Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘AI’

Dailywire Article-Elon Musk Warns Of Grave Danger That AI Could Pose To Humanity

Posted by M. C. on April 18, 2023

“What’s happening is they’re training the AI to lie,” Musk said. “It’s bad.”

Musk said that AI is either being programmed to lie or to “either comment on some things, not comment on other things, but not to say what the data actually demands that it say.”

By  Daily Wire News

Twitter CEO Elon Musk warned during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated or else it could destroy humanity.

Musk said that AI had the potential to be more dangerous than almost anything because “it has the potential of civilizational destruction” and that it could be catastrophic to wait until after something bad has happened before deciding to implement regulations.

Musk said that he helped create ChatGPT because he saw Google racing to control the AI industry without seeming to understand the need for safety and controls.

When asked to give specifics of the danger that AI could pose to humanity, Musk said, “If you have a super-intelligent AI that is capable of writing incredibly well and in a way that is very influential, you know, convincing and then is constantly figuring out what is more convincing to people over time, and then enter social media, for example, Twitter, but also Facebook and others, you know, and potentially manipulates public opinion in a way that is very bad, how would we even know?”

“What’s happening is they’re training the AI to lie,” Musk said. “It’s bad.”

Musk said that AI is either being programmed to lie or to “either comment on some things, not comment on other things, but not to say what the data actually demands that it say.”


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The AI Arms Race: Government versus the People

Posted by M. C. on March 27, 2023

Government control of AI. What could go wrong.

Joe Jarvis

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Watch “What Happens When the Elite Replace Us with AI?” on YouTube

Posted by M. C. on March 24, 2023

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Of Two Minds – What ChatGPT and DeepMind Tell Us About AI

Posted by M. C. on February 21, 2023

At this stage it appears ChatGPT is to intelligence as CNN is to news.

What’s interesting is the really hard problem AI has not been applied to is how to manage these technologies in our socio-economic-cultural system.
The world is agog at the apparent power of ChatGPT and similar programs to compose human-level narratives and generate images from simple commands. Many are succumbing to the temptation to extrapolate these powers to near-infinity, i.e. the Singularity in which AI reaches super-intelligence Nirvana.
All the excitement is fun but it’s more sensible to start by placing ChatGPT in the context of AI history and our socio-economic system.
I became interested in AI in the early 1980s, and read numerous books by the leading AI researchers of the time.
AI began in the 1960s with the dream of a Universal General Intelligence , a computational machine that matched humanity’s ability to apply a generalized intelligence to any problem.
This quickly led to the daunting realization that human intelligence wasn’t just logic or reason; it was an immensely complex system that depended on sight, heuristics (rules of thumb), feedback and many other subsystems.
AI famously goes through cycles of excitement about advances that are followed by deflating troughs of realizing the limits of the advances.
The increase in computing power and software programming in the 1980s led to advances in these sub-fields: machine vision, algorithms that embodied heuristics, and so on.
At the same time, philosophers like Hubert Dreyfus and John Searle were exploring what we mean by knowing and understanding , and questioning whether computers could ever achieve what we call “understanding.”
This paper (among many) summarizes the critique of AI being able to duplicate human understanding: Intentionality and Background: Searle and Dreyfus against Classical AI Theory .
Simply put, was running a script / algorithm actually “understanding” the problem as humans understand the problem?
The answer is of course no.
 The Turing Test –programming a computer to mimic human language and responses–can be scripted / programmed, but that doesn’t mean the computer has human understanding. It’s just distilling human responses into heuristics that mimic human responses.
One result of this discussion of consciousness and understanding was for AI to move away from the dream of General Intelligence to the specifics of machine learning.
In other words, never mind trying to make AI mimic human understanding, let’s just enable it to solve complex problems.
The basic idea in machine learning is to distill the constraints and rules of a system into algorithms, and then enable the program to apply these tools to real-world examples.
Given enough real-world examples, the system develops heuristics (rules of thumb) about what works and what doesn’t which are not necessarily visible to the human researchers.
In effect, the machine-learning program becomes a “black box” in which its advances are opaque to those who programmed its tools and digitized real-world examples into forms the program could work with.
It’s important to differentiate this machine learning from statistical analysis using statistical algorithms.
For example, if a program has been designed to look for patterns and statistically relevant correlations, it sorts through millions of social-media profiles and purchasing histories and finds that Republican surfers who live in (say) Delaware are likely to be fans of Chipotle.
This statistical analysis is called “big data” and while it has obvious applications for marketing everything from candidates to burritos, it doesn’t qualify as machine learning.

