A Mueller’s Dozen

Trump invites Putin to come to Washington?

I can see the wheels turning now in the President’s brilliant mind. First build up the meeting with promises of reconciliation on Ukraine and Syria. Maybe even a chance to interview McFaul. Then ask Putin to bring twelve friends. Then not just any twelve friends, but those twelve friends.

Can you see the scene at the airport when Mueller sweeps in to arrest all thirteen of them?

White-Washing

Paula White, one of Trump’s “spiritual advisors,” claims that refugees that break the law are not entitled to the same empathy given to the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt with the infant Jesus. White goes so far as to claim:

If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah.

The entire Old Testament is the history of how the seminal grace of Abraham’s covenant was subjugated by temporal authority. Jesus came to liberate the covenant, responding to “Are you king of the Jews?” with the simple plea:

You: say I am.

This is to remind us that true authority does not come from man-made laws and institutional arrangements. It comes from loving unconditionally. It comes from being willing to surrender your entire being to bring grace to those you cherish. Only the beloved can grant that authority.

Dear Mrs. White: run, don’t walk. You have taken up company with the anti-Christ.

 

Are We Alone?

Universe Today summarizes a study that concludes that we are probably the only “advanced” civilization in our galaxy.

The result is reached under assumptions of materialism: intelligence is an emergent quality of large brains. Large brains arise from biological evolution, which requires certain chemical conditions on the host planet (water, minerals and carbon in narrow proportions) and stability of the star about which it revolves.

Of course, what I propose here is that intelligence is the play of ideas between souls, and the brain is only an interface. On vastly larger scales, galaxies are civilizations. They just evolve new forms more slowly than we do – which makes us incredibly dangerous.

But galaxies “think”, and store experience. I trust that we’ll know whether we’re alone when we’re mature enough to receive the answer.

Tyranny Vanquished by Love

Listening to “Once and For All” this morning, I was moved to reconsider this post. It seems particularly meaningful at this time, as Donald Trump collapses under the pressures of the justice marshaled by Robert Mueller and others.

everdeepening

As an advocate of the healing manifested in the world through divine love – that is to say, as an apologist – the most painful apology is that offered by those that justify violence in the defense of received truth.

In modern America, those justifications are flavored with desperation. For many years, Christian culture was synonymous with the dominant Caucasian culture. The twenty-first century promises an end to that dominance, but that eventuality was clearly forecast in the last century. The misguided hope that change and accommodation can be avoided breeds irrationality, manifested in the religious extremism that spawned death-threats against doctors that prescribe chemical abortions or that drives parents to resist education in evolutionary biology. Fundamentalism bred in the military, where “Warriors for Christ” sometimes coerce religious conduct in their subordinates, and issue death threats against leaders in organizations (such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation) that oppose that…

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There is No ‘Learn’

Zayd Enam at Stanford University has posted an accessible discussion of why developers struggle to perfect artificial intelligence systems. The key point is that patrons of AI development aren’t willing to build an algorithm and turn it loose on the world. They expect the algorithm to be trained against a set of representative inputs, and the responses evaluated to assure that the frequency and severity of improper responses poses tolerable risk.

This is not a new principle. Auto manufacturers model collisions to identify “worst case” scenarios where structural elements will interact to kill passengers that would normally have survived the initial collision. They balance the likelihood of these scenarios to produce the “safest car possible.” In most cases, auto safety systems (air bags, crumple zones) will save lives, but in some cases they will kill.

It’s not evil, it’s unavoidable.

The problem with AI is that it assumes control of decision making. In an auto accident, human beings make the decisions that result in the accident. The decisions are made with a rapidity that is perceptible to other drivers, who presumable can take action to protect themselves. This happens every day.

Of course, we’ve all seen a texting teenager drive through an intersection on the red when cars start moving with the green left-turn arrow. Situations like these – accidents generated by inattention or stupidity – are easily preventable by tireless digital components whose only job is to monitor for specific errors. If traffic signals had been installed as part of the internet of things, that could be done without artificial intelligence: the timing system could broadcast the signal state through the vehicle sensors, which would prevent the front car from moving. But since that system is not in place, engineers use AI to interpret camera pictures to determine the state of the lights. Obviously the AI algorithms must be at least equal to the judgment of a attentive human driver, which means that the correctness standard must be high.

But the motivation for the development of the AI systems is the inattentive teenager.

The more dangerous class of AI applications are those running in environments that humans cannot perceive at all. Obvious cases are industrial control (dangerous conditions) and electronic stock trading (high speed). The motivation here is profit, pure and simple. When an opportunity presents itself, the speed and precision of the response is paramount. Conversely, however, when the algorithm acts in error, that error is compounded more rapidly than humans can intervene.

Again, this is not new: in the 1700s, the British crown commissioned governors to manage its far-flung empire, and could control abuse of that authority only through the exchange of letters delivered by ships. In that situation, power was distributed and compartmentalized: the thirteen American colonies had governors and parliamentary bodies to resist executive misdeeds.

This is also the approach taken with training of natural learning systems: children. We don’t give children absolute authority over their lives. In fact, wise parents extend such authority only gradually as competency is demonstrated.

This is an approach to the problem of developing and deploying AI systems. No single system should be deployed on its own. Instead, they should be deployed in communities, with a managerial algorithm that polls the proposed actions and allows implementation only when consensus exists. The results are fed back into the training system, and the polling weighted towards the most effective algorithms. When a Newton or Einstein arises from the community – an AI system that always produces the best result – only then is absolute authority conferred.

Until the system changes. For example, a robot housekeeper may operate on high power until a baby is brought home, and then be forced back into low-power mode until it has adapted to the presence of the unpredictable element brought into its demesne.

Phase Change

I’ve spent my life ignoring the fear that predators generate, offering love as a win-win alternative. But – being in the mode of fear – predators are good at simulation of it, and have taken up the strategy of marshaling social hostility by pretending to fear.

Predators operate in the brain stem. Yesterday, I decided to push them out. I have turned all the psychological discipline that allows me to create beauty in the face of anger, and isolated them in the lower part of my personality.

I now confidently traverse the places they have tried to ward against me, and upon encountering them in person offer a cheery “Good morning!” My mind is clear of the thoughts that they cultivated to justify their enmity.

Woken early this morning, I turned my focus on them – primitive personalities trapped in the amber of my will – and extended its boundaries, out to the criminal enterprise that has occupied the White House and the Kremlin, cauterizing the fear.

We’ll see where this goes now.