Wednesday, July 27, 2016
economic-undertow | The West was to become a Keynesian paradise of endless abundance and leisure, a suburbanite fairyland of Negro-free gated ‘communities’, of pastel McMansions and luxury SUVs; of gourmet meals crafted from GMO ingredients washed down with magnums of Veuve Clicquot and narcissism. We would play croquet as eternal children under the glorious sunshine of prosperity while ‘disutility’ (labor) would be performed ‘somewhere else’ (Mexico). The waste and destruction associated with industrialization would vanish because we would all be rich enough to hire robots to clean up after us.
There were a few clouds: the tail-end of trivial conflicts in Central America; the ‘War on Drugs’, the Asian finance crisis in 1997 and the collapse of the Russian economy the following year. Long Term Capital Management followed the Russian economy into the toilet in early 1998 necessitating the first ‘rescue us or else’ mega-bailout of Wall Street. These events were diversionary theater: people who could afford it lost some money, bosses who badly needed new jobs lost theirs. All in all the entire reconfiguration process turned out to be remarkably painless.
Looking back, the notion of final geopolitical resolution was naively optimistic, a quaint artifact of a particular zeitgeist, like Beatle Boots or flip cellphones. What was really happening was the ending of the ending: ancient monsters were not vanquished only hibernating so as to take new forms. Now, when we need it most and want it least, history has stormed out of its coffin like a vengeful, blood-hungry vampire, reminding us all why we wanted to be rid of it in the first place.
Enter the new millennium and (quasi-)liberal democracy and finance capitalism are being shellacked and nobody can figure out why. Extreme events are tripping over each other like – add your favorite cliché here – cheese and macaroni. Radicals are ascendant as the status quo proves unable to prevent the consumption utopia from slipping out of reach. Strategies that once bore fruit are revealed as nonsense; military ‘stimulus’, central bank witch doctoring, austerity, institutionalized discrimination, trivial interest rate- and foreign exchange manipulation. The outcome is credit transfers from those with less to those with everything … and fury. With chaos on one side, dithering on the other, the public turns toward autocrats while societies — particularly across the arc of northern- and central Africa to south Asia — blow apart at the seams, writhing in agony, frantic to escape the vice-like grip of ‘less’ and unmet expectations.
This is the terror that dares not speak its name; not to be engulfed by refugees or shot by militants but forced by desperate necessity to become one! Rage is fear by another name.
Tyrants like Trump and Erdogan (and Clinton) are products of industrial resource capitalism no different from McMansions and automobiles, they are also fetishes. Unlike vicarious pleasure-pussy Taylor Swift, tyrants symbolize power, ruthlessness and control … and increasing surpluses. Their promise to harvest gains by whatever means is the substance of their public appeal. The relationship between tyrant and followers is symbiotic and self-reinforcing. Adherents give form and color to the tyrant’s outline while the tyrant suspends- or outruns institutional restraints, providing the necessary sanction for adherents to act out their own impulses, destructive or otherwise.
The emergence of tyrants like Trump and Erdogan (and Clintons) is suggestive: that technology cannot produce the consumer outcomes we are desperate to preserve. If technology could save us autocrats would not be necessary. They are reductive rather than creative, their first- and last resort is coercion as when governments dragoon pensioners rather than machines to rescue finance.
bloomberg | How does a company lose 69 million customers? Just ask Citigroup Inc.
Once upon a time, about a decade ago, the New York-based bank had a global retail empire stretching from Tokyo to Tegucigalpa. It offered consumer banking in 50 countries, covering half the planet’s land mass, and served 268 million people.
Then a financial crisis, billions of dollars of losses from complicated securities linked to subprime mortgages and a government bailout upended its plans. The bank has since sold or shut retail operations in more than half the countries in which it had a presence, including Guatemala, Egypt and Japan. It reduced the number of branches in the U.S. by more than two-thirds and has gotten out of subprime lending, student loans and life insurance. In the process, it let go about 25 percent of its customers along with more than 40 percent of its workforce.
“Banks are figuring out that providing every product and every service to every client in every country was just wrong,” said Vikram Pandit, who led Citigroup from 2007 to 2012 and used to tout what he called the company’s globality. “So they are unwinding and shedding assets. We’re not close to being done.”