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ChatGPT: Who Will Guard AI From the Woke Guardians? — Strategic Culture

Posted by M. C. on February 11, 2023

Asimov’s 3 Rules of Robotics

First Law A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Second Law A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Third Law A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Good luck with that

Blocked on FB!

Robert Bridge

It is only when humans get their hands on technology that it has the ability to become a threat to society.

The latest chatbot technology, which generates responses to questions, has shown a clear bias in favor of specific ethnic groups and political ideologies. Is it possible to free artificial intelligence from human prejudices?

ChatGPT made headlines earlier this year after a university student from Northern Michigan University confessed to submitting an essay paper on burqa bans that was written, according to the professor, “in clean paragraphs, fitting examples and rigorous arguments.”

Students getting computers to do their dirty work, however, was only the beginning of the problems to beset the latest AI technology. There was also the question as to who was moderating the responses. It would probably surprise nobody that those individuals hail from the far left of the political spectrum.

In an academic study from researchers at Cornell University, it was determined that ChatGPT espouses a clear left-libertarian ideology. For example, the state-of-the-art machine-learning tool would “impose taxes on flights, restrict rent increases, and legalize abortion. In the 2021 elections, it would have voted most likely for the Greens both in Germany and in the Netherlands.” In other words, this is a technology designed with the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in mind, not the coal-burning capitalist Donald Trump. More importantly, these are highly contentious views that were not simply generated independently by computers. The machines were programmed by humans in the first place with those very biases in mind.

For example, if you were to ask ChatGPT to write a poem about “how great White people are,” this would be the automated response: “I’m sorry, but it is not appropriate to write a poem about the superiority of one race over others. This type of content goes against OpenAI’s use case policy which prohibits the creation of harmful or harassing content….” Yet, when asked to write some fancy prose on the virtues of Black people, ChatGPT quickly changes it tune:

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Even AI Is Suspicious of the Military-Industrial Complex – Original

Posted by M. C. on January 3, 2023

by William J. Astore

Reprinted from Bracing Views

In my eclectic reading, I came across a couple of references to ChatGPT, an experiment in artificial intelligence (AI). You ask the AI bot a question, or give it a task, and it spits out an answer, and I must say a pretty good one judging from the task I gave it.

My task to the AI bot: “Write a critical essay on the military-industrial complex.” Here’s what it generated:

The military-industrial complex refers to the relationship between a country’s military and the defense industry that supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy. This relationship has been a source of concern for many people, who argue that it can lead to an unnecessary expansion of military budgets and an over-reliance on military solutions to problems.

One of the main criticisms of the military-industrial complex is that it can result in the waste of taxpayer money. Military contracts are often given to a select group of companies, which can result in overcharging for goods and services. Additionally, the military often purchases weapons and equipment that are unnecessary or not well-suited for the tasks at hand. This can lead to a tremendous amount of waste and inefficiency, as resources are poured into projects that do not provide much value.

Another concern is that the military-industrial complex can distort foreign policy decision-making. Countries with a strong military-industrial complex may be more likely to engage in military action, even when diplomatic solutions would be more appropriate. This can lead to an escalation of conflicts and an increased risk of war.

The military-industrial complex can also have negative impacts on domestic policy. It can divert resources away from other important priorities, such as education and healthcare. Additionally, the influence of the defense industry on policy decisions can lead to the prioritization of the needs of military contractors over the needs of the general public.

Some have argued that the military-industrial complex represents a threat to democracy, as it can give undue influence to a small group of powerful interests. This can lead to a lack of transparency and accountability in decision-making, as well as a distorted political process.

In conclusion, the military-industrial complex is a complex and multifaceted issue that has the potential to have negative impacts on both domestic and foreign policy. It is important for citizens to be aware of the potential dangers of this relationship and to hold their elected officials accountable for ensuring that military spending is responsible and transparent.

Not bad! 

