Camouflage the Waste…

 

afghan uniform

Did you know we pay for the uniforms for the Afghan Army?

Did you know that since 2007 we have bought that army 1.3 million uniforms along with an additional 88,000 pairs of pants and it cost U.S. taxpayers $93 million dollars?

Would that little factoid bother you a bit more if I told you that $28 million of those dollars were wasted?

Gather around the campfire kiddies, I’ve got a little story for you.

First, a little background: When I got out of the Marines in 1968, we were still wearing olive drab (OD), the same color field uniform worn since World War II. They looked something like this:

olive drab

This was the color used by American troops not only in Vietnam, but before that in Korea. This color was used during World War II  in the jugles of the Pacific, in winter time in Europe, and in the desert fighting Rommel. Same color.

Around 1969, the first “camouflage” uniforms were issued. They looked something like this:

camouflage 2

Ostensibly, this camouflage made our troops less visible to the enemy,  blending in with the surrounding terrain. Obviously this depends on the pattern matching the terrain, and the military has used and experimented with any number of colors and patterns with such names as “tiger stripe”, “woodland”, “chocolate chip” and “cookie dough” for desert terrain.

Military “camo” went mainstream in the 1980’s. It’s popular with hunters and outdoorsmen, campers, military wannabes and teenagers.

The military continued to experiment with camouflage, and in 2001, the Marine Corps, thanks to computer technology,  introduced its “pixelated” uniform MARPAT (Marine Pattern) featuring small square blocks of color which was considered an improved camouflage technique. The field has blossomed since then.

Okay, there’s a lot more to this, but it gets us away from our point. What is important is that camouflage patterns can be both patented and copyrighted. The US government has a number of camouflage patterns available for it’s use without having to pay copyright fees, but there are also a number of private companies who design and sell camouflage patterns. These companies own the copyrights on the designs they create.  So far so good? Now let’s go back to Afghanistan…

It seems that back in 2007, the Afghan Defense Ministry decided it needed new, distinct uniforms for the Afghan National Army (ANA). Up until then, the US had been supplying the Afghans with uniforms from a variety of sources, both manufactured locally and “hand me downs” from US Department of Defense (DOD) stock.

It gets a little fuzzy at this point, but apparently US officials in Afghanistan approved the purchase of new uniforms, by-passing normal DOD methods for obtaining uniforms for foreign soldiers.

Disregarding normal procedures, US officials allowed the Afghan Defense Minister to “shop online” for a camouflage pattern he liked. He found one. The problem was this particular pattern was owned by a Canadian company, and was “proprietary”, or trademark protected. Using this pattern would require that royalities be paid to the Canadian company.

Using a “sole source” contractor requires a number of specific procedures be performed and permissions given. None of this was done. In addition, the color of the pattern, a forest green, did not seems at all appropriate for a largely dry desert country like Afghanistan.

No matter. The Afghan Defense Minister liked what he saw, and American officials were not willing to tell him “no”, even after it should have been realized they were violating Pentagon rules by authorizing the contract.

But they bought them anyway, from the Canadian company. In all, they bought 1,364,602 uniforms . In addition, the standard US design apparently wasn’t good enough, so they replaced buttons with zippers, added hook and loop fasteners and more pockets, making each uniform even more expensive. According to the  Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report that finally dimed this thing out, this added about 43% to the cost of each uniform over the standard non-proprietary uniform.(1)

Even as this was happening there was a dispute within the Pentagon. The DOD contracting office apparently tried to stop this purchase but were overrode by US officials in Afghanistan.

Keep in mind that throughout all this no one ever tested this pattern to see if it would actually be an effective camouflage for use in Afghanistan, a normal part of the purchasing process.

The Special Inspector General’s report was issued June 30, 2017.

In addition to concluding that the DOD paid $28 million more than necessary for the uniforms, the report strongly suggests the camouflage used could be more harmful than helpful:

“As a result, neither DOD nor the Afghan government knows whether the ANA uniform is appropriate to the Afghan environment, or whether if it even hinders their operations by providing a more clearly visable target to the enemy…” (1) The Inspector General’s report was sent to Defense Secretary Mattis in June.

There is nothing in the report that suggests criminality.  In fact, the report strikes a neutral tone, only pointing out that rules were apparently broken and/or there was some very sloppy management of taxpayer dollars.

So…. A million here, a million there.

We’ve been in Afghanistan, “nation building” for fourteen years.  Estimates on the cost of the wars there and in Iraq vary, from two to six Trillion dollars. Yes, that’s Trillion with a  deliberate capital “T”.

Let’s just say it’s been $3 Trillion. In that case, a $28 million dollar overage is a rounding error in petty cash.  And that’s exactly the problem.  We’ve reached the point where it’s easy to throw away the people’s money.  There are even stories that suggest we may be paying for a “ghost army” of Afghan soldiers and police that don’t even exist.

Back in 1965 author David Halberstam wrote a book about Vietnam entitled “The Making of a Quagmire”.  If Halberstam were alive today, he would probably be astonished to learn the quagmire he wrote about back then was just a little mud puddle.

 

(1) Special Inspector General Report (SIGAR) 

(2) Pentagon Accused of Wasting $28 million — NBC News

(3) Camouflage Intellectual Property Law

(4) Criminal Investigation Launched Over Afghan Uniforms

 

The Wall

 

wall

Donald Trump wants to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico. He has made this sentiment clear since the very earliest days of his Presidential campaign. He has been mocked, scorned and verbally pilliored in every  imaginable way. He has been called a racist and a xenophobe and worse.

But he’s not wrong, and here’s why:

The border between the U.S. and Mexico runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, a distance of 1989 miles. The border touches four states; California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  There are forty-eight (48) authorized border crossings. It is the most frequently crossed international border in the world, with over 350 million legal crossings annually.

