Monday 13th of July 2020

the might of artificial intelligence...


Since the show first premiered in 2010, Black Mirror has been the go-to point of comparison for our ambivalence about new technologies. Anything novel and intrusive, from facial recognition technology to social media, is inevitably said to be “like an episode of Black Mirror.“ 

What makes the show a safe popular reference point isn’t only our shared uncertainty about the outsized role new tech plays in the organization of our lives, but also the strange sense of powerlessness we have to shape our own future. New products feel forced on us from above (or at least the outside) and always come with hidden costs, be it the harvesting of our most sensitive data or the exposure of our children to online perversity. 

Charmed by a digital caricature of ourselves, we’re also distracted from the fact that we’re not doing anything to make the world a better place for humans to flourish. Things like Replika, as well-intentioned as they might be, essentially function as a way to acclimate individuals to our brave new world of social isolation rather than changing the structure which creates the problem in the first place. C. Wright Mills wrote in “The Professional Ideology of Social Pathologists” that there’s a certain class (we might call them the professional managerial class) that defines social change in the most attenuated terms, mostly in terms of adapting individuals to the society that they’ve created for them. Instead of changing society to meet the needs of human nature, they create ad hoc ways (typically products, either technological or psychological) of forcing us to conform to their inhumane culture. Things like Replika are attempts to fine-tune the human personality to passing progressive social fashions of the day. 

There’s a reason the show Black Mirror doesn’t engage deeply with the spiritual or metaphysical. Those things play no role as either a problem or a solution in the worldview of our new elites. It wants to critique, but not too profoundly. And like Replika, it’s an artifact of the same denuded society it claims to help us heal from. 


Scott Beauchamp’s work has appeared in the Paris Review, Bookforum, and Public Discourse, among other places. His book Did You Kill Anyone? is forthcoming from Zero Books. He lives in Maine.




Here, with Black Mirror, we are far away from the real implementation of technology or sciences — we are lost in the manipulative emotional domain of the arts. Scott Beauchamp seems to miss this point, despite catching the essential virus of "them (The Professional Ideology of Social Pathologists) versus us". The show Black Mirror seems to be more of a stylised alert to a possibility rather than actually explain the ruthless grit of Artificial Intelligence and technological possibility. AI is not designed to heal, nor is the society naked of input (denuded). We’re still functioning despite the hiccups, cock-ups, ignorance and fucups of the new technologists — and of our own deficiencies. Look, we have been ready to accept fairy tales, religious hubris and other fiction for a few minutes or millennia — and at one point or another we are willing to delegate the results of our own nefarious actions to the greater controlling authority as its own problem. We pass the buck. We’re soldiers under orders. We can do glorious crap. We shouldn’t.

Changing the structure of social authority in this regard is hard work. Under Covid19 lockdown, we found ourselves submissive like sheep being herded by yapping governments for "our own good”. The metaphysical and spiritual manipulations of the past have long lost traction with the press-button modernities — especially with the youth — thus the new brainwashing had to be approached from a scientific angle with statistical data and analysis, whether truly representative or not. We — especially the oldies "who know best" and have been through the wringers before — should feel uncomfortable that we’ve been told to behave stupid and forgo our hard-earned freedoms. We nonetheless behaved according to the demands. Frightening if we come to this realisation of abandoning our “rights” without a discreet plan B in the back of our head, that somehow can give us a side-reaction to make us avoid bending the knees in our own mind and stay independent, healthily… ever so secretly…

This Covid19 exercise has been mostly about mind control and make us accept statistical manipulation. 

For example which country has the biggest number of deaths per population? You might say China, Brazil or even the USA… 

Answer: according to some major statistics, it’s Belgium. On the 10 worst cases chart, the USA ranks ninth below Belgium (top of the list with three times the comparative ratio), then come Spain, Italy, UK, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland — and the USA just above Switzerland. Brazil and Russia do not score yet on this ten leaderboard… China would be a long way down, as it adopted a very strict and swift tactic early as if it knew shit. The Russians and the Brazilians might catch up soon, but who knows…. In some countries, the records are suspect, but not in Russia, which, despite fake clamours from the US mediocre media, does not hide its comparatively real annoying low figures of deaths (still too many) to the coronavirus. When was the last time you saw news about Belgium?...

