September 2007

Here are two more great essays from Eliezer Yudkowsky. First, the Twelve Virtues of Rationality. It’s like the Zen of anti-mysticism.

The second is The Simple Truth. This one is great. Remember, nuance is stupid, boring, and wrong.

Robin Hanson warns that Catastrophes, like epidemics, earthquakes, forest fires, and wars, follow power law distributions.

Humans have slowly built more productive societies by slowly acquiring various kinds of capital, and by carefully matching them to each other. Because disruptions can disturb this careful matching, and discourage social coordination, large disruptions can cause a “social collapse,” i.e., a reduction in productivity out of proportion to the disruption. For many types of disasters, severity seems to follow a power law distribution. For some of types, such as wars and earthquakes, most of the expected harm is predicted to occur in extreme events…

The collapse is actually quite worse than the initial disruption.

To avoid a catastrophic collapse, you have to prepare for unpredictable Black Swan events. Well, alright…

The WTO keeps coming under criticism for not doing anything about labor and environmental practices. I want to challenge that assumption.

The WTO manages trade between states, not the domestic production and laws of states. Activism should be directed at individual states to change their domestic laws and regulations,

Biotech continues to grow exponentially, just like Moore’s Law in computer industries. This could trigger a major economic revolution on par with the Industrial or Information revolution. Or not. Predicting the future goes into the realm of science fiction.

Any tech filters down to the individual and small group level over time. So this could continue to empower smaller networks at the expense of the state.

“All the tribes agreed to fight al Qaeda until the last child in Anbar” – Ahmed Abu Risha.

How the Industrial Revolution happened remains a major question. Robert Fogel’s End of Hunger and Greg Clark’s Farewell to Alms try to explain the dramatic change.

Beginning around 1700-1750, there were a series of major economic changes. A “Consumer Revolution” in Britain and the American Colonies happened as the Middle Class grew. At the same time, the Second Agricultural Revolution began, which massively expanded food production. A health care revolution, beginning with Germ Theory rapidly improved medical care. The Industrial Revolution began at the start of the 19th century with the invention of the coal-powered steam engine.

The population skyrocketed, as did the pace of technological inventions. There was a cultural revolution too, as 10,000 years of agricultural lifestyles and traditions were replaced.

Strategy Page. After taking a pounding this year, the Taliban are discussing negotiations with the Afghan Government.

The Afghan Pashtun Tribes turned against the Taliban over the past few years. The Pashtuns have one of their own – President Karzai – in charge of the country, so there is no nationalist drive to help the Taliban. The Taliban have weakened their own popularity through suicide bombings, intimidation tactics, attacking food convoys and dishonorable kidnappings. Kidnapping very popular deminers and women only hurt the Taliban even more.

The Taliban coalition in Afghanistan is breaking down. Over the long run, the drug lords will become regional warlords, but that’s a different problem.

This is an except from Douglass’ North Nobel Prize speech in 1993.

James Flynn documented the average rise in IQ scores were over the 20th century. IQ tests are “renormed” to keep the mean score at 100. IQ test makers consistently renormed it every generation. Flynn reviewed the history of IQ tests, and noticed a trend. Every decade, the mean IQ drifted upwards. The test-makers saw the mean-IQ rise to ~105, so the made the test more difficult to renorm it to 100. The next decade, the IQs rose to ~105 on the more difficult tests, so they renormed it…

The effect was strongest on the Raven Progressive Matrices which tests abstract thinking. The Flynn effect is weakest in culturally biased tests. Literally, you are probably smarter than your grandparents and by a fair measure.

GeneExpression estimates total IQ gains and related evidence to support the Flynn effect. Human height has grown, brain mass and cranial capacity grew, and puberty occurs at earlier ages. This suggests that better nutrition is leading to greater mental and physical development.

Agricultural societies must have been more impoverished than we thought. Poor nutrition meant most people were short and dumb as mules, and humanity is only reaching it biological potential after the Industrial Revolution.

The People’s Liberation Army has been looking at 4th Generation War theory for some time too. They call it
Unrestricted Warfare.

