Monday, February 27, 2017

Will The Revolution in US End Up Like Arab Spring?

This “Stonehenge” actually came from first capital of the US Republic. Will it end up as ancient history?

You may ask: which revolution in the US am I talking about? The revolution which Trump promised to bring to the US? Or the actress who said “The revolution starts here” in the big women’s protest the day after his inauguration? Or the one which Hayden referred to, as he discussed how the intelligence agencies might simply not follow Trump’s orders, or otherwise just take power away from the President? Or the one which IBM and Mike Rogers have talked about, taking power in turn from Hayden’s and Cheney’s network, like the recent Scientific American article about robots not obeying orders from ANY humans? Or like the Third Caliphate movement, working quietly in the dark with lots of money and lots of establishment Republicans, especially, more and more obedient to whips representing the sources of such dark money?

Actually, I have probed all five in more depth than you would expect, and all five worry me a lot – especially with all five taken together!!  This past week, I have become more and more worried about the possibility that all five forces, combined with other variables, could lead to a kind of implosion which could take all or most of this entire planet with us. Two major factors made me worried almost to the point of personal paralysis:

(1) A new mathematical analysis, which I won’t elaborate on here for many reasons. I should mention, however, that my previous blog post on games probably should have had a few extra words on the nature and importance of convexity effects in nonlinear dynamics games, illuminated by tools such as phase change and shock wave analysis and RLADP, considering interactions of cultural, economic and technological effects in the information/political system.

(2) Probing CPAC in more detail. That I will talk about, along with Quaker discussions, a joke and a book review which would be easier reading than the math anyway.

CPAC: Conservative Political Action Committee. Trump spoke there last week, but the day before Bannon and Priebus had their first public outing. I really wanted to hear that, because different views of Bannon have grown in power lately, and I wanted to see for myself. It was clear to me that any impeachment or resignation (legal resignation or like Obama playing golf) by Trump would probably result in a slippery slope much worse than anything people have seen from Trump himself – but if Trump might need Bannon, how dangerous exactly could Bannon be? Bannon himself has declared allegiance to the dark side of the force, but how serious is his connection to the kinds of phenomena portrayed in Star Wars or Babylon V, and what could it do to us if we don’t face up to it?

On that day, CNN kept saying “soon, soon.” Luda hinted: “You remember, they always say ‘soon, soon,’ as a way to keep you locked and waiting for hours, to raise ratings.” Yes, and sometimes they shift to something else anyway. So I simply went to this computer, googled on “CPAC” and turned on the live video feed. I actually heard two moderately brief talks just before the intermission BEFORE
Priebus and Bannon came on, one by Carol Lopez (who had been a candidate to be a kind of partner or deputy to Flynn) and one by a woman named Ohlhausen. I was amazed at how powerfully I resonated with the words those two women spoke – enough to raise my hopes that the US might face up to the immediate problems they cited, very real life or death problems, neglect of which... well, threatens our very lives. I later looked up Lopez’ web page, and the web page of a third person who spoke very briefly before the intermission... and then I was even more worried than before they spoke. It is one thing to have a good big issue or question, a totally different thing to know which way is up (let alone have a real solution) in addressing the problem. For example, Lopez’ discussion of the Moslem Brotherhood and fifth column effects totally ignores the dark money kinds of effects within the US. Those folks really seemed to believe that Hillary Clinton is the secret grand mufti of the universe of sharia. If Poor Trump is swamped with those kinds of delusions day-in and day-out... no wonder he seems to pucker his face more and more lately, worse than Fiorina did in that famous debate, and no wonder he does not see the way out for him (and for the rest of us).     (Another convexity issue?)

Bannon talked a lot about breaking the state... but did not seem to understand his role in creation of another state, even more controlling and taxing than the one we have from our Constitution, but without democracy and without the flows of information and power which block tendencies towards total implosion. Such an old illusion! So devoid of awareness of dynamical game effects... a lot like Condelezza Rice’s pathetic way of trying to get to democracy in Iraq. (Again, see my previous post on games.) Great goal, awful way of trying to get there... so awful that it goes in the opposite direction!!!

My immediate response here was to remember one of the very vivid, photographic memories of my diverse and stimulating life. Back in 2009, when I worked for Senator Specter, he sent me for a week or so to a special advanced course developed by the Library of Congress, to explain the nuts and bolts of actual procedures in Congress, to train Congressional staff. One day, when I was walking the short path from Capitol South Metro to our special backdoor entry to the classrooms, one of the folks walking next to me pointed at a nice little townhouse  on the way: “That little house is extremely famous, for two things. First, it is famous as the core center for Congressmen committed to Jesus and to family values. They met for prayer breakfasts there regularly, and provide real intellectual and spiritual leadership to that movement. It is also famous because every one of those Congressmen ended up
indicted (and convicted in most cases I think) for vivid sex scandals which made all the press, like the guy who extended his arm in a bathroom up into a stall which happened to be occupied by ...”

So that same kind of natural self-contradiction is affecting so many actors in DC... some psychopathic (they lie effectively to themselves) and some just plain old fashioned cynical and myopic. Like Harold Hill, the music man movie.. like what Bloomberg has been telling us. I don’t think Trump means to be as destructive as Harold Hill, but he is surrounded by a lot of those kind of people, some dangerous like cats and others more like ugly bugs... he can see that much himself, clearly.

Of course, almost all Quakers I know are deeply worried too, some with a narrow perspective and some broader. Certainly I still went to Quaker meeting this past Sunday and the Sunday before, despite feeling a bit paralyzed and hopeless... because those kinds of connections to spirit and to other people are part of how we naturally get past destructive paralysis. (And yes, I could get technical about that past sentence... Lots of foundation behind it...)

I did not speak this time, even in afterthoughts, but if I had, I would have mentioned three sentences which have emerged in my mind as I meditate on the problem:

(1) Early on, Bill Clinton (not the most uninformed person on earth) summarized his real thinking: “What’s really wrong with Trump is that he just doesn’t know a lot of stuff.” Fixing an economy, for example, or restoring democracy, requires some understanding of details, and a deeper respect for the spirit of truth. Good intentions are not enough. Above all, he has been totally mixed up since his nomination about who his most serious real enemies are.

(2) Putin recently expressed his exasperation about the sheer confusion, contradiction and aimless fuzziness he now sees in Washington. “Above all, you people need to understand that we now live in a multipolar world.” We need to change our way of thinking accordingly.  He wasn’t referring to multiplayer game theory... but certainly solipsism and rumination about how to rule the world just don’t fit. Both Russia and the Middle East have problems of their own, all complex enough in their own right.

(3) And yes, that old line from Jesus: “Before removing the speck from your brother’s eye, first work on the beam in your own.” Should we not think more energetically about “fix America First?” As in, REALLY drain the swamp, trying to be as effective as Teddy Roosevelt was in that task, not just with empty gestures but in rooting out the cloying vines which are close to strangling us all. That’s why so many people voted for Trump who did not like some of the esthetics which he carried with him in other areas. He needs to get it straight which end is really up here, which direction is moving forward and which is just falling deeper into a swamp and drowning altogether.


Jokes? The archetypes are always with us. They are not the noosphere/Gaia or our Father in heaven, but they have their proper voice in context.

For example, when one earnest person after meeting started to talk about the larger issue of what gays might do in bathrooms, I responded: “Visualizing what Trump would say about gays behaving in bathrooms would be a great way to invoke Loki. I for one do not feel like performing such an invocation today, and I am thankful he doesn’t either.”

Another joke:

One day I felt deeply depressed from what I saw on CNN (even after filtering for points of view, as I always do). “I know it’s important that I do my duty for The Watch, but my capacity today is strained...” So I changed to France 24, just as depressing that day, and then RT, likewise.
“I know! I remember what people say about China news, how they always filter it to be feel good happy good news all the time, ignoring tough realities. TODAY I could use a dose of feel god news.”
So I changed the channel and heard: “Good news! Our military forces have achieved such great strength and energy and enthusiasm that they are now about to achieve a great victory in a new military engagement in the South China Sea, with nucs ready to go...” Off goes the TV. OK, let me send an email to Jesus, see what he has to say. “Good news, Paul!! Our city in heaven has very limited space, really, and we certainly won’t be taking on any of those sloppy destructive trouble-makers who misrepresent us or Mohammed or our Father... but we certainly have a place for you, and don’t worry if the evacuation has to be sooner than hoped for... Still, let's talk more about the math you need to know better for a place like this..." 

One other thing. At the first discussion at Quakers, one woman (with a background practicing psychiatry) mentioned how intended dialogues can go very much astray when people come into a meeting without a clear agenda. Another woman mentioned how she resolved one day simply to be kind to everyone, that that was her only agenda. “And it worked fine.” My translation: firm clear commitment to the spirit of love (and I remembered our friend Jesus) and to the spirit of truth can be enough... but without them both...

In truth, Trump does not have much time left to get out of a shrinking box. Maybe if he has a real dialogue with Mark Warner (and even Putin), he might escape in time. Speaking of Star Wars...
(which was incredibly close to Cheney in the details of Palpatine...)