No one really knows how many illegal border crossings there are each year. In 2016, the U.S. Border Patrol reported 408,870 apprehensions of illegals crossing the border with Mexico. As part of these apprehensions, they seized almost 1.3 million pounds of marijuana and over 5000 pounds of cocaine. (7)

Critics of Trump’s plan focus on social and economic aspects of illegal immigration. Most discussions are about jobs and fairness and being welcoming to migrants and refugees. One thing the critics rarely talk about is:

The Drugs

cartel

Drug cartels from Mexico and Central America ship their drugs into the United States across the Mexican/US border. Estimates of the value of these drugs crossing the border each year range from $10 billion to $50 billion dollars. No one actually knows the true amount, and $30 billion dollars is considered a conservative estimate. Mexico is the number one foreign supplier of marijuana into the United States. Mexico is the number one foreign supplier of methamphetamine into the United States. Mexico is a major supplier of heroin into the United States. Mexico is a major transportation corridor for cocaine into the United States.

The illegal drugs imported into the United States cost taxpayers between $200-$300 billion dollars per year  in the criminal justice system; criminal apprehension, incarceration, hospital and emergency services costs, and productivity. (3)

History of the drug cartels

Drug trafficing, (cocaine) into the United States actually dates back to the 1950’s, when the previously legal drug was made illegal. At that time, illegal drugs were controlled primarily by family “clans” in Chile.  US sponsored pressure on these drug families actually forced the spread of the product into Peru and Bolivia.

As the illegal drug grew more popular in the United States, additional pressures on these countries under President Nixon and the newly created Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actually forced distribution networks farther north, into Colombia. This spread, along with rising profitabilty gave rise to the first drug cartel kings  in Medellin, Colombia: the Ochoa brothers and Pablo Escobar.

Under Nixon, the primary anti-drug focus was on marijuana and heroin. This focus allowed an opening for cocaine, which was often considered “glamorous” at the time, making it more expensive and more profitable for the sellers. Since cocaine was much easier to smuggle into the country, drug producers quickly shifted away from Marijuana and into cocaine. By 1980, over 100 tons of cocaine per year were being smuggled into the U.S. from Colombia alone.

The growing market encouraged more drug entrepreneurs, and along with them the cartels grew. In Colombia, rival cartels were started in the central part of the country (Bogota) and in Cali, near the Pacific Ocean.

The cocaine business blossomed in the 1980’s. Ironically, pressure from the US government and interdictions on cocoa producers, created shortages, spiking prices for the product. Wholesale prices jumped from $15,000 to $60,000 per kilo. The cartels made even more money than before.

Rivalries between cartels and law enforcement attempts by the government turned Colombia into a killing zone. For all practical purposes, the cartels ran the entire country. Relentless pressure by the US on the cartels helped eliminate some of the Columbian gangs, but proved to be an opportunity for those closer to the US market — Mexican cartels.

The Mexicans had been trafficers for Colombian product for years, but crackdowns on other ports of entry, Miami, for example, created opportunities for Mexican cartels to push more drugs into the United States. Cocaine, coupled with marijuana, heroin, and the up and coming methamphetamine business, boosted income and profits exponentially. By the 1990’s income from drugs exceeded $30 billion dollars per year, far exceeding Mexico’s largest legal export oil, which brought in $7.5 billion per year.

Coming to a neighborhood near you…. No, they’re already here

ms-13

At least nine Mexican cartels are operating  in the streets near you; in every Amercian city and most of the suburbs.

Their names are Sinaloa Cartel — the cartel of the infamous Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Others include the Juarez Cartel, Los Zetas Cartel, Los Caballeros Templarios, Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO), New Generation Jalisco, Los Cuinis, Gulf Cartel (Cartel Del Golfo)(CDG)  and the Michoacan Family (La Familia Michoacana)(LFM).

Think thy’re not near you? Think again. Here’s a map complied by the Washington Post:

cartel3

 

The Gangs

Not all criminal gangs are cartel orginated. Others have their own origins but work with the cartels in the distribution of drugs. Some worthy of comment:

MS-13

MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) originated in Los Angeles in the 1980’s. Most members are Central American (mostly from El Salvador). This is a gang that formed in LA, but spread into Mexico and Central America and all across the United States.

From Wikipedia: “In the U.S., the MS-13 has an especially heavy presence in Los Angeles County and the  San Francisco Bay Area in California; the Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas of Fairfax County, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland, and Prince George’s County, Maryland; Queens, New York; Long Island, New York; Newark, New Jersey, Plainfield, New Jersey; Jersey City, New Jersey; Elizabeth, New Jersey; the Boston, Massachusetts area; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Houston, Texas. There is also a presence of MS-13 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.”

It is estimated that MS-13 has as many as 50,000 members worldwide, with as many as 10,000 in the United States.

These are some very bad boys. In addition to drug trafficing and wholesale murder, they get involved in human smuggling, child prostituion, arms trafficing, extortion, money laundering, kidnapping and a host of other felonies.

MS-13 (2)

There are countless gangs in the United States besides MS-13; the Latin Kings, the Aryan Brotherhood, Barrio 18, the Bloods, the Mongols Motorcycle Gang, the Crips, the Mexican Mafia, and on and on and on. There are an estimated 30,000 gangs in the United States, and many, if not most have their fingers in the illegal drug trade.

Finally, it should be noted that these gangs are responsible for in excess of 2000 murders each year. Those concerned with gun deaths in America should take note that gang-related murders are the largest single cause of such deaths.

Will building a wall change anything?

Critics, as expected, say “no”. To be sure, there are already sections of the border with physical boundries; some wall, and some fence. There is a ten foot high wall along a fourteen-mile section south of San Diego. Various starts and stops over the last two decades or so led to the creation of a bit over 600 miles of fence along the border. In some places, the fence abruptly just ends; making it simple to just walk around. Calling much of the existing barrier a joke would be an understatement.

There are also legal issues, as some of the border passes through privately owned land and Indian reservations. Previous attempts at eminent domain have been met with lengthy litigation.  Additionally, there are environmental issues, terrain issues, and a host of other potential problems.

Discussions about type of barrier run from the sublime to the ridiculous. Below are some of the current types of fencing used on the border. Click on the image for a larger view:

fence

All of these have been penetrated; over, under, around or through. There is no easy answer here; nor an inexpensive one.

How much would it cost?

Estimates from supporters to critics run the gamut. It seems almost impossible to get accurate figures, based on the many variables, such as type of materials, size and a maze of terrain obstacles. Based on estimates running from MIT engineers to the Department of Homeland Security, it appears a practical cost would be between $20 and $30 billion dollars, plus millions more each year for maintainence. In addition, this would be a multi-year construction project.

