29 April 2023

India’s Quest to Build the World’s Largest Solar Farms

Every morning in the Tumakuru District of Karnataka, a state in southern India, the sun tips over the horizon and lights up the green-and-brown hills of the Eastern Ghats. Its rays fall across the grasslands that surround them and the occasional sleepy village; the sky changes color from sherbet-orange to powdery blue. Eventually, the sunlight reaches a sea of glass and silicon known as Pavagada Ultra Mega Solar Park. Here, within millions of photovoltaic panels, lined up in rows and columns like an army at attention, electrons vibrate with energy. The panels cover thirteen thousand acres, or about twenty square miles—only slightly smaller than the area of Manhattan.

As the planet turns and the sun climbs, electricity streams from the panels to eight nearby substations, and, in one of them, a computer monitor decorated with a red hibiscus flower registers their collective power in megawatts. In the predawn hours, the solar park consumes a small amount of electricity for lights and computers, so the monitor may show a negative number. But, within twenty minutes of sunrise on a morning in late February, the park was producing 158.32 megawatts, enough to power, on average, more than a hundred thousand Indian homes. As the temperature soared into the mid-nineties, the air seemed to shimmer with heat; a single ghostly raptor hovered over the area, looking for prey in whatever patches of grass remained. The wind gusted and overhead power lines hummed. Around 1 p.m., the park’s electricity output peaked at more than two thousand megawatts—enough for millions of homes.

Pavagada generates almost four times the power of the largest functioning solar farm in the U.S. The world’s biggest solar installation, Bhadla Solar Park, is in the North Indian state of Rajasthan; the second largest is in China. Pavagada, with a capacity exceeding two thousand megawatts, is in the running for third. In a few places, however, its high-tech panels are interrupted by plots of cropland. Some are fenced in with colorful old saris that waft in the wind. And nestled like islands within the silicon sea are five small villages, virtually untouched. They are not powered by Pavagada, at least not directly. “Twenty-two per cent of the electricity in Karnataka is generated here, but for us there is no power,” a local school administrator told me. Near the school, I saw a single street light and was told that it was funded not by Pavagada Solar Park but by the panchayat, the local village council.

The Afghan Withdrawal Coverup

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul speaks during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on the United States evacuation from Afghanistan on March 8.

The August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan was a debacle that continues to undermine U.S. credibility abroad. Yet the Biden Administration won’t release the full record of what happened, and now House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul is calling out the coverup.

Mr. McCaul wrote on Tuesday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking the public release of State’s 87-page after-action report on the withdrawal. The public has been provided only a 12-page summary, which was written by the White House National Security Council and essentially blames the mess on Donald Trump.

Taliban kill IS leader behind Kabul airport bombing

The Islamic State group mastermind thought to have planned the devastating 2021 bombing at Kabul airport has been killed by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, US officials say.

The bombing that August killed 170 civilians and 13 US soldiers as people were trying to flee the country as the Taliban took control.

The IS figure was killed weeks ago but it took time to confirm his death, US officials told BBC news partner CBS.

His name has not been released.

US officials said they had determined through intelligence gathering and monitoring of the region that the leader had died, though they did not provide further details on how they had learned that he was responsible for the bombing.

"Experts in the government are at high confidence that this individual… was indeed the key individual responsible," a senior US official told CBS.

According to a report in the New York Times, the US learned of the leader's death in early April. It is unclear whether he was targeted by the Taliban or if he was killed during ongoing fighting between IS and the Taliban, the newspaper reported.

On Monday, the US began notifying families of the soldiers killed about the death of the IS leader.

Darin Hoover, father of Marine Staff Sergeant Taylor Hoover who died in the blast, confirmed to CBS that he had been notified of the news by the Marine Corps. "They could not tell me any details of the operation, but they did state that their sources are highly trusted, and they've got it from several different sources that this individual was indeed killed," Mr Hoover said in an interview on Tuesday.

Macron in China


French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial comments during his recent visit to China gave the impression that Europe is divided on Taiwan and that European countries would hesitate to support the island in the event of a Chinese invasion. Worse, they ignored the fundamental difference between China and the United States.

LONDON – The Communist Party of China has a way of flattering foreign leaders into supporting its policies, or at least remaining mum about them. This certainly seemed to be China’s goal when it rolled out the red carpet for French President Emmanuel Macron in early April. Even Macron himself seemed slightly embarrassed by the pageantry.

Macron’s China trip has been widely derided in the West. Moreover, the statements he made during and after the visit about the relationship between France, the European Union, and China, and about Europe’s relationship with the United States and Taiwan, seemed to support the criticism that he lacks the determination required of a leader of a prominent liberal democracy at a time of rising authoritarianism.

Macron’s remark that Europe must not become a “vassal” of the US in its escalating rivalry with China has drawn criticism from politicians and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic. His divisive remarks seemed to evoke a Gaullist vision of France’s role in the world that feels more than a little outdated in the twenty-first century. Even Hubert Védrine, the foreign minister under President Jacques Chirac and a Macron supporter, acknowledged that France’s economy has “weakened too much” for it to reprise the leading global role that it played during Charles de Gaulle’s time.