Let me note that Hillary Clinton herself did not understand how serious the problems are with American democracy now, any more (or not much more) than Trump. Though I voted for her, I did not push any energy into it, even though I sensed the full energy in the other direction... because I could see the risk of her ending up like Rousseff of Brazil. It is not just a matter of dark money changing the votes of Republicans in Congress, though that has certainly been serious.
(Having worked for Specter and interacted with other Republican offices, I saw a lot of that in gory first-hand detail.) It is a matter of major subornation and degradation of many federal agencies,
perhaps starting with what is described in the last chapter of the extremely credible book "A G-Man's Journal." Cheney was quite open in the press about "streamlining" by getting rid of due process
and such. Teddy Roosevelt's innovations should not be reversed any more than certain banking regulations... rational reforms are one thing, but reinventing the Dark Ages is a different matter altogether. Obama's role in creating a dark side of the state was mainly to play golf, and letting folks like Lamar Smith and Shelby and more serious dark money (much originating in the Gulf) gleefully disassemble what had been a US lead in many areas... and yes, Smith was open about leading certain activities at the FBI. And then was the Sequel to Oliver North.,... No, not Obama's doing, except by neglect and failure to act when action was needed.

 Small PS: Related to this is the trilogy by Cixin Liu which starts with Three Body Problem, highly recommended by Obama, Zuckerberg and Luda. I posted reviews of all three volumes. Luda took a beautiful picture of the ... "Stonehenge of the Republic"... which I will post after she sends the file to me.  One of the many places we visit in our long walks, doctor's orders for an old man...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Memories of Games -- From Downsizing and Memory to AI

Today (Feb. 17, 2017) it is painful in a way to give away games which meant so much to me in childhood. But I certainly do not expect to play them myself, nor would Luda, and it is time to do more downsizing – and to give them away to those who may derive more benefit from them, either my children or to Unique (a local thrift store cum charity).

As a parting ritual, I will try to record the associations I have with the specific games we will be giving away -- Stratego, Axis and Allies, Scrabble for Juniors, Chinese Checkers and Jumanji – as well as similar associated games (Gettysburg, checkers, chess, Candyland, Parchesi) and Risk. This does not count card games or computer games, which were also a big part of our life, let alone physical children’s games; maybe I will recall some memories of those here today as well, after doing a “memory dump” of these.

Jumanji and similar games

I start with this , even though it is the least important to me by far, just because it should be easy and quick.

I never played this game. When I was married to Lily and lived in College Park, we saw an old movie, Jumanji (and another of the same genre).. moderately amusing children’s sci fi movie, maybe healthy but I don’t remember many details. Something about children brought to another planet or such, facing mental challenges; that much I could relate to, but those aspects are not unique. I think the movie was more meaningful to Lily from HER childhood, and maybe the game even belonged to her before it migrated to me. I never played it, and probably she put it in a pile for me after the divorce because she had no interest in playing the game and thought Christopher might. But he never did. I remember experimenting a bit with chess with Chris, as I did more with Alex and Lissa when they were small, but not as much; Chris gravitated more to computer games and games like laser tag and paintball with friends. I have the impression he never was attracted much to normal board games, but he can record his own memories of such.

I have a fuzzy impression that there was also a box of Candyland in the pile somewhere, and that – like Parchesi and Monopoly and the Game of Life and Chutes and Ladders, and Dungeons – it was one of those games where little tokens move around mostly clockwise on a path around the edge of a board. (OK, life and chutes and ladders had a more complicated litle path, but it was the same idea.)

Maybe I started to play Candyland just once, back when I lived at Haws Lane with parents, sister and then John. Suzie liked it a lot, but I felt some disrespect for that ... “baby?”.. game. Just luck throwing dice. No real skill, no real use of intelligence.  So maybe I played or looked just enough to feel convinced it was not interesting, just kid’s stuff. Maybe I even saw it once in the house of my friend, Ben Roberts, across the street... but never even opened it.

But of course, the game Monopoly was EVERYWHERE back in those days. It involved more skill and intelligence, deciding where to invest money in real estate around the board. I remember playing it with both my parents and maybe even someone else... issues in managing the physical play money and deciding on banking rules. I would guess I did play it with the Dales (Dicky and maybe Nancy too or maybe not)... but not Ben. (We lived at 205 Haws Lane; the Dales lived two doors up the hill, and Ben lived across the street in a house which was previously owned by Dales’ investor grandfather Josh Smith.)  I forget when we stopped playing it. It is possible we even played it before then, when we lived in Oreland. But as I got older, I played it less and less.

The Game of Life I remember a bit more distinctly. I remember... when it was a new game for Christmas at the Dales, a source of great excitement for them. For many years, Dicky was my closest friend, and it was really quite possible that I would have married Nancy. (Long, long story ... and maybe even an alternate time track which actually happened...). I played the game only with them, and only in their house, and it was designed to raise interesting question about which tracks people would choose to follow in their lives... an interesting thing to
 remember in THIS context, in retrospect!! But otherwise, it was a bit like monopoly, with chance cards to pick up and decisions a bit LIKE investment decisions...

In later years, I did try to stay in touch with the Dales, but did not succeed. I suppose there was too much water over the dam. I thought about how the Dales would play “Auld Ang Syn” (sp?) on New Years Day, with great energy... but I suppose  only in specific context.

Parchesi we also had. I remember playing at Haws Lane, and at Ben’s House, only a little, but it wassomewhat amusing.
I also remember how it was a kind of national game in India, with a central role played by the strategem of two pieces cooperating to block the path of progress of opponents.   I later associated that with awful behavior of certain slow fat people blocking me on metro or some stores, and even with caste system people blocking progress in other areas. (Better I not name names, but zerosum thinking can be a serious problem in certain places.)

Chutes and ladders... did I get that for Christmas even, like maybe when I was 7 or 8? It was more fun than Candyland, with maybe a bit more choice of moves... but not something for later years... maybe I played it just once at Ben’s.

Axis and Allies

Now, THAT was a game I had more respect for!

Perhaps I was 12 when I first played (Christmas gift?) the Avalon Hill strategy Board game, Gettysburg. THAT was a big deal for me, much more than those old kids’ games. I remember being excited... and using my earnings from weeding our yards and neighbors’ yards (and shoveling snow and selling stuff) to buy more Avalon Hill games.

In truth, Gettysburg and Tactics II were the ones I remember enjoying and playing most. Axis and Allies ... never worked out as well as they did somehow.

I vividly remember playing Tactics II in the ground floor study/library in Ben’s house, and also his big attic bedroom. I remember playing when it was snowing and beautiful outside, and the game itself had winter and summer and movement cards reflecting what snow did to the movement of our armies. And I remember enjoying feeling clever about how I could use that to advantage in winning the game.

Gettysburg I remember more playing in my house... and also with a beautiful girl of 12 or 13 and her sister, when
we went to visit former classmates of my mother living... I think in Maryland, yet by Rock Creek Park or such. I remember wanting to see both them and that place again... but we never did, and I never really remembered where it was exactly.  I do remember how Bob Parks, the husband of ONE of my mother's former classmates at that gathering, gave me a book “The Economics of War (copyright 1942!), which looks very much like a leading book in its niche, still on my shelves but also likely to go away in this downsizing. We played it moderately often in my house, though maybe just once with my father involved (never my mother)... and I learned those hills moderately well. Only years later, with Luda, did I actually visit Gettysburg proper, and get deep into some details.

Scrabble for Juniors

In truth, I never played Scrabble for Juniors.  I don’t even remember how we got it. Probably from Lily, like Jumanji, but maybe we bought it jointly before in hopes Lissa or Alex would be interested.

However, Scrabble proper was even more popular than Monopoly... and I don’t remember how many times in how many places we played it. I respected it more than I respected Monopoly, so maybe it was a game I played MORE often with time at Haws Lane and later. I certainly remember enjoying it... but not with deep enough value to keep at it. I think I remember Lily’s mother being very deep into it, with an entire Scrabble dictionary and circles of friends she would play it with. (By contrast, my mother...played pinochle with circles of friends like her sisters.... and I played that a bit too.)

The Scrabble game I remember most vividly was in Westchester county in new York , visiting the house of a friend Jeff Keppel from when I was at Harvard Graduate School and Young Republicans. Jeff was very well connected, and we had many long discussions of the future of the world. To be honest, we both liked the idea that he would grow up to be President (following a path not unlike Nelson Rockefeller’s) and I would be his advisor... so he would learn how to get into power, and I would learn how to use it to greatest benefit of humanity. This was a lot more realistic than you might think... (and possibly better for humanity than my going to Princeton, marrying Nancy, majoring in math sci and engineering with some economics, migrating from Bells Labs to perhaps banking or AT&T)... but when Jeff died suddenly and strangely, I had to regroup quite a bit, as much as I did after 7/14/14.

In Jeff’s big house in the family compound... I really enjoyed that game of scrabble with him and his family connections, all people I enjoyed being with... as well as their visitors from the UK, and a visit related to them in a nearby swimming hole (former quarry). Jeff also gave me copy of a precious limited edition family book, describing their connections to Columbia, Harvard, Morgans, Mellons and Rockefellers. I wish I knew where it was; most likely thrown away by my ex-Marine stepfather who had no respect for other people’s books. But in any case... Jeff’s life was by far the greater loss, and utterly weird, to me even more than to his family.  Much more could be said about that... but certainly it showed me that game plans are useless which do not adequately account for games on higher levels of the global and galactic chessboard.  

I also remember having a sudden violent case of flu when visiting Jeff... that time?... and soaking in a bathtub there with intense fever... and fever dreams of one of his visitors riding a horse and such... and also feeling intense but sadly distant attraction for one of his blond cousins.  


Stratego is one of those classic games which I only played once or twice, both times at Ben’s house.
The box we have is very clean, not played so much. 

When Ben brought that game out in his attic room... we were both quite interested, maybe me more than him! Maybe it was one of his Christmas presents?