Is it worth it?

Focusing only on crime and illegal drugs, would a wall reduce drug trafficing into the United States?

Critics argue that trafficers will find a way to get in regardless of barriers — they always have so far. But that begs the question.  What they have surmounted to date is a hodge-podge of half-baked measures, not a completed security barrier.

If indeed illegal drugs cost Americans $200-300 billion per year in related criminal costs, a barrier that reduced that traffic by even ten percent would pay for itself almost immediately.

Reducing the amount of drugs coming into the country is only part of the problem — the supply portion. Demand is another issue altogether.  It is possible to work on both sides of that equation, but only if the public is supportive and dedicated to it. The social aspects of building a wall are legitimate topics far beyond the scope of this article.

Building a wall may be practical or it may only be symbolic. The question is whether or not the American public wants to take on the issue of illegal drugs and the crime associated with it, or allow things to continue as they have.

1. Drug Trafficing from Mexico — FBI

2. Heroin Addication Costs US More Than $50 Billion/Year — Newsweek

3. Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society — US Department of Justice

4. A Pre-History of Mexican Drug Violence

5. Wikipedia: MS-13

6. FBI: Violent Crimes — Gangs

7. United States Border Patrol Statistics 2016

Where in the World is Tristan de Cunha?

earth 3

I’ll admit it, I have some strange interests. One of them is a fascination with geography. I love maps. I love reading about unusual and exotic places around the world, especially the off the grid, out of the mainstream places.

Some of these places aren’t exactly paradise; in fact the living conditions are often pretty extreme. It’s enough to make one wonder why people live there. I’m not talking about places with indiginous populations that have been there for eons; these are places where people can come and go if they choose.

In this piece, I’m taking a look at a few I’ve found and find interesting. Thanks to software like Google Earth, we can get a far better look at these places than using the books and maps I used as a kid. If you want to find out about Tristan de  Cunha, you’ll have to read to the end. So okey-dokey, here we go….

(Click on pictures for larger images)

Spitsbergen (Norway)

spitsbergen 01

The largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. It’s a pretty big island, 15,000+ square miles, with a population of only 2642. The Amazon television series Fortitude is fiction loosely based on this island.

Mining and arctic research along with tourism are the principal employers on the island.  Ten different countries conduct research activities on the island. It is also the home of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, containing more than 10,000 samples of seeds, a back up supply of cultivatable seeds in the event of a global disaster.

spitsbergen 02

Spitbergen is 1261 miles north of Oslo Norway,  but only about 650 miles from the North Pole. It’s pretty cold there. While summer temperatures can average highs of 39-43 degrees (F), winter high temps are only about -12 to -16 degrees.

spitsbergen 03

Tourism is the second largest industry in Spitsbergen (behind mining). Cruises and “polar bear” sighting tours are popular. Because of the polar bears, however, don’t go outside without your rifle.

RØDMERKET: Bildet skal brukes i VGHELG  og er belagt med restriksjoner  ISFJORD RADIO, LONGYEARBYEN 20120328  Matreise fra Isfjord Radio,, ti mil fra Longyearbyen. Stedet er bygd om til et moderne hotell med gourmetmat. Den mest kortreiste maten du kan tenke degfinner du her. Ishavsrøya er selvfisket, reinsdyret er felt av den siste fangstmannen som fremdeles holder til her. Kokken er anerkjent og omgivelsene magiske. Arktisk norsk og eksotisk mat. Vi sneier også innom Barentsburg og et par andre steder på veien til og fra. Arktiske naturguider: Steinar Rorgemoen (48) og Ingebjørg Schrøder (26) og Lena Danielsen (30). FOTO: KARIN BEATE NØSTERUD / VG RØDMERKET: Bildet skal brukes i VGHELG og kan være belagt med restriksjoner RØDMERKET Dette bildet skal brukes i VGHELG og kan være  belagt med restriksjoner.

 

Ascension Island (Great Britain)

ascension 01

Located in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 1000 miles from the coast of Africa, and 1400 miles from the coast of Brazil, Ascention island is a remote part of British Overseas Territory. The island was used by the United States as a military base, and is still the home of a British Royal Air Force base. The island hosts antennas that are part of the international Global Positioning System (GPS), and some telescopes operated by NASA.

There are five settlements on the island, with a total population of 806, according to the 2016 census. The island has a hot desert climate, with temperatures only varying slightly year-round. Average high temperatures run from 79-86 degrees (F), and average lows 70-76, with very little rain.

There is technically no right to permanently  live on the island, and residency is permitted only by employment contract. This has been disputed by some of the long-time expatriate employees living there.

Georgetown is the capital and chief settlement on the island, with a population of about 450.

ascension 02

Tourism: The island was not opened to tourists until 2002, and even today it is not easy to get there.  There are no commercial flights to the island, but until this year, passengers could actually book limited seats with the Royal Air Force to fly to the island. This option is not longer available due to poor runway conditions on the island. Sport fishing and an abundance of sea turtles attract some tourists. The island also boasts the world’s worst golf course. Most tourists arrive by way of a Royal Mail Ship. Hotel accomodations are sparse:

ascension 03

It may be difficult to get to Ascension island, but apparently the fishing is pretty good:

ascension 04

 

Norfolk Island (Australia)

norfolk 01

Located 877 miles east of Australia, Norkfolk Island has always been one of my favorites. The island is only about 14 square miles in size and has a population of about 2200 residents.

The island was a British penal colony for about fifty years.  The penal system was abandoned, and civilian settlement began in 1956. The island was turned over to Austalia in 1914.

Temperatures on the island are continually mild. The average low temperature is 56-67 degrees (F), and the average high is 65-77 degrees.  The island is known for a pine tree, known as the Norfolk Pine, its primary export as a popular ornamental plant.

norfolk 02

The island, once under autonomous government, is now governed by Australia. Life seems pretty idyllic, with such societal problems at crime almost non-existant. The island has three police officers. The largest town on the island is Burnt Pine, with a population of about 180. The rest of the residents live scattered around the island.