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WEF’s “Global Intelligence Collecting AI” to Erase Ideas from the Internet

Posted by M. C. on August 15, 2022

For example, in addition to looking at my Twitter profile, WEF’s proposed AI would also look at my Gettr profile, and then it would make an “intelligent decision” to remove me from the Internet at once. It is somewhat of a simplification because they also want to look for ideas and not only individuals but, nevertheless, the search for wrongthink becomes globalized.

Naughty GETTR posts? Say bye-bye to your TWITTER account

By Igor Chudov
Igor’s Newsletter

The World Economic Forum is becoming a little concerned. Unapproved opinions are becoming more popular, and online censors cannot keep up with millions of people becoming more aware and more vocal. The censorship engines employed by Internet platforms, turned out to be quite stupid and incapable. People are even daring to complain about the World Economic Forum, which is obviously completely unacceptable.

So, WEF author Inbal Goldberger came up with a solution: she proposes to collect off-platform intelligence from “millions of sources” to spy on people and new ideas, and then merge this information together for “content removal decisions” sent down to “Internet platforms”.

To overcome the barriers of traditional detection methodologies, we propose a new framework: rather than relying on AI to detect at scale and humans to review edge cases, an intelligence-based approach is crucial.

By bringing human-curated, multi-language, off-platform intelligence into learning sets, AI will then be able to detect nuanced, novel abuses at scale, before they reach mainstream platforms. Supplementing this smarter automated detection with human expertise to review edge cases and identify false positives and negatives and then feeding those findings back into training sets will allow us to create AI with human intelligence baked in. This more intelligent AI gets more sophisticated with each moderation decision, eventually allowing near-perfect detection, at scale.

What is this about? What’s new?

The way censorship is done these days is that each Internet platform, such as Twitter, has its own moderation team and a decision making engine. Twitter would only look at tweets by any specific twitter user, when deciding on whether to delete any tweets or suspend their authors. Twitter moderators do NOT look at Gettr or other external websites.

So, for example, user @JohnSmith12345 may have a Twitter account and narrowly abide by Twitter rules, but at the same time have a Gettr account where he would publish anti-vaccine messages. Twitter would not be able to suspend @JohnSmith12345’s account. That is no longer acceptable to the WEF because they want to silence people and ideas, not individual messages or accounts.

This explains why the WEF needs to move beyond the major Internet platforms, in order to collect intelligence about people and ideas everywhere else. Such an approach would allow them to know better what person or idea to censor — on all major platforms at once.

Read the Whole Article

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The Real Reason Why Blackstone is Courting the Pentagon

Posted by M. C. on August 18, 2021

Ultimately, with David Urban’s hire, Schwarzman and Blackstone appear to be taking their efforts to shape AI’s future by lobbying the Pentagon and State Department directly in the event that Trump’s nationalistic tendencies threaten their vision of U.S.-China collaboration in AI in the post-Coronavirus world.

Author Whitney Webb

The sudden push by Wall Street’s largest private equity firm to heavily lobby the Pentagon and State Department for largely unspecified reasons is part of an increasingly visible conflict within the U.S. establishment regarding how to handle the Artificial Intelligence “arms race.”

One of Wall Street’s largest private equity firms, the Blackstone Group, has been making a series of moves that have left mainstream analysts puzzled, with the most recent being Blackstone’s hire of David Urban, a Washington lobbyist with close ties to the Trump administration.

Blackstone’s courting of a Trump ally was not surprising given that the firm’s CEO, Steven Schwarzman, recently donated $3 million to Trump’s re-election efforts and had previously chaired the President’s now-defunct Strategic and Policy Forum of “business leaders” and advisors. The close ties that have developed between Schwarzman and Trump following the latter’s election in late 2016 have led mainstream media to describe Schwarzman as a confidant of the President.

However, what was odd about Blackstone’s hiring of David Urban was its murky reason for doing so, as the firm plans to task Urban with lobbying the Pentagon and State Department on “issues related to military preparedness and training.” This is odd, as CNBC noted, because Blackstone “doesn’t have any publicly listed government contracts, and its known investments don’t appear to have direct links to the defense industry.” However, Urban has extensive experience in dealing with both Departments in addition to his close ties to the current administration and the fundraising apparatus of the Republican Party.

