Episode 428 Our Future

Paul Werbos is a “founding father” of artificial intelligence. His friend Jerome Glenn is head of the Millennium Project, an organization devoted to studying future global crises. Glenn describes the plans of UN Secretary General Guterres to revise the UN and make it oriented toward futurology. Guterres would like to transform the Trusteeship Council into a body representing multilateral stakeholders, which might include nations, business corporations, and unions, among other global entities. Werbos is more concerned about the possibility of a collapsed internet, for crucial information is not getting to the decision-makers who need it. For the video, audio podcast, transcript, and comments: https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-428-our-future/. After watching, scroll down and share your own thoughts about these issues.


  • Paul Werbos
  • Jerome Glenn


people, world, IEEE, probabilities, Jerry, humans, system, blind spots, organizing, technology, extinction, Paul, implement, future, foresight, John von Neumann, cyber war, threats, talking, problems


Metta Spencer, Jerome Glenn, Paul Werbos


In this conversation between Metta Spencer, Jerome Glenn, and Paul Werbos, they discuss various topics related to the future and the United Nations (UN). Jerome Glenn is the head of the Millennium Project, a group that focuses on anticipating future issues and problems. Paul Werbos is a mathematician known for his work in artificial intelligence.

Jerome Glenn talks about the UN’s new report called “Our Common Agenda,” which emphasizes foresight and future-oriented thinking. He highlights five future-oriented elements in the report, including the repurposing of the Trusteeship Council as a multi-stakeholder foresight body. The idea is to have a diverse group of stakeholders, such as governments, businesses, universities, NGOs, and individuals, working together to anticipate future possibilities for the world.

They discuss the need for a general assembly on the general future, which has never been done before. This assembly would focus on where the world is heading and provide a platform for discussing strategic threats and unknowns that require further research. The report also proposes the establishment of a futures lab, an envoy for future generations, and addresses the issue of UN reform, including the idea of a Parliamentary Assembly that represents individual human beings rather than nation-states.

The conversation touches on the World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA), which is the closest thing to a People’s Assembly in the current UN structure. However, Metta Spencer expresses the need for a different kind of world parliament that goes beyond nation-states and borders. Paul Werbos suggests that new global problems, such as climate change and cybersecurity, require higher levels of information processing and intelligence, and cites IEEE (formerly the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers) as an example of a large global organization that brings together experts from different fields.

Overall, the discussion revolves around the UN’s efforts to address future challenges, promote foresight, and involve diverse stakeholders in decision-making processes. The conversation also touches on the need for new structures and approaches to tackle global issues effectively.

Paul Werbos expresses concerns about two existential threats: climate extinction and the potential disruption of the internet. He believes that the scientific evidence supporting climate change is overwhelming and that the underestimation of the problem by national leaders is worrisome. The complexity of internet-related issues, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), is another area of concern for Werbos. He argues that only a few individuals truly understand the mathematics and system of AI, and many self-proclaimed experts lack a comprehensive understanding of the field.

Werbos emphasizes the importance of effective communication and integration among experts to address these challenges. He highlights the lack of coordination and fragmentation within the AI community and suggests that the most advanced AI technologies surpass the knowledge presented at conferences. He advises people to explore the Distributed Dynamic Data Analysis Systems (DDDAS) website for a more accurate understanding of the current state of AI.

The conversation touches on the vulnerability of the internet and the increasing reliance on computer algorithms and robots in various aspects of life. Werbos asserts that if the internet continues to evolve randomly, it could lead to a chaotic and potentially disastrous future. He proposes the need for an intelligent, organized, transparent, and internationally collaborative system to manage and harmonize the decision-making processes of these systems.

The discussion shifts to the role of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in addressing these challenges. Werbos acknowledges the difficulties of navigating the politics within IEEE but believes that technical societies can provide valuable input. He mentions ongoing research in Missouri and Texas related to highly intelligent decision and control systems but refrains from providing specific names.

Werbos introduces the concept of Quantum Artificial General Intelligence (QAGI) as an emerging field that combines powerful AI with quantum capabilities. He explains that this new approach is rooted in John von Neumann’s theory of games and economic decisions, which considers humans as beings with a sense of purpose. Foresight, the ability to predict and consider future possibilities, is crucial to intelligence, and its integration into decision-making processes is vital for preventing catastrophic outcomes.

Jerome Glenn adds a clarification to the concept of foresight, explaining that it does not imply absolute knowledge of the future, but rather the ability to make predictions based on available information and adjust decisions accordingly. Metta Spencer expresses her concerns about the increasing complexity of technology and the potential irrationality and collective belief systems prevalent in society.

Overall, the conversation highlights the urgent need for effective action to address climate change and mitigate the risks associated with the growing influence of AI and the internet. It stresses the importance of international collaboration, transparent decision-making systems, and foresight in managing these complex challenges.

Jerome Glenn and Paul Werbos discuss concerns about the future as well as the challenge of predicting and understanding it. They talk about thinking in terms of probabilities to navigate uncertainty as well as the role of AI in addressing blind spots and filling in knowledge gaps such as spell-checking emails or providing additional information in search results.

Concepts like cybersecurity and vulnerabilities of critical systems like the power grid and communication networks are concerning as is the lack of preparedness and the need to address cyber threats more seriously. They also mention the absence of clear rules of engagement in cyber warfare and the difficulty of defining a threshold for declaring a cyber-attack as an act of war.

Jerome Glenn mentions a proposal for the United Nations to establish an office that focuses on strategic threats to civilization, including existential threats. This office would produce periodic reports on such threats, which would require the establishment of an office dedicated to that purpose.

Paul Werbos expresses his ongoing worry about the state of the world and his daily efforts to find ways to contribute and make a positive impact. The participants acknowledge the challenge of effectively communicating complex information to the public and express a desire to make these issues clearer and more accessible to a wider audience.

