2:00PM Water Cooler 9/9/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.



“Warren: I agree with Trump on taxes” [The Hill].

“Mrs. Clinton’s role in this critical early debate hasn’t been previously reported and shows that the Democratic presidential front-runner and her top aide, Mr. Sullivan, were key players in the Iran deal” [Wall Street Journal, “Hillary Clinton Opened Door to Key U.S. Shift Toward Iran Nuclear Deal”]. Not sure how Obama feels about Clinton muscling in on the glory, and only after he closes the deal with Senate Democrats, too.

“Ben Carson calls for guest-worker status for immigrants” [AP].

The Trail

Clinton “apology on email server”: I’d cite to the ABC News transcript, but the link on their horribly organized site is broken, and I don’t trust the bits quoted by other sources. From Clinton’s Facebook page (sorry):

Yes, I should have used two email addresses, one for personal matters and one for my work at the State Department. Not doing so was a mistake. I’m sorry about it, and I take full responsibility.

Oh. Mistakes were made. And it’s not the two email addresses that are the key problem. It’s the server, which Clinton privatized.

I know this is a complex story. I could have—and should have—done a better job answering questions earlier. I’m grateful for your support, and I’m not taking anything for granted.

No, it’s very simple. See above. And “what took so long?” [WaPo].

“Clinton aide who set up email server is pressed to accept immunity” [McClatchy]

On the “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say” story:

“The second those klieg lights hit [Trump], he’ll find his maestro voice, that nimble and knowing schoolyard brogue that doesn’t miss a trick or a chance to pounce. Besides, he’ll say the exact same unscripted things he said in Michigan days earlier and will say again tomorrow at the Iowa State Fair, all of it word for word from memory” [Rolling Stone]. Well, I should hope so!

Monmouth University Poll: “Biden surged to 22 percent among registered voters who identified as Democrats and lean toward the Democratic Party in the newest Monmouth University Poll, though he still trailed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who polled at 42 percent,” with Sanders at 20% [Talking Points Memo]. For the life of me, I can’t see a reason for that loveable goof Joe Biden to run, other than that he could run. Policy? Charisma? No baggage? Fealty to Wall Street? What, in business terms, is Biden’s distinctive competence? That he gets a charge out of retail politics? [WaPo]. That he doesn’t have a mysterious black van with him at all times?

“‘Looks like Biden already running,’ [reptilian media mogul Rupert] Murdoch tweeted late Monday. ‘Very likely he wins nomination and be hard to beat'” [The Hill]. Murdoch tossing the apple of discord? Or privy to elite gossip the rest of us poor shlubs don’t know?

“Huckabee Aide Physically Blocked Cruz From Getting Into Kim Davis Money Shot” [Talking Points Memo]. Republican bottom feeders start to get ugly!

“Rick Perry loses South Carolina headquarter offices” [CNN]. No, Perry didn’t mislay them; he’s running out of money.

“‘People say, well, Bernie Sanders is unelectable, can’t win,’ Sanders told reporters Friday. ‘In a number of those polls we are defeating some of the leading Republican candidates'” [McClatchy].

The Hill

“U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that Republican leaders have not yet decided on how long the coming fiscal year 2016 stop-gap spending bill will be or whether it will be free of policy riders” [Market News]. Another variable for J-Yel to juggle….

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of September 4, 2015:”After jumping 17.0 percent in the prior week on a rate-related surge in refinancing applications, the refinance index fell back 10 percent in the September 4 week. The purchase index continues to show much less volatility” [Econoday].

JOLTS, July 2015: “Job openings were up sharply in July” [Econoday]. “Professional & business services, which is considered to be a leading component for total employment, led the gains. … Despite the rise in openings, the number of hires edged lower. The rise in openings could definitely be cited by the hawks at next week’s FOMC as a further indication of tightness in the labor market.”

Quarterly Services Survey, Q2 2015:IT up 1.3% for the quarter, 3.8% for the year [Econoday].

“A shortage of glass is taking a toll on the nation’s commercial building boom, adding millions of dollars to the cost of new skyscrapers and halting some projects midway through construction” [Wall Street Journal, “Cost of Skyscraper Glass Hits Dizzying Heights”]. “Many glass makers mothballed their operations or went out of business in 2008 and 2009, during the recession, which hit the construction industry hard.” Interesting case of hysteresis.And how are we going to sell condos to fleeing Chinese wannabe squillionaires if we can’t get the curtain walls built, dammit?

