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Posts Tagged ‘AI’

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.

See the rest here

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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.

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Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society. We Are Not Prepared.

Posted by M. C. on May 31, 2020

Rob Toews  

Last month during ESPN’s hit documentary series The Last Dance, State Farm debuted a TV commercial that has become one of the most widely discussed ads in recent memory. It appeared to show footage from 1998 of an ESPN analyst making shockingly accurate predictions about the year 2020.

As it turned out, the clip was not genuine: it was generated using cutting-edge AI. The commercial surprised, amused and delighted viewers.

What viewers should have felt, though, was deep concern.

The State Farm ad was a benign example of an important and dangerous new phenomenon in AI: deepfakes. Deepfake technology enables anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do.

A combination of the phrases “deep learning” and “fake”, deepfakes first emerged on the Internet in late 2017, powered by an innovative new deep learning method known as generative adversarial networks (GANs).

Several deepfake videos have gone viral recently, giving millions around the world their first taste of this new technology: President Obama using an expletive to describe President Trump, Mark Zuckerberg admitting that Facebook’s true goal is to manipulate and exploit its users, Bill Hader morphing into Al Pacino on a late-night talk show.

The amount of deepfake content online is growing at a rapid rate. At the beginning of 2019 there were 7,964 deepfake videos online, according to a report from startup Deeptrace; just nine months later, that figure had jumped to 14,678. It has no doubt continued to balloon since then.

While impressive, today’s deepfake technology is still not quite to parity with authentic video footage—by looking closely, it is typically possible to tell that a video is a deepfake. But the technology is improving at a breathtaking pace. Experts predict that deepfakes will be indistinguishable from real images before long.

“In January 2019, deep fakes were buggy and flickery,” said Hany Farid, a UC Berkeley professor and deepfake expert. “Nine months later, I’ve never seen anything like how fast they’re going. This is the tip of the iceberg.”

Today we stand at an inflection point. In the months and years ahead, deepfakes threaten to grow from an Internet oddity to a widely destructive political and social force. Society needs to act now to prepare itself.

When Seeing Is Not Believing

The first use case to which deepfake technology has been widely applied—as is often the case with new technologies—is pornography. As of September 2019, 96% of deepfake videos online were pornographic, according to the Deeptrace report.

A handful of websites dedicated specifically to deepfake pornography have emerged, collectively garnering hundreds of millions of views over the past two years. Deepfake pornography is almost always non-consensual, involving the artificial synthesis of explicit videos that feature famous celebrities or personal contacts.

From these dark corners of the web, the use of deepfakes has begun to spread to the political sphere, where the potential for mayhem is even greater.

It does not require much imagination to grasp the harm that could be done if entire populations can be shown fabricated videos that they believe are real. Imagine deepfake footage of a politician engaging in bribery or sexual assault right before an election; or of U.S. soldiers committing atrocities against civilians overseas; or of President Trump declaring the launch of nuclear weapons against North Korea. In a world where even some uncertainty exists as to whether such clips are authentic, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Because of the technology’s widespread accessibility, such footage could be created by anyone: state-sponsored actors, political groups, lone individuals.

In a recent report, The Brookings Institution grimly summed up the range of political and social dangers that deepfakes pose: “distorting democratic discourse; manipulating elections; eroding trust in institutions; weakening journalism; exacerbating social divisions; undermining public safety; and inflicting hard-to-repair damage on the reputation of prominent individuals, including elected officials and candidates for office.”

Given the stakes, U.S. lawmakers have begun to pay attention.

“In the old days, if you wanted to threaten the United States, you needed 10 aircraft carriers, and nuclear weapons, and long-range missiles,” U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said recently. “Today….all you need is the ability to produce a very realistic fake video that could undermine our elections, that could throw our country into tremendous crisis internally and weaken us deeply.”

Technologists agree. In the words of Hani Farid, one of the world’s leading experts on deepfakes: “If we can’t believe the videos, the audios, the image, the information that is gleaned from around the world, that is a serious national security risk.”

This risk is no longer just hypothetical: there are early examples of deepfakes influencing politics in the real world. Experts warn that these incidents are canaries in a coal mine.

Last month, a political group in Belgium released a deepfake video of the Belgian prime minister giving a speech that linked the COVID-19 outbreak to environmental damage and called for drastic action on climate change. At least some viewers believed the speech was real.

