The Singularity Movie
The Coming Superbrain
By JOHN MARKOFF
Published: May 23, 2009
Mountain View, Calif. — It’s summertime and the Terminator is back. A sci-fi movie thrill ride, “Terminator Salvation” comes complete with a malevolent artificial intelligence dubbed Skynet, a military R.&D. project that gained self-awareness and concluded that humans were an irritant — perhaps a bit like athlete’s foot — to be dispatched forthwith.
The notion that a self-aware computing system would emerge spontaneously from the interconnections of billions of computers and computer networks goes back in science fiction at least as far as Arthur C. Clarke’s “Dial F for Frankenstein.” A prescient short story that appeared in 1961, it foretold an ever-more-interconnected telephone network that spontaneously acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over financial, transportation and military systems.
Today, artificial intelligence, once the preserve of science fiction writers and eccentric computer prodigies, is back in fashion and getting serious attention from NASA and from Silicon Valley companies like Google as well as a new round of start-ups that are designing everything from next-generation search engines to machines that listen or that are capable of walking around in the world. A.I.’s new respectability is turning the spotlight back on the question of where the technology might be heading and, more ominously, perhaps, whether computer intelligence will surpass our own, and how quickly.
The concept of ultrasmart computers — machines with “greater than human intelligence” — was dubbed “The Singularity” in a 1993 paper by the computer scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge. He argued that the acceleration of technological progress had led to “the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth.” This thesis has long struck a chord here in Silicon Valley.
Artificial intelligence is already used to automate and replace some human functions with computer-driven machines. These machines can see and hear, respond to questions, learn, draw inferences and solve problems. But for the Singulatarians, A.I. refers to machines that will be both self-aware and superhuman in their intelligence, and capable of designing better computers and robots faster than humans can today. Such a shift, they say, would lead to a vast acceleration in technological improvements of all kinds.
The idea is not just the province of science fiction authors; a generation of computer hackers, engineers and programmers have come to believe deeply in the idea of exponential technological change as explained by Gordon Moore, a co-founder of the chip maker Intel.
In 1965, Dr. Moore first described the repeated doubling of the number transistors on silicon chips with each new technology generation, which led to an acceleration in the power of computing. Since then “Moore’s Law” — which is not a law of physics, but rather a description of the rate of industrial change — has come to personify an industry that lives on Internet time, where the Next Big Thing is always just around the corner.
Several years ago the artificial-intelligence pioneer Raymond Kurzweil took the idea one step further in his 2005 book, “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.” He sought to expand Moore’s Law to encompass more than just processing power and to simultaneously predict with great precision the arrival of post-human evolution, which he said would occur in 2045.
In Dr. Kurzweil’s telling, rapidly increasing computing power in concert with cyborg humans would then reach a point when machine intelligence not only surpassed human intelligence but took over the process of technological invention, with unpredictable consequences.
Profiled in the documentary “Transcendent Man,” which had its premier last month at the TriBeCa Film Festival, and with his own Singularity movie due later this year, Dr. Kurzweil has become a one-man marketing machine for the concept of post-humanism. He is the co-founder of Singularity University, a school supported by Google that will open in June with a grand goal — to “assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity’s grand challenges.”
Not content with the development of superhuman machines, Dr. Kurzweil envisions “uploading,” or the idea that the contents of our brain and thought processes can somehow be translated into a computing environment, making a form of immortality possible — within his lifetime.
2018 is just around the corner, is Google getting ready to be the next Dr Frankenstein ?
Progressive States Network -
New York's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, is in the midst of a two-year investigation into kickbacks paid to state political staff in exchange for the opportunity to profitably manage the investments of New York State's public pension fund. That investigation has now prompted a national effort with a multi-state task force and the Securities and Exchange Commission working together to uncover rampant pay-to-play abuses. Nationally there is over $2 trillion in US public pension assets.
Pay-to-play in the public pension fund context takes two forms - campaign contributions and direct kickbacks. The New York AG's investigation began as an investigation of kickbacks paid to key staff in the office of Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi. One former top aide of Hevesi's, Hank Morris, has been indicted on over one hundred charges related to $15 million in payments he received from money managers looking for public pension fund business. One of the "middle men" who arranged the payments has now plead guilty to securities fraud.
