View 828, Sunday, June 08, 2014
John Quincy Adams on American Policy:
Whenever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
Fourth of July, 1821
Sunday afternoon at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It rained for a few minutes about an hour ago, but now it is cloudy bright outside. Humid, of course. I may take a walk in a bit, but the weather may defeat me.
After getting in late having had no sleep Friday night other than dozing on the airplane I caught up by sleeping until after Noon, getting downstairs well after breakfast time. I have seen no signs of the Nanotech conference, but the Hotel is aware of it, and was concerned that the 6 PM reception on the patio might be rained out. I presume that concern is over since the rain seems to have gone away. The overhead clouds look about right for this time of year on the Georgia-South Carolina coast; as I recall, the weather here is about like Seattle, but more clouds and rain and hotter. Anyway we’ll see. I’ve seen no signs of an invasion of nanotech engineers. On the other hand the conference organization has been very efficient.
US Air is a puzzlement. The flight to Charlotte from LAX was uneventful, although the airplane looked a bit old with old style seats, no radio or movie capability, and clearly no power for PC or anything like amenities. The only food served was sandwiches and they ran out of those before getting to me. On arrival at Charlotte I went to the departure gate for the Hilton Head Island connection. The gate it was to go from didn’t exist, but there was a cardboard poster saying that another gate was that gate. Sort of. A pleasant and overworked young lady gate agent at the 38 A gate which had the 36 cardboard sign nearby told me to wait nearby and she’d tell me what to do. Not encouraging. I didn’t see anyone else trying to get on that flight. About the time it was to leave I was told the flight was cancelled, and taken on a handicapped cart to a Special Services counter where there was a long line, but the cat driver took my boarding pass and it was sent inside where I couldn’t see it or what wsa happening. No one told me what was going on, but then someone appeared form inside the office and asked if I could stay in a hotel — at which point I summoned what was left of my composure and said I was due at a big conference as a speaker and had no idea what I would do now. She looked flustered. A few minutes later she came out with a new boarding pass for a flight at 6:25 PM, this time from Gate 38A. The cart driver, who spoke as if she had a higher education than cart driver, had waited for me. The white lady who had delivered the boarding pass said she knew precisely who I was, “Mr. Wade Curtis” with a bit of a wink, and told me to be nice to the cart driver. I protested that I thought I had been, and we all laughed. Back at Gate 38A the pleasant gate agent was surrounded by people. I couldn’t hear what was going on, but eventually, at about 6:25 when I was supposed to board, I got to her, and she said it was delayed for half an hour, but all was well, “Please sit there and I’ll let you know.” But this time the sign was flashing a flight to Hilton Head Island, and a departure time of 7:25, so I figured it was going to work. I told the young lady she ought to be promoted, and thanked everyone,
The flight was a propeller craft, elderly, that could not accommodate my Number Nine roll on but has “valet” checking in the hold of the airplane. That has happened before although the reason I like the Number Nine is it is the largest of the old first generation roll-on bags, but not as thick as the new monstrous ones that expand and expand. Anyway I staggered out onto the tarmac, walked about 100 yards, and there was an unattended cart. I’d already been given a baggage tag and stub. There were bags with similar tags on the cart. I put my roll-on on the cart and had problems climbing the stairs into the airplane since my computer and other stuff were in the carry-on computer bag – and it is a big one. A nice lady in uniform – I’d have called her a stewardess but I understand that’s not a correct word in these modern times – helped me on with it and carried it down the aisle to a rear seat, by then the only seat left on the airplane. Everyone was very nice. A bit more than an hour later we were at Hilton Island.
Small airport, one terminal, a bit confusing. My bag was in the cart outside the airplane. My cell phone, which was down to 5% charge (my fault, I think) rang. The limousine service driver called, said he’d heard my flight was cancelled and was I on this one? I said yes, gleefully, and he said seven minutes. If you are headed for Hilton Island Resort I recommend Diamond Transportation 1-843-247-2156. Seven minutes later he was there. It was about 30 minutes to the resort, Sonesta Resort, where everyone seems pleasant. I was there too late for dinner, and made do at the bar with a snack called Shrimp In Grits, which turned out to be precisely what it sounds like and astonishingly good. I grew up in the land of the grits, but I never had that before, probably because shrimp were a delicacy in Memphis, and it’s too simple a dish for New Orleans. Or something.