Burnt Pine is the only township on Norfolk Island. Once a brutal penal colony under the British, Norfolk Island is now a peaceful, quiet, little island with a population of around 1100 residents.The largest celebration on the island is Bounty Day (June 8) celebrating the arrival of mutineers from the HMS Bounty, whose decendents still live on the island. Some of the casualness of living is seen in telephone listings in the local phonebook, where residents are often identified by their nicknames such as Cane Toad, Dar Bizziebee, Lettuce Leaf, Goof, Paw Paw, Diddles, Rubber Duck, Carrots and Tarzan.

norfolk 04

 

Tristan de Cunha (Great Britain)

Tristan 01

There it is, Tristan de Cunha (click the picture for a better view). Never heard of it? Most people haven’t.  It holds the honor of being the most remote inhabited place on the planet.

Located in the South Atlantic Ocean, it is an 80 square mile island with a population of about 262 people. The island is a British Overseas Territory and the only town is named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.

Remote is no exaggeration. Take a look (click the image):

tristan 05 map

Tristan de Cunha is near — nothing! Over 1200 miles from the nearest populated island, and 1500 miles from the nearest continent!

The island has an interesting history. Although the island was discovered in the 1500’s, the first permanent settler was strangely, an American from Massachusetts, who landed in 1810 and claimed the island as his personal property. The British took umbrage,  and annexed the island as an overseas territory. The island consisted of a garrison of British Marines and a small civilian population. After some difficult winters, the British decided to evacuate the island, and offered to take the civilians. After a vote, the civilians refused to move. It was reported that no ships even visited the island from 1909 to 1919, when a British shipped stopped to tell the islanders that World War I was over, a war they never knew had even started.

A downside to living on the island is the volcano. Queen Mary’s Peak is the summit of the 6700 foot high volcano that looms over the island, and it the basis of the island’s formation. In 1961, an erruption of the volcano forced the evacuation  of the island’s entire population. The islanders took to the ocean in open boats, and were picked up by a Dutch cruise liner. The islanders were settled in Great Britain, and most returned to the island in 1963.

tristan 04

Edinburgh at the base of the Volcano

The average temperatures vary very little year round on the island, running between 55 and 65 degrees farenheit all year long. The island is frequently rainy. So what is it like living there? Check out the video”

 

 Tristan de Cunha (Wikipedia)

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

British Overseas Territories

Tristan de Cunha website

Queen Mary’s Peak

 

Werewolves of London and other Silliness

I was about eleven years old when I recall hearing my first “novelty” song”

The Flying Saucer sold over a million copies, and rose to the #3 position on Billboard rankings for 1956. It was the very first of what would be called a “mashup” recording today. It’s novelty made it very popular, and it was constantly being played on the radio. This tune opened up the floodgates for a tsunami of strange and weird songs. Continuing the space theme was The Purple People Eater:

Just a few years later (1962) a Halloween novelty song was introduced that we still hear over fifty years later. Here’s Bobby Pickett appearing on American Bandstand:

To get a sense of how times have changed since then, watch Ray Stevens sing about  Ahab the Arab (1962)

Everything is so serious these days, we seem to take too little time to just chill. Sometimes I just like hearing  a silly song:

Finally, one that I’ve never grown tired of. Warren Zevon at his best:

 

Well Hello Mary Lee!

 

shark 01

Okay, I’ll admit it, sharks fascinate me. Of course the thought of being in the water with one scares the hell out of me, but as long as they’re in the water and I’m not, we’re just fine.

I’m also a major fan of the movie Jaws. I saw it in the theater when it came out in 1975 and at least once a year since. Yeah, that’s 42 times, but really it’s more than that. We watch it aleast once every summer, and inevitably watch it again sometime later in the year. I’m guessing with no exageration, I’ve seen Jaws seventy-five times. I guess I’m sort of a Jaws Junkie:

“It’s a Carcharodon carcharias, it’s a Great White…” 

And like the movie, we have a Great White shark hanging around New Jersey these days, and her name is Mary Lee.

Ocearch is a scientific organization that tracks sharks. They have been in business since 2011. Mary Lee is a mature female Great White they caught and tagged off Cape Cod on September 17, 2012. At that time she was sixteen feet long and weighed  3456 pounds. She is named by the way, after the mother of the Ocearch expedition leader.

Ocearch captures live sharks and attaches a tag to their dorsal fin, which “pings” a satellite whenever the shark comes close to the surface, allowing the shark to be tracked in real time.

In the almost five years Mary Lee has been wearing a tag, she has been tracked for almost 40,000 miles. She has traveled up and down the East Coast, from Cape Cod to Florida. She has gone east as far as Bermuda, and quite recently been as close as one mile off the Ocean City, NJ beaches.

The thing that’s interesting about Mary Lee, is that while she is tracked almost daily, she has not actually been seen in years, giving rise to speculation that she may be considerably larger these days.  Tracking provides  location data, but there are still gaps.

Why, for instance, does Mary Lee go up and down the coast, back and forth on a regular basis? There have been suggestions that she has a boyfriend who hangs out in Cape Cod, and she goes to visit, gets pregnant, then heads out to sea to deliver her pups. No one really knows.

We do know she’s become very popular. She even has a Twitter account, @MaryLeeShark, with over 115, 000 followers, and a Facebook page with 70,000 likes. Local newscasts up and down the coast follow her progress, and report it an on-going basis.

As with many things, Jaws has a basis in reality. In 1916, five people were killed by a shark in New Jersey; in Beach Haven, Spring Lake, and sixteen miles up the Matawan Creek. Author Peter Benchley denied that this was inspriration for his novel, but read the link at the bottom of the page and see what you think.

There are more than 480 species of sharks, but the Great White is the best know (possibly because of the movie), one of the largest, and certainly the most feared. A full grown Great White can easily exceed twenty feet in length, and weight 4300 pounds.  Between 1958 – 2014, there were 2899 reported shark attacks on humans,  548 fatal, around the world.  About seventy attacks are reported every year.

The Great White shark is ancient, and fossils going back sixteen million years have been found. They are found around the world, but prefer water temperatures between 54-75 degrees (F), which is why they are so prominant off the US East Coast. Click the links below for all the information about the Great White you might ever want.

