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Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 - 23:14 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Reading Moves

Mr. Ham: Aw lemme lemme lemme.

Me: *sighs* Fine, here.

Mr. Ham: *grabs microphone* GOP Fight Night back on air, viewers! We have the delayed airing of the MICHIGAN MELEE from last Tuesday - plenty of the usual, everybody against TRUMP, Kasich even got Schwarzenegger in his corner, and Ted Cruz sans neck brace is being backed up by the Idaho Potato. That's, like, seven on one? TRUMP's weathering the storm, he'll probably get through it, it's just going to take some time, unless something happe...


Talk about slipping oneself up, now Robot Rubio's up against TRUMP on his lonesome... ouch, that has to hurt, Little Marco's having his noggin' beaten in. Can't say he doesn't deserve that. Going by how often he's ended up a pile of dismantled parts these days, I wonder why he even bothers getting repaired. And now Carson's claiming the mike...


Gee, that's kind of clever, I suppose. Carson is embracing TRUMP now, he's praising him as a Cerebral Assassin; Triple H twitches a bit in the audience, but the King of Kings lets it go - what's a little borrowing between monarchs, anyway? Jerry "The King" Lawler can't contain himself either, he's drumming up support for the GOD-EMPEROR too - have you seen a man so regal, so well-loved? Michigan have been won over, Mississippi are all for him, heck, he's even taken Hawaii! Mahalo nui loa, he says! Onwards to Super Twosday!

The HIGH ENERGY departs with TRUMP, and we are left with the sad sight of Rubio spread all over the ring. He looks up at Kasich - they have got to unite against TRUMP... and Kasich stomps Rubio. Can't say we didn't see that coming. Will Rubio survive THE FEUD IN FLORIDA? Or is Little Marco's political career over? Tune in Tuesday, same time, same channel!

Winner Takes All

"The establishment composed of journos, BS-vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrato-cronies, lobbyists-in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent-seekers and other 'well thinking' members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments. People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment."

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, on Facebook

Two more days, and it'll be "Super Twosday" March 15, with a bunch of delegates up for grabs - and this time, second place is not going to be of much use. Of Florida (99 delegates), North Carolina (72), Illinois (69), Ohio (66), Missouri (52) and the Northern Mariana Islands (9), only North Carolina remains proportional, and many analyses have TRUMP effectively uncatchable if he takes both Florida and Ohio.

As it stands, TRUMP remains with a healthy aggregate double-digit polling lead in all the above states minus Ohio, where Kasich (the incumbent governor) is running about even. But, incredibly, this has been relegated to a footnote, given the non-stop newsflashes over the past few days.

[N.B. Previously in Millington, TN, New Orleans, LA and Wichita, KS]

To begin with, the latest GOP debate was somehow low-key, despite lingering doubts from the liberal left over TRUMP's libidinous lingam. Dare we say that TRUMP comported himself in a presidential manner... well, given that this shift was the obvious move once he got the nomination more or less tied up, we're not too surprised at his new bid to be a unifier.

And, as if to rub his unrivalled deal-making abilities in, TRUMP turned his victory speech into a late-night infomercial for TRUMP steaks (and hams?), just 'cause he could; and then, in an astonishing display of his skill at turning rivals into friends, he obtained the well-liked Carson's endorsement. Note, this is a guy he's compared to a pedo. Seriously, if half of that negotiation expertise carries over to the world stage, it's tough to argue why more TRUMP wouldn't be a good thing. Like, even the Pope's coming around to the wall thing - that's some divine aptitude for persuasion at work, people.

The media had barely gotten over Carson's coming out, and was preparing to - yuck - cover some of the other candidates, when TRUMP reclaimed all the airwaves, thanks to a mob of disaffected Berniebros attacking the First Amendment right to freedom of speech with violence. Wait, isn't that what fascists do? Wasn't Commie Bernie's yuge upset in Michigan enough for them, achieved after pandering to the #blacklivesmatter crowd? Actually, probably not, but it's not as if that'll stop the Head Berniebros from rustling up yet more donations.