Slept in until after Noon. Got to the Hotel restaurant too late for breakfast. Menu is limited and unfamiliar. Decided on a Grouper sandwich with sweet potato fries. It came on a big hamburger bun – looked like perfect fish and chips, but that would not be exotic enough I guess. It came served on a hamburger bun with very fresh lettuce and tomatoes. Turned out to be excellent. Fish was rolled in grits before being fried, of course. They had offered a Tuna Reuben Sandwich, but they were out of Tuna and never heard of corned beef to substitute for it. But the Grouper sandwich instead of a burger worked out well. Coffee was excellent. The local Island paper is surprisingly good, better than the LA Times, really.
So now I’m waiting for the evening conference. I came yesterday to be in it – I told the conference managers, who are very efficient, that I was damned if I would try to get to a reception after leaving LA before midnight the night before and arriving only an hour before the reception, and they said yes, yes, of course, and arranged for my 0730 departure from LAX that got me here at 2030 last night. I should be up to sparkle for the reception. Can hope so, anyway.
And just in time comes:
Computer becomes first to pass Turing Test in artificial intelligence milestone, but academics warn of dangerous future
The site seems to have a way to send your own questions to the program, but it doesn’t work, at least not for me from here.
Simulating a 13 year old Ukrainian boy should be a lot easier than trying to be Eliza. I once had from a reader Analyza, a very enhanced Eliza program that ran in a version of BASIC, I think C-BASIC; it allowed you to add your own data bases of questions and answers. The major problem with it was that if you added many data bases it was far too slow for the Z-80 chips in the systems we had then. I wish I had kept it though, because I suspect that on this system it would work quite well. Like all those programs the problem was responding to questions it had no knowledge of, like asking Eliza about your lost luggage. She could ask you how it made you feel to lose your luggage, and in advanced versions might be able to ask what it would mean to you to find your luggage, but since the program had no idea of what luggage was or why you would care about losing it, it soon got tangled up. Eliza needed a lot of willing suspension of disbelief. Analyza with customized data bases was a bit better at dismissing irrelevancy – it assumed you were a patient in need of psychiatric help and kept getting you back on the subject – but of course it eventually became hopelessly looped so that it was easy to tell this wasn’t a human. Oddly enough Eliza did for a while fool a few MIT secretaries.
I have no idea how this new program works, but I can think of approaches to it. It might be a fun project for a bunch of science fiction writers, to come up with scripts for an Analyza type program that pretended to be a lost child, or even pretend to be an alien crashlanded on Earth and wanting to phone home but very cagy about being found and taken to Area 51…
Sounds like a great conversation topic for the reception. But see below, alas.
I have this from someone who had first hand information on dealing with the situation.
Subject: Re: Russia & Putin
This is a large subject and we could discourse on it for a long time. I don’t disagree with most of what you wrote in response.
Staying to the highest points:
"The realist balance of power strategy would be for the US to move closer to the Russians, who have a common interest in opposing Chinese expansion."
I agree. The question is whether Putin or anyone emerging from his system can ever constitute the partner who can bring this about at his end. I think the course of time and events have shown the answer is no. Putin and his gang are uninterested in the "Rule of Law". They are only interested in their own rule. The question therefore is what to do about it.
Meanwhile, nothing we can say or do will cause Russia to shed its interests in the parts of the old Soviet Empire that contain ethnic Russians; and to Putin the term “Russian” is an ethic term, almost congruent with Slav.
Moscow has assiduously promoted a false syllogism about the populations of adjacent sovereign states – which it labels as the "near abroad" – and whose borders the Russian Federation previously and repeatedly recognized and promised to respect. This states:
"Russian speaker = Russian = Wants To Be Ruled By Vladimir Putin and Moscow".
If the first part of this were true then Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would clamoring by 75% majorities to be reoccupied by the Russian Army ("liberated from NATO occupation") and have the FSB (former internal KGB) reopen its offices. Nearly everyone in those countries read and spoke Russian in 1991. Large majorities still do. Obviously this is not true. We can make the same observation about Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The situation in the Ukraine is far more complex than mere "Russian speaker". I expect 70% of those on the Maidan from November – February could be categorized as "Russian speakers" too. Acquaintances in Kiev who were out on the Maidan in December spoke fluent Russian. And in their minds the issue was very clear. Yanukovych presaged the appearance of "Russian tanks". In retrospect they were 100% correct in spirit.
