Authority and the Individual

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The China Syndrome is a 1979 American disaster thriller film starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Douglas, and premiered at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or while Lemmon received the Best Actor Prize. A critical and commercial success, it grossed $51.7 million on a production budget of $5.9 million. The film received four nominations at the 52nd Academy Awards; Best Actor (for Lemmon), Best Actress (for Fonda), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Production Design.

Easily my favorite set of essays by Bertrand Russell (from 1949) – so much so that one of the most memorable gifts I have received is an autographed copy of this – and I was reminded of it when I saw this article in WSJ:

China Covid Protesters Become Targets of Beijing’s Surveillance State

An early excerpt from the book flashed in my mind:

We have all sorts of aggressive impulses, and also creative impulses, which society forbids us to indulge, and the alternatives it supplies in the shape of football matches are hardly adequate. For my part I find a sufficient outlet in detective stories…

Since the World Cup is on right now, this excerpt brought me a smile. And, if you have not yet read Magpie Murders, it is a leisurely read for the holidays (and also streaming on Amazon Prime).

China was also on top of my mind for a couple of other reasons.

As part of the back-and-forth with Raytheon (on a DARPA grant) – see A Floquet Connection – one of the (many, many) terms we had to review was:

52-204-25 – As part of this research effort, all project personnel will not be permitted to use any products or services from Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities) as well as from Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, Dahua Technology Company (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities), or any entity owned, controlled by, or connected to The People’s Republic of China. Non-compliance with this FAR clause is required to be reported to the Government.

An amusing one – unfortunately, our answer was a no 😒 – was:

  252.225-7972 – Will the project require the purchase or use of an Unmanned Aircraft System?

We wish. 😏

I had (a few months back) reviewed (along with Vincent Cerf and a few others) the National Academies Publication: Protecting US Technological Advantage. Just earlier today I received this email that triggered this post:


I am pleased to inform you that the final version has just been released online, though the hard copy probably will not be published for a couple more months still.

Thank you, and I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving as well!

What is this about? Let me just whet your appetite:

U.S. leadership in technology innovation is central to the nation’s interests, including its security, economic prosperity, and quality of life. The United States has enjoyed enormous benefits from its global technology leadership in the form of enhanced national security, economic growth, and a high standard of living and well-being for its citizens… U.S. research laboratories and universities have been regarded as global leaders in advancing the scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs that have led to the emergence of new and advanced technologies… The U.S. government or U.S. based companies have often been the first to develop new technologies and deploy them in the market. In doing so, they have been able to shape market conditions, build the user base for new technologies, and create regulatory frameworks to support those technologies… In today’s rapidly changing landscapes of technology and competition, however, the assumption that the United States will continue to hold a dominant competitive position by depending primarily on its historical approach of identifying specific and narrow technology areas requiring controls or restrictions is not valid…The openness of the R&D enterprise in the United States has fostered innovation, risk taking, and the incorporation of new ideas into new technologies. It also has attracted the world’s best scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, whether born and educated in this or other countries, to U.S. universities, companies, and government research organizations.

In today’s interdependent, global innovation system, the greatest threat is that the United States will inadvertently weaken its innovation ecosystem while other countries continue to emulate the actions that have historically yielded U.S. advantages in technology development and commercialization. To counter this threat, the United States needs to protect and extend its ability to develop new technologies and apply those technologies to problems in both the military and commercial spheres. Protecting and strengthening this ability is vitally more important than protecting specific technologies.

What is notable is that there is an entire chapter (Chapter 4) devoted to China:


Features of the Competition between the United States and China, 58

Synthetic Biology in China, 61

China’s Activities in Microelectronics, Artificial Intelligence, and Quantum Computing, 64

Human Resources in the United States and China, 66

Implications of China’s Actions for the Protection of U.S. Interests, 70

Indeed, as the chapter on Findings summarizes:

Over the past two decades, China has systematically pursued strategies for dominating technology development in key areas. It has invested in R&D, sought to attract talent from other countries, and made massive investments in new technologies. China also does not play by the same rules as the United States. The Chinese government is deeply involved in commercial technology development; research outputs and data from competitors are subject to diversion or theft; foreign participation in the Chinese economy is limited and monitored; technology standards and regulations are managed to advantage domestic technologies; and markets are distorted to advantage domestic companies.

Why was I chosen as one of the (ten) referees? Both because I have commercialized academic research (through SmartOps, see Trillion Dollars of Inventory) and because one of the key future technologies that is covered by this report is:


And only yesterday, my co-authors and I received this email (see November 24: 1664 and 2021) from Royal Society Publishing:

Your paper “Optimization with photonic wave-based annealers” has now been published online and is available to read and download at

Looking forward to helping to build a new Quantum device. Our DARPA supported work at CMU is (rightly, and thankfully) classified as fundamental research.  As I wrote in Roll Over Turing, I continue to push the boundaries to develop non-Turing hardware, so that 21st Century Computing may advance beyond that of the previous one.


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