Friday, December 29, 2017

Is China supporting King Kim? Who lied, Trump or Xi, or...?

The news today suggests a very serious war of "who lied?" which might well lead to a global nuclear war if not handled right. If people indulge in the usual undisciplined black and white thinking colored by oversimplified assumptions. We really need other people to look into this and raise their voices!
And yes, my visits to top people in China and Korea this month have influenced how I see it.

When Senator Graham estimates a 30% probability that Trump will take preemptive military action against North Korea sooner than expected... he has very good reason. It is not just Trump's mood in play here. 

Trump says China violated very important and serious promises by supplying oil to North Korea. Not only the US intelligence agencies (no close friends of Trump!) but also the South Koreans take his side in the debate. So is Xi simply lying? Are Xi's promises and stated intentions worthless, and will military action really be necessary simply in order to keep the US alive?


Since I saw many, many things in China, I am very much aware of a third possibility here: that Xi is not really running such things in China, that Xi does have a political incentive to appear to run China more than he does, and that there are OTHER folks in China lying both to Xi and to Trump, on course to create to a world nuclear war. I wonder whether Russia could help both Trump and Xi by helping them both understand who in their countries has REALLY been conspiring against both of them towards war?

Long before this oil issue arose, when I was in China, I saw a number of pieces on China's space activities, like:

Today, in google news, when I search on "China hypersonics," I see important updates.

A few years ago, with encouragement from the staff of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md, House Armed Services Committee), I encouraged US national security people to consider something: "What if the US or China or someone else fully develops the new hypersonic launch capability which we know how to implement (in 5 to 10 years), which would let them orbit a hundred to a thousand much times as much mass PER DOLLAR of launch cost as any other nation? (I know about the possibilities because of work I funded at NSF,, subject to a lot more intensive technical review than make work programs like NASA's SLS; see www.werbos.coim/space.htm for some links and details.) Folks at the Marshall Institute really took notice, but soon after "the swamp" intervened to reorganize Marshall to take national security and space off their mandate. (Have to defend those make work programs above all else, including life itself.) But China noticed, it seems. The link above is one of many showing that the Chinese military promised Xi Jinping that China would not allow corruption to do what HTV-2 (and underfunding XS-1) did to US capabilities in hypersonic launch; they promised that China would indeed pull such a "sputnik" on the US, and develop capabilities important not only to military strength but to life or death needs of the world civilian economy as well. 

From the stories, it's clear that that's what the military told Xi Jin Ping. They told him that they have a hero of reentry structures (the most crucial endangered technology needed to make low-cost RLV real) which would let THEM do what HTV-2 couldn't (which DARPA's cancelled version of ALASA could have done). They told him that repeated reentry demands a lot and should not be believed unless fully tested (true!), but and that China could test that by cloning the US civilian wind tunnel which is enough for the job (a bald faced lie, and they would know better). (The same Chinese military intelligence which knows about the HTV-2 failure and the structures problem which caused it would certainly know about the WPAFB test facility, the only one in the US capable of testing true multiple reentry capability.)

IN fact, even the old stories make it clear that those military folks lied to Xi, and got away with it, \in order to push for a more near-term capability, what they really wanted: the ability to reenter just enough to blow up Washington DC. That has been their goal, unmistakable.

Would certain people in the military have the will and the power to lie to Xi, in such fundamental (testable) matters, including not only hypersonics but also their support for North Korea?
Could they even be delighted with how their strong covert ties with North Korea can be used to give them plausible deniability in future activities using North Korea as a pawn to destroy the US, which they hate  much more than they love the prosperity of the people of China? Who really runs China, anyway? Did Xi leave the job incomplete when he purged Bo and Zhong?

Many find such things hard to believe. Isn't China totally ruled  by one man, like the Romulan Empire of the old Star Trek series, like what some folks thought Russia was like? But even Trump overestimated how much power a President of the US possesses, and even today he underestimates the scale and nature of forces  he calls "the swamp." (Which I do not imagine; I have seen a whole lot first hand in this area.) Old fashioned Kremlinology actually applies to China today much more than it did to China at the time of Mao, as various groups jockey for power in different spheres.

If  dramatic actions are not taken to get at the roots of this problem more directly, the main alternative I see in real logic to the preemptive action would be quick transfer of a full independently controlled deterrent to South Korea (removable only as part of a symmetric agreement denuclearizing the entire peninsula, civilian and military sides both).  The US and China have both neglected the key hypersonics technology so much that a new cooperation between South Korea and Boeing could allow THEM to do the leapfrog in cost, aimed at civilian international anchor missions, even as a balance or hedge against signing up for Xi's "one road" program to sell steady solar electricity from China's deserts across long HVDC power lines.

But maybe that is all I should say today. Best of luck. We will all need it.