Me — I just checked on Mary Lee. As I finish writing this, she’s cruising back and forth between Ocean City and Sea Isle City New Jersey. She’s just a few miles off shore, swimming back and forth, and back and forth.

So if you’re down the Jersey shore this summer, take a look out toward the horizon — not that far out, actually. She’s out there, all two tons of her, and I’m sure she’d love to meet you.  :-)

Live Link to Mary Lee

Mary Lee Facebook Page

The Shark Attacks that were the Inspiration for Jaws –Smithsonian Magazine

Shark Attacks

Great White Shark — Wikipedia

Memorial Day, Barbecues, and Monin Marine

memday

Memorial Day is coming soon, and it is the oddest of holidays. The observance began just after the Civil War, and was originally called Decoration Day. It was not officially declared a national holiday until 1971.

The day has one purpose, and one purpose only; to honor those who have fallen in battle. The “decoration” terminology refers to the earliest traditions of “decorating” the graves of the fallen with an American Flag and sometimes flowers. It is the most solemn of holidays.

It is also the most ignored. Memorial Day has become the unofficial “first day of summer”,  even though summer does not really start until June 21st. Stores have “Memorial Day” sales, resort areas open in high gear, and barbecues abound. There are Memorial Day services, to be sure, and they are held all around the country. But they are often sparsely attended, mostly by veterans or those who have lost someone in war. The somber day has been co-opted into a glitzy Memorial-Day-Sale-go-to-the-beach-have-a-barbecue-day.

I used to get angry at the way Memorial Day had become perverted. To make it worse, they moved the traditional May 30th date of the holiday to one of those floating Monday holidays, making a long weekend and giving people a day off.  Ironically, the people in the armed forces don’t get off.

I’ve been thinking about it a bit lately, and have asked myself “What would Monin think?”.

monin

Francis George Monin was a friend of mine, a very good friend. We served together in the Marines, two years aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex. He was in my wedding.  He was killed on July 5, 1967, twenty-nine days after arriving in Vietnam. He was 20 years old when he died.

Monin was from Buffalo, New York. I met him at the Marine Corps Sea School in Portsmouth Va. We trained together there for eventual assignment to one of the ships in the Navy fleet. In those days, large ships, carriers, cruisers, battleships carried a detachment of Marines, usually about 60. This was a tradition going back to the Revolutionary War.  We trained together, and spent the next two years aboard ship. In April 1967, our tour was up. I went home to get married, and on to Camp Lejeune. Monin went to Vietnam.

Wedding 1967 #5

 

We heard about Monin getting killed, and decided to name our first child, if it was boy, after Monin. My son was born on March 28, 1968, ironically while I was in Vietnam. His name is Francis, but everyone calls him Frank.

We never called Monin “Francis” or “Frank” or anything like that. He was always just “Monin”. That moniker later evolved into “Monin Marine”. He got that nickname because Monin was a true Marine. It was all he ever wanted to be; a John Wayne Marine. He was solid, and steady and completely dependable. You could count on Monin for anything. He was one of the true patriots.

He also liked to have fun. Monin was a beer drinker, and we drank a lot of beer during those years. When we were in port, Monin and I would frequently go into Boston’s notorious “combat zone” to drink on off-duty nights. The combat zone was the area in Boston where the sailors and Marines hung out. There used to be an area like that in many cities, places the civilians generally avoided and the military people partied.

And drink we did. We usually got something to eat, sometimes took in a movie, and then hit the bars. We would stagger back to the ship in the wee small hours, always stopping at a local greasy spoon for a 3am breakfast before going to the ship for a few hours sleep. Monin insisted that eating breakfast then would prevent a hangover. It didn’t work, but we did it anyway.

We had good times; lots of them. Monin loved to tell jokes. He wasn’t real good at it, but he told them to anyone who would listen. He liked to have fun. He was always in for any adventure. He was always up; I never saw him down.

Monin would like barbecues, especially if there was beer. He would like a get-together with friends where he could tell his jokes. He enjoyed life, and enjoyed being with his fellow Marines. He wouldn’t want people grieving over him.

I think if I were having a Memorial Day barbecue, Monin would be one of the first I would invite. He would come and have a good time.

So yeah, Memorial Day has a purpose; maybe more than one. Remember those who have fallen to keep you free. Plant a flag, say a prayer. Then go out and have fun.

That’s what Monin would do.

Francis G. Monin

American flag blowing, close-up

 

The Terrorist Wins if he Doesn’t Lose

 

isis flag

“The conventional army loses if it does not win.
The guerrilla wins if he does not lose…” Henry Kissinger

We’re losing.  I’m writing this in the aftermath of the Ariana Grande terrorist bombing in Manchester, England yesterday  (May 22nd), killing twenty-two mostly young people and injuring scores more. This one caught my attention, not because it was unusual, it wasn’t, as you’ll see from the list below. It caught my attention because my Grandaughter is a fan of Ariana Grande, a singer I know nothing about.

Evidently in this incident, the terrorist suicide bomber was a 23-year-old Muslim who’s parents were Libyan refugees. CBS News reported that he was “known” to British authorities. Apparently, according to news reports, the Brits have some 3500 “known” potential terrorists along with about 400 returned ISIS fighters back from Iraq and Syria walking around in their streets.

Wrap your mind around that if you can, because I can’t.

Apparently the British have enough on these individuals to classify them as “potential” terrorists, but not enough on them to lock them up. They can’t lock them up, but when one of their “knowns” blows himself up along wth scores of innocent people, the response is that he was “known” to them.

I don’t want to pick on the British. We have terrorist “watch lists” as well, and my guess is they are pretty extensive.

We can watch them, they can be known to us. And then they can blow up pretty much any venue, any time they damn well please. Even when they are known to have gone to Syria and fought with ISIS, they are only “monitored” in Jolly Old England.

An Ariana Grande concert; thousands of kids, many barely in their teens, flocking to have a night of excitement watching their favorite singer. They got more than they bargained for.

Now the terrorists have a new target — our kids. What could bring more terror than killing children?  The “known” terrorist got away with it. They’ll do this one again.

We’re losing.

Read the list below and tell me I’m wrong.

jihadi-john-dead-opinion-619225

 

The Terrorist isn’t afraid.

