FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "American Spy" to See Spycraft Collide with Africa's Che Guevera (Burkina Faso)

Before Thomas Sankara (aka Africa’s Che Guevera) was installed as president by his then friend Blaise Compaore following a coup, Burkina Faso was called the République de Haute-Volta (Upper Volta). Sankara changed the name of his nation to “Land of the Incorruptible People” and even wrote their national anthem entitled One Single Night. With communist leanings and beliefs, the United States (and specifically the CIA) viewed him as a major threat. As the 1985 Scranage scandal revealed, the CIA was active in various African nations employing spies within their own governments and political parties.

“American Spy” is both a fictionalized telling of Sankara’s downfall and a commentary on what it means to be a black woman in both an American and African society. The novel’s protagonist is a black female FBI agent Marie, haunted by her sister’s death and stifled by the lack of opportunity in her office. When she gets a chance to become a real spy she dives into it but soon realizes that many of her assumptions may have been wrong.

I hesitated to use this on my Reading the Continent List for Burkina Faso because the author is American but I finished this novel impressed by the background it gives on the formation of Burkina Faso as a modern state and its insight into the Burkinabe inner political machinations at a key point in the country’s history. The novel is further valuable for any Africanist in its examination of the effects of US and colonial foreign policy on the continent.

The novel is strongest though examining Marie struggles with Sankara’s charisma and his communist views. Here he pontificates on what the results of colonial power has wrought for Burkina Faso: “Of our seven million inhabitants, over six million are peasants. And this peasantry, our peasantry, has been subjected to the most intense exploitation at the hands of imperialism and has suffered the most from the ills we inherited from colonial society: illiteracy, obscurantism, pauperization, cruelty in many forms, endemic diseases, and famine. Imperialism tries to dominate us from both inside and outside our country. Through its multinational corporations, its big capital, its economic power, imperialism tries to control us by influencing our discussions, and influencing national life.”

Marie listens to his speeches mesmerized by the man, but not convinced ideologically, noting: “The problem with the good he was doing was that it made his Communism palatable. He was too charismatic. Although his country was one of the poorest in the world, he had still managed to galvanize support across the continent. It was worrisome when that happened in countries that had recently become independent. Because they were no longer under the control of a colonial power, there were ideological vacuums in those countries. And I understood the fear that Communism would rush in and fill those voids.”

To her credit, she realizes that “Reaganomics was an unpleasant little philosophy too, and when you added the punitive character of our country to it, we emerged as a breeding ground for a really virulent strain of cruelty. But the alternative was worse.” This struggle gave the novel great appeal to me as it wasn’t a typical white-washing of history and indictment of a leader for his communist ideology--there was self-reflection and growth in the character as she becomes aware that there are no “good” answers--and in her case, the only remotely palatable answers left are messy and sometimes violent.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key Tidbit

  • Little known fact that Sankara went to the Malagasy ACMIL (Military Academy) in Antsirabe

Key References:
National Anthem Chorus (One Single Night)
And one single night has drawn together
The history of an entire people,
And one single night has launched its triumphal march.
Towards the horizon of good fortune.
One single night has brought together our people
With all the peoples of the World,
In the acquisition of liberty and progress.
Motherland or death, we shall conquer.

NPR Book Review
NYT Review Gutsy Debut Thriller
Johannesburg Review of Books Review
The Nation Book Review: Undercover

Key Quotes:

It made me think of how much like your father you are. You believe you can correct me, my feelings, purely through the force of your will. That impulse at its most essential is what your father understood love to be. Location 301

followed the Sharon Scranage case particularly closely because she was the only black woman among the eight, and it was the first time an American had been caught spying for an African intelligence outlet. Location 377

But recruiting and running informants was about cultivating their trust. To do that I found it worked best to lie frequently to them. Location 696

I still can’t help but wonder at her. Where had she picked up the idea that she could do anything? Be anything? That the world was so much bigger than Queens? Location 882

That is all a spy does—they hide in plain sight, and once they’ve exploited all they can from their relationships, they leave. Location 938

Being her sister often felt like trying to catch up to someone who was beating you so effortlessly that they weren’t even aware you were trying to compete. Location 1044 accepted that I had to be twice as upright for white folks to think I was half as virtuous. Location 1082

He was the type of guy that, had he been born white, especially if he’d grown up with a little money, would probably have wound up at an excellent business school. Location 1309

Thomas Sankara renamed the country Burkina Faso—the Land of Incorruptible People—and wrote the national anthem. Location 1412

I’d long since stopped feeling obligated to respond to every strange man who spoke to me. Location 1956

“Of our seven million inhabitants, over six million are peasants. And this peasantry, our peasantry, has been subjected to the most intense exploitation at the hands of imperialism and has suffered the most from the ills we inherited from colonial society: illiteracy, obscurantism, pauperization, cruelty in many forms, endemic diseases, and famine.” Location 1961

“Imperialism tries to dominate us from both inside and outside our country. Through its multinational corporations, its big capital, its economic power, imperialism tries to control us by influencing our discussions, and influencing national life.” Location 1977

The problem with the good he was doing was that it made his Communism palatable. He was too charismatic. Although his country was one of the poorest in the world, he had still managed to galvanize support across the continent. It was worrisome when that happened in countries that had recently become independent. Because they were no longer under the control of a colonial power, there were ideological vacuums in those countries. And I understood the fear that Communism would rush in and fill those voids. Location 1983

Reaganomics was an unpleasant little philosophy too, and when you added the punitive character of our country to it, we emerged as a breeding ground for a really virulent strain of cruelty. But the alternative was worse. Location 2097

“The PF doesn’t want to show up to the rally in a chauffeured car,” he said, using a nickname for the president of Faso. Location 2144

understand that black Americans also want their freedom. But Location 2145 don’t confuse real freedom with the freedom of the few to exploit the rest.” Location 2677

“You don’t owe them anything. You give them what you want to give them. But it’s easier if they think you’re one of them. It’s easier to work from the inside. That’s what I try to do. I’ve been a spy in this country for as long as I can remember.” Location 2859

It is humbling to have your social fluency, your sense of yourself as a competent, independent person, upended by a foreign city. Location 2886

would later hear the word disquette used to describe a particular type of Burkinabè girl—one who was as thin as a floppy disk, because that was what appealed to the French men they hoped to marry. One who wore chic, Western clothes, spoke fluent French and maybe even a little English. She could easily have been dismissed as a disquette. But it was a lazy characterization of any woman, and I would come to realize that was especially so in the case of Nicole Ouédraogo. Location 3855

“Slater,” I said, and then I kicked him awake. Although he was still drowsy, his eyes were open when I shot him. Location 4035

The only anger I ever expose to the world is through implication, by suggesting that I’m on the brink of no longer being able to contain my fury. That is what a woman’s strength looks like when it’s palatable: like she is containing herself. Location 4211

just wanted to get one thing, even if it was small, under my control. It was terrifying to lose command over my own body, the only thing that, through all that had happened, I’d remained convinced I could depend on. Labor made me understand that too was an illusion; it was like a trapdoor opening beneath my feet. I can laugh about it now, almost, but at the time it was terrifying. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared, and it wasn’t the kind of thing I could express to my mother just then. Location 4325

His interest in the law also reflects a belief that it isn’t equitably applied and therefore that he shouldn’t be held to its discretion. I might be cynical, but he’s even more so, because he’s willing to game the system for the right price. Location 4376

I love you. I hope you grow into men who are the best parts of your father and me. I hope that if you’re called to resist injustice you’ll have the courage to do so. I hope you’ll love fiercely and freely. In those ways I hope you’ll be good Americans.


