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David Schneider-Joseph
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As the liberal order retreats, John McCain offers its defense at the Munich Security Conference, in the most powerful and heartfelt I’ve seen him since his 2008 concession.

“This panel is going to ask us to consider whether the West will survive. In recent years, this question would invite accusations of hyperbole and alarmism. Not this year. If ever there were a time to treat this question with a deadly seriousness, it is now.

… The entire idea of the West is that it is open to any person or any nation that honors and upholds these values. The unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed for the past seven decades didn’t happen by accident.

… Our predecessors … would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism. They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups, especially Muslims. They would be alarmed by the growing inability — and even unwillingness — to separate truth from lies. They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.

But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West, that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without, and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it's unclear whether we have the will.”

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We're about a month away from a historic flight: the first launch of a landed Falcon 9.

Reading Plato's The Republic. It's just one bad argument after another. My favorite is that philosophers make the best soldiers, which proceeds as follows:

* We desire our soldiers to fight the enemy, but not each other.
* Thus they should be like dogs who are friendly towards acquaintances and aggressive towards strangers.
* In this respect, dogs are in a sense lovers of knowledge -- they prefer those whom they know.
* This makes dogs like philosophers. Hence philosophers are the best soldiers.

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Tang Weixing, one of the best players in the world, reviews his game with AlphaGo (in Chinese with English subtitles). At the end they discuss just how effortlessly AlphaGo seems to win:

“M: Okay. Review over. Maybe talk about your feelings a bit more? You knew it was really strong before the game. Your thoughts after?

T: Before I thought, at least I understand its moves. Now I don't know what to think... How did I lose? I understand the purpose behind its moves. When you analyze, the purpose is always clear. But when you're playing, you sometimes just don't understand. When you figure it out, it seems like the game is already out of your control.

M: After it plays the deciding move, you really don't have any resistance.

T: Actually its moves looked super simple, aside from that attachment. Maybe if you analyzed it more, you could find the attachment too. Where did it play particularly brilliantly? Seems nowhere? Attach, attach, keima, then the tsuke tesuji. Crawled when it had to.

M: The level of understanding is different. Not really playing in a bunch of different places that we wouldn't think about.

T: But the way everything comes together... everything is just better. Better than us.

M: We don't stand a chance.

T: Whether or not it plays strongly or slack... after a few moves, it always seems like you don't have enough. Even if you try to pick a fight... it'll disarm you quite easily. Then it'll take control of the game. You can't force it into a decisive battle, it seems. No fighting, it'll just make some plain moves... and you'll be behind.

M: We'll learn from it some more, in the future. How big of a difference do you think it is?

T: If it's fast, I have no chance. If it's slow... after looking at its games... If I get sente (Black, no komi), I can't win. Maybe reverse komi [effectively a free extra move at the beginning]… Maybe I still have some confidence left? But really, I wouldn't bet money on that either.”

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“Master” (AlphaGo) still unbeaten, now with 60 wins against the world's top professionals. Ke Jie, probably the world's #1 player: “After humanity spent thousands of years improving our tactics, computers tell us that humans are completely wrong.”

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There's a mysterious account called "Master" playing online Go, and it's so far unbeaten, playing over 50 games against the world's best professionals.

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A likely cause identified for September's static fire explosion, mitigations in place, and return-to-flight this Sunday, January 8.

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Not very high statistical power yet, but hints of a deviation at black hole event horizons from the predictions of general relativity.
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