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Concerning the Future — black swans & white

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — in concern, yes — and hope ]
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timeline-with-swans-sm

I know which I’d choose — but I can’t speak for the powers that be (Ephesians 6.12 included).

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Here’s a paragraph from David Barno and Nora Bensahel, The Future of the Army: Today, Tomorrow, and the Day After Tomorrow:

Some future developments can be predicted, but others will be unexpected and unforeseen. “Black swans” —- unpredictable events with very serious consequences — will be as inevitable then as they have been in the past.105 In 2000, for example, no analyst could have possibly foreseen all of today’s disparate security challenges—the 9/11 attacks, the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS, a resurgent Russia annexing Crimea and threatening neighbors with force, and China building artificial islands in the South China Sea from which to project power, among others. Unpredicted and unpredictable events will indubitably disrupt sober defense planning and could shift US defense priorities in an instant — especially if there were a nuclear exchange overseas or if a weapon of mass destruction were used against the homeland.

**

I’m somewhat sceptical of the polling methodology used by the Lincoln Leadership Initiative to generate these conclusions reported by The Hill:

Among those who say they will vote for Trump, 48 percent say he’ll create a database to track Muslims? 36 percent say there will be race riots? 33 percent say the government would default on its debt? and 32 percent say Trump would punish his political opponents and authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.

Only 22 percent of Trump supporters believe he will start a nuclear war.

Whatever the reliability of the poll — and I’ve asked — it seems clear that at least some potential voters believe Donald Trump, if elected president, might use nuclear weapons, perhaps in the fight against ISIS.

I’d call the database, the race riots and the debt default that Barno and Bensahel mentiom black cygnets at best, but the prospect of nuclear war almost qualifies IMO as a full-on black swan — and I’d refer you back to the final sentence of the Barno-Bensahel quote above:

Unpredicted and unpredictable events will indubitably disrupt sober defense planning and could shift US defense priorities in an instant — especially if there were a nuclear exchange overseas or if a weapon of mass destruction were used against the homeland.

**

Barno-Bensahel sat they would consider a nuclear exchange a black swan in their chapter on 2020-2035, whereas Trump’s first term, if he were to be elected president, would barely touch the beginning o0f that range — so that particular black swan, if it is one, might conceivably occur quite soon.

But note that word “conceivable” — a true black swan, to my way of thinking, would be something that hadn’t even occurred as a possibility to forward thinking folks like David Barno — indeed not even, with all due respect, to John Robb.

And Barno-Bensahel predict out to 2040.

**

My own predictive vision as a student of wisdom literature and propecies of various kinds shows me the following timeline:

timeline-with-swans

It goes without saying that I could be wrong — a whiter shade of swan might make all the difference.

My latest fiction, aptly titled “No Clue”

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the lack of advance scheduling for black swans is a recurring theme for my futurizing self ]
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August Cole — co-author with PW Singer of Ghost Fleet — just posted my most recent fiction at the Art of the Future site:

Charles Cameron’s “No Clue” is a finalist entry in the Atlantic Council Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security Global Trends 2035 creative contest that called for writers to explore the technologies, trends and themes that will shape the world two decades from now. He is a multiple finalist in past contests for his stories “News Enhancement In An Info Overloaded Age” and “War In Heaven.” Progenitor of the game Sembl, he can be found on Twitter @hipbonegamer and writing at Zenpundit.com.

My piece begins:

I shall lie quietly under the greensward by 2035, either oblivious, deep into my next incarnation, or something close to omniscient. Oblivion offers the near certainty of being right about the future, but lacks communications skills, so I won’t linger there. From the point of view of my next incarnation, finding myself once again a yak herder in Nepal — yaks haven’t changed much since my grandfather’s day, and his grandfather’s day before him – may I offer you a bowl of tsampa and butter tea? So that leaves us with semi- or quasi-omniscience.

Time — previously a Torah-like scroll with the far past rolled up and vanishing on the left just as the future unspools and becomes present, legible, then recent, on the right – is now laid out in all its simultaneity and glory in the Museum of Timeless Reality. Walking up and down it, noting the Art of Future Warfare challenge of 2016 and inquisitively visiting 2035 to see what unfolded over the timespan between them, I’m grateful for the tweaknology that permits me to select 2016 as my point of origin and observe in broad outline the probability tree across a 19 year spread from there.

