On Treating Tools as Utilitarian Objects

There is a grow­ing con­sen­sus among west­ern com­puter researchers, tech­nol­o­gists, celebrity intel­lec­tu­als, and pun­dits, about the ethics and morals of cre­at­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. One of the tech­ni­cal voices lead­ing the charge (as opposed to entre­pre­neurs and celebrity physi­cists) is arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence pio­neer Stu­art Rus­sell, who recently issued a call for com­put­ers to be “prov­ably aligned” with […]

Continue reading →

On Moving On

Every once in a while I get an alert that some­thing I wrote many years ago has been cited in a book or a mono­graph on the fail­ures of coun­terin­sur­gency. It reflects an era of my life that I have deeply mixed emo­tions about, and prompted some think­ing. I remem­ber, when I wrote research papers for […]

Continue reading →

Short Story: The Drink Tank

I have a new short story pub­lished at Mobius Mag­a­zine, which is about young peo­ple in think tanks (because, I know right?). One morn­ing I was catch­ing up on my email newslet­ters from all the blogs and mag­a­zines that hire 23-year olds for unpaid intern­ships that maKe them wake up at 5 am to read the […]

Continue reading →

Afghanistan Should Inspire Skepticism of Syria

On Sun­day, all Amer­i­can and British com­bat oper­a­tions in Hel­mand province offi­cially ended. It was a long time com­ing, as Hel­mand has long been a thorn in the side of both country’s mil­i­taries: resis­tant to the magic COIN dust, extremely vio­lent, and polit­i­cally unsta­ble. It has been the scene of some of the worst excesses […]

Continue reading →

The False Promise of a Crystal Ball

If there’s one theme that could define Pres­i­dent Obama’s for­eign pol­icy the last six years, it is his tumul­tuous rela­tion­ship with the US intel­li­gence com­mu­nity. The IC is Obama’s favorite tar­get when Things Go Wrong: usu­ally because they did not use their crys­tal ball to cor­rectly pre­dict the future. It is that mis­per­cep­tion — that […]

Continue reading →

The ISIS Hysteria

The ISIS prob­lem in Iraq and Syria is get­ting worse. The most recent reports sug­gest there is a steady stream of recruits not just locally, but from Turkey, trav­el­ing into the coun­try to fight. The threat ISIS rep­re­sents (a grow­ing, finan­cially self-sustaining ter­ror state that is destroy­ing coun­tries, impris­on­ing thou­sands, and bru­tally mur­der­ing thou­sands more) […]

Continue reading →

The Action Bias of National Security Punditry

As unspeak­able hor­rors con­tinue to emerge from the areas con­trolled by ISIS, so too are the demands for the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment to “do some­thing.” Though under­stand­able, these demands actu­ally rep­re­sent a self-destructive impulse in pun­ditry, and often lead to poor decision-making that results in dis­as­trous con­se­quences after­ward. The action bias is a phe­nom­e­non were people […]

Continue reading →

Violence and Threat

The filmed exe­cu­tion of Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist James Foley con­tin­ues to rever­ber­ate in the United States. For many, it is their first relat­able exam­ple of the bru­tal­ity employed by the mil­i­tant ISIS group — their first sense that the men who ram­page through Syria and north­ern Iraq are, in a very basic way, fun­da­men­tally evil. But, […]

Continue reading →