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In Brief.

  • Programmers have developed an artificial intelligence that can play the video game Doom, and do so very well.
  • Although it’s just a game, this raises questions about AI governance. How can it become more informed, integrated, effective, and anticipatory?

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Hmmm; China stepping up their game on global governance.

Premier Li embarked on a very significant tour on the 18th of September. The tour comprises of visits to New York to attend the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly and pay official visits to Canada and Cuba upon the invitations from the respective countries.

The 71st session of the UN General Assembly will be an important one. Every session of the UN General Assembly is an historic moment, but among other things the 71st session will be the last one attended by US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as both are about to leave office. Thus, along with discussions of global matters, the assembled leaders will also bid farewell to two of the most famous and powerful leaders among them.

The UN General Assembly session is usually the biggest multilateral event of the calendar year, with most of the top world leaders in attendance. It makes it a perfect opportunity for leaders to meet each other on the side-lines to discuss matters and touch base on past, present and future agreements and understandings between countries. Being the Premier of the second largest economy in the world, Premier Li will most definitely have a very hectic few days in New York meeting his counterparts from other countries and streamlining and strengthening communications with them while attending various engagements at the UN headquarters. At the General Assembly session during the general debates, the premier will sketch out China’s stance on global governance and international order in front of other global leaders and he will highlight measures for coping with global challenges.

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““A woman of firsts” is perhaps only a summary description of Dame Margaret Anstee, the first woman to serve as a United Nations Under-Secretary-General.”

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“Hopes of a fast and effective response to the global refugee crisis now rest on a summit convened by Barack Obama on Tuesday in New York, after negotiations before a meeting of world leaders at the UN on Monday failed to produce any concrete measures.”

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In preparation for writing a review of the Unabomber’s new book, I have gone through my files to find all the things I and others had said about this iconic figure when he struck terror in the hearts of technophiles in the 1990s. Along the way, I found this letter written to a UK Channel 4 producer on 26 November 1999 by way of providing material for a television show in which I participated called ‘The Trial of the 21st Century’, which aired on 2 January 2000. I was part of the team which said things were going to get worse in the 21st century.

What is interesting about this letter is just how similar ‘The Future’ still looks, even though the examples and perhaps some of the wording are now dated. It suggests that there is a way of living in the present that is indeed ‘future-forward’ in the sense of amplifying certain aspects of today’s world beyond the significance normally given to them. In this respect, the science fiction writer William Gibson quipped that the future is already here, only unevenly distributed. Indeed, it seems to have been here for quite a while.

Dear Matt,

Here are the sum of my ideas for the Trial of the 21st Century programme, stressing the downbeat:

Although the use of the internet is rapidly spreading throughout the world, it is also spreading at an alarmingly uneven rate, creating class divisions within nations much sharper than before. (Instead of access to the means of production, it is now access to the means of communication that is the cause of these divisions.) A good example is India, where most of the population continues to live in abject poverty (actually getting poorer relative to the rest of the world), while a Silicon Valley style community thrives in Bangalore with close ties to the West and a growing scepticism toward India’s survival as a democracy that pretends to incorporate the interests of the entire country. (The BBC world service did a story a couple of years ago after one of the elections, arguing that this emerging techno-middle-class is, despite its Western ties, are amongst those most likely to accept the rule of a dictator who could do a ‘Mussolini’ and make the trains run on time, and otherwise protect the interests of these nouveaux riches, etc.) In this respect, the spread of the internet to the Third World is actually a politically destabilizing force, creating the possibility of a new round of authoritarian regimes. This tendency is compounded by a general decline of the welfare state mentality, so that these new dictators wouldn’t even need to pay lip service to taking care of the masses, as long as the middle classes are given preferential tax rates, etc.

But even in the West, the easy access to the internet has political unsavoury consequences. As more people depend on the internet as a provider of goods, information, entertainment, etc., and regulation of the net is devolved into many commercial hands, it will be increasingly tempting for techno-terrorists to strike by: corrupting, stealing and recoding materials stored therein. In other words, we should see a new generation of people who are the spiritual offspring of the Unabomber and average mischievous hacker. Indeed, many of these people may be motivated by a populist, democratic sentiment associated with a particular ethnic or cultural group that is otherwise ‘info-poor’. Such techno-terrorism is likely to be effective when the offending Western parties are far from those of the offended peoples – one wouldn’t need to smuggle people and arms into Heathrow; one could just push the delete button 5000 miles away… I am frankly surprised that the major stock exchanges and the air traffic control system haven’t yet been sabotaged, considering how easy it is for major disruptions to occur even without people trying very hard. These two computerized systems are prime candidates because the people most directly affected are likely to be relatively well-heeled. In contrast, sabotaging various military defence systems could lead to the death of millions of already disadvantaged people, so I doubt that they would be the target of techno-terrorists (though they may be the target of a sociopathic hacker…)

One seemingly good feature of our emerging networked world is that we can customize our consumption better than ever. However, this customization means that we are providing more of our details to sources capable of exploiting them — not only through marketing, but also through surveillance. In this respect, remarks about the ‘interactivity’ of the internet should be seen as implying that others may be able to ‘see ‘through’ you while you are merely ‘looking at’ them. While this opens up the possibility of government censorship, a bigger threat may be the way in which access to certain materials may be ‘implicitly regulated’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of website hits. Thus, if a site gets a consistently large number of hits, it may suddenly start charging a pay-per-view fee, whereas those getting few hits may simply be taken off cyberspace by commercial servers. This could have especially pernicious consequences for the amount and type of news available (think about what sorts of stories would be expensive to access if news coverage were entirely consumer-driven), as well as on-line distance learning courses.