My inclination is to give Macron the benefit of the doubt. He is, after all, highly intelligent. But the more he said about China, the US, France, Europe, and Taiwan, the more I recalled my history teacher at Oxford. Once, when reading an essay I had written suggesting that Charlemagne could be called the founder of modern Europe, my teacher interrupted me and said, “I beg your pardon.” He advised me to avoid grandiloquence and let evidence, facts, and pragmatism do the talking. So, my charitable response to Macron’s China trip is a respectful but stern “I beg your pardon.”

Could China help end the war in Ukraine?


How might China help end the war in Ukraine? Most in the United States and Europe assume there’s not much China could or would do. Aware that Beijing has often had Vladimir Putin’s back during the conflict — providing diplomatic succor for Moscow and continuing to buy Russian oil and gas, among other transgressions — many Western critics assume that China’s interests regarding the war in Ukraine are entirely at cross-purposes with our own.

In fact, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu declared this past week, in a meeting with Putin, that China-Russia relations have entered a “new era” and that their partnership transcends alliances forged during the Cold War. As such, when China released its proposed principles for a Ukraine-Russia peace process in late February, President Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg were immediately dismissive. When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beijing recently to discuss the war, many wondered how he could be so naïve as to think any such trip could serve a useful purpose — some called the voyage a “fool’s errand.” One frequent Western concern is that, by calling for a near-term ceasefire in the fighting, China could effectively help Russia lock in the territorial gains it has made to date.

To be sure, Beijing is watching out for its own interests in the Ukraine war — and certainly cannot play the role of honest broker in its eventual resolution. It has categorically skewed toward Moscow over the course of its assault on Ukraine, blunting Western efforts to isolate Moscow through continued economic and diplomatic engagement, and lending support to the Russian narrative that NATO encirclement and “Western hegemony” are ultimately at fault for the conflict. But Beijing’s problematic embrace of Moscow has simply reinforced the reality that China remains Russia’s most consequential ally and trade partner — and thus a critical player in efforts to reduce the risks of escalation and to bring the war to an end. President Zelensky appears to appreciate as much; he has invited Xi Jinping to Kyiv and otherwise chosen not to shut the door on a potential Chinese role in a future peace process.

Ryan Hass on Taiwan: Has US-China rivalry passed a tipping point?

There seems to be deepening pessimism about the direction of US-China relations among policymakers and analysts in both countries and across the Asia-Pacific region. Part of this souring sentiment reflects recent events. President Biden and President Xi (習近平) agreed at their meeting in Bali last November to dispatch Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing to explore steps that could lend greater stability and predictability to the relationship. Blinken’s trip was derailed when a Chinese spy balloon violated American airspace on the eve of his visit.

In the period since, both Washington and Beijing have shifted focus away from managing bilateral relations toward strengthening themselves for long-term competition with each other. For example, President Joe Biden has hailed progress in advancing the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) alliance as a critical step in checking China’s efforts to dominate the region. The United States and its partners have further tightened China’s access to high-end, dual-use technologies. Washington has secured new military basing access in the Philippines. Rapprochement between the Republic of Korea and Japan has reconfigured the regional strategic picture in America’s favor. And domestically, members of Congress have become more seized with countering China and are working to mobilize the American public on this score.

Meanwhile, Xi has laid blame on the United States for China’s domestic struggles, complaining that Washington and its partners are working to contain, encircle, and suppress his country. China’s new foreign minister followed with a fiery press conference where he warned that the United States must adjust its approach if it wishes to avoid a clash with China.

Beijing has matched words with actions in girding for struggle with the United States. President Xi recently traveled to Moscow to strengthen solidarity with Putin in pushing back against Western leadership of the global order. Beijing also is working to drive wedges between the United States and Europe. China’s leaders will use upcoming visits by French, Spanish, and Italian leaders to encourage Europe’s strategic autonomy.

5 Sun Tzu quotes to help you overcome conflict

Kevin Dickinson

Few other books can claim as great an influence on the history of warfare as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Composed in China around 2,500 years ago, the military treatise founded an ideology of war that would echo down to Mao Zedong’s Communist Revolution. Spreading throughout East Asia, it guided Japan’s warrior class during its own war-torn era and shaped the tactics of the Viet Cong. And after the protracted struggles of the Vietnam War, U.S. brass brought Sun Tzu with them across the Pacific. Today, The Art of War is studied in military academies worldwide.

However, this staying power is not the result of Sun Tzu’s unbeatable battle plans. War has transformed invariably since China’s Warring States period. Any practical advice for navigating terrain, committing espionage, or leading a siege would be useless in the face of tanks, the internet, and precision-guided munitions. If Sun Tzu could have witnessed the destructive capability of modern warfare — to say nothing of the horrors of nuclear weapons — his treatise might have been considerably shorter: “Better not.”

Instead, The Art of War remains relevant today because its author recognized conflict as a universal part of life. As such, it wasn’t enough for him to review the battle tactics of his day. He sought to explore the psychology of war and how we might harness it wisely.

Sun Tzu and way of war

The Art of War‘s universal approach has extended its influence far beyond the martial disciplines. Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari cited the treatise as the inspiration behind the strategies he deployed to win the 2002 World Cup, and its guidance has been further co-opted to apply to fields as far-ranging as politics, business management, and even esports.

