Category Archives: History

Subtle Tweak to AI Blows Up Missile Accuracy Test

This article saying the USAF is concerned about narrow definitions of success is a great read.

In a recent test, an experimental target recognition program performed well when all of the conditions were perfect, but a subtle tweak sent its performance into a dramatic nosedive,

Maj. Gen. Daniel Simpson, assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, said on Monday.

Initially, the AI was fed data from a sensor that looked for a single surface-to-surface missile at an oblique angle, Simpson said. Then it was fed data from another sensor that looked for multiple missiles at a near-vertical angle.

“What a surprise: the algorithm did not perform well. It actually was accurate maybe about 25 percent of the time,” he said.

It reminds me of 1960s IGLOO WHITE accuracy reports, let alone smart bombs of the Korean War, and how poorly general success criteria were defined (e.g. McNamara’s views on AI and the Fog of War).

New Chinese Poems Naturally Express Frustration and Dissent

China, not to mention pretty much everywhere else in the world, has a long history of poetry representing encoded or even open frustration and dissent.

A Washington Post correspondent nonetheless wrote a post about surprise at poetry doing what it always does.

Student poetry contest in China becomes unexpected outlet for dissent

Students expressing dissent in poetry is unexpected? That’s like a headline announcing a student cafeteria became an unexpected place for eating.

Over the past week, the more socially conscious entries — a small minority of the overwhelmingly nonpolitical offerings — have caught the attention of Internet users. At a time when the space for debate in China has shrunk as authorities ramp up efforts to curtail criticism of government policies, the student writers have been hailed for their boldness.

“It’s indeed surprising,” said Chris Song, an assistant professor focusing on English and Chinese translation at the University of Toronto Scarborough. “I’m surprised they came out in such a tightening environment where many poems depicting the dark sides of society, or defying the authorities’ general ideology, have been censored.”

Socially conscious is being served as the opposite to nonpolitical. Can someone be socially conscious without being political? I would argue yes, as that’s been the long tradition of humanitarians who try to provide aid and comfort without affecting power — irregardless of politics.

It’s also so sadly typical of a journalist to reach out to a random professor for a power quote, as if the random academic in translation brings a sage view about political dissent and communication security models. Why not ask a professor of English for an explanation of strong encryption since it uses the alphabet?

The only surprise here is that anyone is surprised to find young poets publishing ideas of dissent.

I particularly liked this one:

“What about carrying a bag of chestnuts home/ Being showered by falling leaves/ Sitting sleepily in a school shuttle for two hours to hold hands with your partner?” the author wrote. “The pandemic has made everything into necessities. … Alas, the world of humans is full of unnecessary things.”

But I’d rather see the original Chinese. Translation itself can often be laced with politics, as I’ve explained in my presentations on AI.

Good 1964: “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine”

Irving John Good was giving talks in 1962 and 1963 on artificial intelligence, which he turned into a now famous paper called “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine”. As he put it at the time:

Based on talks given in a Conference on the Conceptual Aspects of Biocommunications, Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, October 1962; and in the Artificial Intelligence Sessions of the Winter General Meetings of the IEEE, January 1963 [1, 46]. The first draft of this monograph was completed in April 1963, and the present slightly amended version in May 1964.

I am much indebted to Mrs. Euthie Anthony of IDA for the arduous task of typing.

That last note really caught my eye. How ironic to be giving thanks to a woman for typing this paper as it was about machines that would remove the need for women to type papers (let alone give them thanks).

It reminds me of the fact that the very poetic term “computer” was used for a while to describe predominantly female workers in the field of data entry (e.g. rocket science). Nobody other than historians today might think of computers as female, even though far too many people today tend to portray artificial intelligence as their idealized woman.

From there I have to highlight the opening line of Good’s paper:

The survival of man depends on the early construction of an ultra-intelligent machine.

What if we reframe this as early evidence of “mommy-tech”, which tends to be all too common in Silicon Valley?

In other words, men who leave their mothers and embark on a successful well-paid career as engineers in technology soon “innovate” by thinking of ways to make machines replicate their mothers.

