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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 15-Jun-2010
15-Jun-10 News -- Uzbekistan closes border to refugees from Kyrgyzstan

Web Log - June, 2010

15-Jun-10 News -- Uzbekistan closes border to refugees from Kyrgyzstan

The NY Times writes about the Singularity

Uzbekistan closes border to refugees from Kyrgyzstan

With 50,000-75,000 women and children crowding the border to Uzbekistan in the Fergana Valley, Al-Jazeera reports that Uzbekistan is closing the border, saying that it cannot receive any more people fleeing violence in Kyrgyzstan.

A statement by an Uzbek official states, "Today we will stop accepting refugees from the Kyrgyz side because we have no place to accommodate them and no capacity to cope with them."

Uzbek women and children have been fleeing their homes to escape roving gangs of Kyrgyz, who are killing and looting the Uzbeks, while the Uzbek men stay behind to defend their homes. If the Uzbek border is closed, then a humanitarian disaster could ensue. Thus, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) announced that it would send aid and emergency teams to the region.

As we reported yesterday, the Russians have refused a request by the Kyrgyz government to send troops to quell the violence. On Monday, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a regional group of former Soviet republics led by Russia, recommended providing logistical help, according to the LA Times. However, no Russian troops will be provided at this time.

The Hindu reports that violence continues "unabated," but that " Kyrgyz and Uzbek elders in the region had finally reached an agreement to end violence."

Other news reports indicate that the violence is tapering off in Osh, but is growing in Jalalabad.

The situation is critical because a wider war would threaten the entire region, and could jeopardize the Nato war in Afghanistan.

Ethnic versus class differences

There's a piece of fluff nonsense in Monday's NY Times that's worth a comment. According to the article,

"[E]thnic distinctions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz are so slight as to be hardly distinguishable, Mr. Cooley and others say. Both are predominantly Muslim and they speak a mutually comprehensible Turkic language.

The most notable distinction, the one that is most responsible for the animosities that led to the violence of the past few days, Central Asian experts say, is economic: the Kyrgyz are traditional nomads, while the Uzbeks are farmers.

That divide has translated today into a wide class distinction, as the Uzbeks have prospered and now own many of the business in southern Kyrgyzstan, which has engendered resentment."

Well, duh, this means that the Uzbeks are a market-dominant minority. It's true that class differences generate the hatreds that lead to wars, but the class differences are caused by ethnic differences.

I've seen this kind of "political correctness" many times. For newspapers like the NY Times, it's safer to talk about class and poverty, but if you want to understand what's really going on in the world, then you have to be willing to talk about ethnicity, religion, skin color, and other less politically correct subjects. Attitudes towards ethnic differences will not disappear just because the NY Times wishes them to do so.

The NY Times writes about the Singularity

In 2004, when I wrote "I, Robot is science fiction, but intelligent computers will soon be science fact," I was expecting that the movie "I, Robot" would stir some public discussion of the Singularity, which is the point in time, around 2030, when computers become more intelligent than human beings. But no such public discussion occurred.

However, the Sunday NY Times has an article on the Singularity, and it says that Google and "some of Silicon Valley’s smartest and wealthiest people have embraced the Singularity," and are investing heavily to be industry leaders. The article is a bit gee-whiz-ish in tone, but it's a mainstream media presentation of a number of important concepts that are important for the public to understand.

People discount the importance of intelligent computing and the Singularity because "artificial intelligence" (AI) has been an almost total failure for the 60 years of so of its existence. However, one part of artificial intelligence has succeeded: Brute force algorithms.

A good example of this is that AI researchers have devised a computer program that plays a perfect game of checkers. (See "Researchers solve the game of checkers (draughts).") What brilliant checkers algorithm did the computers use? None! What the researchers have done is let a super-fast computer prepare a database of all possible checkers games and the best move in each case. This database is created simply by trying all possible moves. Then, when an actual game is being played, the computer program simply looks up the best move in the database. That's an example of how "brute force" algorithms can work with certainty, once computers are fast and powerful enough.

The basic algorithms for intelligent computing (IC) have been defined. In fact, I developed an algorithmic architecture and posted it online five years ago, so I know exactly what's coming. (See Chapter 7 - The Singularity in the book Generational Dynamics for Historians.)

The IC learning algorithm that I designed involves creating "knowledge bits" (KBs) that can be combined like jigsaw puzzle pieces to form larger KBs. This algorithm will allow computers to become as intelligent and creative as human beings, and the only reason that these brute force algorithms don't work today is because computers aren't yet powerful enough. With Moore's Law, my own estimate (for the Singularity) is that computers will be powerful enough by 2030.

However, it won't take that long to start to get partial results. By the end of the current decade, computers with high intelligence but in limited domains will be available. These computers will be able to do jobs like fix a broken pipe or act as a 24 hour a day nursemaid.

The NY Times article indicates that there are many companies that are already beginning to understand this, and they are poised to do very well with this technology later in the decade.

Additional Links

The Gulf Cooperation Council had planned to introduce a single currency for the Arab states in 2010, but the plan has been put off until 2015 because they've been frightened off by all the troubles of the euro currency. Market Watch

There are 215 million child laborers in the world, of which 115 million are trapped in slavery, debt bondage, armed conflict, or the sex industry. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the goal to eliminate child labor is running out of steam and needs to be revitalized through education, social protection and employment for adults. VOA. As the gloomiest person in the world, it falls to me to point out that eliminating or even reducing child labor is impossible, as populations grow faster than the food supply.

Did global imbalances cause the financial crisis? This is an interesting analytical article on the global imbalances, including "declining US private savings, growing budget deficits, rising energy prices, Asia’s focus on tradables, and relative exchange rates," since 1996, and how they may or may not have caused the financial crisis. The article unfortunately concludes that the financial crisis is over, a conclusion which regular readers of this web site know is wrong. VoxEu

Droughts and mismanagement of water resources have reduced large swathes of Eastern Syria to a wasteland, forcing up to one million people to flee to the outskirts of Damascus and other cities. The U.N. World Food Program is now distributing food rations to 190,000 people in Eastern Syria, but another 110,000 can't be helped because of a lack of international funds. Reuters

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium. It will take several years to develop them, but they will fundamentally alter the Afghan economy. NY Times

North and South Korea have presented their evidence to the U.N. Security Council, in the dispute over the sinking of the Southern warship Cheonan. It's unlikely that the UN will do anything. BBC

An Iranian ship claiming to be carrying humanitarian aid is headed for Gaza, with the goal of breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza. In additional another Gaza-bound ship is expected to sail from Lebanon. Haaretz

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition threatens to collapse amid infighting and resignations. NY Times

Saudi Arabia is denying the recent reports that it will permit Israel to fly over Saudi airspace to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Bloomberg

Moody's Investors Service has lowered Greece's credit rating four notches to junk status. AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Jun-10 News -- Uzbekistan closes border to refugees from Kyrgyzstan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Jun-2010) Permanent Link
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