(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
Category Archives: Collective
Why Isn’t The U.S. Keeping Up Militarily?
The United States is ranked as the most powerful country in the world:
But the U.S. spends more than the next 7-8 countries COMBINED!(See below chart from Forbes 2016)
In fact, military spending is more than half of all U.S. federal discretionary spending.
So the question is why are we spending so much more than everybody else, is the United States getting its money’s worth, and most importantly are we able to defend ourselves?
The U.S. defense budget is going up and has been approved at $717B for 2019.
All the other 28 NATO countries together spend less than half ($296B) as much as the U.S. alone.
If you add NATO spending as a complement to the U.S. then the total spend on our mutual defense approaches $1 trillion!
Russia ($69B) China ($146B), North Korea ($6B), and Iran’s ($16B) military spending in total pales in comparison at just $237B.
NATO as a whole is outspending Russia + China + North Korea + Iran by a factor of 4 times yet these countries are still considered major threats to us!
Despite all the truly incredible brave, hard working, and excellent men and women that serve with distinction in our military,
Therefore, again why is it that the U.S. is spending more on what others seem to get for cheaper? Is there significant fraud, waste, and abuse in the system? Are we as a rich capitalistic nation simply getting fat, lazy, and stupid?
Notwithstanding the outsized spending by the United States, incredibly from today’s Wall Street Journal, there is another article about our inability to defend ourselves:
“These are admissions that the U.S. cannot proportionally and equally defend itself in space, cyber, and response to tactical and nuclear weapons except through the threat of escalation and intrusion into other domains.”
Some poignant examples given:
– Our stationary land-based nuclear missiles are no match for Russia and China’s mobile-based ICBMs.
– Our ten busiest U.S. ports do not have an adequate defense against an underwater nuclear missile launch.
China and Russia variously are beating us out in:
- Quantum Communications
- Anti-Satellite Weapons
- Directed Energy
In fact, it was just reported that China conducted its 8th hypersonic test of a plane–with this one said to capable of Mach 10–and that it is capable of carrying nukes!
Further, our carrier group fleet and land forces are at risk with respect to Russia and China’s hypersonic weapons.
Of course, EMP weapons can fry our electrical grid and a large cyber attack could disable our critical infrastructure.
Let’s not even talk bioweapons–think Black Plague from the Middle Ages that wiped out 30-60% of Europe.
Yes, some of these are asymmetric warfare, but why are we still thinking and fighting so kinetic and conventionally.
If we are fighting the wars of yesteryear instead of the battles of today and the threats of tomorrow then what good is our military investments and assets.
To become a more capable fighting force that is less vulnerable, more capable of defending this country, and making better use of our large investment dollars here are 10-steps we need to take to transform our military; we need to transition as follows:
- From static land-based nuclear missiles to a fully mobile platform.
- From vulnerable fleets of large ships and planes to “unstoppable” swarms of miniaturized lethal drones.
- From a preponderance of earth-based kinetic weapons to space-based energy directed weapons.
- From having to generally choose between speed or power to using the power of speed as an “unstoppable” force of nature.
- From projecting a time and space bound visible presence to a persistent invisible existence.
- From attempting to defend limited points of presence to establishing a “impenetrable” umbrella shield of multi-layered defenses.
- From reactively identifying and stopping cyber threats to proactively hunting and destroying them.
- From knee-jerk instinctive putting of human lives in harm’s way to matter-of-factly sending milbots (military robots) to the front lines.
- From relying on the heroics and genius of individual human brainpower to harnessing in realtime “the collective” augmented by artificial intelligence into a hive.
- From relying on escalation of a “bigger, badder gun” to being able to fight capably in every battle arena, win in each and dominate holistically.
Over $700B per year should buy us a lot of defense, hopefully in the future we can really use it to defend ourselves. 😉
Time Travel Is Real
Sure, we can travel space…from continent to continent, into the depths of the oceans, and to the far reaches of outer space.
But can we also travel time?
Yes, and we regularly do!