The Fed: “The US Federal Reserve risks triggering ‘panic and turmoil [!] in emerging markets if it opts to raise rates at its September meeting and should hold fire until the global economy is on a surer footing, the World Bank’s chief economist has warned.[Financial Times, “World Bank chief economist warns Fed to delay rate rise”]. Awwww! Not even a quarter point? Not even one-and-done by Xmas 2016?

The Fed: “We believe that the most likely outcome is for a short-term funding deal to be reached to avoid a shutdown. However, the prospect of more unwelcome political dysfunction could add additional complication to the Fed’s deliberation next week” [Across the Curve].

Fear & Greed Index, September 9, 2015: 16 (“Extreme Fear”) [CNN Money].

Mr. Market

“Investment Strategies Meant as Buffers to Volatility May Have Deepened It” [DealB%k, New York Times]. “[S]ome experts warn that the sums that have flowed into so-called risk-parity funds and exchange-traded funds, or E.T.F.s, over the last five years have become so large that the end result has been a riskier, more volatile market. Analysts estimate that there is currently around $4 trillion tied up in these investment strategies. The fear is that as their returns continue to suffer, a wave of investor selling will start a wider market rout as managers struggle to unload high-yield, high-return bonds and equities alike.” After hubris, anagnorisis, then nemisis, followed by hubris. As Minsky taught!

“[T]hose that bet on China’s demand for their oil and iron ore are realizing Beijing might not always be buying—and might not be able to teach them how to hang on to power indefinitely, either”[Wall Street Journal, “In Africa, Those Who Bet on China Face Fallout”].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Understanding Civic Unrest in Baltimore, 1968-2015: Home” [Decker Library, Maryland College of Art]. Many useful resources, not all visual.

Our Famously Free Press

Los Angeles Times publisher learns of his firing on drive-time radio [Politico]. On the other hand, the owner seems to have believed the publisher was orchestrating a deal to take the companyt]. private. Too bad, since the Los Angeles Times seemed to have improved over the last year, which can happen when you spend money on the newsroom.


“Yesterday, in a stunning decision packed with Orwellian reverse speak, Judge Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (where cases against Wall Street firms are thrown out like penny candy by a carnival barker) dismissed claims against Goldman Sachs in a case so fraught with the appearance of corruption that it had commanded an investigation by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations” [Wall Street on Parade]. “Plaintiffs in the case were investors in Hudson Mezzanine Funding 2006-1 and 2006-2, synthetic bets on toxic mortgages which Goldman sold to investors while making multi-billion-dollar bets for its own firm that the deals would fail.”

“Japanese police raided the offices of a recently formed splinter group of the country’s biggest yakuza crime syndicate on Wednesday, following fears the rift will spark bloody inter-gang violence” [France24]. “Like the Italian Mafia and Chinese triads, the yakuza engage in everything from gambling, drugs and prostitution to loan sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime. But unlike their foreign counterparts, they are not illegal and each of the designated groups have their own headquarters.” Rather like our own investment banks. Funny, these cultural parallels.

“[A]s 1MDB tries to fend off a cash crunch, its backers in Abu Dhabi are asking what happened to a $1.4 billion payment the fund said it made but which they never received, two people familiar with the matter said”[Wall Street Journal, “Malaysia’s 1MDB Fund Scandal Spreads to U.A.E.”]. That’s a lot of money!

“The United States attorney for New Jersey has been investigating whether United, the nation’s third-largest airline, agreed to reinstate money-losing flights to the airport nearest the weekend home of the authority’s chairman, David Samson, in return for improvements the airline wanted at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it is the biggest carrier” [New York Times, “United C.E.O. Is Out Amid Inquiry at Port Authority”]

“Saying that AT&T and Verizon have failed to consistently provide quality phone service, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has demanded that the companies pay for a study of their network infrastructure” [Arts Technica]. How much you wanna bet it’s all bubble gum, baling wire, and CEP ka-ching?

“The ethics report contains remarkable details about how [Zero Dark Thirty producers] Bigelow and Boal gave CIA officers gifts and bought them meals at hotels and restaurants in Los Angeles and Washington, DC — much of which initially went unreported by the CIA officers — how they won unprecedented access to secret details about the bin Laden operation” [VICE]. Wow, who would have imagined a film glorifying torture would involve corruption?


“The US Coast Guard Cutter Healy, which is based in Seattle, arrived at the [North] Pole on September 5, the Coast Guard said in a statement,” the first American surface ship to do so [Agence France Presse]. “The rapid melting of polar ice has sent activity in the inhospitable region into overdrive — as nations eye newly viable oil, gas deposits, mineral deposits and shipping routes like the Northwest Passage.” What could go wrong?