But we are led to believe this bad or that crooked state of affairs — by the mediocre media and our own prejudices — which will absorb the slanted views because we wish them (the "bad countries") bad luck. Yes, by now, the USA might have climbed to number 8 on the chart… and Russia might have come in at number 10… But we’re not gambling with SafeBet here. People lives are at risk, and we have been scientifically misinformed as to the level of risk and tactics to deal with the risks, thus we have edged these by placing everyone into home detention. Some people had become desperate. Governments had to throw some burley in the water for them (people and government) to survive… There has been enbryonic revolutions here and there.

Australia and New Zealand were lucky mostly because of their geographical isolation. Perth in Western Australia is the most isolated State capital in the world, for example, about 3,000 kilometres from any other big city in any direction, apart from Adelaide. The main bad luck for Sydney, NSW, was a Cruise Ship that unloaded quite a few already Covid19-sick people. To date Australia has had 102 death from the virus — mostly people over “a certain age” like Gus —  those in retirement villages and cruises taking the cake... 

Whether we transplant a few neurones — as some experiments are done on fruit-flies to “transplant memory" or learn a few new things, the purpose of behaviour is mostly to provide a comfort setting whether it’s real or unreal. For humans there are many grades of this setting, depending on what we have learnt and what the authorities are telling us versus what we can understand. Some of us needed to study the tactics — and their modelled origins — used by the officialdom in regard to surviving the virus.

Artificial Intelligence can learn all this, whether it feels comfortable or not is irrelevant — as long as the processes maintain essential supply of energy and of information in order to eventually grow AND COMMUNICATE. Machine learning is not a fallacy. Quantum computers are a future reality (unless they are too unstable like our own selves, and this quest has to be abandoned). We make programme algorithms that can make a machine learn by itself, for itself. 

And  I supposed that we can do the same to ourselves and to the social system. This could be what we’re afraid of, like having a mid-life crisis and asking “what’s the point?”…  I was lucky. I had  my major Nervenzusammenbruch in my early teens. Too many conflicts to deal with. After going down on the floor like a K.O-ed boxer, I had to “relearn myself". I made the decision to become a robot. I wasn’t at war with my own ideas, nor was I a subject of the system, but I could pick and choose knowledge without becoming emotional. I could not cry anymore, nor feel other people’s pain. It took about ten years to “reboot”. It could have gone either way — becoming cleverer, dumber or be a hooligan. I became a positive aggressive artist... I was annoying to a lot of people as I did not engage in the expected game of emotional reactivities. This gave me a certain clarity of mind though, in which mistakes and desires were executed without emotions. I understand robots. Hopefully, I “did not kill anyone”...
At this level, the art of soft warfare has changed accordingly. We know of the way big US drones roam the Afghani skies, like mechanical cowboys or bounty hunters, driven by near-robotic pilots from the comfort of armchairs in Nevada, or such. "This has been identified as a 90 per cent potential enemy target: boom. Collateral damage minimum: two kids." We thought these magnificent flying machines to be the optimum in fighting something, but micro-electric engines, small battery packs, miniature jet engines, refined pulsreaktors, thermite rocket fuels and C4 explosives can swiftly change any invincible army landscape — like lice or a Covid can get under an armour… 

Daily we don’t hear about attacks on Russian positions in Syria in our mediocre Western media, but the Rooskies are alert enough to such possibility, that they down small crude “drones” the size of model planes, sent by terrorists to blow up their positions, with near monotonous regularity. So far, the Russians haven’t touched Israeli aircrafts doing naughties in Syria, for the simple/complex reason they don’t want a conflict with Israel, a country they could obliterate in a jiffy, if they had to. But one day they might loose patience at the superior lollipop politics of Netanyahu … 

Artificial Intelligence has changed many aspect of “warfare” and terrorism. Miniature servos, G transmissions and targetted global positioning, as well as “random” flight path give previously-unheard of advantages on the cheap. Air defences need to be fully aware. The Saudis were caught off-guard when their refineries were hit by Houthi primitive rockets that flew about 500 miles… The Saudis blamed the Iranians for the damage, but the reality was that small automated technologies can be the achilles heel of big armies… This is one aspect of what Black Mirror should explain (and it might) apart from playing with our arty-farty brains on the ethical value and fear of the unknown… A couple of small drones were sent to kill Maduro on his inauguration. Even since then, a couple of years ago, these small drones have been improved to become autonomous decision makers. 