When asked about the top priorities for addressing existential threats, Paul Werbos mentions climate change and the internet as two major concerns. He highlights the need for a comprehensive plan to address internet security and a re-evaluation of how the internet is organized. Additionally, he mentions the potential risks associated with the misuse of biotechnology and nuclear technology.

Overall, the conversation reflects a sense of urgency regarding the need to address critical global issues and the importance of proactive measures to mitigate potential threats to civilization.


The following transcript has been machine generated using “otter.ai.” Prior to using information from the transcript, please watch the video to catch any obvious errors.

Metta Spencer  00:00

This is a machine-generated transcript that may contain errors. Do not cite it without checking for yourself by watching the video and catching any obvious errors.  Hi, I’m Metta Spencer. and today I don’t know where we’re going. Jerry Glenn is someplace out in outer space, he’s got the world behind him. And I am pretty sure that Paul Werbos is in his home in, near Washington, DC, and we’re going to, those are two guys who know each other already. and you guys are gonna get acquainted with them too, because I think this is going to be an interesting discussion about our future, the world’s future, I think we need to get on to solving that before it all happens to us, right? So Gerry Glenn, Jerome Glenn, is the head of the millennium project, which is, I don’t know how to describe it, except that it is a group of people who work on anticipating the future and, and the issues and problems that are likely to emerge as we move into the future. and he’s got a group of people working on various projects all over the world. So he will explain that to us in a bit. And Paul Werbos is a friend of his and a friend of mine by now. It’s like one of my very favorite people. Hello, Paul, how are you?

Paul Werbos  01:19

Hi Metta, I have really enjoyed our discussions.

Metta Spencer  01:24

Well, we’re gonna have another one, and Paul is a mathematician, he is, I would be so bold to say one of the, maybe the founder of the new, he didn’t know he was doing it, but the new artificial intelligence because he wrote a PhD thesis at Harvard, many years ago, which has now become the basis for new things. And so I’m, I don’t know a damn thing about artificial intelligence. But one of these days, he’s going to explain it all to me, without mathematics. And I’ve just been learning that the United Nations has produced a new report called something about an our agenda.

Jerome Glenn  02:12

Our common agenda.

Metta Spencer  02:14

Our common So Jerry, would you start at the beginning again, and explain to me what you were saying that I, I as an intelligent woman, I should know about this. and I don’t. So

Jerome Glenn  02:27

As a matter of fact, all of your listeners should know about this. So what I’d like them to do if they had a pencil and paper right next to them write down our common agenda. And then UNSG. United Nations Secretary General, that’s a the most for forward looking document that I have ever seen come out of the Secretary General’s office. And I can’t even think of a close second. If you if you get that report, you can download it and you do a into a search on it, you’ll find something like 13 to 17 references to foresight, unusual. And there’s five elements in there that are future oriented that weren’t there before. Council is trusteeship Council. Trusteeship Council, for those who don’t know, was originally set up in the UN is 1/5, or 1/6, major section of the UN major chunk, chunk of the UN, to help the transit after 45 to help the transition from colonial states to independent states, which is a massive job worldwide, and so they had a very big entity. Well, now most of that work is done. So here you have this gigantic part of the UN twiddling his thumbs.

Metta Spencer  03:51

I believe that there are just a handful of places in the world still governed by the trusteeship council. So it does look like a perfect thing that you could capture and reuse, repurpose.

Jerome Glenn  04:05

Exactly, that’s exact word the secretary uses is repurpose. And what he wants to repurpose it as, is a multi-stakeholder foresight body. Let’s unpack that, that’s a big deal. Multi stakeholder, you don’t have multi stakeholder bodies in the UN, the closest we have is the ILO because that’s governments, businesses, and labor unions. Right. But it’s not necessarily all the stakeholders, but any case that’s the closest that exists in the UN right now. Otherwise, everything else is like nation state sort of thing.

Metta Spencer  04:45

Well, there’s, there’s ECOSOC with these affiliate organizations.

Jerome Glenn  04:50

That’s different, I’m not talking about affiliates, that’s different, because you got affiliates in all parts of the UN.

Metta Spencer  04:55


Jerome Glenn  04:56

I’m not talking about that I’m talking about you sit there and you are part of the The formal game, not the one you get a carbon copy of. So the idea would be that the trusteeship Council could have governments in there, as well as businesses in there, as well as universities in there, as well as NGOs, maybe individuals in their own right. So how that gets organized, is, was discussed at the UN General Assembly just a couple of weeks ago. and they said, okay, they didn’t say no to it. What they said is, that would require a change in the UN Charter and a ratification of the General Assembly, okay. But that doesn’t, that means it’s not going to happen tomorrow morning. But, let’s take the second part of it a multistakeholder foresight body. So it’s job would be to figure out future possibilities for the world. Not just nation states figuring that out, not just universities figuring out, but a multistakeholder group for the world, that doesn’t exist anywhere. That’s a unique thing. Now how that gets done between here and there will be a lot of ups and downs all over the place, and it may never happen. But in any case, that’s one of the elements. A second element is going to have a general assembly in 2023 on the general future.believe it or not, that’s never been done. There’s been the future of climate, there’s been the future of poverty, there’s been all kinds of different, but not the general future. Where are we all going? Alright. So that’s supposedly in a couple of years, so you can get ready for that one. Another. and this is where the strategic threats come in. There’s, you’re supposed to do periodic reports, on threats to the world, including strategic threats, including the things that Paul and I have been talking about, on your show. They’re supposed to be in the report, what’s the status of that? Which includes what we don’t know, that we ought to know. and therefore, what research ought to be done to plug up those holes. Another one is called a futures lab, to be defined, it’s wide open. That’s one of the things that [when a] project has been asked to do is we may do an assessment around the world of how these things ought to be done. So we’re going to be asking futures if there was a futures Lab of the United Nations, what ought it to be? Alright, let’s define it.