Class Warfare

“Richard Gere on playing a homeless man in NYC: ‘I could see people from two blocks away’ decide to avoid me” [Salon].

“[T]he case for enlisting corporations to address rising inequality and stagnant mobility warrants some skepticism. For starters, social and corporate objectives are obviously not always aligned. If so many so-called win-win opportunities for companies exist, why haven’t more been taken?” [Eduardo Porter, New York Times, “Corporate Efforts to Address Social Problems Have Limits”]. A new HBR study “offers a case for optimism, [but] also suggests that executives’ enlightened self-interest is probably not enough to bring about social change.”

News of the Wired

“Your baby monitor is an Internet-connected spycam vulnerable to voyeurs and crooks” [Boing Boing].

“How Debian Is Trying to Shut Down the CIA and Make Software Trustworthy Again” [Motherboard]. Reproducible builds.

The rules of cricket [Purdue University]. If you ever wanted to know, here they are!

“The Hellburner Was the Renaissance Equivalent of a Tactical Nuclear Weapon” [War is Boring].

“How Europeans evolved white skin” [Science]. “When it comes to skin color, the team found a patchwork of evolution in different places, and three separate genes that produce light skin, telling a complex story for how European’s skin evolved to be much lighter during the past 8000 years.”

“As one intriguing fossil discovery after another has made headlines over the past year, our understanding of our species’ history has started to shift, and a new story is emerging: one where our extinct relatives share many of the traits we had thought were uniquely human, and our own species is not that special after all [Ars Technica].

“Where the artificial intelligence sought to maximize paperclips, the capital maximizer seeks to maximize capital” [Thought Infection]. “It can be said that capitalism is an adaptive intelligence system. While humans find it easier to relate to a single unified intelligence such as a silicon-based artificial intelligence, complex distributed systems like capitalism can also be thought of as a single machine. Instead of relying only on silicon based computing, the capital maximizer utilizes advanced biological computing units housed in a distributed global network of human bodies.”

“If Moore’s Law – the doubling of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits every year, coined by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore – continues, the computers of 2030 will have as much power as the human brain, [investor and author Michael Malone] believes” [BBC]. “‘Then you get into this world of Ray Kurzweil [Google’s director of engineering] – the singularity – at a certain point we will just map our brains into a computer and that will give us a kind of silicon immortality,’ he reasons.” So, Google’s Director of Engineering is a sociopath who thinks disembodied brains in big silicon jars are neat. That explains why Google isn’t focusing so much on search these days, I suppose. Readers, have any of you read an early Frank Herbert novel, Destination Void?

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (jo6pac):



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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. DJG

      Thanks, Eric Patton. And the article contains some info that I’d seen before: Skin “color” is all about processing vitamin D. So “race” is just a problem with getting enough sunshine. Now we just have to tell most of the U S of A about that.

  1. DanB

    Hillary: “I’m sorry about it, and I take full responsibility,” for which she expects there to be no consequences.

    1. allan

      Laws are for little people – and their little lawyers. Kevin Gosztola:

      The FBI investigated and harassed a lawyer for about a year when he informed the government he had a copy of a CIA document with classified information. About three years later, the FBI is investigating the handling of classified information by Hillary Clinton and her private attorney, but her private attorney has not faced similar harassment for possessing classified information.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Deja vu:

      Attorney General Janet Reno has said that she accepts “full responsibility” for what happened in Waco.

      President Clinton, after some fancy political gibberish, finally said that he accepted “full responsibility” for what happened in Waco because it was really he, not Janet Reno, who made the decision to storm the home with tanks and chemical weapons.

      And in the same breath both of them disavowed any responsibility by blaming the deaths of these nearly 100 men, women, and children all on David Koresh.


      Arrivals occurred; things were seen; mistakes were made; people expired.

    3. JCC

      As someone who holds a DoD-issued Clearance, I find this entire episode very disturbing on multiple levels.

      Anyone in my position that set up what she set up would quickly find him/herself jobless, in jail, and probably stripped of a large bulk of his/her assets, tout suite.

      Not only does this show that laws are for little people, but it also shows Ms. Clinton’s belief that laws are for little people, total disregard for the responsibilities she had as Secretary of State, and her obvious belief that it was just a bad decision and that an apology is all that’s necessary.

      She was briefed. She knew the rules and why they are required. She chose to ignore them. She does not have enough brains or common sense to be a Secretary of State, let alone President.