The following is from the Associated Press:

“(AP) — The deadly bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester is the latest attack in Europe in recent years. Here are some of the recent major ones:

April 7, 2017
A man driving a hijacked beer truck struck pedestrians at a Stockholm department store, killing 4 people.

March 22, 2017
A man drives his rented SUV into pedestrians at London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people. The attacker then stabbed a police officer to death.

Dec. 19, 2016
A hijacked truck plows through a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12.

July 14, 2016
A truck driver targets Bastille Day revelers in Nice, killing 86.

March 22, 2016
Suicide attacks on the Brussels airport and subway kill 32 and injure hundreds. The perpetrators have been closely linked to the group that carried out earlier attacks in Paris.

Nov. 13, 2015
Islamic State-linked extremists attack the Bataclan concert hall and other sites across Paris, killing 130 people. A key suspect in the attack, 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, is arrested in Brussels on March 18, 2016.

Feb. 14, 2015
A gunman kills Danish filmmaker Finn Noergaard and wounds three police officers in Copenhagen. A day later the gunman, Omar El-Hussein, attacks a synagogue, killing a Jewish guard and wounding two police officers before being shot dead.

Jan. 7-9, 2015
A gun assault on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and an attack on a kosher grocery store kills 17 people. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claims responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

May 24, 2014
Four people are killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by an intruder with a Kalashnikov. The accused is a former French fighter linked to the Islamic State group in Syria.

May 22, 2013
Two al-Qaida-inspired extremists run down British soldier Lee Rigby in a London street, then stab and hack him to death.

March 2012
A gunman claiming links to al-Qaida kills three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in Toulouse, southern France.

July 22, 2011
Anti-Muslim extremist Anders Behring Breivik plants a bomb in Oslo then launches a shooting massacre on a youth camp on Norway’s Utoya island, killing 77 people, many of them teenagers.

Nov. 2, 2011
The offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are firebombed after the satirical magazine runs a cover featuring a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. No one is injured.

March 2, 2011
Islamic extremist Arid Uka shoots dead two U.S. airmen and injures two others at Frankfurt airport after apparently being inspired by a fake internet video purporting to show American atrocities in Afghanistan.

July 7, 2005
52 commuters are killed in London when four al Qaida-inspired suicide bombers blow themselves up on three subway trains and a bus.

March 11, 2004
Bombs on four Madrid commuter trains in the morning rush hour kill 191 people.”

Polar Bears

 

polar bear 01

Polar bears, the icon of the global warming movement: theatened, endangered, possibly headed for extinction because of mankind’s indifference to saving the planet. Really?

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a carniverous bear who roams the Arctic Circle area. It feeds mostly on seals. It is a big bear, and a male can weigh as much as 1500 pounds and stand nine feel tall on it’s hind legs. They are actually related to the brown bear; their distinctive color presumably evolved allowing them to survive better in their habitat. They live both on land and on sea ice, roaming their territory looking for prey. They are vicious animals, and will eat a human being as readily as a seal. Other creatures they encounter are just food to them. 

Their “territory” is pretty large. The area north of the Arctic Circle is over 7 million square miles in size. For reference, the continental United States is about 3.2 million square miles.

polar bear map

The polar bear is considered a “vulnerable species”,  by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, largely due to concerns about global warming. This group has classified 5196 animals and 6789 plants around the world as “vulnerable”.

So how many polar bears are there, and how is their “vulnerability” measured? That’s where it begins to get murky.

Part of the problem is no one knows how many polar bears there are. The only way to count polar bears is to fly over them and count. Since their territory is so large, and they are constantly on the move, this is not  a practical method. So what we have are estimates. Since much of their territory has been poorly studied (Wikipedia), estimates by biologists run from 20,000 to 31,000 polar bears in the world. Nineteen “subpopulations” have been catagorized, based on sightings of groups of bears in various areas.

Modern tracking of the bears has only taken place since the 1980’s and is expensive, tagging and tracking bears by helicopter. While there have been increased reporting of bear sightings around populated areas in recent years, some scientists argue that this should not be interprteted as increases in the bear population. Counting of  subpopulations is scattered, and some groups have not been counted since 1992.
The bottom line is that all counts of polar bears are estimates, based on very limited information.

Those worried about the fate of the polar bear contend that shrinking Arctic polar ice reduces the bear’s habitat and food supply, eventually leading to the extinction of the bear.

The Arctic Polar Ice:

In 2009, Al Gore warned the Polar ice caps could be gone in five years:

So is Al right? Obviously his 2009 prediction didn’t quite work out that way, the ice is still there. But is he right in general?

Maybe, maybe not.

It seems almost impossible to get anyhing but conflicting data on the Internet. I looked at dozens of sites; official, semi-official, quasi-official and unofficial.  — All kinds of different “answers”. I’m certainly not a scientist, but all the contradictions made me want to pull my eyeballs out. So here’s what I surmised:

It seems that over the last several million years, the Arctic has undergone over twenty glacial/interglacial (cooling/warming) periods. Some of these lasted for millions of years. The most recent interglacial period, known as the Holocene Interglacial period, lasted about 11,700 years. After warming during the  Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD), there was a cooling period from about 1300 to 1850, which has been called the “Little Ice Age”.  Although we appear to once again be in an interglacial period, It is not clear the length of time this will last, nor the cause.

There has been shrinkage of the Arctic ice in recent years. Of course it recedes and expands seasonly, but overall there has been shrinkage. I tried my best find out how much, but again, numbers are all over the place. Again it seems as much based on “estimates” as anything else.

From what I can put together, the Arctic ice pack has a size of about 5.3 million square miles. This shrinks currently to about 1.3 million square miles in the summer.  Most of the sites I looked at suggest the recent overall loss is about 13-15 thousand square miles per year. Some said that this is about 2 percent, but if you do the math, it’s actually .2 percent — big differerence.  At that rate, the ice will turn to water in about 500 years. 

Maybe, maybe not. Climate is a funny thing; it doesn’t follow rules, certainly not any of the rules of man. Over the eons, climate change has gone warmer to colder, to warmer to colder, over and over again. In any case, the Arctic Ice is not likely to melt in the next few years as Al projected.