Metta Spencer  07:25

That’s a fascinating question. All of these open up

Jerome Glenn  07:29

It’s a big deal.

Metta Spencer  07:30

Yeah, yeah.

Jerome Glenn  07:31

Another one is an envoy for future generations. In other words, now, again, these things how they get implemented may be different than what I’m talking about. Right? But the idea is a representative of future generations in other words like when you deliberate something, how does this affect generation 2,3,4 down the road, and that, that, that function can go to UNDP, UNESCO, the Secretariat, UN University, ILO, like how do we consider the future generations impact of what you’re doing in whatever UN activity you’re doing? That’s also new.

Metta Spencer  08:12

Now has he mentioned all of these as possible agencies or branches or compartments of the UN or are these…

Jerome Glenn  08:23

To, well to be defined okay? That’s one of the reasons I’m running a project that has been asked to look at it. But some of them are specific and some are less, like, like the UN. Transition. I keep forgetting all these. The trusteeship Council, the trusteeship Council that’s relatively precise. It’s precise about what the institutional part would be. What’s not precise is, how do you implement that? How do you figure out who the multi-stakers are? How are they how are they included?

Metta Spencer  09:01

Exactly, and how do you make it fair? Because you’re my my concern would be the, what’s going to happen is a corporation’s are gonna grab everything, you know, that’s a place where they could belong. But if you start putting corporations in there with, with, you know, churches being the other something, you know, it’s really going to interesting combinations.

Jerome Glenn  09:24

Right? So step is to say, here are changes within the UN. Now, if we agree with them as a generalization, then how do we do it for real? What do you implement? How’s it done? And that’s the next step.

Metta Spencer  09:39

Okay, well, what you haven’t said and I was expecting it, because everybody talks about that right away. When we talk about UN reform is something like a Parliamentary Assembly in which the people are the members are represented right they’re representing individual human beings, rather than state, and I think that is really crucial.

Jerome Glenn  10:06

Right, well, that was part of the original discussion of the UN in 45. and that part did not get done, and the compromise was called the World Federation of UN associations. What that is, the idea that the compromise was you, any country can create their own People’s Assembly for the UN, called a UN Association. and they have a right automatically to be part of the World Federation of UN associations. The money on projects was underneath that, by the way for a couple of years. We moved around a lot. Anyway, that’s another story for a different show. But the so the World Federation of UN association is the closest thing to the People’s Assembly. Now.

Metta Spencer  10:55

Well that’s not very close. I have better ideas.

Jerome Glenn  10:58

It’s not Yeah, it’s not very close. I understand that, and so then the question comes up, do you create a new thing in the UN? Or do you take WFUNA it’s called before the World [Fair], and somehow upgrade that? You can upgrade that probably without changing the charter. But you, but if you created a new thing within there, then you’d probably have to do the charter. and they couldn’t get agreement before. Maybe they can get agreement now, but they couldn’t get agreement before. So I would suggest that before it gets upgraded.

Metta Spencer  11:31

Say that word again. Photo?

Jerome Glenn  11:33

WFUNA, yeah, it’s a terrible abbreviation is world is the world federation. of UN associations. So as W world F WFUNA UN association, World Federation.

Metta Spencer  11:55


Jerome Glenn  11:55

Yeah between the trusteeship Council and the World Federation, we’re gonna have a hard time here. Anyway, it’s, it’s a World Federation of UN association. So just like there’s a UN Association, the United States is a UN association of France.

Metta Spencer  12:08

That doesn’t amount to much. and if we have one in Canada, with this, if there is one in Canada, and it’s just like any other NGO, you know, it doesn’t doesn’t have any, it’s not spectacular at all. I think I am not sure whether I belong or not. I think I have sort of, no big deal. No, no, a real, I think what we need is a totally different kind of world parliament. But I would, I don’t want it to be mediated by world, by nation states. That’s what I’m trying, I think what our future, the most important thing to abolish some of the main problems we have now is to find ways of organizing human beings into aggregates, but not aggregating them as nations within borders. I want to get away from borders and, and nation states, which I think are just completely irrational and they…

Jerome Glenn  13:14

They are occurring as Paul well knows, I triple E is an aggregate of people, experts around the world on certain issues, those kinds of and it has real power because it sets standards on things, you know, are you IEEE compliant, etc.

Metta Spencer  13:30

Tell me about that, Paul, because I don’t know the first thing about that.

Paul Werbos  13:34

Okay. What, what scares me, is that the new problems we’re facing, like with climate, like with the internet, like with fake news and vulnerability and cyber warfare, these problems are not the kind of problems which can be solved in the old way. We need a higher level of information processing and a higher level of intelligence. And that requires new structures. and when I try to say that there’s hope, when I tried to say the new that a new UN Office, could, in principle, say something useful about these threats of extinction to humanity. I always come back and I say, Well, I can think of a couple of examples where the human or, organizations were good enough. and they weren’t perfect but if there were a starting point, and one of the examples I give is in fact IEEE, IEEE, last I checked had more than 300 400,000 members all over the world.

Metta Spencer  14:54

We should explain what it is. IEEE is…

Paul Werbos  14:59

Yeah, it’s the World’s largest professional scientific organization. In a way, it’s big brother to some other organizations that are in the same ball park like the aerospace engineers.

Metta Spencer  15:11

But hold on it stands for International electrical engineers, or something like that?

