WORDS: 1,669 — With this post I will deviate a bit from the series I’ve been presenting to present a few observations I’ve been perceiving with some current events. A few things on the world scene have triggered that mental deja vu within my aging thought processes. It’s that, “Hey, that reminds me of something in past history.” Let me indulge your patience.
If you are a Baby Boomer reading that phrase in the title you will know it is from Darryl F. Zanuck’s 1962 movie, “The Longest Day”, from the 1959 book by Cornelius Ryan. It was a major spectacle movie of the day that had many major stars of the day. That phrase was also used in the 1984 and 2012 versions of “Red Dawn” (because it was used in “The Longest Day”). To explain…
The movie is entirely about the Normandy Invasion of World War II. This phrase, and others, were actually secret coded messages sent via the BBC to the various Free French Underground units operating behind the lines in German-occupied France. To maximize secrecy, specific units were given certain targets to sabotage, and they were called into action by listening to these “private messages” that only each unit would understand, allegedly sent by casual BBC listeners to each other. Actually they were from Allied OSS or British MI-5/MI-6. Among other phrases were, “The chair is against the wall.”, “Molasses tomorrow will bring forth cognac.”, and my particular favorite that I’ve even used in casual conversation to sound more “Continental” is…. “It wounds my heart with a monotonous languor.” (from the French poem by Paul Verlaine … “The long sobs of the violins of autumn wound my heart with a monotonous languor.”)
Now here is where this gets interesting. According to plan, as the invasion was approaching, these coded messages would be transmitted over the regular radio at the precise time just prior to the invasion. These Free French units had been assigned sabotage targets that would disrupt telephone communication (blowing up telephone poles for instance), placing bombs inside German command centers, attacking military convoys… and here’s the trigger that will get you wondering… they would particularly disrupt rail service by blowing up trains, tracks, and bridges.
Now ask yourself… the Ukrainians have been preparing a long time for the much anticipated Spring offensive against Russia (hmm… anyone remember Operation Barbarossa?). Since March anti-Russian guerillas in Belarus have been sabotaging the rails and military equipment. In the last 24 hours there’s been a second attack in two days on a Russian train, an oil depot in Crimea, and today some “group” inside Russia sent a couple drones over the Kremlin, somehow getting past air defense that’s supposed to be impregnable… just before the May Day celebration. Then there’s increased shelling from Ukrainian positions along the front lines. Something seem afoot to you? That Kremlin move was surely a psy-ops effort, not a strategic attack, for benefit of public fear consumption. A Ukrainian offensive sounds pretty soon to me.
Let’s Move On.
Is China getting ready to attack Taiwan? Maybe. I’m an armchair politico, so what do I know. My opinion is, I surely doubt that will happen. I ask, why would China want to threaten where it’s money is coming from… us? They are heavily invested in our debt, they have wide ranging assets here in the U.S. But this is what illustrates they are not going to go too far here. With the loss of the corner Radio Shack over the last decade I’ve been forced to buy electronic and computer components and parts from China. Buying the same items domestically is way too pricey. Today on Ebay I purchased from a source in China a specialized USB wire for an electronic project. I do this a lot. I used my credit card, placed the order for a lousy $5 bucks for four of what I need, I got the email responses notifying me of my expected shipping date. China is not going to invade Taiwan to threaten their cash cow trading and manufacturing partner any time soon.
But wait, you ask…. why are they threatening Taiwan with all those military exercises, flyovers that get uncomfortably close, drone flights, naval maneuvers, yada, yada, if they aren’t preparing for something? I point out… who has Xi had this blossoming bromance with lately? The West feels threatened that these two guys are going to have trade deals for military weapons Putin can use in Russia. No evidence of that to date. What I might do if I were Xi trying to balance a relationship with Putin, and not completely piss off America, is to give the image of aggression with Taiwan to keep the Americans, the public and mostly Congress, focused in TWO spheres of the world in and attempt to deflect attention from Putin. In the end all Xi is expending is jet fuel, fuel for vessels, and missiles for practice. At home Xi looks tough to his populace base. To Putin he’s a buddy. To the Americans he’s just doing a little more than he usually does. And the best part, trade with the West still continues. A win-win for old Xi. In the meantime let a few balloons drift over to cause a little ruckus, let the satellites see the occasional blimp outside a hanger to try and fool someone, all that focuses away from Putin.
Let’s now turn our attention to AI.. artificial intelligence… that’s become popular recently. We really do need to be afraid.. be very afraid. No, it’s not likely going to destroy the world.. at least directly. The threat right now is the technology is now here to make us doubt ourselves, doubt each other, trust no one…. and from that, a deterioration of society by exposing our vulnerabilities to fear and suspicion. We aren’t ready for this.
The other day this headline on a CNN article (HERE) caught my attention…..
AI Pioneer quits Google to Warn About the Technology’s ‘Dangers’
New YorkCNN —
Geoffrey Hinton, who has been called the ‘Godfather of AI,’ confirmed Monday that he left his role at Google last week to speak out about the “dangers” of the technology he helped to develop.
Hinton’s pioneering work on neural networks shaped artificial intelligence systems powering many of today’s products. He worked part-time at Google for a decade on the tech giant’s AI development efforts, but he has since come to have concerns about the technology and his role in advancing it.
“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” Hinton told the New York Times, which was first to report his decision.
In March, some prominent figures in tech signed a letter calling for artificial intelligence labs to stop the training of the most powerful AI systems for at least six months, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.” The letter, published by the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit backed by Elon Musk,came just two weeks after OpenAI announced GPT-4, an even more powerful version of the technology that powers ChatGPT. In early tests and a company demo, GPT-4 was used to draft lawsuits, pass standardized exams and build a working website from a hand-drawn sketch.
I thought, “Holy Manhattan Project, Batman!”
[ Paraphrased here, in its entirety (HERE) ]
Petition from Leo Szilard and Other Scientists to President
Harry S. Truman, July 17, 1945
[red stamp in top left corner, crossed out in ink] SECRET
July 14, 1945
A PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Discoveries of which the people of the United States are not aware may affect the welfare of this
nation in the near future. The liberation of atomic power which has been achieved places atomic
bombs in the hands of the Army. It places in your hands, as Commander-in-Chief, the fateful decision
whether or not to sanction the use of such bombs in the present phase of the war against Japan.
We, the undersigned scientists, have been working in the field of atomic power. Until recently we have
had to fear that the United States might be attacked by atomic bombs during this war and that her
only defense might lie in a counterattack by the same means. Today, with the defeat of Germany, this
danger is averted and we feel impelled to say what follows:
The war has to be brought speedily to a successful conclusion and attacks by atomic bombs may very
well be an effective method of warfare. We feel, however, that such attacks on Japan could not be
justified, at least not unless the terms which will be imposed after the war on Japan were made public
in detail and Japan were given an opportunity to surrender.
The development of atomic power will provide the nations with new means of destruction. The atomic
bombs at our disposal represent only the first step in this direction, and there is almost no limit to the
destructive power which will become available in the course of their future development. Thus a nation
which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction
may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable
In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition: first, that you exercise your power
as Commander-in-Chief, to rule that the United States shall not resort to the use of atomic bombs in
this war unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan have been made public in detail and
Japan knowing these terms has refused to surrender; second, that in such an event the question
whether or not to use atomic bombs be decided by you in the light of the considerations presented in
this petition as well as all the other moral responsibilities which are involved.
One could almost substitute “atomic bomb” with “AI”. I suppose the lesson is that history does sometimes repeat itself. Yet human history consistently proves that most times we don’t learn from it.