And one single night has drawn together
The history of an entire people,
And one single night has launched its triumphal march.
Towards the horizon of good fortune.
One single night has brought together our people
With all the peoples of the World,
In the acquisition of liberty and progress.
Motherland or death, we shall conquer.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "Burn-In" to See the Implications of AI's Rise

When I read “Ghost Fleet” from writing duo Singer and Cole last year, I found myself saying “this would make a great movie!” (My review of it can be found here). That book, written some five years ago, captured most realistically what a war with China might look like--a subject even more relevant today given the US’ focus on “great power competition.

With their latest novel/future historical fiction “Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution”, the duo tackles a future in which AI, drones and robotics have continued their current development trajectory to the point where they’ve consumed every aspect of American life. Unfortunately, these “developments” have left gaping vulnerabilities within the US infrastructure that are exploited by a group of homegrown terrorists.

The term “burn-in” was first used in the late 60’s with the rise of computing meaning “the continuous operation of a device (such as a computer) as a test for defects or failure prior to putting it to use.” The authors use AI “to mean the capability of a machine to imitate, match, or surpass an intelligent human behavior or task with “intelligent” defined as able to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.” These definitions are particularly useful when applied to the convergence of AI and robotics as the authors show with the partnership between the FBI agent and her prototype robot partner as they battle a series of devastating terrorist attacks. From a purely thriller/action perspective, the novel moves quickly and keeps the pages turning but its real intent is to prompt the reader to think through the implications of what this “rise of the machines” really means--after all as the main character notes: “Machines were built on assumptions that meant one thing in a lab and another in a narrow alley reeking of dog shit and gunpowder.” Ultimately, this book shows that similar assumptions are made with regards to AI and robotics that mean one thing when “the good guys” (i.e., the USG) have them but can mean something altogether different when they fall into the hands of maligned actors.

Key Quotes:

She held out her hand, and as the two shook, Richter added with a wry smile, “And thank you for your service.” To another vet, it was as big a “Fuck You” as could be said.
Page: 48

“TAMS,” Modi said. “Tell Agent Noritz what a ‘burn-in’ is.” “A burn-in is defined as ‘the continuous operation of a device, such as a computer, as a test for defects or failure prior to putting it to use,’” answered the machine.
Page: 49

What an AI system can bring to an agent are the very same things it brought to a soldier in the field or a stock trader on Wall Street: machine-speed collection, collation, and analysis of information. It isn’t about replacing, but freeing up the human. Think of it not as artificial intelligence but augmented intelligence.
Page: 54

Automation had always seemed a problem just for truck drivers or factory workers, until suddenly it wasn’t.23 It turned out that not even a Yale Law degree could compete with the algorithms.
Page: 94

“That’s actually it—facing an adversary is not just what makes an AI more useful in the real world, but it’s also how the machine itself becomes more intelligent.” “A revolution from evolution.”
Page: 105

DARPA’s old motto from its days dominating the world of information: Scientia Est Potentia, Latin for “Knowledge Is Power.” Like so much else, they’d actually gotten it wrong. Back in 1655, Hobbes had explained the true intent of the translation: “The end of knowledge is power . . . Lastly, the scope of all speculation is the performing of some action, or thing to be done.”
Page: 109

Machines were built on assumptions that meant one thing in a lab and another in a narrow alley reeking of dog shit and gunpowder.

Key References (basically many of the author's footnotes arranged by three subjects):

History/Foreign Policy/Culture
AI/ General Technology

History/Foreign Policy/Culture:

Deep Dream Generator. Accessed July 23, 2019. https://deepdreamgenerator.com/#gallery

David T. Zabecki, “The Greatest German General No One Ever Heard Of.” Historynet, May 12, 2008. https://www.historynet.com/the-greatest-german-general-no-one-ever-heard-of.htm

Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The Atlantic, July/August 2012. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/

John Ismay, “Stargazing in a War Zone.” New York Times, September 12, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/12/magazine/stargazing-war-zone.html

Leela Jacinto, “Turkey’s Coup Brought to You via Plotters’ WhatsApp Posts.” France24, July 25, 2016. https://www.france24.com/en/20160725-turkey-coup-whatsapp-plotters-erdogan-media

Fathali M. Moghaddam, “The Staircase to Terrorism: A Psychological Exploration.” American Psychologist 60(2) (February–March 2005): 161–69. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0003-066X.60.2.161

Jeffrey Lewis, “The EMPire Strikes Back.” Foreign Policy, May 24, 2013. https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/24/the-empire-strikes-back/

Adam Janofsky, “Federal Researchers Simulate Power Grid Cyberattack, Find Holes in Response Plan.” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-researchers-simulate-power-grid-cyberattack-find-holes-in-response-plan-1541785202

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program manager, interview by Peter W. Singer, Washington, DC, April 30, 2019 7. Shane Harris, “New Zealand Attack Exposes How Little the U.S. and Its Allies Share Intelligence on Domestic Terrorism Threats.” Washington Post, March 16, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/new-zealand-attack-exposes-how-little-the-us-and-its-allies-share-intelligence-on-domestic-terror-threats/2019/03/16/42c14d9c-4744-11e9-8aab-95b8d80a1e4f_story.html

Peter W. Singer, “National Security Pros, It’s Time to Talk About Right-Wing Extremism.” Defense One, February 28, 2018. https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2018/02/national-security-pros-its-time-talk-about-right-wing-extremism/146319/

Steve Haruch, “Why Corporate Executives Talk About ‘Opening Their Kimonos.’” NPR.org, November 2, 2014. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/11/02/360479744/why-corporate-executives-talk-about-opening-their-kimonos

Ghiselaine Vu-Han, “Perfecting the Phosphorus Process.” MIT-The Tech, March 8, 2018. https://chemistry.mit.edu/chemistry-news/perfecting-the-phosphorus-process/

Paul Reynolds, “White Phosphorous: Weapon on the Edge.” BBC, November 16, 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4442988.stm

P. W. Singer and August Cole, “How to Write About World War III.” The Atlantic, June 30, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/06/ghost-fleet-world-war-III/397301/

See also J. Furman Daniel III and Paul Musgrave, “Synthetic Experiences: How Popular Culture Matters for Images of International Relations.” International Studies Quarterly, Volume 61, Issue 3, September 2017 (pages 503–16). https://academic.oup.com/isq/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/isq/sqx053/4616603

“Why It’s Worth Reading Crazy-Sounding Scenarios About the Future,” The Economist, July 6, 2019. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/07/06/why-its-worth-reading-crazy-sounding-scenarios-about-the-future

Jade Fell, “Hacking Through the Years: A Brief History of Cyber Crime.” Engineering and Technology, March 13, 2017. https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2017/03/hacking-through-the-years-a-brief-history-of-cyber-crime/

P. W. Singer and Allan Friedman, CyberSecurity and CyberWar: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 47–49. Panayotis Vryonis, “Explaining Public-Key Cryptography to Non-Geeks.” Medium.com, August 27, 2013. https://medium.com/@vrypan/explaining-public-key-cryptography-to-non-geeks-f0994b3c2d5

Patrick Sawer, “The Unsung Genius Who Secured Britain’s Computer Defences and Paved the Way for Safe Online Shopping”. The Telegraph, March 11, 2016. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/12191473/The-unsung-genius-who-secured-Britains-computer-defences-and-paved-the-way-for-safe-online-shopping.html

Danny Yadron, “Iranian Hackers Infiltrated New York Dam in 2013.” Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/iranian-hackers-infiltrated-new-york-dam-in-2013-1450662559