Regulatory Failure Leads to Predictable Problems: Beyond the charges in New York, the investigation has unveiled a wild west of unregistered "placement agents" who charge money managers to market their services to pension funds. It appears that half of these agents are not registered with the federal government as required by law. And it is this basically unregulated business that has been fertile ground for kickback schemes. The other side of the corruption that has been uncovered is garden variety campaign contribution pay to play where donors to the public officials that run the pension funds are used to gain access to fund business. In 1999 the SEC dropped plans to prohibit campaign contributions from those seeking business with a public pension fund. The proposed restriction was in response to a series of previous pay to play incidents, and observers at the time predicted more problems when the SEC backed off from implementing the rule.
Legal News Line -
Hank Morris, an advisor to former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, has been charged with soliciting kickbacks and political contributions from investment ...
Albany Times Union - May 20, 2009
The company used Hevesi friend Hank Morris or his firms as placement agents, and received $730 million in investments. As a broker and dealer, ...
GlobalCustodian.com (subscription) - May 18, 2009
Carlyle won $730 million in investment from the fund after hiring Henry 'Hank' Morris as a placement agent. At the time, Morris was chief political advisor ...
Each day we see more and more of Schumer's "BRAIN" Hank Morris and his PENSIONGATE ICEBERG
Pensions & Investments -
“In recent days, serious questions have arisen about the actions and involvement of Charles Millard … in that agency's procurement processes,” said the ...
Global Pensions -
His comments come amid allegations former head of the PBGC Charles Millard ignored the black-out period during the bidding process and had e-mail and phone ...
And it's a question that Charles Millard may have asked himself before leaving his post as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. ...
Seattle Times -
By David S. Hilzenrath J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AP Charles Millard, second from right, the former pension-fund head, invoked his Fifth Amendment right at the ...
Wall Street Journal - May 20, 2009
The former director, Charles Millard, has denied allegations that he had inappropriate contacts with several Wall Street firms that won contracts to advise ...
Financial Times - May 20, 2009
Charles Millard, former director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, was subpoenaed to testify before a Senate committee investigating the ...
CNNMoney.com - May 20, 2009
... surrounding former PBGC director Charles Millard , who may have crossed the line with communication he had with potential investment partners. ...
Boston Globe - May 20, 2009
Charles Millard, the former director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, invoked his Constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination after being ...
FOXBusiness - May 20, 2009
Charles Millard, who until January ran the agency that backs the pensions of 44 million Americans, invoked his right and refused to testify at the Senate ...
MarketWatch - May 20, 2009
Charles Millard, who until January ran the agency that backs the pensions of 44 million Americans, invoked his right and refused to testify at the Senate ...
NASDAQ - May 20, 2009
By Darrell A. Hughes, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Former director of the US Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., Charles Millard, invoked his ...
The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com - May 20, 2009
by AP WASHINGTON -- The former director of the government's pension agency invoked the Fifth Amendment on Wednesday when senators probed allegations that he ...
The Associated Press - May 20, 2009
Charles Millard (mil-LARD) denied the allegations and maintained that a more aggressive investment strategy would help close the PBGC's $33.5 billion ...
WXEL - May 20, 2009
The firms were hired under former director Charles Millard, who has been subpoenaed to testify before committee later today. The companies were sought to ...
Christian Science Monitor - May 20, 2009
But last year, the PBGC's then-director, Charles Millard, decided to embark on diversification, teaming up with “strategic partners” Goldman Sachs, ...
NASDAQ - May 19, 2009
... on the backdrop of controversy surrounding former PBGC director Charles Millard, who had improper communication with potential investment partners. ...
Herald de Paris - May 19, 2009
Given the congressional investigation into former PBGC Director Charles Millard's handling of the investment contracting, it appears likely that the new ...
Middle East North Africa Financial Network - May 15, 2009
2 pm: Former Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation Director Charles Millard invited to testify at hearing on the PBGC and the health of pension plans, ...
Financial Times - May 15, 2009
Charles Millard, former director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, was found to have called and e-mailed executives at Goldman Sachs, ...
TPM - May 15, 2009
Not long after his Social Security privatization scheme went down in flames, President Bush appointed Charles Millard the head of the Pension Benefits ...
Money Management Letter - May 15, 2009
... that its former director, Charles Millard, made inappropriate contacts with those managers before they were hired, Pensions & Investments reports. ...
