by Thomas Prentice
How much should we let humans interfere with the functioning of machines and algorithms designed to kill people?
The Economist, published a 16-page special section called “The Next War” in its issue of Jan. 27 – Feb. 2.
In what is probably an unplanned revelation of the truly sick and twisted thinking of global capitalist militarist Davos elites – i.e. a mistake — The Economist, never a fan of authentic democracy, in a breakout quote in the article on autonomous weapons on p. 16 dryly says:
Most people agree that when lethal force is used, humans should be involved. But what sort of human control is appropriate?”
Instead of asking “what sort of HUMAN control is appropriate” the question that SHOULD be asked is:
What sort of MACHINE OR ALGORITHMIC CONTROL OF LETHAL FORCE is appropriate?”
Who needs drugs when reading this sort surreal delusion?
It seems the global capitalist elites have already decided to go forward full tilt boogie with more and more technological / Artificial Intelligence AI control of lethal force to kill humans. Those toy drones you can now purchase at Best Buy and online that can really fly and have cameras just normalize drones. Well, weaponize and militarize them and they could soon be armed kill you, no human intervention required. SWARMS of them. Imagine how quickly Occupy Wall Street could have been wiped out.
Worse. The special section reports that DARPA of the Pentagon is developing insect-sized killer drones that can penetrate buildings and, voila! Kill the people inside with no outside human management required.
So the only question being considered by The Economist and the Ruling Capitalist Imperialist Davos Elites seems to be how much should we let humans interfere with the functioning of machines and algorithms designed to kill people?
In thinking about that, one might remember that two Soviet officers singlehandedly — twice — prevented accidental all-out thermonuclear nuclear war.
In one case, a Soviet naval officer stopped a panicked Soviet submarine captain from launching nuclear torpedoes during the Cuban / Caribbean Missile Crisis of 1962.
In the other case, a Soviet Air Defense Systems Lieutenant Colonel refused to forward up the chain of command a technological report of a US nuclear first strike on Russia because he, the Soviet Officer, thought it was a technical malfunction. It was.
The name of the Soviet Naval Officer who stopped the firing of a nuclear torpedo that would have sparked all-out thermonuclear war in 1962, was Vasili Arkhipov, deputy commander and executive officer of the submarine B-59. Like the US, the Soviets had a two-key system and Arkhipov refused to turn his key. The sub captain believed that nuclear war had already broken out but Arkhipov thought they should wait for more information. In 2002 Thomas Blanton, who was then director of the US National Security Archive, said that Arkhipov “saved the world.”
The name of the Lieutenant Colonel. in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, who thought the reports from the Soviet technological early warning systems that (only) FIVE Minuteman missiles were streaking toward Russia might be wrong, was Stanislav Petrov. The report WAS wrong and Petrov, despite all the instant tension the missile launch reports caused in the Soviet command and control center, declined to forward the report up the chain of command which would almost certainly have resulted in Soviet retaliation for a five-missile, US nuclear first strike that wasn’t.
The false alarm was apparently set off when the satellite mistook the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch. Artificial Intelligence AI indeed. The computer program that was supposed to filter out such information had to be rewritten.
“We are wiser than the computers,” Petrov said in a 2010 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. “We created them.”
But it seems that US military planners as reported by The Economist want to make sure that the computers are smarter than humans … a phenomenon called a “singularity” in AI circles. Given that, one wonders if US military officers in the same situations would have acted in a similar fashion … or would US military officers have set off worldwide all-out thermonuclear war based on Artificial Stupidity AS ?
Or, given the US / NATO aggression against China and Russia, would Russian or Chinese or American military officers even have the authority that Arkhipov and Petrov had to interfere?
Yet not a word about either Arkhipov or Petrov in The Economist’s special section on “The Next War” about turning over human-killing functions exclusively and far more “efficiently” to algorithms and machines. High-speed financial trading by algorithms and “narrow” artificial intelligence” has consequences, but those machines can’t kill people. Using the same sort of algorithms and AI for machines to operate “as entrepreneurs” in selecting human targets and then killing them; well, what could possibly go wrong?
But The Economist and Pentagon / Think Tank revolving door US military analysts quoted profusely in these articles seem to think that turning everything over to algorithms and Artificial Intelligence AI is A-OK — to use the term from the early NASA Project Mercury manned space program. It is the way to go, foreordained, fate, destiny, the only common-sense, problem-solving solution. Get the messy humans out of the loop. Especially since those Big Meanies China and Russia are always bullying VictimAmerica.
