solid, definite experience I rely on? I myself am stuck with my own experience to some degree, even if I can throw in a few very careful caveats. Such caveats could lead to madness, so they are not the way.” Two major reconstructions of my ego: (1) I formally decided to myself that there is a 50% probability that the stuff we call paranormal might be real somehow after all; and (2) precisely because the logic against it is so strong, it becomes a really first priority issue to try to understand what is going on here, and how one might explain (or discount)  the paranormal nature of this.

Given the highly confused an unreliable nature of what I could read about paranormal or spiritual experiences of others, I decided to work hard to get MORE DATA. “DATA is what I need here.” How could I refine the possibilities in such a huge space of possible explanations, without a lot more data (including the kind of reliable data which might help me calibrate what to believe form other people)? At some level, I also remembered how basic physics is also part of the proper “realm of Von Neumann,” and opened my mind a bit to the scary idea of going back and revisiting that complex area as well, to get a better idea of what is or is not possible after all. (I later learned that things we call “paranormal” and even what people interpret as “soul” is not so impossible after all, even in empirically-grounded physics.)

Per (1): I ordered myself to “open all my eyes” and look for any evidence I could find of what might be going on. And I resolved to look very actively for new data, and try to find ways to get the data of first person experience I needed to try to sort out what I believed.

========== logical transition number three, summer of 1969

From 1967, to 1969, I did not see anything evidentiary about the paranormal or spiritual. I spent 1967-1968 getting an M.Sc. at the London School of Economics, trying to restore the more human side of my life, but much more involved in seminars on world politics, European institutions and the search for a future mate. I do remember the day I audited a class by Karl Popper, when he suddenly unexpectedly smiled, singled me out, and asked me to address his class on the empirical method as applied to ethics. Maybe Karl Popper knew more than I realized, and I regret I never had a chance to learn more about that. Nothing paranormal there – unless you count my strong reactions to a fellow student, Judith Landstein, whom I later saw as a kind of “shadow” or “foreshadow” of Luda. (But my former Catholic background still got in the way.) I also spent a lot of time writing programs in FORTRAN, which I took to the University of London computer (King’s College?) to begin to implement some of the neural network ideas I had at the time.

Likewise, nothing very esoteric in the summer of 1968, when I had a job at the RAND corporation in California and then did my first year in the Harvard PhD program in applied mathematics. RAND reminded me a bit of a James Bond movie, with bright sun and beach and palm trees and security people, but only one woman I found attractive. That was relevant, because I tried to get close to her, and discovered more than I had expected.  That summer I also borrowed a book on quantum physics from the RAND library, my only preparation for a graduate course on quantum physics I then took that fall.

In 1967, I did start reading science fiction again. (I hadn’t done so since high school). I did look for ideas there about what MIGHT be going on.

The big ego-changing event of 1969 was a consequence of the 1968 job. When I arrived in Ann Arbor for a new summer job, I had agreed to rent an upstairs room in a private house on Main Street. But when I entered that room, I had overwhelming feeling that something was wrong. It LOOKED just fine to me, a nice woody feeling similar in a way to my old room in Adams House. But somehow... something horrible. I did not know what to do. Because of the 1967 experience, I did not just laugh off this very strong negative feeling.  I walked out to a pay phone along the street, and called up my mother (then an incredibly sensitive Irish Catholic druid kind of person) and asked what she would feel about this. Bear in mind, that I had no other place to sleep that night, I had limited money, and I was carrying everything in a big heavy suitcase, and had never been to the area before. “DO listen to your feelings if your feelings are THAT strong. You can find a place to sleep.” I looked around, and could see a lit-up tower about half a mile away, across a dark quadrangle. The tower turned out to be a student building, mostly unoccupied for the summer, and I signed a lease on the spot.

The next morning, a local headline “Murder on Main Street.” The guy had broken in the door to where I was, found no one, then broke into the only other apartment on that floor, and killed (knifed) the person sleeping there in the darkness. I have written more about this elsewhere, but here the impact was two-fold: (1) this paranormal feeling stuff did seem more likely to be real after all, and, just as important, personal; and (2)  I resolved to order my “subconscious” to splits its feelings about those James Bond movies, still maintaining love for sun and beaches and beautiful Russian women and high technology, but firmly keeping weapons and nastiness as far away as humanly possible.