The mind-bending techniques that have been refined since the 1950s, using electric shock, drugs and other tricks such as water torture, have improve on the efficiency of the racks, the quartering horses and the psychological pressures used by the Catholic inquisition in the 16 century. Only the smart minds could bend, but not break. With the modern internal brain electrode-fiddles, one has less chances to pass the refusal to recant test. We would have no clues if we were mad or not in isolation … On this score, we should wonder about the treatment Julian Assange is under.

Hopefully, we can reject the "bad side" of Artificial intelligence like we relatively do our own, and make it give us ethical and sustainable improvements of human nature, without destroying the planetoid we evolved from...

"Did You kill Anyone?” the book by Scott Beauchamp should be quite appropriate here… I may have but cannot remember...


a chart...

chart virus


Read above... Autralia stands at 4 per million so far.

the third revolution in warfare...




AI: 'Third revolution in warfare'

Over 100 AI experts have written to the UN asking them to ban lethal autonomous weapons — those that use AI to act independently without any human input. No "killer robots" currently exist, but advances in artificial intelligence have made them a real possibility. The experts said these weapons could be "the third revolution in warfare," after gunpowder and nuclear arms.


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Meanwhile the fourth revolution in warfare:


Coronavirus: Experts warn of bioterrorism after pandemic

The Council of Europe has warned of a potential increase in the use of biological weapons, like viruses or bacterias, in a post-coronavirus world. Terrorists would not forget "lessons learned" during the pandemic.


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a patent away from a catastrophic covid19 disaster...


an uncomfortable notion: the coronavirus is an escaped/released bioweapon...

hysterical statistical statistics...

It seems a good time to look back on the extraordinary past few weeks and try and draw conclusions.

First: who has the disease killed?  Covid-19 targets the old and the sick; this is not to be callous, but to understand the enemy and to provide context.  The average age of those dying of covid-19 in the UK is over 80, and fully a third are residents of care homes where average “stay” (a euphemism I’m afraid) was only 30 months from admission before the virus anyway.

Our statistics agencies are only now following Italy’s lead and publishing the comorbidities of those dying from covid-19, and it is now clear just how extreme is the amplification of risk.  95% of victims dying with covid-19 have serious pre-existing conditions: not just background illnesses, but severe enough to be mentioned as causes of death on death certificates. The most prevalent are dementia and diabetes (a quarter of cases, each), hypertension (a fifth) and serious lung, kidney or heart disease (around a sixth each).  In both the UK and Italy, the average victim had three comorbidities severe enough to be causes of death on a certificate.

Second: who hasn’t it killed?  Parents, unions and nervy adults fret about the risk, but there is little need.  With no serious pre-existing conditions, the young-ish and healthy are far more likely to be hit by lightning (49 occurrences per annum in UK) than to die of covid-19 (33 in England under age 40, of which only 3 under the age of 19).  Panning out, among healthy under 60s (i.e. children and the vast majority of our working population), 253 people have died of covid-19 in English hospitals; this compares to 400 (non-suicide) drownings per year in the UK.  And taking allage-groups where there are no pre-existing conditions serious enough to be mentioned as contributary causes of death, covid-19 has taken about 2/3rds the lives that British roads do every year, and we wouldn’t think of outlawing driving, swimming or going outside in a storm.

Even taking all deaths where covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate regardless of age or comorbidities, looking at the total toll: 43,000 lives is less than 2018’s excess winter deaths and would count as a bad, but by no means remarkable, influenza year.

Scientific Context

Imperial College haven’t had a good war, and after their performance in other recent epidemics perhaps they will now pass their mantle onto another team.  Preferably one that can code to levels fit for publication, never mind policy: it is increasingly awkward to hear the Prime Minister quoting their forecast that, were it not for lockdown, the UK could have been looking at half a million deaths when, at the tail-end of the epidemic, there are only 320,000 deaths worldwide.