Objective reality IS a major part of mainstream physics

Popular culture -- and even conventional wisdom in general science -- often lags behind the real cutting edge of what is being learned by the best mainstream hard core science.
This post addresses an important example: the issue of whether objective reality exists.
Some people on the Vedanta list recently quoted a famous book by d'Espagnat, repeating the old idea from the 1920's that quantum mechanics proves that objective reality does not exist. I explained why not, and, more important, reviewed what needs to be done next to understand reality better:


On Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 11:19 AM, Paul Werbos <> wrote:
Do physicists believe in objective reality or not? The exchanges here are somewhat discouraging to me, because the true story is very well documented and I have given solid citations on the issue before this. On the other hand, ... has shown enough insight that I may add some new details here today.

People have quoted a book by d'Espagnat, to deduce that objective reality is no longer a mainstream option in physics. Frankly, the comments did not encourage me to see what his recent writings may be, but I certainly remember a very important canonical survey book from d'Espagnat on Bell's Theorem experiments and what they tell us. I remember reading large parts of it in about 1975, in the Harvard Coop bookstore, and being very impressed that he had the integrity and ability to report much of the truth about the very first Bell experiment, by Richard Holt at Harvard, which actually disagreed BOTH with quantum mechanics AND with the assumptions Einstein had used in analyzing the EPR experiment (the original idea for this experiment).

   (Comment: I had tea with Richard at Harkness Common on the day he got those first results, and will never forget that day. But a later review by Clauser and Shimony also notes that the first experiment did not "agree with quantum mechanics." Or with the VERSION of quantum mechanics they assumed?)
Espagnat has a long resume, but no real scientist would tell us we should automatically defer to a claim about physics based on a quotation from one person long ago. (Hey, Newton had a nice resume, and people have quoted him on odd things). I did say, in my previous posts, that many mainstream versions of quantum field theory do perpetuate the old idea  that objective reality does not exist, but many do not. (My point is that objective reality IS a major mainstream option, explained in detail below)

If we have to have an idiotic war of resumes and egos, let's start with I am a bit surprised that d'Espagnat's top citation seems to be 38. That is lower than I would have expected, so maybe someone can find a more positive indicator? But for David Deutsch (search on Deutsch author, with word "quantum"), he gets over 5000 citations for his top paper. (I get 4700, but that's for the Chinese version of mathematics underlying neural networks.) More important, Deutsch was not just an anthology writer, but the creator of a whole new branch of empirical quantum physics:
He is the guy who developed the version of quantum computing which animates almost all the work in the West today. HE DEVELOPED it by paying serious attention to the respected but obscure theory of Everett and Wheeler, who showed that quantum field theory is 100% consistent with the idea of objective reality, if we assume that the cosmos or "multiverse" we live in has infinite dimensions. That concept of objective reality, and David Deutsch's work on it, is certainly as mainstream as one can get. Quantum computing in the paradigm of David Deutsch is a highly empirical and real branch of physics, far more consistent with science as defined by Kuhn and Bacon than is speculative stuff like superstring theory, let alone... some of what we have seen here.
Once again, I highly recommend David Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality for a highly credible version of objective reality in well-validated mainstream physics today.
So why would anyone pooh-pooh that? I don't know. There is a lot of destructive factionalism in all branches of science these days (and all branches of religion as well). Some would perhaps pooh-pooh Deutsch's version of quantum field theory, and pretend it does not even exist. (I have certainly seem computer scientists behave that way, pretending ignorance of algorithms they don't own.) But perhaps in this case, it was just a matter of context, leading him to interpret "objective reality" with EINSTEIN'S version of objective reality, in which we assume the cosmos is finite-dimensional, maybe just 3+1-D curved Minkowski space. 

Certainly the concept of objective reality in 3+1 dimensions is far more controversial and marginal in mainstream physics today than is the concept of multiverse reality.
So then, I can imagine a True Believer (Vedantist or Marxist, whatever) asking: "So which do YOU believe? You must believe SOMETHING. If not, you are a confessed ignorant wimp, beneath the attention of all real people."

Sorry. I believe in Sanity or Zhengqi much more than I believe in any specific theories or ontologies about the cosmos or the absolute. Part of Sanity is being honest to oneself about one's many areas of ignorance. In first person science, as in third person science, the folks who feel obligated to pick an opinion the way they pick dress-up clothing to appeal to their vanity simple WEAKEN themselves, their ability to learn, and their credibility in the eyes of those who have attained a moderate degree of sanity.
I do adhere to the GENERAL notion of objective reality, for reasons I should not review again here. (e.g. at, an IFNA journal paper which only halfway made it to google scholar.)

I do not believe that physicists have a duty to PICK the TRUE theory as we know it today. Rather, the first duty of physics is to LEARN BASIC THINGS WHICH IT DOES NOT YET KNOW. That requires a multipronged approach. The the area of quantum technology, I would advocate greater use and testing of a specific MULTIVERSE theory, MQED, compared with KQED (Deutsch's version  of QED). That work would simply ASSUME multiverse realism, and not waste time on various fantasy alternatives popular among philosophers or even abstract alternatives popular among mathematicians.