Sarah Wynn, “Water Turns Purple Overnight in Ohio Town.” ABC6onyourside.com, June 4, 2019. https://abc6onyourside.com/news/local/water-turns-purple-overnight-in-ohio-town

Merrit Kennedy, “A Siberian River Has Mysteriously Turned Blood Red.” NPR, September 8, 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/08/493139519/a-siberian-river-has-mysteriously-turned-blood-red

Alison Gopnik, “A Generational Divide in the Uncanny Valley.” Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-generational-divide-in-the-uncanny-valley-1154713871

Freegan.info, “Freegan Philosophy.” Accessed May 23, 2019. https://freegan.info/what-is-a-freegan/freegan-philosophy/

Tom Bateman, “Police Warning After Drug Traffickers’ Cyber-Attack.” BBC News, October 16, 2013. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24539417

Heather Pemberton Levy, “Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond: Surviving the Storm Winds of Digital Disruption https://www.forbes.com/sites/gartnergroup/2016/11/15/gartners-top-10-strategic-predictions-for-2017-and-beyond/

P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. https://www.amazon.com/LikeWar-Weaponization-P-W-Singer/dp/1328695743

Ritika Trikha, “The History of ‘Hello, World.’” HackerRank, April 21, 2015. https://blog.hackerrank.com/the-history-of-hello-world/

History.com, “1932: Bonus Marchers Evicted by U.S. Army.” February 9, 2010. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/bonus-marchers-evicted-by-u-s-army

Lara Seligman, “In Overflowing Syrian Refugee Camps, Extremism Takes Root.” Foreign Policy, July 29, 2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/29/in-overflowing-syrian-refugee-camps-extremism-takes-root-syria-bashar-assad-islamic-state-isis/

See also Maria Konnikova, “Lessons from Sherlock Holmes Pt. I: Paying Attention to What Isn’t There.” Big Think, July 21, 2011. https://bigthink.com/artful-choice/lessons-from-sherlock-holmes-pti-paying-attention-to-what-isnt-there


Selfdefense.com, “Stun Gun Batons.” Accessed July 27, 2019. https://www.srselfdefense.com/stun-gun-batons/

Adam Clark Estes, “The 3D Printed Gun Threat Is Getting Weird and Scary.” Gizmodo, June 20, 2019. https://gizmodo.com/the-3d-printed-gun-threat-is-getting-weird-and-scary-1835694478

Kathy Fessler, “What You Need to Know About Gunshot Detection Technology.” Security101 blog, November 28, 2018. https://www.security101.com/blog/gunshot-detection-technology

Andrew Liszewski, “This Clip-on Handgun Attachment Makes Bullets Non-Lethal.” Gizmodo, September 12, 2015. https://gizmodo.com/this-clip-on-handgun-attachment-makes-bullets-non-letha-1730039256

Noah Shachtman, “Israeli ‘Auto Kill Zone’ Towers Locked and Loaded.” Wired, December 5, 2008. https://www.wired.com/2008/12/israeli-auto-ki/

Paul Scharre, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War. New York: W. W. Norton, 2019 2. US Army Mad Scientist Laboratory, “An Appropriate Level of Trust. . . .” May 29, 2018. https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/56-an-appropriate-level-of-trust/

George Leopold, “Air Force Tests ‘Attritable’ Weapons.” Electronic Engineering Times, March 22, 2019. https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1334456#

Donovan Alexander, “New Self-Aware Robotic Arm Can Recognize and Repair Itself.” Interesting Engineering, February 3, 2019. https://interestingengineering.com/new-self-aware-robotic-arm-can-recognize-and-repair-itself

Leon Cook, “New Full-Color Night Vision could revolutionize how troops operate in the dark. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/new-full-color-night-vision-could-revolutionize-troops-ability-to-operate-in-dark-1.564782

Department of Homeland Security, “Radar Systems for Through-the-Wall Surveillance.” July 22, 2016. https://www.dhs.gov/publication/radar-systems-through-wall-surveillance

The 500-Volt Shotgun. Photograph, 600 x 373. Accessed June 26, 2019. https://d1w116sruyx1mf.cloudfront.net/ee-assets/channels/cdd_default/130808image2.jpg

Patrick Tucker, “This Formula Predicts Soldier Firepower in 2050.” Defense One, September 17, 2019. https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/09/formula-predicts-soldier-firepower-2050/159931/

Zeo Kleinman, “Ocado Trials Fruit-picking Robot.” BBC, January 31, 2017. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38808925

“Strawberry Robots Forever.” @Mashable, July, 1, 2019. https://twitter.com/mashable/status/1145725499806760962

Sticky Foam Gun. Photograph, 460 x 318. Accessed June 26, 2019. https://futures.armyscitech.com/ex4/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/STICKY-FOAM-1_v2.jpg

“This Is What Your Next MOPP Suit Could Look Like.” We Are The Mighty, September 19, 2016. https://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/this-is-what-your-next-mopp-suit-could-look-like

Kashmir Hill, “Jamming GPS Signals Is Illegal, Dangerous, Cheap, and Easy.” Gizmodo, July 24, 2017. https://gizmodo.com/jamming-gps-signals-is-illegal-dangerous-cheap-and-e-1796778955

“Industry Day for the Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) Program—W909MY-19-R-C004.” Federal Contract Opportunity, February 11, 2019. https://govtribe.com/opportunity/federal-contract-opportunity/industry-day-for-the-advanced-targeting-and-lethality-automated-system-atlas-program-w909my19rc004

Patrick Howell O’Neill, “Drones Emerge as New Dimension in Cyberwar.” CyberScoop, February 5, 2018. https://www.cyberscoop.com/apolloshield-septier-drones-uav-cyberwar-hacking/

“Teenager Hacks Drone to Prove Cyber Attack Risk.” Reuters, May 3, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/video/2019/05/03/teenager-hacks-drone-to-prove-cyber-atta-id5454689

Fortune Magazine, “Drone Swarms Are the New Fireworks in China.” YouTube, June 14, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbCR8mOPkuo

Jeffrey Lin and Peter W. Singer, “This People-Moving Drone Has Completed More Than 1,000 Test Flights.” Popular Science, February 8, 2018. https://www.popsci.com/ehang-passenger-carrying-drone/

IRobot 510 PackBot. Photograph, 800 x 550. Accessed June 26, 2019. https://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/imgs/irobot-510-packbot.jpg

Alistair M. C. Isaac and Will Bridewell, “White Lies on Silver Tongues: Why Robots Need to Be Able to Deceive (And How).” In Patrick Lin, Ryan Jenkins, and Keith Abney (eds.), Robot Ethics 2.0, New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Available at https://www.nrl.navy.mil/itd/aic/sites/www.nrl.navy.mil.itd.aic/files/pdfs/chapter_oso-9780190652951-chapter-11.pdf

Kak, “A Three-Stage Quantum Cryptography Protocol.” Foundations of Physics Letters, vol. 19 (3) (2006): 293–96 17. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL 1. Zachary Tomlinson, “15 Medical Robots That Are Changing the World.” Interesting Engineering, October 11, 2018. https://interestingengineering.com/15-medical-robots-that-are-changing-the-world

“Oldest Literary Reference to Automata, Computers, Robots.” Abcdunlimited.com. Accessed July 23, 2019. http://abcdunlimited.com/liberty/refs/aristotle.html

As quoted in Sarah Kessler, “The Optimist’s Guide to the Robot Apocalypse.” Nextgov, March 9, 2017. http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2017/03/optimists-guide-robot-apocalypse/136028/?oref=nextgov_today_nl