I started to construct one possible theory of what the paranormal stuff might be about. The time slippage did not puzzle me so much, since I certainly knew about time-symmetry even in special relativity. But the transfer of information puzzled me. The obvious explanation would be something like radio, based on a force field not yet known (hey, if you don’t know anything about dark energy or dark matter, why assume it couldn’t be active?). How could such a communications capability evolve to be part of our brains? Well, it took a lot of time and some very special molecules for eyes to evolve; H.G. Wells has a great story about the Kingdom of the Blind, showing how weird and occult and sacriligeous our eyes could seem to people who hadn’t yet reach that stage of evolution. So are we at the start of such a transition in evolution, as our new eyes start to develop? I then decided on a strong personal commitment to support that progress in evolution – a commitment which later waned and disappeared, but came back in 2009.

I no longer believe that theory, because a growth in data has convinced me that a more radical theory (but still viable in 3+1-D) is necessary. However, I see that evolution in DNA is part of the story.

===========  logical transition number four, summer of 1971

Back to another summer in Ann Arbor. Where weirdness is born?

Actually, from summer 1969 to summer 1971, I was open and personal about esoteric feelings. It was not a purely mundane time, even though I was working very hard in courses, such as Schwinger’s courses in advanced quantum field theory. In truth, it was also a period when a fellow student, Margaret Ho (from a family which started in Beijing, moved to Hong Kong when she was two, and moved permanently to Pittsburgh when she was eight), followed perfectly traditional Chinese practices to smoothly and easily slide me out of remnants of Catholic and Anglican culture. Very early in the game I asked if she would marry me and “be the mother of my children,’ and she agreed quite definitely.  I really couldn’t say that our existence was entirely earthbound and mundane. Also, I feel great thanks to my old Lawrenceville friend Chen, who also joined the Harvard PhD program in applied math and intoduced me to her (and earlier introduced me to Confucianism).

I will not repeat details of what she said coming back from her family, after a visit when she agreed to break off the engagement. I can say it was the most painful period of my life, bar none. I felt as if all the colors in the world were permanently gone, and I remember having to control my body like a puppet from afar just to inject the minimum quantity of food into it. My ego and my soul kept me alive, when normally I would have just died, really. (Some day I should also talk about a Harvard friend Jeff Keppel who also experienced things.) But I do remember a very bleak day, walking up Massachusetts avenue, looking at a tree and reaching out... and feeling how life and gentleness were not entirely gone from the world...

In such a state of mind, perhaps cauterized emotionally and still somewhat on remote control, I started a job in Ann Arbor with the Bendix Office of National Security Studies, which paid enough that I could rent a car and drive to work (again at University Towers) and eat at restaurants. I do remember a nice German restaurant I liked, in 1969 or 1971 (sorry!) and a nice German woman (no romantic connection) who mentioned her work with the Princeton group studying anomalous phenomena, which reminded me of my desire to be helpful with that next phase of evolution.

In the evolution of paranormal abilities... I tried to get a feeling or picture of who it was I was committing to try to be special help to. And forgive me... yes, I had a very extreme and anomalous dose of testosterone biasing my thoughts (hey, folks, testosterone encourages friendliness... well, a complex subject)... I probably had read some stuff by Anne McCaffrey by then, giving HER picture... what does a psychically sensitive person look like? How can you find them?

That was background. Here was the jolting experience of 1971. One day, eating (dinner?) in a Howard Johnson restaurant, I was served by a waitress with blue eyes who somehow felt like the kind of person I wanted to know. I decided to do an experiment. (If she can’t hear me, nothing is lost. If she CAN hear me, great.) I decided to think a thought very clearly: “If you are ARE one of those people, and you CAN hear me, I am totally putty in your hands, totally under control, to help in whatever way you want. To show you can hear me, just turn to the unusual red ring on my finger, a Harvard ring with a big red stone, and come up and comment on it.”
Dhe then turned around, and focused intently on my hand. Then she saw the ring, a rather special ring, and her eyes opened with the most incredible surprise... not fear but not motion... just weirded out but not ready for any more of this... and she quietly walked away almost as if in a trance of bewilderment. I suppose she wondered what to make of this, but so did I. Once more, new data forced an adjustment of theory.

There was an obvious adjustment to make. OF COURSE, radios require both receivers and transmitters. I forget whether the McCaffrey novel on that topic came before or after. But then I realized this was more personal than I thought. I realized that I too am quite different from the other folks she encountered in her life, even in this realm of the paranormal.  