Even more insidiously, the mere possibility that a video could be a deepfake can stir confusion and facilitate political deception regardless of whether deepfake technology has actually been used. The most dramatic example of this comes from Gabon, a small country in central Africa.

In late 2018, Gabon’s president Ali Bongo had not been seen in public for months. Rumors were swirling that he was no longer healthy enough for office or even that he had died. In an attempt to allay these concerns and reassert Bongo’s leadership over the country, his administration announced that he would give a nationwide televised address on New Years Day.

In the video address (which is worth examining firsthand yourself), Bongo appears stiff and stilted, with unnatural speech and facial mannerisms. The video immediately inflamed suspicions that the government was concealing something from the public. Bongo’s political opponents declared that the footage was a deepfake and that the president was incapacitated or dead. Rumors of a deepfake conspiracy spread quickly on social media.

The political situation in Gabon rapidly destabilized. Within a week, the military had launched a coup—the first in the country since 1964—citing the New Years video as proof that something was amiss with the president.

To this day experts cannot definitively say whether the New Years video was authentic, though most believe that it was. (The coup proved unsuccessful; Bongo has since appeared in public and remains in office today).

But whether the video was real is almost beside the point. The larger lesson is that the emergence of deepfakes will make it increasingly difficult for the public to distinguish between what is real and what is fake, a situation that political actors will inevitably exploit—with potentially devastating consequences.

“People are already using the fact that deepfakes exist to discredit genuine video evidence,” said USC professor Hao Li. “Even though there’s footage of you doing or saying something, you can say it was a deepfake and it’s very hard to prove otherwise.”

In two recent incidents, politicians in Malaysia and in Brazil have sought to evade the consequences of compromising video footage by claiming that the videos were deepfakes. In both cases, no one has been able to definitively establish otherwise—and public opinion has remained divided.

Researcher Aviv Ovadya warns of what she terms “reality apathy”: “It’s too much effort to figure out what’s real and what’s not, so you’re more willing to just go with whatever your previous affiliations are.”

In a world in which seeing is no longer believing, the ability for a large community to agree on what is true—much less to engage in constructive dialogue about it—suddenly seems precarious.

A Game of Technological Cat-And-Mouse

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Of Two Minds – Automation and the Crisis of Work

Posted by M. C. on September 23, 2019

Smithies were put out of work by the automobile. You gotta work with your environment.

Charles Hugh Smith

Technology, like natural selection, has no goal.

When it comes to the impact of automation (robots, AI, etc.) on jobs, there are two schools of thought: one holds that technology has always created more and better jobs than it destroys, and this will continue to be the case. The other holds that the current wave of automation will destroy far more jobs than it creates, but the solution is to tax the robots and use these revenues to distribute the wealth to everyone who no longer has a livelihood.

In either case, we’ll get richer: if technology generates more high-quality jobs, replacing lower-quality jobs lost to automation, we’ll collectively get richer, and if technology destroys jobs but creates immense profits that can be distributed to everyone as Universal Basic Income (UBI), then we’ll get richer via distributing profits to everyone.

But what if neither option is realistic? What if the jobs that are created in the wake of automation are lower-quality, lower pay and far more insecure? And what if automation leads to much lower profits rather than much higher profits? What if there’s nowhere near enough profits to distribute to everyone as Universal Basic Income? If that’s the case, we’re collectively becoming poorer, even if a small percentage of the population is reaping wealth from automation.

Consider this first-hand account from a reader on Facebook (used with permission):

“With almost 40 years in the pipeline business I have seen detecting and locating leaks in pipelines go from 6-8 men, 2-3 trucks, maybe an airplane and take days. With three pieces of equipment (Laser methane detector and a Optical Gas Imaging camera), $300 drone and a 4 X 4 pickup, one person can cover in a few hours what could take days to weeks to find years ago.

The work I do has displaced at least 6 if not more workers plus the capital cost of the equipment. The total cost of all my equipment is less than $200K and labor cost of less than $2K.

A ‘Smart Pig’ can detect, measure and locate a corrosion indication within mm’s. The fixed cost of the equipment is high but the incremental cost per use is low. Manpower and equipment has gone from 12 workers to 4-5 depending on size. The information found can prevent loss resulting in environmental damage and economic loss to the pipeline owner.