TPMMuckraker - May 15, 2009
Remember Charles Millard? He's the former Bush-appointed director of the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation, and we expect to be seeing a lot more of him ...
Herald de Paris - May 15, 2009
The report asserts that the former director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Charles Millard, violated the agency's rules against offline ...
Global Pensions - May 15, 2009
A draft report by PBGC inspector general Rebecca Anne Batts claims phone records and emails reveal that former PBGC director Charles Millard had been ...
Business Insurance - May 15, 2009
Director Charles Millard to manage real estate and private equity investments for the PBGC as part of an effort to boost agency investment returns. ...
Reuters - May 14, 2009
The firms were hired under former Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Director Charles Millard to manage real estate and private equity investments for the PBGC. ...
Wall Street Journal - May 14, 2009
Director Charles Millard's relationship with Wall Street financial firms. The House Education and Labor Committee said Thursday it is evaluating "very ...
By Martin Z. Braun and Gillian Wee
May 18 (Bloomberg) -- After raising more than $1 billion for Democratic candidates, Eileen Kotecki transformed herself into a marketer for hedge funds and private-equity firms, eventually racking up more than $6.5 billion in sales.
Within weeks of wrapping up the 2000 campaign, Kotecki’s own attorneys said later in a lawsuit, she had begun “seeking to exploit” an “impressive network of contacts” gained in part from “extensive experience as a political fundraiser” to sell investment services to public pension funds and endowments.
Taking advantage of political work for private gain isn’t illegal. Yet Kotecki’s career shift from former Vice President Al Gore’s chief fundraiser into the placement-agent business illustrates how it has become the province of the well- connected, including campaign operatives, out-of-office politicians, former public pension officials and even a Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver.
“When you look at some of who the placement agents are, you say these are people who are really not in the financial business,” said Orin Kramer, who oversees pensions as head of New Jersey’s Investment Council. “These are politically connected intermediaries, and that’s not a way it ought to operate.”
Kickbacks for Access
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the SEC say they’re investigating agents and money managers who used ties to public officials and kickbacks to buy and sell access to pension funds.
Kotecki’s name hasn’t surfaced in the inquiry. She declined to comment for this story through a spokesman, Whit Clay.
Placement agents call on institutions and wealthy individuals to sell investments on behalf of hedge, private- equity and venture-capital funds. Their targets go beyond public pensions, which held $2.23 trillion at the end of 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau said. They include corporate retirement plans, foundations, insurers and endowments. Such institutions held $27.1 trillion in assets at the end of 2006, according to the New York-based Conference Board’s latest annual tally.
The Third Party Marketers Association, a trade group in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, says member firms typically employ “highly experienced investment management marketing executives.” The business also includes middlemen with political ties, including Marc Correra, son of a supporter of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; Marvin Rosen, a former Democratic National Committee finance chairman; and one-time New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall.
Indictments and civil complaints filed by regulators so far depict public officials allowing such connections and financial self-interest to trump merit when deciding who will be entrusted to invest taxpayer money. The inquiry has sparked debate over placement agents, with New York State and City and New Mexico moving to ban them as Florida and Massachusetts officials defend them.
“Just because you have bank fraud doesn’t mean all banks are crooked; it’s the same with placement agents,” said Ash Williams, who oversees $113 billion in pension funds and other investments as executive director of Florida’s State Board of Administration.
Regulators announced their first legal actions in March, and some pension officials only now are discovering their hired money managers paid fees to middlemen with connections.
$150,000 in Fees
Managers of the Los Angeles Department of Fire and Police Pensions expressed bafflement over $150,000 in fees paid to Henry “Hank” Morris -- a New York political adviser turned placement agent now under indictment -- by Quadrangle Group LLC for helping secure a $10 million investment from their fund.
“We were shocked when we heard about it,” said Allan Emkin, a Los Angles managing director at Pension Consulting Alliance Inc., the pension fund’s private-equity adviser. Emkin said his firm had no contact with Morris.
Firms that employed Correra earned more than $15 million on investments from New Mexico’s endowment and teacher-pension fund, data compiled by officials in the aftermath of Cuomo’s probe show. Correra’s father, Anthony, gave Governor Richardson’s campaign about $27,000 and served on one of his political committees.
