STEVE'S LATEST REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS

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Head of the Mossad: In Pursuit of a Safe and Secure Israel Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9780268108335
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Notre Dame Press - September 30th, 2020

After service in an IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) special forces unit, author Shabtai Shavit spent 32 years in the Mossad (Israel’s national intelligence agency), serving as its director from 1989 to 1996. Head of the Mossad is a deeply intellectual memoir that, while focusing on the period when he was the director, also delves into Israel’s story from the War of Independence to 2018, when the book was written.

While reflecting on the actions of Israel’s intelligence services, much of the land’s recent history becomes apparent. From the beginning, Israel has encountered great hostility from its Arab neighbors. The details of her struggle to become a Jewish and democratic nation are the subject of this work. 

UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) was formed in 1949 to benefit Palestinian refugees. However, according to the author, this agency essentially serves to perpetuate the status of Palestinians as refugees while receiving many millions of dollars annually. Furthermore, the author states that, if the U.S. should request it, Israel would provide irrefutable evidence that UNRWA is operated by Hamas. 

A major stumbling block to any durable peace settlement is the Palestinian leadership’s rigidity in the matter of the “right of return”, which means that all Palestinians—regardless of where or when they were born, their nationality or economic status anywhere—are covered under this right. Today, more than five million people are included in this “right of return” to Israel, a number that Israel will likely never agree to.

Among other things, the author suggests that it may be beneficial to create a new nation, perhaps called “Sunnistan” to be the home of many Sunni muslims who lack a nation. This nation would border an independent Kurdistan, Iraq, and Jordan.

Operationally, the Mossad regards terrorism to be devoid of any rules of war, and any test for intent will reveal the certainty of hostility. Such a situation makes post factum response inappropriate, so targeted killings and preemptive strikes become justified.

And while the Mossad is tasked with determining the capabilities and intent of adversaries, as well as preventing hostility, it is worthwhile to understand that the Mossad’s goal of discovering and implementing pathways to peace is perhaps more important.

It was interesting to learn that, intelligence agencies of various countries regularly maintain communication with one another, even when there is adversity between their nations.

This is a fascinating work that will give readers many insights into the field of intelligence. I am very grateful to Mr. Shavit for his responses to my questions.

32nd Avenue Books: Is the Saudi Initiative of 2002 today any closer to becoming more than a proposal or “a template for negotiations?”

S. Shavit: The  Saudi initiative is still valid and on the table. Since it's inception, and every now and then, the Saudi royal family and their administration remind us and the world that they still are waiting to hear from us. The last such a reminder took place within the framework of the Trump Abraham initiative when the Saudi king conditioned his country's joining the initiative with an Israeli announcement of acceptance of their 2002 proposal.

32nd Avenue Books: Are there any changes you would like to see in the relationship between the Mossad and the CIA?

S. Shavit: The  relationship between the CIA and the Israeli Intelligence community has never been better.

Steve Brehm

32nd Avenue Books, Gifts & Toys

June 16, 2021


T-MINUS AI

 

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T-Minus AI: Humanity's Countdown to Artificial Intelligence and the New Pursuit of Global Power Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781948836944
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Benbella Books - August 25th, 2020

Author Michael Kanaan was the first chairperson for artificial intelligence for the U.S. Air Force and is current director of operations at the Air Force/MIT Artificial Intelligence Accelerator.

T-Minus AI is the story of the evolution of human intelligence, as well as the development of computers. Originally, computers required specific instructions in order to accomplish tasks. But in 2012, algorithms changed so that computers would not require human knowledge to perform tasks; they would instead use data-based learning and pattern recognition to discover the problems to solve. Deep-learning allowed data to become experience to a computer. This is the foundation of AI: computer-driven methods of handling information that perform better and faster than humans can. AI has applications for tasks in all fields.

AGI (artificial general intelligence) refers to the ability of a machine to process or operate as well as a human being. Superintelligence refers to machine ability that is greater than that of a human. Neither of these technologies currently exist, but narrow AI (what we have today) does, and it has abilities that require diligent, serious, and thoughtful planning and policy development in order protect our human rights, dignities, and vision.