Whether individually, in our minds eye, we go back and forth in time–remembering poignantly the memories of the past with regret or with joy and thinking forward in time whether worrying what could happen or eagerly look forward and hope for a brighter future.
Similarly, as a human collective, we can travel back and forth in time well past our individual recollections and remember, celebrate, memorialize, or eulogize what came before us through generations and millennia and even plan great innovations, feats, and civilizations well into the future.
Time is but a shadow that is cast off us from the our great Heavenly Father who shines his grace upon us by his creation and is himself timeless.
In the shadow of time, we can glimpse the externalism of what supersedes our mortality and the significance of us as a speck in time amidst the greatness that lies across the reaches of space and time–that is the soul of the matter. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
A NATO In Shambles
For months and months now, we’ve seen Russia aggressing against the West and NATO cowering in fear of an escalation.
Russia is the largest country on Earth covering 9 time zones and they are truly a formidable bear.
Recently, with the Russian blitzkrieg into Crimea, the West was taken by the surprise and the speed of the attack, as Russian helicopters, tanks, and soldiers violated the borders that were once Ukraine.
At the same time, Russia attack planes and subs have been probing the skies and waters of Europe, and NATO has been feebly attempting to intercept them over and over again–always on the defense.
Russia continues to upgrade their nukes and conducts nuclear games and brinksmanship, while the U.S. dismantles it’s Cold War arsenals according to previous START treaty.
Last week, with the U.S considering light arms for the Ukrainians, the Russians warned that would cause “colossal damage” to ties.
When the U.S. threatened to throw Russia out of the SWIFT payment system, we were warned, “Russian response — economically and otherwise — will know no limits.“
But as Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, stated, “You can’t provoke them. They’re already on a path to do what they want to do.“
While Russian Spetsnaz are pulling their country identifying insignia off their uniforms to make the world hesitate, question, and cower at those behind the masks, NATO is still grappling with plans on how to put together a simple rapid reactionary force of just 5,000 soldiers to get themselves together within 48 hours and then 25,000 troops within weeks.
Uh, the battle or even the war may be over by the time our sleepy NATO gets it’s boots on and muskets loaded.
In the age of fiber optics and ICBMs steaming across the networks and skies, taking days and weeks to mobilize is b*llsh*t!
NATO cannot even get but 4 of it’s 28 member nations to maintain the minimum 2% contribution to defense, because once defense is treated as belonging to the commons, the attitude is just let the others worry about it or the U.S. will provide the fallback for all anyway.
While Russia only worries about Russia and moves in forward thrusts, NATO dances around trying not to get speared, because they theorize now it’s only Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and so we don’t want to antagonize the bear and end up being it’s next dinner.
But the Great Bear is hungry for power and respect, and as NATO runs and pees it’s pants, the bear smells it’s prey and is in fearless chase. 😉
(Source Photo: here with Attribution to Crown, UK Defense Ministry)
Robots Reach The Clouds
So robots have reached the clouds before many of our government agencies have–who would’ve thought?
Bloomberg Businessweek reports how robotic activities are being stored in the cloud and are then accessible to other robots to learn from and repeat as necessary.
The “cloud servers essentially [are] a shared brain” where memories and experiences are uploaded and accessed by other robots with a need to know the same thing.
The cloud is the means of transfer learning from one robot to the other.
It serves like a master neural network where the Internet provides the how-to for everything from serving juice to patients in a hospital to functioning as autonomous warbots in battle.
Like the Borg on Star Trek with a collective brain, the cloud may become the mastermind for everything from day-to-day functioning to taking over the species of the universe.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Virtual Government–Yes or Nonsense
The Atlantic (2 June 2013) asks why do we even need a government these days–why not just have a virtual one–where you just “buy” the government you want, the size, the capabilities, and you tailor it for your needs?
The author sees government as menu-driven, like a videogame, by a “rotating dial,” where you choose whatever government suites you best.
In this world of virtual government, people are seen turning to private sector alternatives to get capabilities, customer service, and prices that are better than the government’s–in some cases, this may actually work, like with private insurance.