**

August has very nicely presented my entry in the magazine-style issuu format, meaning that if you click below and bring it up to your appropriate viewing size, you can then flip through my 8 pages as though you were reading a magazine.

Kudos and thanks, August!

Enjoy!

Big Ideas and MediaGlyphs

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Mad Scientist asks, John Robb responds]
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Today’s call and response comes to me via two blog posts that followed one another in my RSS feed — in the reverse order to the one I read them in. I’ve straightened that out so response now follows call for your convenience.

From Max Brooks (World War Z) lecturing for the Army’s 2016 “Mad Scientist” initiative:

One of the US government’s biggest challenges today, particularly in the context of military issues, is its inability to communicate big ideas to the American people .. This has caused a significant portion of the population to disengage from government, including and especially from the military .. It may take several decades to reverse the trend ..

There’s more there in the report at the Atlantic Council‘s Art of the Future blog, as Brooks discusses particular big ideas that need communicating — but it’s the communication issue itself that caught my eye.

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So how does communication happen most powerfully in todays media environment?

Here are a few points from John Robb‘s thoughts on that very question, posted today at Global Guerrillas. First, a sample of what’s commonly known as an internet meme, but which John would prefer to call a MediaGlyph — his candidate for the punchiest mode of delivery:

And now his comments under the header All Hail The MediaGlyph, The New King of Political Communications:

Successful mediaglyphs blanket social networks, often going viral to reach tens of millions of viewers in days as they are rapidly with an ever expanding network of friends.

Collectively, mediaglyphs generate tens of millions of impressions an hour. Several orders of magnitude (100x) more than any other form of political communication.

Unlike TV, Print, and most forms of online communication, mediaglyphs are built for consumption on smartphones and visual modes of social networking. They are also built for speedy consumption, providing a quick emotional hit in comparison to a long winded article with an uncertain payoff.

Nothing other form of political communications compare.

Mediaglyphs are one of ways online conflict, in this case political conflict, is being fought. These online wars are occurring everywhere, all the time, at every level. They are deciding the future.

That’s why I’m writing a new book called as a natural follow on to my previous book: Brave New War:

The War Online: How Conflicts are Fought and Won on Social Networks

I look forward to reviewing John’s book, which will no doubt get into some detail not easily stated in a single MediaGlyph — my guess, however, is that John’s text will itself be a terrific mine for glyphs, given his obvious delight in short, quotable one-sentence paragraphs.

About those angels hiding in the wings & winds

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — John Donne, Kepler, and the transition from natural philosophy to science — & beyond ]
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Here’s a DoubleQuote for you:

Donne Keppler DQ

This isn’t futuristic strategy, but it is futures thinking.

There was an extraordinary transition that took place when natural philosophy morphed into science, and while I’ve quoted John Donne’s four amazing words “round earth’s imagin’d corners” [upper panel, above] often enough as illustrating both worldviews as though seen through a conceptual equivalent of binocular vision, it was only recently via 3QD that I came across Kepler’s illustration of the elliptical orbit of Mars with its remarkable combination of angels and geometrical precision.

I would argue that we are at the beginning of another such trasformation, in which the “horizontal” imaginative (imaginal, image-making, magical), intuitive (irrational), creative (leaping, analogical, cross-disciplinary) mode of perception will again be integrated in some new and transformative manner with the “vertical” linear, numeric-verbal, logical (rational) mode that at present so fascinates our culture — the conscious mode of thinking through with the unconscious mode of revelatory insight.

If it is indeed the case — as suggested by the failure of Aristotelian either-or logic to support the niceties of the world seen from a quantum mechanical perspective — that we are entering a transition to a stereoscopic worldview that finally harmonizes the sciences with the arts and humanities, then a clear understanding of the earlier transition represented above in the two panels, one from Donne’s poems, one from Kepler’s treatise, will be an invaluable guide to what lies ahead.

**

Sources:

  • John Donne, At the round earth’s imagin’d corners
  • James Blachowicz, There Is No Scientific Method
  • **

    Edited to add:

    For an in-depth account of salient aspects of that first transformation, see Ioan Couliano‘s great book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.