Peter Holley, “Baristas Beware: A Robot That Makes Gourmet Cups of Coffee Has Arrived.” Washington Post, March 22, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/03/22/baristas-beware-robot-that-makes-gourmet-cups-coffee-has-arrived/

Kirstin Korosec, “In Ford’s Future Two-Legged Robots and Self-Driving Cars Could Team Up on Deliveries.” TechCrunch, May 22, 2019. https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/21/in-fords-future-two-legged-robots-and-self-driving-cars-could-team-up-on-deliveries/

Peter Holley, “The Technology 202: Drones in Aisle 5? Grocery Stores Are Becoming Unusual Hotbeds of Innovation.” Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-technology-202/2019/05/03/the-technology-202-drones-in-aisle-5-grocery-stores-are-becoming-unusual-hotbeds-of-innovation/5ccb371c1ad2e506550b2f0d/

“It is not human jobs that are at risk from the rise of the robots. It is humanity itself.” Direct quote. Robert Skidelsky, “Is AI the Road to Serfdom?” Asia Times, February 22, 2019. https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/02/opinion/is-ai-the-road-to-serfdom/

Shivali Best, “The Ambulance Drone That Could Save Your Life: Video Reveals How Flying Robots May Someday Carry the Injured to Hospital.” Daily Mail, January 3, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4084008/Incredible-video-shows-flying-AMBULANCE-speed-emergency-support.html

NASA.gov, “Robonaut 2, the Next Generation Dexterous Robot.” July 15, 2010. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/multimedia/robonaut_photos.html

Kate Darling, “Why We Have an Emotional Connection to Robots.” TED Talks, September 2018. https://www.ted.com/talks/kate_darling_why_we_have_an_emotional_connection_to_robots?language=en

P. W. Singer, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. New York: Penguin, 2009, p. 337. https://www.amazon.com/Wired-War-Robotics-Revolution-Conflict/dp/0143116843

I. Orha and Stefan Oniga. “Assistance and Telepresence Robots: A Solution for Elderly People.” Carpathian Journal of Electronic and Computer Engineering 5 (2012): 87–90. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235417999_Assistance_and_telepresence_robots_a_solution_for_elderly_people

Tiffany Jeung, “Watch How the World’s Fastest Robot Cat Learns Feline Tricks.” Inverse.com, November 12, 2018. https://www.inverse.com/article/50754-nybble-is-the-fastest-robot-cat

Boston Dynamics, YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/BostonDynamics

Adam Conner-Simons and Rachel Gordon, “ ‘Superhero’ Robot Wears Different Outfits for Different Tasks.” MIT News, September 27, 2017. http://news.mit.edu/2017/superhero-robot-wears-different-outfits-different-tasks-0927

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Robot Origami: Robot Self-folds, Walks, and Completes Tasks.” YouTube, June 11, 2015. Video, 2:43. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVYz7g-qLjs

Arthur Holland Michel, “Amazon Delivery Drone Patents.” Center for the Study of the Drone, September 2017. https://dronecenter.bard.edu/files/2017/09/CSD-Amazons-Drone-Patents-1.pdf

Nick Lavars, “Robotic Leg Leans on Animal Evolution to Teach Itself to Walk.” New Atlas, March 12, 2019. https://newatlas.com/robotic-leg-teaches-walk/58817/

James Vincent, “Boston Dynamics’ Robots Are Preparing to Leave the Lab—But Is the World Ready?” Boston Dynamics’ robots are preparing to leave the lab — is the world ready?

Jeremy Hsu, “Out of the Way, Human! Delivery Robots Want a Share of Your Sidewalk.” Scientific American, February 19, 2019. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/out-of-the-way-human-delivery-robots-want-a-share-of-your-sidewalk/

Amazon.com, “Amazon Mechanical Turk: Overview.” https://edtech.pomona.edu/tools/amazon-mechanical-turk/#:~:text=Amazon%20Mechanical%20Turk%20(MTurk)%20is,are%20currently%20unable%20to%20do.

AI/ General Technology:

Vlad Savov, “Nubia’s Wearable Smartphone Is a Preview of Our Flexible OLED Future.” The Verge, September 4, 2018. https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/9/4/17817416/wearable-smartphone-nubia-alpha-flexible-oled-ifa-2018

Zachariah Yuzon, “Nubia’s Alpha Wearable Is the Craziest Gadget at MWC 2019.” Mashable, February 28, 2019. Video, 00:50. https://mashable.com/video/nubia-alpha/#kFH57ndsemqR

Peter Diamandis, “Convergence in VR/AR: 5 Anticipated Breakthroughs to Watch.” LinkedIn. May 6, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/convergence-vrar-5-anticipated-breakthroughs-watch-peter-h-diamandis/

Ina Fried, “Preparing for a Future of Augmented RealityThe future of augmented reality will raise fresh online privacy concerns

Amanda Lentino, “This Chinese Facial-Recognition Start-up Can Identify a Person in Seconds.” CNBC.com, May 16, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/16/this-chinese-facial-recognition-start-up-can-id-a-person-in-seconds.html

Direct quote from China Electronics Technology Corp. presentation. Chris Buckley and Paul Mozur, “How China Uses High-Tech Surveillance to Subdue Minorities.” New York Times, May 22, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/world/asia/china-surveillance-xinjiang.html

Julien Happich, “The Future of Video Surveillance: HD, Hyperspectral and Stereoscopic.” EeNews Europe, February 5, 2014. http://www.eenewseurope.com/news/future-video-surveillance-hd-hyperspectral-and-stereoscopic

Elon Musk’s Boring Company gets Hyperloop permit for NYC to DC

CV Dazzle. Accessed November 5, 2019. https://cvdazzle.com/
James Vincent, “Google’s AI Thinks This Turtle Looks Like a Gun, Which Is a Problem.” The Verge, November 2, 2017. https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/2/16597276/google-ai-image-attacks-adversarial-turtle-rifle-3d-printed

Guy Cramer, “Quantum Stealth; The Invisible Military Becomes a Reality.” HyperStealth, October 19, 2012. http://www.hyperstealth.com/Quantum-Stealth

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, “Hackers Behind WannaCry Cashed Out Bitcoin While No One Was Watching.” Vice, August 3, 2017. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/qvky75/hackers-behind-wannacry-cashed-out-bitcoin-while-no-one-was-watching

MΔDΞRΔS, “Improvements Like These Have Interesting Implications.” Twitter, March 9, 2019. pic.twitter.com/ZywUM4XsBn

Greg Synek, “Gait Recognition Tech Can Identify People Even with Their Backs Turned.” TechSpot, November 7, 2018. https://www.techspot.com/news/77298-gait-recognition-tech-can-identify-people-even-their.html

Parmy Olson, Image Recognition Technology Not as Secure as We Think, Image-Recognition Technology May Not Be as Secure as We Think

Angela Chen, “Inmates in Finland Are Training AI as Part of Prison Labor.” The Verge, March 28, 2019. https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/28/18285572/prison-labor-finland-artificial-intelligence-data-tagging-vainu

AI is an incredibly contested term, with at least 70 different definitions according to one study (Shane Legg and Marcus Hutter, “A Collection of Definitions of Intelligence,” IDSIA report, 2007. https://arxiv.org/pdf/0706.3639.pdf). It has come to encompass anything from a “narrow” or “weak” task of human intelligence being performed by a machine to one requiring “general” or even “super” intelligence. It is often expanded to include everything from “general” or even “super-intelligence” where a machine is trained to do a task, to multi-agent systems and artificial neural networks to create more expansive deep-learning, where the machine operates in ways akin to the human brain, to “neuromorphic chips,” which allow individual chips to do massive calculations, enabling further supercomputing breakthroughs and pushing intelligence outward to individual systems or even sensors. The US military has officially defined AI as “the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence—for example, recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action—whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems” (US Department of Defense, “Summary of the 2018 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy,” available at https://media.defense.gov/2019/Feb/12/2002088963/-1/-1/1/SUMMARY-OF-DOD-AI-STRATEGY.PDF). For our general purposes, we use it in broad terms to mean the capability of a machine to imitate, match, or surpass an intelligent human behavior or task with “intelligent” defined as able to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.