Less people doing more work to find problems. Using technology instead of manpower.”

Between half and two-thirds of this workforce has been obsoleted by these technologies. If there is any competition in the manufacture of the equipment, it’s likely prices will fall as components become commoditized and decline in price.

Sectors of the economy many hope will create more jobs are seeing the same dynamics. A friend recently described the technologies being deployed to increase the yields and reduce labor in organic sustainable farming: drones that monitor the water and nutrient needs of crops with sensors and relay the data to drip-irrigation systems.

As for training students to code/program: many of these tasks are being automated as well.

Even as we wring our hands over the potential for individually-targeted advertising to sway elections, we also have to ask: why should any advertiser pay marketing firms to distribute bulk emails and mailers, buy TV/radio/print adverts, etc. when an essentially automated technology can craft a data-driven micro-targeted pitch to individuals?

My point here is that it’s not just blue-collar jobs that are being obsoleted, but well-paying white-collar jobs are increasingly being automated as well.

The jobs that are being created are low-pay, contingent, insecure service jobs that cannot support a middle-class life or accumulation of capital.

If we look at the gig economy that’s arisen to staff on-demand services (Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, etc.), we find low earnings, no benefits and the costs and risks of auto ownership being offloaded from the corporation to individual owners.

These jobs may be “new” (although they look very similar to “old” jobs such as delivering milk) due to the interface of smartphone technology, they lack the security and compensation needed to afford a middle class lifestyle in most U.S. urban areas. In other words, they are not replacing jobs lost with equivalent jobs.

The idea that profits will pay for Universal Basic Income is simply not realistic. Even we taxed all the Big Tech corporations at a rate of 75% (a rate that’s politically unrealistic), that would yield up $100 billion, one-tenth of UBI’s minimum cost.

As I’ve discussed in my books, there’s another crisis of work that UBI doesn’t solve: the majority of people want and need the purpose, meaning and structure of a job–a positive social role, a way to gain self-respect, an avenue of control of one’s life, a source of dignity and a means of getting ahead.

Technology, like natural selection, has no goal. Technology doesn’t have a teleological drive to employ humans, save the planet or any other goal we might choose. In the current socio-political-economic system, technology is mostly aimed at maximizing profits. The surest way to reduce costs is to replace costly humans with automated tools.

If we want technology to help us create gainful work, we’ll have to set that goal, and create incentives other than maximizing short-term profits. Perhaps one first step might be to broaden our definition of “profit” from the purely financial to one that includes “utility” and “value” for local and global communities. That’s the goal of my work…

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Superman 152 – the Robot Master | Babblings about DC Comics 3



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Ex-Google Engineer Fears AI ‘Killer Robots’ Could Perpetrate Unintended Mass Atrocities – Collective Evolution

Posted by M. C. on September 21, 2019

…after more than 3,000 of its employees signed a petition in protest against the company’s involvement.
It should be indicative to all of us that these big corporate giants do
not make ethical decisions on their own, since they are fundamentally
amoral, and continue to require concerned human beings to speak up and
take actions in order for humanity’s interests to be considered.

Killer robots. Seems like a great 5G application.

In Brief

  • The Facts:An ex-Google software engineer warns of the industrial development of AI in terms of the creation of ‘killer robots,’ which would have autonomy in deciding who to kill without the safeguard of human intervention.
  • Reflect On:Can we see that events such as the potential creation of ‘killer robots’ ultimately stem from the projection of our collective consciousness, in a way that we as awakened individuals are empowered to change course?

We have entered a time in our history in which advanced technologies based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) may become increasingly prone to unintended actions that threaten the safety and autonomy of human beings. And those of us who believe in the safety and autonomy of human beings–trust me, most at the top of the current power pyramid don’t need to become increasingly aware and vigilant of this growing threat.

The arguments for and against the unfettered development of AI and its integration into military capabilities are as follows: those in favor of the development of AI simply point to the increased efficiency and accuracy bestowed by AI applications. However, their unrestrained zeal tends to be based on a rather naive (or feigned) trust in government, corporations and military intelligence to police themselves to ensure that AI is not unleashed into the world in any way that is harmful to human individuals. The other side of the argument grounds its fundamental mistrust in current AI development on the well-documented notion that in fact our current corporate, governmental and military leaders each operate based on their own narrow agenda that give little regard for the safety and autonomy of human beings.

