Russia Seems To Have A Strategy, Why Don’t We?

Bomb Pop

Russia upends the U.S. and NATO once again, now carrying out a third day of a devastating bombing campaign that shows no sign of letting up in Syria. 


Russia is leapfrogging us to pursue their goals of keeping dictator Bashar Al Assad, tightening up on a renewed cozy relationship with Iran and Iraq–in what is the prime oil basin of the world–and reestablishing their place on the world stage as a superpower (apparently, Crimea wasn’t the end, but just the beginning), and at the same time killing U.S.-backed Syrian rebels


But what about our efforts…


Well, we’ve had “dismal results” after dilly dallying around in Syria for the better part of its 4 1/2 year civil war that’s killed over 250,000 people and created 5 million refuges streaming across the Middle East and Europe, and we keep having to “rethink” our strategy there. 


At the same time, as to our war to defeat the terrorist ISIS caliphate–who vows to smuggle nukes into America and plans a “religious cleansing” of hundreds of millions–uh, they continue to grow!


What about our more than 10 year investment in Iraq–where we spent over $2 trillion and in which almost 37,000 of our service members were either killed or wounded?  –Iraq is now cooperating with…Russia!


How about Iran–for whom we went to the mat with a controversial deal to relieve their sanctions and provide them hundreds of billions of dollars to funnel into their economy as well as global terror? –Iran is allying themselves with Russia (and Hezbollah), deepening their foray into Syria, and continue their threats to annihilate Israel and chants of death to America!


Then to hear yesterday that not only don’t we have a strategy as has been the reframe for months, but that we are not going to play chess or get into a proxy war in the Middle East with Russia…well gee, the world game of strategy and brinksmanship is not going to stop for us. 


Just because we don’t have a (good) strategy and don’t want to play global chess anymore doesn’t mean Russia, Iran, China, and others aren’t going to forge ahead with their dangerous strategies and gains. 


We are a wealthy, mighty, and innovative nation–surely, we have a strategy in this country of over 319,000,000 people, somewhere. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

| Go With A Winning Strategy |

Chess

So there was an office discussion the other day about something having a “checkered past.”


And one of my colleagues said wisely about it, “I rather play chess!”


I though it was a smart retort, since chess is a game of strategy versus checkers, which is more a game of luck. 


Checkers is by far the more one-dimensional game with each piece moving or jumping in a similar fashion, while in chess, you deploy specific types of pieces (king, queen, rook, bishop, night, or pawn) for different manuevers. 


In life, when we deal with things that are especially challenging, double-edged, tricky, or plain dangerous, we need to handle it with a well-thought-out game plan and a solid strategy.


Having a plan and maintaining agility in dealing with the “facts on the ground” as they unfold is by far the better problem-solving approach than just trying to jump over the other guys pieces or block his next move. 


Chess in the only way to get to checkmate 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Florls Looijesteijn)

>Machine, Checkmate.

>

It’s the eternal battle of Man vs. Machine—our biggest fear and greatest hope—which is ultimately superior?

On one hand, we are afraid of being overtaken by the very technology we build, and simultaneously, we are hopeful at what ailments technology can cure and what it can help us achieve.

In spite of our hopes and fears, the overarching question is can we construct computers that will in fact surpass our own distinct human capabilities?

This week IBM’s Supercomputer Watson will face off against two of the all-time-greatest players, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a game of Jeopardy—at stake is $1.5 million in prize money.

Will we see a repeat of technology defeating humankind as happened in 1997, when IBM’s Supercomputer at the time, Deep Blue, beat Garry Kasparov, world-champion, in chess?

While losing some games—whether chess or Jeopardy—is perhaps disheartening to people and their mental acuity; does it really take away from who we are as human beings and what makes us “special” and not mere machines?

For decades, a machine’s ability to act “more human” than a person has been testing the ever-thinning divide between man and machine.

An article in The Atlantic (March 2011) called Mind vs. Machine exposes the race to build computers that can think and communicate like people.

The goal is to use artificial intelligence in machines to rival real intelligence in humans and to fool a panel of judges at the annual meeting for the Loebner Prize and pass the Turing test.

Alan Turing in his 1950’s paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” asked whether machines can think? He posited that if a judge could not tell machine from human in text-only communication (to mask the difference in sounds being machines and humans), then the machine was said to win!

Turing predicted that by the year 2000, computers would be able to fool 30% of human judges after five minutes of conversations.” While this has not happened, it has come close (missing by only one deception) in 2008 with an AI program called Elbot.

Frankly, it is hard for me to really imagine computers that can talk with feelings and expressiveness—based on memories, tragedies, victories, hopes, and fears—the way people do.

Nevertheless, computer programs going back to the Eliza program in 1964 have proven very sophisticated and adept as passing for human, so much so that “The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease” in 1966 said of Eliza that: “several hundred patients an hour could be handled by a computer system designed for this purpose.” Imagine that a computer was proposed functioning as a psychotherapist already 45 years ago!

I understand that Ray Kurzweil has put his money on IBM’s Watson for the Jeopardy match this week, and that certainly is in alignment with his vision of “The Singularity” where machines overtake humans in an exponentially accelerating advancement of technology toward “massive ultra-intelligence.”

Regardless of who wins Jeopardy this week—man or machine—and when computers finally achieve the breakthrough Turing test, I still see humans as distinct from machines, not in their intellectual or physical capabilities, but ultimately in the moral (or some would call it religious) conscience that we carry in each one of us. This is our ability to choose right from wrong—and sometimes to choose poorly.

I remember learning in Jewish Day School (“Yeshiva”) that humans are a combination—half “animal” and half “soul”. The animal part of us lusts after all the is pleasurable, at virtually any cost, but the soul part of us is the spark of the divine that enables us to choose to be more—to do what’s right, despite our animal cravings.

I don’t know of any computer, super or not, that can struggle between pleasure and pain and right and wrong, and seek to grow beyond it’s own mere mortality through conscious acts of selflessness and self-sacrifice.

Even though in our “daily grind,” people may tend to act as automatons, going through the day-to-day motions virtually by rote, it is important to rise above the machine aspect of our lives, take the “bigger picture” view and move our lives towards some goals and objectives that we can ultimately be proud of.

When we look back on our lives, it’s not how successful we became, how much money and material “things” we accumulated—these are the computerized aspects of our lives that we sport. Rather, it’s the good we do for our others that will stay behind long after we are gone. So whether the computer has a bigger database, faster processor, and better analytics—good for it—in the end, it has nothing on us humans.

Man or machine—I say machine, checkmate!