But can we count on algorithms and Artificial Intelligence to come up with the same solution in reality – in real time –– that the computer in the Matthew Broderick film “WarGames” did? That all-out nuclear war results in “WINNER: NONE.”
Does The Economist consider any of this? In a word, “No.”
Is it not preferable to have Arkhipovs and Petrovs; Smiths, Washingtons, Joneses and Hernandezes; Lius and Zhous with authority to interfere in the efficient workings of algorithms designed to kill humans?
Fake news adjectives
Another curious failure in The Economist special report on “The Next War” is that on close, critical reading – some call it deconstruction –one notices that deployment of fake news adjectives and verbs proliferate.
For instance, on p. 5 of the report:
The main reason why great power warfare has become somewhat more plausible … is that both Russia and China are ***dissatisfied*** powers determined to change the terms of a Western-devised, American-policed international order which they ***believe*** does not serve their legitimate interests.
Are Russia and China “dissatisified” powers? Or are they sovereign nations in a multi-polar, non-US dominated geopolitical world who are determined to protect their national interests against outside interference from a “Western-devised, American-policed international order.”
Worse, look how that sentence worships and glorifies – to use liturgical words — the “Western-devised, American-policed international order…” as if the Divine Right of Kings has been inherited by “the West” and especially by “America” to rule the planet as America aka The United States — sees fit. Perhaps some of the other 200 nations on the planet might beg to differ?
Still another on p. 5:
…Putin wants to regain at least some of the prestige and clout his country lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union … he believes that in the 1990s, the West rejected making Russia an equal partner, and that the European Union’s and NATO’s eastward expansion jeopardized Russia’s external and internal security.
Note the use of the weasel word “believes” which, like the weasel word “feels” in journalism do not pose testable propositions and are thus never wrong.
But there are two testable propositions hidden within. The first is:
Did the West, in the 1990s (Clinton) reject making Russia (Yeltsin) an equal partner?
The answer is clearly YES! First it was US-imposed “Shock Capitalism” on “the former Soviet Union” which thoroughly destabilized the economy and made some instant Russian billionaires from the fire sale of state assets followed by treating Russia as a bastard stepchild, albeit one which still had nuclear weapons and a military and could still throw quite a dangerous temper tantrum. I’ll debate it with you if you wish.
The second testable proposition hidden in that sentence is:
Did the EU’s and NATO’s eastward expansion jeopardize Russia’s external and internal security?
Again, the answer is YES! I’ll debate that also with you if you wish, but here are two rather quick points:
- If Cuba was such a threat in 1962 to the “external and internal existential security” of the United States from 90 miles away, why would Clinton’s eastward expansion of NATO, violating George H. W. Bush’s documented pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev that eastward expansion would NOT happen, somehow NOT pose a similar external and internal existential security threat to Russia?
And why would that existential threat not be WORSE than Cuba since the US and NATO have placed troops, tanks and nuclear weapons RIGHT ON THE BORDER with Russia, NOT 90 miles away? Not one word about that in The Economist special section on “The Next War.” Further,
- How would the US Deep State react – how would the people of the US feel – if, suddenly, say, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Sonora and Tamaulipas, or all of Mexico and Canada were suddenly regime-changed and Russian troops, tanks and nuclear weapons were all of a sudden on parts of the northern and southern US borders? Hello.
Another example of the naked fake news propaganda in this report by the voice of the International Capitalist Conspiracy (ICC) is that a simple find/replace function could turn around a lot of assertions into far more truthful statements.
Take this one from p. 6 of the report:
Even in Russia, where Mr. Putin has encouraged a revival of a more macho culture …
Use find/replace to replace “Russia” with “United States” and “Putin” with “Trump” and the statement rings with far more (pay-off-the-porn-star) truth. And add “to Make America Great Again” at the end of the sentence as the coup d grace so it would read:
Even in the United States, where Mr. Trump has encouraged a revival of a more macho culture to Make America Great Again…
The Economist apparently didn’t think of that.
Another find/replace example is this from p. 10:
A critical reason for the success of Russia’s and China’s grey-zone [soft power] strategies is that they have invested heavily in long- range sensor and precision strike networks as well as cyber and space capabilities that can impose unacceptable costs on America projecting power in their regions.
Flip “Russia’s and China’s” with “America’s” or even America’s and Britain’s or America’s and Israel’s — in a find/replace function (along with some minor but necessary grammatical changes) and one has a version far closer to the truth:
A critical reason for the success of America’s and Israel’s grey-zone strategies is that it has invested heavily in long-range senor and precision strike networks as well as cyber and space capabilities that can impose unacceptable costs on Russia and China projecting power against the United States.