The transformation of Citigroup, and similar changes at HSBC Holdings Plc and other global banks, isn’t just about cutting expenses. It’s also about looking for greater returns by focusing on the richest customers -- high-net-worth individuals, large corporations and institutional investors.
Citigroup says it’s leaner and safer today. But in serving those clients, the bank has bulked up on trading, a business that helped get it into trouble before. It doubled the amount of derivatives contracts it has underwritten since the crisis to $56 trillion. The company, which used to make most of its profit from consumer banking, now gets the majority from corporate and investment banking.
HSBC, which had an even bigger global retail footprint than Citigroup’s and advertised itself as “the world’s local bank,” also has retreated, quitting or planning to get out of consumer banking in more than half the countries it was in and jettisoning 80 million customers. Retail banking’s share of profit has dropped by half as commercial lending and investment banking filled the gap.
skepticalscience | When I give a presentation and mention the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming, I’m often asked, “what’s the deal with the other 3%?”. These are the publishing climate scientists who argue that something other than humans is responsible for the majority of global warming, although their explanations are often contradictory and don’t withstand scientific scrutiny.
A few months ago, the world’s largest private sector coal company went to court, made its best scientific case against the 97% expert consensus, and lost. One of coal’s expert witnesses was University of Alabama at Huntsville climate scientist Roy Spencer - a controversial figure who once compared those with whom he disagreed to Nazis, and has expressed his love for Fox News.
Last week, Spencer wrote a white paper for the Texas Public Policy Institute (TPPI) outlining the contrarian case against climate concerns. TPPI is part of the web of denial, having received substantial funding from both the tobacco and fossil fuel industries, including $65,000 from ExxonMobil and at least $911,499 from Koch-related foundations since 1998, and over $3 million from “dark money” anonymizers Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.
Spencer’s arguments should of course be evaluated on their own merits, regardless of who commissioned them. However, it turns out that they have little merit on which to stand. The white paper is a classic example of a Gish Gallop – producing such a large volume of nonsense arguments that refuting all of them is too time-consuming.
flassbeck-economics | How climate change is rapidly taking the planet apart
‘There are no jokes. The truth is the funniest joke of all.’ Muhammad Ali
Writing up articles on climate change is difficult these days. Last week alone, 46 new papers and reports were published. I am certain that there are many more. The figure only refers to the sources I usually consult. I try to read all abstracts and all articles I find interesting, but sometimes I shy away from it: it is just too depressing. According to Naomi Oreskes, a great number of climate change scientists (she interviewed most of the top 200 climate change scientists in the US) suffer from some sort of mood imbalance or mild or serious depression. It is easy to understand why: we see the climate change taking the planet apart right in front of our eyes. We also clearly see, right in front of us, what urgently needs to done to stave off global disaster on an unprecedented scale. We need carbon taxes and the reconversion of industry and energy towards zero CO2 emissions systems. This route is without any doubt technically and economically feasible, but politically it seems to be permanently locked. If we do not unlock it, the future looks bleak, not to say hopeless, for humankind.
- Data on warming, rain bombs, storms and water vapour feedbacks
NASA recently released data showing that the planet has just seen seven straight months of not just record-breaking, but record-shattering heat (see here). We are well on track to see what will likely be the largest increase in global temperature a single year has ever seen (see here and here). The NASA data show that May was the hottest May ever recorded, as well as the fact that it crushed the previous May record by the largest margin of increase ever recorded. The same is now true for June (see here). That makes it five months in a row that the monthly record has been broken and by the largest margin ever. When record-smashing months started in February, scientists began talking about a “climate emergency.” Since then the situation has only escalated.
The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that this is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be. Changes in extremes, such as higher temperatures and increases in heavy rains and droughts are not related to climate change, they are climate change (see here).
ourfiniteworld | Does it make a difference if our models of energy and the economy are overly simple? I would argue that it depends on what we plan to use the models for. If all we want to do is determine approximately how many years in the future energy supplies will turn down, then a simple model is perfectly sufficient. But if we want to determine how we might change the current economy to make it hold up better against the forces it is facing, we need a more complex model that explains the economy’s real problems as we reach limits. We need a model that tells the correct shape of the curve, as well as the approximate timing. I suggest reading my recent post regarding complexity and its effects as background for this post.