I remember we never quite got the rules exactly straight, a minor problem.

It was a fascinating idea to me – a strategy game as serious as checkers or chess, but with hidden information. Each player moves his pieces around the (checkerboard, like... a bit more interesting but similar...).. and the adversary sees where they are. But the adversary does not see WHAT they are. They vary in rank, as in chess, but the rank is given on a label on the side of the piece which only the player himself sees, not the adversary. (No, I never played kriegspiel, mainly because of how hard it would have been to set up.) Like poker? Of course, someone channeling the spirit of Von Neumann like me would immediately be intrigued by the implications. (I walked over to Ben’s house a lot when I was between 12 and 14 years old, playing these games... AFTER I had completed the junior level course in advanced calculus at U. Penn at age 12!! Maybe I had already read The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by then. Maybe even on train coming back from Penn at age 12... when I most remember reading Klein’s Metamathematics.)

But we never got the rules entirely straight, and it was more a strong loose end in my thinking, not a clear resolution...


It may be that the classic game Risk is the one that Ben and I played most often at his house... and one which I also received (Christmas?) at my house and played there. I really liked his version, an older version with wooden tokens for armies, more than the more modern version I received, and even more modern later versions with funny-looking plastic tokens. But whatever.

Of course, this was a two-or-more player game of world conquest. To be honest, I enjoyed always winning regardless of how many players. I was growing up in a conservative Republican world (not counting my mother,
in an environment where being female and being a Democrat were somewhat associated... not like now, exactly, but even more intensely)... and it is interesting how my winning strategy was not unlike the crusading strategy used by the US and Russia at the time in the Cold War, and before that in World War II.   

However... I pretty much gave up playing zerosum games when I was an undergraduate at Harvard (see chess and checkers below), and that stopped Risk too.

Still,  many years later, when I went for the M.Sc. in International Politics at the London School of Economics, I remember hanging out in the big cafeteria/tea room there where undergraduates were earnestly playing Risk.  I refused to play, but one of the friendly kids insisted that I “act as his Henry Kissinger,” giving him my thoughts. I said OK... and was basically startled to learn that the strategy which always won in the US would NOT win there, and that a radical readjustment was needed even to survive. (Not a pleasant discovery at first). In fact, people aligned with the Foreign Ministry of the British Empire learned a huge amount of practical stuff, which I was very grateful to learn about at LSE, ‘way beyond the simpler, prouder, more theoretical and more superficial stuff that even the best people at Harvard had been teaching. (And yes, that still tracks. I did get my PhD under Karl Deutsch after all, and have refined my theoretical perspectives both with better math and richer empirical reality.) The most central part of their worldview was the idea of balance of power. Even as Chinese intellectuals viewed the Emperor Qin and the greatest agent of peace and tranquillity  within China... British felt that a secure, intelligent balance of power was the most rational way to make the waste and ravages of war gradually go away, WHILE strengthening the freedom and growth of all the people.  Like Karl Deutsch, they understood that some kind of COMMUNITY effects would also be essential to growing peace and prosperity and spiritual/intellectual growth, but they felt that the path to GET THERE would have to be like the great PATH TO MAGNA CARTA, a great deal. A deal like Von Neumann’s concept of rising step-by step to a Pareto optimum.

Well, the kids playing Risk hadn’t taken all THOSE courses. They knew enough to arrange to respect each other’s spheres of influence, and not play crusading games which would end up simply killing anyone who tried that too hard. Would the game be won by those who respected spheres of influence, by quietly choosing the RIGHT spheres of influence? Or with those kids playing would the game simply go on forever, with no one winning? It seemed that way. But of course, earth is NOT a zerosum game in any case.

A key lesson even in Von Neumann’s book is that multiplayer games, even zerosum games, are not “closed” mathematically. The rational outcome depends on additional information beyond the formal statement of the game,
in many cases. Later, when I read Tom Schelling’s nice clear little book “The Strategy of Conflict,” I understood a whole lot more clearly how that really works. To really understand the art of the deal in mundane international relations... it is ever so important to  understand what Schelling and Raiffa have written about the underlying principles and applications... but then maybe a couple of Deutsch’s books (Nationalism and Nerves of Government maybe) and then more esoteric stuff  (as real life becomes ever more esoteric).

But we don’t have that one on our giveaway pile.

Chinese Checkers, Checkers and Chess (and Go)

Of these games (this section), Chinese Checkers is the only one on our actual “give away” pile.

As with Stratego... we have a really beautiful box, the most beautiful box on the pile, which we might have never played at all. But I played Chinese chess many times as a child.

In fact... I am pretty sure that I played Chinese checkers and actual checkers with friend like Patrick King (my best friend at age 5, across the street when I was at 223 Lyster Road... or Leicester Road in Oreland) and Bobby Mergner
(who lived one street back, who later moved to the other side of the railroad tracks and whom I visited by bicycle when I was7 or 8).

I liked Chinese checkers more because there was some openness or flair to the game. I recall moving colored marbles on almost rusty color-painted metal gameboards. When I was young, different people seemed to have different ideas about the rules of regular checkers, which was part of what put me off about the game. Later... Chinese checkers had enough of a nonzerosum option or flavor that I grew tired of it less.

But of course, regular chess was the Big One.

Back when I was 7, I had a hernia operation, and I ended up a week or two (which seemed forever) spending my days recovering on the big red couch in the living room at Oreland. (I don’t remember the children’s ward at Chestnut Hill hospital so clearly... but then... wait... I remember that I wanted to come home and ran a fever of 105 just by being angry at confinement, which caused some consternation and discussion before they agreed to let me go. But I also remember it wasn’t such a bad place, just confining, and that I enjoyed talking with some older kids in the same ward.)

At that time, my father (with encouragement no doubt from my mother) tried to entertain/help me by showing me how to play chess, and playing many games with me.   Not surprisingly, he beat me every time, and was utterly uncompromising about it.  (Now that I think back... he also had many vibes similar to those of one of our sons ... Both really straight shooters, different kinds but still...). As he played... I could see the patterns in my mind more and more... above all, the patterns in space needed for impregnable defense, accounting for all the things someone might do... and just a little of decisive but quiet shifts in the pattern when one is ready... in retrospect, I can see that the faculty of what Roscicrucians called “assumption” (like mirror neurons but more powerful) was a key part of what I learned and used in playing with him.

Is it possible that activating this assumption ability was a key reason why I took off in mathematics to an amazing degree when I was 8? I think that was part of it. Ability to really deeply tune in to a teacher, even a teacher with an opposing situation or viewpoint, can be an incredible advantage in learning from them. Maybe this needs to receive more attention and strategic analysis in a world which needs to upgrade all of its education systems.

But in all fairness, my mother would remind me of the mathematics awards SHE won in school, and there is an interplay of DNA, mathematics, music and assumption. That, and my deep “channeling” of Von Neumann (whom my mother idolized at some point, briefly but enough for me to notice).. also contributed.

Also contributing, to be honest, was probably the shot of male hormones which the family doctor, Doctor Bone,  
gave me “just in case” after the operation, to make sure I fully recovered. Later studies of progesterone (a female hormone) given to pregnant women showed a mix of effects, horrible for boy fetuses in an obvious way, but still raising IQs a whole lot. This makes a lot of sense, from what we now know of neuroscience. In my case... I remember the specific day when I was eight, when a beautiful Italian babysitter showed me her algebra book, and my mental energy was certainly aroused... Years later, I would ride my bike near her house and wonder what happened to her...

Anyway, I was pretty good at chess after that, maybe not as good as my father, but good enough to beat absolutely everyone I played with.

Maybe the last real chess game I played... was with my cousin Eddie Donohue (child of my Uncle John Donohue, whose IQ my father often said was much higher than his own). Eddie was some kind of chess champion in his school, and he was very confident in the one game he played with me. He even smiled a little about the inexorable strategy he had... and it really did feel as impregnable as my father’s (and as a computer I once saw playing at MIT).
Move by move, he was closer to crushing me. And of course, being a kid, I felt a rush of adrenalin and will...
I could not see his strategy, but I could marshall mental resources to destroy it, both on the board and in his planning which I could intuit...  so yes, I won, but I did not like the price I felt I had paid. I never played a serious game after that, and I resolved more and more never to play a serious game of chess again. I did not want to turn into some kind of mind killer.

Later, at Harvard... I strongly disbelieved in psychic or spiritual phenomena (whatever you call them) until I became a little open-minded towards the end of my senior year... but consciouous beliefs and subsymbolic feelings are different. As I heard of Bobby Fischer, a world class chess champion and mind killer (who also later repented and learned from his feelings)  ... I resolved more and more never to play chess, especially, or any other zerosum game.

Still... in the warm cozy common room of Adams House at Harvard, a brilliant friend of mine, Ngo Vinh Long, recently from Vietnam, pleaded with me please to play chess with him there. Ngo was a very interesting guy, and I gave in sort of: “OK, but only if I am not really playing and fully engaged. I have read a lot about computer chess playing machines, and about various evaluation systems algorithms they might use. If it entertains you, I will emulate one of those algorithms, to see how it turns out, with the understanding that I will NOT let myself become emotionally engaged at any level, and will not override the algorithm.” We did that just once, and no, the algorithm would not have beaten him.

Many many years later, life and both wives reminded me it would be good for child development if I could play chess with MY children... but still refrain from being a mind killer. So with four kids, I played chess, giving them a huge handicap (usually me starting with no queen), and quietly wishing them to win, without compromising in my own vision of the board; that was a reasonable mental discipline. Better or worse than what my own father did? Who knows?!!!