============== logical transition number 5, fall of 1972

By the summer of 1971, I had completed the course requirements for my PhD, and all attention shifted to thesis topic. That was a large subject for me, which I have written about in many places. It was especially frustrating for me years later when a gamesman in AI (of whom there are many, as inventive as Trump in making up stories) said that one of those professors had invented backpropagation first, implicitly... when that same guy refused even to let me have computer time to implement backpropagation in recognizing letters of the alphabet.  “It could never work, and I do not believe you could get correct derivatives that way.” Later, as part of the thesis work, I proved that my chain rule for ordered derivatives is exact, but it was unclear for years whether they would even let me have a chance to go for the proof, because feelings were so bad. I respected them less and less, and feelings like that tend to become reciprocal.

Still, while focusing my work and my time on neural networks and intelligent systems, I also made some time to try a few experiments on transmission and such. More and more, I began to see myself as a kind of “bull in the China shop,” ultimate yang, in need of better input data just to guide my use of what I could do, let alone understand more.

In the fall of 1972, for three months, I shared a suite in a slum apartment in Roxbury, in Boston, because of money issues related to some folks in the faculty who actually wanted me to starve me away. I am grateful to my suitemate there, Michael Lambert, who took me in for $80/month room rent, though I was upset later when he double counted utilities and found a way to extract the extra money. In that period I mainly lived off of soybean soup (Michael had found a place to get a whole bushel at wholesale price) and soup made up of long brewing of chicken necks in vinegar (10 cents per pound). I remember times of hands shaking from limited nutrition. For a long time, my daily routine was to walk to the Harvard Medical School Library, across about a mile of sidewalks just full of dog shit, and immerse myself in books on neuroscience.  But on a couple of those days, I did read through all the back issues of the journal of the American Society for Parapsychology, to see what ideas I could find there. (I was especially intrigued by the study of a youth names... Julius.. working at a warehouse, where boxes flew in the air when he was working.)

I also remember reading both front page and home page of the Christian Science Monitor, posted next to the sidewalk, which gave me a feeling “If only I could belief something offering more positive hope... but reality is reality..” But I could at least glare at cars in a way which got me across the street pretty easily.

One day, Michael showed me a little paperback book entitled something like “How to help yourself with ESP.” I would have laughed at such a thing in contempt a few years earlier,  but at this time, still seeking more and better data on the unknown side of the human mind, I realized: “This guy proposed clear and simple exercise/experiments I could do myself. I don’t need to evaluate his intellect. I only need to try the experiments, and see if they work. If they do, I can learn something. If not, I won’t spend too much time on it.”

The curious thing is that they work, enough for me to do something with. I forget all the details, and some which I remember are not suitable for a blog. The first led me to see and feel energy flows around a little plastic mobile. Unconsciously I learned a kind of deep steadying breathing to marshall my focus, to visualize the motion as it was and as I wanted it to be, and push. Not easy, nor really remarkable, but remarkable enough to give me feedback on the important feeling part of it. The second was basically just a simplified version of the old kundalini exrecise of moving energy from chakra to chakra.. and that worked very neatly, even though (or perhaps because?) I had never even heard of it before. That was an incredible zinger.

After that, I resolved to learn more about what exercises or experiments had been used by serious, focused people all over the world across time. I mentioned a few in my previous blog post. Then at one point, when I was coordinating a group of people supporting Scoop Jackson for President, I met an attractive woman who casually mentioned she belonged to the Rosicrucian Order. I looked into that, studied a bit of the history, and concluded that this would be the least hokey group with the most useful exercises of all the ones I could find; some people found it suspicious that they had been committed to using simple English as much as possible since the massive reorganization under H.Spencer Lewis, but this did not bother me. I read Lewis’s book  the Rosicrucian Manual, and it made a lot more sense to me than alternative around then. Lewis was very active in Quakers, but he argued that there is a need for an additional structure of (competing) schools to get deeper into specifics and basic training, even within the absolute freer structure of Quakers and America in general. Though he gave his views/experience of the specifics, in ways which seemed self-contradictory at times, he emphasized the spirit of free inquiry, the “walking question mark.” Some of the old symbolism seemed alien to me, but there was a lot less of that here than in the Catholic Church, for example, and Lewis was careful to subordinate all that to the greater context and to goals which I could fully commit myself to.

And so I joined, and was a member until something like 1981 (after a boss of mine in the US government made some scary noises and I realized I needed to avoid stupid misunderstandings). (Also, by 1981, I had learned enough that I could go to what Lewis described as a later stage anyway.) I still recognize the great importance of having schools out there which address very directly the issue of creating curricula to help people enhance their own experience and capabilities, within a free context in which they can shift from school to school or quite without trouble. With “mystery schools,” as with universities, a certain degree of hierarchy and even evaluation is unavoidable, to build up a system of teachers; this often leads to corruption and death by power seeking, in many schools, but embedding them in a larger (competitive) free society reduces those costs/risks.