Paul Werbos  15:19

Years ago, they decided to change. Originally, it was the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers. and then as it started taking on more and more areas, because you need scientific review, and relevance, and international collaboration in a lot of fields that require depth and understanding of the math. and so it became more than just electrical engineering. It certainly includes the Computer Society. It includes a lot of things. So they said, from now on, it’s just IEEE. That’s all it is. It doesn’t stand for anything. But I remember visiting a congressional office once representing IEEE. and one of the staffers was what in the world is IEEE? I said, well, your guy runs for office. right? Right. Okay. The person who is president of IEEE, runs for office with a constituency, about half a million, most of whom are PhDs, who won’t believe a word you say in English. And in fact, they learned English as a second language, and they won’t really believe it unless you have the math. And they doubt anything you say, and you gotta win an election all across the whole planet Earth. Would you have respect for a person who wins that kind of election? Maybe he will be worth listening to, especially if he knows all of the modern technologies, much better than any of the bullshit lobbyists who are knocking on your door every day. So the president of IEEE has often had good meetings with presidents of nations that wanted economic development. I said gee how can we get economic development, we need technology, where’s the biggest honest player in technology, not somebody tried to sell us his gummy bears, but trying to really encompass the whole thing, and the President of IEEE has had many meetings based on that.

Metta Spencer  17:15

You see, I’m learning things every every minute this morning. Thank you for that. I didn’t know any of that. I assumed it really had something to do with electrical engineers.

Jerome Glenn  17:27

Well, yeah, but but more. Paul I got you, Paul and I can have a private conversation here with other people listening in. Last week, that there the some strategy group of IEEE has got to put together a report on 2050 for the board of directors meeting of IEEE. So they made a mistake and gave me a call. One of the things I told them on the record, it was recorded, so I sort of like, I don’t usually shake my finger, but I got close to shaking my finger and I said, You guys have got to put together the standards for proper initial conditions of artificial general intelligence doesn’t exist, it’s gonna take a long time. It’s a very terribly, almost impossibly complex thing. But you the triple IEEE, you’ve got to do it. So I want you to put that in their report to 20. Because they’re going out to 2050. Alright. So what are the things that they got to tell the board? So so we’ll see if it’s in there? My guess is it is because enough heads seemed to not up and down?

Paul Werbos  18:35

Yeah. So what are the areas that worries me is that some of the existential threats seem easy to understand, to me, at least with a decent scientific background, and others are very hard. Jerry knows very well, the two that I worry about all the time, are death by climate extinction, and death by the Internet getting screwed up in 100 ways. For climate extinction, what we now know in the real science is totally overwhelming. and clear and simple. I think a kid should understand it, and the fact that national leaders are under estimating the problem even now, and doing things that have no relation to solving the problem, even now, if we can’t get something that’s simple right. If we can’t get the right information to the right place, just to stay alive. I worry a lot. I have to say that the internet problems are much more complicated, and there are only a few of us on the earth who understand that math in that system. And if you understand the math in the system, you look at what people are proposing, and these people who are pretending to be experts who don’t know what’s going on. It really is scary, and I talk to a lot of those experts, I’m in touch with the well known experts on artificial intelligence. Jerry will immediately think of a few names because he’s set up some of these conversations. And what I tell them is, before you believe what you read about artificial intelligence, there’s at least a website, you should go to DDDAS.org. and they have videos of the last conference, last few months. I know the woman who organized it, my wife helped her organize it. And when you look at the leading experts actually implementing artificial intelligence in all sectors of the world, they’re all represented pretty much in this meeting DDDAS you’ll discover, cacophony, you’ll discover a fragmentation where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. You’ll see a world class expert sighted on television, who said no one will ever be able to do X. And then right after him, let me demonstrate X for you, we did it two years ago, okay. There’s a total lack of communication, there’s a lack of integration, and the most advanced technology coming down the pike on AI is actually way beyond anything they know in that conference.

Jerome Glenn  21:20

And this is why I wanted the IEEE Board to take this on.

Paul Werbos  21:24

So it’s an interesting question, the politics of IEEE are very hard. Because the technical societies provide a lot of the input, the people doing the work in the technical societies have incredible knowledge, and if you talk to them directly, you can learn a lot as I have just this past year. I’ve learned things about climate from these people that the world doesn’t know. However, when you get to the far edges of the AI, and you go up the hierarchies to headquarters and the people interface with politicians. There are a lot of people who are professional interfaces, who don’t always know what’s in the society. It’s hard. I mean, you manage half a million people, no matter how good you are, there are challenges.

Metta Spencer  22:12

Okay, Paul is it, that there’s one place one, say algorithm that they’ve got wrong. and if they fix the math on that one thing, all the other problems will solve it themselves? Or, is it more like my vision of the problem, which is that, and it’s maybe has nothing to do with what you’re talking about. But my problem with the internet is? Well, for example, last summer, I spent the whole summer struggling with a computer and calling apple and they would spend seven hours a day with me with their senior advisors trying to figure out my problems. And it went on all summer, and finally threw the computer away and got a new one. That was the only answer. But every so often, I’ll get it and much more frequently nowadays, I’ll get to a point where there’s a, there’s a problem, I don’t know how to solve and my assistant can’t solve it. So we call some experts, and it turns out, they can’t solve it either. But nobody can solve it. and everything is just so complicated. That you know, it’s like they say about marriage, you know, your spouse, you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them kind of thing. I’m dependent on my computer, but I it’s getting harder and harder all the time. So that and this is not one thing, it’s it’s that everything is harder and more complicated. and the whole system seems to me, it could explode at any time. It seems so vulnerable.

Paul Werbos  23:59

Yeah it could, it could. That’s the bottom line. It really could. Just a couple of years ago, we passed a point where depending on how you define what a robot is, there were more robots than there were humans. That changed like by a factor of five or 10 in just a couple of years, from a world of humans to a world of robots. We are right now living in a world of robots. There are more decision make made made by computer algorithms and chips that there are by humans, and the system that controls the actions of all of these robots, is basically going to run the world. So you ask what’s a new way to run the world? I immediately say I agree with you, we will have a new order whether we like it or not. These computer systems are controlling all the damn robots, all the physical plants of the entire world, from factories to pacemakers in your body, everything and the real issue is, will the New World Order include a new design for how to manage and balance and harmonize all of these decision making systems. Because if we just let the internet evolve randomly, I promise you, it’s going to be like being run by metal cockroaches. There was a plan we were working on with NASA on how to automate the moon, and it turns out that you could end up with a whole damn planet run by these metal cockroaches, which would go out of control, we could predict. And we don’t want that to happen to Earth, and the only way you can prevent it is have an intelligent, organized, consistent system, which is international, open and transparent, and based on solid decision principles. So I would say, in a sense, you there is a number one program.  And that would be the next generation of very highly intelligent decision and control systems to be implemented as an international system where everybody gets to work with it and the rules are clear.