History of Ideas and Achievements (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), and Peter Stone et al., “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030.” One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence: Report of the 2015–2016 Study Panel, Stanford University, September 2016. http://ai100.stanford.edu/2016-report

Brady Moore and Chris Sauceda, “The Guy Behind the Guy: AI as the Indispensable Marshal.” US Army Mad Scientist Laboratory, February 21, 2019. https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/122-the-guy-behind-the-guy-ai-as-the-indispensable-marshal/

Dave Gershgorn, “Companies Are on the Hook if Their Hiring Algorithms Are Biased.” Quartz, October 22, 2018. https://qz.com/1427621/companies-are-on-the-hook-if-their-hiring-algorithms-are-biased/

McKinsey Global Institute, “The Future of Work in America.” July 2019. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-in-america-people-and-places-today-and-tomorrow

Charlotte Jee, “Amazon’s System for Tracking Its Warehouse Workers Can Automatically Fire Them.” MIT Technology Review, April 26, 2019. https://www.technologyreview.com/f/613434/amazons-system-for-tracking-its-warehouse-workers-can-automatically-fire-them

Greg Bensinger, “ ‘Mission Racer’: How Amazon Turned the Tedium of Warehouse Work into a Game.” Washington Post, May 21, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/05/21/missionracer-how-amazon-turned-tedium-warehouse-work-into-game

Suren Ramasubbu, “Biological & Psychological Reasons for Social Media Addiction.” Huffington Post, March 10, 2017. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/biological-psychological-reasons-for-social-media

Andrew Myers, “Stanford Engineers Make Editing Video as Easy as Editing Text.” Stanford News, June 5, 2019. https://news.stanford.edu/2019/06/05/edit-video-editing-text/

Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, “The Wrong Kind of AI? Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Labor Demand.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, March 5, 2019. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3359482

James Beniger, The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. Elsa Kania, “Battlefield Singularity: Artificial Intelligence, Military Revolution, and China’s Future”. https://books.google.com/books/about/Battlefield_Singularity.html?id=E2R-tQEACAAJ

Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb, Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2018, p. 213 https://www.amazon.com/Prediction-Machines-Economics-Artificial-Intelligence/dp/1633695670

“Technology is not destiny.” Direct quote. Conor McKay, Ethan Pollack, and Alastair Fitzpayne, “Automation and a Changing Economy: The Case for Action.” The Aspen Institute, April 2, 2019. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/automation-and-a-changing-economy-the-case-for-action

Prajwal Paudyal, “Should AI Explain Itself? Or Should We Design Explainable AI So That It Doesn’t Have To.” Towards Data Science. Accessed June 28, 2019. https://towardsdatascience.com/should-ai-explain-itself-or-should-we-design-explainable-ai-so-that-it-doesnt-have-to-90e75bb6089e

Julien Happich, “The Future of Video Surveillance: HD, Hyperspectral and Stereoscopic.” EeNews Europe, February 5, 2014. http://www.eenewseurope.com/news/future-video-surveillance-hd-hyperspectral-and-stereoscopic

C. E. Shannon, J. McCarthy, M. L. Minsky, and N. Rochester, “A Proposal for the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence.” Dartmouth College, August 31, 1955. http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/history/dartmouth/dartmouth.html

Larry Greenemeir, “20 Years After Deep Blue: How AI Has Advanced Since Conquering Chess.” Scientific American, June 2, 2017. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/20-years-after-deep-blue-how-ai-has-advanced-since-conquering-chess/

DeepMind, “AlphaGo Zero: Starting from scratch.” YouTube, October 18, 2017. Video, 2:13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXlM99xPQC8

DeepMind, “AlphaGo.” https://deepmind.com/research/alphago/

Elsa Kania, “Chinese Military Innovation in Artificial Intelligence.” Hearing of the US-China Economic and… https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/June%207%20Hearing_Panel%201_Elsa%20Kania_Chinese%20Military%20Innovation%20in%20Artificial%20Intelligence.pdf

Jamie Condliffe, “A New Artificial Synapse Is Faster and More Efficient Than Ones in Your Brain.” MIT Technology Review, January 29, 2018. https://www.technologyreview.com/f/610089/a-new-artificial-synapse-is-faster-and-more-efficient-than-ones-in-your-brain/

Andrew Freedman, “Meet Aurora, Soon to Be the First ‘Exascale’ Supercomputer in the U.S.” Axios, March 18, 2019. https://www.axios.com/us-to-get-its-first-ultra-powerful-exascale-supercomputer-015cc201-0660-430f-9bf2-83e5ac4edcad.html

Heather Roff, “How Understanding Animals Can Help Us Make the Most of Artificial Intelligence.” The Conversation, March 30, 2017. https://theconversation.com/how-understanding-animals-can-help-us-make-the-most-of-artificial-intelligence-74742

Seth Borenstein, “No AI in Humor: R2-D2 Walks into a Bar, Doesn’t Get the Joke.” AP News, March 31, 2019. https://www.apnews.com/bae71c3bef8145ecaaa84bca24d77430

Gao Huang, Zhuang Liu, Laurens van der Maaten, and Kilian Q. Weinberger, “Densely Connected Convolutional Networks.” Cornell University, version v5, January 28, 2018. https://arxiv.org/abs/1608.06993

Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson, Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2018. https://hbr.org/product/human-machine-reimagining-work-in-the-age-of-ai/10163-HBK-ENG

David Z. Morris, “Nearly Half of All Retail Jobs Could Be Lost to Automation Within 10 Years.” Fortune, May 21, 2017. http://fortune.com/2017/05/21/automation-retail-job-losses/

Bernard Marr, “Artificial Intelligence Has a Problem with Bias, Here’s How to Tackle. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/01/29/3-steps-to-tackle-the-problem-of-bias-in-artificial-intelligence/#51dc72d27a12

Patrick Tucker, “Here Come AI-Enabled Cameras Meant to Sense Crime Before It Occurs.” Defense One, April 24, 2019. https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/04/ai-enabled-cameras-detect-crime-it-occurs-will-soon-invade-physical-world/156502/

Manuel Blum, “How to Exchange (Secret) Keys.” ACM Transactions on Computer Systems 1 (2) (May 1983): 175–93. https://doi.org/10.1145%2F357360.357368

John Miller and David Mainor, “WannaCry Ransomware Campaign: Threat Details and Risk Management.” FireEye, May 15, 2017. https://www.fireeye.com/blog/products-and-services/2017/05/wannacry-ransomware-campaign.html

Patrick Clare, “Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus.” 2014. https://vimeo.com/25118844

“What Is Selenium, and Why Should You Care?” Appalachian Mountain Advocates, June 15, 2011. http://www.appalmad.org/2011/06/15/what-is-selenium-and-why-should-you-care-2/

M. L. Cummings, “Automation Bias in Intelligent Time Critical Decision Support Systems.” American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Accessed May 22, 2019. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Theoriz, “Mixed Reality RnD Test 002.” Accessed August 30, 2019. https://www.theoriz.com/portfolio/mixed-reality-project/