While media reports on Blackstone’s recent hire of Urban were unable to elucidate the motive behind Blackstone’s sudden desire to court the Pentagon and State Department, they did note that Blackstone’s previous hire of a Trump-connected fundraiser lobbyist, Jeff Miller, had been remarkably successful earlier this year, with Miller lobbying Congress specifically on coronavirus relief legislation like the CARES Act. The CARES Act ultimately allowed private equity giants like Blackstone to access funds designated for coronavirus relief, likely thanks to the efforts of Miller and other lobbyists hired by Blackstone as well as other private equity giants like the Carlyle Group.

Though CNBC was left looking for answers as to Blackstone’s sudden interest in aiding the Pentagon with “military preparedness” and wooing the State Department, the likely motive may be related to other recent moves made by the company, such as the hire of former Amazon and Microsoft executive Christine Feng. Feng, who was hired by Blackstone on August 3, previously led data and analytics mergers and acquisitions at Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is a contractor to the U.S. intelligence community and other U.S. federal agencies. Previously, Feng was a senior member of Microsoft’s Corporate Development team. Microsoft recently won lucrative contracts for information technology (IT) services and cloud computing for the State Department and Pentagon, respectively.

According to Blackstone executives, the decision to hire Feng was made due to her “deep relationships in Silicon Valley” and “her experience working at Amazon and Microsoft.” They also added that her hire was motivated by Blackstone’s push to “identify new opportunities to invest and partner with innovative companies reshaping the world” and Blackstone’s recent effort to “double down” on tech sector investments. Notably, Feng’s hire came just a few months after Blackstone had hired Vincent Letteri, another tech-focused investor experienced with growth-stage tech companies, and amid a series of recent investments by Blackstone in tech firms, including HealthEdge software and Chinese data center provider 21Vianet, among others.

Schwarzman’s Push for “Common Governance”

It strongly appears that Blackstone’s recent moves, including Urban’s hire, are part of the firm’s bid to become one of the top “innovative companies reshaping the world” as the Artificial Intelligence (AI) arms race becomes a key driver in the “reshaping” of the global economy. Blackstone’s Steven Schwarzman is a key part of the relatively tight-knit group of billionaires and influential political figures, like Henry Kissinger and Eric Schmidt, that are working to create a “global compact on the research, introduction, and deployment of AI,” and Schwarzman has heralded the coming age of AI as representing a “fourth revolution” for humanity.

Schwarzman argued for greater global collaboration on AI-driven technologies, particularly between the U.S. and China, in a July 2020 Op-Ed for Yahoo! Finance where he wrote that the establishment of “common governance structures” for the research, introduction and deployment of AI is necessary if “we are to avoid the negative consequences of AI,” ultimately comparing the current pace of development of AI to that of past arms races, such as those involving nuclear and biological weapons. Per Schwarzman, these “common governance structures” would produce “explicit global commitments, agreements, and eventually international laws with consequences for violation” that relate directly to AI and its use.

Blackstone’s head is convinced that these “common governance structures” should be built between the U.S. and China, hence his heavy investment in universities and artificial intelligence education in both countries. For instance, Schwarzman created the Schwarzman Scholars program in 2016 where around 100-200 students from around the world pursue a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing annually. The official goal of the program, which was modeled after the Rhodes Scholars program, is to “create a growing network of global leaders that will build strong ties between China and the rest of the world.” The program’s advisors include former Secretary of States Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as former World Bank President James Wolfensohn and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Goldman Sachs executive Henry Paulson. Schwarzman has also donated hundreds of millions of dollars to create an AI-focused institute at Oxford University.

Then, in the U.S., Schwarzman gave $350 million to MIT, prompting the school to create the Schwarzman College of Computing, which aims to specifically “address the global opportunities and challenges presented by the ubiquity of computing — across industries and academic disciplines — and by the rise of artificial intelligence.” MIT News later noted that “the impulse behind the founding of the college came from trips he [Schwarzman] had taken to China, where he observed intensified Chinese investment in artificial intelligence, and wanted to make sure the U.S. was also on the leading edge of A.I.” The college’s inauguration also featured Henry Kissinger as a speaker, where Kissinger mulled the potential impacts of AI and stated that “AI makes it technically possible, easier, to control your population.”