  2. ChrisFromGeorgia

    more unwelcome political dysfunction

    that calls for a tune … in honor of our hard working DC kleptocrats

    Dysfunction junction, what’s your function?
    Hookin’ up cronies with subsidies & handouts
    Dysfunction junction, how’s that function?
    Create a fake crisis, bamboozle the bases
    Dysfunction junction, what’s their function?
    Keep votin’ for us and don’t ask any questions

  3. nippersdad

    Re the Clinton e-mail “scandal”: I fail to understand why the underlying issue of public records privatization is completely left unmet in the media discourse on the topic. It just seems so obvious to me that virtually everything is under discussion, no weedy detail is left unexamined, except for the most basic, blanket federal law against conversion of public property. Snowden is right, anyone else would have had the book thrown at them, but high government officials are held immune from the ramifications of their actions in this most transparent of all possible Administrations.

    This is a really tiresome story, but the true value of it (to me) lies in exposing, yet again, the almost unbelievable arrogance of establishment pols these days.

  4. jrs

    So more people jumping on the bandwagon to agree with Trump. Seems such a waste of time as it’s not at all certain Trump will agree with Trump a few months from now (and not because he has given the matter more thought).

    Never even mind what various politicians running for Prez would DO if given power (all skepticism is warranted there toward any of them) but would anyone even bet on Trump consistently running, yes even just during the campaign, on say single payer? At least with Sanders there is reason to believe he would consistently run on it even if he had no power to implement it.

    1. Carolinian

      Donald Trump explains Citizen Kane.


      At the end of the piece, Morris asks Trump to give Kane some advice. His response, delivered with a smirk, is pure Trump – i.e. bombastic and misogynist. “Get yourself a different woman.”

      Maybe Trump is just puncturing the deadly self seriousness that smothers our politics: Don’t like my opinions? I have others.

      I’m not making a case for the guy, but just saying that it’s the “serious people” who have gotten us into our current preposterous mess. Perhaps our Clown Show politics needs a clown–at least for awhile. Plus Trump has said that his goal is to become President or to keep Jeb Bush from becoming President. Who can argue with at least one of those goals?

        1. Carolinian

          He probably is a misogynist butthole. I’m not sure I agree with your “just.” After all they are all buttholes including the sainted JFK (a world class objectifier of women). So should Warren have declined to agree with him on taxes seeing as how he’s so despicable?

          1. cwaltz

            Personally, I would not have. That being said at least she qualified it with the fact that he’s unqualified on other issues. *shrugs*

            He may be one of the “better” candidates to exit the Republican clown car but he’s still a fry cry from Presidential material and treating him as such is dangerous in my opinion. I’m sure Elizabeth Warren will be fine with whoever wins though(and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d love a Hillary/Trump match up.)

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Lesser evil: Hillary or Donald? I’m leaning towards the latter because the ‘there is no alternative’ dam holding the stagnant, fetid reservoir of power must be breached, and the fact of its doing is far more important than who does it.

        1. JTMcPhee

          So you will take a shot in the dark in the informed or wishful hopeful Hope for Change, Rev. 6.01b, that Trump, once installed and with that endless stream of money and power right there, ready to hand, whole echelons of sycophantic, desperate and already-embedded apprentices doing what effing Imperial courtiers and courtesans have pretty much always done, would suddenly turn into a great Dam-Buster, turning loose a Johnstown Flood of a “reservoir of power” on the unsuspecting mopes down in the valley?

          1. Christopher Fay

            “that endless stream of money and power right there, ready to hand, whole echelons of sycophantic, desperate and already-embedded apprentices doing what effing Imperial courtiers and courtesans have pretty much always done,”

            Thanks for the summary of the present governance system if you substitute Congressional staffers, bureaucrats, lobbyists for apprentices, etc.

  5. PhilK

    Re: Thinking that disembodied brains in big silicon jars are neat.

    This is the transcript of a talk by Maciej Ceglowski called “Web Design: The First 100 Years”

    It’s mostly about three visions of the internet for the future, and the disembodied-brains-in-jars vision gets a mild splash of cold water. But aside from this, it’s extremely interesting and has a lot to say about a lot of other things, too – subjects that are often discussed here at NC.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I linked to that awhile back, IIRC, but it’s a great, great talk and I’m glad to see it propagating. I should have remembered it, so thanks for the memory jog!

    2. shinola

      Thanks for the link!
      It’s good to know that somebody in the “high-tech” biz isn’t afflicted with tunnel vision and has a healthy respect for (rather than contempt for) the past and how we can learn from it.

      (and I just love the phrase “exponential hangover”)

  6. optimader

    I take full responsibility.