“In most cases, we were unaware that he was getting paid,” said Greg Kulka, who oversees private-equity investments at the New Mexico State Investment Council. Marc Correra’s lawyer, Ronald L. Rubin, declined to comment.
After New Mexico agreed to invest $20 million in Carlyle Group, the Washington private-equity firm paid $150,000 to Morris’s employer, Searle & Co.
“We have no idea who the hell Hank Morris is,” Kulka said. “You have to start wondering what is going on. We recognize there’s a problem here.”
Cuomo has said he uncovered “a national network” that “victimized states and taxpayers all across the country” and shows “the inherent risks” that placement agents pose.
He said May 14 that Carlyle will pay $20 million, cease using placement agents and restrict campaign donations to resolve its alleged role in the scandal. Cuomo said New York invested about $730 million in Carlyle-related funds after the firm retained Morris, who shared in $13 million in finder fees from the deals.
Cuomo previously had announced guilty pleas from one fund manager and one agent and charges against four others: Morris, 55, who allegedly orchestrated a kickback scheme by exploiting political work he did for former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, 68; one-time state Liberal Party chief Raymond Harding, 74; Hevesi’s ex-deputy, David Loglisci, 39; and Saul Meyer, 38, a Dallas money manager for Aldus Equity Partners, which New York has also sued for unspecified losses.
Political consultant Hank Morris, with roots in Nassau County, allegedly made millions as the man to see about investments from the state pension system. ...
LOCAL ROOTS: Political consultant Hank Morris, with roots in Nassau County, allegedly made millions as the man to see about investments from the state ...
Bloomberg - May 15, 2009
Henry “Hank” Morris, 55, an adviser to former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, was charged with soliciting millions of dollars of kickbacks and ...
Bloomberg - May 15, 2009
Scrutiny of the industry intensified on March 19, when Cuomo and the SEC filed criminal and civil actions against Hank Morris, a former top political ...
Herald de Paris - May 15, 2009
The indictment alleges that New York political consultant Hank Morris and an accomplice in the state comptroller's office committed multiple fraudulent ...
Were does all this end ?
So far it seems that the main players in "PENSIONGATE" are mostly Democrats.
We are seeing more and more of the Hank Morris Iceberg, and it is not pretty.
In the end can this scandal take down the Democrats and put Republicans back into control of Congress and other State Houses and Governorships just like "WATERGATE" did only time will tell.
NO MORE SCHUMER
NO MORE PELOSI
NO MORE RANGEL
NO MORE ENGEL AND HIS MILLION DOLLAR HOME INMARYLAND
New York Times -
By LESLIE WAYNE
Published: May 14, 2009
The Carlyle Group, celebrated for its political ties as well as its global investment prowess, was eager to expand in the energy business. David M. Leuschen, a specialist in oil and energy at Goldman Sachs, wanted a partner to help him lure big investors
Together, they created the Carlyle/Riverstone energy investment fund back in 2000 and brought in billions of dollars from state pension funds.
And together, they have earned the wrath of the New York attorney general in his investigation of corruption by state officials and investment firms.
With the help of intermediaries who had political connections, Mr. Leuschen approached state pension funds in New York and elsewhere to invest in Carlyle/Riverstone.
“We may be slow, we may be old, we may be plodders,” Mr. Leuschen told New Mexico officials when making a pitch for their business in 2005, “but we think we know the right people, and this is very much a relationship business.”
He walked away with a $40 million investment from the New Mexico State Investment Council on that day, according to the minutes of the meeting.
But while scooping up such multimillion-dollar victories, he also paid millions of dollars to pension intermediaries working in New York and other states. Paying intermediaries, known as placement agents, is legal unless those fees are simply a disguised form of a bribe or a kickback.
Several people paid by Mr. Leuschen’s firm have pleaded guilty or been charged in the New York scandal in recent weeks for essentially arranging bribes. Federal securities officials have described the New York payments as part of a “fraudulent scheme to extract kickbacks.”
Bowing to the pressure, the Carlyle Group agreed on Thursday to pay $20 million and to stop paying placement fees as part of a broad settlement with Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who hopes it will serve as a template for broader reform in the industry.
Mr. Leuschen and his firm, Riverstone Holdings, have not been charged, but remain under investigation in the widening corruption scandal, which involves not only New York investigators and the Securities and Exchange Commission, but also attorneys general in dozens of states.