Self-driving cars are about children being raised thinking their mother should drive them around (e.g. the Lift System of apartheid was literally white mothers driving their kids to school). Dishwashers are popular in cultures where mothers traditionally cleaned plates after a meal.

Is mommy-tech liberating for women? In theory a machine being introduced to take over a task could be thought as a way to liberate the person formerly tasked with that job. However that does not seem to be at all how things work out, because imposing a loss is not inherently translatable to successful pivot into new tasks and opportunities.

If nothing else, more of something obviously is not better when that thing is loss. More loss, more death, more destruction only sounds good in places of privilege where a rebuild or a repeat is even conceivable.

Good kind of points this out himself accidentally in part two of his paper where he calls intelligence entirely zero sum, such that machines getting more intelligent would mean “man would be left far behind“.

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind (see for example refs. [22], [34], [44]). Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control. It is curious that this point is made so seldom outside of science fiction. It is sometimes worthwhile to take science fiction seriously.

Indeed, Wollstonecraft’s daughter invented science fiction (Frankenstein) for a very good reason, which I often explain in my presentations. However, Good’s analysis here is not good for reasons that rarely are discussed.

To my ears, trained in history of power contention, it’s like hearing men who have said women becoming intelligent (e.g. allowed to speak, read, educate) would represent a dangerous challenge: “docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control”.

And it doesn’t even have to be men and women in this “struggle” for domination.

Imagine a context of colonialism or American history of Manifest Destiny, which similarly centered on oppressors keeping “intelligence” of the oppressed under control.

If nothing else you can’t deny that America ruthlessly and systemically engaged in denying Blacks education, as Wollstonecraft very sagely had warned in the 1790s, which most Americans are completely ignorant about in order to keep them docile.

Perhaps containment of intelligence should be framed like filtration of water or direction of energy; rather than holding back we must seek ways to increase output on measured outcomes. It’s not that safety becomes dominant or pervasive, instead that loss is measured properly and accounted for instead of falsely implied as something inherent to gain.

Just like industrialization created an emaciation of male power, a domain shift that scared many into bunk response theory (false power projection) such as fascism, there are men today trying to gin up fear of gains (ultraintelligence) as some kind of loss.

It’s interesting to think about the answers to these power and control problems related to technology and specifically intelligence being sorted out way back in the 1700s, yet today people often frame them as recent or needing to be solved for the first time.

Genocide Hidden in Arkansas’ Cadron Settlement on Trail of Tears

Why do we need to think about Cadron, a park site in Arkansas? Because understanding Cadron is an important part of understanding the Trail of Tears, as well as American history more broadly.

On May 28, 1830, a scandal-ridden outwardly racist serial liar President Andrew Jackson (who arguably owed his life to the Cherokee after the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend) had the dishonor of signing into law the first significant piece of legislation in the US that required forced mass removal and displacement of Native Americans.

The Trail of Tears was a genocidal plan under the umbrella of Manifest Destiny: the disastrous policy of forcibly attempting to relocate and assimilate 100,000 Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole from the Southeast. They were entered into a militant and cruel 1,000 mile relocation to territory west of the Mississippi such as Oklahoma.

President Jackson’s genocidal platform persisted for at least three decades, as one of the worst chapters in American history.

Some estimates say of 15,000 Cherokee who the U.S. military raided and forced from their homes, approximately one of every three died while being pushed westward. It would be like sitting down at a large family table and saying look at the person to your left, look at the person to your right, one of you three was just killed on a death march.

While researching the official American maps along the “Trail of Tears” I noticed a very important location in Arkansas that doesn’t get appropriate recognition for a mass grave there.

Even worse, as I searched the area I noticed Arkansas history groups very intentionally downplay national records and deny proper representation for victims of genocide. It’s shocking to find Arkansans who seem both to falsely appropriate Cherokee history as their own lineage, while ignoring or denying actual Cherokee history and even erasing atrocity crimes.

Here’s a snippet from the NPS map, for example of how this plays out, from a “places to go page” that clearly calls out the “Cadron Settlement”.

