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I do so hate it when people speak foreign

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the Pakistani politician Imran Khan and Alec Station’s Mike Scheuer think (somewhat) alike ]
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I do so hate it when people speak foreign, and am happy when bilinguals tweet the relevant quotes in regular language:

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Imran Khan, who is being quoted from this interview as saying “George Washington was a terrorist for the English & freedom fighter for Americans” is a Pakistani cricketer (captain of the team that won the 1992 World Cup, and credited with 3807 runs batting and 362 wickets bowling in Test matches) turned politician (founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party which governs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the North West Frontier Province) — and philanthropist (founder of a cancer hospital, and more).

Comparisons, they say, are odious — and you may well think it odious to compare Osama bin Laden with George Washington.

What, though, if the comparison is between Imran Khan and Michael Scheuer, who in the runup to 9/11 was the chief of Alec Station (ie the CIA’s Bin Laden Issue Station). In his first book, Through our Enemies’ Eyes, published anonymously in 2002, Scheuer wrote:

I think we in the United States can best come to grips with this phenomena by realizing that bin Laden’s philosophy and actions have embodied many of the same sentiments that permeate the underpinnings of concepts on which the United States itself is established. This can be illustrated, I think, with reference to the writings or actions of such seminal figures in our history as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine.

and:

Bin Laden’s character, religious certainty, moral absolutism, military ferocity, integrity, and all-or-nothing goals are not much different from those of individuals whom we in the United States have long identified and honored as religious, political, or military heroes, men such as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine. I do not argue that these are exact analogies, but only that they are analogies that seemed pertinent as I researched bin Laden.

and again, specifically:

A final analogy I found useful in thinking about Osama bin Laden in a context pertinent … Professor John L. Esposito drew me to this analogy in his fine book The Islamic Threat. Myth or Reality?, as did the editors of the respected Pakistani newspaper Nawa-i-Wakt. In his book, Esposito warned that when Americans automatically identify Islamist individuals and groups as terrorists, they forget the “heroes of the American Revolution were rebels and terrorists for the British Crown,” while the editors of Nawa-i-Waqt lamented that “it is unfortunate that the United States, which obtained its independence through a [revolutionary] movement is calling Muslim freedom fighters [a] terrorist organization.”

Like him or not as he currently presents himself and his opinions, Scheuer was plausibly the person best situated to explain bin Laden to an American audience back in 2002 — and today’s Imran Khan and yesterday’s Michael Scheuer seem to have a major analogy for assessing & explaining bin Laden in common…

“One Single” vs “Every Single”

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — in courtroom and intel agency, the same problem ]
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Tablet DQ All or Just One

It’s an issue for the defense — both against criminal prosecution and terrorist attack — the defense needs to win 100%, the attack only needs to succeed once.

I’d seen the counterterrorism version quite a few times, though I didn’t know until today that it originated with a press release from the IRA — but this is the first time I’d seen the same sort of idea put forward by a defense lawyer, and again, the resemblance presented in this DoubleQuote shows me there’s a pattern I should be on the lookout for.

Sources:

  • Netflix, Making a Murderer, episode 4
  • Warfare Evolution Blog, Defeating 3rd generation warfare
  • Go googled, GBG still to go: 1

    Friday, March 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — games, games, games — & prepping a challenge for AI, the analytic community & CNA ]
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    playing go
    Playing go, Hasegawa, Settei, 1819-1882, Library of Congress

    **

    In the past, computers have won such games as Pong and Space Invaders:

    Google’s AI system, known as AlphaGo, was developed at DeepMind, the AI research house that Google acquired for $400 million in early 2014. DeepMind specializes in both deep learning and reinforcement learning, technologies that allow machines to learn largely on their own. Previously, founder Demis Hassabis and his team had used these techniques in building systems that could play classic Atari videos games like Pong, Breakout, and Space Invaders. In some cases, these system not only outperformed professional game players. They rendered the games ridiculous by playing them in ways no human ever would or could. Apparently, this is what prompted Google’s Larry Page to buy the company.

    Wired, Google’s Go Victory Is Just a Glimpse of How Powerful AI Will Be

    I can’t corral all the games they’ve played into a single, simple timeline here, because the most interesting discussion I’ve seen is this clip, which moves rapidly from Backgammon via Draughts and Chess to this last few days’ Go matches:

    Jeopardy should dfinitely be included somewhere in there, though:

    Facing certain defeat at the hands of a room-size I.B.M. computer on Wednesday evening, Ken Jennings, famous for winning 74 games in a row on the TV quiz show, acknowledged the obvious. “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords,” he wrote on his video screen, borrowing a line from a “Simpsons” episode.