Jerome Glenn  26:05

Right, and that’s why I say that’s got to be IEEE. Where else, where else should that be done?

Paul Werbos  26:10

That’s a good question. You know, the prototypes, I’ve been talking to two technical places, where they actually begin to maybe understand the prototypes maybe. And, and the two places that look closest to that. One is in Missouri, and one is in Texas. But I don’t know what to expect tomorrow, tomorrow might be a good day, it might be a bad day, I don’t know, is the world gonna blow up? Or

Jerome Glenn  26:38

What are those two you’re talking about?

Paul Werbos  26:39

They would probably be nervous. If I name names, we’re talking about leading real scientists who don’t like to run in front of newspapers. But the term I like to use is when you’ve seen, I have a new paper out that sort of gives a global overview. And I call it Quantum Artificial General Intelligence. and I have a paper out there, I don’t know if it’s even made it to Google Scholar yet. I have a paper out there in this Elsevier journal, which is, of course, I paid open access. On the pathway to Quantum Artificial General Intelligence, extending the best soft computing, to give you Quantum Artificial General Intelligence, it starts with, you know, Jerry is rightly skeptical of the AlphaGo technology of Deep Mind, and that technology excited a lot of people because it did what people thought was impossible. It beat humans in the strategic game of Go. And I know the guy who actually started them off on that path. But the system he was trying to sell them was sort of the baby version of what we call reinforcement learning and approximate dynamic programming, RLADP, learning to optimize over time, he used the baby version. In engineering today, we have much more powerful systems already working. And in China, in 2014, they started a big new research program to implement a roadmap that goes all the way up to the mammal brain level of intelligence. and that roadmap has been published in archives and there’s lots of work filling it in. But beyond that, is this new roadmap, we can add quantum capabilities to it, and they just changed the world. and that’s kind of what we’ve been working on a lot lately.

Metta Spencer  28:41

Can you elaborate at all so that I can get a feel for what you’re doing?

Paul Werbos  28:48

Okay. So how do we begin with that, a goals values. This whole new stream, the powerful artificial intelligence that really works. We can trace it back a lot to the work of the great mathematician John von Neumann. When we were going to go to some kind of interfaith communication session, I said, I’m gonna go there. It’s held in the local mosque, and my wife said, they’re not going to let you in that mosque. Why? You’re not one of the people in the book. I said, Well, we have many books, but no, that isn’t what, but do you have a book? And I said, yeah, my book would be John von Neumann theory of games and economic decisions, and there are a lot of ideas in that book. But his book was just a new mathematical way of implementing ideas that go back to Aristotle. And Aristotle said the same people try to maximize their happiness they have an inborn sense of telos or purpose. We are not just random robots that do randomly what we’re programmed to do, we have a system of purpose, and our lives or our whole mind, is dedicated to following through on our purpose, and understanding our purpose. and what is our telos. The old AI people wouldn’t do much of that, and it was considered heresy. And I said, dammit, I can do it. and I know the math, and it works, and it fits the brain. So what this new mathematics and design is all about is computer systems, which follow through and implement this idea from von Neumann, that we are creatures who are kind of born with a sense of purpose, and Jerry will love this. We, not only can we express our purpose in metric terms, we call it a utility function. We are born, we are evolved to maximize our purpose over time, and foresight is half of any real brain, any real intelligence system, any real intelligent system, at least half of it is devoted to foresight. And when you apply this to the human brain, some of us have learned how human brains really work to generate intelligence. We’ve looked at empirical data comparing this theory with the older theories of neuroscience. The empirical data are clearer, the new theory fits the data better on all the variables we tested. and the new theory says that, yeah, about 55% of the human brain is a thing called a neocortex,and the number one function is to learn how to predict the future. It’s a foresight machine, it’s also an option generation machine. And that those are the two functions of that make the mammal brain more powerful than the other brains on this planet. So foresight is critical to real intelligence, and if we don’t have foresight in our governments and our decision making, they will be stupid, and they will do stupid things, and they may kill all life on Earth, and that’s the way we are, we need to inject a higher level of foresight. Right, right, in the very foundations of everything we do. Because how can you make the future better if you don’t consider the possibilities for what it might be, and what the connections are between what you do and what your future will be?

Jerome Glenn  32:29

So right now, let me make one little caveat on that. I agree with everything but one part could be misunderstood. On foresight, and the brain’s predicting, it doesn’t mean it knows the future, it’s knows the future. Like if I’m driving down a road in a traffic jam. If I go to the left, I predict X will happen. That doesn’t mean x will happen. That means if I go down that road, x will happen. I predicted that. But I might say that’s a bad decision. I’m going to look at the alternative over here and say, Ah, I get through the road faster, and I predict that if I take a right turn, instead of a left turn, I’ll get there faster. So I didn’t know the future because the decision was still in there somewhere. So when Paul says predict, it predicts if you do this, you get that you predict this, if you do that, it’s not saying we know the future.

