Doc Huston


News — At The Edge — 11/4

Two sets of issues this week — those now in our face and those from the future.

  • Issues now in our face — economics and taxes, biometrics, Twitter and 1st Amendment — shows how out of step government is with real life and the dangers this poses to us.
  • Issues from the future — AI and the last human era before AGI, and wireless charging electric cars — suggest major changes ahead that few have appreciated.

There are articles of mine about these issues you might find of interest:


Issues now in our face –

Roger Altman discusses Trump’s tax plan, income inequality, and the economy Charlie Rose (15 min. video)

We are better at creating new claims on wealth than wealth itself –

“That sentence was written in the context of…rise in debt in the 40 years leading up to the 2008 crisis…[and] quantitative easing (QE), creating money (new claims on wealth) in order to buy assets…[that] resulted in very high asset values and ultra-low interest rates….

Total debt levels in the economy have not fallen…[and] if QE is ever fully unwound, the system will be just as risky as before. Creating money is the solution to…a shortage of demand….[not] when economies have been growing for a significant period….[Now] need to rebalance our economy…[with] reallocation of resources both within and between nations…to bring about a shift to a new equilibrium….

[T]he great economic puzzles of recent years has been the slowdown in productivity growth across Western nations….We know that every time a financial asset gets traded, someone in the industry takes a cut — a commission, a fee or a bid-offer spread….

Many within the industry…point to the falling cost of trading. But that is offset by the number of times assets are traded…[yet] cut taken by financial intermediaries is as large as it was in the 19th century….A lot of people might be happier if the stock market was less buoyant and the average standard of living was more.”

Biometrics knows no borders, it must be subject to extreme vetting –

“[T]he use of an iris, fingerprint, or your face for identity verification is already widespread, and the market for it is set to rocket… but risks ultimately only serve data-hungry industries and government agencies [yet]…has the potential to bring chaos and vulnerability….

[New] technologies already exist which can collect biometrics from a distance, while targets are on the move and without their knowledge…[first] to fight terrorism, and eventually to identify immigrants or people claiming social benefits…[the] infrastructure will already be in place…[to] be used for anything…[like] a government building…public transport…a shopping center, or…area of townto track, stop, or punish….

Automated analysis techniques can be used to identify suspicious movements and patterns, assign risk ratings to people, and add people to watch lists….[Already] 1 in 2 adults in the US were already in a law enforcement facial recognition network.

China is planning to integrate a nationwide database with a facial recognition system, Russia [has]… the most advanced facial recognition applications….[UK] used facial recognition cameras at a number of large public events….

Sharing is of all this data already common place within and between governments…. Biometrics and behavior data amassed by industry will also continue to be an irresistible intelligence target for government agencies through sharing requirements and surveillance programs….

[It’s] only be a matter of time before watch lists of millions and datasets of billions of people compiled in part by corrupt officials, repressive regimes, and dodgy algorithms…shared around…the world, with little chance for individuals of redress. Not only will some of this data be wrong or lead to discrimination, it will also be a massive target for hackers….

But between such a devastating breach of biometric data, out of control surveillance databases, and a consumer apartheid enforced by industry…may be limitless, public acquiescence and indifference cannot be.”

How Twitter Killed the First Amendment -

“[W]e live in a golden age of press harassment, domestic propaganda and coercive efforts to control political debate…to discredit the press, threats to strip broadcasters of their licenses and calls for the firing of journalists and football players for speaking their minds…[all] regularly attacked by vicious, online troll armies whose aim is to silence opponents….

[An] age of ‘new’ censorship and blunt manipulation of political speech….First Amendment was written for a different set of problems in a very different world…coming to life only in the 1920s…to protect speakers from government prosecution and censorship….

[Now] censorship works differently…[with] Russia and China [spending]…a decade pioneering tools and techniques…suited to the internet age…[and] become unwelcome imports in the United States, with catastrophic results….

Russian government was among the first to recognize that speech itself could be used as a tool of suppression and control…[with] the ‘troll army,’ disseminate pro-government news, generate false stories and coordinate swarm attacks on critics of the government.

The Chinese government has perfected ‘reverse censorship,’ whereby disfavored speech is drowned out by ‘floods’ of distraction or pro-government sentiment….

[Both] employ information ‘in weaponized terms, as a tool to confuse, blackmail, demoralize, subvert and paralyze’….[Trump] administration habitually crosses the line between fact and propaganda…[and] Russian government and…others hope to manipulate American political debate, asin the last election….

[So] reinvigorating the First Amendment is vital…. Cyberstalking is a crime…[and] Supreme Court has made clear, threats of violence are not protected speech….[If] speaking one’s mind…results in death threats [it’s] not a country that can be said to be truly free….