Nobody is arguing against the development of Artificial Intelligence as such, for application in ways that will clearly and incontestably benefit humanity. However, as always, the big money seems to be made available in support of WAR, of one group of humans having dominance and supremacy over another, rather than for applications that will benefit all of humanity and actually help to foster peace on the planet….

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Superman 152 – the Robot Master | Babblings about DC Comics 3


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Coming soon to the battlefield: Robots that can kill – Center for Public Integrity

Posted by M. C. on September 4, 2019

So far, U.S. military officials haven’t given machines full control, and they say there are no firm plans to do so. 

So far…

The key remaining issue is whether military commanders will let robots decide to kill, particularly at moments when communication links have been disrupted — a likely occurrence in wartime.

With soldiers out of the danger zone attack is more likely. No more restraint on dodgy encounters of limited or non-existent military value. Not that there is much restraint now.

More shows of force to impress the sheeple, congressional enablers and money people.

Also more likely is a great increase of civilian mortality. There are more civilian causalities than military in modern warfare as it is. This will only get worse.

Zachary Fryer-Biggs

Wallops Island — a remote, marshy spit of land along the eastern shore of Virginia, near a famed national refuge for horses — is mostly known as a launch site for government and private rockets. But it also makes for a perfect, quiet spot to test a revolutionary weapons technology.

If a fishing vessel had steamed past the area last October, the crew might have glimpsed half a dozen or so 35-foot-long inflatable boats darting through the shallows, and thought little of it. But if crew members had looked closer, they would have seen that no one was aboard: The engine throttle levers were shifting up and down as if controlled by ghosts. The boats were using high-tech gear to sense their surroundings, communicate with one another, and automatically position themselves so, in theory, .50-caliber machine guns that can be strapped to their bows could fire a steady stream of bullets to protect troops landing on a beach.

The secretive effort — part of a Marine Corps program called Sea Mob — was meant to demonstrate that vessels equipped with cutting-edge technology could soon undertake lethal assaults without a direct human hand at the helm. It was successful: Sources familiar with the test described it as a major milestone in the development of a new wave of artificially intelligent weapons systems soon to make their way to the battlefield.

Lethal, largely autonomous weaponry isn’t entirely new: A handful of such systems have been deployed for decades, though only in limited, defensive roles, such as shooting down missiles hurtling toward ships. But with the development of AI-infused systems, the military is now on the verge of fielding machines capable of going on the offensive, picking out targets and taking lethal action without direct human input…

“The problem is that when you’re dealing [with war] at machine speed, at what point is the human an impediment?” Robert Work, who served as the Pentagon’s No. 2 official in both the Obama and Trump administrations, said in an interview. “There’s no way a human can keep up, so you’ve got to delegate to machines.”

Every branch of the U.S. military is currently seeking ways to do just that — to harness gargantuan leaps in image recognition and data processing for the purpose of creating a faster, more precise, less human kind of warfare.

The Navy is experimenting with a 135-ton ship named the Sea Hunter that could patrol the oceans without a crew, looking for submarines it could one day attack directly. In a test, the ship has already sailed the 2,500 miles from Hawaii to California on its own, although without any weapons.

Meanwhile, the Army is developing a new system for its tanks that can smartly pick targets and point a gun at them. It is also developing a missile system, called the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), that has the ability to pick out vehicles to attack without human say-so; in March, the Pentagon asked Congress for money to buy 1,051 JAGMs, at a cost of $367.3 million.

And the Air Force is working on a pilotless version of its storied F-16 fighter jet as part of its provocatively named “SkyBorg” program, which could one day carry substantial armaments into a computer-managed battle.

Until now, militaries seeking to cause an explosion at a distant site have had to decide when and where to strike; use an airplane, missile, boat, or tank to transport a bomb to the target; direct the bomb; and press the “go” button. But drones and systems like Sea Mob are removing the human from the transport, and computer algorithms are learning how to target. The key remaining issue is whether military commanders will let robots decide to kill, particularly at moments when communication links have been disrupted — a likely occurrence in wartime…

And so officials in the military services have begun the thorny, existential work of discussing how and when and under what circumstances they will let machines decide to kill.