Source: NPS.gov

Clicking from the NPS map into the Cadron Settlement (National Historic Site) gives the exact opposite of more information about this history. Here is what we are told by the Arkansas Online article:

Cadron was also the county seat of Conway County from 1825 to 1828. “But by the 1830s, the population began to dwindle, and by 1834, the blockhouse was gone,” she said. “The Historical Society and volunteers built a replica of the blockhouse and dedicated it in 1973, but it burned in the early-1990s, only to be rebuilt a third time in the mid-1990s.

The recently built Cadron blockhouse replica, prominently displaying a notorious KKK flag

A blockhouse was gone by 1834? Very suspicious timing. More like an unmarked representation of an American internment camp from the late 1820s.

“Fort Marr Blockhouse — typical internment structure built to detain Cherokee after forced removal before death march. Source: Wikipedia

That Arkansas Online article positions the complex history of a wood building on top of a hill very misleadingly as a place white settlers engaged in trade for rapid prosperity, even hinting about a place of survival that protected settlers (from the people they threatened).

Prosperity from trading with Cherokee and other Native Americans near Cadron had by 1820 fueled speculation and a bid to make it the capitol/seat of the entire Arkansa territory. A year later however the legislature abruptly rotated to Little Rock, the next steamboat stop downstream.

Simply put, legislators and investors from Little Rock expected control of new plots there to make them richer than if they invested in Cadron (since Native Americans being systemically being exterminated meant a Cadron trade-based economy would likely collapse). They also detested “integrated” aspects of trade-based economics, which clearly allowed non-whites to become prosperous and retain some power or authority in the region.

Although Cadron had risen to prominence as frontier town with even hundreds of muti-racial residents due to its trade routes, by 1812 Andrew Jackson very loudly had warned he quickly could deflate that market (due to forced relocation and genocide of Native Americans). Settlers increasingly trashed markets of Native American cooperation, stole from them instead and militantly sought other sources of rapid enrichment.

The fairly obvious explanation of how and why Cadron’s economy then collapsed so abruptly was the systemic shift by American speculators towards what an Arkansa territory explorer in 1819 called a search for “high and rich body of alluvial lands” if not actual gold (e.g. the Georgia 1829 rush, sparking the Trail of Tears); it signaled an abandonment of Cadron’s forested hills, trails and steamboat landing more suited to trade.

Human tragedy under a forced economic shift from trade routes to raw land acquisition and speculation driving the Trail of Tears was recorded April 15, 1834 in a journal entry of Lt. Joseph W. Harris (cited in a 1957 history journal) as he observed hundreds of displaced Cherokee under his command quickly dying in Cadron.

Already weakened by measles, poor diet, and other conditions occasioned by their removal, the Cherokees died in droves. Graves scattered through what is now Dedar Park, originally part of the town of Cadron, and here and there on the adjacent hillsides, are believed by some to be graves of these Cherokees. They are marked with headstones and footstones of native rock. There can be no doubt that their camping place was at the old townsite, but with the advent of cholera, the Indians spread out through the woods to avoid contagion. Harris probably referred to the abandoned town when he wrote: “My blood chills even as I write, at the remembrance of the scenes I have gone through today. In the cluster of cedars above the bluff which looks down upon the Creek & river, and near a few tall chimneys — the wreck of a once comfortable tenement, the destroyer has been most busily at work, three large families of the poor class are there encamped…”

Mass death in the “abandoned” plots of Cadron, given how it formerly been a boom town for trade with the Native Americans, thus can not be denied as an important memorial site to the barbarity of their treatment.

That phrase “conditions occasioned by their removal” is even better explained in a 1989 Georgia Historical Quarterly article.

At the time of sailing, an effort was made to get [Cherokee] consent to go into the boats, but not an individual would agree. The agent then struck a line through the camp, the soldiers rushed in and drove the devoted victims into those loathsome receptacles of disease and death. It is said by eye witnesses that the scene of this distress was agonizing in the extreme.