Metta Spencer  33:23

I’m glad you said that, that really helps. Because I I’ve been troubled by the notion that somehow we’ve got to get a crystal ball, you know, and I don’t have any crystal balls. And you don’t let me try out something else is bothering me is possible that people are crazier now than they used to be. I’m, I’m seriously concerned that okay, I’m 90 years old, and I don’t remember as many people when I was young, who were unable to reason rationally and, and behave accordingly. I think, I think there is more if you want to say mental illness, some of it is brain dead, you know, physiological brain damage or something, or people with you know, some God knows what kind of source of mental illness has. But some of it is ideological and some of it is just something like a group dynamics where people you know, want to agree with each other and, and they have social pressure on them to not say or think or believe certain things and so they come to, they come up with a collective belief system, that is, is patently unreasonable and unrealistic.

Jerome Glenn  34:59

Remember that your judgment has evolved over a lifetime. You know, your, your, your judgment and your criteria for what’s rational is evolved in a lifetime. But let’s extend this over the, over humanity. Talk about people walking in lockstep, the majority of people believed their religion said Zeus was a god. I mean, if you take a look at it, the organizing principle of society was a set of beliefs of religion. Now, we got organizing principle that the ideology that governments think they’re there that that thing, and it’s pretty soon that the Apple versus a non Apple is another. So we’ve had these, we’ve had these evolutions through time, I’m of the opinion that we are much more critically thinking, even though what is the press tell you? The stupidity, what is it if if 100 things happen today, and one of them was absolutely stupid, and horrible treatment of humans? What’s going to be reported today? That, if that’s and it’s a normal thing, it’s just like, you walk down the street, you hit your toe, you go ouch, your whole awareness is on that toe, but, your digestion is still doing fine, your heartbeat is still doing fine, your eyesight is still doing fine, but your toe hurts, and the only thing your consciousness is aware of is pain. So we now have electronic nervous systems that a whole planet so that we all know about the pain wherever it is in a world, which then fills our awareness thinking that that’s the only thing going on. So that’s exhibit A, Exhibit B, you have this problem of the internet, reinforcing your own views. I mean, I, that’s a serious problem. That’s it. But that’s a separate one. But that that reinforces so you create, creating your silos and so forth. But I have had over three to 400 interns over 25 or 30 years, and I have noticed a trend, and one of the trends of all those generations going through my little old outfit here is that there’s increasingly sense that I am not going to act in this world in less it’s in a situation to improve humanity in general. That was not so much the thing 25 years ago, how do I get a degree to fit in? That’s shifted. I just want to add that in there is yes, there’s a lot of things to criticize about human reasoning and logic and all that sort of stuff. I agree. But I think that humans in the past were much more in lockstep with with their religious beliefs.

Metta Spencer  37:38

Well, I don’t know, I won’t press the point. But it is a fresh point for me, because I spent last night trying to communicate with people in Russia, I have on Facebook, a list of maybe 30 Russian friends, some of them I know, well, some of them, I don’t. Some of them, most of my friends tend to be people with very, you know, democratic values and so on. At least they used to be, and when I started putting things on the Facebook postings and sending it well, I made one post that I sent to a bunch of people, and or several. And the reaction varied all over the map from people who were very appreciative, and recognize what I was saying. And I was simply reporting on for example, things think’s going on on the battlefield and in Ukraine now, which they are not allowed to know. They’re not officially being told these facts and so I reported on these simple facts. Some of them appreciated it in our we’re happy to have me share this information, and, and others just completely flipped out and were angry and obviously very afraid. Because, you know, they say that if somebody catches this on their Facebook, they could go to jail for 15 years, and so on. So, but the thing is that some of the delusions that my same friends or used to be same friends exhibit now are really extraordinary. I mean, real delusions, and, and I, and I think well, you know, it’s not just Russia for heaven’s sake. I mean, 40% of the US population votes for Trump. That’s a clear evidence that something is really wrong, because this is such an obvious you know, case of and they believe that the the election was stolen and things like that, that, that believing these things in the in the absence of any corroborating evidence is pathological, and yet it’s such a large percentage of the population that it will win the day very often in a in any kind of political decision.

Jerome Glenn  37:38


Paul Werbos  37:38

So I’d like to come back to what you were saying before, that you’re worried about is the world going crazier, isn’t it? and how can we know anything about the future? Put those two things together, you’d say, do we know whether the world is going crazy or not? And if so, why and what affects it. And I have to say, I’ve had a lot of those same concerns that you guys have more than you might imagine, from just a half an hour of this. I did feel a duty to say with John von Neumann is, perhaps his most famous follower is a guy named Howard Raiffa, who developed a thing called decision tree analysis used in industry all over the world, started out being used in the oil industry, could he he could tell you how to drill rationally, based on probabilities. and the essence of his book is that we are living a life of probabilities. Life is a game of probabilities. So if you say we don’t know the future with a definite crystal ball, John von Neumann would say, I spent my whole damn life trying to teach people how to think in terms of probabilities, and Jerry would say, well, they’re also alternate scenarios. and that’s one way of approaching probabilities. And the core of our new mathematics. You can’t get a system to control an airplane effectively if you don’t account for probabilities. That’s how you you would crash if you didn’t account for uncertain things perturbing you. So this is a core thing, but humans sanity, it’s the kind of uncertainty which is more than just throwing the dice. It’s a lot about there are some really deep issues about how do human cultures work, and how do they interact? I’ve also had a lot of contact with people connected to Russia. Jerry knows that this is an understood well, I’ve married a Russian for God’s sake. So, and we spent some time over there and got to know how people think and what the diversities are, and I think it’s safe to say that the whole planet has problems of sanity and rationality and paying attention to the future. And the number one thing I try to remember about that, like when I worry about what’s happening in the Ukraine, I come back to what did this guy Jesus say, first of all, work on the splinter in your brother’s eye, but look to your own eye? Where do you have blind spots? Where are you missing things, and we are missing things in the United States the same way they are in Russia the same way they are in China. And we have to learn to work on our own blind spots somehow, and this new computer technology actually could help us overcome our own blind spots, which are very serious.

