Even though Time Magazine is released weekly, it did not come in time to cover Saturday’s commitment from Egypt’s new military rulers to hand power eventually to an elected civilian government and abide by a peace treaty with Israel. Thus, its coverage of Egyptian affairs is not up to date and will not be summarized here.
Homeland Security – President Obama’s top advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan, works in the White House in a basement office which has low ceilings and no windows. His top priority is the continuing threat of radical Islamists who have mounted a series of attacks on the United States that came close to killing innocent people. His role during this period is to stay vigilant for the potential for a terrorist dimension to develop as the political turmoil spreading across the Middle East unfolds.
Anytime John Brennan needs to see the President, he just runs up the stairs. He does not need an appointment. He has long believed that the United States must show a more benevolent face to the Muslim world. He has toned down the rhetoric and has pressed to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
When he was a graduate student at the University of Texas, Brennan answered a CIS recruitment ad in the New York Times. In 1980, the CIA sent him to the Middle East. President Obama liked his record enough to make him his CIA Director, but Brennan took himself out of consideration. By most accounts, he is more powerful today in the White House than he would have been at CIA headquarters in Virginia.
The Singularity – Raymond Kurzweil believes that we are approaching a moment when computers will become intelligent, and more intelligent than humans. According to his calculations, the end of human civilization as we know it is about 35 years away. The transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable is called Singularity. It is a word borrowed from astrophysics and refers to a point in space-time at which the rules of ordinary physics do not apply. Once superhuman intelligence is created, the human era will be ended. Technological progress happens exponentially, not linearly.
Kurzweil states that computers will be capable of human intelligence by the end of the 2020 decade. He then puts the date of the Singularity at 2045. At that time, artificial intelligence will be a billion times the sum of all human intelligence that exists today. This month, February 2011, the game show Jeopardy! will have as a guest an IBM supercomputer nicknamed Watson. In a practice match in January, Watson finished ahead of two former champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. It got every question right.
There are naysayers to the idea of the Singularity, but more and more of the intelligence community is latching onto what Kurzweil has predicted. Stay tuned.
Time Magazine – February 21, 2011 Issue