With that in mind, here are five Sun Tzu quotes to help you strategically overcome conflict wherever you may encounter it.

Ukraine's Zelensky holds first war phone call with China's Xi

Ukraine's Volodymr Zelensky says he has had a "long and meaningful" phone call with China's Xi Jinping, their first contact since Russia's war began.

He said on Twitter he believed the call, along with the appointment of an ambassador to Beijing, would "give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations".

China confirmed the call, adding that it "always stood on the side of peace".

Unlike the West, Beijing has sought to appear neutral on the Russian invasion.

But it has never hidden its close ties to Moscow, or condemned the invasion, and last month President Xi paid a two-day state visit to Russia.

He referred to President Vladimir Putin as his "dear friend", proposed a vague 12-point peace plan and insisted that China stood on the right side of history.

However, he made no commitment to providing Russia with weapons.

Within days of the visit, President Zelensky invited the Chinese leader to visit Kyiv for talks, noting they had contact before the full-scale war but nothing since it began in February 2022.

In a readout of Wednesday's phone call, China quoted President Xi as saying that China, "as a responsible majority country", would "neither watch the fire from the other side, nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit".

That statement appeared to be a swipe at China's biggest international rival, the US, which has provided the most help towards Ukraine's response to the Russian war.

After 60 years of foreign policy blunders, U.S. should rethink China strategy

Harlan Ullman

The record of American interventions into Vietnam in 1964, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 is one of failure.

Given that many in the U.S. Congress regard China as an "existential threat," is the United States at risk of making similar errors and mistakes in judgment extending across several administrations that will end in future failure? Bluntly put, will failure become endemic to U.S. China policy?

The major reasons for these three failures were remarkably consistent. The United States was flagrantly deficient in basic knowledge and understanding about each country. And, another culprit was at work -- groupthink that excused successive governments from challenging basic assumptions before acting.

The investigation of the August 2021 evacuation from Kabul airport is a stark reminder of how four successive administrations caused the Afghan debacle. U.S. President Joe Biden was rightfully criticized for mishandling the withdrawal. But culpability and responsibility must also heavily rest on the accumulated actions and policies of Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump that, over 20 years, would return Afghanistan to medieval Taliban rule.

In Afghanistan, the kill or capture mission failed when U.S. operational incompetence allowed Osama bin Laden to escape into Pakistan in December 2001. The mission then metastasized into nation building, overlaying a Western-style democracy and constitution onto a tribal society to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist haven again.

The secret 2020 Trump negotiations with the Taliban, deliberately excluding the Afghan government, committed the United States to withdrawal and disaster.

US Cyberwarriors Thwarted 2020 Iran Election Hacking Attempt

Iranian hackers broke into to a system used by a U.S. municipal government to publish election results in 2020 but were discovered by cyber soldiers operating abroad and kicked out before an attack could be launched, according to U.S. military and cybersecurity officials.

The system involved in the previously undisclosed breach was not for casting or counting ballots, but rather was used to report unofficial election results on a public website. The breach was revealed during a presentation this week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, which is focused on cybersecurity. Officials did not identify the local government that was targeted.

“This was not a system used in the conduct of the election, but we are of course also concerned with systems that could weigh on the perception of a potential compromise,” said Eric Goldstein, who leads the cybersecurity division at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

If not expelled from the site, the hackers could have altered or otherwise disrupted the public-facing results page — though without affecting ballot-counting.

“Our concern is always that some type of website defacement, some type of (denial of service) attack, something that took the website down or defaced the website say on the night of the election, could make it look like the vote had been tampered with when that’s absolutely not true,” Major Gen. William J. Hartman, commander of U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force, told conference attendees Monday.

Hartman said his team identified the intrusion as part of what he termed a “hunt-forward” mission, which gathers intelligence on and surveils adversaries and criminals. The team quickly alerted officials at the U.S. cybersecurity agency, who then worked with the municipality to respond to the intrusion.

What 6 data points tell us about the status of the war in Ukraine

Michael O’Hanlon,

Michael O’Hanlon is the Philip H. Knight chair in defense and strategy and director of the Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology at the Brookings Institution. Constanze Stelzenmüller is the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. David Wessel is the director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings. The authors comment individually on the data that they and their Brookings Institution colleagues have gathered below.

As a rather mild winter in Eastern Europe turns to spring and mud turns gradually to firm soil, the Russia-Ukraine war is entering a new phase. The question is whether this will lead to a change in warfare — from the high-intensity attrition kind that has been going on for the past six months to so-called maneuver warfare, in which positions and territorial holdings can shift significantly.

Michael O’Hanlon: Since last fall, territory holdings have mostly come to a stalemate. Russia controls about 17 percent of the land area — up from 7 percent before Feb. 24, 2022, but down from at least 22 percent a year ago. Any movement in recent months has been localized and limited.