On the other hand, on a parallel prong, I am also interested in work on three levels of possible deeper theory, aimed at theories which "approximate" MQED or which MQED could be seen as an approximation of. And yes, for the deepest of these, I have IDEAS for how to construct a credible PDE model fulfilling Einsteinian realism. Like 'tHooft, I recognize that no such specific theory exists as yet on earth. I am ever so sad that 'tHooft shares the goal,  but imposes restrictions on himself and others which make it logically impossible to attain the goal. I view him as someone like the person who wants to drive to a far place in his/her car, but is just too fussy to replace an old spark plug without which the journey is impossible. And is so fussy he would not even let anyone else make the attempt. (Google typed "fuzzy", not fussy. OK, it is right. And it knows I type "fuzzy" more often than I type "fussy.") 

But... I have thought about that experiment which Holt told me about, which d'Espagnat mentioned, which is a mystery to this day. Just this week, I have seen some leads which POSSIBLY, just possibly, might have some explanation. With a very noisy thermal partially coherent source of entangled photons (a mercury vapor lamp) AND calcite type polarizers... DO calcite polarizers (and similar beamsplitters) transform n-occupancy photon states differently from polaroid or sunglasses type polarizers, either with or without allowance for the time symmetry of all such passive objects? I don't know, but it would be really neat if explanation could be found not only for the "best" experiments but for all of them. Even neater if anyone else on earth would be willing and able to learn that humble simple KQED/MQED math. Seriously. Having just one 70-year-old retiree on the task is not a good situation, especially when I have other responsibilities.
If just one of you can really catch up with such things, it would be exciting and important. 

Happy New Year..

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Net neutrality and the terminator threat

Crude as the Terminator movies were, both T2 and T3 deserve careful watching for the technical scenarios they offer, serious and professional (at least in part). SECURITY was absolutely crucial in the breakouts which led to the end of humanity, and it is also crucial to interactions with places like North Korea which rise to being extinction threats as well if one considers the whole chain of possible events. 

That being so... the net neutrality debate now underway (with Google, Amazon and ACLU and others planning to challenge the recent FCC ruling and even push for new legislation) really fits within our scope. Here are my thoughts this morning about that debate:


Many people in DC think of the net neutrality debate as "Which giant stakeholder should be given all the goodies?" That way of thinking is by itself a disaster. Conservatives claim the government should not be picking winners and losers, but clearly there is a lot of hypocrisy in DC which has been hurting the US in numerous ways; however, for now, let me focus on the net neutrality issue and the future of the internet.

Net neutrality was a SYSTEM, not a specific list of winners and losers. The folks getting rid of it, step by step, argue that a "system" is basically just a mass of regulations, and all regulations should be eliminated.  Zero regulation would also be a system. Which is the best system, one of these two or something altogether different?

It turns out that physical reality is really important to policy in this sector, just as it was in the deregulation of electric power. Conservatives often quote Santayana: "Those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." In electric power, it was learned that vertical integration, combining the generation of power and local distribution and ownership of the wires all together, led to immense monopoly power. Obviously, the combination of content generation and internet transmission altogether would lead to even more massive monopoly problems, threatening not only prices and growth and fairness but democracy and culture themselves. 

The way to minimize regulation, and create more real market competition, in electric power was to forcibly SEPARATE ownership of the wires from generation. 

But here, the physical layer of the internet is a COMBINATION of wires and wireless. 

Some people, trying to defend the recent FCC action, have argued that the wires are all going to go away anyway, so let's build a system where what goes over the wires will decay but wireless will replace them, providing a massively competitive wireless system. THIS TACIT ASSUMPTION is at the core of why they are screwing things up.

What's wrong with the assumption and where it leads us?

To begin with, what about security? It really is important not to underestimate the importance of security both in operating systems and in communications. Security has been only a mid-level problem in the past, but it's important to understand that technology is changing, massively and fast, all over the world, and that platforms which were viable in the past are rapidly moving towards being unworkable altogether. Electric power has been at the forefront of the need for stronger security, and it is really scary how NSA has abolished the Information Assurance group which worked with Red Hat to provide relatively unbreakable operating systems for crucial functions in electric power. That's one of the areas which urgently calls for new approaches, to achieve a sustainable balance, but security of communications is just as important. At the end of the day, folks who say "don't worry, all our wireless is encrypted"... either don't know about some of the recent developments or don't really care so long as neglect serves their personal interests. (Yes, Virginia, vested interests do pervert things at times in DC.)

If we decide that we DON'T want the hard wired internet system to go to hell, the lessons from electric power clearly apply. Logic suggests that net neutrality is too weak for that sector, and that wires and content generation should simply be separated 100%, with rational algorithms used to determine routing just as electricity is routed by rational algorithms (which continue to evolve).

Of course, even the wireless system is not just one big happy free competitive network for all. 


What will new quantum technology (currently being led by China in the relevant areas) do to systems like bitcoin (or wireless) which depend so heavily on encryption? I have recently heard major miners worry about that... as well they should. There is an impressive article in PRL this past month from about 15 places in China, including Pan Jianwei as one of the authors, which in my view has huge implications for the breaking of encryption, far beyond the traditional David Deutsch digital quantum computing advertized in the West. But there is another generation coming even beyond that, hinted at very lightly in the PRL paper, related to some of the things we discussed at CASIA (one of the coauthors) a few weeks ago. No, Virginia, technology will not be the same in five years as it is now, and it is certainly not ONLY Xi Jinping making decisions in this arena. 


