News — At The Edge — 4/25

Doc Huston
4 min readApr 25, 2020

It’s a Mel Brooks, “Springtime for Hitler,” production — autocrats and Trump — as politicians use the pandemic to undermine democracy, retain power and avoid accountability.


New York Times’ Donald McNeil — (8 min. video)

[McNeil] covered epidemics for…two decades and reported recently on why American society could…be disrupted by COVID-19 for…next two years.


As leaders seize powers to fight coronavirus, fear grows for democracy

“While leaders around the world fight the [virus]…they’re amassing sweeping new powers…[as] many of the norms that define democracy — elections…checks and balances…[are] put on indefinite hold…[and] unsettling political scientists, government watchdogs and rights groups…[who] question how readily leaders will give up the powers they’ve accrued when the coronavirus eventually subsides….

[U.S.] 9/11 attacks led to emergency measures that persist to this day…[like] detention center in Guantánamo Bay…drone killings continue…[and with] Patriot Act, mass surveillance is still possible….

Tracking contagion requires wide surveillance….Protests can’t take over public squares. Campaigning and even elections come into question….

Lawmakers say the right balance between public safety and privacy is hard to find…[and] longer the crisis continues, rights groups say, the greater the risk that temporary powers will become permanent….

[So] the coronavirus, ‘is not only a public health crisis — it is also a political crisis….

[M]any legislatures have trimmed…schedules or stopped meeting…[so] less scrutiny over…policy decisions…taken in a rush by leaders with a less-than-clear picture of the [situation]….

[T]he most crucial test facing democracies during the pandemic might be elections….

[1918] ‘election was held as scheduled, but…[when] they opened the polls, a lot more people died afterward….

[Easy to] criminalize protests…[as] a public health threat…[and] tailor-made for the autocrats who want to use…crisis as a pretext to concentrate their own powers.’


Senate Intel report confirms Russia aimed to help Trump in 2016 —

“Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of putting Donald Trump in the Oval Office…[and] undercuts Trump’s years of efforts to portray allegations of Kremlin assistance to his campaign as a ‘hoax,’ driven by Democrats and a ‘deep state’ embedded within the government bureaucracy….

The panel also found ‘specific intelligence’ to support the conclusion that Putin ‘approved and directed aspects’ of the Kremlin’s interference efforts…[and] ‘committee found no reason to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusions’… that ‘Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton….

[Trump] is still rejecting…recent warnings…that Russia is interfering in this year’s election and that Moscow has a preference for Trump.


Artificial intelligence is evolving all by itself –

“Researchers have created software that borrows concepts from Darwinian evolution…to build AI programs that improve…without human input…[replicating] decades of AI research in a matter of days, and…could discover new approaches to AI…called AutoML-Zero…using only basic mathematical concepts a high school student would know….

‘[Goal’s] develop novel machine learning concepts that even researchers could not find’….

It starts by creating a population of 100 candidate algorithms…then tests them on a simple task…[comparing] algorithms’ performance against hand-designed algorithms. Copies of the top performers are ‘mutated’ by…[changing] some of its code to create slight variations of the best algorithms…[and] get added to the population, while older programs get culled. The cycle repeats….

The system creates thousands of these populations at once, which lets it churn through tens of thousands of algorithms a second until it finds a good solution…[using] tricks to speed up the search…to prevent any evolutionary dead ends, and automatically weeding out duplicate algorithms….

The solutions are simple…[but] can be scaled up to create much more complex AIs…[by] boosting the number of mathematical operations in the library and dedicating even more computing resources to the program.”

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May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston



Doc Huston

Consultant & Speaker on future nexus of technology-economics-politics, PhD Nested System Evolution, MA Alternative Futures, Patent Holder —