For awhile, I disentangled the basic history of this and many other groups. Certainly I noted the roles of Pythagoreans, Stoics and Platonists, a connected part of a long tapestry of mystery schools moving forward to today and back at least to Egypt. As one small part of this, I looked through the magazine Rose-Croix published in France in the nineteenth century and held in Harvard’s Widener library, and compared signatures between that and Lewis’s famous “FUDOSI” charter. I was also intrigued to learn of Walt Disney’s role in the group; great cartoons like Pocohontas (or Wall-E?) were not just superficial in nature.

By 1981, I had given enough feedback and thoughts that Ralph Lewis appointed me to the International Research Council. I also wrote a long manuscript (120 pages or so, double spaced)
in common English, "Science Mysticism and the Nature of Man" connecting what I knew then about the mathematics of intelligence to the development of human potential. But after that... I learned a lot more about that strand of mathematics, beyond what was there then. My paper in Neural Networks 2012 can be read at several levels.

Today, for the first time in over 30 years, I decided to go back and attend a small Rosicrucian discussion group.. as part of respecting and supporting an important mission. I do not know what the best way forward is there, but we would be idiots to carelessly throw away a database developed over thousands of years of focused effort, independent creative thinking and experiment.  

Who knows? All for now.

P.S. As for 2009... well, I remember a little dinner in Georgetown which I set up by Katherine Neville hosted, with Karl Pribram and high-ranking Sufi leaders from Turkey and Pakistan. Rosicrucians tend to emphasize what all humans can learn (a very important principle!), but folks in Istanbul reminded me... of Card's Song of Earth.. and the serious questions of how to design a computer which interfaces more directly with the noosphere . (Well, less a question and more of something no one begins to know how to do!) That feeds into appreciation of the reality that DNA is an unavoidable part of evolutionary realities here, even though every government policy and medical intervention which has tried to interact with DNA has made a huge mess, as bad as frontal lobotomies.


Added later:

As more and more scary things start to come into the open, I owe you more details on logical transition number 5, and 6, and a hint about later steps.

Each of these logical transitions were changes in the axioms I use in thinking about the world. Some would use the term “:worldview,” which is close, but not quite so fundamental. I hesitate to fill in step 5, let alone the later ones, because in the absence of simple mundane sanity (step two!!), people tend to have hot buttons (and cold buttons) so extreme that they stop being constructive and rational when too much is said too soon. Our world is still all too full of gestapos and thought police!! I still remember the day when I said to Yeshua:” Hey, I don’t want to end up like John the Baptist here,” and he replied: “There are worse things, my friend, but we all die in the end.” Dying was NOT the purpose of Jesus’ life, sin or no sin, and I am sad that so many misconstrue it that way – but since we all die in the end, in the body, the rational way is to push ahead even in the face of bullets, when it is important enough. (Speaking of John Kerry... )

OK: how much to say about the effects which I saw after I “raised the  kundalini” in step 5?

Time to be precise.

The simple book said: “After you get energy and consciousness swirling in the ‘third eye’ center, do the same to a point about a foot above your head. And then project (not out loud!) the words: ‘I ask my inner self to please speak out so that I might better listen to it and better guide my life.” (Didn’t I already do that ala Estabrooks? I forget whether I asked the same in 1972.) So then: a vast cloud of energy full of love appeared, and a voice came in English: “Sorry, Paul, I am not your inner self.” And then in a simultaneous mix of English and thought-image/language: “You can address me as ‘father.’” Then a switch to all thought-image language.

The first phase was probably already an example of what Greeley and McCready describe in their important classic paper “Are we a nation of mystics?”, reprinted in Goleman’s book on Consciousness. (A book worth more than the $2 it now costs on Amazon.) That paper was based on extensive NSF-funded research, and it has a big impact on how I see our lives on earth today. In the first phase, we swirled up together a bit higher... and, if I had been in a dream state, I might well have reconstructed that as riding on a white horse. Or at least in an earlier century I might have. In that higher place, he discussed the state of my relations with my thesis committee, and the application of love all ways around, to foster clearer understanding and communications. And then he showed me. And events then flowed as he said, an outcome I would have considered improbable.