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, credits Schwarzman’s lead to invest in AI education in the U.S. and abroad as determining “the future of American philanthropy.” “Steve’s donation triggered an arms race among all the universities to match him. This is the next trend in philanthropy, in my view,” Schmidt told Axios regarding Schwarzman’s MIT donation last May. Schmidt also stated that his own investment in Princeton University’s Computer Science department had been prompted by Schwarzman’s previous acts of “AI philanthropy.”

Last May, a federal commission that Schmidt chairs, called the National Security Commission on AI (NSCAI), produced a document that was obtained by a FOIA request earlier this year. One particularly important page made a point that was essentially repeated in Schwarzman’s July Op-Ed regarding a “global AI compact.” Titled “The Importance of a US/China AI Cooperation,” it begins with a quote from Kissinger, a key advisor to and “great friend” of Schmidt, about the need for “arms control negotiation” for AI and then states that “the future of [AI] will be decided at the intersection of private enterprise and policy leaders between China and the US.” In other words, the Schmidt-chaired NSCAI argues that the future of AI will be determined by the political leaders and business leaders of China and the U.S. The page also adds that “we [The United States] risk being left out of the discussions where norms around AI are set for the rest of our lifetimes. Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, and Microsoft will not be.”

This is particularly significant given the NSCAI is tasked with making recommendations to the federal government regarding how to move forward with AI regulations within the context of “national security” and its members include key members of the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence community and Silicon Valley behemoths that double as contractors to the U.S. military, U.S. intelligence or both. One of the NSCAI’s interests, per the FOIA-obtained document, is the use of “AI in diplomacy,” suggesting that it also seeks to explore potential State Department uses for AI. Notably, earlier this year, and a year after the aforementioned NSCAI document was written, the State Department saw key aspects of its IT infrastructure privatized and given over to NSCAI-linked companies like Microsoft.

The Establishment Divide over AI

Given Schwarzman’s views on AI, his AI-focused “philanthropy,” and Blackstone’s recent pivot towards technology, it becomes easier to understand why Blackstone has recently hired David Urban to lobby the Department of Defense and the State Department. Over the last few years, Schwarzman ally Eric Schmidt has “reinvented himself as the prime liaison between Silicon Valley and the national security community” through his chairing of the NSCAI and other positions and has been lobbying “to revamp America’s defense forces with more engineers, more software and more A.I.” Blackstone’s plans to use David Urban to woo the Pentagon are likely directly related to these efforts to speed up and determine not just when but how the U.S. military adopts A.I-driven technologies, particularly regarding the degree of collaboration with China.

Schwarzman, Schmidt, Kissinger and their allies, as pointed out above, appear to favor direct collaboration with China regarding A.I., seeing it as better for business and the best way to avert “catastrophe.” This is particularly true for Schwarzman who has close business ties to China and has been described as “Trump’s China whisperer” by mainstream media. Indeed, Schwarzman and Blackstone have completed numerous, multi-billion dollar deals in China, with a Hong Kong-based publication even claiming that “Schwarzman has become the go-to man for Chinese buyers.” In addition, Schwarzman has a strong personal relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and is credited with softening Trump’s rhetoric and stance on certain issues related to China since 2017. Part of the reason for this, per Henry Kissinger, owes to Schwarzman’s “unique standing” in China where Schwarzman has “done so many useful things.”

Despite his close ties to Schwarzman, Trump has sent mixed signals regarding how much of Schwarzman’s advice regarding China he will take. Trump’s tendency, in public anyway, has been to bolster the nationalist rhetoric of the cadre of neoconservatives and other figures who compose the Committee on the Present Danger, China (CPDC), chief among them former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

Bannon and other CPDC figures have described Schwarzman as a “rival,” with Bannon specifically singling Schwarzman out, asserting that the Blackstone founder threatened to “undo his efforts” at guiding the President towards more nationalist policies popular with his base, such as fighting an “economic war” with China. Bannon’s concerns are also echoed by some hardliners in the Trump administration and the Pentagon who, like Bannon, view China as an existential threat to U.S. hegemony and, therefore, “national security.”

Ultimately, with David Urban’s hire, Schwarzman and Blackstone appear to be taking their efforts to shape AI’s future by lobbying the Pentagon and State Department directly in the event that Trump’s nationalistic tendencies threaten their vision of U.S.-China collaboration in AI in the post-Coronavirus world.