    Unless as a consequence ther eis a meaningful remedy/sanction, then we’ll have to leave it at an apology..

  7. Ed S.


    Didn’t read Herbert’s Destination Void but read Iain M. Banks’ Surface Detail a few years ago. And without spoiling the plot — there is an “afterlife” of sorts for one species in “the cloud”– but it’s a never-ending hell of suffering, pain, and misery. Banks’ tells of it in page after page of graphic detail (written only a few years before his death).

    Maybe Ray will live forever in silicon — the question is what will the program be.

  8. Oregoncharles

    “The second those klieg lights hit [Trump],” – he is, after all, a TV star. Shades of Reagan. Trump actually has more real-world qualifications than Reagan, though he hasn’t been in government (is that perchance an advantage?)

    I still suspect his support roughly corresponds with the audience for The Apprentice. In that case, it’s capped and he’ll fall behind during the elimination process. OTOH, he’s the only actual populist in the race (looking at both his positions and his attitude.)

  9. PQS

    [T]he case for enlisting corporations to address rising inequality and stagnant mobility warrants some skepticism.

    Certainly. For as was posted here quite recently from Jim Hightower’s report, not only do our Wealthy Overlords want to DO something about inequality, they will want US to pay for it via a TAX BREAK for hiring people and paying them a living wage. Truly, they know no bounds.

    1. Praedor

      Until/unless the LAW about corporations is changed away from EXCLUSIVELY being focused on maximizing shareholder value/profit, then corporations are NOT the place to get any societal good. One way to fix the problem IS to change the law and change, drastically, how incorporation is handled. If a corporation harms people/the environment, then it loses its charter and is disbanded/sold off. If a corporation doesn’t serve a greater social good, doesn’t benefit society at large, then it gets dissolved. Profit and profit alone is NOT a valid reason to allow a corporation to exist.

      The laws of incorporation are not writ in stone. They are fungible and NEED to be changed. Hell, in Founder days, breaking the law by a corporation meant its death AND criminal culpability for the corporate officers. They had it right, and that’s what we need to get back to. There should be no such thing as a limited liability corporation either. You do wrong, you are culpable 100%.

      1. Jess

        “in Founder days, breaking the law by a corporation meant its death AND criminal culpability for the corporate officers.”

        Got a link for that? I’d love to use it with some of my former classmates who are all rightwing “capitalism great, socialism evil”.

        1. todde

          Every state was different, but dartmouth college vs Woodbury was the start of the corporate malfeance.

          As for the founding fathers, I never tire of telling people it was corporate owned tea that was dumped in the Boston Harbor.

  10. Oregoncharles

    Yes, I read Destination Void, along with the rest of his work (try THE WHITE PLAGUE). Spoiler: the supercomputer turns out to be, or become, God.

  11. Chris in Paris

    Re Warren, Trump & taxes – in the same interview Sen. Eliz. Warren says that Trump is absolutely “unqualified” to be President for his rhetoric on immigrants, etc. To be clear.

  12. Praedor

    Ray Kurzweil at Google is kind of a fetishist with his “upload our brains to computers” bullshit.

    He ignores the main problem with it assuming it could even be done: your body IS YOU. The person that is the mind and body to be uploaded wouldn’t simply go to sleep in a meat body and wake up in a cold, hard silicon body, the person in the body would STILL BE THERE WANTING TO LIVE while a lossy copy of you exists in a PC. Big whoop. You are sitting there in your physical body thinking…

    You: “What changed? Nothing’s changed! I’m still here getting older!”,

    while your (lossy)copy in the PC is thinking “WHERE’S MY BODY!?” Gah! There’s no way to get the babes in here! Where’s the BEER?”

    Ray Kurzweil would then say: “No worries mate, you are in the PC now and can live forever (so long as the power remains on, there’s no electrical spikes, no burned out transistors, no hacking). Hell, we can now make copy after copy of you and populate all kinds of smart phones, PCs, etc, with many of you!”

    You: “Uh, Ray? WTF good does that copy do for ME right here in front of you!? I’m still here, numbskull! My back still hurts, I have to pee, and I’ve got a cramp in my leg. This ‘upload’ crap didn’t help me out at all.”

    Ray: “Well, we can send you to Mars, to Jupiter, to another star system as software on the probe! Wont that be cool?!”

    You: “Uh, no. I’m right here and wont be going to any of those places, some (lossy) COPY of me, a, simulacrum, will go there but I wont know a damn thing about it! The sights wont be MINE anymore than my identical twin’s sights are mine. It’s experiences wont be mine, I wont know about, or feel a single one of them, only my copy will. Big deal!”