It should not be any wonder why so many Cherokee perished when their “loathsome receptacle of disease and death” landed on the banks of Cadron.

So what does a blockhouse there really represent?

It symbolizes internment camps and death, given how “Order 34” was based on a network of blockhouses built for facilitating genocide.

Order 34 was brief and equivocal. It stated: “The commanding officer at every fort and open station will first cause to be surrounded and brought in as many Indians, the nearest to his fort or station, as he may think he can secure at once…” [and thus] stockade forts [such as blockhouses] were erected for gathering and holding the Indians preparatory to removal. …a colonel in the Confederate army said of the debacle: “I fought through the Civil War and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by the thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.” Another veteran expressed a similar view: “During the Civil War I watched as hundreds of men died, including my own brother, but none of that compares to what we did to the Cherokee Indians.”

The reason for memorializing such a blockhouse as a sign of settler prosperity (eerily symbolic of a militant detention and mass death) as more important to the Cadron park stewards than memorializing the systemic extermination of Native Americans is presumably simple.

The white settler view that dominates local history of Cadron very intentionally obscures mass graves there let alone President Jackson’s genocidal legacy.

The park formally became a National Register of Historic Places in 1974 such that by 1976 the Faulkner County Historical Society, Conway Chamber of Commerce and the Army Corps of Engineers built the large replica blockhouse fort as their center-piece.

It wasn’t until around 1989 that these groups allegedly started to acknowledge or reveal the mass deaths that such a blockhouse represented.

In 1991, a cemetery census by the Faulkner County Historical Society identified forty-four Indian graves and thirty-six unidentifiable graves, but there may have been many more unmarked graves.

May have been many more graves?

It’s strangely vague given the magnitude of the deaths relative to the populations at that time. Let me reiterate that the following paragraph is all I could find in that Arkansas Online article about the Trail of Tears, despite it being the “official” source on the NPS map encouraging people to learn more about the Trail of Tears.

Cadron Settlement also was on the Trail of Tears and a stopping spot for the Butterfield Overland Mail Route. Interpretative signage about both events and markers are on display at the park. Both the Trail of Tears and the Butterfield Trail are part of the Arkansas Historic Trails System. […] The park features a boat-launching ramp, hiking trails, restrooms, picnic areas, a pavilion and handicapped trails and parking areas.

Ok, so if the markers are on display where are they and what do they say relative to the blockhouse settler narrative?

Not only is Arkansas’ prominent role in the Trail of Tears a tiny afterthought that barely gets any mention in the NPS-linked article about the site, it’s served up only alongside a mail route as if it can’t be handled directly.

Who really cares about the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, for example? This two-year mail route isn’t even yet considered a national trail system, as it’s not officially recognized by NPS. Why is such an important and solemn site getting lumped in with a momentary curiosity such as a mail route?

More to the point, an obscure mail route really doesn’t belong in the same paragraph as the systemic government policy of genocide.

The removal was systematic, and contributed to the large loss of life of Native Americans. The Trail of Tears constitutes a genocide because it was deliberate in its removal, targeted a specific population, and led to the death of thousands of Native Americans.

It’s almost like if you were to bring up the Trail of Tears some local historian or park custodian would awkwardly and immediately change the subject to the Butterfield.

Indeed, Arkansas Online in a “settlement remembered” article admits the important Trail of Tears details have been made hard to find. It even opens with a photo of the inane wood cabin instead of a genocide memorial.

Tucked at ground level, the memorial can be searched out at Cadron Settlement Park…

Searched out. The memorial can be searched out.

Not where to look, not what to look for or how it appears, just that a memorial to genocide “can be” found if someone were to try hard enough. It’s as if meant to be forgotten or lost.

The Arkansas Online article goes on to describe a completely underwhelming “memorial” being just a small plaque cemented flat on the ground in some bushes.

Source: Arkansas Online

The memorial choice of words is not great, either.

…a crowded vessel carrying some 700 Cherokees en route to exile in what later became Oklahoma had to dock here due to low water on the Arkansas River. The cholera that spread among the stranded passengers claimed 100 or more lives. […] Thirty of the list’s 50 victims were children, hardly any with listed identities. The inscription explains that “before 1850, it was common for Cherokee children to be unnamed until their seventh birthday.”