For the record, I did once play a game at Lawrenceville (senior year of prep school) of Chinese chess or checkers... incomplete... entertaining, but never further. And..

Go I actually did play a little in 1962, in the tea room of the mathematics department of Princeton, a scene depicted in “A Beautiful Mind,” where I was the young kid of 14. But no, I never played with Professor Fox there, who won the world championship. I never got deep into the game, and somehow never even enjoyed it much as a computer game years later. (No problems being a mind killer of a computer program, I thought... though I have sometimes wondered at uncanny pushback and encouragement Luda and I get sometimes from computers.) I wrote a few papers on how a computer could beat Go using methods similar to what Google recently used to beat the world champion in that area with even more powerful methods... but the people I funded refused to actually go with the crucial details... which may be just as well. I have learned a lot about entropy in academia... and how slower development of real computer intelligence may be making us safer...

One final funny story I cannot help mentioning.      

Back when I was in graduate school at Harvard, I had a lot of friends in the engineering school I was embedded in , mainly from hanging out over tea in Harkness common (the main cafeteria for us). At one time, I hung out with an Italian guy named Aglieta whose family owned a shipping company, and with a French guy... closer I think to courses I took from Raiffa.

One evening, the French guy suggested we go over to the MIT AI lab for fun. I had been there in the daytime before, for my independent study with Minsky, but this was my first time in the evening.

It really was hugely entertaining, in a Gothic sort of way.

As we entered the most dark building, I think the French guy told me the legend of how Minsky had gotten a huge contract in the 1960’s from NASA, promising a giant robot for use on Mars to as intelligent as human “20 years in the future” (1980s’). “Sorry, we can’t see that big robot, they locked it up, but there are stories of what it did to secretaries.”

As we entered the mostly unlit big bay of the CSAil area... most visible was the soft blue lighting, lots of little blue lights flashing on and off in the darkness all across the far end of the big room... about head high... the tops of a big cluster of PDP computers running an AI program intended to compose music. I promised you Gothic: what else do you call dim flashing lights, with heavy Bach type music rolling like real horror movie in the background, just a bit more mechanical and foreboding than the version you see in a real horror movie? (I never watched any horror movies after I went to Harvard... but I certainly remember at Haws Lane, watching the black and white TV in my sister’s huge bedroom over the garage, watching the 11PM “From Transylvania to Pennsylvania.”)
Then next, as we entered... on the right... an enclave not unlike booths in a big Chinese indoor market..  where
a woman was engaging her young toddler or big baby with a robot demonstrating Winograd’s program for playing with blocks. Picture a totally black environment, a pool of light about five feet in diameter, with a baby and a robot next to a pile of blocks, well lit with mother looking on..

and then, a bit further, on the other side of the room... the most truly Gothic scene, right out of the Seventh Seal.
In another small bubble of light, a human playing chess with another AI system. We all knew back then that the AI chess players of the time could not beat the human champion, and were merely rated as master class. (Actually, they had more real intelligence than Deep Blue did, but I should save the technical details for another venue). People tended to pooh-pooh that accomplishment... but there, standing the dark.. I couldn’t help FEELING the implications more intensely and vividly. There was a well-rated highly intelligent human chess player, with a big noble brow up to par with the best of the smart Celtic people I knew (well above the average Harvard norm even on faculty), being inexorable crushed under the uncanny light by an inexorable, impregnable computer... forming patterns not unlike what I remembered from my father... with a unique flavor of inexorable cold metal.

Quite a day.

A few years later, I actually worked full time in another floor of that building or one of its clones at Kendall Square at MIT...   and was amused to learn that the Marcus family of the original Golem legend was also working there...
but frankly, that was back in the days when I thought my own family came from Transylvania. (Actually, the Werbos family came to Austria-Hungary from the Trier/Mosel part of Germany, and we are more French than Transylvanian... but there is some Hungarian there in the family tree too.)


Oops. I forgot Dungeons. I never got in Dungeons and Dragons or AD&D, but in the 1976-1977 school year, when I first moved to College Park, my housemates (the McGrath family and Wedge Greene, not yet Lily), Dennis McGrath showed us a little box of the "Dungeons" game which was
possibly the ancestor of D&D. No Dungeon master; in a way more like monopoly or the game of life. Wedge even did try to do a Dungeon Master thing with us all one time, on the old table in our shared dining room... and it was OK... never got far.

That year... the dining room table and the big read couch in the living room ... were from my family from years ago. The same couch I recovered on at age 7! I forget whether we even brought it beyond College Park... but it is gone now. When I was an assistant professor at Maryland, I even gave a few seminars with students sitting on that couch, one quite memorable... strictly Victorian, of course,
extreme in different ways.


And I also forgot Mastermind! That's not in my pile but it was a very big deal in College Park.
McGraths showed me the basic version they played in their family, and we went out and found more interesting versions which we played often...

For card games... in the earliest years, kids played War a lot, but it didn't offer much choice (if any),
and I didn't play it at all in Haws Lane, let alone school. Pinochle was a major staple of my mother's side of the family, and we played it often down the shore or in Donohue family parties. Ben Roberts' mother was deeply involved in some bridge circles, and I played a bit in Lawrenceville...
and that's why I came up with a nice simplified version of whist which I used to entertain several generations of kids, and prepare them for bridge... which none of us actually got deep into.

I do remember very vividly when my brother had a few friends (as usual) sitting on the love seats
 in the house at Haws Lane, in the living room in front of the massive fireplace and mantle arrangement. For hand after hand, nothing I could do would work; my brother was certainly not cheating, but he had a certain kind of smile on his face and would calmly tell everyone what he thought was in my hand (which he really had no chance of seeing). So finally, in frustration, I decided to try an experiment. I let the deep part of my mind see my hand... but filled my front mind with an image of seeing a Green Queen of spinach. Ah, do I still remember the look on my brother's face as he said: "This time... Paul... there is something really weird going on. There is something really... really... weird... weird... strange... something awful about your hand this time." Just a few months later, I saw a new Star Trek episode where a guy playing cards also had a green queen of spinach....


Now if only Donald Trump could wake up the fact that Hillary Clinton is NOT the green queen of spinach, and that his serious adversaries are not her or the Russians... and that Putin has reason to worry about Trump's chances of catching on and surviving.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump's choice of science adviser: something small with huge implications (not just for climate and the soul)

People have told me that the President is now trying to choose between two people -- Happer and Gallanter -- to be the new head of OSTP. Some people would say this is less important and urgent than the other things on his plate right now, BUT IS IT REALLY? (Addendum: it would be so much better if Trump would also consider Lowell Wood, Ed Teller's old right-hand man, as an alternative.
I will add a little on that at the end; Wood would be much better for strengthening America as such than either of the other two... but I do not know either enough now to compare spiritual aspects.)

Some people say it is not such an important job, since it is just a matter of setting up committees on which agencies are represented and come up with public relations pieces to try to justify continued or expanded funding for their various vested interests and iron triangles. That's how it worked under Obama, who got ahead learning to make deals under Harry Reid, a stalwart of the new stakeholder system (aka the swamp).

But the Science adviser position was created for a totally different purpose, in the beginning. In essence, the science adviser was supposed to provide a bridge between serious, concrete technical and scientific truth -- and our very best, deepest and most understanding of that truth -- and the decisions of government, which all too often are not based on reality, in either party. Nowadays the need for that position to work effectively has become all the more urgent, as mass media seem somewhat less coupled to objective reality, and as new risks and opportunities have become larger and larger and ever more imminent.

As it happens, I have deep knowledge of both of the two candidates, due to the way my path was wandered through interesting places at time. I have met Gallanter personally, but I have more comprehensive knowledge of Happer's work. In general: Gallanter may well have aspects which could limit his performance, but he might be able to do the job better than Holdren did; however Happer would be a clear disaster, and a clear invitation for the scientific community to keep its mouth shut or give up on the administration, in several different unfortunate ways all at once.

Details. (A proper OSTP chief should of course be clear about facts versus editorials, data versus theories, and such... as the New York Times was back when I subscribed decades ago...)

1. Happer, climate change and Marshall Institute ============================

In 2009, I started the year as one of two co-equal people working for Senator Specter to handle climate issues, first, and other issues at a lower relative priority. Since Specter was a Republican on the EPW committee of the Senate, this meant we were effectively part of the team of a very friendly guy who worked for Senator Inhofe, who was in actuality the world leader of the movement to cast doubt on global warming. From my past history, you can see that I have had much less hesitation than >99% of scientists to disagree openly with a mainstream scientific viewpoint when my own logic and integrity justified doing so... thinking independently and always questioning. And so I realized that it would be politically convenient if I could really justify climate skepticism, and I had a very strong social obligation to question the mainstream view of climate in depth. As it was my main job to look into climate for the Senator, I did of course read many dozens of papers and try to do justice to the doubter's position.

Of course, EPW held hearings on this issue, and the Inhofe people were clear that Happer was their star witness, the one person who was the real intellectual leader, they felt, of serious reasons to doubt climate change. As a professor at Princeton, he was a real scientist. I heard his testimony, but also read further. I have a photographic memory of sitting in my little stall on the 12th floor of the Hart Senate office building, poring over the words of Happer's testimony. I remember a brief thrill of excitement as I realized that his testimony made logical sense, and that there was hope I could
justify taking that cause further. His central argument was that the greenhouse effect based on CO2 warming the earth's atmosphere has already come close to saturation, so that there would be no further warming beyond what is already in the pipeline. He stated that the climate models use a global absorption rate parameter, not accounting for the way in which CO2 absorbs light in CERTAIN FREQUENCY BANDS, not all light. Of course, the climate denial publications also stressed how the big climate models are all just based on theory, not on actual aggregate changes in a global scale, and they stressed that certain conflicting trends are ignored by the mainstream.