Here we see the dark side of the ‘user friendliness’ of the net: it basically mimics and reinforces what we already do until we get locked in. (In other words: spontaneous preferences are turned into prejudices and perhaps even addictions.) In the past, government and even businesses saw themselves in the role of educating or, in some other way, challenging people to change their habits. But this is no longer necessary, and may be even inconvenient as a means to a docile citizenry. (Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was ahead of the curve here.)

There are also some problems arising from advances in biotechnology:
1. As we learn more about people’s genetic makeup, that information will become part of the normal ways we account for ourselves – especially in legal settings. For example, you may be guilty of alcohol-related offences even if you are below the ‘legal limit’, if it’s shown that you’re genetically predisposed to get drunk easily. (Judges have already made such rulings in the US.) Ironically, then, although we have no say in our genetic makeup, we will be expected not only to know it, but also to take responsibility for it.
2. In addition, while our personal genetic information will be generally available (e.g. used by insurance companies to set premiums), it may also be patented as intellectual property legislation seems to be allowing the patenting of substances that already exist in nature as long as the means is artificial (e.g. biochemical synthesis of genetic material for medical treatments).
3. This fine-grained genetic information will refuel the fires of the politics of discrimination, both in its negative and positive extremes: i.e. those who want to take a distinctive genetic pattern as the basis of extermination or valorization. (A good case in point is the drive to recognize homosexuality as genetically based: both pro- and anti-gay groups seem to embrace this line, even though it could mean either preventing the birth of gay children or accepting gayness as a normal tendency in humanity)

Finally, there are some general problems with the future of knowledge production:
1. It will become increasingly difficult to find support – both intellectual and financial — for critical work that aims to overturn existing assumptions and open up new lines of inquiry. This is because current lines of research – especially in the experimentally driven side of the natural sciences – have already invested so much money, people and other resources that to suggest that, say, high-energy physics is intellectually bankrupt or that the human genome project isn’t telling us much more than we already know would amount to throwing lots of people out of work, ruining reputations and perhaps even causing a general backlash against science in society at large (since public conceptions of science are so closely tied to these high-profile projects).
2. Traditionally radical ideas have been promoted in science – at least in part –- because the research behind the ideas did not cost much to do, and not much was riding on who was ultimately correct. However, this idyllic state of affairs ended with World War II. Indeed, it has gotten so bad – and will get worse in the future – that one can speak of a kind of ‘financial censorship’ in science. For example, Peter Duesberg, who discovered the ‘retrovirus’, lost his grants from the US National Institute of Health because he publicly denied the HIV-AIDS link. One result of this financial censorship is that radical researchers will migrate to private funders who are willing to take some risks: e.g. cold fusion research continues today in this fashion. The big downside of this possibility, though, is that if this radical research does bear fruit, it’s likely to become the intellectual property of the private funder and not necessarily used for the public good.

I hope you find these remarks helpful. Leave a message at … when you’re able to talk.



The following is a selection of points of interest to futurism and forecasts of the political future from the recent Mont Order Conference of July 2016:


The Mont Order’s secret wiki created via PBworks holds information on the origin and literature of the Mont Order as well as our current structure, ranks and members. Members will be invited via email and will be able to contribute pages or post comments and questions on this literature. The public will not have access to it.


The Friends of the Mont Order group created by Raincoaster at Facebook has seen a surprising growth in membership. Our hope is that it will reach a point where members can confidently post to the group and a minimal amount of admin involvement is needed. Due to the continued growth in its membership and the high amount of activity there, the group can be deemed a success so far.


“Integration”, humiliation of Muslims by the state, and blaming Islam for violence are non-answers to terrorist threats. These steps will only deepen tensions and extremist views on all sides in European countries, where terrorist incidents have occurred. We have noted that incidents in Europe are beginning to resemble a more American pattern of “mass shootings” but similar tragedies have curiously not been occurring in the UK. In addition, editorial policies of Western media clearly follow a pattern of only describing attacks as “terrorist” after an attacker is described to be a Muslim.


(Vote Here) From a MONT member: “All funding of religious groups by non-citizens should be banned” (expanded: “Religions should be treated the same way as political parties”). Justified by the way Saudi Arabia uses mosque financing to spread its political power and extremism particularly in Europe. Might also bring states and authorities to account for spreading extremism rather than blaming communities. Might also allow Muslim communities to take control of their own future rather than taking orders from foreign clerics. Should this be advocated as law? (NOTE: The UK already bans political parties from getting foreign funds. What is being advocated in the UK context is only that religious groups be also added to these lists of groups. In the context of other countries, they would copy the above element of UK law and then add the religious groups to the lists.)

