Monday, November 30, 2015

The measure problem in many worlds quantum mechanics

I am a Quantum Engineer, but on Sundays I have principles.J.S. Bell

My own conclusion ... there is no interpretation of quantum mechanics that does not have serious flaws.Steve Weinberg
I wrote this paper mainly for non-specialists: any theorist should be able to read and understand it. However, I feel the main point — that subjective probability analyses do not resolve the measure problem in many worlds quantum mechanics — is often overlooked, even by the experts.
The measure problem in no-collapse (many worlds) quantum mechanics
arXiv:1511.08881 [quant-ph]

We explain the measure problem (cf. origin of the Born probability rule) in no-collapse quantum mechanics. Everett defined maverick branches of the state vector as those on which the usual Born probability rule fails to hold -- these branches exhibit highly improbable behaviors, including possibly the breakdown of decoherence or even the absence of an emergent semi-classical reality. An ab initio probability measure is necessary to explain why we do not occupy a maverick branch. Derivations of the Born rule which originate in decision theory or subjective probability do not resolve this problem, because they are circular: they assume, a priori, that we reside on a non-maverick branch.
To put it very succinctly: subjective probability or decision theoretic arguments can justify the Born rule to someone living on a non-maverick branch. But they don't explain why that someone isn't on a maverick branch in the first place.

It seems to me absurd that many tens of thousands of papers have been written about the hierarchy problem in particle physics, but only a small number of theorists realize we don't have a proper (logically complete) quantum theory at the fundamental level.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The view from here

A mind of von Neumann's inexorable logic had to understand and accept much that most of us do not want to accept and do not even wish to understand. This fact colored many of von Neumann's moral judgments. 
-- Eugene Wigner, in John von Neumann (1903 - 1957), Year book of the American Philosophical Society (1958).


In response to the recent widespread revolution in genome editing technology and the associated bioethical considerations, an Information Gathering Meeting for the Planning Committee Organizing the International Summit on Human Gene Editing was convened in Washington, DC, on Monday, October 5, 2015.

The event was part of the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s Human Gene-Editing Initiative, and it was hosted an by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society (the UK’s national academy of science).


Session IV, Overview of Chinese Gene Editing Research and Policy: Duanqing Pei from The Academies on Vimeo.

Session IV, Overview of Chinese Gene Editing Research and Policy: Qi Zhou from The Academies on Vimeo.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Feynman's War

Radar and nuclear weapons could not have been developed without the big brains.
Feynman’s War: Modelling Weapons, Modelling Nature

Peter Galison*

What do I mean by understanding? Nothing deep or accurate—just to be able to see some of the qualitative consequences of the equations by some method other than solving them in detail. -- Feynman to Welton, 10 February 1947.

... The fundamental problem facing theorists on the bomb project was this: in a limited time, they had to produce accurate, quantitative predictions of the efficiency and critical mass of the chain reaction in a wide variety of geometries. There was no time to devise detailed models for each configuration of fissile material and neutron-reflecting tampers, just as on the radar project physicists could not start calculating ab initio for each new arrangement of waveguides and junctions. At MIT, the radar physicists [ e.g., Julian Schwinger ] had to provide effective circuits for the various waveguides so the radio engineers could manipulate them. Similarly, for the Los Alamos physicists facing engineers, architects, and experimentalists, much rode on the theorists’ ability to modularise aspects of their work so it could be passed to non-theorists. They had to figure out ways of characterising the ‘neutronics’ using certain building blocks—whether those building blocks were standardised effective amplifiers or new theoretical techniques to model neutron diffusion.

Feynman learned from and contributed to this culture of modularity. Whether he was grappling with the human efficiency of crunching numbers using Marchant calculators, or inventing easily taught rules for tracking neutrons in tampers, Feynman developed highly movable theoretical modules. These simple, often visualisable mechanisms took complex human, physical and calculational configurations and sorted them into simpler parts that could be recombined in a myriad of ways to calculate rapid, approximate, yet reliable answers. It was a kind of theory particularly appropriate to the constantly rearranged devices they were to represent. ...
Note Feynman seems to spell Corollary as Coralary repeatedly. In other notebooks he often spelled gauge (as in gauge theory) as guage. These are commonly used words in physics. I always suspected that, as far as such constructs are well-defined, Feynman's mathematical ability was superior to his verbal ability. See Feynman's Cognitive Style.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Work begins at Dawn

Contemplating the Future

A great profile of Nick Bostrom in the New Yorker. I often run into Nick at SciFoo and other similar meetings. When Nick is around I know there's a much better chance the discussion will stay on a highbrow, constructive track. It's surprising how often, even at these heavily screened elitist meetings, precious time gets wasted in digressions away from the main points.

