Our Broken National Security Politics

I have a long­form piece in the Sep­tem­ber, 2015 issue of Play­boy. It isn’t online yet, but you can see the spread below: It is online! Go read the whole text here. If there was a main point, it is this: “the pol­i­tics of America’s wars have failed. The mil­i­tary can do com­bat just fine, but the pol­i­tics of […]

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A World Of Infinite Paper Clips

An arti­cle in the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald raises a com­mon apoc­a­lyp­tic thought exper­i­ment about arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and machines that is worth con­sid­er­ing: Of all the rea­sons robots might rise up and destroy human­ity, mak­ing paper clips is not an obvi­ous one. But the pop­u­lar the­ory goes that an arti­fi­cially intel­li­gent machine pro­grammed to pro­duce as many paper […]

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Why Experts Fret

In the 16th cen­tury, Swiss biol­o­gist Con­rad Gess­ner, the inven­ter of mod­ern zool­ogy, wanted to cat­a­logue all the books in exis­tence. Over an extended period of time, he cre­ated a com­pre­hen­sive index of all the books in Europe, which he titled Bib­lio­theca uni­ver­salis. But the prospect of cre­at­ing this index trou­bled him. Gess­ner railed, at length […]

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Space Is Really Big. And Impossible.

NASA has had a pretty incred­i­ble run lately, cul­mi­nat­ing with the truly stu­pe­fy­ing dis­cov­er­ies of the New Hori­zons space probe out at Pluto. Today, they announced that the Kepler space tele­scope — which is itself an awe-inspiring feat of engi­neer­ing — has dis­cov­ered a planet that is pretty close in size to earth, orbit­ing a star […]

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The Intimacy of the War on Terror

In a great review of John Sifton’s book, George Packer has an inter­est­ing pas­sage: One strik­ing fea­ture of vio­lence in the age of ter­ror is its anonymity. The hijack­ers couldn’t see the faces of the work­ers in the Twin Tow­ers. Amer­i­can pilots over Kan­da­har didn’t know whether chil­dren were present in the com­pound they were […]

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Humans Are the Weakest Link in a Brittle System

Until very recently I would have said that Edward Snow­den had cre­ated the sin­gle largest cat­a­stro­phe in U.S. intel­li­gence his­tory (you can read on this blog and in my essays just how exten­sive this dam­age has been). What­ever you think of the other value of his dis­clo­sures, it is inar­guable that they also imposed a steep cost […]

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Omni Reboot Needs to Fess Up

A few years ago, and with great fan­fare, Omni, the leg­endary sci­ence fic­tion mag­a­zine financed by Pent­house pub­lisher Bob Guc­cione, relaunched. Edited by con­cep­tual pop artist Claire Evans (one half of the band YACHT), it was meant to usher in a new golden era of forward-looking sci­ence fic­tion and dis­cus­sion about the future. About a year later, […]

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A Misplaced Focus

There is a grow­ing derp out there in the world of inter­net jour­nal­ism, one that is eat­ing at our abil­ity to under­stand events and how they could pos­si­bly hap­pen. One of them is hap­pen­ing right now in Tajik­istan. With the news that the for­mer chief of Tajikistan’s inter­nal police, the OMON, has defected to ISIS, […]

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Everything Is Weird

UPDATE BELOW So, back in 2007, right before her novel “Out­sourced” came out, I met Rae­lynn Hill­house at a café in Ball­ston, Vir­ginia. There, we talked about the intel­li­gence com­mu­nity, her blog­ging about the IC at “The Spy Who Billed Me”, and some­times sur­real uni­verse of mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence con­tract­ing, and other sundry top­ics. I […]

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