The common lay interpretation of simple models is that running out of energy supplies can be expected to be our overwhelming problem in the future. A more complete model suggests that our problems as we approach limits are likely to be quite different: growing wealth disparity, inability to maintain complex infrastructure, and growing debt problems. Energy supplies that look easy to extract will not, in fact, be available because prices will not rise high enough. These problems can be expected to change the shape of the curve of future energy consumption to one with a fairly fast decline, such as the Seneca Cliff.
It is not intuitive, but complexity-related issues create a situation in which economies need to grow, or they will collapse. See my post, The Physics of Energy and the Economy. The popular idea that we extract 50% of a resource before peak, and 50% after peak will be found not to be true–much of the second 50% will stay in the ground.
Some readers may be interested in a new article that I assisted in writing, relating to the role that price plays in the quantity of oil extracted. The article is called, “An oil production forecast for China considering economic limits.” This article has been published by the academic journal Energy, and is available as a free download for 50 days.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich
wikipedia | Clinton Cash is an investigation of the foreign benefactors of Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. It investigates alleged connections between Clinton Foundation donors and Hillary Clinton’s work at the State Department.
The book argues that the Clinton family accepted lavish donations and speaking fees from foreign donors at times when the State Department was considering whether or not to award large contracts to groups and people affiliated with those donors.
The book is organized into eleven chapters. Some chapters focus on particular transactions or deals, such as the creation of UrAsia Energy and Uranium One in Kazkakhstan, and the connection shareholders had and have to the Clintons. Other chapters focus on a broader set of relationships, particularly with regard to Bill Clinton’s paid speeches during the years Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, and whether those paying for his speeches had significant business before the State Department. Schweizer dubs the Clintons' blend of government service and private remuneration the “Clinton blur.”
libertyblitzkrieg | Political pundits throughout the land are tripping over each other to compose the latest bland, uninsightful screed proclaiming the death of the Republican Party. This makes sense, because the primary purpose of a political pundit is to state the obvious years after it’s already become established fact to everyone actually paying attention.
Yes, of course, Trump winning the GOP nomination marks the end of the party as we know it. After all, some neocons are already publicly and actively throwing their support behind Hillary. While this undoubtably represents a major turning point in U.S. political history, many pundits have yet to appreciate that the exact same thing is happening within the Democratic Party. It’s just not completely obvious yet.
– From February’s post: It’s Not Just the GOP – The Democratic Party is Also Imploding
I believe Hillary Clinton lost the Presidency this past week. While the explosive DNC leaks will undoubtably have a long lasting effect, this post will barely reference the leaks. Rather, it will explain how recent decisions by the Hillary campaign played right into Trump’s hands by essentially waving a gigantic middle finger to the 73% of Americans who think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
What Hillary Clinton did in selecting Tim Kaine as VP was send a clear signal that not only is she the status quo candidate, she is proud of it. She didn’t just double down on being the establishment candidate, she tripled and quadrupled down. There is now no denying that Hillary Clinton is implicitly running on only two themes.
1. Trump is scary. I am not Trump.
2. Things aren’t really bad. I’ll continue along the path we’ve been on.
2. Things aren’t really bad. I’ll continue along the path we’ve been on.
This message will result in a guaranteed loss against an opponent who is telling the American public “I know you’re angry, I’m angry too, and I’m going to blow up the status quo.” Recall that 73% of the U.S. public thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction. As the Wall Street Journal noted:
Some 73% in the new survey say things have gone off-course, with only 18% saying the nation is headed in the right direction.
Numbers such as those are usually seen in times of national crisis, such as during the government shutdown of 2013, when only 14% said the nation was on-course, or during the 2008 financial crisis, when 11% said things were headed in the right direction.
In this post, I will prove that Hillary is signaling a “business as usual” approach to the status quo, and in return, the status quo is uniformly and excitedly rallying around her. This will disgust most Americans and lead to a Trump victory. People who dislike Trump more than Clinton will vote for him anyway, because they dislike the status quo even more.
townhall | The Democrat Party is in chaos after WikiLeaks exposed DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for anti-Bernie Sanders bias during the primary. Wasserman-Schultz announced yesterday she will resign from her post as the head of the DNC when the convention ends Thursday and will promptly join the Clinton campaign.