Caroline Holmes, “Robust Future Changes in Temperature Variability Under Greenhouse Gas Forcing and the Relationship with Thermal Advection.” Journal of Climate, March 15, 2016. https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00735.1

Christianna Reedy, “Graphene That Changes Color When It Cracks Could Literally Save Lives.” Futurism, April 13, 2017. https://futurism.com/graphene-that-changes-color-when-it-cracks-could-literally-save-lives

Victor L. Pushparaj et al., “Flexible Energy Storage Devices Based on Nanocomposite Paper.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, August 21, 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1959422/

Jack Corrigan, “ ‘Siri, Watch That Guy’: Pentagon Seeks AI That Can Track Someone Across a City.” Defense One, May 13, 2019. https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/05/iarpa-needs-more-training-data-video-surveillance-algorithms/156955/?oref=DefenseOneTCO

“All Terrain Surveillance Robot.” Wisdom Land, March 7, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar-YCHQK4ew
Bryn Farnsworth, “Facial Action Coding System (FACS)—A Visual Guidebook.” Imotions, August 18, 2019. https://imotions.com/blog/facial-action-coding-system/

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “Broad Agency Announcement: Narrative NetworkDARPA-BAA-12-03.” October 7, 2011. Available at https://robo-hunter.com/uploads/files/560c1c5fe87df.pdf

Matthew Cox, “Army Studies Electrical Brain Zaps for Enhancing Soldier Performance.” Military.com, April 25, 2019. https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/04/25/army-studies-electrical-brain-zaps-enhancing-soldier-performance.html

Josh Constine, “Facebook Is Building Brain-Computer Interfaces for Typing and Skin-Hearing.” TechCrunch, April 19, 2017. https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/19/facebook-brain-interface

“Hashcat Tutorial for Beginners.” InfoSec Institute, April 9, 2018. https://resources.infosecinstitute.com/hashcat-tutorial-beginners/#gref

Steve Ranger, “IoT Security Crackdown: Stop Using Default Passwords and Guarantee Updates, Tech Companies Told.” ZDNet, May 1, 2019. https://www.zdnet.com/article/iot-security-crackdown-stop-using-default-passwords-and-guarantee-updates-tech-companies-told/

Jeff Stone, “Newly Reported Flaws in Cameras, Locks Add to Scrutiny of Smart-Home Security.” CyberScoop, July 2, 2019. https://www.cyberscoop.com/smart-home-vulnerabilities-netgear-zipato

Sarah Kessler, “AMAZON: This Company Built One of the World’s Most Efficient Warehouses by Embracing Chaos.” Quartz. Accessed July 23, 2019. https://classic.qz.com/perfect-company-2/1172282/this-company-built-one-of-the-worlds-most-efficient-warehouses-by-embracing-chaos/

Stefan Holtel, “From Computer to Centaur—Cognitive Tools Turn the Rules Upside Down.” KM World, January 30, 2015. https://www.kmworld.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=10152

Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014. Nick Bostrom, “Superintelligence.” Talks at Google. YouTube, September 22, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pywF6ZzsghI

Joshua Gans, “AI and the Paperclip Problem.” VoxEU.org, June 10, 2018. https://voxeu.org/article/ai-and-paperclip-problem

Ben Fritz, “Startup Backed by Spielberg and Studios Seeks to Create VR Experiences for Malls.” Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/startup-backed-by-spielberg-and-studios-seeks-to-create-vr-experiences-for-malls-148699080

Tech Insider, “This Sea-Craft Looks Like a Plane, Has a Car’s Engine, and Docks Like a Boat.” YouTube, March 9, 2018. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-sWokqiVHw

Jackson Barnett, “Pentagon Partners with Singapore to Develop AI for Disaster Response.” FedScoop, July 1, 2019. https://www.fedscoop.com/welcome/?jaic-working-with-singapore-on-ai&id=32878

Giancarlo Fiorella, “A Beginner’s Guide to Flight Tracking.” Bellingcat, October 15, 2019. https://www.bellingcat.com/resources/how-tos/2019/10/15/a-beginners-guide-to-flight-tracking/

James Vincent, “Welcome to the Automated Warehouse of the Future.” The Verge, May 8, 2018. https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/8/17331250/automated-warehouses-jobs-ocado-andover-amazon

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “AI Next campaign.” Accessed July 21, 2019. https://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/ai-next-campaign

Sharon Weinberger, The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World. New York: Knopf, 2017. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “How DARPA Created AI.” DARPATV, December 7, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri5gOjYgLns

Richa Bhatia, “Understanding the Difference Between Symbolic AI & Non Symbolic AI.” Analytics India Magazine (blog), December 27, 2017. https://www.analyticsindiamag.com/understanding-difference-symbolic-ai-non-symbolic-ai/

Paul Miller, “What Is Edge Computing?” The Verge, May 7, 2018. https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/5/7/17327584/edge-computing-cloud-google-microsoft-apple-amazon

Frank Luerweg, “The Internet Knows You Better Than Your Spouse Does.” Scientific American, March 14, 2019. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-internet-knows-you-better-than-your-spouse-does/

Behnood Gholami, Wassim M. Haddad, and James M. Bailey, “AI Could Provide Moment-by-Moment Nursing for a Hospital’s Sickest. https://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/ai-could-provide-momentbymoment-nursing-for-a-hospitals-sickest-patients

Matt Turek, “Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI).” Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Accessed July 6, 2019. https://www.darpa.mil/program/explainable-artificial-intelligence

Molly Kovite, “I, Black Box: Explainable Artificial Intelligence and the Limits of Human Deliberative Processes.” War on the Rocks, July 5, 2019. https://warontherocks.com/2019/07/i-black-box-explainable-artificial-intelligence-and-the-limits-of-human-deliberative-processes/

Friday, June 12, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "By Night the Mountains Burn" to Experience Survival on the Margins (Equatorial Guinea)

Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa (following 200 years of Spanish rule)--it's also the richest African country you've never heard of per capita (due to the discovery of oil there in the 90's).  The level of wealth, however, has been rather opaque due to the brutal dictatorship of "President" Obiang who took power by staging a bloody coup against his own Uncle in the late 70's.  Exxon has run most of the country's oil production so despite flagrant human right's abuses, the country has had an on-again-off-again relationship with the U.S..

"By Night the Mountain Burns", however, takes place back during the colonial era on one of the country's neglected islands--the country itself is run from its capital city Malabo on its largest island called Bioko.

It's important to consider the subject matter and themes authors like Laurel choose to address.  A frequent critic of Obiango, the self-exiled author tells a tale in this novel of a marginalized community that survives (sometimes) on the narrowest of margins depending on passing European ships and a strange periodic washing ashore of squids. Life on the island revolves around the ocean and the canoes which the entire community bands together to create and which men are buried in when they dide.  Superstition also plays a central role as the villagers brutally murder one woman for her suspected role in a fire, and later cholera decimates the population.