All for now. Best of luck,


P.S. I was intrigued to learn that has been studied in more places than you might expect in Beijing. (That was published in a book from NATO/IOS Press.)

Friday, December 15, 2017

are they nuking the world internet? No joke....

IEEE folks recently asked me for a quick assessment of what's really happening with net neutrality, after the President's new order.  WAS net neutrality actually the right position for folks who believe in orderly free markets instead of dark ages chaos? Is there a good analogy to electric power regulation (a subject we understand very well at IEEE)? (And are we on the edge of real chaos now?)

Here is my dense but concise reply for technical experts:
Subject: Re: Open Internet Order
Hi, Roger!

The decision to separate transmission and generation back under Reagan was based on the fact that bundling them together resulted in so much concentration of power that higher levels of regulation were really unavoidable, with bad side effects. For years before Reagan, it was mostly assumed that this was a textbook example of a sector so far from standard market economic efficiency theorems that a radically different, government type regime was necessary. That in turn was due to all kinds of bad stuff which preceded regulation. But by splitting it up, and working VERY hard on rational market design (through collaboration of economists and engineers, much of it funded by the group I worked in at NSF), the DEGREE of market competition was increased and regulation became less onerous. (More can still be done in that direction, of course.) IEEE standards are a similar paradox: standards sound like violation of market freedom to some, but in practice they allow more market competition and are good for customers, companies and the nations. Net neutrality versus no net neutrality is a similar thing; if net neutrality were replaced by something EVEN MORE like the modern way of managing electric power grids, maybe improvements would be possible, but ham-handed getting rid of it may be more of a disaster than people begin to know as yet. The whole It sector is in flux, and dark ages thinking is not a path to anything workable.

This is actually just one aspect of a complex of issues I've been discussing with a lot of folks lately. New ways of thinking about cybersecurity is also one of the most urgent needs.


For a more coherent discussion for less technical people, see:

I am very glad that Google and ACLU will be fighting to reverse the net neutrality decision.
But as I think about it, I realize how important it is for EVERYONE to truly understand more of what is at stake here.
I hope that a few additional thoughts may be useful to Google, ACLU and the rest of you in that important outreach.
So here are my thoughts, a bit more reflective and serious than the initial reactions:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jones versus Moore outcome: view from the spirit watch

Because there are so many delicate things happening in the world, I have mostly not posted what I see directly in the noosphere, even after Quaker friends and my collaborator Yeshua urged me to live up to the "watch."

But after the election tonight, and so much curious speculation, I feel some duty to say a bit.

The voters of Alabama want "drain the swamp" even more than ever. But Trump and Bannon have done more and more to convince people that they simply don't understand enough to really achieve that.

The tax bill is a one of several central examples of that. Just as China dumping solar panels is a way to get a narrow advantage, as in prisoner's dilemma or Nash equilibrium, at a net cost to the world as a whole (which I learned a lot about last month), so too is a tax bill trying to compete with other nations in a myopic mercantilist way (like UK's policy to US before free trade and American revolution). The EU is all concerned about Panama papers now; a TREATY with Europe on taxes, bringing money back from ALL tax havens and leveling the playing fields, would have been far better. Like the tariffs which led to the real Great Depression, such an initiative is rather risky, to say the least, and of course voters will see that THEY didn't benefit, if it goes through as now planned. I feel sorry I didn't comment before. The careless trashing of net neutrality is even bigger.

But I also hope factions in the Democratic party do not succumb to wishful thinking. I am reminded op some international negotiations decades ago when one side moved to a viable compromise position, the other side got emboldened and went off the deep end, and there was oscillation and damage for a long time. At the noosphere level... DON'T underestimate the issue of Moore's contempt for the US constitution, as opposed to just sex scandals!!! The mandate of heaven will not go to those who would tear up the core spirit holding the US together, and Trump himself would do well to pay more attention both to that and to the spirit of truth. Even as draining the swamp and rapprochement with Russia are also higher imperatives.

What should higher levels choose if Trump crosses the line too far, but the choice of sex scandals versus Russia phobia is really terrible? THAT much I do not see right now. I would sooner hope he wakes up, repents, and tells his dog Bannon which way is up in the swamp.


One reason I post despite the hold on confidential stuff... stronger feedback than usual....
very visible energy at work...


Is Trump capable of a "return to Jesus" moment? One may hope. But as for Moore, despite his false pretense to represent the Ten Commandments (and his gross violations of his oath to support the Constitution), he has violated the Second Commandment on such a scale that I see little hope for him or his followers. But he probably doesn't even know what the Second Commandment is!!! (Hint: it wasn't in English.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Quantum Technology QT in China

First, I am very grateful to the people at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (actually, CASIA) who arranged for me to visit some of the most important places in China, this past week, in Beijing and in Guangzhou. For example, I am honored to have met a young researcher who instantly reminded me of the hero of one of those wushu movies, more so than anyone I ever saw on Wudanshan or Shao Lin.