Not only that, the protestors were shooting themselves in their feet. While TRUMP might have been... blunt in his speech, his people hadn't actually interfered with other rallies (in some cases because, well, there's nothing much to interfere with), and being first aggressor diminishes much of what moral high ground his opponents might have held. Like him or loathe him, such protest tactics can easily overstay their welcome, and drive previously undecided citizens towards the offended.


And, it gets better. After postponing the Chicago event, the TRUMP landed to a rapturous reception in Ohio... and had his podium rushed by a self-avowed BLM Berniebro. Assuming this isn't some false-flag op, Party USSR isn't exactly going to go up in moderate and independent voters' reckoning.

All in all, this means that TRUMP has saturated the news cycle - as always - with his rivals reduced to trying to pick off each other. Rubio for one has tried to revive #NeverTrump by instructing his Ohio supporters to vote Kasich... only for Kasich to refuse to reciprocate, because Rubio is by all indications already dead in the water - which in Florida, means gators.

Although Kasich does have the consolation of not losing by some 20% in his own home state, TRUMP does have one ace up his sleeve, which he indeed played there - Kasich voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) back in 1993. Okay, it probably was the smart thing to do then, the tenor of the elections is increasingly swinging towards domestic jobs, which appears to have already bitten Romney in his home state of Michigan. As it stands, The GOP Establishment - as evidenced by the D.C. vote - stands a very real chance of being completely knocked out this Tuesday. Not many will mourn.

Now, Political Hub

If there's one trait popularly attributed to Singaporeans, it's kiasu - afraid to lose, or more generally, fall behind. Then, in view of all the excitement over TRUMP in the States, it was inevitable that somebody had to step up to keep the Lion City relevant, and we had not one, but two volunteers!

The first one was not exactly unexpected, and moreover in keeping with the whole "President" theme - with a panel slightly-suspiciously formed to review our Elected Presidency last month, with more than a few hints dropped that the qualifying requirements would be further tightened, the last edition's runner-up Dr. Tan Cheng Bock wasted little time in drumming up interest with an announcement on his intentions, which was in the affirmative.

Round Two, Fight!
(Source: tanchengbock.org)

Our Emeritus Senior Minister quickly painted the move as a "calculated political gambit", but like, duh. And frankly, wasn't the review panel one too, given that it would unilaterally shift the goalposts on the President's role? Indeed, given that Dr. Tan has directly alluded to this, one has to suppose that it was a direct challenge to the powers that be, to not deny him a fair shot at the position (like a certain American candidate, hmm)

Then again, rewriting the rules to the extent that Dr. Tan would be disqualified, would have severely damaged the integrity of the institution. The "obvious" fix, as dropped by the PM in his January comment, would be to limit qualification to ministers and CEO-equivalents overseeing hundred of millions at a minimum, which is another world-first political innovation to begin with (coincidentally, the likes of Obama, Clinton and Sanders might not have qualified if one takes the U.S. Cabinet as a minister-equivalent, while TRUMP would probably have) - this is patently limiting candidates to an "inner circle" in practice, and it is easy to understand the cynicism against it.

Plus, Dr. Tan had served with distinction as a Member of Parliament and as a medical doctor for many years, and if he still doesn't qualify to run, who does? So, the next excuse - minority representation, as already exploited for GRCs. Honestly, this is a crock, given that we have had a non-Chinese president near 63% of the time, despite Chinese making up about 75% of the population; even if ethnicity is an issue in getting elected - which I personally think is way overblown by the incumbents - I don't think there should be any hurry in enforcing the matter at this particular point in time.

So, the dilemma - if the incumbents twist the rules enough to disqualify Dr. Tan Cheng Bock, it will reflect very badly on them, and moreover sets standards that will be near-impossible to live up to. However, if Dr. Tan Cheng Bock is allowed to run, and he unseats their current representative, then sibei malu leh, how ah? Worse, given that their latest guy has only served a single term, the retirement ploy wouldn't even be convincing. Surely they can't get away with just declaring, sorry ah, next head of state has to be Malay, try again next time? But then, this is Singaporean politics, so you never know...