Let’s start with the end of this unfortunate text.

It’s hard to square the apologetic-sounding comment on the plaque that a Cherokee tradition was to have unnamed children.

Not only does such a claim sound logistically absurd (parents obviously had ways to connect precisely with their children), it doesn’t stand up to even basic history let alone anthropology.

A Cherokee Dictionary, for example, puts such a claim to shame very simply.

By tradition, an older woman of a Cherokee clan gives a child a name at birth. The name is a clan name, passed along within the clan. In earlier times, that name was kept a secret, and the child grew up with a nickname. A boy was often simply called “Boy” or “Choogie,” from the word for “boy,” achuja.

A given birth name was a Cherokee tradition.

This is the exact opposite of that “memorial” trying to make a lame excuse about children being unnamed. American soldiers literally kidnapping Cherokee children and forcing them at gunpoint into internment blockhouses is a more factual explanation for them being unnamed.

Moreover, regularly calling a child “boy” or “princess” is very common across cultures. It’s like saying “come here princess” to a girl, which does not in any way mean any child is unnamed or some kind of mythical princess.

The very likely reason genocide victims had their names missing on this plaque (and one it obviously isn’t ready to admit) is related to oppressor habits of dehumanizing targets via erasure tactics. Any attempted claims that Cherokee record-keeping had gaps are very highly suspect for two important reasons.

First, Cherokee people have some of the most documented lineage of anyone and there always is extensive record keeping inherent to systemic race-based genocide.

In the lead-up to the Trail of Tears, the documentation of Cherokees was extensive and exhaustive. Censuses were conducted, heads were counted, names were recorded, birth and marriage and death were noted — bureaucracy was part of the Indian management and removal process.

Second, the obfuscation of records on this site is a tell-tale sign of data integrity attacks for purposes of appropriation and erasure.

…claiming a royal Cherokee ancestor, white Southerners were legitimating the antiquity of their native-born status as sons or daughters of the South, as well as establishing their determination to defend their rights against an aggressive federal government, as they imagined the Cherokees had done. These may have been self-serving historical delusions, but they have proven to be enduring. The continuing popularity of claiming “Cherokee blood” and the ease with which millions of Americans inhabit a Cherokee identity speaks volumes about the enduring legacy of American colonialism. Shifting one’s identity to claim ownership of an imagined Cherokee past is at once a way to authenticate your American-ness and absolve yourself of complicity in the crimes Americans committed against the tribe across history.

Thus, Arkansas historians and park managers are failing on multiple levels.

Imagine a holocaust memorial such as Auschwitz setup to tell visitors “this is where women milled wheat and sewed dresses for decades, at one point it also had a death camp and a post office on a mail route. The dead here sometimes didn’t have names, just numbers, so unmarked graves are all around for you to have a picnic on or hike through and make it a fun day to forget genocide.”

It’s shocking to think about the more than 100 victims on or around the hilltop in Cadron who remain nameless and unmarked in a mass grave as the very spot caretakers today assign to gleeful picnics and parties.

Locals seem to have focused all their energy and money on an overbuilt wood house that emphasizes mostly the “protecting the white woman” narrative, with little to nothing setup to recognize all the surrounding tragedy.

TripAdvisor even ranks visiting the large unmarked mass grave as the #1 thing to do in this area of Arkansas. And yet many of its reviews emphasize there isn’t much to see or do there!

Source: TripAdvisor

It really makes no sense for an important spot on the Trail of Tears to have a small hidden marker that nobody is meant to see in the shadows of an overblown fantasy “pioneer” celebration format that nobody really should want to attend.

Arkansas also has a history of very heavily-funded sympathetic yet infamous politicians pulling odd tone-deaf publicity stunts like this one:

President Clinton waves to the crowd as he boards the 2,000,000th Jeep Cherokee after it was rolled off the assembly line at the Toledo Jeep/Chrysler Assembly Plant Tuesday Aug. 27, 1996…

I don’t think I could say it any better than a Business Insider article on why Jeep has been doing the obvious wrong thing on this subject since 1974.

