Category Archives: The Intelligence, Winter 2017

A.I. Manipulation

Artificial intelligence is here, but we don’t even know what it can do yet.

By Emilie Oblivión.

The artificial intelligence boom has arrived, not with the bang of omnipotent robots doing our bidding, but with the whisper of computer processors, aiding us more and more in our day-to-day lives until we can’t imagine a world without them. Image recognition, product recommendation, and satellite navigation are just the beginning of this technological revolution.

The current definition of artificial intelligence (A.I.) is broad, and what is considered an intelligent machine is up for debate. Classification of A.I. is based the two domains in which it can operate: closed and open. An open domain bot, whether in the form of software or an autonomous unit, can function in any field. There is no restriction on what the bot can process in terms of their general environment. Open domain includes sci-fi machines like the droids in Star Wars. They can apply their intelligence to diverse tasks as easily as a human can, for example, jumping from writing book reviews to predicting weather and stock fluctuations. This may be the end goal of A.I., but with current technology, it is almost impossible to achieve because it requires the bot to process such large sets of data.

Closed domain A.I., on the other hand, may not seem like the robots of science fiction, but it is the way artificial intelligence has already become an integral part of our society, and it is increasingly becoming indissociably so. These A.I.s have expertise on a limited subject, for example, automatically calculating the fastest route across town or finding and comparing flight prices. Google Maps, however, cannot simply begin piloting a driverless car. It is only intelligent across a limited number of tasks.

Although A.I. has been a concept in development since the 1950s, it has only recently made serious progress. This is mainly due to the breakthrough that machines can now learn by themselves instead of being programmed by hand-typed code. The previous method not only made the coder’s job tedious, but it also limited the capabilities of machines to exactly what coders told them to do. Where as previously programs could only …

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Threat to the Maple Leaf

Can Canada counter Islamist terrorism?

By Farhan Zahid.

On April 14, 2014, Canada’s National Post reported a threat from ISIS against the country: “This is a message to Canada and all the American tyrants: We are coming and we will destroy you, with permission from Allah the almighty”. Six months later, on October 24, 2014, Islamic convert Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian War Memorial near Parliament Hill before being shot dead within Parliament itself, as members of Parliament, including the prime minister, huddled in caucus rooms he could easily have entered. It became clear that the government of Canada would need to revisit its counterterrorism policies.

Despite its reputation as a peaceable kingdom, Canada has been fully implicated in the global war on terror. Moreover, a wide range of terrorist groups of varied ideological backgrounds have used Canadian soil for launching attacks in the past; Islamist terrorists are in fact latecomers in the field. Since 1970, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), there have been 76 incidents of terrorism in Canada, in which 345 people lost their lives. The Sikh terrorists of Babbar Khalsa operated from Canadian soil during the heyday of the Khalistan Independence Movement in India, and the terrorist cells of the Quebec Liberation Front spread fear and insecurity through Canadian society in the late 1960s, culminating in the October Crisis of 1970. Before the 9/11 attacks, the largest terrorist attack in North American history, in terms of fatalities, was the 1984 bombing of Air India Flight 182 by Babbar Khalsa. Perpetrated by Canadian citizens Talwinder Singh Parmar, Inderjit Singh Reyat, and Ripudaman Singh Malik, this anti-India attack—carried out in response to anti-Sikh pogroms in India after the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards—cost the lives of 329 people, all on board.

Islamist terrorism in Canada has deeper roots than is always realized. The involvement of some Canadian Muslims in the U.S.-backed Afghan War against Russian in 1979-89 seems to …

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Currency Crackdown

India’s short-sighted ban on large currency risks wrecking the economy, but still aims for long-term success.

By Rajendra Prabhu.

Narendra Modi’s controversial and daring move to bring India’s economy under control has not gone smoothly. Exactly halfway through his five-year term, the Prime Minister who brought the Bharatiya Janata Party to power launched an unannounced midnight “surgical strike” at the hoard of untaxable black money and counterfeit currency drowning the country. With three hours’ notice on November 8, Modi declared that high-value currency bills would no longer be legal tender as of midnight of the same day. The goal was to force tax evaders and “hawala operators”, who clandestinely convert Indian rupees and U.S. dollars, to come out with their hoards or lose them. Modi promised a fifty-fifty amnesty for those who owned up before a deadline. The Prime Minister then assured those with legal currency that they would have a window within which to deposit or exchange their notes at banks and ATMs. The result of the well-meaning initiative has been disastrous.