Metta Spencer  43:17

Okay, that is encouraging. Except I don’t understand a word of it. How could…

Jerome Glenn  43:25

Let me try, let me try another way.

Metta Spencer  43:26


Jerome Glenn  43:26

Let me try another way, when we drive a car, we have what’s called a blind spot, and that’s exactly where you want to see that whether there’s a car there, or when you move into a lane, which is a shame that we have a blind spot exactly where we need to see so we don’t crash into a car, and as we change lanes. Okay, now, along comes AI and sensors. and you can have 360 degrees. So the robot car, one of the reasons the robot cars are theoretically safer than humans, is that unlike a human, it can look in all directions simultaneously. We can’t do that. Now, that doesn’t mean that AI is always a good deal. But it means that it can fill in literally for the blind spots. It can then, like for example, we can get like if I mistype, a spelling in an email, it’ll prompt me to say, hey, you misspelled so AI might be able to help us find those blind spots. If we’re saying, here’s the situation. and if the AI can take much more data in that I can possibly take in and saying, Hey, Jerry, you forgot about A, B and C.  I go well, you know, I that’s absolutely right. I did forget about A, B and C. So that’s another way of looking at it, and that’s not exactly going into the probability part. Unless he comes back and saying look, there’s a 20% chance of A there’s a 60% chance of a and B, but there’s a 90% chance to C so you better pay attention to C first.

Metta Spencer  45:04

How close are we to having something that I can plug into as an app on my computer that will do that for me?

Jerome Glenn  45:12

You do that right now when you Google.

Paul Werbos  45:18

We have a lot of work…

Jerome Glenn  45:19

Like, when you, when you type in, like the UN Secretary General, our common agenda boom, you’re gonna get something that you didn’t know, it’ll fill in the blind spot on UN change. It’d be simplified on this.

Paul Werbos  45:32

Yeah, one of the first things we can do with the new technology, really simple and Mickey Mouse. But we got to start with tying our shoelaces before we can start, you know, planning our vast voyages. One of the areas where we really need to tie our shoelaces is with this whole business called cyber warfare and cyber security. And I was relieved and excited when When Joe Biden just the other day, finally got together meetings of industry and say, hey, you know, the real problem that’s causing us trouble in Ukraine, a lot of it, is we don’t know what to do about cybersecurity. And by the way, we’re vulnerable. And I was so happy he said that, because I’ve been fighting PR propagandists saying, don’t worry about it, we’re not vulnerable. We’re the leaders of the world, nobody can touch us, we just want to hurt other people. But we don’t need to strengthen the US power grid. Well, it turns out, we do but they’ve been repressing the information, and now Biden is saying we got to do something, I was excited. But then I read the details of who they empowered to try to sell their goodies to these poor electric power companies. and they didn’t even mention that solid technologies, which really could make our power grid safer. And I’m amazed that we don’t start deploying the first of the two, there are technologies for unbreakable control systems. I guess I could define it in technical terms, I don’t know if you want to hear the words. Sometimes I say it’s that, that rainbow book technology. And it’s good enough, and it was good enough, 20 years ago, we could have hardened our power grid. But then there’s also a need for the new quantum technology, because people are doing things with your, with your chips, and your hardware, and you need to guard against that. But those two things backdoors in your software, and in your hardware, are creating most of the vulnerability, which is really threatening us short term, and threatens our currency. Because all of these cyber currencies are vulnerable to hacking, not just the power grid, our communication system, we are so damn vulnerable, and we’re not doing anything about it. Because the people who need to know are not learning the best technology we had last year, let alone the new stuff.

Jerome Glenn  47:59

And in parallel to that. and in parallel to that. We don’t have any rules of the road for engagement, of cyber warfare. How much destruction for example, if some of those if Poland, or the United States is either affected by intention or by accident, by mistake, but let’s say that power grid gets taken down, or or the water system gets taken down? How much cyber damage has to be done to a NATO country to declare Article Five, ie the whole NATO says, Alright, we are at cyber war. What’s the line to be crossed? We don’t know.

Metta Spencer  48:48

You know, if we got there, what would it look like anyway? I mean, that’s if NATO is preparing for a cyber war. How are they organizing that? I don’t really think about how they’re doing that.

Jerome Glenn  49:02

Well first of all, it ought to be damn classified and I shouldn’t know. But, but there’s a lot of different things that you can do. You can bring well, just like as your, well, I don’t want to get there’s a lot of different things you can do. Like for example, you can you can do a crate we call honeypots you’re sucking in your opponent, so they’re going the wrong direction. And then then you also then striking back, but the question is, one of the question for me is there’s not an easy answers. What is a definition of cyber attack that is sufficient to go to war?  And I would say, if you’re bringing down the electric systems and the water systems and your financial systems, that’s war. Now, I suspect that China is trying to tell Russia don’t go too far. Because we don’t know where the Americans have the line. Because they don’t know where the line is either. I’m hoping that China can sort of talk some rationality into Putin. But I can, I would say is talking about probabilities, I would say it’s very probable that even if a limited cyber war against Ukraine occurs, there would be leakage into other systems

Metta Spencer  50:29

But they are already doing it that apparently, of banks and things have been hit. I know, we haven’t been reading too much about it, sorry.

Jerome Glenn  50:36

To my, to my knowledge, we haven’t brought that that, hasn’t leaked out into Poland, or Hungary, or Romania, or the United States, or France or Germany, to knock down any systems. There’s cyber attacks going on all the time. It’s a matter of fact, if your listeners do a Google search, on a visual map of cyberattacks, they are going on all the time. But those are not enough to cause enough damage at the moment other than espionage to go to war. We’re, we’re snuggling up to that the moment. So I would say it’s possible. That’s why, that’s why at least, it was smart for, for Biden to start the conversation. and to get into the news saying, hey, we could have a cyber war, and it can affect you. That’s a useful conversation to begin fast.