    Towards the urgent development of the artificial kidney

    Saturday, June 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — setting aside my personal interest, there’s a humanitarian / religious angle here ]
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    The atrocities described in the lower panel add urgency to the medical development described in the upper panel:

    kidney transplants

    Sources:

  • Kurzweil AI, Wearable artificial kidney prototype successfully tested
  • Daily Mail, China is forcing up to 90,000 prisoners to have organs removed
  • **

    I took note of the Kurzweil announcement in the upper panel above, because I’m due for some form of kidney dialysis myself — and the new report on Chinese harvesting of religious prisoners’ marketable organs, Bloody Harvest / The Slaughter, because I’m interested in Falun Gong and other religious movements in China that are under intense pressure from the Chinese authorities.

    Here are a couple of excerpts from the 680-page report:

    The narrative of pursuit, arrest, torture, and, in several cases, execution, illustrates that Falun Gong was putting up an increasingly effective resistance – even as the state’s structure of persecution was spinning out of control, and shedding any remaining inhibitions surrounding the mass exploitation of Falun Gong for their organs. The “self-immolation” of Falun Gong practitioners on Tiananmen Square is also examined in detail, with the conclusion that it was not only a set-up but a masterstroke of state propaganda.

    What emerges is a picture of an organ harvesting regime that began giving discreet physical examinations of select Falun Gong practitioners in late 2000/early 2001, expanding into mass examinations (including Tibetan prisoners of conscience and the House Christian group “Eastern Lightning”) by 2003, and an organ harvesting regime wasn’t even being kept fully secret within the Laogai System by 2005

    It’s worth noting that the Uyghur Muslims are caught up in the same situations, too.

    **

    Putting the two halves of this puzzle together — one of the aspects of the harvesting of organs from Chinese religious dissidents is that it attracts what the publishers of the report term organ tourism:

    Governments should enact measures to criminalize the purchase of trafficked organs at home or abroad. They could also require reporting of ‘organ tourism’, ban entry of those involved in trafficking organs, and prohibit their pharmaceutical companies from doing transplant field tests and clinical trials in China.

    The idea of extending one’s life by receiving the transplanted organ of a prisoner separated out for religious reasons and then killed to supply the tourist organ market is both deeply human, in the sense of serving the individual’s survival, and deeply abhorrent and inhuman, as (effectively) a paid enticement to mass murder.

    **

    At one point, the report says:

    Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, began in May 1992 with the teachings of Li Hongzhi. The two Davids [co-authors of the report] have described Falun Gong as a set of exercises with a spiritual and ethical foundation. Ethan Gutmann in The Slaughter states: “Falun Gong, simply put, is a Buddhist revival movement.”

    Saying Falun Gong is “simply put .. a Buddhist revival movement” is a bit simplistic itself, though. Here’s an excerpt of a Time magazine article from 1999 — it appeared in the world edition, but not I think in the US — in which Li Hongzhi explains a major aspect of his concern about where the human race is heading:

    The aliens come from other planets. The names that I use for these planets are different . Some are from dimensions that human beings have not yet discovered. The key is how they have corrupted mankind. Everyone knows that from the beginning until now, there has never been a development of culture like today. Although it has been several thousand years, it has never been like now.

    The aliens have introduced modern machinery like computers and airplanes. They started by teaching mankind about modern science, so people believe more and more science, and spiritually, they are controlled. Everyone thinks that scientists invent on their own when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens. In terms of culture and spirit, they already control man. Mankind cannot live without science.

    The ultimate purpose is to replace humans. If cloning human beings succeeds, the aliens can officially replace humans. Why does a corpse lie dead, even though it is the same as a living body? The difference is the soul, which is the life of the body. If people reproduce a human person, the gods in heaven will not give its body a human soul. The aliens will take that opportunity to replace the human soul and by doing so they will enter earth and become earthlings.

    When such people grow up, they will help replace humans with aliens. They will produce more and more clones. There will no longer be humans reproduced by humans. They will act like humans, but they will introduce legislation to stop human reproduction.

    I’m pretty sure the Falun Gong people worry the Chinese central authorities because they’re a substantial quasi-millennial sect that’s only too reminiscent of the Taiping sect of the mid-nineteenth century, whose rebellion the government of the day eventually put down at a total cost of somewhere between 20 and 30 million lives. throw in ~150 years’ worth of advances in weaponry, communications media and population size, and the head honchos wouldn’t like to see how wildly destructive a 2000 or 2020 repeat might get!


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