However, this article goes beyond this notion to where government is not tied to the physical boundaries of the real world, but rather to virtual jurisdictions, citizenship, and even values held or abrogated.
While I agree that raising the bar on government is a good thing–expect more for less–and partnering with the private sector can make government more efficient, the idea of wholesale shopping government around is quite ludicrous:
– Will we hire mercenaries instead of having an armed forces?
– Will we rely solely on CEOs to conduct our diplomacy?
– Will justice be doled out by vigilantes?
– Will private inspectors alone regulate food, drug, and the financial system?
While compared to an iPad wheel for making service selections, Government is not the same as a library of songs or movies that one scrolls through to pick and choose what one likes and dislikes.
Like the old joke about the difference between family and friends…you can choose your friends, but you can’t just choose your family!
While government can provide services virtually, it cannot be a government entirely sliced up by choice–where you opt-in for what you like and opt-out for what you don’t–if that were the case, we would all selfishly take and never contribute to the greater good.
For example, “Hey, I like social entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, but I don’t particularly care for contributing to space exploration or research and development for certain diseases that I may not be genetically predisposed to.”
There is a civic commons where we must share–the prime example is a fire department. If I choose not to contribute, then the fire department still has to come to put out the fire or else it can spread to others.
In the end, we are not just a collective of individuals, but a nation bound together by core values and beliefs, and shared interests and investments in the future–and where by sharing the risks and burdens, we fall or rise together.
Like anything that you are seriously apart of–family, religion, organizations, and work–we take the good and work on the bad, rather than just immaturely throwing it all or in innumerable parts away.
Yes, government should only do functions that are inherently governmental, and we should avail ourselves of all the talent and expertise in the private sector for the rest, but no, we should not wholly think that we can replace government with loose and shifting ties on the Internet and purely profit-driven private sector players.
If Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda serving as modern virtual governments are the best examples of what can be accomplished, then we should all be running (not walking) to good ‘ol Democracy of the U.S. of A.
Virtual government as a way to provision services as well as competition and augmentation by the private sector is great, but becoming a stateless state will not solve the large and complex problems we must face, not alone, but together.
Even though bureaucratic waste and abuse is bad, the system of debate, negotiation, checks and balances, basic human rights, and voting is good, and we should not just throw out the precious baby with the dirty bathwater. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Swarming For Social Order and Disorder
A swarm is a large number of organisms generally in motion. According to Swarm Theory, the collective exhibits superior intelligence or abilities beyond that of any individual.
Swarms are powerful forces that we see in our society today in everything from the worldwide riots of 2011 to crowdsourcing on the Internet–to put it simply as they say, “there is power in numbers.”
And swarms and their immense power dates back to the Bible, where the 8th plague sent on Egypt in Deuteronomy 10:14-15 was the plague of locusts:
“And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt…for they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees…”
This past year, we saw the power of swarms in the riots around the globe–from Tahir Square to Occupy Wall Street. In the case of Egypt, Mubarak was deposed after ruling for 30 years and in the case of Wall Street, the Occupy movement sparked protests around the globe lasting for many months.
Similarly, swarms are being put to the test in multiple military applications from the Army’s Future Combat System (since renamed) that envision brigades of manned and unmanned combat vehicles linked via an ultra-fast network creating a highly coordinated and maneuverable fighting force to DARPA’s iRobotSwarm Project creating a mesh network of mobile robots with sensors that can coordinate and perform surveillance and reconnaissance gaining dominance over the battlefield.
The power of the swarm is not just a physical phenomenon, but also a virtual one where crowdsourcing is used online to do everything from building incredible sources of knowledge like Wikipedia to soliciting citizens ideas for solving national problems such as on Challenge.gov.
Traditionally, the power behind the swarm (in nature whether bees, ants, or locusts) was the collective behavior of so many to attack an enemy, build a colony, or ravage the landscape. Today however, the swarm is powerful because of its collective intelligence–whether in pooling information, vetting ideas, or just coordinating activities with such sophistication that the group can outwit and outmaneuver its opponents.