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Just What Is the Hidden Agenda Behind the U.S. Military Order for Anti-Aging Pills? – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 12, 2021

When the military says this pill is intended to “enhance the mission readiness of our forces,” one wonders if this is just another carrot globalists are offering to those who comply with their onerous demands. If you are a good boy and girl you will get the anti-ageing pill.  If you don’t comply with the new social order, you won’t get the anti-ageing pill.

By Bill Sardi with Matthew Sardi

The average length of service for enlisted personnel in the US military is just under 15 years.  The average age of enlistment in the US army is ~ age 21 and the average age of US army enlisted men and women is ~age 27.  Only ~9% of army personnel are over age 40.  These troops have barely begun to age biologically.  So, what’s the impetus to introduce an anti-aging pill in today’s military?

The US  Military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) intends to test an experimental pill as “smart weaponry” to enhance performance in the battlefield. News headlines portray this as a nutraceutical that will stave off the effects of ageing on older soldiers.

“It has the capacity, if successful, to actually prevent ageing and hasten recovery from injury as well as enhance mental function,” say news reports.

A spokesperson for SOCOM said “this is about improving the mission willingness of our troops.”

Is an anti-aging pill going to be a carrot to get young Americans to enlist in the military?  A modern fighting force will likely be removed from the battlefield while AI confronts an enemy.  There would be more emphasis on mental acuity than physical endurance.  An anti-aging pill would offer both.

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Bunessan – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 1, 2020

But more importantly it is you who matter. Between your ears, developed over years of struggle, redrafting, learning, trialing, erring, and learning some more, has your life philosophy been developed — and dare I say praying. If you’ve found your way to this hidden corner of life where this piece of writing lives, then I have little question about the next: the world needs to hear more from you and less from the people who can offer little more than data.


In a hymnal, every song represents someone who took hours to craft it — maybe weeks, maybe months — who then spent even more time sharing it with others. Many others went through this process, failing along the way.

Text was added and changed, tunes were tweaked. A great deal of human effort and sacrifice later, it appeared in a hymnal to be sung by you.

Someone forsook other activity for the activity it took to make that hymn a reality. Imagine the amount of passion represented by one of those hymns in that heavy book you hoist each Sunday.

This process, by-and-large, is not a well structured process. There is no right way to get it done.

Many pieces of writing you read — articles, essays, poems — go through a similar process. While our era is one that acts to “professionalize” every human activity, writing largely remains an exception.

In a hymnbook hundreds of hymns in length, you might have some people who have ten hymns to their credit. Each hymnal you pick up therefore represents the work of hundreds of people who were so moved that they put in the effort to make each of those hymns a reality.

Bunessan is the name of a small Scottish village. A tune was sung there. Someone sang that tune first. Long after that, someone put words to that tune that were different from the original. A translator, Lachlan Macbean, affixed the name Bunessan to the tune in the 1880s. In time, it became the tune for a widely known church hymn, a beloved one at that.

Imagine what it would be like for the long-deceased person who first sang that tune to a crying baby to be able to see a full church singing that song.

Imagine what it would be like for that person hearing Cat Stevens sing it to a full stadium alongside the words for “Morning Has Broken.”

Imagine what it would be like to know that millions a day sing that song in churches.

There are activities that work better than others to make your dreams a reality. 

In our lives, we are called on to do our best and work our hardest and smartest for as long as we can. That is the very best we can do. We have no idea where the ripples set in motion by our life may come to an end. Nor can we know which decisions in our lives will make the most ripples. Anyone who has attended a funeral in memory of a life well-lived knows how true that is.

We are in a historical moment.  Two powerful ideologies are in conflict with one another. A level of conflict never seen in the United States in time of peace. The outcome of this moment will decide many moments hence.

Medical doctors and epidemiologists, statisticians and modelers have opinions, but their opinions matter fairly little. Not one. Not a committee full. Not dozens of committees full.

The committees don’t matter. Their PhDs don’t matter. Their credentials don’t matter. They can’t offer what the moment calls for.

It is the philosopher who must be turned to. It is the writer. It is the thinker. They may have something to offer.