Second, I am amazed at just how far China is coming in quantum technology, which I will call "QT" here. QT includes quantum information science and technology (QuIST), but is actually bigger than all of that.

Many people in the US have already been talking about the friendly race with China for leadership in QuIST, and have gotten some small growth of funding. But in many ways, it is like a race between a rickshaw (the US efforts) and a jet aircraft. We are ever so proud in the US of how many rosary beads we can attach to our rickshaw, but we mostly seem blind still to what is flying over our heads. 

If you don't to waste time reading my stuff, I suggest you begin by reading the great story of Pan Jianwei:

Everyone I met in China was impressed by the personal meetings between Pan and Xi Jinping. Could you imagine Donald Trump having a long and serious discussion with any of the serious quantum physicists of the US, and actually understanding and acting on it?

Pan made his mark as a graduate student in Austria, where he made possible a breakthrough in experiments aimed at telling us about the basic nature of reality. Most people in the US thought that this "GHZ" experiment was just an academic issue, but Anton Zeilinger and others had struggled for years to do such an experiment without success. Years ago, I already googled and read many of the papers of Zeilinger, who was perhaps the world's number one leader in using quantum optics for QuIST. If Pan was decisive in helping HIM, then who is the world leader now?

The whole world knows that China has the record for more conventional two-photon entangled secure communication systems. There are folks in US and Europe proud that THEY have the record for secure long-distance communications by land lines (rickshaw). But what about the secure conversation by satellite between China and Zeilinger? And is it all still mainly just the old two-photon digital qubit stuff? Yet, given Pan's background, and given that China has SEVERAL places which have active abilities in GHZ (versus only one outside China, Zeilinger himself), I hoped that it would not all be just rickshaws. And it wasn't.

Because I was mainly looking for a place to do the all-angles triphoton experiment which I proposed just a few years ago, I did a little googling on the "academic issue" of GHZ. For example, I did a Google when I was in Guangzhou on "Zeilinger Guangzhou." Most interesting for my purposes was a paper by Zhao Rui-Tong, Liang Rui-Sheng and Wang fa-qiang of the laboratory for nanophotonic functional devices (a state key lab) in South China Normal University, on the "science city" campus outside Guangzhou which hosts about ten universities together.  They only wrote about a diagnostic system for GHZ states, but that may be quite important.

There was also an article by Xiaoqing Tan of the mathematics department of Jinan university, describing work supported by the NSF of China (NSFC) as part of the community working on the use of GHZ for a new level of security in communications, beyond what is there in the satellites and landlines now in operation. I also saw a curious paper by W. LiMing and Zhilie Tang, also in South China Normal, suggesting an interest in some of the very deep and heretical issues in physics which I pursue mostly quietly on a different track, though in truth they are much more heretical than I am now. This is just a small sampling. Of course, they also have continuous quantum computing work for another level of security, and ... all for now.

People noted that Pan has published work on SQUIDs, not just photons. That's important. In fact, the moment when they told me about that was the most exciting moment of a very positive, encouraging trip (most of which was on subjects other than QT as such). However, this is not the time or place to get into all the details. It was also exciting to see serious attention by important people to issues I raised in

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The danger is IOT, not just AI. More on risk of human extinction and what we could do.

This was sent to the Lifeboat list today:

Since we should ALWAYS keep remembering the basic mission of this list
-- to address threats of extinction of human species, let me first
repeat my view that there are four really big "final" threats of
species extinction for the next few millennia, whose importance dwarfs
all else:

1. Catastrophic climate change, especially the H2S threat, the main
cause of actual mass extinctions in life on earth in the past (per
Peter Ward, Under a Green Sky)

2. Misuse of nuclear technology, most obviously through nuclear war or
terrorism, but perhaps through other channels as well

3. Misuse of information technology, which includes BUT IS NOT limited
to the "Terminator scenarios"

4. Misuse of biotechnology, an area I do not know as well but which I
hear about from time to time.

Because I am scheduled to give a plenary talk next week at the ICONIP
conference on the future of deep learning and brain research, I have
decided this week to face up more completely to the very sticky issues
associated with threat number 3.

It is extremely important that AI as such IS NOT the whole threat.
That became starkly apparent to me 17 years ago, from discussions of
leading roboticists at a workshop I organized for NSF and NASA in the
year 2000:

There was great excitement by then about the "minimal payload needed
to extract materials from the moon for use in the economy (including
earth orbit)." The obvious way to minimize payload would be to develop
and land self-replicating robots, which would bootstrap lunar
materials and spread to exploit the entire planet without human
involvement. But it was clear that we should expect Darwinian
evolution in such a large-scale system. The vision of an entire planet
infested by metallic cockroaches... well, they don't need an IQ of 200
to be a threat to humans.