Wired Magazine has an article for the new year (January 2012) called “Crowd Control” in which the riots of 2011 are viewed as both “dangerous and magnificent”–they represent a disconnected group getting connected, a mega-underground casting off its invisibility to embody itself, formidably, in physical space.”
“Today’s protest, revolts, and riots are self-organizing [and] hyper-networked”–and just like a swarm, individuals deindividuate and base their ideas and actions on the shared identify of the group and therein, a social psychology takes hold and with basic communication and social technology today, they can spontaneously form potent flash mobs, “flash robs,” or worse.
The age old phenomenon of swarming behavior is intersecting with the 21st century technology such as smartphones and social media to create the ability of individuals to gather, act decisively, disperse into the crowds, and then reconvene elsewhere to act again.
The power of this modern swarm is no longer about “sheer numbers,” but about being interconnected through messaging, tweets, videos,and more.
Many today are finding the power of the swarm with both friends and foes. Friends are using swarming to try to accomplish new social and scientific feats. While foes such as Al Qaeda are utilizing swarming for hit and run terrorism–moving agilely between safe havens and targeting their victims with tools of terror such as IEDs, car bombs, and other flash attacks.
Swarming is not just a behavior found in the animal kingdom any longer, today it is a fundamental source for both social order and disorder.
Swarming is now a strategy and a tactic–we need to wise up and gain the edge with social swarming behavior and technology to “outwit, outlast, and outplay” those who want to threaten society, and instead use it to improve and secure it.
(Source Photo: here)
Cleverbot Proposes Marriage
>What China’s Bullet Trains Can Teach Us About Governance
One of the foundations of this great country is that we believe in respecting the rights of the individual. This belief is founded on the Judeo-Christian doctrine that every life is valuable and the loss of even one life is like the loss of an entire world.
The rights of the individuals are enshrined in the Bill of Rights that establishes what we consider our fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech, press, religion, due process, eminent domain, and many others.
The flip side of the protection of individual rights—which is sacred to us—is that it may occasionally come at some “expense” to the collective. This can occur when those individuals who may be adversely affected by a decision, hinder overall societal progress. For example, one could argue that society benefits from the building of highways, clean energy nuclear plants, even prison facilities. Yet, we frequently hear the refrain of “not in my backyard” when these projects are under consideration.
In my neighborhood, where a new train line is proposed, there are signs up and down the street, of people adversely affected, opposing it—whether in the end it is good, bad or indifferent for the community as a whole.
So on one hand we have the rights and valid concerns of the individual, yet on the other hand, we have the progress of the collective. Sure, there are ways to compensate those individuals who are adversely affected by group decisions, but the sheer process of debate—however valuable and justified, indeed—may slow the overall speed of progress down.
Why is this an especially critical issue now?
In a high speed networked world with vast global competition—nation versus nation, corporation versus corporation—speed to market can make a great deal of difference. For example, the speed of the U.S. in the arms and space race with Soviet Union left just one global superpower standing. Similarly, many companies and in fact whole industries have been shut down because they have been overtaken, leapfrogged by the competition. So speed and innovation does matter.
For example, in the field of information technology, where Moore’s Law dictates a new generation of technology every two years of so, the balance of speed to modernization with a foundation of sound IT governance is critical to how we must do business.
Fortune Magazine has an article called “China’s Amazing New Bullet Train (it leaves America in the Dust!)”
China’s new ultra-modern rail system will be almost 16,000 miles of new track running train at up to 220 miles per hours by 2020. China is investing their economic stimulus package of $585 billion strategically with $50 billion going this year alone to the rail system. This compares with the U.S. allocating only $8 billion for high-speed trains over the next three years. Note: that the high speed Amtrak Acela train between Boston and Washington, DC goes a whopping average speed of 79 mph.
