As it tends to do when not in political control in Washington, the Left has rediscovered the power of state sovereignty. That doctrine is being used to resist the new administration’s federal immigration policy in a way that’s identical, in formalistic terms, to the Right’s tactics during the early days of the Obama administration—albeit in service of an opposite outcome.
Archives for July 2017
Elon Musk is a visionary entrepreneur but a bad social planner. Over the weekend he addressed the Governors’ Association and called on their members to sponsor regulatory bodies to direct the development of artificial intelligence. He argued that AI is the “biggest risk we face as a civilization.” But our AI policy should be the opposite of what Musk supports. Federal and state governments should not regulate AI, but should help accelerate it. That is essential to our national security and offers the best hope of stopping malevolent AI, not that I believe the risk is as great as Musk apparently does.
Musk’s central premise is correct: AI is now making huge progress. In 2011 IBM’s Watson beat the best players at Jeopardy, showing that AI can now play in the more fluid world of natural language, not just in games with very formal moves. Just this year, Google’s AlphaGo beat the world’s best Go player. This is startling development, occurring long before most predictions. Unlike chess, Go does not have clear strategies that can be programmed: even great players have a hard time explaining why they move as they do. Google did not program in strategic heuristics, but learned from 30 million Go games and simulations of games how to play better than champions. Thus, as Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsso note, the victorious program reflected Michael Polyani’s famous paradox about humans: We know more than we can tell. And this kind of data mining can give AI an intuitive, not a formally rule-based judgment in many other areas. Lawyers, beware: the machines are coming!
French citizens are not familiar with long electoral campaigns—the Fifth Republic’s first presidential contest, which was in 1965, lasted less than a month! This time, an entire year elapsed between the beginning of the primaries and the legislative elections, held in two stages a month after Emmanuel Macron won the presidency. The dominant feeling among the French people is weariness.
Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa’s article, “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism,” in La Civiltà Cattolica (described by Spadaro as a “peer-reviewed magazine” whose “articles are always read and approved by the [Vatican’s] Secretariat of State”) is a bungled opportunity. The stark Manichean colors with which they paint their subject, and the apocalyptic tones they sound, combined with a muddled understanding of different currents in American evangelicalism, obscures rather than illuminates their argument.
The unexpected retirement of Judge Janice Rogers Brown, 68, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will trigger a well-deserved celebration of her extraordinary judicial career, both as a federal appellate judge (since 2005) and previously as a member of the California Supreme Court (1996 to 2005). It will be difficult for President Donald Trump to appoint a replacement that comes anywhere close to filling the shoes of the of the forceful, fearless, and independent Brown, whose nomination by President George W. Bush to the nation’s second most influential court in 2003 was delayed for two years by Democratic opposition.
Until my own wedding five years ago, I had never recognized how many modern craftsmen and craftswomen considered themselves artistes. Our wedding photographer labored over angles, like a film director, to make the pictures a joint production of our day and her style. And even the wedding cake maker in our interview with her said she wanted to capture our “spirit” as a couple in her design. I reflected then that in a wealthy society even many people who make material things think they are ultimately are in the business of creating meaning, where they mix their expressiveness with their clients to make art in the workaday world.
Our expressive age provides the social context for the Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which a cake baker couple is challenging an antidiscrimination law that requires them to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. Mark Movsesian has written an excellent post, in which he is doubtful about the success of such claims because they run afoul of the egalitarianism of American society–a feature first noted by Alexis de Toqueville. But America is also dedicated to free expression. And just as egalitarianism has increased over time to embrace the equality of same-sex and traditional marriage, so has the breadth of expressive activity. Thus, the First Amendment question in Masterpiece Cakeshop sets up a clash of two powerful currents coursing through America–equality and expression. And to make the clash even more striking, Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote on the Court, is both the creator of constitutional rights for same-sex couples and the most stalwart defender of free speech.
Recently, I wrote about the size and scope of the Mueller Investigation. Here I discuss the criticisms of the lack of impartiality that have been raised about the investigation. Political Orientation: The first aspect of this issue involves the political orientation of the 15 lawyers that Mueller has hired. News reports indicate that “at least seven of the 15 lawyers Mueller has brought on to the special counsel team have donated to Democratic political candidates, five of them to Hillary Clinton.” By contrast, no members have contributed to Republicans (except one member who gave much more to the Democrats). So the…
The Sixteenth of July, not having the same ring, will never compete with the Fourth for fireworks, picnics, or paeans to the document published on that day. But now that Americans have digested our annual hosannas to the natural rights theory of the Declaration of Independence, we might save a moment to remember the appearance, in the New York Independent Journal of July 16, 1788, of Publius’ broadside against a Bill of Rights. If the Fourth of July represents the American contribution to abstract universalism on rights, July 16 was the day we theorized it, in Federalist 84, as the…