Putin likes this syllogism because it justifies his periodic interventions to protect his own narrow interests. He has no intention – and certainly no capability – to formerly reannex all these areas. The Russian state budget cannot afford it. It cannot even afford so-called "Novy Russia" in the eastern Ukraine. This alone would represent over a 10% instant increase in population. Putin is interested in maximizing Moscow’s natural resource potential and also aborting any trends that threaten his personal position.
NATO Expansion In Eastern Europe.
The big issue with NATO is also China. Is it better to reorient this entity or attempt to build a new one from scratch to resist aggressive Chinese expansionism?
Not expanding NATO is certainly not the self-determination of the new eastern European members. How exactly was this supposed forbearance agreement codified? There is no treaty stating this. The NATO website explicitly denies this Russian government legend at length. Was there something more than a wink and handshake between Gorbachev, Baker and Bush? And for that matter what have Baker and Bush said about it since then? Was there even a wink and a handshake? Gorbachev alone is hardly an authoritative source.
I first became conscious of "Conservatism" in high school in 1970 – 1974. I remember that at that time FDR & Churchill’s Yalta sell out of all of eastern Europe to Stalin was still a cause celebre. This was done as a deal across the table and rape the self-determination of the populations concerned. Or was this was wrong and FDR was correct?
The biggest single reason that Putin has reacted so strongly is simple. The Yanukovych government in Kiev was built as a scale model of Putin’s own regime in Moscow. The course of events has shown how such a government can be toppled.
I think it is important to understand that Putin is not motivated simply by a despotic urge to seize and wield power. He truly believes that Western Culture is decadent and doomed, and alas he has a lot of evidence for that. What we call rule of law he sees as a deception. After all the President of the United States does not act as if he cares a fig for rule of law when it comes to constraints on his activities; nor do the Brussels bureaucrats, nor does much of merry old England. France is not known for its bureaucratic restraint. Putin has plenty of evidence that the US security services don’t much observe any rule of law. He has Edward Snowden to give him details.
NSA’s Creative Interpretations Of Law Subvert Congress And The Rule Of Law
NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds
Regarding deals after the collapse of the USSR, you will understand that the Bush I White House expelled every Reagan sympathizer the day after George H. W. Bush took office. That specifically included all those involved in Strategic defense, which meant that neither General Graham nor I had many sources after that – which is why we had to present the SSX proposal to Vice President Quayle as head of the National Space Council rather than to the National Security Advisor. Precisely what handshake and wink agreements were made about expansion of NATO is not known to me. After the attempted putsch put Yeltsin in power, Putin was out of the loop for several years before he became a rising star under Yeltsin; whatever Yeltsin knew about understandings over NATO expanding into the former USSR, Putin will know. He has every reason to believe that both Germany and France would like some compensation for the Cold War, and that Germany does not really accept the acquisition of Silesia by Poland, nor the abolition of Prussia in favor of Russia. There are plenty of territorial disputes in Europe, and many sides to the arguments, and damned few of them rest on self determination of nations. The Baltic Republics are a special case, since the importation of ethnic Russians was a deliberate act of conquest carried out against nations that the United States recognized as remaining sovereign despite the German and Russian conquests. We could make the case that the Baltic republics were simply the successors of the nations established after World War I, and that we had never recognized any Russian sovereignty over them; and indeed I understand that is the position of the State Department. Georgia on the other hand has never been any part of NATO business.
It is probably time for the US to give Brussels the responsibility for much of European Security, there being no real need for US forces to be involved. Germany, Britain, and France are economically capable of building their own military forces; they have huddled behind the shield of the United States of America long enough. They don’t furnish any addition to American security. And yes, of course we can make an exception for the mother country, provided that she survives the collapse of empire and the remaking of the island. Maybe there will always be an England even…
US intervention in the Balkans made it clear to Russia that even with Yeltsin as President the US was anti-Slav and was not terribly interested in Russia as a potential ally. This came I think as a shock to Putin just as he was rising in the Yeltsin government.
You are of course correct in understanding that Putin can have no interest in annexation of much of the old USSR because he simply cannot afford it, even if they peacefully requested it in a UN supervised plebiscite. Russia is a regional power, not a rising Second World. Nuclear weapons are an equalizer, and Russia has more of them than anyone other than the US and China. In Cold war days a “tactical nuclear weapon” was one that went off in Germany: if one went off anywhere else, it was likely to invite retaliation at, in Eisenhower’s words, “a time and place of our own choosing.” Truman had been even more direct in the Tehran crisis. Russia has never forgotten that. NATO still threatens nuclear retaliation at a time and place of our – the President of the United States’ – pleasure. No one else realistically can do that so long as the United States is in the game. The French force de frappe isn’t that kind of force, and neither is the British residual.
