Update and Warning: This is kind of a crazy stream-of-thought post.  I spent too much time looking up stuff about the wars we are in, but I eventually came to an interesting idea regarding emotional awareness.  If you bear with this story, I have a point, way, way at the end.  Or, if you want to skip all the statements by Captain Obvious, skip to Theory # 5.

First, I came across this news article on the war in Afghanistan stating a somber milestone of 2000 US troops killed in the Afghanistan war.  


A good hour of reading followed.

I guesstimated the cost to the U.S. of the current two wars - Iraq and Afghanistan - only in concrete terms.  

Disclaimer: I'm not expressing opinion.  I'm just projecting a straight line through the data one can easily find, based on my guess that we will have a presence in these countries for years to come:

* 10,000 american deaths (and likely a 15 year operation)
* as always, many times more injuries than deaths, a lot of them severe
* 4 to 5 trillion dollars spent.

That is based on:



The initial projections by the Bush administration were:

* no casualties (during a 6 month operation)
* 21 billion spent (to be recouped by means not clearly specified)

as per:




Theory #1 - when attempting to occupy a country, the cost projections of those who want it occupied are always lower than reality by multiple orders of magnitude, in every way.  

Now, I'm not saying definitively that the W. Bush team was blowing smoke, but every other possible explanation is less savory.

Contrast this with another war the U.S. conducted in the middle east, minus the occupation (orders of magnitude less costly): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War

* 300 American deaths
* as always, many times more injuries then deaths, a lot of them severe
* 60 billion spent

I'm willing to bet that this is in-line with the first Bush administrations predictions.  I was activated for that one, so I'm gonna use that as a nonsensical excuse for not looking up facts. 

Theory #2 - Conflicts that do not involve occupation are orders of magnitude less costly than those that do involve occupation, and their outcomes are easier to predict.

We know that when we ultimately exit an occupation our influence will wither.  We know that we will ultimately exit.  So why occupation?  Why was this so different?

Ostensibly we occupied these countries to find WMDs that were never found in Iraq, or a terrorist leader that was never found in Afghanistan.  Searches, if you will.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_invasion_of_Iraq ( links off this page to motivations )

Ignoring the rest of the world, which bore high costs as well, the cost of those two searches were quite high to the US.  Again, we want to believe incompetence here, to avoid thinking about any less ethical behaviours, but it's a stretch.

Theory # 3: The stated benefits of occupation are usually bullshit.

Since the Vietnam war, most Americans probably already suspect that my third theory is true.  

Summary thus far:  Occupation, clearly, is not going to be worth it to anyone - we will be lied to about the value equation every time.

In other words, Smedly Butler was right - and he was right in the 1930s - we all knew War is a Racket back then, never mind wars of occupation.  So why, in the face of this knowledge, do we buy into these operations?

Worse, I contend that everyone knows the above is true:

Theory # 4:  Americans all know that wars of occupation are going to hurt us more than they will help us.

That's right where I stopped when I wrote this.  Depressing place to stop.  Then bam.  I answered this one for myself.

So why do we go along with it?

The answer:

Emotion.  Clearly.  

Most people have been there.  Entering a war of occupation is a bad decision.  But if you are angry enough, you don't care - you will listen to whatever satisfies your desire for revenge.  After 9-11, we were ripe for manipulation.

Average anger level = Manipulability index.  

There are mass hysteria, peer influence, and other psychological factors to consider, but largely, the level of emotion tips the balance.

In retrospect, when the average level of emotion has died down, our bad decisions become obvious.  We can do an hour of googling and see that we were wrong, and we will either block out the pain of being fooled, or recognize our mistakes.

O.k. I'm still Captain Obvious.  But then we have to ask:

How did we get here?

Back in the day, humans evolved long-lasting anger for a reason, but that feature of humans has remained unchanged for far too long.  It's unreasonably long-lasting, crude effect is now used to manipulate us.

Theory # 5: Those who would control others via emotions have leapt ahead of evolution, and we need to stop them with robots.

Our problem is that we can't control our emotions.  Even if we did know when we were being manipulated through our emotions, which would be a nice first step, we might not care - the emotions carry us away.

Obviously, I am considering technological solutions.  What else is an amateur robots vs. kung fu theorist to do? 

Manipulating emotions was made a science at least as early as Hitler, but was well understood much earlier. 


Surely we have come a long way, right?  If I look around today, I will see that research on emotional awareness is being used to keep society from doing dumb things, right?

Of course not.

Today, the application of technology to emotions is considered a tool for manipulation, and a valuable one at that.

Lets not go into advertising, too easy.  Interestingly, though, marketers are gathering knowledge of consumer emotions via video: http://www.nviso.ch/

And automated emotion detection is finding its way into your phone: http://upstart.bizjournals.com/money/loot/2012/08/07/affectiva-raises-cash-for-emotion-recog.html?page=all

Even the "experience project", a benign study of emotion, was immediately turned into a tool for centralized control: http://yammer.kanjoya.com/

What people need is something that will show them what their emotional state is - something that will warn them as they become more vulnerable to manipulation.  *A vulnerability meter*.  You get angry, the needle rises.  Careful.  Don't make decisions at that point.  Take a chill pill.  Also, we need the chill pills.

Might not work on an old fart like me, but I bet if kids were introduced to that kind of tech at an early age, they would see the benefit, and the world would be a better place.

O.k. maybe we don't need robots, but it would be cool.  Wouldn't it?

I am proposing:

Robots as Mirrors

You should be able to look into your computers eyes and see not your face, but three things - how vulnerable you are, who is trying to manipulate you, and what you can do about it.  Heck, your computer should warn you. (pardon me for conflating robot with computer, roboticists, it's a grey area)

I'm pretty sure that can be done.  Regardless, it's a positive and noble way to deal with a human feature that is getting dangerously out-of-date.

Starting here: http://affect.media.mit.edu/publications.php
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