Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Social Investment Stipend or UBI - One of Them Is Needed In The Age of AI

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In his recent major article in the WSJ Review section by  Kai-Fu Lee:
The Human Promise of the AI Revolution - WSJ

We are informed that :

"Recent history has shown us just how fragile out political institutions and social fabric can be in the face of disruptive change.  If we allow AI economics to run their natural course, the geopolitical tumult of recent years will look like child's play"

He is referring here to the rise of reactionary, authoritative governments - not only here in the U.S. with the Trumpite Cabal, but in Hungary, Poland, and Italy as well as Germany.  For sure, no one in his or her right mind wants to see the ascendance of powerful and aggressive fascist dictators a la Mussolini and Hitler.   But as Jay Bookman aptly noted('The New World Disorder Evident Here, Abroad', in The Baltimore Sun, December 15, 1997):

"The global economy has been constructed on the premise that government guarantees of security and protection must be avoided at all costs, because they discourage personal initiative. In times of crisis, however, that premise cannot be sustained politically. In times of trouble it is human nature to seek security and protection and to be drawn toward those who promise to provide it. That is how men such as Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power, with disastrous consequences."

Those are tough words to process but they are invaluable as a lesson in not forgetting the past, or how certain catastrophes arose.  Lee and other authors, most notably Andrew Yang in his book 'The War On Normal People' make that case cogently and that the rise of AI in human job displacement would well and truly mark catastrophe . Or it might mark promise, if we get our economic heads screwed on straight.

Regarding the approaching  economic cataclysm, Lee writes (ibid.):

"In the comping years people will watch as algorithms and robots easily outmaneuver them at tasks they've spent a lifetime mastering. I fear that this will lead to a crushing feeling of futility and obsolescence. At worst, it will lead people to question their own worth and what it means to be human."

Lee is referring to the fact too many people, especially Americans - but also likely many Germans- see our personal worth tied to the pursuit of money and success. This is how a capitalist, consumption society has programmed us and admittedly it is difficult to break that programming.

Lee's thesis in effect, comports very much with Yang's and we already know the major inroads AI is making to displace humans even now.  Barely a year ago, for example, I cited a WSJ  report ('Firms Leave The Bean Counting To The Robots')  warning that AI -based robots would soon be taking over CFO and accounting work across the land. That would essentially displace all those humans currently holding such jobs and likely pulling down big bucks in salary.  The article noted:

"One of Statoil ASA's newest employees, Roberta, spends her days in the energy firm's treasury department searching for missing payment information and sending out reminders.  Her boss, Tor Stian Kjoolesdal, said  Roberta's heavy orkload would improve overall efficiency in the group."

We then learned "Roberta doesn't have a last name, a face or arms. She is the first piece of robotic software to work in the Norwegian company's treasury department - part of Statoil's push to automation, robotics and artificial intelligence."

The piece went on to note that finance execs at Nokia Corp., Royal Dutch Shell and Orange SA were developing their own Robertas. Also:

"Two thirds of large global companies  expect to automate some or all of their finance department tasks over the next two or three years, according to new research by Hackett Group Inc. Hacket's report is based on benchmark and performance studies at hundreds of  large global companies."

The reason offered for the changes  in the WSJ piece was straightforward , direct:
"The new technologies are designed to cut costs, liberate workers from time consuming repetitive tasks and - in many cases - reduce finance and treasury department employee numbers."

I cited Jim Hightower  in the same blog post, who provided more inisght:

"With corporations socking away massive profits and the labor market still tight why are worker's wages stuck at miserly levels? One big reason is that corporate boards and CEOs have their heads stuck in a dreamy future. Nearly every economic sector is spending vast sums of money on workers p just not on human workers.

While few Americans are aware of it, bosses are investing in hordes of sophisticated autonomous robots powered by a cognitive technology called artificial intelligence. Instead of paying a decent wage to you, corporations are buying millions of these cheap, human-esque thinking machines in order to take a shocking number of jobs away - well, from you!"

So at the very least we can agree the AI specter is real and happening now.  There are, of course, differences on what the scale of displacement will be. But on discussing the changes on a 2016 visit to Barbados  with Alan Emtage (creator of the Archie search engine, which preceded Google). He made it clear that by 2032 there would be virtually no jobs left that were exclusively human conducted.  "Possibly with the exception of plumbers!" he mused.