    Ray: “…but…COMPUTERS!”

    1. DJG

      The Singularity is just more in the endless round of warmed-over Platonism. The body, a prison for our immortal souls, which seek instead the Pure Forms of Windows 10 and PhotoShop. The mind-body problem was solved years ago, after Western philosophy managed to dig itself out from under the detritus of Plato and Aristotle. Yet we get to witness Silicon Valley circling back to soma = sema, the One, the True, the Beautiful, the Company that even Carly Fiorina can’t screw up. For eternity.

      1. jrs

        Or it’s a just another form of symbolic immortality (time binding what have you) in the same way that Aristotle is immortal, as people still read him, even in the original Greek. But why not just write a book then. Oh right, it’s the digital age!

        Western culture: our ancestors are superior to yours.

    2. flora

      Mr. Kurzweil makes keen analysis and recognition of patterns of various kinds. His mistake, I think, is in assuming that the pattern is self-willed.

    3. Procopius

      You articulated perfectly what I’ve thought about that topic for years. Whatever that is in the computer, it isn’t ME.

  13. ambrit

    Perhaps not so much Herberts’ “Destination Void” as H. P. Lovecrafts’ “The Whisperer in Darkness.”
    I swear, sometimes I think that the “Chicago School” was created at Miskatonic University.

      1. Skippy

        “For five decades, Friedman steadfastly persevered, with missionary seal, proclaiming that he had the solution for all that was wrong with the American education system. Government should get out of the way. Schools should be treated according to the principles of a free market society. Parents and their children are “consumers” of a product-schooling- and, in a free market educations system, they would have an array of choices in what type of schooling they wished to purchase.”

        The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education … By Deborah Duncan Owens

        Whack on some Bill Gates Common Core – if you own the information, you can control the information anddddd still make a packet – !!!!!

        Skippy… seems some in the DLC [thirdway – Nuland-sssssss wink wink – Larry we are all Friedmannites] think Hillaryoma will right the plutocracy ship… oops I mean state ship… my bad…

        1. jrs

          Some of this stuff might work in a very (even if not perfectly) egalitarian culture … that is not a condition that is not going to be hit anytime soon of course. Though it might be more central than whether schools are government or not (since of course government schools in a world of massive inequality also reproduce it, maybe a little less so).

          1. Skippy

            In case you missed the punch line…. CORE is founded on Milton’s thunkit, not to forget Larry’s man lov and acknowledgement that Government [WE] are all Friedmannites [public education going down hill.. say it ain’t so!].

            Skippy… jrs hint… his thunkit only works in a vacuum filled with his – ALL – seeing eye~~~~

          2. Skippy

            This might help out a wee bit….

            imposing it on cultural development metaphorically much in the same way as marginalist economics transferred metaphors from physics to the social sciences. Levi-Strauss introduced the idea of the ‘bricoleur’ as the person who engages in such constructions.

            The bricoleur is not a person conceived of acting in line with a plan or toward a goal. For example, if I go to the shop, buy foodstuffs and cook food I obviously have a plan and a goal. A bricoleur — or, more accurately, a person partaking in the process of ‘bricolage’ — just throws things together in line with how he or she sees fit. There is no real point to the activity but it persists in all human cultures and makes up a key component of our cultural organisation. Perhaps the easiest way is to think of a child playing with lego bricks or an artist painting an abstract piece of art.

            Society bestows upon bricoleurs important roles. In primitive society shamen or priests or some other caste are typically anointed to serve this role. They come up with stories of various kinds, contact the spirit world and even engage in fake healing in societies without medicine in which people feel like they need to do something in the face of illness and disease. Basically their role is to give meaning to those around them. In order to do so they are imbued with a certain aura that we do not find in, for example, the case of a modern dentist or the advertiser.


  14. Chauncey Gardiner

    Re: hysteresis… hubris… anagnorisis… nemesis… hubris… as Minsky taught.

    Timeless. Thank you, Lambert.

  15. neo-realist

    I found it a bit disturbing that Warren dodged a question re a VP candidacy w/ Biden. Does she really consider him a viable candidate?

      1. Procopius

        I hope she’s also not running for vice president. That would be even worse for us than if she were President. And, by the way, are there people who really, really believe there is a large part of the Democratic Party that lies TO THE RIGHT of Hillary? Plus other smelly baggage Biden carries with him (1994 Violent Crime Control Act, etc.).

      2. neo-realist

        I know she’s not running for the top “figurehead” spot. But she failed to answer a question re a second in command “figurehead” candidacy w/ Biden and she has had a talk w/ Biden.

