[ExI] ok, so prove it

spike spike66 at att.net
Thu Nov 10 20:38:27 UTC 2016



From: extropy-chat [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Adrian Tymes
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2016 11:35 AM
To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Subject: Re: [ExI] ok, so prove it


On Nov 10, 2016 11:15 AM, "spike" <spike66 at att.net <mailto:spike66 at att.net> > wrote:

>>… Adrian thanks, and please sir, am I the only one who sees how damn dangerous this is?

>…Nope.  Lots of people do.  Those in power have been trying to hold on to their ability to tweak things nonetheless.

>…If there is a silver lining, Trump pitched himself as anti-corruption, so such things should be odious to him.  We will see if he bothers to act (rather than just implementing more corruption), though…



EXACTLY!  This is a golden opportunity to fix a dangerously flawed and perhaps corrupt process.

A cheerful thought occurred to me, something that really gives me hope.  Read on please.

John Clark and I agree on some things.  General relativity, and the solution to many closed-form differential equations for instance.  But there are some political things on which we are in perfect agreement as well: nuclear war is bad.  A single person with the ability and the apparent intentions of using nuclear weaponry is a bad thing.  He and I are in one accord on that.  (Side note to John: during the most furious peak of debate, I don’t recall seeing a single comment by you that I would interpret as a personal insult.  I thank you for that.)

A few weeks ago when we were debating the process for launching nukes, I did some research online and found something interesting: there is widespread disagreement on that topic.  Furthermore, the actual process would need to be classified up the kazoo for perfectly understandable reasons: if it became well-known, the bad guy could attack any link in the launch chain of command.  So anyone who posted on that question doesn’t really know and anyone who really knows doesn’t post.  So we don’t know either.  But now we know we don’t know.

During the last couple years of Reagan’s second term, it became obvious to everyone in contact that he had Alzheimer’s.  AD patients are not debilitated right away, but their memory becomes unreliable.  The codes for launching nuclear attacks would need to be complex (we hope) so some crazy couldn’t just steal the football and try combinations until she started WW3.  A complex launch code is a perfect example of something an AD patient might not recall if she was having a bad day.  (…Oh it was such a bad day, I tried to start WW3 and just couldn’t remember all those silly numbers…)

There was a second risk, the opposite of being unable to respond to a nuclear attack.  God talked to Reagan (it’s in his own book.)  We don’t know what god was telling him, but I don’t like it.  She might tell him to launch a surprise attack, since god and the commies don’t like each other.

OK then, military top brass are guys who think of all possible risks and take steps to plan a response.  We see the occasional catastrophic failure, such as Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, but the process works.

The military brass would have noticed Reagan was having problems, brought it up among themselves, perhaps discussed it with trusted members of congress.  The military designed the system to start with, so the military could quietly modify it, such that the order to launch would simultaneously go to the Secretary of Defense, the Senate majority leader, the Speaker of the House, the head of the congressional defense committee and the Secretary of State, rather than some 35 yr old submarine commander.  They could collectively evaluate the command and send it forth if there is justification.  

The military brass wouldn’t need a change in law to quietly insert a failsafe circuit breaker, in case god told Reagan to nuke the commies.  They wouldn’t even need to have the president in on it really.  There is no reason the president cannot go on thinking he or she could launch nukes on a whim, even if he or she doesn’t actually do that, but rather orders five top leaders to launch one.  The rest of congress need not be in on it, should that system already exist.  The voters need not know the details (it’s better if we don’t perhaps (we are already crazy enough as it is.))

So… back in the 80s, we had subs, so there was no risk of a sneak attack taking out counterstrike capability.  We had early-warning systems, even if not like we have now.  We had an impaired POTUS.  We have no legal requirement for the POTUS to be able to launch without oversight.  Conclusion: POTUS cannot nuke on a whim.

Another comforting thought: even if the military didn’t failsafe that system in 1986, good chance they will now.  If they do (or did) they aren’t going to tell us.






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