That covers one angle, but leaves TRUMP's, ahem, ponderous python uncountered, but have no fear! Another honourable citizen has that (un)covered! The MP of Bukit Batok SMC evidently rose to the occasion, 因为美国人庞大, 新加坡龙的传人又怎么能小呢? Taking one for the team, our doubtlessly well-endowed member revisited the Palmer affair, allowing locals to join in the election fun. No less than Dr. Chee has indicated his interest in the ward, with another upstanding fellow eager to match his previous generous donation to the nation. It's swell to see everybody getting into the spirit of things!

But really, the incumbents should consider transferring the functions of the Social Development Network to the People's Association, lah; it certainly seems more effective at the job.

And oh, by the way, we sprung for Hillary. And censored Obama, for what it's worth.

Gone Go

As I write this, Google DeepMind's AlphaGo has defeated Go legend Lee Sedol in their best-of-five match, although Lee has just managed to pull one back in the fourth game, proving that AlphaGo is not solidly superhuman yet after all (while possibly causing late Bitcoin bettors to tear their hair out)

What can I say... firstly, watching the excellent live commentary - including purported mistakes - makes it easy to feel like an expert oneself, but just to get this straight: Lee Sedol has won eighteen international titles, and is undoubtedly a stronger player than almost every other human on the planet, and that includes all commentators. While certain local plays may be standard enough, it is doubtful as to whether they manage to catch the all-important subtleties - which is why Lee Sedol is a longtime 9-dan, and they are not.

That said, the next observation is that professional Go is a game of very fine margins, arguably rather more so than say, chess. As a rule of thumb, the margin of victory between evenly-matched players has been said to be within ten stones (komi handicap excluded) of the 361 positions available, or about 53% to 47% in terms of territory - probably barely distinguishable to the untrained eye.

Further on this, it was revealed that AlphaGo was instructed to maximize its probability of winning, instead of the margin - i.e. it prefers a 99% chance of winning by two stones, to a 90% chance of winning by ten - which has led some to suspect that it is unproductive to infer too much from the game state.

So, a few unsolicited opinions. The big one - how yuge of a breakthrough does this represent for artificial intelligence? Musk for one has said that it is a "ten year jump", but on the other hand, there is little particularly new about the underlying algorithms of deep neural networks and Monte Carlo tree search; not to discount what must be an extraordinary engineering feat, but as advances go, this was probably not of the "came completely out of nowhere" sort.

AlphaGo 3-0

And to Lee Sedol's credit, he has nothing to be ashamed of - AlphaGo is the crystallization of uncountable thousands of hours of machine learning theory, and enormous computing resources (though it is interesting to note that the amount of computational power isn't that critical); also, he had to operate under the handicap of facing an opponent (stone-placer) who literally wasn't even trying. It would be interesting to see how the pros perform against AlphaGo under more comfortable conditions, and with much more thinking time allowed (seriously, were the British and South Korean flags necessary?)

Then, about the "received wisdom" question, it appears that yes, AlphaGo is capable of significant originality, although the really fundamental assumptions will likely have to wait till somebody builds a new version from scratch (i.e. without a training dataset); which makes sense, if you consider that AlphaGo had essentially free rein to explore all kinds of lines, without being limited by either tradition nor stamina.

Still, this suggests that A.I. can now handle high levels of abstraction which were supposed to require "intuition", which leads me to suspect that neither larger state spaces like 29x29 boards, nor games constructed explicitly to trip up previous A.I.s like Arimaa, will pose trouble for AlphaGo's paradigm.

And as for the future of Go, I see no reason why it should be negatively impacted - chess for example remains popular despite computers utterly dominating nowadays (though interestingly, shogi computers were heavily handicapped to preserve the dignity of human pros - that's Asian face culture for you) If the experience of chess is any guide, AlphaGo and its ilk will be an invaluable aid to humans, in honing their own skills. DeepMind is moving on to Starcraft, anyhow (which, as it happens, I sort of dabbled in very naïvely a long time ago...)

Meanwhile, at Marine Parade in Smart Nation of Innovation... well, the head honchos have come up with area cleaning for everyone, in a classic example of tech transfer (please clap). And, more driving away of tech talent, possibly to the Brits. And Tesla? Too bad also. There must be something uplifting here... ah yes, we will soon have satellite-based ERP! Rejoice!

Get Inspired!

[N.B. Compare Morrowind and Oblivion]

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