The article is long, but very well done. The New Yorker still has it ... sometimes :-(

I was a bit surprised to learn Nick does not like Science Fiction. To take a particular example, Dune explores (very well, I think) a future history in which mankind has a close brush with AI takeover, and ends up banning machines that can think. At the same time, a long term genetic engineering program is taken up in secret to produce a truly superior human intellect. See also Don’t Worry, Smart Machines Will Take Us With Them: Why human intelligence and AI will co-evolve.
New Yorker: ... Bostrom dislikes science fiction. “I’ve never been keen on stories that just try to present ‘wow’ ideas—the equivalent of movie productions that rely on stunts and explosions to hold the attention,” he told me. “The question is not whether we can think of something radical or extreme but whether we can discover some sufficient reason for updating our credence function.”

He believes that the future can be studied with the same meticulousness as the past, even if the conclusions are far less firm. “It may be highly unpredictable where a traveller will be one hour after the start of her journey, yet predictable that after five hours she will be at her destination,” he once argued. “The very long-term future of humanity may be relatively easy to predict.” He offers an example: if history were reset, the industrial revolution might occur at a different time, or in a different place, or perhaps not at all, with innovation instead occurring in increments over hundreds of years. In the short term, predicting technological achievements in the counter-history might not be possible; but after, say, a hundred thousand years it is easier to imagine that all the same inventions would have emerged.

Bostrom calls this the Technological Completion Conjecture: “If scientific- and technological-development efforts do not effectively cease, then all impor­t­­­ant basic capabilities that could be obtained through some possible technology will be obtained.” In light of this, he suspects that the farther into the future one looks the less likely it seems that life will continue as it is. He favors the far ends of possibility: humanity becomes transcendent or it perishes. ...
I've never consumed Futurism as other than entertainment. (In fact I view most Futurism as on the same continuum as Science Fiction.) I think hard scientists tend to be among the most skeptical of medium to long term predictive power, and can easily see the mistakes that Futurists (and pundits and journalists) make about science and technology with great regularity. Bostrom is not in the same category as these others: he's very smart, tries to be careful, but remains willing to consider speculative possibilities.
... When he was a graduate student in London, thinking about how to maximize his ability to communicate, he pursued stand­­up comedy; he has a deadpan sense of humor, which can be found lightly buried among the book’s self-serious passages. “Many of the points made in this book are probably wrong,” he writes, with an endnote that leads to the line “I don’t know which ones.”

Bostrom prefers to act as a cartographer rather than a polemicist, but beneath his exhaustive mapping of scenarios one can sense an argument being built and perhaps a fear of being forthright about it. “Traditionally, this topic domain has been occupied by cranks,” he told me. “By popular media, by science fiction—or maybe by a retired physicist no longer able to do serious work, so he will write a popular book and pontificate. That is kind of the level of rigor that is the baseline. I think that a lot of reasons why there has not been more serious work in this area is that academics don’t want to be conflated with flaky, crackpot type of things. Futurists are a certain type.”

The book begins with an “unfinished” fable about a flock of sparrows that decide to raise an owl to protect and advise them. They go looking for an owl egg to steal and bring back to their tree, but, because they believe their search will be so difficult, they postpone studying how to domesticate owls until they succeed. Bostrom concludes, “It is not known how the story ends.”

The parable is his way of introducing the book’s core question: Will an A.I., if realized, use its vast capability in a way that is beyond human control?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Amazon's The Man in the High Castle

Season 2 will be released soon on Amazon Prime. If you like The Man in the High Castle, you might like David Brin's short story (and graphic novel) Thor meets Captain America.

Related posts on Philip K. Dick.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Drone racing

Wow! The potential here is amazing. One of the guys in the video compares it to pod racing in Star Wars.

Also cool:

Microaggressions, Moral Cultures, and the Culture of Victimhood

Two sociologists theorize the campus culture of victimhood as a transition to a third moral culture, supplanting earlier cultures centered around honor and dignity. Their theory gives a possible explanation for why a well-meaning liberal like Yale Professor Christakis has such difficulty communicating with protestors in the videos above. Christakis is focused on logic, rationality, and open discussion, while the students want a Safe Space and someone who acknowledges their pain without analyzing it.