One of the reasons that China’s free market is credited with amazing economic progress—for example, GDP growth this year projected at 8.3% (in the global recession)—is their ability to retain some elements of what the military calls a “command and control” structure. This enables decisions to get made and executed more quickly than what others may consider endless rounds of discourse. The down side of course is that without adequate and proper discussion and debate, poor decisions can get made and executed, and individuals’ human rights can get overlooked and in fact sidelined. (Remember the shoddy school construction that resulted in almost 7000 classrooms getting destroyed and many children dying in the Earthquake in China in May 2008?)
So the question is how do we protect the individual and at the same time keep pace—and where possible, maintain or advance our societal strategic competitive advantage?
It seems that there is a cost to moving too slowly in terms of our ability to compete in a timely fashion. Yet, there is also a cost to moving too quickly and making poorly vetted decisions that do not take into account all the facts or all the people affected. Either extreme can hurt us.
What is important is that we govern with true openness, provide justice for all affected, and maintain a process that helps—and does not hinder—timely decisions action.
We cannot afford to make poor decisions—these are expensive—nor do we have the luxury of getting caught up in “analysis paralysis.”
Of course, there are many ways to approach this. One way is to continue to refine our governance processes so that they are just to the individual and agile for our society by continuing to simplify and streamline the decision process, while ensuring that everyone is heard and accounted for. Recently we have seen the use of new information sharing and collaboration technologies, like those provided through social media—wikis, blogs, social networks and more—that can help us to do exchange ideas and work together faster than ever before. Embracing these new technologies can help us to pick up the pace of the vetting process while at the same time enabling more people than ever to participate.
Perhaps social media is one of the only things faster than China’s new bullet trains in helping us to progress how we do business in the 21st century.
>Social Media Can Free Us All
>An action by a lone decision maker may be quick and life-saving as in response to extreme fear or stress, when a person must in a split second select from the “fight or flight response.”
Given a little more time to make a decision, people have found that there is not only strength in numbers, but also wisdom. In other words, vetting a decision among a diverse group and hearing different sides to an issue, generally yields better decisions than an individual could make alone. Colloquially, we often here this referred to as “two heads are better than one.”
Now, with the power of the Internet, we are able to employ collective decision making en masse. Through Web 2.0 tools like Wiki’s, Internet forums, social networks, and other collaboration tools, we can reach out to masses of people across the social, economic, and political landscape—anywhere in the world—and even from those orbiting the planet on the International Space Station. Soon enough, we will take the power of the collective to new extremes by reaching out to those who have traveled and reside on distance worlds—I think that will probably be in Web 4.0 or 5.0.
What’s amazing is that we can get input from anyone, anywhere and in virtually limitless numbers from anyone interested in participating and providing their ideas and input.
When we open up the discussion to large groups of people like this it is called crowdsourcing, and it is essentially mass information sharing, collaboration and participation towards more sophisticated and mature ideation and decision making.
The concept of participatory thinking and intelligence, to me, is an outgrowth not just of the technologies that enables it, but also of the freedom of people to choose to participate and their human right to speak their minds freely and openly. Certainly, this is an outgrowth of democratization and human rights.
While the Internet and Social Media technologies are in a sense an outgrowth of freedoms that support our abilities to innovate. I believe that they now will be an enabler for continued democratization, freedom, and human rights around the world. Once the flood gates are opened a little for people to be free virtually (to read new ideas online, to vote online, to comment and provide feedback online, and to generally communicate and share openly online), a surge of freedom in the traditional sense must soon follow.
This is a tremendous time for human civilization—the Internet has connected us all. Diversity is no longer a dirty little word that some try to squash, but a strength that binds us. Information sharing no longer cowers behind a need to know. Collaboration no longer hides behind more authoritative forms of decision making. People and organizations recognize that the strengths of individuals are magnified by the power of the collective.
The flip side is that voices for hate, chaos, and evil can also avail themselves of the same tools of social media to spread extremism, crime, terrorism, and anarchy. So there are two camps coming together through sharing and collaboration, the same as through all time—good and evil.
The fight for truth is taking a new turn through technology. Social media enables us to use mass communication and collective intelligence to achieve a high goal.