Personally, I think it all has to do with the shifting of the magnetic poles, but more on that in a future article.

So over all, I’m not too worried about the Polar Bear. If things change enough, they’ll likely just move south and turn brown again, like their cousins.

brown bear

International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Summary of Polar Bears census counts

Medieval Warm Period

Little Ice Age

1968

 

time 1968

I missed 1968. Of course 1968 really happened, and I was alive then, but I missed it. I missed it because I was in Vietnam, and almost totally unaware  of the tumultous events that took place that year. So many dramatic events took place that they changed this country, and indeed much of the world. 1968 was the most significant year of my lifetime, and I wasn’t there.

When these events took place, I was barely aware of them. In Vietnam we had a single radio station, AFVN, which stood for Armed Forces Vietnam. It was the only radio station we ever heard. Fortunately or unfortunately, AFVN was heavily censored. We only heard what they allowed us to hear, and issues that were considered too “controversial” were not broadcast. As a result of this, I only learned of many of the major events of 1968 when I returned home late that year.

Looking back, I do believe 1968 changed everything.  Let’s look at the year month by month and see what happened.

January

1968 started out innocuously enough. In January, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau premiered on ABC. Johnny Cash performed his historic concert at Folsom Prison, and the Green Bay Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders in Superbowl II.

Things started to get dicey around the end of January.  On January 21st,  A B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed in Greenland. One was never recovered under the ice. On the same day, the battle of Khe Sahn began in Vietnam.

On January 22, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In debuts on NBC, and on the 23rd, North Korea seized the American Navy ship USS Pueblo and it’s crew.

FILE - In this undated file photo from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy USS Pueblo sails underway at sea. The ship is North Koreafs greatest Cold War prize, a potent symbol of how the country has stood up to the great power of the United States, once in an all-out ground war and now with its push to develop the nuclear weapons and the sophisticated missiles it needs to threaten the U.S. mainland. (AP Photo/USN, File)

USS Pueblo

To cap the month of January off, the Tet Offensive began in Vietnam on January 30, and by the next day , Viet Cong soldiers were attacking the US embassy in Saigon.

1202 Americans were killed in Vietnam in January

February

February 1st: In what would beome one of the most iconic and controversial photographs of Vietnam, photographer Eddie Adams captured the execution of a Viet Cong captive by Saigon police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan.

loan

On February 6th, the Winter Olympics opened in Grenoble, France. On February 8th, three protestors were shot and killed and 27 injured at the University of South Carolina by state police, in an incident that became known as the Orangeburg Massacre.

During February, actors Nick Adams and Gary Coleman died, and actors Josh Brolin and Molly Ringwald were born. Singer Frankie Lymon died of a drug overdose.

2124 Americans were killed in Vietnam in February

March

March started off calmly enough. Johnny Cash and June Carter were married on March 1st, and actor Daniel Craig was born on the 2nd.

Then, on March 8th, a Soviet ballistic missle  submarine sank 90 miles off Hawaii, with the loss of all the crew.

There was a nerve gas leak at the Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds, 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City,  on the 14th.

On the 16th of March in Vietnam, the My Lai Massacre took place.On the same day, Senator Robert Kennedy entered  the race for the Democratic nomination for President.

My son was born on March 28th. I was notified about his birth by the Red Cross about a week later.

On March 30, Celine Dion was born, and on the next day, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek re-election.

1543 Americans were killed in Vietnam in March

April

April 2nd: Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001 A Space Odyssey, opened in Washington DC.

king

On April 4th, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray. Almost immediately, riots broke out all across the country. Riots took place in over one hundred cities, with the largest in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington DC. The riots lasted for the better part of a week, and over 45 people were killed.

king riots

 

On April 11, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

On April 13, there was a total lunar eclipse, the first of two in 1968.

Anti-war protests in New York shut down Columbia University on April 23rd.  Timothy McVeigh is born on the same day. The musical Hair opened in New York City on April 29th.

hair

1410 Americans were killed in Vietnam in April

May

Early May settled down a bit in the U.S., but student protests expanded in Europe, especially in France, perhaps inspired by American anti-war protests.

May 17: Anti-war protestors, known as the Cantonville Nine break into a Selective Service office in Maryland and burned draft records. Two involved were Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan and his brother Phillip.

On May 22, the U.S.  Navy nuclear-power submarine USS Scorpion sank in the Atlantic, with the loss of all on board. On May 27, civil rights protesters rioted in Louisville, Kentucky.  The rioting lasted two days and two people were killed.

2169  Americans were killed in Vietnam in May

June

June 5: Senator Robert Kennedy was shot in the Ambassdor Hotel in Los Angeles  by Siran Siran, a Jordanian. He died the next day.

James Earl Ray is arrested on June 8th for the assassination of Martin Luther King.

1146 Americans were killed in Vietnam in June

July

All things considered, July was a relatively quiet month. The country seemed to take a breather. The CIA did launch it’s controversial Phoenix Program in Vietnam on July 1, Saddam Hussein first came to power in Iraq.

On July 17, the PLO committed it’s first skyjacking (El Al Flight 426), and Pope Paul VI issued his enclyclical Humanae Vitae, concerning birth control.

813 Americans were killed in Vietnam in July

August

August 5-8 :The Republican National Convention selected Richard Nixon at the party’s nominee for President. Spiro Agnew was named Vice Presidential nominee.

nixon agnew

August 20-21: 750,000 Soviet Union and “Warsaw Pact” troops invaded Czechoslovkia, using 6500 tanks and 800 aircraft, in the biggest invasion since World War II.

August 20-30: Massive rioting took place at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as the Democrats nominate Presidential candidate Hubert Humphry and Edmund Muskie for Vice President.

On August 28, John Gordon Mein, US Ambassador to Guatamala is assassinated in Guatamala City. He was the first American ambassador ever assassinated in the line of duty.

1080 Americans were killed in Vietnam in August

September

September 6: 150 women arrived in Atlantic City to protest the Miss America pagent. The first of the “bra burning” demonstrations, this was considered to be the first large feminist/women’s liberation demonstration.

Hawaii Five-O debuts on CBS, and becomes the longest-running show on television until 2003.  Sixty Minutes debuts on CBS.