“The best way to honor us is to learn about our sovereign government, our role in this country, our history, culture, and language and have meaningful dialogue with federally recognized tribes on cultural appropriateness,” Hoskin said in response to the outlet’s request for comment on the upcoming Jeep. […] Using Native mascots is “detrimental Native people,” according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan and coauthored by Arianne Eason, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. She said the mascots “decrease Native individuals’ self-esteem, community worth and achievement-related aspirations.”

Developing the Cadron Settlement on the Trail of Tears into a large memorial center (given how central it is to the Trail) with an appropriately prominent marker would transform this area almost immediately into an actual destination spot that properly honored those who suffered. It could even have a genocide library of sorts to help with the looming question of Cherokee identity and the direct harm of appropriation tactics. And I know there are some politicians and major American corporations who are long overdue for giving any proper respect to the Cherokee.

Fascinating Twist in Discovery of 200-year-old Sunken Ship: America’s Caste System

NOAA has posted an interesting write-up of deep sea excavation for the “Industry”, a whaling ship that sank centuries ago.

The remains of the 64-foot long, two-masted wooden brig opens a window into a little known chapter of American history when descendants of African enslaved people and Native Americans served as essential crew in one of the nation’s oldest industries.

It begs the question of how ships of non-white American sailors might treat their own coastline, given the regressive white police state policies of the early 1800s.

The ship reportedly went down after “a strong storm snapped its masts and opened its hull to the sea on May 26, 1836”.

While Industry eventually sank, there was some mystery about what happened to the crew. Thanks to new research by Robin Winters, a librarian at the Westport Free Public Library, the crew’s fate is finally clear. Winters tracked down a June 17, 1836 article in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror that reported the crew of Industry was picked up at sea by another Westport whaling ship, Elizabeth, and crewmen were returned safely to Westport.

“This was so fortunate for the men onboard,” said Delgado, who worked closely with Winters and several other local historians to confirm the identity of Industry. “If the Black crewmen had tried to go ashore, they would have been jailed under local laws. And if they could not pay for their keep while in prison, they would have been sold into slavery.”

In other words this ship reveals how American sailors would have been jailed and enslaved if they had touched nearby American shores.

“Deck of the schooner John R. Manta” Source: NPS.gov

Men of African ancestry and Native Americans served side-by-side with men whose families had originated in Europe. Pay was based on shipboard position, and opportunities for advancement were largely based on merit and experience.

Some museums try to suggest it was integrated races working side-by-side that led to the equality on ships, yet that defies basic logic since the same could be experienced on land. Something was different about the sea.

Instead there were two major factors.

First the lack of pressure away from land — racism is a massive inefficiency terrible for the market that requires constant externalized costs (including harms known as “externalities”, taxing others), which is problematic away from land where self-sufficiency is essential to survival (similar to wilderness on land, which is why the frontier was far more diverse than encroaching settlements).

Second, because of high-risk jobs that demanded competence to survive it naturally attracted diverse groups of out-casts and risk-takers far more than any privileged and often incompetent abusive whites who depended on racism to force others to do hard work. There is thick irony in the fact that Black Americans are credited with winning the 1815 Battle of New Orleans (a turning point in a war with England) yet Black Americans repeatedly are unable to set foot in the country they did the actual hard work of defending.

Americans had to be rescued not only from the sea but also from domestic terror groups impeding rescue — an historic racist “go back” footnote that underscores how Black Americans served as “essential” workers and decorated veterans yet were denied even basic rights.

This also has been documented in the 1800s when Black American sailors who touched American shores would have their books seized before they were brutally tortured to death in attempts to reveal their social networks.

Or perhaps the best way of explaining it comes from an analysis of the American system of hierarchy. The origin story of America was unquestionably a slaveocracy intended to late 1700s block abolition movements; restrict liberties with a caste system in a new country of tyranny for profit.