I have had a great and positive week this week, but the news coming in on the survival prospects of the human species are looking a lot worse than they did a few days ago.
Day before yesterday, late at night, I returned from NIPS2016, the most important meeting on artificial general intelligence in the world in 2016. (More precisely: the most important meeting covering the realities of the technology; there are also big fantasy sessions for fans or enemies.)
I got to speak to thousands of people myself, but I also got to hear on-stage and off from leaders of the real work at google, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, and people developing real systems for companies and governments. It was ENORMOUS fun... but on the airplane home, I realize that some of the information requires a lot of recovery. Especially, there is the depressing sensation that we are back to finding hard to imagine that this thread of human life will avoid extinction. Scary stuff related to Trump appointments and folks quietly planning coups d'etats.
(Seriously. Remember the folks at that conference monitor every social network on earth, using pattern recognition technologies far more powerful than what the world had just five years ago.
Lots of folks I know still think telephones are secure, but how can anyone NOT know about speech recognition systems NOW? Or about natural language and social networks? But spoken conversations in THIS conference center, thousands of people all milling about with similar keywords... technology to monitor THAT would be a whole lot harder, so real folks know...
things they would never say by email or telephone.)
Trump's choice of Pruit is already... to those seriously betting on human extinction, it's like an event which wold send the Dow down by about 30% all by itself. NOT because he is a doubter of climate change. NOT because he rightly views EPA as having really screwed up a lot of regulations.
(At www.werbos.com/oil.htm, I described in great detail how totlaly screwed up are the regulations implementing RFS, which I studied in detail when I worlked for Senator Specter.) The problems are:
(1) no one has a chance of making regulations more rational if they don't have a firm grasp and deep respect for the challenge of rational market design, which requires at a minimum some economics and some desire to get to a Patreto optimum (and of course to know what it is); and (2) it now seems uinlikely that guys like Maddis (talking to Woolsey) will have any chance to put the US on a more secure footing versus real threats from the Middle East, with this kind of myopic suicide bomber type getting in the way of market design for energy security. If he wants a tough establishment guy... hell, Trump would be better off with an electric power economist like Oren Schmuel of Berkeley (not a guy I have had collaborations with, to put it mildly... tough on me!) who knows about market design and a lot of energy economics, rule-making to make things work... or even maybe some Wharton guy.. As for climate doubting, reality will be heaving some impacts on that anyway...
The State issue is a bigger drop in the "stock value" of the human species. Trump says the Exxon guy
makes big deals solely for his company. Is this perhaps the ultimate in totally unmaking the most basic and essential principles of conflict of interest? (COI). COI can get in the way of efficiency at times, when taken too far, but if grossly flaunted can cause entropy disintegrating a political system. That is now a very real danger. Making lots of deals is no good if they are made on behalf of myopic variables flaunting issues of survival itself. Even Putin has made questionable deals with terrorists;
he has a good side and a bad side himself (let alone his systems of advisers and supporters), and playing to the bad side is not a way to make that relation more productive and sustainable. It was also a scary sign when Qatar bought such a large share of Rosneft recently... a very bad sign.
I had to miss an important DC meeting on US-Russia relatoins last week because I was in Spain... but my very brief summary of "elevator point": dealing well with Russia is like dealing well with the Republican Party itself. The one-actor model is understandable when a single guy like Trump or Putin has a special role, but it is a HUGE mistake to ignore the incredible contradictions and diversities and such...
And yes, there is serious evidence Trump might even be fooled into appointing a guy who is a key partner in a plot to do a coup d'etat. Really. Maybe Obama might be able to give him a word to the wise, as Obama did learn a few things in his final weeks. (A damn shame it was so late, but the bad guys did choose the timing.) After Pruit and Exxon, many may hope that liberals would not resist the coup at all... though it is not liberals doing it... but some of the control techniques they have in mind suggest the coup would reduce our chances of survival even worse than those two clear bad choices would. Techniques; technologies. We do live in an IT world now.
But must run. Good luck. You need it.
P.S. Sorry my time ran out on the yin yang side this morning. Maybe later.
(1) why didn't Putin make a deal with Kerry instead of Qatar (and Erdogan)? Sure, Kerry was not a total pushover, but he was sincere and flexible and a lot safer than Qatar and Erdogan. I suppose good old fashioned ego and optics were there; it was pathetic a few weeks ago to hear Hilary advisors saying: "What does Putin mean by saying he wants more respect? What is this respect he is talking about? Of course it must be a codeword for some specific trade arrangement but we can't figure out..." That's valid, but do we have to sell out to a special Exxon gameplan (one I have seen in not-so-constructive action in recent years, a main part of the swamp, much more like Taggart than Galt) to deal in balanced respectful way?
(2) After the labor appointment, I heard a joke: "Trump, before election: 'We will bring back your jobs from China.' After election: 'Oh, I forgot to say, when we bring them back, we will give them all to robots."
I wonder how many US people realize how close we may be to frexit and italy just falling off the table?
At NIPS2016, at the Q&A session, I mentioned www.werbos.com/NATO_terrorism.pdf.
"If we don't get a solid IT foundation, fast, the rest will disintegrate and be swept away. "
The dissolution of Information Assurance at NSA is a gigantic problem, and warning.