September 30: Boeing Aircraft introduces the Boeing 747 to the public.

1053 Americans are killed in Vietnam in September

October

October 7: Singer Jose Fecliciano’s stylized version of the Star Spangled Banner at the World series creates huge controversy.

October 11: NASA launches Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission.

October 14: The Department of Defense announces it will send about 24,000 soldiers and Marines back to Vietnam for involuntary second tours.

October 18: At the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two African-American atheletes raise their fists in the black power salute.

black power

600 Americans are killied in Vietman in October

November

November 5:  Richard M. Nixon wins the Presidential election, defeating Democratic candidate Humbert Humphrey,  becoming the 37th President of the United States

On November 20th, the Farmington Mine disaster in West Virginia kills 78 miners.

On November 24, four men hijacked Pan Am Flight 281 at JFK Airport in New York City, and flew it to Havana, Cuba.

703 Americans were killed in Vietnam in November

December

On December 20, the Zodiac Killer begins his deadly spree in California.

December 24: Apollo 8 enters obit around the moon. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders become the first humans to see the far side of the moon.

749 Americans were killed in Vietnam in December

1968 was not an easy year  to forget. Assasinations, riots, and chaos seemed commonplace that year.  16,899 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines died in Vietnam. 

The year was a breaking point. Something snapped, and it seems possible today to look at the years before and after 1968 and see dramatic differences.  Every now and then in history major events seem to compress into a short period of time. 1968 was such a time, the only one like it in my lifetime. I hope I never see another.

Endnotes:

B-52 Crash in Greenland

Battle of Khe Sahn

Seizure of USS Pueblo

The Tet Offensive

U.S. Embassy Saigon

Orangeburg Massacre

My Lai Massacre

Civil Rights Act of 1968

Daniel Berrigan

Humanae Vitae

Farmington Mine Disaster

Zodiac Killer

 

 

Westworld – The Rise of Artificial Intelligence?

I recently  finished watching “Westworld”, an HBO television series based on the 1973 movie with the same title. Both were the story of a theme park filled with animatronic characters who interacted with the guests. The characters, called “hosts” were so advanced it was practically impossible to tell them from the human being “guests”. Without going too far into the plot line, this, in my opinion was an extraordinarily well-done science fiction story which seemed to be far too close to reality for comfort.

Sentience

The capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. It is the ability to feel (sentience) distinguished from the ability to think (reason)

Westworld isn’t the first movie to explore the notion of artificial inteligence running amuck.It started with Hal 9000, the  infamously intelligent computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odessy (1968).

hal 9000

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that…”

Since then there have been countless movies about computers and/or robots turning on humans. In some cases the robots were monstrous and evil (Terminator). There were action/adventure robots (I,Robot), creepy (Ex Machina), and the franky disturbing  A.I. Artificial Intellgence, by Steven Spielberg.

Artificial Intelligence

The standard definition of artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. Generally, this is thought of as machines that imitate human cognative functions, such as problem solving.

The incredible recent advances have made AI an everyday experience. For example, search for something on Google. As you type in a few letters, suggestions begin to appear, as though Google is attempting to read your mind, and find out what you are looking for before you finish typing it. This is the common use of an algorithm, a self-contained sequence of actions to be performed. In the Google search (predictive text or autocomplete), to fill in your search, Google analyizes the last 10,000 searches in your geographical area, your bookmarks, your recent searches, your web browsing history, and the patterns of your browsing and searches. In other words, Google carefully looks at your behaviors as you fill in that search box, returning suggestions before you can even type them. Scary? It probably should be, but we’ve grown so accustomed to it, we really don’t even think about it. This is artificial intelligence from a machine, or in this case software, solving problems for you.

google algorithym

Google searches are of course, commonplace today. We accept them as part of our normal lives. How about Siri or Alexa? We ask them questions, they give us answers. We’ve adapted to speaking to our phones and computer systems, or is it speaking “with”? When does that interaction between man and machine begin to get muddy? — meet Samantha:

So when does the computer beome “real” ? When is it more than a machine?

British code breaker  and inventor of the Enigma machine Alan Turing proposed a test (now known as the Turing Test),  which suggests that if a person communicates with a machine, and cannot tell if the communication is from another person or a machine, the test has been passed. To paraphase a line from Westworld when a “host” is asked if they are human or machine, the host replied, “If you can’t tell , what difference does it make”?

So, could computers and artificlal intelligence become self-aware? Could they become sentient? Far fetched, perhaps, but some pretty smart folks have some qualms.

Stephen Hawking, the British physicist often referred to as one of the smartest people in the world, told the BBC “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”(1)

Bill Gates seems to agree: “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” Gates wrote. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”(2)

Tessla founder Elon Musk seems to suggest the same thing: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.” (2)

The question seems to be whether or not machines with AI can become conscious, or self-aware. Watch these tiny robots take a test:

“…It may seem pretty simple, but for robots, this is one of the hardest tests out there. It not only requires the AI to be able to listen to and understand a question, but also to hear its own voice and recognise that it’s distinct from the other robots. And then it needs to link that realisation back to the original question to come up with an answer.”

To find out how this little robot became self-aware, click link below:

Robot passes self-awareness test

Technological Singularity

This is the creation of an artifical superintelligence, one so sophisticated that it could become runaway, causing it’s own “intelligence explosion”, out of the control of it’s makers. The argument is that it is possible to build a machine that is more intelligent than man, and this machine begins to rebuild itself, literally writing it’s own software, growing more and more intelligent as it goes. A concept known as Moore’s law suggests that this is not only possible, but plausible and even likely over time.

Is this real, or just the stuff of vivid imaginations and screenwriters? Several of the people mentioned above are part of the Future of Humanity Institute, which seems to take these things seriously.

So maybe humans will be ruled by machines sometime in the future. Or maybe it’s just fun science fiction. Which brings us back to Hal:

 

Endnotes

1.Beware the Robots, Says Stephen Hawking

2. Bill Gates on Dangers of Artificial Intelligence — Washington Post

Future of Life Institute — Wikipedia

Technological Singularity

Artificial Intelligence — Wikipedia

Is Google tracking me?

Moore’s Law