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Robots, Time-Travel and Eternal Life: 9 predictions from a ...




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The Oligarchy’s Plans For Our Future Keep Getting Dumber – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on August 21, 2019

Perhaps spending money to DIScourage nukes instead of thinking up reasons to justify their existence would be of more benefit to mankind.

It’s rare to get a billionaire to share their grand plans for the future, which is weird because billionaires pretty much rule the world. Whenever they do, though, it’s always something incredibly sociopathic, like replacing all jobs with billionaire-owned automation/AI and giving people a Universal Basic Income set by the billionaire-owned government. Or loading all the humans onto rocket ships and sending them to live on Amazon Space Dildos.

Billionaire Elon Musk, who hates unions and wants to implant AI into human brains, has been continuing this trend of idiotic plutocratic futurology with a new campaign to detonate nuclear weapons on the planet Mars. This is not because Musk hates Mars, but because he wants to colonize it; the idea is to vaporize the red planet’s polar ice caps and throw carbon dioxide into the air to ultimately make the planet more habitable.

Scientists are voicing skepticism that such a plan could even work, before even opening up the “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should” debate. Sending nuclear weapons into space for any reason whatsoever should receive an outright rejection from all of humanity, since getting nukes into earth’s orbit has been the wet dream of war machine engineers for decades and pretending they went to Mars would serve as an ideal cover story to circumvent international space treaties until it’s too late to prevent it.

Musk claims he wants to colonize Mars because a new dark age ensuing from a third world war appears “likely”, and he wants to ensure that there will be humans living off of the planet to re-populate it after we wipe ourselves out here. Rather than pouring wealth, brainpower and resources into pushing for a change in the status quo which has set the world’s nuclear-armed powers on a collision course for a world military confrontation that will destroy our biosphere, this billionaire has decided it’s better to nuke Mars so that a back bench of reserve humans can live on a desert space rock.

This is the class of people who are calling the shots in our world. These are the minds who are choosing our fate for us. I wouldn’t trust them to run a fucking gas station.

And Elon Musk is one of the saner billionaires.

I’m going to take a lot of flak for saying this, but I honestly believe that the impulse to colonize space is one of the more pernicious cultural mind viruses in our society. I mean, think about it: we’ve got a planet right here for which we are perfectly adapted, and we’re burning it to the ground while looking up at a red dot in the sky going “You know I bet if I nuked that bitch I could build a hermetically sealed house on it someday.” How much more insane could you possibly get?

I’m pushing against a cultural dogma that’s been mainstream doctrine for generations, but I really find all this blather about adventure and the indomitable human spirit of exploration quite tedious and idiotic when it comes to space colonization. We’ve got creatures swimming in our own oceans with brains many times larger than our own, and we’re killing them all off before we’ve even developed any kind of real theory about what they’re doing with all that extra gray matter. There are parts of the moon that are better explored than vast expanses of our own seas. We don’t even know what consciousness is, and science is largely uninterested in answering this question. I don’t believe the spirit of exploration and adventure is what’s driving our longing to break for the stars. I think it’s nothing but garden variety escapism.

We’ve all got that one friend or family member who’s completely miserable and is always quitting jobs and relationships and moving house and changing their diet in a desperate attempt to find happiness. They rearrange their lifestyle for the umpteenth time and they’re barely settled in before their gaze lands on some other aspect of their life and they think, “That’s the source of my unhappiness right there. If I can only escape from that, I’ll be happy.”

Such people are exasperating to be around, because you can see what they’re doing and you just want to sit them down and go “The problem is in you, babe. Moving won’t help; your inner demons will follow you every time. You’ve got to stay put and deal with your issues.”

Our species reminds me of that type of personality right now. So many of us are looking forward to some escape route coming from outside of us to rescue us from ourselves; some are looking forward to the second coming of Jesus, some are looking forward to the aliens coming in to save the day, some are looking forward to the Democrats or the Republicans finally capturing the whole entire government and setting things right with the world, and some are looking forward to billionaires setting up a space colonization program so we can get off this accursed blue orb before we destroy it. But there is no deus ex machina here. No one’s going to save us from ourselves. Even if we do succeed in running away from home, we’ll inevitably bring the same inner demons with us that got us into this mess in the first place.