Note how, in that original sentence, Russia and China are portrayed as Big Bad Bullies and Spiteful Meanies to poor, defenseless, inoffensive, virginal “VictimAmerica” when the exact reverse is true. Note also — once again — the presumption of a Divine Right Of Kings Bestowed Upon The United States To Preserve, Protect and Project Power and – (the Cheney term) “Full Spectrum Dominance” – To Rule The World.
What happened to the sentiment expressed in John F. Kennedy’s “Peace Speech” commencement address at American University in June, 1963?
What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
Not a word about the contrast with Kennedy’s speech in The Economist special section called “The Next War.” But of course, the special section was not entitled “The Next Peace.”
At least the Economist does refer to America’s projection of power near Russia and China as being “in THEIR regions” as if the regions are actually closer to and should therefore be under the influence of Russia and China (which suggests that The Economist perhaps made another unconscious error here lol.)
I mean, what was Britain doing in 1853 fighting the Crimean War more than 2,000 miles away from the mouth of the river Thames in Russia’s region? Same with the US/Nato and the EU interventions in Ukraine/Crimea in 2014 or boldly sailing through Chinese waters – all in their regions – very far from the mouths of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Mississippi River and, the Columbia River.
And then there are all the failed wars and invasions and regime change operations — and successful assassinations — conducted by the US military and CIA [NOT Russia or China] over the years – from Korea, Iran and Guatemala to Vietnamistan, Chile, Libya, Iraq, Syria, the South American military dictators, the Greek colonels, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Brazil … and the beat goes on …
It is also surprising that, despite disseminating such an excellent propaganda piece extolling the unmatched, unmatchable vast superiority of the military of the United States, The Economist fails to note that
“America” Has Not Won A Single War Since 1945.
The Economist also ignores the fact that most of the “defence” problems the US and Europe faces aka “terrorism” are “BLOWBACK” from US overt or covert ops or actual invasions and attacks against sovereign nations whose governments are independent and do not want to follow the US party line.
Is there any doubt that the two attacks on the World Trade Center were blowback from US/British continuous interference in the Middle East and South Asia? The same with the various “terror attacks” in Europe.” Two oceans still separate the United States from the rest of the world, making white, Christian Europe an easier battleground for Islamic retaliation than, say, Des Moines. Which reminds me, if there are “Islamic extremists” are there not also “Christian extremists” and “Jewish extremists.” I mean, fair is fair.
It is solid truth, moreover, that the Bush-Cheney regime was WARNED IN ADVANCE by the CIA that Osama bin Laden intended to attack the US each month for four months prior the National Air Defense Failure of September 11, 2001 – and that Bush-Cheney regime did NOTHING. One would have thought that such Criminal Negligence would have been an impeachable offense in contrast to, say, a constitutionally unauthorized blow job adjacent to the Oval Office or, in the current situation, being an Unwiped Asshole.
Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine of Disaster Capitalism posits that natural or created catastrophes are necessary for neoliberal capitalism to even more successfully plunder a nation and by imposing both neoliberal austerity and a police state. The National Air Defense Failure of September 11, 2001 – which looks like a revision of the off-the-shelf OPERATION NORTHWOODS false flag plan proposed by the Joint Chiefs to provide an excuse to invade Cuba that Kennedy vetoed — was certainly a shock and catastrophe. Without The National Air Defense Failure of September 11, 2001, the last twenty years would have been different although the continuing decline of the US empire would have continued, albeit more slowly, rather than accelerated as it has since Cthulhu was elected emperor. As with the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the natural disaster in Puerto Rico has set the stage for imposition of Shock Doctrine Neoliberal Privatised Police State Capitalism on that devastated island. One should note that Cuba recovered quite rapidly which seems unusual for such a commiepinko country.
But back to the point that
“America” Has Not Won A Single War Since 1945.
One might interject that Ronald Reagan achieved a Spectacular Triumphant Victory over the Leftist government of the teeny tiny Caribbean island of Grenada, Codenamed “Operation Urgent Fury,” starting on October 25, 1983 – the cover story being that it was to “rescue” some “US medical students.” If so, then one must also count as a Spectacular US Military Defeat and Catastrophe the “terrorist” bombing of the Beirut, Lebanon barracks on October 23, 1983 killing 241 US soldiers whom Reagan himself had placed in harm’s way – coincidentally just two days before Reagan invaded Grenada – although it still took weeks for the US to wrap things up on that tiny island, according to that authoritative source on everything, Wikipedia.
Here’s another good find/replace exercise from p 8:
A Russian grey-zone strategy is to undermine faith in Western institutions and encourage populist movements by meddling in elections and using bots and trolls on social media to fan grievances and prejudice.