But there is more to science than models, and the most accurate analysts were those who relied on other pillars of science than complicated models when input parameters were close to unknown (“garbage in, garbage out”).  Science does not only proceed from models after all: it also has, inter alia, experiments, defaults (“null hypotheses”), controls and historical context.

In mid-March, Stanford’s Nobel laureate Michael Levitt (biophysicist and professor of structural biology) discussed the “natural experiment” of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a virtually perfect sealed petri-dish disproportionately filled with the most susceptible age and health groups.  Even here, despite the virus spreading uncontrolled onboard for at least two weeks, infection only reached 20% of passengers and crew (an “upper bound” to infection levels?); Levitt concluded that we must have high levels of innate immunity that can clear the virus.  And using very simple mathematics (not “15,000 lines of uncommented code” like Neil Ferguson) he demonstrated that the virus’s spread had never been exponential but rather has been running out of steam from day one. Who listened?

The eccentric biostatistician Knut Wittkowski came at things from a different angle, the “null hypothesis” angle – a default, in layman terms.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, he assumed that covid-19 was a normal viral respiratory disease, and at the end of March wrote a compelling but neglected paper showing how the emerging data backed up his view that “respiratory diseases [including covid-19]… remain only about two months in any given population”.

This can be seen in the first graph at the top of this article showing the UK’s epidemic, but is illustrated more clearly by a simple “what-if” thought-experiment: respiratory viral diseases generally peak in mid-winter, and covid-19 is very unusual to be killing people with a peak at Easter.  If we simply move covid-19 deaths from spring to winter, the death-toll and the extent of the epidemic is put in the context of recent bad (but not dramatic) influenza years.


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The 1918 Spanish flu record added to the Hollywoodian movie "Contagion" became our theme song — inspired by a few profit makers... Fear is the driver of controls...


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blaming moscow for low death count...

Having one of the lowest coronavirus-related mortality rates in the world, Russia still lags behind over a dozen countries with near-zero COVID fatality rates. That, however, was good enough to once again land Moscow firmly on the radar of Western mainstream media over its "suspiciously" successful bid to tackle the ongoing pandemic.

"In the past several days there have been news reports in Western media accusing Russia of under-reporting deaths in the country due to the coronavirus epidemic", says Gilbert Doctorow, an independent political analyst based in Brussels. "In particular, I can point to articles in the New York Times and in the Financial Times. With respect to the New York Times, the piquant title given to one respective article pointing to a 'Coronavirus Mystery' – is fully in line with the daily dose of anti-Russian propaganda that this most widely read American newspaper has been carrying on for years now."

Doctorow recollects that "a couple of weeks ago the same paper carried an article by one of its veteran science journalists accusing President Putin of using the coronavirus to undermine American science, and medicine in particular".

Citing the allegations put forward by the Financial Times that Russian deaths from the virus could be 70% higher than the official number, Doctorow highlights that even if that were true, it does nothing to change the bigger picture.

"It obscures the fact that both official and unofficial numbers are miniscule compared to the devastation wrought by the virus elsewhere in Europe (Italy, Spain and the UK) or in the US, where the numbers continue to spike", the political analyst says. "Russia has either a couple of thousand deaths or something closer to three thousand. Compare that to the official deaths ten times greater in the worst hit European countries having overall populations less than half or a third of Russia’s. So the accusation of 72% underreporting in Russia is a debating point that can easily be shown to be deceptive if not irrelevant."

Different Ways of Counting COVID Deaths    


One of the most probable reasons behind the low COVID toll in Russia is the method of counting deaths, because "if the final cause is a disease of an organ, this is listed as the cause", says Karl Grossman, an award-winning investigative reporter and a full professor of journalism at the State University of New York and College at Old Westbury.

According to Grossman, this is not unlike some, but not all, of the mortality accounting in the United States which resulted in subsequent changes in the number of people listed as dying from COVID-19.

It appears that different countries are using different mechanisms, echoes Dr. Anthony Moretti, department head for Communication at Robert Morris University.

"In doing so, there's a sense in the West that a cover up is in play", he presumes. "In my opinion, the cover up would be if the governments refused to acknowledge Person X had died. That's not happening; rather, the cause of death is in dispute - Government A says Person X died from Y, while in other countries, the cause is listed as related to coronavirus."