Growing up, I could easily understand that there was a "generation gap" between people my age and our parents and teachers. But I could not imagine what the gap would be like between us and our own children and students. (Gee, I'm hip, and I'll always understand what it's like to be a kid or teenager...) Perhaps this is it.
Microaggression and Moral Cultures
Authors: Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning
Source: Comparative Sociology, Volume 13, Issue 6, pages 692 – 726 (2014)
DOI 10.1163/15691330-12341332

Campus activists and others might refer to slights of one’s ethnicity or other cultural characteristics as “microaggressions,” and they might use various forums to publicize them. Here we examine this phenomenon by drawing from Donald Black’s theories of conflict and from cross-cultural studies of conflict and morality. We argue that this behavior resembles other conflict tactics in which the aggrieved actively seek the support of third parties as well as those that focus on oppression. We identify the social conditions associated with each feature, and we discuss how the rise of these conditions has led to large-scale moral change such as the emergence of a victimhood culture that is distinct from the honor cultures and dignity cultures of the past.
Summarized here by Jonathan Haidt. (I highly recommend following the link as Haidt excerpts from the paper and adds insightful commentary.) More in The Atlantic and Chronicle.
... We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind.

... The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.
If I were a sociologist or psychologist I might coin new terms like Self-Infantilization or Hyper-Sensitivity Social Justice Disorder.

See also Struggles at Yale and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, by Tom Wolfe. First appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, April 1971. (The Sixties lasted well into the Seventies!) Collected, together with Radical Chic, in this Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition (2009).
Tom Wolfe understands the human animal like no sociologist around. He tweaks his reader's every buried thought and prejudice. He sees through everything. He is as original and outrageous as ever.  ―The New York Times.

Wolfe describes hapless bureaucrats (the Flak Catchers) whose function was reduced to taking abuse, or "mau-mauing" (in reference to the intimidation tactics employed in Kenya's anti-colonial Mau Mau Uprising)...  ―Wikipedia.

Wolfe: ... If you were outrageous enough ... you could shake up the bureaucrats so bad that their eyes froze into iceballs and their mouths twisted up into smiles of sheer physical panic, into shit-eating grins, so to speak ...

... Nobody kept records on the confrontations, which is too bad. There must have been hundreds of them in San Francisco alone. Across the country there must have been thousands. When the confrontations touched the white middle class in a big way, like when black students started strikes and disruptions at San Francisco State, Columbia, Cornell, or Yale, ... -- then the media described it blow by blow. But what went on in the colleges and churches was just a part of it. ...

... The whites' physical fear of the Chinese was nearly zero. The white man pictured the Chinese as small, quiet, restrained little fellows. He had a certain deep-down voodoo fear of their powers of Evil in the Dark ... the Hatchet Men ... the Fangs of the Tong ... but it wasn't a live fear. For that matter, the young Chinese themselves weren't ready for the age of mau-mauing. It wasn't that they feared the white man, the way black people had. It was more that they didn't fear or resent white people enough. They looked down on whites as childish and uncultivated. They also found it somewhat shameful to present themselves as poor and oppressed, on the same level with Negroes and Mexican-Americans.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 King James Version

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Huxley: Brave New World Revisited

"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfuly glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. ..."
Brave New World was written in 1932. In 1958 Huxley reconsidered his dystopian novel in a long essay.
Quantity, Quality, Morality

In the Brave New World of my fantasy eugenics and dysgenics were practiced systematically. In one set of bottles biologically superior ova, fertilized by biologi­cally superior sperm, were given the best possible pre­natal treatment and were finally decanted as Betas, Alphas and even Alpha Pluses. In another, much more numerous set of bottles, biologically inferior ova, ferti­lized by biologically inferior sperm, ... [t]he creatures finally decanted were almost subhuman; but they were capa­ble of performing unskilled work and, when properly conditioned, detensioned by free and frequent access to the opposite sex, constantly distracted by gratuitous entertainment and reinforced in their good behavior patterns by daily doses of soma, could be counted on to give no trouble to their superiors.

In this second half of the twentieth century we do nothing systematic about our breeding; but in our random and unregulated way we are not only over-populating our planet, we are also, it would seem, mak­ing sure that these greater numbers shall be of biologically poorer quality. ... And along with a decline of average healthiness there may well go a decline in average intelligence. Indeed, some competent authorities are convinced that such a decline has already taken place and is continuing. "Un­der conditions that are both soft and unregulated," writes Dr. W. H. Sheldon, "our best stock tends to be outbred by stock that is inferior to it in every respect. . . . It is the fashion in some academic circles to assure students that the alarm over differential birth­rates is unfounded; that these problems are merely economic, or merely educational, or merely religious, or merely cultural or something of the sort. This is Pollyanna optimism. Reproductive delinquency is biologi­cal and basic." And he adds that "nobody knows just how far the average IQ in this country [the U.S.A.] has declined since 1916, when Terman attempted to standardize the meaning of IQ 100."