In December, exactly a month later, the currency storm that Modi let loose countrywide has magnified into a hurricane for the common people. Wage earners as well as small-business owners, street vendors, farmers, and others have had to queue up for days and hours at banks and ATMs to exchange their holdings of demonetized notes for the new valid currency. The reality is that only a very small minority of Indians use credit or debit for day-to-day purchases—it makes up less than 5 percent of transactions. Thousands of factories and businesses were left with little valid currency to pay their creditors, suppliers, and workers. Transporters had to contend with credit promises. Salaried people found even their monthly wages deposited in their bank accounts of little use as banks ran out of new currency—even lower denominations of the old valid currency—faster than the central Reserve Bank of India (RBI) could replace them. Anger against the demonetization swept across the country as the long queues for new currency took its toll. In a single month, nearly 100 people died of exhaustion or heart attacks while standing in the endless queues.

With as much as 86 percent of notes in circulation suddenly becoming worthless paper and government printing presses unable to bring out replacements fast enough, disaster was inevitable. Modi’s hectic anti-corruption push has …

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India’s Left-Wing Extremists

Maoists in the rural areas of India continue to threaten and recruit as they prepare for revolution.

By Animesh Roul.

Despite the end of the Cold War, left-wing extremism remains a threat to global stability. Under a Maoist banner, such extremists continue to threaten, murder, and conquer in central India. They are known as the Naxal insurgency, or Naxalites, after the place they emerged, Naxalbari in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The left-wing extremist movement has plagued India since the mid-1960s and was once called the greatest threat to the country’s internal security. It has declined in recent years, but it has not abated. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs estimates that in the decade between 2005 and 2015, there have been 4,748 civilians and 1,896 security personnel killed in Naxal-led violence. The majority of the civilians killed were from pro-state tribal populations who face the wrath of Maoists for being “police informers” or “government agents”. Government figures from 2016 suggest that from January to November, 196 civilians and 64 security personnel have been killed by the Maoists and their supporters.

At the peak of their insurgency, Indian Maoists indiscriminately targeted legislators, security force officials, civilians, and infrastructures in their so-called Revolution Zone or Red Corridor, which comprises swathes of territory including parts of central and eastern India. The Maoist extremists once controlled nearly 40,000 sq. km spread across 20 states. Over the last ten years, nearly 70 districts in nine states have been affected by Naxal violence to varying degrees, according to a modest assessment by India’s Internal Affairs Ministry. Several more states still unofficially consider themselves a target.

The goal of the Maoists remains to take over the Indian state by armed violence or struggle. Though born in India, their movement was inspired by the revolutionary ideals of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution that emerged in China during the mid-1960s. Their immediate objectives are to achieve military strength and geographical consolidation to trigger …

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Factions and Fault Lines

The ongoing proxy war in Iraq and Syria is complicated by Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions.

By Syed Ali.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is digging into the wars in Iraq and Syria. He has insisted on Turkey taking part in operations to liberate Mosul from ISIS. “Turkey has a historic responsibility in the region,” he said, referring to the large number of ethnic Turks living in the area. Turkish troops were already present in Iraq, with forces in a town called Bashiqa, north of Mosul and involved in training local Sunni militias to fight against ISIS. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, however, has condemned the Turkish presence in Iraq, which has worsened the diplomatic rift between the neighboring countries. Even the United States, Turkey’s NATO partner, has stressed that all countries must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Iraq’s concern is that Erdoğan’s determination to join in the battle for Mosul is not merely a matter of protecting his own borders, but part of an expansionist drive. Historically, Mosul was an Ottoman dependency. Erdoğan’s scarcely concealed ambitions to restore Turkey’s Ottoman legacy will not only endanger coalition operations against ISIS but also risk starting a new sectarian war in the region.
As civil war has flourished across Iraq, a major cause of concern for Turkey has been the Iranian-backed Shia militias, many of which fought alongside Iraqi security forces in the battle of Fallujah. Atrocities committed by these militias against civilians fleeing ISIS-controlled regions has sparked mistrust between the Baghdad-based central government and Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

The Iraqi government’s failure to exercise control over Shia militias has increased Sunni alienation in Iraq. Hoping to counteract this, Prime Minister al-Abadi announced that only Iraqi security forces would be allowed to enter the city of Mosul, ideally preventing the massacre of Sunni civilians—but the international community needs to monitor if the Iraqi government has the capacity to fulfill its promises to the residents of Mosul, or risk a repeat of the incidents at Fallujah.

Erdoğan’s involvement in Syria and now in Iraq will come at a great cost for Turkey. Turkey has tried its best to support the overthrow of Bashir al-Assad, starting with funding and training hardline anti-Assad militias and culminating in the shooting-down of a Russian military jet by the Turkish Air Force, resulting in a violent diplomatic row that ended only when Erdoğan apologized to Vladimir Putin. Ankara’s increasingly interventionist posture is a dangerous game that continues to threaten to further destabilize the region but also puts Turkey’s internal stability and international standing at risk.

By defining himself as the defender of Sunnis in the region, Erdoğan is trying to change the understanding of the sectarian rift in Iraq, openly challenging the …

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