To my knowledge this is still the only work of fiction available in English from Equatorial Guinea.  The author has since then written about migration in northern Africa (The Gurugu Pledge) and I look forward to more contemporary novels in the future from this small nation.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key Quotes:

  • And besides, he wasn’t trained to believe in things that weren’t written in books.  Location: 1,107
  • If witnessing the hounding of that woman was the singular thing that made the biggest impression on me, the cholera was what caused me the most tears. Because it took so many of our people … If it had taken one hundred people it would have made a huge dent in the island’s population. But it took a lot more than that. A lot more than one hundred girls and boys, men and women,  Location: 1,147
  • Seeing is a form of taking part, and nobody can claim they didn’t see it.  Location: 1506
  • What’s more, the child was white and I don’t think white people are born to lead such hard lives. Location: 2613
  • Everybody knew deads weighed more than alives. Some people think what weighs is the sadness, the pain, the immense darkness of their closed eyes. In death, you have to cross a strange, dark wall. You stop being. You’re destined for the blackness, and you let yourself be taken there. You sleep more deeply than a normal person. And all of this weighs. Other people say no one knows what weighs or why death weighs. It just does. Any man transporting a dead should therefore be forewarned, even if, as in this case, the dead person is a small child. Such journeys are special and the canoeman should be mentally prepared, even though he won’t do anything special himself. But on this occasion, the canoeman was not informed.  Location: 2642

Key references:
New Writing from Equatorial Guinea:
"Government Property" short story by Trifonia Obono
"Obi's Nightmare" by Jamon Y Queso
Interview with author Juan Tomas Avila LaurelThe Filthy Rich Spanish-Speaking Country
HRW: the 40th Anniversary That Shouldn't Be: Obiang

Friday, April 17, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "She Would Be King" to Experience Liberia's Birth (Liberia)

In Philip Hitti's History of the Arabs, he highlights the long-standing Arab appreciation for oral story-telling and poetry which they call sihr halal.  He further describes this ingrained love for "the rhythm, the rhyme, the music, [which] produce on them the effect of what they call "lawful magic" (sihr halal). "  In her debut novel Wayetu Moore channels this idea of lawful magic as she joins magical realist authors like Couto, Martel, and Marquez in her telling of an alternative origin story of the Pepper Coast lands that would become Liberia.

In her novel, Moore has decided to focus not on Liberia's historical realities and details but rather on highlighting the people and ideas that would become Liberia.  This shift allows the reader to more thoughtfully ponder the roles of justice, religion, and slavery against the backdrop of the most unique colonialist setting on the continent.

Envisioned as an alternative to the emancipation of black slaves in the United States, the west coast African colony began through the efforts of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1822.  Twenty-five years later it would become an independent nation--Liberia.  The entire venture was embroiled in controversy as many freed blacks in the United States viewed this as an affront to their efforts and rights to exist in America.  That many members of the ACS were prominent white politicians further served to support this viewpoint.

Like all colonization, Liberia's was rife with bloodshed, betrayal, theft, and violence.  The initial land purchase was only successful when the US Navy Lieutenant leading the expedition "encouraged" the local tribe leader King Peter to sell them a tract of land at gunpoint.  The colony's further expansion came at the expense of the bordering native villages and tribes over the ensuing century.

That history, however, is not the author's focus--instead she has created the story of three superhumans from three groups who eventually made up the country of Liberia.  The first is Norman Aragon, the son of a white colonialist and a free Jamaican woman.  He inherits his father's pale skin but his mother's ability to disappear and move invisibly.  The second is June Dey, the son of an American slave woman and a ghost.  He soon discovers that he has superhuman strength and that bullets and blades have no effect on him.  The last is the heroine Gbessa who is outcast from a local Vai tribal village after she is proclaimed a witch as a young girl.  She soon finds out that while she can be hurt and feel intense pain she cannot die--she is eternal.  Moore weaves the tales of these three lives into an intersection that climaxes as they seek the future of a land and country.  This beautiful tapestry will leave a lasting impression on any reader--Africanist or not.

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key References:
Library of Congress primary source information on ACS and Liberia origins
Powell's Interview: Wayétu Moore, Author of 'She Would Be King'
She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore review – magical visions of Liberia
In Wayétu Moore’s Ambitious Debut Novel, Liberia Is Reborn

Monday, April 13, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "The Insanity of God" To Change Your Perspective (Audible) (Somalia)

When many critics of Christianity think of missionaries they picture black-clad old-fashioned looking men and women proselytizing loudly in the streets--calling adamantly for repentance. If you fall into that category I challenge you to read this book--it will upend your perspective.

At one point Ripken's NGO was the ONLY ONE operating in Somalia--his team of 8 was feeding 50,000 refugees a day and running mobile health clinics around the country.  Without his efforts countless hundreds of thousands would have starved.  When no one else was there--he was--serving and loving the Somali people.    It was in his years there that he also learned the costs though of following his calling--he lost a son and hundreds of Somali friends who ended up believing in Jesus. He had this to say about religious persecution:

I’d never met a believer in persecution that wasn’t running for their life,” said Ripken. “In those years in Somalia, we had 150 followers of Jesus in the country. When we left, only four were left alive. They hunted them down like we would hunt animals in rural Kentucky. They killed four of my best friends in one day in Somalia."

But in a lifetime spent serving in high risk, war torn, countries he shares what he learned firsthand from persecuted Somalis, Chinese, Russians, and Ukrainians: persecution isn't something to be lamented:

The reason for persecution, then, is that people keep finding Jesus—and, then, they refuse to keep Him to themselves.”

These firsthand lessons are the result of what has turned into his life's mission--learning and sharing the stories of God at work throughout the globe--to date he and his wife have conducted more than 600 interviews in 72 countries.  

Regardless of your faith background, this book will challenge your perspective. 

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key Quotes:
"Our hope is that believers around the world will get close enough to the heart of God that the first images that come to mind when we hear the word “Muslim” are not Somali pirates or suicide bombers or violent jihadists or even terrorists. When we hear the word “Muslim,” we need to see and think of each and every individual Muslim as a lost person who is loved by God. We need to see each Muslim as a person in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. We need to see each Muslim as someone for whom Christ died.”

“Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution!

“The reason for persecution, then, is that people keep finding Jesus—and, then, they refuse to keep Him to themselves.”

“one of the most accurate ways to detect and measure the activity of God is to note the amount of opposition that is present.”

“Don’t you steal my joy! I took great joy that I was suffering in my country, so that you could be free to witness in your country.”

“You can only grow in persecution what you go into persecution with.”

"Lost people have a greater right to access Jesus than I have a right to exert my religious freedom.”

“I had always assumed that persecution was abnormal, exceptional, unusual, out of the ordinary. In my mind, persecution was something to avoid. It was a problem, a setback, a barrier. I was captivated by the thought: what if persecution is the normal, expected situation for a believer? And what if the persecution is, in fact, soil in which faith can grow? What if persecution can be, in fact, good soil? I began to wonder about what that might mean for the church in America—and I began to wonder about what that might mean for the potential church in Somalia.”

Key References (For Further Study)


Baptism: The Point of No Return A story from Somalia

Nik Ripken: Lessons from the persecuted world for America


Nik Ripken Suggested Book List

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Kruse's Keys: Read "Diamonds, Gold, and War" to Explore the Poisoned Roots of South African History

*Audible read so I don't have notes or quotes since the audible app makes it virtually impossible to take notes and highlight sections to which you listen.  If you are trying to retain any information, quotes, etc. Audible is the worst.  You can highlight and annotate certain portions when you hear them, but there's no export function or way to transfer the highlighted audio sections to text.  I would pay money for an app that did this!

This book traces the origin of South Africa and the discovery of gold and diamonds there that sparked off a bloody conflict with Britain that ultimately led to the consolidation and foundation of the apartheid republic that existed until 1994.