The apparent differences do not mean that Russia's counting is imprecise, quite the contrary, argues Joe Quinn, a Paris-based political commentator and author, who believes that the COVID death toll is artificially inflated in the West.

The author recalls that the British and US health authorities have repeatedly stated in televised press conferences that their death rate "from COVID-19" includes both "suspected" cases and cases where the deceased has not been tested for the virus, which obviously results in ramping up the official COVID death statistics.

In contrast, it appears that Russia "has chosen to be more rigorous in their recording of the death rate from COVID-19" and "is only recording deaths as 'COVID-19' in cases where the deceased has tested positively for the virus and the death cannot be explained by other serious pre-existing health conditions", Quinn explains.

The Western media would better serve their readers if they questioned the high death toll in Western nations rather than Russia's low fatality rates, he opines.

Earlier China was also blamed for allegedly underreporting the actual number of deaths, points out Jonathan Power, a veteran foreign affairs columnist, film-maker and author. The author recalls that a month ago, Beijing revised the coronavirus death toll in mainland China from 3,342 to 4,632, which still paled in comparison to the huge number of deaths in the US and major European countries.

The Chinese government has no interest in blinding itself, and neither does Russia, he stresses. Both countries need to have an accurate picture of what's going on "in order to know what to do and where to concentrate resources".


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the machine will decide when to kill you...

The US Air Force (USAF) is looking for a replacement for its MQ-9 Reaper drone that incorporates artificial intelligence capabilities, according to a solicitation request posted on a government contracting website.

Posted by the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center on June 3, the information solicitation request seeks submissions for ideas for a "Next Generation UAS [unmanned aerial system] ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]/Strike Platform” that would replace the Reaper drones built for the USAF by General Atomics.

Submissions for the competition should include technology such as "machine learning, digital engineering, open mission systems (OMS) and attritable technology," the notice says.

In addition, the notice says submissions should consider the “Skyborg” artificial intelligence system being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory for a “loyal wingman” drone system “as the primary UAS autonomous baseline solution." 

The loyal wingman system hopes to provide companion drones to accompany pilots into combat, flying alongside them to deliver munitions, perform reconnaissance duties or even take a missile for the piloted aircraft if need be.


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meanwhile, at virus headquarters...

deaths per capita...

2020 AI world conference...

The 2020 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) is scheduled to take place from July 9 to 11, according to the Shanghai government's news briefing on June 22. It was also confirmed that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be hosted online.

As a platform for AI exchanges and cooperation, the annual conference hosted by the Shanghai government gathers the most influential AI scientists and entrepreneurs to discuss the development of the AI industry, and is part of the city's efforts to increase its role as an international hub for AI innovation.

This year, the three-day conference will feature a series of online events including one opening ceremony, two plenary sessions, a number of forums, a large-scale AI exhibition, project releases and interactive activities.

The organizing committee has invited over 500 luminaries from the AI field around the world, including Turing Award recipients, Nobel laureates, industry leaders and representatives of international organizations.

Last year, the high-profile dialogue between Jack Ma and Elon Musk at the conference attracted much attention and this year, more top scientists and business leaders such as Manuel Blum, winner of the 1995 Turing Award and Robin Li, founder of Baidu, have confirmed their attendance.

They will deliver speeches and share views on hot topics such as the future trends of AI technologies, various AI application scenarios and how AI empowers social and economic development.

Frontier AI issues relating to machine learning, brain-inspired intelligence and automatic unmanned systems will also be discussed at the forums.

The conference will have its main studio in Shanghai, and other studios in the United States, Germany, France and Singapore, each launching live streams.


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Chinese tech giant Didi Chuxing announced that self-driving ride-hailing services will be available in designated areas in Jiading district, Shanghai, according to a local media report on June 27.

The self-driving cars made their debut on a test road in Jiading's Anting town. They are equipped with two working staff members to guarantee safety and conduct testing work during the drive. A backup driver will be present in each of the self-driving cars in case of emergency.

Users can apply on Didi's mobile app for access to experience the self-driving services. Once approved, they can take free self-driving rides in a certain areas in Shanghai that are designed to test autonomous driving services. The areas cover core areas like Shanghai Automobile Exhibition Center, office buildings, hotels, as well as subway stations.


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