At a minimum, new rules should bar social media companies from accepting money for political advertising by foreign governments or their agents. And more aggressive anti-bot laws are needed to fight impersonation of humans for propaganda purposes….

White House needs to be held accountable when…[using] private parties to circumvent First Amendment protections…[or] encourages others to punish its critics — as when it demanded that the N.F.L., on pain of tax penalties, censor players…wielding state power to punish disfavored speech….

[N]o defensible free-speech tradition accepts harassment and threats as speech, treats foreign propaganda campaigns as legitimate debate or thinks that social-media bots ought to enjoy constitutional protection…. We have entered a far more dangerous place for the republic.”

Issues from the future –

We’re living in the Last Era Before Artificial General Intelligence –

“[W]e used to think…going to good college and…relatively good career trajectory…[in] meritocracy [was enough]…[but] generation GenZ and Alpha, may be among the last people to grow up in a pre automation and pre AGI world….

We live in a world where AI is…beginning to interact with personal assistants…software is getting smarter on the cloud, data is being collected….Between 2014 and 2021, an entire 20th century’s worth of progress will have occurred, and then…it begins to accelerate until more progress is being made in shorter and shorter time periods….

Many believe sometime between 2025 and 2050…Artificial General Intelligence…not only does AI outperform human beings in tasks, problem solving and even human constructs of creativity, emotional intelligence, manipulating complex environments and predicting the future — it reaches Artificial Super Intelligence relatively quickly thereafter….

[So] we might be living in the last ‘human’ era…[viewing] computers as man-made tools, robots as slaves, and AI as a kind of ‘software magic’ that’s obliged to our bidding….[Still] doesn’t stand to reason that AGI will think, behave or have motivations like people, cultures….AGI would be able to program robots, facilitate smart cities and help humans govern themselves in a way that is impossible today…[impacting] literally everything….

AGI would not only be able to self-learn and surpass all of human knowledge and data collected up to that point, but create its own fields, set its own goals and have its own interests….[AGI] would indeed feel like a God to us… networked to all IoT devices, be able to hack into any human system, network or quantum computer…[yet] not be led by instincts of possession, mating, aggression or other emotive agencies of the mammalian brain….

Likely it would instigate a self-aware separation between humanity and the descendent order of AI….It’s not clear how this might work, but some human beings to protect their species might undertake ‘alterations’cybernetic, genetic….In the corporate race to AI, governments… want to ‘own’ and monetize this for their own purposes….There might be no human revolution from wealth inequality until AGI [which]… may be closer than we might assume….

2017, Alpha Go Zero ‘taught itself’ Go without using human data but generating its own data by gaming itself….AGI will mean planning ahead, not just coping with change to human systems. In a world where democracy can be hacked…we are still living in slow motion… and as usual, human civilization appears quite stupid.

We don’t even actively know what’s comingbecause this has never happened in recorded history, and represents such a paradigm shift….We can barely imagine that our prime directive in the universe might not be to simply grow, explore and make babies and exploit all within our path. And, we certainly can’t imagine a world where intelligent machines aren’t simply our slaves, tools and algorithms designed to make our lives more pleasurable and convenient.”

It is now practical to refuel electric vehicles through thin air –

“A WISE driver keeps an eye on the fuel gauge…[but] infrastructure needed for refilling batteries has yet to be developed…[and] cables and charging points bring problems….

Electrical induction, the underlying principle behind wireless charging…is widely used in things such as electric motors and generators….When a vehicle equipped with a suitable ‘pickup’ coil stops or parks above this device [a]…current is induced in the pickup…and is used to top up the vehicle’s battery…[has] become practical… for between $2,500 and $4,000…[with] vehicle manufacturers…is starting to happen…[and] is especially promising for buses….

[S]till depend on a vehicle stopping when it needs to recharge….The next step will be charging vehicles on the move. Preliminary trials have started…[to] electrifying roadways.”

This AI Technique Was Kept Quiet so Spammers Wouldn’t Misuse It -

“[An] algorithm could [advance]…AI — but it could also fill your in-box with spam…[using] machine learning…[able] to recognize visual information…in a more human-like way…[and] doesn’t get confused when something is morphed slightly or partially occluded….[This] can beat Captcha…[the] distorted text used to prevent bots from…registering e-mail accounts….

[Uses] a recursive cortical network (RCN) that can generalize beyond what it’s initially taught…with assumptions about visual information — like edges or curves — which it then uses to recognize inputs it hasn’t encountered in training….’Data efficiency and reasoning are very important when robots deal with unstructured environments.’”

Find more of my ideas on Medium at, A Passion to Evolve.
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May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston

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