We’ve got to turn inward and evolve beyond our self-destructive impulses. The only way out is through. The mind virus of celestial escapism stops us from doing this, because it offers us yet another false promise of deus ex machina. It lets us run away from doing the hard but necessary real inner work, just like doing drugs or binging on Netflix or any other kind of escapism.

Can you try a little thought experiment for me? Imagine, just for a moment, if we took space colonization off the table. Completely. Forever. We just decided that it’s never going to happen and we all moved to accept that. Really imagine it. Really put yourself there for a minute.

What does that change in you? What does that change about your attitude toward our future? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think it would change quite a bit. For me, when I take space conquest off the table, it takes me in a direction that just so happens to look extremely healthy. It makes me say, “Oh, okay, so we’ll obviously have to get rid of the status quo of endless war and ecocide, since those will ruin this place, and that will mean radically changing our relationship with each other and with our ecosystem. It will mean getting women around the world full reproductive sovereignty and education since that’s proven to reverse population growth. It will mean ceasing to think like a cancer, believing that endless growth is a virtue. It will mean ceasing to believe that the existence of trillions of humans is the best thing we can hope for for our species when we have yet to even scratch the surface of our own potential on a large scale. And I suppose it will mean getting together and figuring out how to detect and neutralize the threat of apocalyptic meteor strikes, too.”

Imagine that. Imagine if instead of trying to figure out how to fill the sky with trillions of mediocre humans we turned inward, healed our inner demons, and realized our full potential. Such a world would be a paradise. I know from my own experience that humans are capable of so very, very much more than what we have attained so far; we really haven’t scratched the surface at all. If we’re going to explore, the direction of that exploration ought to be inward.

I really think the mainstream idea that we can always make a mad dash for the black emptiness in the sky if things go to shit here keeps us from truly confronting our urgent need to preserve the ecosystemic context in which we evolved, and which there’s no evidence that we can live without.

I mean, we don’t even know that space colonization is possible. As of yet we have no evidence at all that humans are sufficiently separate and separable from Earth’s biosphere for survival apart from our ecosystem to be a real thing. Humans aren’t really separate “things”; they’re a symbiotic collaboration of organisms with ecosystems of their own, all of which as far as we know are entirely dependent on the greater ecosystem from which we blossomed. So far all our attempts at creating independent biospheres have failed miserably, and the closest we’ve come to living in space has consisted of nothing but glorified scuba excursions: visits to space stations fully dependent on a lifeline of terrestrial supplies. That’s the difference between flying and jumping. It might be as delusional as our brains thinking they can hop out of our skulls and live independently of our bodies, or some river eddies saying they’re moving to dry land.

And even if it is possible, why would you want it? Do people not know what space is? Are they aware that it’s nothing but boring desert wasteland that’s really really hard to get to and survive on? Have you ever been trapped for a long time surrounded by nothing but man-made things, like on an airplane or a cruise ship? Picture that, but way worse and for much longer. It would be a sterile, artificial existence; even if you managed to bring in plants and animals it would be ordered in a man-made way that is no more natural than the saplings grown on traffic islands. At best it would be like being in a mall your entire life. You’d be cut off from the primordial thrum of your home world. There’d be no real life there. No real soul.

Imagine never feeling the starry spatter of a shower of rain on your face. Imagine never ever again hearing the roar of wind on a wintry night or experiencing the thunder of the ocean on a big surf day. Imagine never again being blown away by the brightness of a rainbow or the thrilling crack of lightning or the astonishing beauty of a sunset or the first rays of springtime sunshine fondly warming the back of your neck. Imagine never again coming across a friendly squirrel or a shy possum or a little feast of wild blackberries. Imagine never again lying in the dappled light filtered through a magnificent tree. I don’t know about you but I would just miss the breeze playing in my hair too terribly to ever leave. I love it here and it loves me like a mother loves her child. This is not just my home, I grew from the earth as surely as a mushroom or a seahorse. I am a part of the earth and the earth is a part of me. We belong together. 