But the damage WikiLeaks has done to Democrats so far isn't over. According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the website will publish more hacked emails and this time, they'll be about Hillary Clinton and her ongoing private email server scandal.
Julian Assange has made an incredible statement in an interview with ITV. Assange says that Wikileaks, the infamous whistle-blowing website, will soon be publishing documents that contain “enough evidence” for the Department of Justice to indict Hillary Clinton, the expected Democratic nominee.
Team Clinton and the DNC have been in damage control for more than 24 hours now and are blaming the WikiLeaks hack on the Russians, saying it was an attack from President Vladimer Putin on Hillary Clinton in an effort to sabotage her campaign.
Posted by CNu at 7/26/2016 06:40:00 AM
Monday, July 25, 2016
rawstory | CNN commentator Donna Brazile will suspend her ties with the news network as she takes the reins of the Democratic National Committee after the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Politico quoted a CNN spokeswoman, who said via email on Sunday, “With news of Donna Brazile stepping in as interim chair for the Democratic National Committee, CNN and Brazile have mutually agreed to temporarily suspend her contract as a contributor for the network effective immediately. As a valued voice and commentator, CNN will revisit the contract once Brazile concludes her role.”
Brazile will serve as acting DNC chair until a permanent replacement for Wasserman-Schutlz can be selected.
Meanwhile the Clinton campaign released a statement welcoming the ousted DNC chair as an “honorary chair” of her 2016 campaign.
“There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie,” Clinton said, “which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”
In a statement of her own, Wasserman-Schultz said, “I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future. I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory. Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”
The warm relations between Clinton, her staff and Wasserman-Schultz will likely be seen as a poke in the eye to progressives in the Democratic Party, who have long objected to the Florida congresswoman’s close relationship with payday lenders and other policies.
A group of emails hacked from DNC servers and released by Wikileaks painted an unflattering portrait of Wasserman-Schultz’s machinations to undermine the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Now, the campaign and some cyber experts say that they have traced the hacks to Russian sources
consortiumnews | By picking Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton has revealed her true preferences and shown that her move to the left on policy issues during the primaries was simply a tactical move to defeat Bernie Sanders. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. Clinton can talk about caring about the U.S. public, but this choice cuts through the rhetoric. The two politicians to whom she gave serious consideration to choosing as her running mates were Kaine and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. What both men share in common is, like the Clintons, being leaders of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC was, on economic and foreign policy issues, a servile creature of Wall Street – funded by Wall Street.
As Tom Frank’s new book Listen, Liberal documents, the DLC vilified the New Deal, financial and safety regulation, organized labor, the working class, opponents of militarism, opponents of the disastrous trade deals that were actually backdoor assaults on effective health, safety and financial regulation, and the progressive base of the Democratic Party.
The DLC leadership, which included President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, entered into a series of cynical bipartisan deals with the worst elements of the Republican Party, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Wall Street elites that:
- Destroyed Glass-Steagall (the New Deal reform that separated commercial and investment banks)
- Created a massive regulatory “black hole” in financial derivatives that Enron and later the world’s largest banks exploited to run their fraud schemes that led to the Enron-era scandals and the Great Recession
- Drove Brooksley Born from government because she warned about these derivatives and sought to protect us from the coming disaster
- Cut the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) staff by over three-quarters, destroying effective supervision of banks
- Cut the Office of Thrift Supervision’s (OTS) staff by over half, destroying effective supervision of savings and loans such as Countrywide, Washington Mutual (known as WaMu, the largest “bank” failure in U.S. history), and IndyMac. OTS was also supposed to regulate aspects of AIG and Lehman, but had no capacity to do so given the massive staff cuts and its deliberately useless regulatory leaders chosen by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush
Kaine, like Hillary Clinton, has embraced for decades the DLC/’New Democrats’ agenda – meaning they are allies of Wall Street. They embrace a neo-liberal, pro-corporate outlook that has done incredible damage to the vast majority of Americans.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
stuff | Fears Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may be pursuing a Russian agenda with his candidacy have triggered a wave of alarm in the US.