... And now let us consider the case of the rich, industrialized and democratic society, in which, owing to the random but effective practice of dysgenics, IQ's and physical vigor are on the decline. For how long can such a society maintain its traditions of individual liberty and democratic government? Fifty or a hundred years from now our children will learn the answer to this question.

... And what about the congenitally insufficient organ­isms, whom our medicine and our social services now preserve so that they may propagate their kind? To help the unfortunate is obviously good. But the whole­sale transmission to our descendants of the results of unfavorable mutations, and the progressive contamina­tion of the genetic pool from which the members of our species will have to draw, are no less obviously bad. We are on the horns of an ethical dilemma, and to find the middle way will require all our intelligence and all our good will.

Struggles at Yale

I used to eat at Silliman College (one of Yale's residential colleges) with other physics professors, mainly because it was the closest cafeteria where we could get a free lunch. The free lunches were meant to encourage us to mingle with undergraduates at the college. But I was one of few professors that actually enjoyed talking to the students -- most preferred to sit at tables with colleagues.

In all of my trips through the ornate gates into the beautiful courtyard, I never witnessed an incident like this one, between the Master of Silliman (a resident faculty member who runs the college) and a student protestor. What is all the fuss about? An email exchange over the extent to which Yale should regulate Halloween costumes (!) in order to protect sensitivities.

More details from the Washington Post and Slate. For discussion of the broader issue -- suppression of open debate on campus due to political correctness -- see this article by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff.
The Atlantic: In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education ...

Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. ... In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke. ...
Of course, one is reminded of struggle sessions during the Cultural Revolution in China.

I'm a Liberal Professor and the current atmosphere on some campuses disturbs me. College is absolutely about exposure to a diversity of viewpoints, together with rational examination and open debate.

Obama on political correctness:
... I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, "You can’t come because I'm too sensitive to hear what you have to say." That’s not the way we learn ...

Monday, November 02, 2015

Houellebecq on Tocqueville, Democracy, and Nietzsche

I prefer good literary criticism.

But this is not it:

Beyond some trivialities, the discussants make no progress toward the question that fascinates all of them: what is Michel Houellebecq really thinking? But they cannot conceive it because their conditioning is so strong that the thoughts cannot enter their minds. (Note that, in its favor, the panel includes Soumission translator Lorin Stein.)

Much better, and shorter, this video of Houellebecq on Tocqueville, Democracy, and Nietzsche.

Tocqueville (Democracy in America, chapter 6): ... It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them. I do not question that, in an age of instruction and equality like our own, sovereigns might more easily succeed in collecting all political power into their own hands and might interfere more habitually and decidedly with the circle of private interests than any sovereign of antiquity could ever do. But this same principle of equality which facilitates despotism tempers its rigor. ...

Democratic governments may become violent and even cruel at certain periods of extreme effervescence or of great danger, but these crises will be rare and brief. ... I have no fear that they will meet with tyrants in their rulers, but rather with guardians.1

I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.

I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? ...

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.

Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain.

By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again. ...
See also Neoreaction and the Dark Enlightenment.

Update: Kudos to Ross Douthat of the NYTimes, who is way ahead of the NYU panelists.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

David Donoho interview at HKUST

A long interview with Stanford professor David Donoho (academic web page) at the IAS at HKUST.

Donoho was a pioneer in thinking about sparsity in high dimensional statistical problems. The motivation for this came from real world problems in geosciences (oil exploration), encountered in Texas when he was still a student. Geophysicists were using Compressed Sensing long before the rigorous mathematical basis was established.

The figure below, from the earlier post Compressed Sensing and Genomes, exhibits the Donoho-Tanner phase transition.
For more discussion of our recent paper The human genome as a compressed sensor, see this blog post by my collaborator Carson Chow and another on the machine learning blog Nuit Blanche. One of our main points in the paper is that the phase transition between the regimes of poor and good recovery of the L1 penalized algorithm (LASSO) is readily detectable, and that the scaling behavior of the phase boundary allows theoretical estimates for the necessary amount of data required for good performance at a given sparsity. Apparently, this reasoning has appeared before in the compressed sensing literature, and has been used to optimize hardware designs for sensors. In our case, the sensor is the human genome, and its statistical properties are fixed. Fortunately, we find that genotype matrices are in the same universality class as random matrices, which are good compressed sensors.

The black line in the figure below is the theoretical prediction (Donoho 2006) for the location of the phase boundary. The shading shows results from our simulations. The scale on the right is L2 (norm squared) error in the recovered effects vector compared to the actual effects.