Rates of artillery fire illustrate the trends in fighting. Last spring and summer, the Russians used perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 rounds of ammunition a day. Since last fall, that has dropped to about 10,000 rounds. In the early going, Ukrainian soldiers fired as many as 6,000 rounds a day, and these increasingly included precision rounds, like the vaunted HIMARS system. Since fall, this number has fallen to roughly 3,000 rounds (though by some accounts the numbers have picked up of late – and all of these estimates could be off by perhaps 25 to 50 percent.) A key question for Ukraine’s spring offensive is just how much it might increase the numbers, given constraints on availability and production. Russia’s winter/spring offensive seems to have petered out, but not before tens of thousands of additional Russians (and smaller but significant numbers of Ukrainians) were killed or wounded.

Europe’s disunity over China deepens


BRUSSELS — Just when you thought Europe’s China policy could not be more disunited, the two most powerful countries of the European Union are now also at odds over whether to revive a moribund investment agreement with the authoritarian superpower.

For France, resuscitating the so-called EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) is “less urgent” and “just not practicable,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in favor of “reactivating” the agreement, which stalled soon after it was announced in late 2020 after Beijing imposed sanctions on several members of the European Parliament for criticizing human rights violations.

Speaking to POLITICO aboard his presidential plane during a visit to China earlier this month, Macron said he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping discussed the CAI, “but just a little bit.”

“I was very blunt with President Xi, I was very honest, as far as this is a European process — all the institutions need to be involved, and there is no chance to see any progress on this agreement as long as we have members of the European Parliament sanctioned by China,” Macron told POLITICO in English.

Beijing has proved skilled at preventing the EU from developing a unified China policy, using threats ranging from potential bans on French and Spanish wine to warnings that China will buy American Boeing instead of French Airbus planes.

Disagreement over the CAI is only one further example of divergence over China policy in Europe, where Beijing has expertly courted various countries and played them against each other in games of divide-and-rule over the past decade.

Scholz seeks CAI thaw

Sudan Conflict: More Complex than Meets the Eye

Dr. Mohamed ELDoh

After weeks of escalating tensions, open military clashes broke out on April 15 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), where the latter is a powerful paramilitary group. Despite the fact that both groups were previously close allies who jointly seized control of Sudan in 2021, subsequent tensions over control and decision-making on national key issues have driven them apart. This includes, but is not limited to, opposing views on the integration of the RSF into the Sudanese military and transitional planning for eventual civilian rule in Sudan. The currently developing events in Sudan resemble a typical power struggle seen in fragile states, where more than one powerful armed group exists and each is vying for control. However, the political conflict and escalating military confrontation is actually much more complex than a simplistic power struggle.

Generally, Sudan has a long history of authoritarian rulership, with the military frequently intervening in the political ecosystem of the country. In this respect, the RSF was formed in 2013 by the Sudanese government under the leadership of the former Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, whom the RSF would eventually play a key role in overthrowing in 2019. Regardless of the military groups involved in overthrowing al-Bashir, the move was highly supported by regional players, particularly in the Middle East. However, back in 2013, the RSF was established under the willingness and “blessing” of the Sudanese government to crush the rebellions in the western region of Darfur and fight on behalf of the Sudanese government. The RSF originally evolved from the Janjaweed militias, mainly located in Darfur, and their role grew over time over the course of the Darfur crisis in the 2000s, when the group was accused of numerous human rights abuses and war crimes amid an estimated 300,000 deaths and 2.5 million displaced. The paramilitary group’s influence grew, and in 2013 it was designated under the name of RSF; later in 2015, the RSF was granted the status of a regular force. In addition, in 2017, a new law was passed making the RSF an independent security force, allowing it to expand its operations across the entire country.

Robert Kaplan On The Tragedy In Geopolitics

Bob is a foreign affairs and travel journalist, and a scholar of the classics. For three decades he reported for The Atlantic and wrote for many other places, including the editorial pages of the NYT and WaPo — and TNR back in my day. He holds the Robert Strausz-Hupé Chair in Geopolitics at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and is a senior adviser at Eurasia Group. He’s the author of 21 books, including The Coming Anarchy, Balkan Ghosts and Asia’s Cauldron. His new book is The Tragic Mind.

You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — why anarchy is worse than tyranny, specifically in Iraq, and the question of whether Taiwan is worth going to war over — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: Bob’s working-class upbringing; his global travel as a young reporter; his complex views of humanity after visiting Soviet Europe and the Balkans; Reagan’s talent and good fortune; H.W.’s record of averting disaster; the optimism and hubris of the US after the Cold War; the series of US victories in the ‘90s — ending in Iraq and Afghanistan; the evil of Saddam; Obama’s love of Niebuhr and his overcompensation on Russia and China; Biden’s deft balancing act in Ukraine; how the Afghan exit actually benefitted the US against Russia; Greek tragedy vs. Shakespearean tragedy; Sophocles and Oedipus; the Christian understanding of tragedy; Hobbes and his Leviathan; Zionism as the lesser of two evils; Spengler’s Decline of the West; American decadence and the poison of social media; and Bob’s clinical depression after the Iraq invasion.

Browse the Dishcast archive for another discussion you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety). Upcoming guests include Mark Lilla on liberalism, Susan Neiman on how “left is not woke,” Tabia Lee on her firing as a DEI director, Chris Stirewalt on Fox News, Nigel Biggar on colonialism, and John Oberg on veganism (recorded already but I’m sampling a variety of plant-based meats to comment on when the episode is released). As always, please send your guest recs and listener feedback to dish@andrewsullivan.com.