This detailed history should be mandatory reading for any budding Africanist.  The book also highlights the out-sized role that Cecil Rhodes played in both southern Africa, the diamond industry, and the conflict.  The reader also learns the despicable acts that Rhodes committed over the span of his short 49-year life.   The main criticism one might find with Meredith's exhaustive history is its decidedly white-western focus.  This likely stems from the challenge in finding primary source material which could help better capture more of the African perspective.
Cecil Rhodes

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2020,  2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Kruse's Keys: Read "Mister Drainpipe" to Discover the Power of Restored Dignity (Ethiopia)

Author Marc Secchia took a hiatus from his slew of successful fantasy novels to pen this heartfelt love letter to the homeless of Addis Ababa. I tore through this book in less than two days and I’ll warn you that this story will pierce even the hardest heart and (hopefully) change the way you think and interact with the homeless and “least” in your daily life.

“Mister Drainpipe” takes the reader into the mind of a deranged, older homeless man who can no longer recall his past identity and calls himself “Drainpipe” after the dank lodging in which he discovered many years before. When not begging for his daily “injera”, he spends his hours babbling senselessly and scaring women and children. These babblings are interrupted by rare moments of lucidity, however, as he considers the passersby and asks at one point:

Why did people who had so much grow tired of giving a few santimes?

This question frames a narrative that unfolds as part mystery, part searing indictment of how we treat (or totally ignore) the “least of us” in society. Indeed it only takes one small act of kindness, to arrest Drainpipe’s descent into madness and fundamentally change his life’s arc. As the net of generosity grows, Secchia’s Ethiopian characters offer sharp insight into the broader issues of endemic poverty noting that: “until we are able to address the fundamental restoration of human will and dignity, no program, no effort and no intervention, will truly succeed.” These observations land poignantly as they are balanced against the reality of a man for whom no program, effort, or intervention has helped.

Will Drainpipe rediscover and recapture his dignity and past identity? This question is answered against the backdrop of Ethiopia’s history over the past 75 years. One learns not only of the Derg’s genocidal horrors, but also the oblivious Emperor’s rule that let hundreds of thousands perish in famine. This history further covers both the unlikely ascension of Abiy Ahmed to the position of Prime Minister, as well as the efforts of the controversial activist Jawar Mohammed. Along the way, Secchia also treats the foreign reader with cultural insights that both educate and enlighten such as the use of the feminine in greeting between two males to denote a special and close friendship (i.e., Dehna-nesh, my brother?). It’s clear through this story that the author has a heart for not only Ethiopia as a country, but for its people, great and small.

As we follow Drainpipe’s journey, we see the miraculous, contagious power of generosity but we also see the hard work and personal sacrifice it requires. As Drainpipe notes near the story’s end: “it is strange how easily one forgets miracles.”

Related Ethiopian Reading:

The Shadow King
Beneath the Lion's Gaze

*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
See our 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Reading Lists.

Key Quotes:

But now and again there might be a treasure. A smile. A kind greeting; not the automatic or guilty sort, but a genuine word. A murmured blessing. The brushing of fingertips against his upraised palm to give a coin rather than just to toss it toward his mat. These moments mattered.
Location: 691

Was the whole city one big diseased organ waiting to seize up?
Location: 843

The irony of severe water shortages in a country that supplied an estimated eighty-five percent of the water of the Nile, while Egypt built rice paddies in the desert.
Location: 1,640

History would record something about this year, 1985, in facts and figures and charts. They would agree how awful it all was. People would be unable to believe this had once been a green and fertile land, and too soon, the international news media would turn to another issue. Another need. Another disaster. And these faces would be lost forever.
Location: 1,851

People kissed hands or cheeks all the time when they were especially grateful. Maybe that wasn’t Oromo culture – he did not know – but it certainly was his, just like the shoulder bump signified informality and friendship.
Location: 2,329

And we use the feminine suffix to indicate a special fondness for someone. So I might say dehna-nesh rather than dehna-neh to tell someone that they’re my special friend. Dehna-nesh, my brother?”
Location: 2,490

Inibila, or ‘let’s eat together,’ meant unity. In the same way, Irreecha was a peaceful celebration of the year which had been, a time to thank Waaqa, or God, for one’s blessings. It was meant to be a time of thanksgiving and unity for the Oromo people.
Location: 2,501

“Under brutal suppression during the reign of Menelik II and subsequent regimes, Oromo cultural and religious gatherings were outlawed for over a century. However, in the last decade there has been a concerted revival of important Oromo practises, particularly at the Irreecha religious festival on the shores of Hora Harsadii, or Lake Hora. The deep values underpinning a uniquely Oromo worldview which are celebrated at Irreecha include peace and stability, abundance and provision for life, the preservation of law and order, and protection of the environment. These values describe the Oromummaa, or the core identity of Oromos.”
Location: 2,570

Why did people who had so much grow tired of giving a few santimes?
Location: 2,862

Their cars were 30 to 40 years old and required constant nursing and tinkering. After the Communist revolution, he remembered, cars used to be imported from the USSR – the little Ladas, which were renamed Fiat 131s. Few people could tell the difference, so everyone called them ‘Lada.’ The city’s lifeblood ran blue. The little Ladas were painted a cheerful blue colour with a white roof, as were the bulkier minibus taxis which were licensed to run regular routes in the city. They carried anything and everything on their roofs, from fridges to boxes to the odd goat bound for a family celebration.
Location: 2,979

The bars quietened.
Location: 3,034

‘Until we are able to address the fundamental restoration of human will and dignity, no program, no effort and no intervention, will truly succeed.’
Location: 3,322

Licking his fingertips despite the rudeness of the gesture. He left no portion upon the plate to politely indicate satiation and the host’s excellent provision, but
Location: 3,363

Location: 3,395

How could a man mourn for what he had forgotten? Only that his interior felt hollow.
Location: 3,463

What a droll expression. Tafa, was how friends greeted each other after a long separation. ‘You disappeared.’
Location: 3,645

Touching the instrument to his dry, cracked lips, he let the music run through him like a river.
Location: 3,684

Every person, from the lowest to the highest, should be afforded dignity. It’s a travesty of our society that we strip people of self-respect and opportunity, and treat them as outcasts. Dignity is the air and water of life. You need to rediscover your dignity, Tuhbo.”
Location: 4,095

If abstinence made the heart grow fonder
Location: 4,142

“Egzharbier ystillyn. I cannot thank you – how can I thank you? Egzharbier ystillyn … it still doesn’t say enough.”
Location: 4,248

Midday was not the hottest time of the day, but rather nine in the afternoon, according to Ethiopian time-telling which counted dawn as the ‘zero’ and midday as the sixth hour. Foreigners would say three o’clock.
Location: 4,393

And then came Nelson Mandela – did you know he has an Ethiopian passport? He received it in 1962 under the name of David Motsamayi, when he trained here in our country in guerrilla warfare.
Location: 4,430

and now he vividly recalled watching Timket in Gondar at Fasiledes’ Bath, a unique ceremony where the Orthodox believers leaped fully clothed into the waters of a huge pool surrounding that small medieval castle.
Location: 4,471

Toxic history required healing.
Location: 4,501

Tuhbo remembered the legend of the negarit, the great Ethiopian drum hollowed out of a baobab tree that was meant to be heard fifty kilometres away!
Location: 4,559

Always rumours, or wiray in Amharic, the word-of-mouth that often served best – or worst when the media was tightly controlled and real journalism, curtailed.
Location: 4,688

Some stones were only ever lifted by laughing at oneself.
Location: 4,771

“Y’zare injerachinen,” she agreed, quoting from the Lord’s Prayer. Our daily injera.
Location: 4,776

Fikir Indegena – Love Again.
Location: 4,813

He used the Amharic form meliaki, my angel, the fonder, more personal term – a term sometimes used as a nickname or endearment between lovers.
Location: 4,937

But it is strange how easily one forgets miracles.