It is an interesting game, and one that Europe has played since the Lechfeld. It is also a game that the United States thrived by staying out of.
Hi Dr. Pournelle,
I agree that materials science is on an S-curve, but what is the rate of change over the next several years? When the F-35 contract was awarded, I was told (by someone who ought to know) that the Lockheed design was made of “unobtanium” at the time. Well they obtained it, eventually. So today’s airframe is yesterday’s unobtanium. How a time period is it before a short-term contract can make a vast improvement on the previous materials? I confess I have no idea.
As to the utility of the design specification, the iconoclasts all seem to be muttering under their breaths about an F-4 redux. I suspect that they are right, and that the F-35 will be a fine strike fighter but not much of an air superiority fighter. So in my opinion, we should perhaps worry less about the F-35 replacement and more about the lack of a contract for the next-generation Raptor. There just weren’t enough of those bad boys made before they shut down the line…
Oh, and don’t let anybody fool you. The F-35A, B, and C are completely different aircraft. They share some common components, but the airframes are significantly different (a requirement when one of them has giant dorsal and ventral hatches). Out of the three I’m skeptical that the F-35C (the catapult naval version) will enjoy a long service life.
TFX turned out to be a great recce/strike aircraft, about the best we ever had in its day, but it needed some protection from the best USSR interceptors. TFX was originally intended to be an all missions all services airplane, and the result was a second place aircraft in the Air Superiority mission. There are few prizes for second place in that mission. Of course F-35 will be first place against everything in the air now, but technology never stands still.
You say “So in my opinion, we should perhaps worry less about the F-35 replacement and more about the lack of a contract for the next-generation Raptor. There just weren’t enough of those bad boys made before they shut down the line…” and I agree entirely. I must have been unclear. But starting up the Raptor line now would be a mistake. Finish the F-35 and make it the new recce/strike; but build something else to be the air superiority first place winner…. The S Curves of technology march inexorably on. Or as we said in Strategy of Technology, the river flows inexorably, and you can either swim with it, float with it, or climb out on the bank and watch; but it will continue to flow, will you or nill you.
It’s time to go to the nanotechnology reception…
It was interesting and I had good conversations with my Sigma colleagues and the conference director. More on that as the week winds on. I expect to learn a lot.
Got back from dinner and the reception to find:
Turing Test? Not so much.
Each time some "AI" program is announced which "passes the Turing test", I’m always a little puzzled when I get to lay hands on the latest "breakthrough".
First, journalists don’t seem to understand what the "Turing test" actually is. They seem to think it means "passes as a human", which is explicitly *not* what Alan Turing described in his paper. Rather, a human questions a pair of entities, one of which is the program, the other a human. If the questioner can’t pick out the program, the program passes the test.
Now, as to this latest program, I’m puzzled at how this software can be considered anywhere near human level when, as best I can tell, you can not say:
I have a dog.
His name is Fido.
He is in the house.
Where is my dog?
Who is he?
Not only can you not have this conversation, but the program does not appear to have any functionality which even attempts such a simple interaction. Whereas I defy you to find any kindergartener who would not easily participate in this conversation. How can we discuss (in hushed voices) the implications of having "achieved AI" when the emperor’s new clothes appear (to this skeptic) to be yet more chatbot buffoonery?
As I said, I was unable to access the program; I had intended a similar experiment. I’m sorry to hear this: but I do think that the time is coming when the formal Turing test will be passed by a good computer/program, probably of the Analyza strain with multiple data bases. It will need a big and powerful computer of course, and it will have to simulate a slow person, perhaps an elder… Thank you for the prompt answer. I am really sorry to hear it, but it was not unexpected.
Tomorrow I will be talking to some of the people who will make it happen if it ever does… The technology river flows on, but you can influence where it goes, within limits. But you have to want to do that. McNamara wanted to halt the arms race by treaty. It turns out that this meant halting a lot of technology advances. I tried to show some of that in my CoDominium stories. Then the USSR came to an end; and while Russia is not the USSR, it remains an important player in this game. Meanwhile China knows how to find out what we know almost as soon as we know it…
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.