The Mont Order, often just called Mont, is an information society of writers and networks based in different countries who collaborate to broaden their influence. To date, this has been achieved mainly through the internet.

The Mont Order has held online audio conferences since February 2015.

Shared website:

Shared Twitter timeline: @MontOrder

Subscribe to updates from this society:

Transhumanists will know that the science fiction author Zoltan Istvan has unilaterally leveraged the movement into a political party contesting the 2016 US presidential election. To be sure, many transhumanists have contested Istvan’s own legitimacy, but there is no denying that he has generated enormous publicity for many key transhumanist ideas. Interestingly, his lead idea is that the state should do everything possible to uphold people’s right to live forever. Of course, he means to live forever in a healthy state, fit of mind and body. Istvan cleverly couches this policy as simply an extension of what voters already expect from medical research and welfare provision. And while he may be correct, the policy is fraught with hazards – especially if, as many transhumanists believe, we are on the verge of revealing the secrets to biological immortality.

In June, Istvan and I debated this matter at Brain Bar Budapest. Let me say, for the record, that I think that we are sufficiently close to this prospect that it is not too early to discuss its political and economic implications.

Two months before my encounter with Istvan, I was on a panel at the Edinburgh Science Festival with the great theorist of radical life extension Aubrey de Grey, where he declared that people who live indefinitely will seem like renovated vintage cars. Whatever else, he is suggesting that they would be frozen in time. He may actually be right about this. But is such a state desirable, given that throughout history radical change has been facilitated generational change? Specifically, two simple facts make the young open to doing things differently: The young have no memory of past practices working to anyone else’s benefit, and they have not had the time to invest in those practices to reap their benefits. Whatever good is to be found in the past is hearsay, as far as the young are concerned, which they are being asked to trust as they enter a world that they know is bound to change.

Questions have been already raised about whether tomorrow’s Methuselahs will wish to procreate at all, given the time available to them to realize dreams that in the past would have been transferred to their offspring. After all, as human life expectancy has increased 50% over the past century, the birth rate has correspondingly dropped. One can only imagine what will happen once ageing can be arrested, if not outright reversed!

So, where will the new ideas of the future come from? The worry here is that society may end up being ruled by people with overlong memories who value stability over change: Think China and Japan. But perhaps the old Soviet Union is the most telling example, as its self-consciously revolutionary image gradually morphed into a ritualistic veneration of the original 1917 revolutionary moment. To these gerontocratic indicators, the recent UK vote to leave the European Union (‘Brexit’) adds a new twist. There were some clear age-related patterns in the outcome: The older the voter, the more likely to vote to leave – and the more likely to vote at all. To be sure, given the closeness of the vote (52% to leave vs. 48% to remain), had the young voted in comparable numbers to their elders, Brexit would have lost.

One might think that the simple solution is to encourage, if not force, the young to vote in larger numbers. However, this does not take into account the liabilities of their elders when it comes to dictating the terms for living in the future. Whatever benefits might accrue to people living longer, the clarity of the memories of such people may not be an unmitigated good, as it might incline them to perpetuate what they regard as the best of their own pasts. One way around this situation is to weight votes inversely to age. In other words, the youngest voters would effectively get the most votes and the oldest voters the least. This would continually force the elders to make their case in terms that their juniors can appreciate. The exercise would serve to destabilize any sense of nostalgia that members of the same generation might experience simply by virtue of having experienced the same events at the same age.

However, two technologically based solutions also come to mind. One is for the elderly to be subject to the strategic memory loss procedure described in the film, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which might be understood as a the cognitive correlate of an inheritance tax – or even a high-class lobotomy! In other words, the elders would lose their personal attachment to events which would nevertheless remain available in the historical record for more detached scrutiny vis-à-vis their lessons for the future. The other, more drastic solution involves incentivizing the elders to exchange biological for digital immortality. This would enable them to enjoy a virtual existence in perpetuity. They might be resurrected (‘downloaded’) on a regular or simply a need-to-remember basis, depending on prior contractual arrangements. The former might be seen as more ‘religious’, as in a Roman Catholic feast day, and the latter more ‘secular’, as in an ‘on tap’ consultant. But in either virtual form, the elders could retain their attachment to certain past events with impunity while at the same time not inflicting their memories needlessly on present generations.

David Wood, the head of the main UK transhumanist organization, London Futurists, has recently published a summa of anti-ageing arguments, which makes a cumulatively persuasive case for indefinite life extension being within our grasp. But most assuredly, this would create as many social problems as it solves biological ones. Under most direct threat would be the sorts of values historically associated with generational change, namely, those related to new thinking and fresh starts. Of course, as I have suggested, there are ways around this, but they will invariably revive in a new high-tech key classic debates concerning the desirability of brainwashing and suicide.