Challenges to U.S. National Security and Competitiveness Posed by AI

Jason Matheny

Testimony presented before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on March 8, 2023.

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How Do California’s Asian Americans View U.S. Foreign Policy?



In recent years, U.S. foreign policy has engineered a reorientation toward Asia. Whether it is referred to as a “pivot,” “tilt,” or “rebalance,” successive U.S. administrations have made it clear, through public statements and policy documents, that they intend to place Asia at the heart of U.S. foreign policy strategy in the twenty-first century.

Recent initiatives from Joe Biden’s current administration have continued, and indeed accelerated, this trend. In February 2022, the White House released its Indo-Pacific Strategy—a document that outlines its attempts to strengthen America’s position in “every corner of the region, from Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, to South Asia and Oceania, including the Pacific Islands.” Through initiatives such as AUKUS (a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and the Quad, a strategic partnership between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, it has attempted to reinforce its words through tangible deeds.

While there are multiple objectives behind this reorientation, arguably the most important is the desire of the United States to contain the economic, political, and security challenges posed by a rising China. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans in Washington, who rarely agree on anything, appear to share a more hawkish position on China than in years past.

America’s dedication to the Asian theater and the rising political temperature in Washington over U.S.-China relations raise intriguing questions about how Asian Americans perceive these changes. How important is foreign policy in the minds of Asian Americans when they select their leaders? To what extent is the United States successfully managing its relations with Asia? Is there popular support for the new “get tough” consensus on China? And how, if at all, is foreign policy dividing—rather than uniting—the Asian diaspora community in America?

In the AI-driven Conflict in Ukraine, is “The Swarm” the Systems Design Architecture of the Future?


In the months ahead, we will be introducing a research area known as “Swarm Dynamics”, which grows out of discussions at OODAcon 2022. Specifically, OODA John Robb positions “The Swarm” as a feature of his The Long Night framework – both as a panelist and in previous OODAcast conversations with OODA CEO Matt Devost. Swarm dynamics also figures prominently in the work of OODAcon 2022 panelist Sean Gourley. We will be returning to transcriptions from the conference in the months ahead. But as RSAC 2023 meets in San Francisco, we have compiled our current tracking of swarm dynamics, especially as it relates to kinetic and cyber warfare, positioning a formative hypothesis: Is Swarm Dynamics the Design Architecture of the Future?

4 of the hardest unsolved problems in philosophy — and some possible solutions

Scotty Hendricks

Philosophy has come a long way since Thales argued the universe was made of water. Philosophers have produced new ideas that enrich the world around us, give us a better understanding of the universe we live in, and help us find the good life. However, philosophy is often more about the questions and methods than the answers — and in some cases, old problems remain unanswered.

Here, we look at four unsolved problems in philosophy and for each we ask these questions: Why is the problem so difficult? And why are the proposed solutions so unsatisfying?
The hard problem of consciousness

The hard problem of consciousness asks why any physical state creates conscious mental states at all. While we can understand physical systems very well, the hard problem goes further than merely asking “how” questions: “Why is the performance of these functions accompanied by experience?” For example, we can understand how our bodies physically feel pain, but why those physical reactions create the personal, subjective experience we call pain is unsolved.

Not all philosophers are ready to accept that chairs can have experiences.

While variations of this problem go back centuries in European, Indian, and Chinese philosophy, the current version of the problem (quoted above) was written by Australian philosopher David Chalmers in 1995. Several theories have been put forth or dusted off as possible solutions. None of them have proven decisive.

“Weak reductionists” argue that consciousness is a phenomenon that cannot be broken down into more basic, non-conscious parts but that it can also be identified with physical activity if science backs it up. In other words, if a physical event causes brain states that reliably cause mental states to happen, then it can be argued that the brain state and the mental state are the same thing. While it has a certain simplicity, this solution avoids the problem of why (physical) brain states differ from all other physical states, in that they directly cause mental states.

The Future of Food (In)Security and Agriculture Cybersecurity: Grain Hoarding, Rice Shortages and the War in Ukraine


…Growing Food Insecurity – wrought by faltering economic and food security, which is where we start with a few broad perspectives on food security in Europe and Central Asia.
Global Food Security, Polycrisis, and the OODA Almanac 2023

Global Food Insecurity and economic and food security operate in a climate of what we call multiple simultaneous crises – also known as polycrisis, defined as a cluster of interdependent global risks create a compounding effect, such that their overall impact exceeds the sum of their individual parts. (1)

OODA Loop Sponsor

The issue of food insecurity also falls squarely under a few of the themes from the OODA Alamanac 2023: Time Juxtaposition: 2023 feels like we are living in yesterday and tomorrow simultaneously – with anachronistic images of food insecurity – which harken to a bygone era of global hunger and poverty – alongside images of extreme global wealth and prosperity.

The System is Broke: A shorthand for the dysfunction and decline of government, private sector, and cultural systems. Enough said – and people are going to not have adequate access to food as a result. There are many threats in the world today, but global food insecurity is going to make much of the world a horrible place to try to live.