A better formulation of the threat at hand, in my view, is given at:

building on the six slides at

The key point is that the Internet of Things (IOT) **IS** on course to
taking over the entire world, VERY QUICKLY, and that this entails
really serious risks as well as opportunities, of which rogue AI is
only one. And many of the people hoping to gain money or power via IOT
are uninhibited or unscrupulous in ways which should make us worried,
here and now. Some of the worst risks are for events which could
happen within the year!!

A key slide simply depicts a binary choice (OK, oversimplified a bit)
between a disastrous path, like the one we are on now regardless of
lots of lip service about human-centered internet, versus what we
could achieve if we worked very consciously to develop a new kind of
platform, at least, and take other related steps.

The positive side is SO hard, and requires SO MUCH in the way of new
efforts and thinking, that it really does depress me at times,
especially as I see more deeply into many of the major political
players in the world today, and possibilities like that of my own home
in Virginia being blotted out if we ultimately do nothing about North
Korea's plans (an illustration of how well the world cannot work
together even for threats which a child could understand). I am not
surprised that folks like the Third Caliphate movement hope to just
knock out our technology, and create a stabler world their way. It was
also depressing this week to read the last 20% of Dan Brown's new
novel, Origin, which basically concludes "Borgs are us. You WILL be
assimilated. Resistance is futile." (Yes, misuse of brain-computer
interface BCI is VERY much on the horizon right now, as big medical
companies lick their jobs and exert power to rush things through FDA,
and military folks actually write about the benefits of better
controlled soldiers.)

The decision tree here reminds me a bit of the first major decision
tree, in Von Neumann's Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, where we
are asked to choose between certainty of hamburger and 50-50 starve or
steak. (Again, please forgive simplification.) Given a 50-50 choice of
great IT versus spiritual and material extinction, or certainty of
sharia, which would we prefer?

But as I reflect on this, I do not really think that stability is a
choice anymore. For example, both sharia and the Christian equivalents
force nonsustainable population growth (already a HUGE threat in the
Middle East, where unemployed youth may well cause beheading of ALL
the folks in power in coming decades). In a world with nuclear weapons
and other such capabilities, decay into war would simply near-certain
extinction, in my view. Interdependency has grown far beyond what most
people seem to know about, such that it really is extinction, not loss
of half the population, that would be implied.

For those of us who believe there is SOME kind of higher intelligence on earth
for several serious views), maybe we might expect SOME kind of good
luck or break in trying to avoid the very worst development of the
IOT. But for Dan Brown's "clones R us" scenario, what is our basis for
avoiding that? Hope, only hope. But regardless of whether he is right
or not, it seems we have no choice but accept that IOT WILL take over
the earth, and the best we can do is fight to put spin on the
development in a way which avoids the worst.


So what is needed to do that?

In my view, the first and most urgent step is still simply to develop
openly verified, internationally used unbreakable operating systems,
as described in

Next, to go with that, quantum communication systems openly designed
to extend the unbreakability to the entire network of hard servers
worldwide. (IBM has such a network, but not yet unbreakable or open or
shated as much as needed.)

And then perhaps an international agreement on a distributed ledger
system simply to define currency holdings, for a diversity of
currencies controlled by their primary owners, to run on the secure
servers, to provide extra security and scaleability.

And then, most crucial, an Integrated Market Platform (IMP) to run on
those servers with that operating system, to perform transactions of
transparently designed securities AND all objects to be controlled by
the "internet of things" (IOT), PLUS standards for qualifying apps to
run in distributed instances of the unbreakable operating system
guaranteeing that the owner of an object has full control of it.

I remember someone who thought this was an academic issue, until he
learned how many things in his house already are not under his

AI should ONLY be used for decisions too fast for humans to make them
to acceptable levels of performance. Self-driving cars should not be
part of it, in my view. Minimal real value to society, huge risks.
(Folks serious about the AI threat should also watch Terminator 3!).

But I must run now. More later.


This was a slightly cleaner if less detailed version of some thoughts on the same subject a few days earlier:

Discussions which .... got started have made me wonder more and more: how could we design a new Integrated Market Platform (IMP) , a software system to include an operating system, which would really be sustainable in the face of all the incredible security AND OTHER challenges (like risks of Terminator II or death by Artificial Stupidity) which are growing rapidly now? And yes, for trading financial instruments as part of it, which Frank and his friend Tom said might be more virgin  open territory than health care is.

I don't have a clear enough answer, even now, but a couple of weeks ago I posted a list of some key requirements and questions:

I am intrigued that someone may have gone to MIT, which provided a much more beautiful and literature response and explanation for one part of one of the four questions, related to the AI aspect:

On a very quick scan, he does seem to have understood one piece which I have taken for granted: the use of neural network types of design,  not just as a local black box, but as a system design. But the truth is that this guy at MIT, much brighter than most people, is still not one of the developers of that type of design, and the details really matter a lot when you want a system to work. I am. In fact, the book I cited in my post, be Lewis and Liu, begins with chapter one by me giving a thorough review of what is now known about this type of technology, which goes FAR beyond the simple designs which Google used for its Go playing machine (still intelligent enough to learn how to beat any human player, following an approach to Go which I published long before the Google folks got involved). 