This experience was actually one of many which persuaded me that the brain/radio theory would not cover the reality. Step by step, I felt logically forced to accept the idea that we are part of a many-one symbiosis with a larger but real biological entity which I call the “noosphere” --- similar to that of Vedansky and Teilhard de Chardin but with the important caveat that it is just one organism of an entire species, evolved in the “dark matter and energy” of the galaxy (or more, but we are too small to see more, at least yet). I remember the things I remembered about Jesus’s words in the New Testament, words very different from the narrow narcissistic megalomaniac things one hears from hermeneutic theologians. Of course I also remembered how he used the word “Father” so often. (Also, to be honest, I did not think this was a local tribal deity; for example, I wondered whether Norse talk about “All-father” also reflected a bit of valid contact, mixed in with the other things we see more easily in historical accounts.) In my first trip to Spain, just a few years ago, I used the term “pater galacticus,” just in my thought, as part of some effort to improve communication channels. And I am happy to have seen echoes of the image.

The other day, a friend recently said casually: “Of course we communicate with pater galacticus every day...” Dubeo. From Greeley’s study, I do suppose that more than half of the most educated people out there have probably had at least one contact... but folks, the galaxy is a big place. The vast majority of voices people hear in their heads are their own subconscious breaking through (when lack of full sanity requires such a thing), and the vast majority of the others are from other people or nodes in the noosphere. The more confident that those nodes are that they are omniscient, the more certain it is that they are not, that they are confused. (Philip K. Dick had a beautiful image of this in one of his novels, where a person who projected as an old Chinese pot was much more reliable than one who pretended to be God. But in truth, there was a time in graduate school when I tried a projection experience, and was deeply embarrassed when someone said: “Jesus came to me and he said the most implausible things... he said...” and it was me.  I learned to be more conscious about carrying caveats with me, to avoid what Hayden calls ‘being heard as an untruth.’)

One test is whether the person you are talking to knows the answer to very difficult mathematical questions which a corner drunk or megalomaniac couldn’t, but you need to learn some math yourself to get that straight. In any case, I believe that the “cosmic consciousness” which I now attain almost every night is mainly an engagement with the noosphere, not beyond, and that the attainment of that level is already ambitious enough for the most serious of us today. (Maybe too ambitious for most, to start.) In fact, there was a Quaker meeting a few weeks ago when I felt impelled to really try to reach out all the way to Pater Galacticus because of really overwhelming questions facing all of us on earth.. and I do think I received a kind of reply: “Sorry, Paul, but you have to work this out YourSelf, together with the rest of you in the noosphere.” Even whether we live or die in this planet may not be as important as whether we learn to work together at that basic spiritual level.

Certainly I remember vividly the spiritual experience of reaching out and meditating in the past few years, first in a place in Acadia Maine when there was a clear sky, and later in the high Andes near Alma, reaching out as best I could to the galaxy. I feel much more energy for and with the galaxy as a symbol than I do for any of the historical symbols mentioned by H. Spencer Lewis in his book The Rosicrucian Manual. But this week, we are mainly called to work on our activities on earth, which include even our best efforts to reach through science to more universal understanding.

After step five, I moved back to Harvard dorms proper (actually, the law school dorms) for about a half year, and moved into a job as a lab instructor for a class in electrical engineering, a slot which opened up quite suddenly. But then for two years, I moved to a very wonderful graduate dorm, formerly all-female, by Brattle Street, and worked in a regular full-time job at Tech Square by MIT, developing/programming applications running on their Multics computer system.
It was very, very strenuous doing a tough full-time job, working full time on my PhD thesis (not a small or trivial one) and also pursuing the new questions and activities I had started in 1972... but I did. For example, I even went to one very small sample class of a local Gurdjieff group, where they showed me some basic exercises... but I remember calling up the group leader and apologized I could not come back because of time pressures. “Don’t worry,” he said, “From what you say, the struggling you are doing right now is already close to what we recommend for a higher path..”

From 1973 to about 1979 (when US government schedules forced me to put that stuff on a back burner), I had a routine of listening to new age music every night as I went to bed, raising energy through variations of the Gurdjieeff exercise and things I could figure out myself from basic principles and other things I read... and feeling reassured and comfortable when the intense poltergeist effects broke out all around me, like clockwork. Lots of experiments, lots of veridical checking, but not a real logical transition.

But somewhere in that period near Brattle Street, I made a more fundamental logical transition, the transition to understanding and fully accepting the principle of “Alchemical Marriage” , which I sometimes call “the second level of sanity.” It is a matter of really accepting what it means that we are a symbiotic form of life, that “I” refers not to brain or to soul (let alone some formal metaphysical construct!) but to a combination of the two, and that Pareto optimality is what really feels right to us. Logical transition 6.

What happens in the noosphere is just as important as what happens in plain sight in the mundane world, even in deciding our mundane fate. Seeing that was another important part of logical transition number 6, which occurred back in the period (fall 1973 to August 1975) when I was in that nice dorm at Harvard.