A series of links between Trump's circle of advisers, his policy positions on the future of NATO, his statements of admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin and even the overlap between his supporters and those touting pro-Russia views online have contributed to this view.
The concerns have prompted a series of high-profile American commentators and analysts to suggest Trump may be getting backing from Russia for his US campaign.
Respected publications such as Slate, economist Paul Krugman writing in The New York Times, and The Washington Post have commented on the convergence between Trump's statements and geopolitical positions that Russia has long sought, with worrying implications should Trump become president.
theantimedia | Lurched back and forth in the ever-quickening spiral of an American empire circling the drain, we — as a people — have chosen battle lines on nearly every issue from politics to foreign policy, domestic surveillance to policing.
Thrust back into national focus, the last issue — policing in the U.S. — might even surpass in contention the ongoing race to the White House. And it stands to reason, with the world lashing out against failed globalism in its various nefarious incarnations — largely driven by American exceptionalist military presence nearly everywhere on the planet — the empire sees expediency in heading off a possible insurrection.
To that end, the past fifteen years have seen the initially-surreptitious padding of law enforcement agencies with the tools, gear, vehicles, and — most alarmingly — weapons of war. Because terrorism, said the government, when its more apparent concern had to do with potential dissidents who have grown tired of corruption and the almost wholesale abandonment of constitutional and human rights.
Summoning the peculiar willful ignorance common in Americans’ worship of authority in uniforms — found in the anachronistic hero cop avatar —militarization of police slipped beneath the radars of most, who were instead pleased with the added protection against nebulous terrorist threats in the interest of the safety of the Boys in Blue.
That tacit permission allowed an occupying army to take root — complete with training indistinct from that received by battlefield warriors set for deployment overseas — though no person in a position of ‘authority’ would ever admit to as much. Neglecting vigilance of what amounts to domestic mission creep, we’re reaping a civilian body count previously expected only from military missions.
Worse, the triplicate issues of refusal by police to rein in the Warrior Cop mentality; the near impunity granted by judges and juries, even to the highest courts in the land, when police kill without justification; and the obstinance in Americans’ near infantile refusal to question this Blue authority’s missteps, have cleaved a gulf of division effectually insurmountable at this late date.
Now, those police cum victimizers — the apparent judges, juries, and executioners of the unarmed, the innocent, and the guilty, alike — have opportunistically employed a smattering of backlash attacks on members of their cult of authority to declare war on the people they once swore oaths to protect. False narrative of the oft-promulgated ‘war on cops,’ much less actual facts to the contrary, be damned.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
quillette | The link between sex and dominance has a deep evolutionary history. The perennial battles between males over reproductive access to females fill the annals of natural history, and are explained by evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers’ concept of parental investment.4 According to this concept, the sex that invests most in reproduction (usually females) is more vigorously pursued by the sex that invests least (usually males), leading to more frequent dominance contests among the least investing sex.
Females exhibit a preference for dominant males who can bequeath impeccable genetic pedigrees and material resources to future offspring. As such, we should expect males to increase their sexual response following a victory over a rival in anticipation of increased sexual opportunities. Indeed, as suggested by my graduate research with David Bjorklund, men who are single (and, hence, men for whom the stakes of competition over women are highest) exhibit more sexual interest in women following a victory than a defeat.5 Physiologically, dominance and sex are linked by the male hormone testosterone, as suggested by studies showing higher testosterone levels in men who win than in men who lose, whether in sports6 or politics.7 This function of testosterone is supported by research showing that presidential and congressional elections in the US were followed by increases in pornography consumption in states whose citizens overwhelmingly voted for winning candidates.8 9All of this suggests that social dominance is a common antecedent to sexual behavior. But the influence also goes in the other direction, as is indicated by Imhoff and colleagues’ finding that exposure to sexual material leads to an increase in aggression among sexually narcissistic men.10
gizmodo | If you visit the WikiLeaks DNC emails website, you can browse the emails using a simple boolean search. Typing a word like “contribution” will actually turn up hundreds of results. The emails include unencrypted, plain-text listings of donor emails addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, passport numbers, and credit card information. WikiLeaks proudly announced the data dump in a single tweet.