It’s easy to feel helpless. The wise ones do not have any money and therefore any power. We are being run by a handful of coddled man-children and it seems like they might have the last word. But I have been thinking about Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas on morphic resonance a lot lately and I’m increasingly convinced that even just one of us bringing consciousness to an aspect of our collective darkness is enough to wordlessly and instantly inform the herd. So, do me a favor if you are willing. Go and run one more experiment for me. Go outside now and place your hand on the ground and say to the earth these words — “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” Say it as many times as you feel like. Say it, and mean it. 

And then let’s see what happens next. 


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‘Algorithms don’t write themselves’: Google whistleblower on Big Tech merging with politics — RT USA News

Posted by M. C. on July 26, 2019

Algorithms “don’t write themselves – we write them to do what we want them to do,” he pointed out, explaining that even AI machine learning is “just a tool that we control.”

A senior Google software engineer has dismissed the idea that Big Tech can be politically neutral and called out his company as “very biased,” joining Project Veritas’ growing stable of whistleblowers.

I’m very concerned to see Big Tech and Big Media merge basically with a political party, with the Democratic party,” Greg Coppola, a Googler since 2014 who works on the AI Google Assistant, told the conservative muckraking outlet.

While he doesn’t have a specific “smoking gun” proving bias, decades of programming experience (he’s been coding since age 10, he said) inform his growing certainty about Google’s political slant. Algorithms “don’t write themselves – we write them to do what we want them to do,” he pointed out, explaining that even AI machine learning is “just a tool that we control.”

Coppola pointed to Google News as an example – a news aggregator that draws from “just a handful of sites, and all those sites are vitriolically against President Trump, which I really consider to be interference in the American election.”…

Google only began meddling in politics starting with the 2016 election, the engineer claimed, explaining that “the angle that the Democrats and the media took was that anyone who liked Donald Trump was a racist, even a Nazi, and that got picked up everywhere” – even Google. And even then, “most people’s jobs are not political and don’t involve politics.” But it only takes a few bad apples to spoil democracy for everyone…

While Coppola said he enjoys working for Google and stopped short of accusing his bosses of lying under oath (though he did go so far as to deny their congressional testimony was true), he was apparently willing to risk being fired in order to speak to the outlet. Veritas is actively soliciting stories from Google employees following a bombshell hidden-camera report that appeared to show Google exec Jen Gennai discussing how the company was preparing to “prevent the next Trump situation” and another employee explaining how Google’s “machine learning fairness” algorithm attempts to “correct” reality’s biases by skewing search results.

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MS Word Becomes Big Brother – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 3, 2019

Under Microsoft control, thought control is a “feature” helpfully built into your word processor. But soon, you won’t be able to turn the feature off. And then, … well, you get the point.

I use Libre. Works well with the Ubuntu and Mint operating systems as well as W10.

By Chas Holloway

I’ve been a writer for thirty years.  I have over two hundred thousand MS Word docs on my computer.  But now, I’m converting all those files to a different word processor.

I don’t want to do it.  But I have no choice.  MS Word — the default application for novelists, poets, journalists and playwrights — has just become Big Brother.  No serious writer can use it anymore.

The problem: Microsoft now “offers” an AI tool designed to “improve” my writing.  For example, if I type, “We need some fresh blood around here,” Word now changes that phrase to “We must hire some qualified employees.” Or, if I type the word “waitress,” Word now changes it to “waitperson.” (see HERE and HERE and HERE.)

I heard about this a month ago, or so. The geniuses at Microsoft want to control my ideas. “That’s insidious,” I thought, but then got distracted. Until the other day. While writing an article, I experienced Big Brother in action — Word was highlighting my text as I typed!…

Real writing is about thinking.  It’s about discovering your individual voice.  It’s about finding original things to say.  But will Microsoft soon disallow original and creative thought?…

A screenwriter bangs out a political thriller: the evil corporation wants the population to be chipped.  How do they manage it?  First, they’ll say it’s for the safety of our soldiers: we can track them in warfare.  Second, they’ll say it’s for public safety: we must chip the lawbreakers and prisoners.  Then, they’ll launch a patriotic ad campaign: “I got chipped — for America!”  Following that, the cops just arrest a few libertarian stragglers. 

Cool story.  But under Microsoft control, would a screenwriter be allowed write it?  Under Microsoft control, thought control is a “feature” helpfully built into your word processor.  But soon, you won’t be able to turn the feature off.  And then, … well, you get the point…

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