So the question, as Lee frames it, is what can be done?   He cites the "founders of the AI age" and how they feel "a mix of genuine social responsibility and fear of being targeted when the pitchforks come out."   Also, that many have seized on the idea of UBI or a universal basic income.   Andrew Yang agrees these techies for a UBI solution and that it is a sensible solution to mass joblessness.

However, Lee doesn't necessarily buy it nor does Edward Glaeser who reviewed Yang's book ('The Cure For Poverty?' July 10, p. A13).  Glaeser takes the  über   'Debbie Downer' position  that UBI will be no great "catalyst to human creativity" as Yang claims.   He offers this bit of history instead as a corrective:

"50 years of evidence about labor supply in the U.S. suggests that giving people money will lead them to work less."

To which I would reply, 'So what?'    If that's what they choose to do with their time, work less or not at all, that is their choice. The purpose of UBI ultimately is not to produce a next generations of Picassos or Einsteins, but for people permanently displaced from their work to keep body and soul (figuratively speaking) together.  To keep food and shelter available.  Thus, all the labor reduction citations Glaeser makes are really irrelevant because they dodge the central pout.  He also appears to forget - or maybe he never learned - the famous words of FDR:

"Necessitous men cannot be free men"

In other words, it is NEED or want (for shelter, clothing, food etc.) that defines limits to liberty not work per se. UBI then addresses the issue of need first and foremost, so as to prevent the multiplication of men who perceive they are not free - and so reach for the nearest strongman who promise them that.  Give them UBI - say the usually cited stipend of $12,000 per annum, and they won't resort to strongman,  fascist populists. Doh!

Kai-Fu Lee's Review article is much more practical in terms of solutions, offering the annual stipend - but with the small  volitional aspect ("participation requirements wouldn't dictate the lives of citizens") to actively engage in assorted civic contributions.   So instead of "UBI" he calls it a Social Investment Stipend.

In terms of citizen contributions, he defines three general areas: care work community service and education.  Adding:

"These activities would form the pillars of a new social contract, rewarding socially beneficial activities just as we now reward economically productive activities."

Indeed, the former are clearly more important now in a world that can hardly tolerate further growth which translates into more pollution, more resource depletion (including of water) and more global warming.

In terms of the details for each:

"Care work would include parenting or home schooling of young children, assisting aging parents or helping a friend with mental or physical disabilities.  Service work would focus on much of the nonprofit and volunteer groups - leading after school activities, guiding tours at parks or collecting oral histories from elders in their communities,

Education activities could range from professional training for the jobs of the AI age to giving classes that turn a hobby into a career."

The beauty of Lee's solutions is that there is no pretense of generating an explosion of creativity. Rather, the same old service skills that have always been used and need will also be in the age of AI. 

\More cogently, Lee's solutions put the kibosh on Glaeser's Neoliberalish- ranting about how such UBI-type stipends would trigger a "dystopian jobless future", i.e. of millions of wastrels, alcoholics and layabouts.

Whichever way we roll, we need to seriously consider implementing one of these solutions, and probably  before 2025 - if not sooner.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Basic Solar Electrodynamics Revisited

X1 Solar Flare of March 29, 2014: Full Disk View

The X-1 class flare (extreme upper right) that erupted on March 29, 2014,  likely in a quadripolar sunspot group governed by anomalous electrodynamics.


The subject of electrodynamics is critically important in understanding the energetic, spatially localized events on the Sun, such as spicules, subflares and large flares, as well as CMEs (coronal mass ejections).  This is particularly in connection with the more complex magnetohydrodynamics of solar active regions that spawn the localized events.  All electrodynamics begins with the famous equations of James Clerk Maxwell.  In general, Maxwell’s equations will be expressed in vector form:

i)  Ñ X H  J    + D / t     (A current density J arises from a magnetic field)

ii)               Ñ X E  - B / t       (A magnetic field can arise from an electric field)

iii)             Ñ ·0     (There are no magnetic monopoles)

iv)             Ñ ·r            (Charges are conserved)

In addition, there are three “constitutive relations” that allow any of the above vectors to be re-cast in slightly different forms:

v)  D  =   e E

vi)  Bm H

vii)= s E

In the equations above, H represents the magnetic field intensity, B is the magnetic induction, E the electric field intensity, D the displacement current, and J is the current density. The constants, e  and m, denote the permittivity and the magnetic permeability – each for media. In vacuo, the constants used are: e 0  and m 0 and the speed of light can be expressed:  c =  1/ Öe 0  Ö m 0  .