Substitute “American” and Western” for “Russian” and the truth springs out, free of the shackles of the International Capitalist Conspiracy:
An American grey-zone strategy is to undermine faith in Russian (or Venezuelan, Syrian, Iranian, et al) institutions and encourage populist movements by meddling in elections and using bots and trolls on social media to fan grievances and prejudice.
The poor delusional writers at The Economist do not seem to understand that the folk of the United States, as one example, and the folk of England as another, do NOT need Russian help to undermine faith in institutions. MOSTLY BECAUSE the institutions are doing quite a fine job at undermining faith in themselves by themselves, Thank You Very Much.
How much unemployment (22% as calculated by ShadowStats.com), absence of Medicare-for-All, male rape culture, income and wealth inequality, police shootings of young Black, Latino and Native American and disabled people in particular and ordinary people in general, export of jobs, infrastructure deterioration, the spectacle of electoral irrelevance and general Third World Shitholeness do Americans need to have their faith undermined in crapified institutions – and without the least bit of Russian help?
The rising support for people like Corbyn, Sanders and Mélenchon in France suggest non-capitalist solutions are afoot to solve capitalist-caused, NOT RUSSIAN-CAUSED problems. Such as capitalist, fossil-fueled Global HEATING causing Climate EMERGENCY as but one example accompanied by the looming Sixth Extinction – the only “terraism” and “terraists” we should be focused on. Although the Russians and Chinese, like the US and England, all examples of state capitalism, do far more than their fair share of stinking up Earth’s atmosphere.
Also present in The Economist report on “The Next War’ are plenty of self-deconstructing sentences such as this one on pp. 9-10:
China’s grey-zone campaign to assert uncontested control over the South China Sea and jurisdiction over disputed islands in the East China Sea …
An attentive reader might note that the two seas are NOT named “South American Sea” or the “East American Sea” now, are they? So why would China NOT want to assert control over these areas to protect them from the full-spectrum dominance and projection of power via naval intrusion by a nation that is several thousand miles away — and has a bloody history of intervening in nations all around the planet, including multiple times in China itself?
And then there are the flat-out lies – and there are plenty of them — such as this one on p. 8:
The clearest case of grey zone challenges are Russian intervention in Ukraine …
Talk about fake news. It was the US and the EU which intervened in Ukraine to, yet again, regime change a democratically-elected president and impose a government now headed by a billionaire president whose government includes authentic Ukrainian Nazis, descendants of actual Ukrainian Nazis who were all too enthusiastic partners in helping Hitler kill Jews.
And here’s a real whopper of a fake news lie from p. 7:
In February of last year, in the wake of revelations about Russian interference in America’s presidential election but before the full extent of its activities on Facebook, Twitter and Google had become known …
fake news again … and The Economists asserts this faith-based statement just as that meme “The Russians Did It” finds itself “melting, melting” like the witch in the Wizard of Oz.
And not one word about Israeli interference in US elections … or massive, continued, decades-long US interference in elections all over the planet. Postwar Italy comes to mind as do all the financial and operational support to smear Chile’s Dr. Salvador Allende in his three unsuccessful races of 1952, 1958 and 1964 as well as in his finally successful campaign in 1970.
And then there was September 11th. 9/11. But The Original was in Chile in 1973 by Nixon/Kissinger and the CIA.
The final fatal flaws in The Economist special section on “The Next War” are the flat-out omissions which are blatant, flagrant lies because of the severity and significance and the war threat represented by the information omitted. In Christianity, these are called “sins of omission.” On p. 12, the Economist writes that
Other states with nuclear weapons such as China, Pakistan, India and, particularly, North Korea …
Besides the high-handed dismissal of China as merely an “other state with nuclear weapons” can you spot the nation missing in action on that list?
It is the nation which obtained weapons-grade uranium in a theft from a uranium processing plant in Pennsylvania in the 1960s, a theft on the watch of CIA counterintelligence chief and fascist monster James Jesus Angleton — who was simultaneously the CIA’s Israel Desk Chief. Author Jefferson Morley writes about it in his 2017 book GHOST: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton.
In the chapter simply called “Bomb,” Morley describes in detail that theft from the Apollo Pennsylvania uranium processing facility — which accounts for the unexplained large “losses” of processed uranium “lost” in processing at the Apollo facility – which far exceeded uranium lost in other uranium processing plants. (Take a moment and think about that: there are actually unexplained losses of uranium in ANY uranium processing plant.)