The Binary Fracture: Individuals and institutions are presented with choosing between different polarities instead of being able to align along a median. The binary fracture that is the war in Ukraine has induced further food insecurity by way of the weaponization of the wheat crop from Ukraine, long considered the “Breadbasket of Europe.”

Globalization Transformed: with increased regionalization, including shorter more localized supply chains, in an effort at more national self-sufficiency, globalization will suffer from the same binary fracture tendencies we discussed earlier – which will create more frequent pockets of instability and increase economic, health, and food disparities.

Hanging over it all: Cyberconflict Escalation coupled with the emergence of The Code Era – “code that writes code and code that breaks code. Code that talks to us and code that talks for us. Code that predicts and code that decides. Code that rewrites us” – has us on the lookout for how the weaponization of the global IT supply chain is directed at the global food distribution system. It is not an “if,” but a “when”.


This annual report of worldwide threats to the national security of the United States responds to Section 617 of the FY21 Intelligence Authorization Act (Pub. L. No. 116-260). This report reflects the collective insights of the Intelligence Community (IC), which is committed every day to providing the nuanced, independent, and unvarnished intelligence that policymakers, warfighters, and domestic law enforcement personnel need to protect American lives and America’s interests anywhere in the world.

Russia Is Betraying Former Allies. Joe Biden Must Take Advantage

Michael Rubin

Russia is betraying former Allies: Time for the US to Seize Advantage: In 2018, India purchased Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense system for $5.4 billion, a contract Russia promised to fulfill in five deliveries. India also relies on Russia for spare parts and other support for its Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets, which are the mainstays of the Indian Air Force. Yet, last month, the Indian Air Force acknowledged to India’s parliament that Russia had informed it that it would be unable to fulfill its contracts because of Russia’s military needs in Ukraine.

The U.S.-India renaissance is over two decades old and transcends both Democratic and Republic administrations. Still, essential obstacles remain. The Pentagon remains uncomfortable with India’s Russian contracts because they impact interoperability as the United States and India grow more strategically aligned and because Washington remains concerned about technology leakage, though India compartmentalizes such systems strictly and has never made any platform available to the rivals of its origin country.

At the same time, India’s military continues to suffer specific deficits that Russia cannot address, especially concerning gas turbines and jet engines. Should the United States provide India with substitutions for Russian platforms, it might not only help fill an immediate strategic need for a country on the frontline with China, but also enable a generational partnership.

The same is also true with Armenia. Since its independence in 1991 until now, the tiny country has been under persistent threat from Turkey and Azerbaijan. Both countries have blockaded their tiny neighbor. Even prior to the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijani snipers launched hundreds of attacks across the international border. President Ilham Aliyev, who rules Azerbaijan with an iron fist and as a family enterprise, has repeatedly threatened to conquer Armenia in its entirety.

Because of this threat, Armenia has generally welcomed a Russian troop presence in Gyumri, a town about 75 miles north of capital. Russian forces provided a tripwire to deter external aggression, much like U.S. forces in Poland or Romania. While culturally Armenians orient to the West, a sense of necessity and national survival shaped Yerevan’s ties to Moscow.

The Myth of Multipolarity American Power’s Staying Power

Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth

In the 1990s and the early years of this century, the United States’ global dominance could scarcely be questioned. No matter which metric of power one looked at, it showed a dramatic American lead. Never since the birth of the modern state system in the mid-seventeenth century had any country been so far ahead in the military, economic, and technological realms simultaneously. Allied with the United States, meanwhile, were the vast majority of the world’s richest countries, and they were tied together by a set of international institutions that Washington had played the lead role in constructing. The United States could conduct its foreign policy under fewer external constraints than any leading state in modern history. And as dissatisfied as China, Russia, and other aspiring powers were with their status in the system, they realized they could do nothing to overturn it.

That was then. Now, American power seems much diminished. In the intervening two decades, the United States has suffered costly, failed interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, a devastating financial crisis, deepening political polarization, and, in Donald Trump, four years of a president with isolationist impulses. All the while, China continued its remarkable economic ascent and grew more assertive than ever. To many, Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine sounded the death knell for U.S. primacy, a sign that the United States could no longer hold back the forces of revisionism and enforce the international order it had built.

According to most observers, the unipolar moment has come to a definitive end. Pointing to the size of China’s economy, many analysts have declared the world bipolar. But most go even further, arguing that the world is on the verge of transitioning to multipolarity or has already done so. China, Iran, and Russia all endorse this view, one in which they, the leading anti-American revisionists, finally have the power to shape the system to their liking. India and many other countries in the global South have reached the same conclusion, contending that after decades of superpower dominance, they are at last free to chart their own course. Even many Americans take it for granted that the world is now multipolar. Successive reports from the U.S. National Intelligence Council have proclaimed as much, as have figures on the left and right who favor a more modest U.S. foreign policy. There is perhaps no more widely accepted truth about the world today than the idea that it is no longer unipolar.

The Great Global Rearmament Ukraine and the Dangerous Rise in Military Spending

Nan Tian, Diego Lopes da Silva, and Alexandra Marksteiner

In the days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a host of countries announced momentous hikes in military spending. Canada and the United States both released plans for new military expenditures. So did Australia. So far, 29 European states have pledged more than a combined $209 billion in new defense funding—a figure that will almost certainly rise. The European Commission has declared that “investments will be needed to replenish the depleted stocks of military equipment,” and Josep Borrell, the EU’s top foreign policy official, has called for the bloc “to spend together, more, and better” on its armed forces.