One can also obtain the wave equations from the Maxwell differential (vector) equations. For example, take:

Ñ X H  J    + D / t    

Take  the current free (J=0) case and we know: 

D  =   εo E    and     Bmo H

Take  the curl of both sides of the vector equation in H:

Ñ X  Ñ X H      Ñ X  (D / t)


Ñ X  (D / t)  =   Ñ X (εo  E / t ) = εo  [Ñ X (E / t )]


Ñ X (E / t)  = - 2 B / t2


 - 2 B / t2    =  -  mo 2 H / t2


Ñ X  Ñ X H    εo (mo 2 H / t2)  = -mo εo (2 H / t2

But by a vector identity:

Ñ X  Ñ X H    Ñ · Ñ ·H -   Ñ 2 H

But:   Ñ ·H =    1/ mo (Ñ ·B) = 0

So:   -   Ñ 2 H   =    -mo εo (2 H / t2

Or: Ñ 2 H   =    mo εo (2 H / t2

Which is one of the wave equations in terms of H.

Writing all the component wave equations  out:

2H x  / x2  =   moεo  2 H x / t2

2H y  / x2  =   moεo  2 H y / t2

2H z  / x2  =   moεo  2 H z / t2

1.       Solar Physics formulation of  Electrodynamic Laws:
In solar applications, D and H are seldom  - if ever – used, and neither are m  and e  . For example, for  Maxwell equation (i) one is more apt to make the following changes:

i’)  Ñ X (B/m 0 )  J    + (e 0 E) / t    

leading directly to:

Ñ X B  =  m 0 [J    + (e 0 E) / t ]

If:  (e 0 E) / ® 0,  Then:

Ñ X B  =  m 0 J    or:  curl B =  m 0 J   

This is the solar version of Ampere’s law.

The solar version of Ohm’s law is generally modified for finite conductivity, s to obtain:

= s (E + v X B)

However, there are special cases for which one defines a “frozen in” condition. Obtaining the particular condition depends on the laboratory, solar or space physics situation and context.  
Adopting the first condition and allowing v = 0 we find:

Ñ X B  =  m 0 [s E ]

Now, take the curl of both sides:

Ñ x (Ñ x B) =   m 0 s  (Ñ x E)

Also, we have from a well -known vector identity:

Ñ (Ñ · B ) - Ñ · Ñ =   m 0 s  (- B / t )

From Maxwell’s divergence free equation (iii):

(Ñ · B )  = 0

So the previous equation (on substitution) reduces to:

B / t   =   Ñ 2  B  /  m 0 s  

Which has the form of the standard diffusion equation:

r / t  =  D Ñ 2 r   

Where D denotes the diffusion coefficient, in this case:

D  =  1/ m 0 s   

This has dimensions of (length) 2 divided by time. In effect, a sample length scale for consideration would have:

L’ =   Ö (t/  m 0 s )

 Such that for all times t’ < < t, the magnetic field and the plasma can be considered to move as one. This defines the term frozen in.

2.       Solar Physics formulation of frozen in condition & Ampere’s Law

In solar physics the formulation is a bit more complicated and begins with re-casting Ohm’s law for current density:

E = J / s   -  (v X B)

Again, take the curl of both sides of the equation:

Ñ X E  =  Ñ X J / s   -   Ñ X (v X B)

But:  Ñ X B  =  m 0 J      so that:

JÑ X B /  m 0


Ñ X E  =   Ñ X Ñ X B /  m 0 s  -   Ñ X (v X B)

This leads to the end result:

B / t =   Ñ 2  B /  m 0 s   +   Ñ X (v X B)

Note that the first term on the right is exactly analogous to the plasma diffusion term derived in the lab plasma context. One can think of it in terms of resistive “leakage” or the diffusion of magnetic intensity across the conducting fluid.  The second term containing the velocity is a convective term and one can think of it in the solar context as the appropriate representation of the frozen in condition for magnetic field lines in solar plasma.

Whichever term becomes dominant will depend on the time and length scales and the magnitude of the magnetic Reynolds number  Âm   . If   Âm   >> 1 then diffusion can be ignored, otherwise it can’t. It is commonly expressed:

Âm  =  L VA / h

Where L is a typical length scale for a given solar environment, VA   is the Alfven velocity and h  is the magnetic diffusivity. The infinitely conducting condition applies for  h   -> 0.  This implies zero electrical resistance so if magnetic field lines aren’t cut, e.g. as shown here:

Plasma flow cutting field line

Then the field lines must be frozen into the plasma. Hence, the frozen-in condition, high magnetic Reynolds number and infinite conductivity all mean the same condition for solar plasma.