I was excited... BUT LIKE ANY PROPER SCIENTIST, like the kind of adviser the President desperately needs, I didn't just jump onto full endorsement of an initial impression. I knew it was very important, for the sake of truth, to check out and verify some of the claims myself. First, and most fundamental: was it really true that the global climate models are so simplified, and how would they respond?

As it happens, I had previously met a guy named Carl Wunsch, a climate modeller from MIT. Was this just a coincidence? Not entirely. Years before I was invited to give a talk on advanced algorithms for massive data analysis and data mining.

(On my regular web page,,  I posted the link and citation:
3. A review of how to calculate and use ordered derivatives when building complex intelligent systems.  I first proved the chain rule for ordered derivatives back in 1974, as part of my Harvard PhD thesis. The concept propagated from there in many directions, sometimes called “backpropagation,” sometimes called the “reverse method or second adjoint method for automatic differentiation,” and sometimes used in “adjoint circuits.” But it is a general and powerful principle, far more powerful than is understood by those who have only encountered second-hand or popularized versions. The review here was published in Martin Bucker, George Corliss, Paul HovlandUwe Naumann & Boyana Norris (eds), Automatic Differentiation: Applications, Theory and Implementations, Springer (LNCS), New York, 2005.)

Wunsch himself also gave a talk there, on how he used backpropagation (aka the second adjoint method) to calibrate and assess his global climate model to the aggregate global data on changes in many variables. I knew from his talk that a lot of the claims you read about from climate deniers are 
grossly false, grossly not vetted or checked... and I also knew that the mainstream "Bible" of the time (IPCC IV) did not ignore the trends which the deniers asserted they ignored. BUT EVEN SO,
the failure of the deniers to live up to the requirements for truth and scientific method DOES NOT BY ITSELF prove that Happer's conclusion was wrong. Guilt by association is also a massive lapse of scientific method, and I did not want to be guilty of that myself ... or to miss a possible opportunity.

So I called Wunsch from our Senate office. Wunsch was a very tough guy, a kind of skeptical curmudgeon by nature, and it wasn't as if I called because we were palsy walsy. I needed all my meager social skills to get clear answers. Wunsch had previously said critical things about his colleagues in the climate modeling business, and had even agreed to appear as one of the stars in the famous anti-Gore "underground" or "samizdat" video attacking Gore which was circulated very widely before then. He was very livid that the folks who made that video had been so dishonest and dishonorable to him, and showed him out of context in a way which made him seem to say things he would disagree with violently. (Perhaps the video makers had lulled him into thinking they too were tough and honest skeptics like him... like my wife? Or is she further to the right in this one? I listen to her too.) His MIT web page was full of his reaction to that video, and it was a huge sore point for him.

But I pushed away from that and from his legitimate feelings about those guys, compounded by the fact that I WAS representing EPW Republicans, and pressed for specifics. Key specific number one:
OF COURSE his model disaggregated different frequency bands. Even his idiot colleagues would not make such a baby mistake. That was a shock: how could we trust a guy who would make such a strong assertion about what's in the climate models, and testify false things even to his supporters and patrons on the Hill, without even checking such a simple basic fact which he had clearly just made up? (No, I wouldn't view the current Flynn flap in the same light, for other reasons... among them being that he is not a science advisor ... but... well, maybe more later on that.)

But then: if separate bands are considered, how could the forecasts come out so different from what Happer would have expected? I hesitate to say a WHOLE lot more right now, because there comes a time when one would want to hold a kind of technical review panel -- IF one had the job, mandate, and money, none of which I have in retirement. But in general, it came down to assumptions about how water and humidity, eta, figure into it. And so I probed the Happer/Homeland Institute work probing the assumptions and implications of the eta variable. Probably the best of the climate deniers would have said that Congressional Hearings must by nature be oversimplified, and (still hoping to support their bottom line), I located a massive detailed manifesto they praised presented at their lead specialty scientific conference, which stressed the impact of eta.

And it was incredibly appalling. Real science requires some awareness of basic arithmetic at a minimum (multivariate calculus and linear algebra even for a competent yeoman level), and that requires understanding you shouldn't say a lot about a variable like eta without defining what it is. Turns out, there are two key concepts, RELATIVE and ABSOLUTE eta, which are drastically different in value and behavior, even though they are conceptually closely related. In a way, this is like the distinction between income in real dollars and income in nominal dollars -- but much, much bigger.  For someone who thinks straight with numbers (numbers like income)... the manifesto was basically a godawful mess, a string of bad puns, ending up with utterly silly and indefensible conclusions. And IPCC IV clearly drew on people who were a lot more clear about such basic issues, which they certainly did not neglect.

By the way, even at the end of 2009, I would have been OK with joining the new subgroup at the Homeland conference which claims that global warming is too small to justify the priority it was receiving. The IPCC IV gave a base case projection that damage not world GNBP would only be about 5% over a century! I was aghast that Reid's staffers rejected Specter's proposal for strong immediate action on oild dependency and the Middle East (see, a far larger issue, because of his outside agreements to do a Waxman type bill first. Even Woolsey, who advises Trump and has spoken out on oil dependency, simply never told his advisees about the crucial technical realities which would allow much greater progress at lower cost on that basic issue!
But as I continued to ask questions... I learned that we live in a different world from what anyone on EPW knew; see the color figures in

And so: if Trump picks Happer, he will get someone who does not probe beneath even the shallowest level of speculation and emotion, even for those issues which Happer pays most attention to. In other areas of science and engineering, it would be hopeless. As head of Marshall Institute, Happer also spearheaded the big reorganization which got rid of their efforts to advance national security... and liquidated new efforts which could have given the US a substantial new lead in what we can put into space.

2. Gallanter ===================================

No great revelations here, but I am amused in part by the fact that I met the guy years ago. I seem to have a very strange kind of luck with such things...  I remember running into a guy named Ed Heath in London, at a kind of cocktail party where I was (for a few minutes) a quiet member of a group of people standing around him, mostly talking about gardening. I remember in 1966 running across Richard Nixon as part of a small group of Young Republicans at a bar in downtown Boston. And Pinkie Bhutto, long before she became Prime Minister  (and was assassinated) in Pakistan. Those are just a few examples....

More seriously, Gallanter is famous for his joint book, Plans and the Structure of Behavior, by Miller, Pribram and Gallanter. That book was famous when it came out as the first important manifesto of the new "cognitive movement,"  a movement to free psychology from the previous "religion" that only Skinner-style rat psychology could be admitted into serious science in psychology. Years later, I worked very closely with Pribram. I participated in many of his workshops, and even arranged funding and organization for a few of them. (Not from NSF, but from the International Neural Network Society, which I led for two years.) Gallanter also came to one of them, and we were all pretty much on the same wavelength. But I did not read his other books, and we did not stay in touch after that.

Would Gallanter immediately know himself the compelling reasons to immediately get rid of the horrible perversions of brain research which Tom Kahlil (working directly under Holdren, Obama's science adviser) was pushing in recent years? The so-called "noninvasive brain stimulation" which uses things like microwaves to directly address reinforcement centers of the brain, letting us turn US soldiers wearing  their helmets to become like helpless junkie/robots, just like what is depicted in Captain America: the Winter Soldier or in the latest Star Wars movie? Sure, I know psychiatrists who complain about crazy people who say the CIA is controlling their brains... but past is not always future... and new technology DOES let bad people do things which were previously just fantasy. Given a more honest science advisor, I hope that James Olds of NSF (who knows the original research by his father on such reinforcement centers) would be willing and able to work with Gallanter in straightening things out, and redirecting new brian initiatives in a way which supports more natural human sanity and potential... despite the very serious and scary "swamp monsters" looking for new markets and new power, watching over folks like Khalil (a guy whose very name reminds me rightly of the kaleds and daleks of ancient episodes of Dr. Who).


As for Flynn... whatever else is going on... some folks have VERY intense double standards
(paying more attention to the tiny mouse of RT versus the goliath of certain Arab investors in Fox News among many other things)   ... who basically want Trump to become defenseless and alone,
in preparation for trying to get to Pence as a more compliant agent of what they want.
However tricky the US-Russia relation, just reverting to acting like mother-in-law to the world and trying to pick a war would really play into the hands of people who very clearly would love for Russia and Iran to bring US and Israel to mutual annihilation, to clear the way for a Third Caliphate
(suzerain for a short period over a US dynasty of some sort, to be assimilated as seamlessly and invisibly as possible).

Do they really want a war?

Hell, just a few weeks ago the head of cybercon urged people to do an immediate demo of our ability to shut down electricity in a major Russian city...


Re Lowell Wood: I do hope people remember Ed Teller. Probably the least guy least soft on Russia, in reality, of all the folks in the Cold War... but scientific enough that he would not go wild. Also,
the experience of figuring out Livermore Lab is so much more real than what the other two have done...