The new leak is part of the organization’s ongoing Hillary Leaks series, which launched in March as a searchable archive of more than 30,000 emails and attachments sent to and from Clinton’s private email server, while she was Secretary of State. The original email dump included documents from June 2010 to August 2014. The new release includes emails from January 2015 to May 2016.
This isn’t the first time WikiLeaks has recklessly published personal information of innocent civilians, either. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission have previously requested that WikiLeaks remove names of Afghan civilians in 77,000 classified military documents published online. The civilians were (ironically) collateral damage in the same leak that spurred the “Collateral Murder” video obtained by Wikileaks.
Exactly why Wikileaks decided not to redact the private information of unsuspecting Americans remains unclear. We’ve reached out for comment and will update as soon as we hear back.
Friday, July 22, 2016
NYTimes | Artificial intelligence is booming. But why now?
Move over, social media and mobility: Silicon Valley has a next big thing, John Markoff writes , and it’s A.I. and robots. It is useful to think of them as part of the same thing, since many robots are autonomous machines programmed for decision making based on A.I.
The movement can be thought of as a spread of computing intelligence everywhere, on wheels and wings, in your pocket and all through your house. That’s a big enough idea to fund scores of companies, and quite possibly set up the next Silicon Valley boom. And bubble.
Yet it’s worth asking how much of this is reality and how much is wishful thinking. Why is A.I. growing the way it didn’t over the last several decades, despite promises that it would?
The answer to that lies in the precursors to this A.I. moment, which more than anything has to do with the Google-led search boom 10 years ago.
In 2006, Google and Yahoo released new methods of analyzing the quirky real-world data they were picking up from doing search. Data from browsers can be thought of as a proxy for human behavior, as people wander the web. It’s typically called “unstructured” data, as opposed to the more regular information of things like banking and airline schedules that filled most of the world’s databases.
That new way of seeing the real world helped make search profitable and also enabled companies like Facebook to look into even stranger social behavior. The success also gave these companies plenty of money to plow into the problem.
To money, and the first ever caches of natural behavior in digital form, add cheaper computing. In 2006, Amazon also introduced its cloud-computing business. Over the last decade, retail cloud computing has become an inexpensive way for lots of people to work on data analysis and pattern finding, the heart of A.I.
Only one more thing was needed, and in 2007 Apple came out with the iPhone. Let that stand for browser-type natural data collection moving off desktops and blowing through the natural world. Along with other cheap sensors tied to the cloud, it has given us huge amounts of data about all sorts of things.
That created many more places where computers could do what they’ve always done, which is to seek efficiency. That has created a cycle:more observation, more machine learning of patterns, more value capture funding more observation.
It’s enough to make you believe in this boom.
What could make you believe it’s also a bubble? Start with the name, artificial intelligence. So far there is zero evidence we will be about to build machines that possess intelligence or will really think on their own. If big money goes into that stuff, run for the hills.
wired | In essence the system has been created to respond to the demand that is being put on it and reduce the amount of electricity needed when it is possible to do so.
Suleyman's Dougal team – a division of DeepMind building projects for direct use within Google – created the algorithms using deep neural networks. The network type aims to mimic the functionalities of the brain and have been used in everything from creating an artificial Donald Trump to treating serious diseasessuch as Alzheimer's.
The DeepMind team collected five years worth of data collected by data centres and created a prediction model for how much energy would be needed by the data centre based on the amount of server usage that was likely. Each neural network was fed data on temperatures, power usage, pump speeds and more.
By using the large data sets, the machine learning was able to be "trained" and retain more examples of how the centres' work than a human would be able to.
"Conventionally a human manually tweaks a lot of the knobs that control the operation of the data centre," Suleyman explained. "There's obviously a lot of variation in performance across all the data centres because each human performs quite different."
When controlling a running data centre, in recent months, Google said the AI was able to "consistently achieve a 40 per cent reduction in the amount of energy used for cooling".
The algorithms created were to be a general learning artificial intelligence. This means it may be possible to apply it to other scenarios. "There's lots of other applications outside of Google," Suleyman said.
"We think there's lots of potential to apply this to large scale energy distribution, so we're giving it some thought and are in early discussions with a number of people on that."
Posted by CNu at 7/22/2016 07:19:00 AM
wired | First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.