    1. different clue

      Most of the Stans are pro-Russian enough that they would let Russia overfly their territory. Iran could make its client government in Iraq permit Russian overflights over Iran to proceed over Iraq as well. If the Iraqi Shia government argues, all Iran would have to do is threaten to withdraw support from the Shia regime in Baghdad, and let the Shia Iraqis defend themselves against the superior warfighter Sunnis, Baathists-under-ISIS-cover, etc. The Shia regime will do what Iran tells it to if given that kind of threat.

  16. ewmayer

    Japan soars in biggest rise since GFC | Sydney Morning Herald

    Japan’s Nikkei soared 7.7 per cent after comments by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked hopes of more policy steps to support growth.

    “more policy steps to support growth” = more government-mandated buying of stawks. Hey, ‘growth in share prices’ is the basis of the modern developed-world economies, innit? And it’s completely sustainable – just keep Ctrl-P’ing more e-money.

  17. allan

    Nature editorial on `reproducibility’ in `science’.

    As the spotlight shines on reproducibility, uncomfortable issues will emerge at the interface of research and ‘evidence-based’ policy.

  18. ewmayer

    Nitpick re. Moore’s ‘Law’: The slope (inverse of the doubling time) has changed markedly over the years – doubling-every-year was Moore’s observation/prediction for 1965-1974; in 1975 he revised than down to every 2 years in his prediction for the next 10 years. That proved quite accurate in fact for the next 35 years, and due to the concomitant ramping up of CPU clock speeds, the performance of a typical CPU doubled roughly every 18 months during that span. But in the last 5 years clock rates have more or less plateaued, and Moore himself earlier this year is quoted as saying “I see Moore’s law dying here in the next decade or so.”

    Kurzweil is still a pompous, narcissistic dweeb-psychopath, tho. I shudder at the thought that – following the money – the world is increasingly run by and for the benefit of such odious elitist ‘thought leader’ scum.

    1. Engelvard Hinglefling

      Well there’s always been a difference between what Moore’s Law actually says and the popular perception of it. A doubling of transistors doesn’t necessarily mean a doubling of processor power. For the last decade each new CPU generation has averaged only about a 15% increase in capabilities over the previous. Intel just released their new 14nm Skylake architecture, which is netting users between 6 and 12% performance improvements. Intel has definite plans for 10nm by 2017, after that things get very fuzzy. 7nm is possible, 5nm very doubtful, and anything smaller than that essentially impossible because Quantum Physics barges in to ruin the party. Moore’s Law will be dead by 2022, barring some breakthrough in materials technology.

      And this all talking about the pure hardware side; the machines running the code. On the software side no one really has any firm grasp of how to set about programming a true AI in the first place (and there are a lot of massively intelligent and clever people working on this problem). Once again the singularity technonarcissists don’t have the faintest idea of what they’re talking about.


      Here’s a useful recent video on the subject. On a long enough timeline, some kind of singularity is not only possible, but probably inevitable. But we’re not anywhere close to that point, and at the rate we’re going as a species probably won’t survive long enough to ever see it. Sane people view it mostly as an interesting thought experiment, something to write speculative fiction about.

    2. pdehaan

      But let’s assume for a second that computing power will match human brain power at some point in time. First of all I’m not sure if that’s a necessary requirement (can’t we just stack multiple processors?). Other than that, and more importantly, I wouldn’t think it’s sufficient to ‘map’ the human brain.
      What does mapping a human brain really mean? Our brain isn’t just a large static database and a bunch of easily understood algorithms within a finite state machine.

      I mean, show me the software! If we can’t even have a Grexit because of the difficulty of integrating a bunch of payment systems with a Drachma, then what hope is there of ‘mapping’ a human brain anytime soon?
      I may be mistaken here, but writing the necessary software would imply that we understand how the brain computes? Do we, really?

      If there’s one area in computing that has consistently been behind the curve in terms of its ‘roadmap’, it’s artificial intelligence / cognitive science. We were promised human intelligence in the 1970’s, for peat sake. Yes, computers can beat chess grandmasters. They can do a lot of modular, cool stuff, but I wouldn’t bet my house on Kurzweil’s prediction, though. In fact, I think it’s laughable.

  19. Kim Kaufman

    “Our Famously Free Press

    Los Angeles Times publisher learns of his firing on drive-time radio [Politico]. On the other hand, the owner seems to have believed the publisher was orchestrating a deal to take the company. private. Too bad, since the Los Angeles Times seemed to have improved over the last year, which can happen when you spend money on the newsroom.”