Friday, February 10, 2017

Quaker Watch: Scary New Pitfalls As World Enters Singularity

Last Sunday, at Meeting proper, one person spoke of a deep feeling that the whole world seems to be entering a kind of ocean of darkness right now. She asked us all to sing verse 4 of the George Fox song,, which many of us view as the core of Quakerism today. That’s the one which talks about ... the ocean of light... versus that ocean of darkness. It’s curious: as I google just now, to find the whole song on the web, I can feel a powerful real shiver up my spine as I hear the words being sung. That shiver... well, it is a shiver of real qi, of real “psychic” energy, not so different from when I first tried and succeeded with kundalini yoga in 1972 (the experience which led me to actively search the spiritual side of life) and from shivers up my spine which I sometimes felt when I listened to classical music on my stereo in Adams House at Harvard back when I was in my senior year, 1966-1967. It reminds me that I only posted the first verse at,
a website I need to update, since I have learned a whole lot since when I put it together!!

But back to that ocean of darkness, and a few urgent pitfalls.

A different kind of... shiver?... alarm?... adrenalin?... came to me just yesterday, when I hear of folks who want to Extradite Gulen, betray the Kurds, and even investigate Flynn for violating the Logan Act.
Those are a lot like the butterfly effect in chaos theory... ways to perform small actions which might well send us to a different basic of attraction, as in a pathway to extinction. What’s scary is that some of the folks pushing such suggestions actually know where they might lead, in the initial avalanche... but would they still do it if they could see beyond? Do they actually WANT the human species to be wiped out? I do wonder about that some times, because they do seem to be so dedicated and ruthless.

I have had great discussions, away from microphones, with many people including some of the concrete details of what’s been happening in Washington lately. Several times people asked: “WHY did they do such a thing?” I basically replied: “Hey, these are just the facts as I observed them. Objectively, that’s all I know. They didn’t exactly hand me a script of their larger plans, and what their real motives were.” Yes, I do have other information, but it only goes so far. (In the spirit of dead man switch, I have put some of the hard unique data up on a secure place in the cloud.) But WHY would Lamar Smith so systematically destroy the technology base of the US? And he is certainly not the only player in the game.  How much does he actually KNOW what he has been doing, and how much has he been relying on guidance from folks who have been using and confusing him? (Certainly Jeb Bush has been more in the latter category... and I remember clearly when “W” started to penetrate the veil of such illusions more than his brother did.)

At the Quaker meeting, in the “afterthoughts” time (immediately after silent meeting proper), I got up and said, roughly: “Like Georgia, I was already hit very hard and directly by the new ocean of darkness on July 14, 2014, and have been groping hard to understand its full dimensions and how to deal with it.
I think of the darkness as a kind of entropy (a thousand random ways to go crazy and die), and of the light as consciousness. Our hope of survival, of raising the light, is based on raising consciousness, raising the light we all share, and raising together as all of humanity.”

“Here in this rightly sheltered place (which we once compared to the excitation chamber of a laser, another place to raise a pure and coherent light)... we as humans still are at risk of the human weakness of equating the light to “us,” and falling into a kind of solipsistic narcissism, which is not the true light we need to cope with this new ocean of darkness.  We need to exercise our minds and consciousness; consciousness and the light do not come sheer passivity, any more than strength of physical muscles does.

“At this time, I would suggest we struggle with ourselves, by really trying a spiritual exercise.
First... try to imagine what you would feel and do, if God were to play a kind of great joke on you, and insert your mind and soul totally into the brain and body of Donald Trump for the next year (assuming he will send you back to your body at this time at the end of that year). What would YOU do, really, seriously and sympathetically, if you had to deal with the incredible mix of people and inputs (and memories) he must deal with, here and now? And then... it is like eating sashimi... after at least an hour of seriously thinking about that... cleanse your palate, and then, for the sake of balance, try an hour of the same  thinking of how the world and the future look to the supreme Ayatollah of Iran, and Omar the head of the Taliban. And then think how to put it together...”

That is very real, and to a small extent that joke actually was played on me... as I have noted before...
and discussed with my friend Yeshua, whom of course I am still in regular contact with. It reminds me of a Netflix series, Sense8, giving a great portrayal of the high vedantic vision of the Self who sees through many eyes at once... (and of Jane Robert’s portrayal of a more tractable intermediate Oversoul in her nice trilogy story of Oversoul 7)... too bad that season 2 bombed so badly.

But then... after meeting, we had a brief meeting of the Peace and International committee. I had ten minutes to voice my current concerns there. “My number one concern there is those folks who are still really hot and bothered and ruthless about pushing for a war between US and Israel versus Russia and Iran, as ruthless and effective and persuasive and dedicated and successful in generating hysteria as Cheney was in creating a war with Iraq. People like us and Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton... basically underestimated how effective Cheney and his backers in the Persian Gulf were in wanting that war, and how totally dishonest they were in shaping their phony pseudo-dialogue on weapons of mass destruction. And now they are doing the same thing. They know that Trump will not be such a pushover on this issue as “W” was, and that he will be willing to issue a primal scream if necessary to resist their opiates (as I did in the hospital in April when folks tried to push opiates on me!)... but they also have plans to emasculate or remove him from office, plans already developed when they expected Hillary.    (And yes, it was in the press how Lamar Smith joyfully led the FBI investigation into Hillary, using moles at the FBI who felt free to bully Comey himself, folks Trump really should have rooted out long ago for the sake of his OWN survival. I hope Comey will help him.)

I actually do have some of those plans from the Gulf, which I passed on months ago to folks who are said to be close to Trump, with the highest security clearances. But it is tricky, and even they might be somewhat influenced by folks who try to manipulate our egos and national pride...

And in fact, it is NOT a trivial matter to address the question: if an alliance with Russia against the Third Caliphate movement, to get us out of the “war with Russia” attractor, is the number one need for world peace, how do we actually make that operational? Of  course, hammering out such an alliance, and starting deeper progress on the US-Russia relation, is not a trivial challenge.   I say that being far more aware than most of what it takes to build a marriage of the complex core of US noosphere and Russia noosphere...neither being trivial spheres.  Both sides need to work a lot... and also need to focus, at stage one, on a couple of core issues, avoiding red herrings.

It may well be that the two core issues to begin with are simply Ukraine and ISIS.

In a way, an initial grand bargain might be true international enforcement and true adherence to what Kerry thought Russia agreed to on Ukraine, with more disarmament of Russian forces outside Crimea and protection of everyone’s rights (with UN support if needed)... with more US acceptance and support of Russia’s view of what it takes to destroy ISIS.

But on the second point... there are complex issues, and I am reminded (from discussions of other issues with my wife)... that sensitivities get to be really intense, and that there are reasons for sensitivities. The present Russian grand strategy in the Middle East has big holes; the Russians often view us as does a clever high schooler laughing at pompous and ignorant first graders, but this is a graduate school project they are stuck with, and neither nation seems to see the big picture of a viable way out. Which DOES exist. Ironically, there are times lately when I see some flickers of vision in Iran, of all places... despite the horrible sunni sharia moles there who want to make war... Clearly there is a positive spiritual core in the world of Islam which also needs to be cultivated in a positive way, to balance out the narrow negatives (narrow negatives which also exist in our world, as in Yeshua's words "lawyers! liars ! Hypocrites! when he addressed money changers in the temple.) 

As much as I should say even now in this obscure but open blog.

Three closing thought on this subject.

First, the current entropy... seems a lot like a singularity... not of the machine kind, though god help us, IT is part of it, not as Kurzweil would imagine.

Second, having a whole ten minutes, I also told the committee my view that there is an urgent second priority, which should be first for some folks.. on the cyberblitzkrieg front... requiring more unilateral but very different, new US action for now...

And maybe I just whispered the word “climate.”

On climate... I did mention elsewhere the risk that China might follow the path of some other emerging powers...  the joke being “Why start a war with US over North Korea or South China Sea, when US is on course to destroy itself much more effectively than you could in a traditional bilateral war?”

Others warn of China using Pacific Partnership to develop a new deal, which oppresses the working class worldwide even more than PPT would (as per the important criticism by Senator/Candidate Tim Kaine, whose analysis the Communist Party should pay attention to). If they really want to reinvigorate values they claim to care about, it would be better to work with Kaine and Trump to go for a new kind of deal, better for workers in both countries. Military confrontation with US over North Korea or South China Sea would hurt with developing such a new partnership to include such nations as South Korea, and Japan!! To co-opt Japan and South Korea in an arrangement to truly benefit the working class, the moral highground of developing it and “offering a place to the US” (as Putin wisely did to Trump in the Syria table recently)... would work well.. as, in addition, would be a new initiative to unite the world in trying out the technology proposed by Teller/Wood Caldeira to cool down the Antarctic before it is too late.

If it is wise, China will not attack Trump’s views on climate change. It will just ignore him (and try to avoid Trump-esque phrases about ignoring barking dogs). The Antarctic is under an international regime, and a set of nations has the power to do this without the US (inviting the US but not insisting). It is EXACTLY the Antarctic which threatens the very survival or all humanity. (See To be really  display testosterone and proper pride in a constructive (Trumpesque way), China could build a coalition which also offers  new job and sanctuary to Jim Hansen, who was retired from NSF; if Comey watches, he might learn a bit more than he already knows about the gestapo (ala fifth column of Moslem Broetherhood) which also is a threat to Trump right now.   My ulterior motive here is... the objective reality that we probably do need that Teller experiment to prevent a global disaster, which it is now too late to stop by other means. (Of course, I still support those other means, and hope we do not have to fly Teller’s proposed airplanes forever.)
Best of luck. We do need it...


Since I mentioned Kurds and Gulen, I should at least mention some of what I know about the Kurds.