One of the key elements of that technology, which I didn't notice in his post the first time around, is the central crucial role of foresight, and of asset valuation based on foresight.,

This morning, I woke with an idea for a place to start in trying to make sense of this incredibly difficult design challenge: interest rates.

Many people think that interest rates, like operating systems, are simple things not really important to the design of software for exchanging financial instruments or commodities or control or information content. This is a great mistake.

The simple issue of interest rates and risk premiums for commodities like mortgages is a very deep issue, beyond the simplified version of efficient market theories as known to formal economics. (For example, people tell me that the new Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Models still assume that everyone has the same ;probability distribution.) I have looked somewhat into what caused the great market collapse of 2008, and would claim that treatment of Correlated Risk was one of the major factors. Certainly mortgage defaults were the trigger, and human tendencies to lie and steal when they can get away with it, were also crucial. But at the end of the day a few points emerge:

1. If we develop a new ironclad IMP, secure from the worst meddling of governments, what happens to it **IF AND WHEN** such an instability occurs and government meddling, the historical deus ex machina, is no longer there?

2. The risk estimates of 2008 were based on a combination of machine learning used to assess risk. (I know the guy who developed the first version, Hecht-Nielsen, still in touch with me, and then the later "improved versions" due to Vapnik which were more marketable to the Wall Street/Oprah crowd but less mathematically solid for the application). But the assumption was made in packaging them together, and in using the risk estimates, that the risks were INDEPENDENT, not statistically correlated between one mortgage and another. BUT THEY WEREN'T INDEPENDENT. At the critical time in late 2008, I saw many ordinary people interviewed on TV who said: "If gasoline prices keep rising as fast as they are doing now, I will have to default on my bills, maybe my mortgage." So many of them did -- not most, but enough to screw up the statistical assumptions, and pout the whole world into default. The issue has always been with us "Who insures against system-wide risks?" But in any case, risk assignment and types of risk are absolutely central here.

Two VERY TENTATIVE new thoughts:

On the technical design, maybe it is crucial to think in terms of three software layers, bound together but distinct, holding off for now on the content providing part:

(1) The enabling platform, operating system and communications system, where the hardest security and AI would be unlimited, on a global network of central servers;

(2) the trading level, where all foresight decisions are made by humans, living on that platform;

(3) the physical control (IOT) system made of certified market-compliant apps, still using the same operating system and communication system and key variable definitions (like current prices, but more) but running remotely. (Luda reminds that Ganesh Venayagamoorthy has some recent patents on technology for the electric power grid, which should ultimately be integrated into this kind of system but which is also a source of relevant technology). 

On a larger scale, Luda reminds me that we really need to take account of other human dimensions, as in:

I have not assessed that yet, but certainly any new global computer transactions system must take account of some of the most basic values of key players in the Middle East, which may be just as well. It may not be possible to preserve the narrowest ethno-centric values (if such are present in this new statement, I don't know) but it may actually HELP that broader, more universal concerns such as not killing humans with usury may be REQUIRED as part of broad adoption. 

But EXACTLY HOW? That is part of the design challenge. 


Why no AI (let alone advanced quantum AI) in the trading level? That requires further thought and discussion, and maybe a little tweaking. Human politics in the world today is very discouraging, showing more signs of destructive pathological mundane groupthink and identity politics all over the world than of the true collective intelligence which I think is possible, which I have seen in the best-run NSF review panels and which Doug may have some thoughts about too. But use of AI to replace humans in that critical function entails MANY dangers, not least of which are dangers related to the unavoidable need to specify utility functions governing the AIs. Who gets to vote? But of course, who is to keep individual traders using the system from using AI in ways that could be risky? Again, more thought is needed, to prevent really serious systemic risks. A few kludges have been sold in recent years to restrain the worst rule by twitch traders, but we need something more principled and resilient. 

(Added later: if we just use "vector intelligence" in the trading level for the highest speed transactions, it should be OK. PARALLEL efforts to develop better human dialogue are important but not part of IMP design as such.)

Meanwhile, the issue of correlated risk is not just an academic one. What happens even to a perfect IMP if H2S goes nuts and all humans die? There was yet another piece of bad news on the climate front yesterday:

Please forgive if I copy over a few paragraphs of what I sent the Lifeboat Foundation on this yesterday, updating previous analysis in the second part of

It does look (in the absence of that more precise research) that we
are well on course to mass death of humans, with little chance of
global GHG programs cooling the antarctic in time to reverse that (or
the sea level rise which Hansen once called "worst case" now

A few months ago, I started saying: "It may be time NOW to start
implementing Teller's geoengineering plan." So I simply did what I
should have long ago, googling Caldeira's latest work on that subject.
It is more depressing than I thought. The materials HE is pushing are
sulfates, the very worst materials to start pumping into the oceans
when they MIGHT be crucial to H2S archaea proliferation. (That makes
the aquarium level research all the more essential, and the need for
research to consider other aerosols.) Even worse, it works worse at
the poles, where we need it.