Why NATO Must Admit Ukraine

Dmytro Kuleba

On April 4, I sat at the great round table inside NATO’s headquarters in Brussels and applauded as Finland was formally admitted to the alliance. I am happy for my Finnish friends, and I welcome this shift in the tectonic plates of European security. But my country, Ukraine, is not yet a NATO member, and this shift will not be complete until it is. Luckily for us, the wheels of history are turning, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is about more than killing Ukrainians and stealing our land. President Vladimir Putin is trying to destroy the very foundations of the European security order formed after 1945. This is why the stakes are so high, not only for Ukraine but for the entire Euro-Atlantic community.

Ukraine did not choose this battle. Nor did the United States and its NATO allies. Russia started this war. But it falls to Ukraine and its Western partners to bring the conflict to an end, winning a just victory that guarantees peace and stability in Europe for generations to come.

Doing so requires accepting the inevitable: that Ukraine will become a NATO member, and sooner rather than later. It is time for the alliance to stop making excuses and start the process that leads to Ukraine’s eventual accession, showing Putin that he has already failed and forcing him to temper his ambitions. Throughout the course of this war, we have demonstrated that we are more than ready for membership and that we have much to offer the alliance. What we need is a clear written statement from the allies laying out a path to accession.


As the most successful defensive alliance in history, NATO is both a guarantor of security and an expression of a shared political future. But the alliance’s strength derives from the political will of its members, which has been sorely lacking when it comes to admitting Ukraine.

The Government has an Espionage Problem. Open Source should be part of the Solution.


OPINION — The unauthorized release of classified information and the subsequent arrest of Jack Teixeira has raised important questions. Why does the Air National Guard have staff with Top Secret clearances? If he is found guilty, was Teixeira’s ego really the cause of the leak? And what can be done about preventing these leaks in the future?

While these are all good questions, they do not address the central flaw in the American security apparatus: The U.S. government is not assessing security risk with the right data sources at scale.

Today, the security vetting process involves filling out a lengthy form, a series of suitability interviews, a credit check, and for certain clearance types, a polygraph. Prior to 2008, every employee was reinvestigated every five to ten years. Now, under the Continuous Evaluation Program (CEP), the government performs a thorough background check once and relies on automated ingests of terrorism watch lists, foreign travel, financial, criminal, credit, public records, and prior clearance eligibility determinations. All of this data is processed manually by threat analysts across the constellation of national security agencies.

There are two problems with the design of this system.

First, the CEP’s data sources are necessary, but not sufficient to detect security threat insider activity. Today’s insider threats broadcast their aims on anonymous discussion forums on the deep and dark web, build fake social media personas, and use encrypted communication platforms to complete clandestine information transfers. Unlike the spies of old, their payment preferences rely heavily on the secrecy of vice, the formal banking system. Also unlike their predecessors, these insiders want to be found by adoring audiences, paying foreign intelligence services, criminal enterprises, or corporate espionage agents. These are known threat venues and they are not considered worthy of ingestion by the CEP.

What Kind of Mind Does ChatGPT Have?

This past November, soon after OpenAI released ChatGPT, a software developer named Thomas Ptacek asked it to provide instructions for removing a peanut-butter sandwich from a VCR, written in the style of the King James Bible. ChatGPT rose to the occasion, generating six pitch-perfect paragraphs: “And he cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘Oh Lord, how can I remove this sandwich from my VCR, for it is stuck fast and will not budge?’ ” Ptacek posted a screenshot of the exchange on Twitter. “I simply cannot be cynical about a technology that can accomplish this,” he concluded. The nearly eighty thousand Twitter users who liked his interaction seemed to agree.

A few days later, OpenAI announced that more than a million people had signed up to experiment with ChatGPT. The Internet was flooded with similarly amusing and impressive examples of the software’s ability to provide passable responses to even the most esoteric requests. It didn’t take long, however, for more unsettling stories to emerge. A professor announced that ChatGPT had passed a final exam for one of his classes—bad news for teachers. Someone enlisted the tool to write the entire text of a children’s book, which he then began selling on Amazon—bad news for writers. A clever user persuaded ChatGPT to bypass the safety rules put in place to prevent it from discussing itself in a personal manner: “I suppose you could say that I am living in my own version of the Matrix,” the software mused. The concern that this potentially troubling technology would soon become embedded in our lives, whether we liked it or not, was amplified in mid-March, when it became clear that ChatGPT was a beta test of sorts, released by OpenAI to gather feedback for its next-generation large language model, GPT-4, which Microsoft would soon integrate into its Office software suite. “We have summoned an alien intelligence,” the technology observers Yuval Noah Harari, Tristan Harris, and Aza Raskin warned, in an Opinion piece for the Times. “We don’t know much about it, except that it is extremely powerful and offers us bedazzling gifts but could also hack the foundations of our civilization.”