“Riverstone was a partner of Carlyle and most of the objectionable activities were by Riverstone,” Mr. Cuomo said during a teleconference on Thursday announcing the Carlyle settlement. “But in our opinion, Carlyle was a partner of Riverstone and therefore responsible for Riverstone, and Carlyle is taking responsibility.”
Mr. Leuschen, a fourth-generation Montanan, knew the oil and energy business and had an M.B.A. from Dartmouth. His star rose over 22 years at Goldman Sachs, where he helped advise Mobil on its $81 billion merger with Exxon and lined up other oil-rich clients before deciding to strike out on his own. With two others from Goldman, he started Riverstone Holdings.
As a practical matter, he joined forces with Carlyle, which had funds that invested in technology and the Middle East and was looking to get into energy investing. It also had a global network of deep-pocketed investors.
Just as Mr. Leuschen was teaming up with Carlyle in 2000, he got a side piece of business from a neighbor, Barrett Wissman, an entrepreneur who had a ranch next to his in Red Lodge, Mont., and who managed money for the Hunt family of Texas. Mr. Wissman put Mr. Leuschen on the board of the eVentures Group, an Internet start-up, saying in a press release that he was “extremely excited” to have him. That assignment lasted for about a year.
In its filings, the S.E.C. said that when Mr. Wissman heard that the New York State Common Retirement Fund was interested in making energy sector investments, he contacted his Montana neighbor.
Carlyle/Riverstone paid Mr. Wissman $5 million for helping arrange a $500 million investment by the New York fund. Under an agreement with Mr. Wissman to split fees, Hank Morris, a longtime New York political consultant, also received $5 million from Carlyle/Riverstone.
In addition, Mr. Leuschen personally invested $100,000 in a low-budget movie about Italian-Americans called “Chooch,” made by David J. Loglisci, a former New York state pension official, and his brothers. After Mr. Leuschen put money in the film, Mr. Loglisci directed $30 million in pension business to Carlyle/Riverstone, according to the S.E.C.
Mr. Loglisci and Mr. Morris have been indicted on corruption-related fraud charges. Mr. Wissman has pleaded guilty in the inquiry and agreed to pay a $12 million fine.
The payments to middlemen by Carlyle/Riverstone came about, according to the S.E.C., even though Carlyle, one of the most sophisticated investment funds in the world, “had its own in-house marketing operation and was spearheading the marketing efforts for the Carlyle/Riverstone fund.”
Other Carlyle funds have been ensnared. The attorney general’s office said Carlyle Realty Partners and Carlyle Europe Real Estate Partners used the same middlemen as Riverstone in New York. In all, Carlyle paid over $13 million in “sham placement fees” as it gathered $730 million from the New York State pension fund, according to that office.
Jeffrey Taufield, a spokesman for Carlyle/Riverstone, said that the firm had no comment. Mr. Leuschen had no comment.
USA Today -
Carlyle also announced plans to file a lawsuit seeking $15 million in damages from Hank Morris, the intermediary it hired as it sought New York pension fund ...
As noted before in this space, Hank Morris, the alleged off-the-plaza toll collector for New York pension investment business now facing criminal charges, ...
Financial Times -
According to Mr Cuomo's office, Carlyle won $730m in investment commitments from the retirement fund after it hired Hank Morris – a political aide to Alan ...
Washington Post -
Carlyle used Henry "Hank" Morris, a top aide to Hevesi, as an agent to obtain $730 million in investments from the pension fund, according to the settlement ...
The DC-based private equity giant was one of several investment firms that paid millions to Hank Morris, advisor to former New York state deputy comptroller ...
... of paying $320000 in kickbacks to a shell company owned by Alan Hevesi's political adviser Hank Morris to win business with the New York system. ...
Wall Street Journal -
In March, political strategist Hank Morris was arrested and accused of collecting more than $15 million in sham finders fees for selling access to New York ...
New York Times -
In a statement released on Thursday, Carlyle also said it was suing Hank Morris, once a top Hevesi aide, and a firm Mr. Morris worked for, Searle & Company, ...
Carlyle said it "was victimized by Hank Morris's alleged web of deceit," and intends to sue Searle and Morris for over $15 million to recover the fees it ...
Cuomo has charged several individuals in the probe, including Henry “Hank” Morris, 55, for orchestrating the kickback scheme by exploiting work he did to ...