In the Middle East, it is well-known in fundamentalist Islamic circles that many Kurds are Yezidis, and that they are devil-worshippers. But bear in mind that others have said that Jimmy Carter was the devil himself.  By analogy, in the US about 30% of the people say that they still believe in Adam and Eve.

This is serious stuff. If Donald Trump now relies on support from 40% of the US population,
and that includes that same 30%... well, I do hope he finds a way to build new trust and new networks, fast! I still remember hearing from a very friendly and loving member of that community who overheard me talking about evolution, and broke in: "Paul!! Do you still believe in that silly old wives' tale that humans have monkeys in their family tree? Don't you know that that has been thoroughly debunked long ago?" Yes, she meant Adam and Eve... that;s how agitprop works, and so many people fall for it in so many ways...

Among my sources of information on Kurds and yezidis... most vivid in my mind was a trip (*Luda and me) back from Dulles Airport, after our trip to Chile and Peru, where we met many native people including a shaman who told us about their beliefs about pachamamma (like Gaia), pachatatta (like Jesus's Father in Heaven) and about apus (spirits of mountains, not at all logically distinct to me but unmistakable feelings and  energy). Our Kurdish cab driver was downright excited, and exclaimed how much his mountain people had in common with their unknown brothers in the Andes...

But of course, there are many other sources of information. Sufis and older cultures of many kinds have an important role to play in the Middle East )hopefully) rediscovering and recovering its soul from the rich oppressors who want to revive the Abbasid gardens where they play as others grovel...
and as larger trends erode the hopes of humanity surviving at all...

Friday, February 3, 2017

a new top threat to energy security not being addressed

Being a scientist and engineer, and not a great communicator, I will try my best to explain two key points which SOMEONE really ought to follow up on:

1. There are many threats to energy security and world peace which are certainly as important as ever, but a specific new threat has arisen involving cybersecurity of the power grid which is much larger (at least for this decade)  and more imminent than any of those.

2. There has been a growing chorus of noise and money addressing cybersecurity of the power grid, but this may have hurt more than helped, by creating vested interests neither capable nor motivated to do the straightforward technical actions needed to get us out of the path of the "oncoming truck."

Because I am retired from the government, and more involved with science than with management or politics, I can do very little on this myself, so I really hope that someone in a better position here will follow up in a way more useful than the many other folks who just want to throw money down ratholes without paying attention where it goes.

The essence of the problem is given in section 1.2 of, a paper I wrote for the NATO IOS book for a NATO workshop I was asked to speak at a few weeks ago. In a way, the core problem is that no operating systems today maintains the same standards for unbreakability which I saw on the Honeywell Multics operating system which I wrote systems code for many years ago, standards very well known at NSA but not so widely known elsewhere. Many operating systems are hopeless leaky sieves, but the most secure of them use SOME of the old standards, but with backdoors useful to us. BUT there was a major leak, "Snowden II", just a few months ago, reported in Fortune magazine, which would allow our adversaries to exploit the backdoors ... possibly to shut down half the power grid, just like a worst case EMP event, but a lot sooner than the next Carrington event. There are ways to close the backdoors, firmly and permanently, but absurd and irresponsible political barriers are preventing us from doing so.


Should I just stop here? Maybe. The paper gives details and citations, and may be more organized than the extra details I might add here.

Still, I probably should say a little about the first person experience which leads me to 
take this very seriously, even though I have mainly worked in other IT areas since those multics days. 

A couple of years ago, at a large government IT meeting, Mike Rogers of NSA talked about his experience of visiting the Pentagon on cybersecurity issues. They assured him they were rock hard secure already; they certainly has spent a whole lot more money, and mobilized a whole lot more credentialed experts than FERC has.  
(FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is the agency which oversees power grids in the US, and folks like the Senate Commerce Committee
claim jurisdiction working with folks like FERC and NIST -- lots of money and lots of interests and lots of iron triangles.) After they gave him all those assurances, he said, he simply went in with NSA technology and showed him ... a hundred ways they were totally penetrated already by... lots of other folks, not just hit and run hacking, but a permanent sieve and permanent lurkers. That was the birth of cybercommand, a really important development -- but no, folks, not the kind of development which blocks the new threat. Quite the opposite. The new emphasis on maintaining and using offensive cyber capabilities does not include the kind of stringent new measures needed, using the kind of technology NSA knows very well, to close all the backdoors permanently in systems which run the power grid.

I have also been in a good position to hear from the front lines how the various power industry players are handling this. Naming names is not always a good idea with this kind of thing (as the news about death sentences in Russia due to disclosures in the US about Russian hacking evidence should remind us). But... I have heard people say "don't worry, we are stockpiling transformers." Well, on this list, Mitzi was also in the audience at NDU when they showed how to use these backdoors to burn out GENERATORS. It amazes me how proud experts in electric power policy, Washington's best excuse for "technical experts," don't seem to understand the difference between a transformer and a generator, in a practical situation!
I have also talked with front-line folks in electric power who rely heavily on SE-Linux...  but (1) even SE-Linux has had backdoors, by design; and (2) in the recent reorganization of NSA, the Information Assurance group at NSA (which supported the SE-Linux effort) has been abolished. Of course, those of you who work in government know the familiar code words which agencies use to Congress: "It's not that we're abolishing them, it's that we're dispersing their functions to other places."

To what other places? Ironically, to places with a primary emphasis on
cyberdeterrent, to active offensive actions, making heavy use of machine learning, a field which I know very well. Friends of mine have been very excited by this, and even said: "Paul, since you originated a lot of that technology and still have a lot of visibility there, you could get a lot of money and power by simply getting with the new program." Yes, that's true; if you believe I am just a guy off the street in that area, or if you want to learn what is happening in that sector, see:

But there are times when a rational person gives priority to the issue of our collective survival, regardless of any "iron triangle" vested interests he may possess. Our lives are at stake, for God's sake!


But again, I don't work for the government or any government contractor in any capacity right now, so there is little I can do, other than weep a little when I see vast sums of money being thrown away even as an urgent life or death requirement is not being met. 

Yes, the other long-term requirements for security and survival remain as important as ever, but if there continues a kind of entropy in the foundations of the world's IT system, the entropy will certainly melt away any other positive things we might try to do. 

Best of luck,


P.S. Beyond this long email, and the NATO paper itself, I had a few more comments on the issue of defense versus deterrence and how they interact at:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Example of Fundamental Basis Of Free Energy Time Orientation

Moving towards additional real mathematical physics for the new regime...

1. Starting Point: why I now look more deeply into free energy

My recent blog post proposing a simple experiment to demonstrate backwards time communication (in principle) raises a more basic question: “when is a black body really black?” Actually, it is more precise to ask: “When is a black body truly ‘passive’, as discussed in time-symmetric physics?”
“Black bodies” in standard, mainstream physics are not really “black”; they emit light as a function of frequency based on well-known functions of temperature. The story of Max Planck’s work on light is full of discussion of the black body radiation spectrum. As temperature rises, “black bodies” start to glow red, then white, then blue... “red hot”... a very well-known phenomenon. My proposed experiment simply takes advantage of that phenomenon.

In my view, this is the kind of situation where theory should not run too far ahead of experiment, for two reasons: (1) human culture simply won’t encourage much theory about how time-symmetry works in detail until the “flat earth” psychology is dispelled by a concrete experiment which also wakes people up to some of the new technology possibilities; (2) EQUALLY important here, experiment is very important to give us gross guidance in how to model macroscopic objects, in a set of regimes which are so new and so complex that such guidance is very important. In the old days, for many new technologies, I would argue: “If you consider the size of the possible benefits, even if there is only a 1% probability of success, it is a valid decision, like wildcat drilling, to find out if they are real”; but after looking very closely at the logic I see much  higher probability of success in this case.

Unfortunately, I do not have a quantum optics lab (even the simplest of one) in my house, and I can no longer fund folks who do (thanks to Lamar Smith, who is far more of a threat to science in the US than Trump or Bannon, as I learn more and more every day) ... so it is natural that I “jump the gun” and think about the theory. Maybe some of my recent thoughts could help prepare for what happens when the experiments start, and people need to regroup.

2. Core concepts of Forward and Backwards Time Free Energy – and a Question

2a. Core Concepts

In my view, the clearest and simplest statement of WHAT TIME SYMMETRIC PHYSICS ASSUMES AND REQUIRES is still my (2008) open-access paper in the International Journal of Theoretical Physics, “Bell’s Theorem and the Foundations of Physics: Not Just a Matter of Interpretation.” All my recent more complicated work builds on that foundation. That paper argues why we really should believe in time-symmetric physics, and why it requires a central concept of “time-forwards free energy” and “time-backwards free energy.” Time SEEMS to run forwards only in those regions of space-time where the early-time boundary conditions provide a lot of order, a lot of “time forwards free energy.” Even though the Schrodinger equation which governs our everyday life (the normal Maxwell-Dirac Schrodinger equation)  is absolutely symmetric in time,  we find it hard to take advantage of that symmetry in our technology because we lack a source of backwards-time free energy. Backwards-time free energy would simply be the mirror image in time of the forwards time free energy which is the bloodstream of our lives.

