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Archive for May 23rd, 2010

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Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Top Billing! BBC‘Artificial life’ breakthrough announced by scientists

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first living cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA. The researchers constructed a bacterium’s “genetic software” and transplanted it into a host cell. The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species “dictated” by the synthetic DNA. The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms.

This is a seminal scientific breakthrough with staggering downstream implications. John Robb commented on a few of them:

Now that we have a self-replicating biological platform (yeast — likely one of many different platforms that will be floated over the next couple of years) that can accommodate a completely synthetic genome, the race in on:   towards an abundance in nearly every material or process that can be enabled via biological means.

Nagl vs. Galbraith at The Economist….. 

Coming Anarchy (Curzon) – Education will not save us, Part 2

….To all of this, I can only repeat my Robert D. Kaplan-esque conclusion from my previous post-education will not save us. The long-term battle against Islamist terror is actually fueled by the promotion of education. Whether it be 19th century France, 20th century Russia and China, or 21st century Islamic World, education is not the cure for political extremism but often the catalyst to violence. Pursuing the mass education of the poor as policy to counter the spread of extremism, is misguided.

SWJ BlogOn the DNI

An excellent media round-up on the resignation of Admiral Dennis C. Blair  as DNI

Eide Neurolearning BlogThe Creative Advantage: How Vivid Memories of the Past Help Predictions for the Future

When researchers looked at the brain regions involved in looking at the past, they found many of the same regions activated in response to prompts to imagine events in the future.

….But because personal memory is so closely linked to future prediction pathways, shouldn’t we think about the implications for education? There’s a lot concern these days about American students not being prepared for the new millennial global workplace. Perhaps we spend too little time cultivating rich personal experiences, the development of spatial intelligence, and future thinking.

The Atlantic (Marc Ambinder)The Secret Pentagon Spy Ring

The CIA doesn’t think STRATCOM should play in this lane. But neither does Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, or the State Department, or the National Security Staff. Information Operations involves five fields: deception, psychological operations, computer network operations, electronic warfare and operations security. When you hear these terms, you think military, war, penetration of secret bunkers and the like. The State Department and the others want to make sure that Information Operations don’t conflict with what they call Strategic Communications — getting the message out that the US isn’t fighting against Islam, that the Afghan military is a credible institution. State sees IO from the perspective of an ad agency: what does the customer need? STRATCOM sees IO from the perspective of a military targeter: what’s the target, and how to we use all resources to manipulate it.

The problem is that the main thrust of the current administration’s strategy for combating terrorism involves strategic communication, State Department-style. There is room for both approaches, of course, but there isn’t room for an entity like STRATCOM to make unilateral decisions about how to influence the adversary. 

Schmedlap – Why do Good Citizens Suddenly Become Terrorists?

I am not proposing a cause for their shift in behavior. But I am asserting that nobody should be shocked or befuddled. Affluence, integration, and apparent moderate viewpoints do not provide any kind of moral or spiritual guidance. They are not a foundation upon which happiness is built. They are only indicators of past performance, not indicators of future performance. The real head-scratcher is that anyone would measure someone’s success in life by these worldly, materialistic standards.

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen (Rufus F.)Plato, “Crito”, and should we obey bad laws?

There was Socrates and then there was Plato’s Socrates.


Authors @Google – Dr. David Kilcullen ( Hat tip NYRKinDC)

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