From Donoho's autobiographical sketch, provided for the Shaw Prize:
During 2004-2010, Jared Tanner and I discovered the precise tradeoff between sparsity and undersampling, showing when L1-minimization can work successfully with random measurements. Our work developed the combinatorial geometry of sparse solutions to underdetermined systems, a beautiful subject involving random high-dimensional polytopes. What my whole life I thought of privately as ‘non-classical’ mathematics was absorbed into classical high-dimensional convex geometry. [ Discussed at ~ 1:38 in the video. ]
More about John Tukey, Donoho's undergraduate advisor at Princeton.

Dollar Empire

This speech emphasizes an under-recognized motivation for US adventurism abroad: local military and geopolitical conflicts enhance the strength of the US dollar as a reserve currency in the face of global volatility. The essay is long but worth reading as it gives a fresh look at superpower competition across multiple arenas, and some insight into the Chinese worldview. However, I think the general overestimates the level of long term thinking and financial-economic-geopolitical-military coordination within US leadership.
One Belt, One Road

General Qiao Liang's speech, which we've been allowed to publish, was delivered at the University of Defense, China’s top military school. It casts a light on China’s new strategic thinking.  
... the August 15, 1971 decoupling of dollar and gold. Since then, humanity saw the emergence of a financial empire, and this financial empire took all of the humanity race into its financial system. In fact, the so-called dollar leadership began at this moment. Today it is about 40 years old. After that day, we entered into an era of real paper notes, but behind the dollar there is no longer a precious metal—it uses entirely the government's credibility and support from all over the world to gain profits. Simply put, the Americans can use a piece of printed green paper to get physical wealth from all over the world. We never had such a thing in human history. There were a lot of ways to make profits in human history, sometimes with money exchange, sometimes by using gold or silver; at other times countries used war to gain plunders, but the cost of war remained enormous. But after the appearance of the dollar as simply a green paper, the cost-benefit ratio for the United States we can say became extremely low.

... The reason is very simple. Because in order to control the world, the United States needs the world to use dollars. In order to let the world use dollars, the Americans made a very clever move in 1973: they linked the dollar and oil by forcing the leading OPEC country, Saudi Arabia, to conduct its global oil transactions in dollars. If you understand that global oil transactions are in US dollars, you can understand why the Americans fight for oil. A direct consequence of war in the oil-producing countries is the surge in oil prices, and a surge in oil prices means that the demand for dollars increases. Before the war, for example, if you had $38, in theory, you can buy a barrel of oil from an oil company. With the war, oil prices have more than quadrupled, reaching $149. So, $38 is only enough to buy a quarter of a barrel of oil, and for the remaining 3/4 of the barrel you are short more than 100 dollars. What to do then? You can only go to the Americans with your own products and resources and hand them out in return for American dollars. And then the US government can confidently, openly, and justifiably print dollars. It is through war—war against the oil-producing countries, creating high oil prices—that the US creates a high demand for dollars.

The American war in Iraq had more than just one goal. It was also about maintaining the dollar leadership. Why then did George W. Bush insist on war in Iraq? Now we can very clearly that Saddam did not support terrorism or al-Qaeda, nor did he weapons of mass destruction—why was Saddam finally brought to the gallows? Because Saddam thought himself smart, and played with fire with superpowers. At the official launch of the euro in 1999, Saddam Hussein seized the opportunity to play with fire between the dollar and the euro—the United States and the European Union—and he could not wait to announce that the Iraqi oil transactions would occur in euros. This is what angered the Americans, in particular, it produced a chain reaction. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, also announced the settlement of their country's oil exports would be in euros. Was this not a stab in American backs? Some people think it is too far-fetched to say that after this war in Iraq was mandatory. Then please take a look at this: what did the Americans do after winning Iraq? Even before seizing Saddam, the Americans set up an Iraqi interim government whose first decree was to declare Iraqi oil exports would be accounted in dollars and not in euros. That's why Americans are fighting for dollars.

... On last year's "double 11" [November 11, Chinese Valentine day], online shopping reached 50.7 billion yuan in a day for Alibaba's Taobao. Over the three days after the Thanksgiving holiday, US online and on-the-ground store sales had a total equivalent to 40.7 billion yuan, less than Alibaba sales in one day. And China was not even counting Netease, Tencent, Jingdong, or revenue from malls. This means that a new era has already arrived, while the American reaction is still slow. Alibaba deals were all made directly with Alipay. What does direct pay mean? It means that the currency is already out of the transaction stage, and the American leadership is built on the dollar. What is the dollar? It is a currency. In the future, when we no longer use money, traditional money settlement will become useless. When money becomes useless, will an empire built on money still exist? That is the question to be considered by the Americans.

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (USMC), author of War is a Racket:
WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Blog Archive