Metta Spencer  51:20

I’m actually rather surprised that I don’t know whether to use the word cyber war, but that a major attack has not already occurred, you know, such that you and I would feel it, not being able to check our bank account and see, you know, how much money we have, for example, or…

Jerome Glenn  51:51

Began, their their telephone services went down for at least three days. I don’t know if they ever came back up. But the first few days, telephone in Romania was knocked out. That didn’t go and I didn’t see that in the news. But I mean, I consider her a reliable source.

Metta Spencer  52:07

I don’t think anybody in North America has felt felt any personal threat yet. But you know, when I won’t be able to make a phone call, or check my bank balance, or turn on my cooking stove? I will. I will be much more aware of it. Okay, well, look, you still haven’t told me about one thing. and that is your original proposal to, that the UN have an office of extinction or something, prediction?

Jerome Glenn  52:44

Yeah, right. That’s one of the things I didn’t get that’s on a list that so one of one of the five elements is a periodic report on strategic threats to civilization that includes existential strategic threats. So they’ll do the disastrous stuff, but also the extinction sets, so to write that report, they’re going to have to have an office. So in other words, by inference, our proposal will be implemented. and if and if Paul fills out our real time, Delphi and puts in there put in a UN Office of Strategic threats, well, then it gets in the report.

Paul Werbos  53:19

Every day. I worry about are we all going to live or die at the rate we’re going? And every day I try to figure out, Is there something I could do a little bit better than what I’ve been doing? And I can’t say I see an easy, clear pathway. I just keep trying each day to figure out okay, but, but it’s not easy, because the information that we need to act on, it’s just not getting to the people who are making the decisions.

Jerome Glenn  53:51

And we got to keep working hard ourselves going back to pointing at ourselves. How do we make this stuff clear, simple. and to the point?

Paul Werbos  53:59

No, that’s definitely a major part of it. and my skills are not with communicating to the public. I do what I can. But let’s face it, that’s not what I spend my life learning to be good at. So I’m hoping I can work with Jerry and he can fill in this gap.

Metta Spencer  54:15

Well, let’s say you are the two guys in charge of this new office of extinction. What are the extinctions that you are foreseeing? And what are you urging us top priority because of probability to do about it? You have about two minutes in which to save the world.

Paul Werbos  54:41

IEEE asked me to organize a book connecting the people who really know the material and putting the stories together. And two of them were people who appear on your show and I owe you thanks Metta for introducing me to them. But the bottom line is I have a list of four things I worry about the most. And the two on top are the climate extinction and the internet thing, and we have a detailed plan on how do you do the internet, right with a new organizing system. And that’s not a two minute job. It takes a lot of work. and climate seems pretty simple to me. But it seems to be over the heads of most of these people. and they got all these ideological barriers. and then after that, there’s misuse of biotech and misuse of nuclear tech, which could kill us all anyway.

Jerome Glenn  55:32

That’s right. Yeah, I was just updating the state of the future today. We’re getting work on it. and one of the sentences I just put in there is although nuclear brinkmanship has reentered geopolitics, comma, the majority of people are living in peace. And it’s the first time this is first time that nuclear brinkmanship. Like my interns have lived their whole lifetime without nuclear brinkmanship. They don’t they’re not in their bones. Yeah. No, but we’re now getting walking back into into nuclear brinkmanship.

Paul Werbos  56:08

I was always worried.

Metta Spencer  56:10

Well, I mean, that’s why I spent my last 35 years worrying about most, you know.  I spent a lot of time on nuclear weapons. Not that I’ve been able to make the slightest dent in the issue. But, but I certainly take it seriously but nobody else has, and what I’m wondering is, what does this do now that Putin is waving these things around and threatening us with them? And does it affect public opinion?

Jerome Glenn  56:37

Well, we’ll see it, it certainly should.

Metta Spencer  56:41


Jerome Glenn  56:41

It certainly should.

Metta Spencer  56:42

Unfortunately, it also there’s, he’s demonstrating that nuclear weapons are really excellent deterrents, because he’s managed to deter the US, US is not going to go in and help Ukraine with fighting for them. And the Ukrainians, if if they had kept the nuclear weapons, or even created a new arsenal of their own after they sent them home to Russia at the end of the Cold War, they he wouldn’t be doing that to them. So he’s proving that deterrence works fine. Thank you very much, which is not exactly the message that we want to hear. Is he’s also proving that yes, maybe this is something we should take seriously. The question is, which message is going to get through with the most impact? Are people going to say, I guess we ought to be afraid of these things, after all, or, well, maybe we should get some more nuclear weapons of our own, because we want to make sure that we are protected against anybody who might become our enemies in the future.

Paul Werbos  56:44

In my summary, for IEEE, I not only list four threats, I also say there’s a hope element with human potential, and it’s hard to talk about the highest hope and human potential, because there’s so many different views out there, because it’s not trivial. But if I were totally free, I’d certainly put as much energy on that positive side getting beyond the limits of human development that people now tend to believe it. But we would have to reconcile science and spirit, and that’s a big challenge.

Metta Spencer  58:25

Thank you very much. This has been bracing. I hope it’s got your energies going for the day. Okay. Carry on, fellas. Nice to see you. Thanks.

Paul Werbos  58:36


Jerome Glenn  58:37

Bye, bye.

Metta Spencer  58:41

Project save the world produces one of these shows three days a week and sometimes more. This is episode 428. You can watch them or listen to them as audio podcasts on our website tosavetheworld.ca. Eventually, we even post the transcripts there. When you get to the website, look around, because we have conversations going on there all the time, about six global issues, plus potential reforms and governance, economics and civil society. To find a particular talk show. Enter its title or episode number in the search bar with the name of one of the guest speakers. After you’ve watched or listened. Scroll down and share your thoughts about the show with the other viewers. This is a place for dialogue. So please join in. See you there.




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