    Beutner, the now former LA Times publisher, spent the last year on The Chicago Tribune Co.’s dime building up the LA Times, mostly with on-line stuff. He convinced them to buy a San Diego paper in May. In August/September he tries to get the Chicago Tribune Co. to sell those two papers to his good friend, Eli Broad, with him running the new company. Surprised the Board of Directors fired him?

    In August, Beutner set up a new education section in the LAT – funded by “reform”ers – like Eli Broad and charter schools.

    “The problem with Education Matters’ promise to create “independent journalism,” however, is that several of the organizations funding it have a direct stake in a very specific education reform agenda. Education reform, as a project, is far from value-neutral: Reformers promote specific policies, ranging from firing teachers based on their students’ test scores to replacing public schools with privately run charter schools. Their rhetoric often directly attacks teachers unions and even public education as an institution, in favor of “market-driven” “school choice” solutions. And the organizations funding the LA Times’ new project are no exception.” http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/08/25/la-times-independent-education-project-bankrolled-charter-school-backers

    or as Diane Ravitch puts it: “Billionaires Fund Education News at LA Times” http://dianeravitch.net/2015/08/18/billionaires-fund-education-news-at-la-times/

    Good riddance, Beutner.

  20. Hierophant

    I read Destination Void, but it was about creating an AI, not uploading oneself into the Cloud. And there is that common theme in most of Herbert’s work: turning our thinking over to machines is never a good idea. Now I’ve got to go and perform my daily worShip…

    Harvest of Stars by Poul Anderson has a main character who is just a brain in a box. It has some interesting ideas about where those possibilities could lead.

    But I like the emergent theory of consciousness, or the Bhuddist theory of consciousness and both of those make it impossible for the mind to exist without the body.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think the technical (and ethical (and social)) issues are much the same. I mean, the cloud is just a bunch of servers, right? Same in principle as whatever storage was in Herbert’s spaceship.

      1. ambrit

        That leads us to considering the “mechanically” preserved mind as either active or passive in the material world. Self replicating mobile robots would ‘free up’ the actors considerably. Than there is the issue of copies. I know that one Jaimie Diamond is two too many. Imagine ten versions of him doing their mischief. Then we need to worry about true ‘melding’ of consciousness’s. What would the result be, a ‘New Creation?’
        Paging Dr. Frankenstein!

  21. Jessica

    About silicon immortality
    It may be that in a few decades, it will be possible for oligarchs and maybe even just-wealthy people to pay to have a silicon copy of oneself made.
    However, to actually download oneself into silicon will require much skill and practice on the part of the downloaded. This will be something similar to mastering advanced Tibetan Buddhist or Zen meditation. That will not be possible to buy and sell.

    A good SF treatment of silicon+human immortality is the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy by Richard K. Morgan, starting with Altered Carbon.

    It may eventually be possible to have a machine do the downloading for you, but that will be far more advanced technology than doing it yourself (through a machine). It is like the difference between a car and a self-driving car.

    1. PS

      I suspect there are fundamental physics limitations preventing even a silicon clone. There is research showing the personality of a person is more than a function of the content of the brain, but is impacted by the body and even likely bacteria within the body. Beyond that, even if personality was solely within the brain: There is a fundamental physics limitation known as the “no clone” theorem which says it is impossible to exactly clone some object whose quantum mechanical properties are important — it is related to the oft-quoted Heisenberg uncertainty principle. It is not yet known whether quantum mechanical properties of the brain are important, but it is not unreasonable because there are biological examples where quantum mechanical properties are important, such as in photosynthesis in plants.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Or biological. That’s what I suspect; consciousness is a function of the whole body, not merely electrical signals in the brain, and not just the brain. That’s Herbert’s point. The whole project is demented, crazy pants, sociopathic.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Richard K. Morgan is totally awesome.

      “Face the facts. Then act on them. It’s the only mantra I know, the only doctrine I have to offer you, and it’s harder than you’d think, because I swear humans seem hardwired to do anything but. Face the facts. Don’t pray, don’t wish, don’t buy into centuries-old dogma and dead rhetoric. Don’t give in to your conditioning or your visions or your fucked-up sense of… whatever. FACE THE FACTS. THEN act.”

      –Quellcrist Falconer, Woken Furies

      1. LifelongLib

        OK, but some facts are so bleak and inescapable that after you’ve faced them, praying, wishing, envisioning are the only acts left…

  22. vidimi

    re: LA times

    they recently fired cartoonist Ted Rall after pressure from the LAPD to do so so i wouldn’t say they were getting better.

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