    NYT, Computer Wins on ‘Jeopardy!’: Trivial, It’s Not

    What’s up next? It seems that suggestions included Texas Hold’em Poker and the SAT:

    Artificial intelligence experts believe computers are now ready to take on more than board games. Some are putting AI through the ringer with two-player no-limit Texas Hold’ Em poker to see how a computer fairs when it plays against an opponent whose cards it can’t see. Others, like Oren Etzioni at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, are putting AI through standardized testing like the SATs to see if the computers can understand and answer less predictable questions.

    LA Times, AlphaGo beats human Go champ for the third straight time, wins best-of-5 contest

    And of course, there’s Rock, Paper, Scissors, which you can still play on the New York Times:

    Rock Paper Scissors

    **

    Now therefore:

    In a follow-up post I want to present what in my view is a much tougher game-challenge to AI than any of the above, namely Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game, which is a major though not entirely defined feature of his Nobel-winning novel, Das Glasperlenspiel, also known in English as The Glass Bead Game or Magister Ludi.

    I believe a game such as my own HipBone variant on Hesse’s would not only make a fine challenge for AI, but also be of use in broadening the skillset of the analytic community, and a suitable response also to the question recently raised on PaxSIMS: Which games would you suggest to the US Navy?

    As I say, though, this needs to be written up in detail as it applies to each of those three projects — work is in progress, see you soon.

    **

    Edited to add:

    And FWIW, this took my breath away. From The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Google’s AI Play Go:

    At first, Fan Hui thought the move was rather odd. But then he saw its beauty.

    “It’s not a human move. I’ve never seen a human play this move,” he says. “So beautiful.” It’s a word he keeps repeating. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

    The move in question was the 37th in the second game of the historic Go match between Lee Sedol, one of the world’s top players, and AlphaGo, an artificially intelligent computing system built by researchers at Google.

    Now that’s remarkable, that gives me pause.

    Point counter point: Aaron Zelin & Phillip Smyth

    Sunday, February 21st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a simple jeu d’esprit ]
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    It’s actually rather sweet, and possibly a matter of GMTA, but Aaron Zelin and Dan Byman both favor a word I’m fond of myself: archipelago.

    SPEC DQ Zelin Byman

    **

    Aaron noted the commonalities of topic and phrasing, and tweeted:

    to which Phillip Smyth responded:

    **

    Phillip’s example of imitation / flattery involves a pun on the name of the Prophet’s first battle, that of Badr:

    SPEC DQ Smyth George

    **

    Please note that there is absolutely nothing to be gained from these juxtapositions but sheer delight — there’s no “actionable intelligence” therein — yet two extremely sharp analysts nevertheless find them of sufficient interest to exchange tweets about them.

    An eye for symmetries, similarities, parallelisms and oppositions will not always come up with useful correlations, but it’s nonetheless an aspect of mind that’s close to both creativity (see Arthur Koestler) and what bin Laden analyst Cindy Storer (in Manhunt) called “magic” —

    not the analysts doing it, but other people who didn’t have that talent referred to it as magic.

    **

    Sources:

  • Aaron Zelin, The Islamic State’s Archipelago of Provinces
  • Daniel Byman, The Islamic State Archipelago

  • Phillip Smyth, Hizballah Cavalcade: Breaking Badr
  • Suzannah George, Breaking Badr
  • The useful analysis is in the sources, and the useful description of analytic magic is currently easily accessible at the 9’14” point in HBO’s Manhunt on YouTube.

    A fantastic “bribery, corruption & recursion” DoubleTweet

    Friday, February 19th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — bribery regarding bribery in Ukraine and Iraq, form & pattern recognition as analytic markers ]
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    You might think it would be difficut to cap this, from Ukraine, which I quoted recently:

    but I believe this, from Iraq, just might do the trick:

    **

    Let me be explicit.

    As an observer of the global scene, these two tweets are about bribery and corruption — but they are also recursive. As an analyst, I find that formal property, present in each case, compelling: these are not simply example of corruption, but of the corruption of the anti-corruption process.

    But there’s more, there’s yet another form here, a pattern which allows us to connect otherwise unrelated dots. It is found in the doubling effect of the quick succession of the Ukrainean and Iraqi tweets. This pattern is that of repetition — more fancifully put, echo or rhyme. We see here something more than a simple isolated incident no matter how interesting — an being cognizant of that, we can be on the alert for it elsewhere in the future.

    To the heuristics follow the money and cherchez la femme, I’d add take note of the form — use pattern recognition as an analytic tool to cut across disciplines and silos, and thus capture aspects of life’s complexity that the trammels of linear cause-and-effect thinking will tend to miss.

    For the DoubleQuotes aficionado, these two tweets are a rich haul indeed.


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