If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can’t make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand over all the power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better results than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.
On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite – just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or make them “sublimate” their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they will most certainly not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.1
In the book, you don’t discover until you turn the page that the author of this passage is Theodore Kaczynski – the Unabomber.
disinfo | One of the quirks of evolution is that not every member of any particular species has to evolve in the same way. Or at all. Because of this, we can look through the flotilla of species that still exist and see examples of aggregation at all stages that weren’t so unstable as to be weeded out. We still have single-celled creatures with no concern or moderation with respect to others of their kind or their environment, many of which we classify as diseases. We have single-celled creatures that communicate chemically and cooperate toward common goals, like the microbes in our intestines that we count on for proper digestion. We have colonial organisms, like salps and corals and sponges, where every piece of the organism is basically identical. And then we have a couple of lovely slime molds. (See the transcript of Paco Nathan’s talk at the Parallax View conference in Austin, TX, Oct 22, 2000.) These deserve special mention because they’re basically free-swimming amoebas when the water is high and food is plentiful — but when resources get low, they Voltron themselves into a slug (grex is an awesome word — look it up) with differentiated tissues. With a reproductive system. With fruiting bodies. And spores. And when resources become plentiful again, all the little amoebas dissolve away from one another, shake pseudopods, and go their separate ways.
You see that in humans, too. Wealthy and comfortable people treasure their independence. The oppressed and fearful and poor band together to support one another, pool resources, and defend the territory. Check the membership demographics for the popular politic parties. Conduct an analysis of variance on functional levels of human and civil rights and economic status with respect to platform planks regarding lower taxes and individual property rights versus higher taxes and pooled-resource programs and I’m pretty sure you’ll see the math support what I’m saying. In just about any species, ecological factors like reduced food and water and the perception of external threats can increase social behavior tremendously. Why else would apex predators — animals whose only competitors are one another — band together at all?
Thursday, July 21, 2016
thearchdruidreport | There’s plenty more that could be said here about the details of the Rescue Game and the narrative of race derived from it, but at this point I’d like to consider three broader issues. The first is the relation between the game and the narrative, on the one hand, and the realities of racism in today’s America. I don’t doubt that some readers of this essay will insist that by questioning the narrative, I’m trying to erase the reality. Not so. Racial privilege, racial prejudice, and racial injustice are pervasive factors in American life today. The fact that the approved narrative of race in today’s America is deceptive and dysfunctional doesn’t make racism any less real; on the other hand, the fact that American racism is a stark reality doesn’t make the narrative any less deceptive and dysfunctional.
The second issue I’d like to consider is whether the same game is played on other playing fields, and the answer is yes. I first encountered the concept of the Rescue Game, in fact, by way of a pamphlet lent to my wife by her therapist sister-in-law, which used it as the basis for an edgy analysis of class conflicts within the lesbian community. From there to the literature on transactional analysis was a short step, and of course it didn’t hurt that I lived in Seattle in those years, where every conceivable form of the Rescue Game could be found in full swing. (The most lively games of “Circular Firing Squad” in town were in the Marxist splinter parties, which I followed via their monthly newspapers; the sheer wallowing in ideological minutiae that went into identifying this or that party member as a deviationist would have impressed the stuffing out of medieval scholastic theologians.)
With impressive inevitability, in fact, every question concerning privilege in today’s America gets turned into a game of “Pin the Tail on the Persecutor,” in which one underprivileged group is blamed for the problems affecting another underprivileged group, and some group of affluent white people show up to claim the Rescuer’s role. That, in turn, leads to the third issue I want to consider here, which is the question of who benefits most from the habit of forcing all discussion of privilege in today’s America into the straitjacket of the Rescue Game.
It’s only fair to note that each of the three roles gets certain benefits, though these are distributed in a very unequal fashion. The only thing the people who are assigned the role of Persecutor get out of it is plenty of negative attention. Sometimes that’s enough—it’s a curious fact that hating and being hated can function as an intoxicant for some people—but this is rarely enough of an incentive to keep those assigned the Persecutor’s role willing to play the game for long.