Normal engineering systems assume and make use of forwards time free energy. However, science is also very familiar with an ideal model object which is exactly the opposite of an energetic engineering system: a “dead” inert body in thermodynamic equilibrium. No physical body is truly isolated from its environment, but a huge amount of modern mathematical physics and engineering is based on models of a solid (or liquid) object “floating free” and “isolated,” as represented by very simple boundary conditions.  In practical solid state physics, chunks of matter are usually modelled as rectangular kinds of bodies, subject to “periodic boundary conditions.” “Periodic boundary conditions” basically assume that the chunk of matter is a universe unto itself, such that when you go far enough in any direction you come back to where you started inside the object. Mathematically, this is called a “multidimensional torus.” I first learned this  kind of standard model from a seminal textbook on solid state physics by Ziman, but it has appeared in ever so many other texts since then. It is certainly not a perfect model, since objects are not isolated (and there is a modeling technique called NEGF which goes a step further), but it really is good enough for a very precise understanding, guiding all kinds of advances in modeling and design in electronics. This kind of electronics work has orders of magnitude more empirical evidence behind it than what most theoretical physics ever really uses.

In that general type of model, a passive object in thermodynamic equilibrium at some temperature really is time-symmetric. In that model, there is very long but discrete set of possible states of the object, states which we may denote as Si, state number i. “Entropy does not increase, because it is already at its maximum.” The system “oscillates” between states, such that the probability of entering any state Si, Pr(i), follows some kind of Boltzmann distribution, which we may denote roughly as Pr(i)=f(H(Si), T), where H(Si) is simply the usual normal Hamiltonian energy of state Si, and where T is temperature. For most practical purposes, the function f is just exp(-H(Si)/kT), the classic Boltzmann distribution, but there are Fermi or Bose corrections to the function which are significant for states where H is very small, and there are times when we need to add terms to be explicit about physical facts like the fact that we don’t expect silicon atoms to turn into carbon atoms by nuclear transmutation in the middle of an experiment.  (If you really want to know the extra complications, look up grand canonical ensemble in quantum statistical thermodynamics. But these do not change my basic points in this post.)

Here is a key point underlying my proposed experiment: if the “black body” objects really are this kind of traditional object, obeying a Boltzmann distribution, without any time-asymmetry, one would expect a natural tendency to emit “black body radiation” in both time-forwards and time-backwards direction equally. We don’t see that symmetry yet only because of the boundary conditions we impose at the OTHER end of the photon emission process. The experiment which I proposed is simply the most direct way we now have, in present proven technology, to provide proven mirror-image boundary conditions for photons, as explained in the work of Klyshko and the many many experiments validating his approach. My own work on time-symmetric physics provides a more general consistent framework for making sense of what Klyshko was saying, and extending it further. You can find Klyshko’s books on Amazon, and many important papers in google scholar.) That much is very clear, and in my view inescapable. The experiment is essential.

2b. The Question

But here is a question, the question I worried about most when I first thought about this experiment: WHEN is a proposed black body truly “black”, ie. passive, i.e. modeled well enough by a Boltzmann distribution? For sure, a solid chunk heated “red hot” (or “purple hot” if your entangled photons are purple?) by a simple heater over a long time really should obey a Boltzmann distribution, from common sense and hundreds of years of experiment. But many quantum optics folks would feel awkward lighting Bunsen burners or even high intensity hot plates next to their precise computers and lasers and detectors!! So what about a simple incandescent light bulb? From what I remember of Edison’s work... there are ever so many different types of heated filaments in different types of light bulbs. I would tend to expect that most of them would glow steadily from a normal kind of Boltzmann distribution, but I will be happier when we just do it and see.

Yet let’s also consider possible counterexamples. For example, the inverted states we create to make a laser certainly are not a normal Boltzmann distribution; laser physicists (as in the seminal great work of Scully) often talk about “population inversion,” but it’s really focused on some very special states. Stone and Cao of Yale have talked about backwards time lasers, and built real working hardware, and their work might turn out  to be important here, but on 7/14/14, orders from Lamar Smith firmly ordered me to stop talking to them with strong implicit threats from something I call “the gestapo” in informal discussions with friends (many of whom experienced very similar horrors, dozens of them long before they got around to me). Maybe it’s just as well that I think of parallel easier things for now.  It may be unrealistic to hope that Trump’s folks will roots out “the gestapo,” but after such experiences you could understand why I still hope... (The guy who ran this kind of quantum modeling in NSF DMR apparently thought they got to him first because he was Jewish, but I assured people that doesn’t explain me.) I have put a bit of documentation on the cloud, in part because of alterations those folks made to government computer records to try to cover their tracks, in a very secure location respecting its privacy, but even now I understand a need to be careful...

OK, laser chambers are NOT passive black bodies.

But what about the sun itself?

In truth, I really hope that the experiment with light bulbs goes forwards soon and is widely replicated, so that we can then more safely move on to the real nonobvious questions about the sun. Is the sun more like a white hot “black body” for these purposes, or is it more like a reservoir of pure time-forwards free energy like an excited laser chamber?  In truth, I shouldn’t pretend to know. I really would like to see a simple experiment validated on light bulbs.. and then maybe just hooked up to a telescope which can see the sun to see how much (if any) backtime radiation can be seen. And then, if it seems to be nonzero, proceed to simple imaging experiments of the sun, as suggested as “step 3” in I tend to guess that the sun is heavily biased towards time-forwards photon emission, more like a laser than like an incandescent light bulb, but it might well be a mix, and I’d really like to see real measurements.

By the way, AFTER it is shown to work on light bulbs, simple LED and LCD and fluorescent light sources are obvious followons well worth the trouble to test. But the most passive sources should come first... even hot plates in the unlikely case that no light bulbs work.

3. Mathematical Foundations

OK, I’ve said enough times that theory does not and should not rigidly predict this stuff.
But if we go back to the usual periodic solid state model, theory certainly is relevant and can be developed further here.

A key question was: when is a “black body” truly black? Implicitly: “when is (an isolated) object
truly passive, and when does it possess what mix of forwards time free energy and backwards time free energy? GIVEN an actual probability distribution, Pr’(i), can we give a numerical answer to these questions? (And, ultimately, can we then apply that mathematics to the known Pr’(i) to objects like light bulb filaments, LEDs and gasses in a chamber to predict what the kinds of experiments proposed above will show? But then again, how do we know Pr’(i) for an object without measurements?)

Perhaps in the end, it may turn out that the simple concept of time-forwards and time-backwards free energy is too simple – that it only describes two extreme regimes, and that intermediate regimes (and even future technology designs) may be more general, simply accounting for more general Pr’(i).
In fact, if the sun should turn out to emit a mix of photon types (by nature, given suitable boundary conditions ), already the idea of just adding the two types of energy flows might prove to be oversimplified.

Still, the question stands: mathematically, given a Pr’(i), how to operationalize concepts like passive, forward-time free energy and its opposite, to give some kind of metric of what we might expect in these kinds of experiments?

First, we need to review some crucial simplifying foundations of the usual solid state periodic model.
Even the Boltzmann distribution Pr(i) is not nearly so simple and devoid of interest as people might imagine from first year thermodynamics classes. HIDDEN “UNDER THE CARPET” HERE IS A REALLY CRUCIAL PROPERTY of any real chunk of matter used in real technology:
the DENSITY OF STATES (DOS). The Density of states DOS and the distribution Pr(i) are EQUALLY important in real engineering and technology. To explain this... consider... at some temperature T, states
of energy H might have twice the probability Pr(i) of states of higher energy 2H. But what if you design a crystal such that it possesses 100 times as MANY states at energy level 2H as at level H?
That’s not a physically realistic example (I think), but it gives some feeling why realistic understanding here really needs to focus on density of states. Many, many advanced electronics groups experiment with forms of “band pass engineering” which exploit this crucial reality – but some groups are rounded especially well in the underlying principles, like the Langevin Institute in France especially, and their work would be really crucial in fully developing the kind of technology which these experiments will open up to us. (I also regret that Smith’s orders kept me from staying in touch with key groups in the US keeping up to some degree, though there was an Arab-American who gave a great paper at SPIE in 2015... ) Though DOS as Pr(i) is the ultimate physical reality, a crucial quantity is DOS(n), the total density of states “at” frequency or energy level n; yes, the energy levels are discrete in principle for any specific object, but in solid state physics we do consider the limiting case...

All of that is just for the Boltzmann, passive equilibrium.

But when we think about objects “floating in space” exchanging photons with their environment....
what matters is something I call DOSI­(n) and DOSI¯(n), which are simply the density of allowed transitions available in the forwards and backwards time directions. I have the impression that these DOSI functions are what make the imperfectly defined concepts of “forwards and backwards time free energy” more tangible and tractable and predictable.  The frequency dependence is really crucial here.
I always remember how the earth itself inputs a strong stream of light centered on visible frequencies
emitted in forward time from the sun, and then emits an equal amount (with minor fluctuation) of energy centered in the infrared spectrum – a kind of Carnot-like cycle underlying life as we know it on the surface of the earth. But what happens in free space when we have objects floating and staying at different temperatures (e.g. because of fusion reactions in a star), with different DOSI functions?
In any case, it is clear that these DOSI functions are what determine both the intensity of what we can see with “ordinary time forward eyes” (retinas, ordinary cameras) and what we can see with “backwards time eyes” (like the simple SPDC, 2g arrangement I have proposed, or like high resolution mirror-CCD devices we could build with modern photonic VLSI after we get our models straight in this regime). In a way, the experiment I have proposed is basically just a first step towards disentangled measurements of DOSI­ and DOSI¯ for various classes of objects. Please forgive that I have not yet simply tried to design a NEGF simulation of an incandescent light bulb; actually, though, I remember Datta’s paper describing the 2**N computational challenges still outstanding when things become entangled.  Experiments should come first...