Qiao was quoted as stating that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” Elaborating on this idea, he asserted that strong countries would not use the same approach against weak countries because “strong countries make the rules while rising ones break them and exploit loopholes…”

Asymmetrical warfare breaks the rules to gain advantages over your opponents. These PLA officers analyze different methods of defeating a technologically superior United States. They advise disrupting networks, economic warfare, “lawfare” and strategic terrorism.

The theory suggests that China evade the military and technological strength of the US while waging a shadow war. And, as a matter of fact, China is vulnerable to the same strategy.

Italy’s far left radicals are reforming a New Red Brigade and are “flirting” with Al-Qaeda and other Islamist radicals, Lorenzo Vidino reports. The original Red Brigades was a communist terrorist organization in the 1980s.

“September 11, 2001,” said the 44-year-old militant, “must open the field to the revolutionary vanguards and not only in Italy. The upcoming war against Iraq constitutes an attempt to remove the main obstacle to the hegemony of the Zionist entity, the stronghold of imperialism in the region, disarming and annihilating the Palestinian resistance, which is the reference of all Arab and Islamic masses who have been expropriated and humiliated by imperialism and who constitute the natural ally of the urban proletarian class in European countries”

The New Red Brigades have been growing closer to the Islamist radicals since 2003. So the convergence of radicals continues.

National Security Strategy (from Small Wars Journal)

Here’s a goofy idea. Why don’t we negotiate with network insurgencies? We cannot for the same reason why assassinations do not work – decentralized leadership.

Thailand discovered this problem recently. In 10,000 years of recorded history, the art of diplomacy has never figured out how to “negotiate” with decentralized organizations. States negotiate with hierarchical organized tribes, corporations and other states. In all this time no one figured out how to negotiate with non-hierarchical non-state actors – that’s probably because you cannot

So anyway, some fools want to try it anyway and open diplomacy with al-Qaeda.

Here are three articles on uncovering and disrupting insurgent networks. Decentralized network insurgencies are organized differently than the hierarchical Mao Zedung model. They require different strategies to defeat. These techniques can be adapted to a Counterinsurgency strategy.
Martin J. Muckian Structural Vulnerabilities of
Networked Insurgencies

Tsvetovat and Carley Structural Knowledge and Success of Anti-Terrorist Activity

Carley, Lee and Krackhardt Destabalizing Networks

On Guerrilla War is still a relevant book in military science.

Of particular importance are the chapters on organizing guerrillas and political problems.

Strategic overwatch sounds like the US will continue fighting in Iraq for 5 years, but it’s much nicer than what civilians think.

The US-India-Japan-Australia-Singapore Navies just concluded a joint-naval training exercise called “Malabar.”

The world’s economic center of gravity is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Development in East Asia has made the region more geopolitically significant than Europe and Russia. The “Quadrilateral Initiative” is the transformative Pacific Alliance that is already surpassing NATO in relevance.

America’s economic and political future depends on how well it manages this new world. The US has created a four-way alliance with India, Japan, Australia and it also expanded its alliance with the smaller ASEAN states. These are the most important allies for the US in today’s world.

Don’t worry, they’re just testing out their cool new cyberwar toys.

China hacked into the Defense ministries of Britain, Germany, France, and the US and engaged in espionage and sabotage. CS Monitor wonders if this is aDigital Cold War. The PLA created dedicated Cyberwar units. So has the US Air Force. The US military just discovered a PLA plan to shut down the Pentagon and battle fleets with preemptive cyber attacks. And rumor has it, the US may have sabotaged the PLA Defense Ministry in retaliation for the recent hacking.

The Chinese and Americans are testing each other to find out who has “electronic dominance.” And for the record, I still dislike the word “cyberwar” – it’s electronic sabotage. It supplements actual warmaking.

Austin Bay describes the important role of intel in avoiding surprise attacks.

Intelligence is an art — a grand, interpretive collusion of linguistics, geography, mathematics, history, theology, psychology, physics, metaphysics and every other human means of analysis and explanation…

StrategyPage describes the role and duty of the CSM. The CSMs are the “old soldiers” that keep the army rolling.

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