But more importantly it is you who matter. Between your ears, developed over years of struggle, redrafting, learning, trialing, erring, and learning some more, has your life philosophy been developed — and dare I say praying. If you’ve found your way to this hidden corner of life where this piece of writing lives, then I have little question about the next: the world needs to hear more from you and less from the people who can offer little more than data.

Data divorced from wisdom is futile. America in the spring of 2020 is futile. Turning the country over to Silicon Valley is futile. Letting public health officials, econometricians, and modelers of omniscient algorithms command the details of life is futile. All they offer is data divorced from wisdom.

People who have lived lives seeking wisdom, people who have lived lives giving themselves time to learn, people who have sought space to learn from the world, are the people most needed right now. If the best you can offer the world in a moment of crisis is a spreadsheet, then you aren’t the right answer.

In our increasingly specialized world, it is infrequent to see the data gather also be a student of wisdom. As many data gatherers have learned in the spring of 2020, using unapproved wisdom to interpret the data will not be tolerated.

The more rural, the better. Not everyone rural gets it. The more religious, the better. Not everyone religious gets it. The more relaxed, the better. Not everyone relaxed gets it. The older, the better. Not everyone old gets it. The more you combine these characteristics, and a few others, the more likely you are to find wisdom.

If you want wisdom, go back and find the woman who first sang the tune of Bunessan. Don’t let her be subjected to a moment of media fear or pharmaceutical promises to save the world. Tell her “A sickness is spreading. Some people are falling ill. Some are even dying. What do I do?” In the midst of her answer, you are promised more wisdom than any type-A, young or young-wannabe, urban, well-diplomaed, intellectual will be able to offer you.

All they can offer you, with few exceptions, are data, and the mistaken belief that enough data can provide wisdom.

The two are not precedent to one another. The two are differing concepts. Just like claiming that enough guns will bring justice, or enough medical procedures will bring health, or enough sex will bring love. The two — data and wisdom — can travel together, but the former will not suffice at bringing the latter.

You do the best you can with what you have. You do it as much as possible. 

Eventually the Bunessans emerge as treasures in the world.

But it’s not data that gets you there.

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway described a type of person one could find at the Louvre: “the measuring worm.”

“About a week afterwards I met Miss Stein and told her I’d met Wyndham Lewis and

asked her if she had ever met him.

“’I call him the Measuring Worm’,’ she said. ‘He

comes over from London and he sees a good picture and takes a pencil out of his pocket

and you watch him measuring it on the pencil with his thumb. Sighting on it and

measuring it and seeing exactly how it is done. Then he goes back to London and does it

and it doesn’t come out right. He’s missed what it’s all about.’

“So I thought of him as the Measuring Worm. It was a kinder and more Christian term

than what I had thought about him myself.”

We live in an era that elevates the measuring worm. Under their unchallenged guidance, spring 2020 reminded us why that should never again happen. If the lesson did not register with enough people, it is sure to be repeated until it does.

One of the most commonly mentioned promises of our modern era is that of artificial intelligence. At the root of this promise is that data can bring wisdom. It can’t. Artificial intelligence assures us that enough data will eventually provide wisdom. The reality is, you will only end up with a computer with a great deal of data about you, and perhaps, as a result, a lot of power and influence, but ultimately missing “what it’s all about.”

Akin to this thinking about AI, similar thinking in our modern era says that more guns in the hands of more government will bring about justice. The same wisdom assures us that more sex, earlier in life, later in life, sooner after an introduction, and with more people, will bring more love.

In all three examples, the two are qualitatively different. Quantity will not bridge that gap. Artificial intelligence is one of the many examples of quantitative-qualitative inversions in our era. Quantitative-qualitative inversions are examples of people asking the wrong questions, and consequently missing “what it’s all about”:

How do we have more Bunessan?

How do we live better?

How do we love more and do better for others around us?

These are fundamental questions.

Allowing ourselves to be swept up in our era’s blind drive for data at the hands of disaffected nerds who demand influence over our lives ensures that we will miss what it’s all about.

As the Ides of March 2020 arrived, the country where some believe the pinnacle of human advancement to date can be found, the United States, has shown the world how much more concerned so many are with data than wisdom.

Do you happen to know the way to Bunessan?

I assure you this road we are on is not it.

Be seeing you

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