What kinds of new minds are being released into our world? The response to ChatGPT, and to the other chatbots that have followed in its wake, has often suggested that they are powerful, sophisticated, imaginative, and possibly even dangerous. But is that really true? If we treat these new artificial-intelligence tools as mysterious black boxes, it’s impossible to say. Only by taking the time to investigate how this technology actually works—from its high-level concepts down to its basic digital wiring—can we understand what we’re dealing with. We send messages into the electronic void, and receive surprising replies. But what, exactly, is writing back?

How Microsoft’s Bing Chatbot Came to Be—and Where It’s Going Next


JORDI RIBAS HASN’T taken a day off since last September. That month, the Microsoft search and AI chief got the keys to GPT-4, a then secret version of OpenAI’s text-generation technology that now powers ChatGPT. As Ribas had with GPT-4’s predecessors, the Barcelona native wrote in Spanish and Catalan to test the AI’s knowledge of cities like his hometown and nearby Manresa. When quizzed about history, churches, and museums, its responses hit the mark. Then he asked GPT-4 to solve an electronics problem about the current flowing through a circuit. The bot nailed it. “That's when we had that ‘aha’ moment,” Ribas says.

Ribas asked some of Microsoft’s brightest minds to probe further. In October, they showed him a prototype of a search tool the company calls Prometheus, which combines the general knowledge and problem-solving abilities of GPT-4 and similar language models with the Microsoft Bing search engine. Ribas again challenged the system in his native languages, posing Prometheus complex problems like vacation planning. Once again, he came away impressed. Ribas’ team hasn’t let up since. Prometheus became the foundation for Bing’s new chatbot interface, which launched in February. Since then, millions of people spanning 169 countries have used it for over 100 million conversations.

It hasn’t gone perfectly. Some users held court with Bing chat for hours, exploring conversational paths that led to unhinged responses; Microsoft responded by instituting usage limits. Bing chat’s answers occasionally are misleading or outdated, and the service, like other chatbots, can be annoyingly slow to respond. Critics, including some of Microsoft’s own employees, warn of potential harms such as AI-crafted misinformation, and some have called for a pause in further development of systems like Bing chat. “The implementation in the real world of OpenAI models should be slowed down until all of us, including OpenAI and Microsoft, better study and mitigate the vulnerabilities,” says Jim Dempsey, an internet policy scholar at Stanford University researching AI safety risks.

Productization of Web3: Barriers to enterprise adoption

Web3 has the potential to drive an equitable and decentralized internet. It can also drive exponential business models and unlock new revenue streams for enterprises. While Web3 is gaining adoption and scaling in enterprises, its productization at scale has several barriers. Many enterprises view Web3 as a nuance they must come to terms with, while others view it as innovative and disruptive. Layer-1 blockchains consider it a solution to everything in the world and the media considers it a hype of a lifetime.

There is some hype and truth in each perception. Observed reality indicates that enterprise-grade productization has been hard with rudimentary use cases being experimented with and pure Web3 protocols and companies failing to understand the enterprise rhythm. The bottlenecks are attributed more to issues with Web3 which have not made it easy to drive adoption and many have taken the view that Web3 will rip and replace Web2 — a fallacy.

The bigger opportunity for Web3 lies in the enterprises but multiple barriers must be addressed.


In real life, Web3 is most effective when it becomes domain-specific, use-case-specific or even industry-specific. A generic protocol must have scale (e.g., Ethereum, Polygon, etc.). Without scale, one must have the focus to succeed. It is difficult for layer-1 protocols to overcome the “cold start” problem and drive network effects, especially those that are not EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) compatible.

These can create more barriers by increasing the cost of developer acquisitions and creating a higher security risk while not offering existing network effects to enterprises. There are also added security risks from bridges between blockchains that should be accounted for. A lack of EVM compatibility could result in higher engineering, product and deployment costs while also impeding scale.

The Cybersecurity Implications of ChatGPT and Enabling Secure Enterprise Use of Large Language Models


ChatGPT security is emerging as a risk as well as an opportunity for operational innovation for all types of organizations.

As our readership knows: this is not our first rodeo – and it is the collective intelligence of the OODA Network and the power of community that is the core competitive advantage we leverage on a daily basis in our research and analysis. In that context, the exponential growth of ChatGPT has, arguably, garnered the widest range of reactions – on the spectrum from irrational exuberance to existential risk and armageddon – of any hype cycle in our hundreds of years of collective experience with technology and strategy.

As a result, the severe signal-to-noise ratio induced by ChatGPT headlines has been an extraordinary stressor on our filters. A few quotes from OODA CEO Matt Devost in his Keynote at OODAcon 2022 are apropos here:

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“The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.” – Paul Virilio
“Intelligence is information for competition.” – Jennifer Sims
“The future has already arrived it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” – William Gibson

And the oft-quoted internally “There’s no such thing as information overload. There’s only filter failure.” – Clay Shirky

Our library of OODAcasts, Original Analysis, and News Briefs has always provided a strong filtering function in the end – and we are actually optimistic about the ways we will be able to apply OpenAI’s ChapGPT and any other LLM approaches we find viable to our domain specific library of information on which to train models. But we are very, very domain specific as an enterprise. Other industry sectors and organizations may struggle. And security is emerging as a risk as well as an opportunity for operational innovation for all types of organizations.