Sadly, what's really needed is a major international research program
aimed at deeper strategic push/study on OTHER hopes for
geoengineering... with or without US...  Maybe SSP is not our best
venue now for low cost launch R&D, among others, though we WOULD need

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Blue Wave and jokes from the watch

Small background: "blue wave" is the term used today by CNN to describe the election results yesterday and their aftermath. Unlike CNN, we saw it first hand as election officials.

Folks who loved the Cold War are ever so delighted lately about the use of Russia as a universal scapegoat and universal taboo, almost like the McCarthy period revived, even as the John Birch Society has done much better than anyone imagined possible back in the 1960s. But the real situation in Russia, as in all large nations, is much more complicated. Even at its worst, and most sensitive, Russia has lots of folks who appreciate certain kinds of jokes. The "blue wave" was accompanied by many of those.

One starts from Jerry Falwell today, who has said "DC should annex Arlington." (I don't THINK the 80% vote for Northram in Arlington decided the outcome here, but I haven't run THOSE numbers.) The first echo is a joke:"Most realistic proposal for DC statehood we have ever heard. Do a bipartisan deal where Dems get DC statehood LINKED TO their taking Arlington with them, and maybe even a little more of blueest Virginia, for Falwell. Who would really object with real power?" The counterjoke: "Hey, that's the best plan ever for a military coup d'etat finally getting rid of the last vestiges of democracy in the US. All you have to do is tell all the troops working for the Pentagon and the CIA (and a few other unnamed folks) that they will have to pay DC taxes and send their kids to DC public schools, and they will be ripe for Cheney's minions to lead them quickly into outright restructuring." (Guess what kind of federal employees are most common in Arlington, especially now that they have gotten rid of NSF from here?)

More seriously, Luda and I both signed up to work as election officials, and of course went through the required hoops to relearn the strict rules which Virginia now has. We woke up at 4AM, and were delighted that we were allowed to go home as early as 8 to 8:30, much earlier than we could after the Presidential election last year. Also delighted that it was possible because things went so incredibly smoothly, maybe in part because these were more experienced voters, and maybe in part because election officers and voters are both more familiar with the new systems in Virginia, introduced back when debates about fraud and hacking led the state to beef up security a few years ago. Almost everyone had a Virginia driver's license (a picture ID) or Virginia ID card (which looks the same for nondriver), easily scanned into a barcode checker which gives extra checks, or a US government military photo ID. In the few slack times when we were manning the poll books, Luda and I had friendly conversations with the poll watchers behind us, mainly just a Republican watcher, and she was upset today to hear I did not get his email address or tell her yesterday after our discussions of economics.

The long lines in the morning became a bit tricky to handle at times, especially given the sudden intense cold and rain outside (first cold day of the year). In truth, I enjoyed meeting neighbors and famous local people, and seeing them smile when I gently showed where to go when they were initially a bit confused. ("What happened to voting ON a computer? Why four stages?). Luda says I was running around like a smiling puppy.  And of course, no tense partisan debates; when one woman pleaded with me for information on whom to vote for, I did gently cite Virginia law forbidding us from even giving away our personal views. But I did tell one guy how much I liked his economics textbook, which I used many years ago when teaching graduate classes on policy analysis at the University of Maryland. Did my puppy good vibes actually help turnout in some esoteric way? Who knows. But all of us felt a bit like a winning football team towards the end of the day, when our "score" for how many people voted seemed to be breaking records.

Knowing the people, and knowing what they have been debating, I am skeptical about the interpretations I have heard on CNN, from analysts from both parties. Yes, a lot of people in this area know how money (and a few of the more confused billionnaires, who may or may not always know what their money has been buying) are not only wasting money but seriously interfering with national security. But they have mostly NOT become clones either of Trump or of Sanders. When I heard one of the Sanders folks gushing about the new order in detail this morning, my instant reaction: "If they had put HER on CNN the past few days, Northram would have come in third, after Gillespie in second, and a coywolf  in first." (I was going to say "wild hyena" but coywolves are more present in this area.) But in fact, Gillespie has worked hard to prove his loyalty to fake news and the ugliest swamp creatures, and really did that. CNN says "health care" was issue number one, but I wonder what fraction of that was about women's rights and the terrible realistic implications of some of the screwed up proposals we have seen from Congress which Trump meekly tried to sell. People are not stupid in this area, and they did notice the extreme bait-and-switch aspect of the health care plans which folks tried to ram through, which were blatantly pushed by blatant corrupt swamp creatures.

As for conspiracy theories -- a lot of folks in this neighborhood understand BOTH that the Binney stuff we heard about today was crazy, but they also know that this sad planet really is full of conspiracies lately, mainly because of people who no longer seem to have so much commitment as they did in the past to more unifying principles, all over the earth (A GAP WHICH HAS ALLOWED LOTS OF NOISY HYPOCRITES TO fill in part of the political gap, all over the world).

All for now. But for this week: TRY to wrap my full mind around China, and pull away from both basic math and CNN, to be revisited intensely when I get back (or on the final stages of my return).