Doc Huston


News — At The Edge — 4/28

Two sets of articles this week

  • Present issues bleeding into the future — AI cameras, missile defense illusion & bad economics — undermine our future.
  • Legacy anchors — government for sale & courtroom juries — retard our ability to move into the future.


Present issues bleeding into the future

Thanks to AI, These Cameras Will Know What They’re Seeing —

“Life is one big photo shoot [as]… closed-circuit TV cameras watch over streets and…smartphone owners continually surveil themselves and others….

[Now] artificial intelligence is arriving to help… know your name, what you’re holding, or that you’ve been loitering for exactly 17.5 minutes….They will also bring new risks to privacy…. [without] the cloud for analysis…[or] home’s or business’s bandwidth….

[Recently] police plucked a suspect from the crowd [in]…China after a facial-recognition system identified him among the 60,000….

[Soon] cameras in a home could use visual clues like books and musical instruments to learn about a person’s interests, and suggest content they might like….As Facebook’s recent scandal…shows, once a person sets their data free, it can be used in unforeseen ways.”

The Faulty and Dangerous Logic of Missile Defense —

“[In] 1960s American and Soviet scientists [believed]…a defense against long-range missiles would never be effective because [others]…would simply build more weapons to defeat it, leading to…arms race.

The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty [limited]…U.S. and Russian strategic missile defenses….Reagan’s 1983 ‘Star Wars’…challenged that idea…[but] unworkable…and finally shelved….

[2002] Bush abandoned…ABM Treaty [for]… new Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)…[but] only two of the last five tests were successful [and]…no evidence…$40 billion GMD system provides a reliable defense…because it will face countermeasures… to confuse or overwhelm the system….

[Worse] pursuit of missile defenses can…[lead] political and military leaders to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy and take more risks…[as] Trump stated on television…that ‘We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time’….

Consider an attack with five missiles…[with]…four interceptors against each [and]…kill probability of 50 percent….one warhead gets through….

[So] Putin announced plans to field several new nuclear systems that could avoid U.S. missile defenses….China has begun to build more long-range missiles, develop hypersonic weapons and deploy multiple warheads on its missiles…[and] Congress has been calling for space-based missile defenses….

As long as nuclear-armed countries continue to believe their security relies on the ability to retaliate with nuclear weapons, missile defenses will interfere with efforts to reduce…these weapons. Given the inherent problems with building…effective missile defenses, these defenses are more a dangerous illusion than a realistic solution.”

Economists still lack a proper understanding of business cycles —

“2007–08 financial crisis…exposed the economic profession’s continued ignorance of the business cycle….

The aim of those studying the macroeconomy has always been to understand the economy’s wobbles, and…when governments should intervene…[but] hard to distinguish between short-run swings and structural economic changes…from demography or technology….

John Maynard Keynes blamed recessions on a shortfall of demand linked to changes in saving and investment behavior…[but] never sat well with classically minded economists…. ‘New Keynesian’ models (on which…modern forecasting is based)…[and] outsourced to central bankers…. People are often irrational…[and] behavior in groups is not as predicted by models….[So] gap between many neoclassical economists and the New Keynesians running central banks remained unbridgeable….Where consensus did prevail, it proved to be misguided.

Economists of all ideological stripes cheered on the financial deregulation of the 1980s and 1990s…[ignoring] thinkers like Hyman Minsky and Charles Kindleberger [till]… after the financial crisis….

[So] macroeconomic approach favored by economists…has erred repeatedly in its prognostications over the past decade…[and] must get to grips with its epistemological woes if it hopes to…limit the damage done by the next crisis…[and] there is always another crisis.”

Legacy anchors

Mulvaney to bankers: Here’s how the game works —

“Trump’s budget director and temporary head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)…[said to] American Bankers Association, a trade and lobbying group…’in my office in Congress…a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you’….

[Then] he told them he will try to end public access to a database for consumer complaints about the financial services industry…[because] as head of the CFPB does not oblige him ‘to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government’….

Mulvaney is also promoting legislation that would end the CFPB’s financial independence from politicians….

Under his watch, the CFPB has closed or scaled down numerous investigations of financial services malfeasance, including in areas such as discriminatory lending and payday loans…[who] gave Mulvaney just under $32,000 in the 2015–2016 election cycle….

He wanted his message to be heard loud and clear. The Trump administration and the GOP are open for business…[so] if you haven’t opened your wallets yet, please do so now.”

Too often juries comprise 12 confused men (and women) —

“A jury is a buffer between defendants and the might of the state…[but] juries often do not understand what they are told to do…[because] instructions are written by lawyers, who…do not realize how impenetrable it can be…especially for non-native speakers [and]…when it is spoken rather than written down…[with] convoluted clauses, passive jury instructions can be hard to follow….

Supreme Court has weighed in on ambiguous jury instructions, but has not yet struck down those that are merely hard to comprehend. Some American states have adopted simplified language, and some provide each juror with written instructions….

Jurors will not often want to admit they don’t understand…[yet] eager to end the trials and get back to their lives….But bafflement should worry anyone who may face a jury.”

Find more of my ideas on Medium at, A Passion to Evolve.
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Doc Huston

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