Ampere’s law in the solar context:

A more general form of Ampere’s relation is given by:  

B d  ò òS     J  dS  =  m 0  I

Where I denotes the ‘enclosed’ current,     denotes the closed line integral around the closed curve C and  ò òS  denotes the second surface integral over S enclosed by C. 

In S.I. units it then becomes:

 2p÷ B÷     =  m 0 I

So that:  ÷ B÷     =  m 0 I/  2p

Where   m 0   =   4p  x 10-7  H/M

The total current can also be expressed, in terms of the z-component of magnetic intensity;

IT  =  2 pr B z  / 0.012

Ampere’s law in its vector identity form is often written:

curl H  = J    or  curl B =  m 0 J

where ‘curl’ is a complex mathematical operation using partial derivatives for a certain coordinate system, such that for example:

curl B  =   [1/r er         ef              e z]

                    [/r        /f          / z]

                    [   Br         rBf                Bz  ]

For cylindrical coordinates, such as applicable to solar loops to a fair approximation. This can also be further simplified for one-dimensional modeling, cf.

with B = (0, Bf , Bz ) provided:    /f/ z = 0.

Then:  curl B  =  [0     - Bz /r         1/ r  //r   (rBf)]

which is the exact truncation value of the Lundvist Bessel function solution.

In solar physics situations, the force –free assumption dominates so that:

J  X  B  = 0

In general, we incorporate the “force –free” parameter (a)  into the solar version of Ampere’s law such that:

curl B  =  aB

 And since: curl B =  m 0  

Then:   a = m 0 J  / B   and  J = aB / m 0


Curl B = Ñ X B  aB  = (m 0 J  / B ) B         

This is the mathematical starting point for the treatment of an evolving force-free field.  For a potential (current-free) field a = 0 so that Ñ X B  =  0. This is the simplest case, i.e. in which no magnetic free energy is stored.

As an example, consider using the basic 1-D curl:

curl B  =  [0     - Bz /r         1/ r  /r   (rBf)]

From the preceding curl elements:

- Bz /r   = aB f       

1/r  / r (r B f  )  =   aB z     

Whence,  for variation in one quantity:

B f    = 1/a ( d B z  / dr ) 


1/r   d/dr (r B f   )  -  a B z        =   0

Now, substitute the top equation into the bottom and multiply through by (-a) to get:

1/r  d/dr (r d B z  / dr  )  +  a2 B z        =   0

which is a form of Bessel’s differential equation. If  B z  is finite on the r = 0 axis, then the solution may be written (Lundqvist, 1951)[1]

B z      =   Bo Jo (aR)         and          B f   =   Bo J1 (aR)

where Jo (aR)  is a Bessel function of zero order, and  J1 (aR) is a Bessel function of first kind, order unity. 

Note for the special case a = 0 we get what is called the current-free condition for which there is no residual free energy to be extracted.  On the other hand, for any region for which a > 0, there exists MFE to be extracted, e.g. for solar flares.


1)Take the electric field E to be in the x-direction and write out an expression for curl E.

2)For E in three dimensions (x, y, z) show that:

div curl E = 0;

3)For a particular solar active region the magnetic diffusivity is h  »     327.6 m2 /s

If the length scale is L »   10 7 m  and the Alfven speed is VA  = 103   m /s, then find the magnetic Reynolds number for the region. From this assess whether the magnetic field is frozen in or not.

4) The vector potential A is often written as: B = curl A

Write out the full mathematical form for curl A in rectangular coordinates.

5) (a) A solar loop has an estimated diameter of 1.1 x 10 9   cm. If the longitudinal magnetic field (estimated by vector magnetograph) is Bz  » 0.1 T, estimate the total current.

(b) A steady current I flows through a hollow cylinder of radius a  and is uniformly distributed around the tube. Let r be the distance from the axis of symmetry of the tube to a given point.

Find the magnitude of the magnetic field B at a point inside the tube.  What is the magnitude of the magnetic field B, at a point outside the tube?

6) For the problem 5(a), using the same quantities, estimate the force free parameter, a.  Typical solar values of  a associated with coronal loops are of magnitude »  10 -10 m –1.   How does the value you obtained compare?

[1] S. Lundqvist, Physical Review, Vol. 83, p. 307, 1951.