The benefits that go to people who are assigned the role of Victim are somewhat more substantial. Victims get to air their grievances in public, which is a rare event for the underprivileged, and they also get to engage in socially sanctioned bullying of people they don’t like, which is an equally rare treat. That’s all they get, though. In particular, despite reams of the usual rhetoric about redressing injustices and the like, the Victims are not supposed to do anything, or to expect the Rescuers to do anything, to change the conditions under which they live. The opportunities to air grievances and bully others are substitutes for substantive change, not—as they’re usually billed—steps toward substantive change.
The vast majority of the benefits of the game, rather, go to the Rescuers. They’re the ones who decide which team of Victims will get enough attention from Rescuers to be able to start a game. They’re the ones who enforce the rules, and thus see to it that Victims keep on being victimized and Persecutors keep on persecuting. Nor is it accidental that in every Rescue Game, the people who get the role of Rescuers are considerably higher on the ladder of social privilege than the people who get given the roles of Victims and Persecutors.
Step back and look at the whole picture, and it’s not hard to see why this should be so. At any given time, after all, there are many different Rescue Games in play, with affluent white people always in the role of Rescuers and an assortment of less privileged groups alternating in the roles of Victims and Persecutors. Perhaps, dear reader, you find it hard to imagine why affluent white people would want to keep everyone else so busy fighting one another that they never notice who benefits most from that state of affairs. Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you that giving the underprivileged the chance to air their grievances and engage in a little socially sanctioned bullying is a great deal less inconvenient for the affluent than actually taking action to improve the lives of the underprivileged would be. Such thoughts seemingly never enter the minds of most Americans; I’ll leave it to you to figure out why.
rutherford | America is a ticking time bomb.
All that remains to be seen is who—or what—will set fire to the fuse.
We are poised at what seems to be the pinnacle of a manufactured breakdown, with police shooting unarmed citizens, snipers shooting police, global and domestic violence rising, and a political showdown between two presidential candidates equally matched in unpopularity.
The preparations for the Republican and Democratic national conventions taking place in Cleveland and Philadelphia—augmented by a $50 million federal security grant for each city—provide a foretaste of how the government plans to deal with any individual or group that steps out of line: they will be censored, silenced, spied on, caged, intimidated, interrogated, investigated, recorded, tracked, labeled, held at gunpoint, detained, restrained, arrested, tried and found guilty.
For instance, anticipating civil unrest and mass demonstrations in connection with the Republican Party convention, Cleveland officials set up makeshift prisons, extra courtrooms to handle protesters, and shut down a local university in order to house 1,700 riot police and their weapons. The city’s courts are preparing to process up to 1,000 people a day. Additionally, the FBI has also been conducting “interviews” with activists in advance of the conventions to discourage them from engaging in protests.
Make no mistake, the government is ready for a civil uprising.
Indeed, the government has been preparing for this moment for years.
A 2008 Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report goes on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”
Subsequent reports by the Department of Homeland Security to identify, monitor and label right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) have manifested into full-fledged pre-crime surveillance programs. Almost a decade later, after locking down the nation and spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS has concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.
Meanwhile, the government has been amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.
Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that is colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts.
All of this has taken place right under our noses, funded with our taxpayer dollars and carried out in broad daylight without so much as a general outcry from the citizenry.
It’s astounding how convenient we’ve made it for the government to lock down the nation.
We’ve even allowed ourselves to be acclimated to the occasional lockdown of government buildings, Jade Helm military drills in small towns so that special operations forces can get “realistic military training” in “hostile” territory, and Live Active Shooter Drill training exercises, carried out at schools, in shopping malls, and on public transit, which can and do fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers and bystanders into thinking it’s a real crisis.
The events of recent years—the invasive surveillance, the extremism reports, the civil unrest, the protests, the shootings, the bombings, the military exercises and active shooter drills, the color-coded alerts and threat assessments, the fusion centers, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, the distribution of military equipment and weapons to local police forces, the government databases containing the names of dissidents and potential troublemakers—have all conjoined to create an environment in which “we the people” are more distrustful and fearful of each other and more reliant on the government to keep us safe.
Of course, that’s the point.
The powers-that-be want us to feel vulnerable.
They want us to fear each other and trust the government’s hired gunmen to keep us safe from terrorists, extremists, jihadists, psychopaths, etc.