The Apollo facility was owned and operated by NUMEC corporation which was owned by David Lowenthal, a wealthy Jewish-American and veteran of the Hagenah which established that Jewish homeland state of Israel in 1948. Lowenthal was close to his Hagenah commander, future Mossad Chief Meir Amit. (NUMEC, perhaps coincidentally, was the first non-government, corporate-owned facility granted a license by the AEC to process uranium.) Morley’s whole chapter on the Israeli theft of uranium from the Pennsylvania facility to manufacture nuclear weapons is out of a Le Carre novel. Except it was real.
So Israel, that nuclear-armed-to-the-teeth Middle Eastern nation now poised to invade Lebanon for offshore natural gas and to take a bigger bite out of Syria for Syrian oil, is omitted in The Economist’s special report as a possible causal agent for “The Next War.” For that matter, Saudi Arabia is also missing in action as is the US itself for maintaining a beachhead of human boots on the ground among US-supported jihadists in Syria. Paging Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Unexplored in The Economist and far worse is Israeli hypocrisy: Israel still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and similarly refuses to permit inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the Dimona nuclear weapons facility in the Negev Desert and other facilities.It is not only ironic, it is total hypocrisy for Israel to refuse inspections of the invasive type endured by Iran – which were forced on Iran at the behest of israel by its faithful companion and domestic partner, the US. Talk about a serious lie by omission.
Jesus of Nazareth denounced hypocrisy and hypocrites twenty separate times in the KJV version of the four Gospels, not including his hurling of insults like “Ye pit of vipers!” (one never hears that on Sunday mornings). It is not clear whether these tirades against hypocrites and hypocrisy had anything to do with his designation as an “enemy of church and state” let alone his eventual fate. But the hypocrisies continue in the State of Israel. For some reason, Hamlet’s line “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” comes to mind.
It may be that the U.S. and European militaries have actually learned something from World Wars I and II. Those wars were good for business – especially the munitions business and post-war reconstruction – but were so bloody and costly that “cold” rather than “hot” war became the imperial drug of choice. Except for the Wars in Koreastan, Vietnamistan and Iraq and regime change and other low-grade interventions such as Obama and Hillary Clinton’s “cold” intervention in Honduras and “hot” intervention in Libya. But generally speaking, all-out war – especially nuclear war — is NOT good for globalized, financialized business.
What is good for globalized, financialized business – especially the munitions industries – is for the US to constantly arm itself to the teeth and to constantly “modernize” weaponry so that there is almost an infinite loop of trillions of dollars in weapons inventions and modernizations — until the inevitable happens and all the upgrades and modernizations and improvements and new technologies combine in a weapon that Don’t Work Right – like the F-35 jet fighter.
But even better than an infinite loop of constantly modernizing and upgrading weapons that work fine killing people and destroying, ahem, Private Property, is the sheer orgasmic thrill the imperial warmongering neocon capitalists classes have by selling weapons to allied nations worldwide. Indeed, the desire to imitate and emulate the US among nations in “The West” is so strong – especially when US puppets attend “Military Trade Shows” (yes that is an actual term) – that bank financing is arranged (that will ultimately bankrupt the countries) but will provide immediate gratification in the acquisition of shiny new fighter jets, radars, algorithms, troop carriers, missiles, automatic weapons and other Christmas morning toys.
Indeed, the sale of armaments even to the Shithole Nations of the World is Good Business and continues apace — which means that Not-War, but arming for war in order to prevent war — is Good Business. But in order for this conclusion to this article deconstructing The Economist’s special section on “The Next War” to AVOID being FAKE NEWS, it should be said that the Russians, Israelis, and Chinese are also selling their military wares all over the world. Rubles and shekels and yuan, oh my!
But is that not to be the expected in all state capitalist empires?
The main point of The Economist’s special section on “The Next War” seems to be the assertion — despite the failure of the US to win any wars since 1945 — that VictimAmerica has the more-bang-for-the-buck innovative and technological prowess (READ: phallic prowess) to defeat any of the Big Bad Bullies … if push came to shove. Perhaps The Economist is simply warning the Big Bad Bullies to stop locking VictimAmerica in a school locker all the time.
If they know what’s good for them.
Here the links to the special section. One gets a handful of stories for free from The Economist each week, which I think is mighty white of ‘em.
The future of war: The growing danger of great-power conflict
The odds on a conflict between the great powers / The great powers seem to have little appetite for full-scale war, but there is room for miscalculation
Waging war with disinformation
Preparing for More Urban Warfare
Using Clever Technology to Keep Enemies at Bar
Getting to grips with military robotics / Autonomous robots and swarms will change the nature of warfare