Since AI allows new methods of aggregating, controlling, and applying information, the huge differences between democratic and authoritarian nations means that we must be committed to protecting our traditions of freedoms and individual liberties. 

Russia will likely use its effort to advance military applications and cyber disinformation capabilities, whereas China wants to use AI to establish itself as the economic leader of the world. China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) already has at least 140 countries in all continents receiving assistance from China. The author suggests that China’s attempts at spreading its 5G infrastructure to countries that will likely become dependent on it, and possibly insecure due to it, might be compared to Britain’s enactment of the burdensome Stamp Act in 1765, when American colonists were required to use only paper from England.  Neither Russia nor China has any history, need, or desire to consider the rights, dignities, or liberties of its people, or any other people, when choosing how to use AI. China’s AI use today involves facial recognition capacities that provide the Chinese Communist Party the ability to employ intentional bias against Uighurs in Xinjiang, and it plans to eventually have all Chinese people in its “social credit score” system by 2025.

While AI can enhance our lives, our best plans must include putting aside our political divisions as a necessity for common good, lest we forsake the principles in the American Constitution, and widen the risk that we could fall victim to AI policies that abandon our freedoms and rights. Thankfully, various actions taken by both the Obama administration and the Trump administration have established regulations and practices influencing the uses of AI with the aim of protecting our heritage.

I was interested is the author’s  perspectives regarding the conceivable effects AI might have on American values, considering the application of this technology elsewhere. I was also curious of his views on the sort of future we may expect as the interface of quantum computing and AI evolves. We are exceedingly grateful for his responses.

32nd Avenue Books: How do you see the evolution of quantum computing vis-à-vis artificial intelligence?

Michael Kanaan: Quantum computing and artificial intelligence are both transformative technologies and complementary in a technical sense. Quantum computing provides unparalleled processing power which will advance capabilities in the application of machine learning algorithms. At the same time, current day machine learning advances our understanding of the quantum information sciences. Think of it as a virtuous cycle, and perhaps in the future we'll see it in everyday life, but we still have much to discover when it comes to most real-world use cases. But this is an exciting time to be in both fields! 

I'm glad you asked this question because, while not directly addressed in the book, I'm an avid armchair occupier of all things quantum. For the discerning eye, I still wanted to make a nod towards quantum so I opened the acknowledgements with "A universal wave of possibilities underlies all we are and all we do. Our reality only emerges from the energy and involvement of the people with whom we entangle" to describe my gratitude towards those who helped bring this book into existence. I believe those two sentences to be quite accurate in life and science.

32nd Avenue Books: Americans are fortunate to have a history of great respect for their rights and liberties. How would you describe the attributes of the path we must follow in order to preserve that respect?  

Michael Kanaan: The human story is full of transformative technologies and moments, but our collective success or failure depends on being ready for the moment. This means we have to watch out for how we use AI and others use it, but that starts by broadly understanding and recognizing the technology when we see it. This in part was my purpose for writing T-Minus AI.

With that said, I suppose there’s a bit of hopefulness. I’m quite bullish on the opportunities at hand for AI to embody values of respect, equality, inclusiveness, and others that are foundationally centered on the idea of human dignity. But in order to get there, the attributes of the path ahead start with a broadly consistent, shared, and common foundation of the technology -- learning is a lifetime sport for us all. Only then can we bring a level of practicality and pragmatism in order to ensure our uses don't infringe on rights and disenfranchise people, groups, and communities. The brass tacks hard work to achieve that starts now.

The path forward will take different people, from different backgrounds, and with different focuses so that we’re generally aware of the opportunities or compromises we will face in the years ahead. For what it’s worth, progress often precedes peril. Developments that bring improvements for some frequently present risks for others. As long as that reality is in the forefront of our mind then I think we'll be okay and AI can be used to better society as a whole. 

Steve Brehm

32nd Avenue Books, Toys & Gifts

June 6, 2021


DOWN RANGE

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Down Range: A Novel (Garrett Kohl) Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780063066502
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: William Morrow - August 3rd, 2021

For fans of adventure, debut author Taylor Moore’s Down Range will keep your eyes moving. The author’s personal background in intelligence has gifted him with the ability to use a convincing jargon that puts the reader on the scene. 

The hero of this novel, former Green Beret and current DEA agent Garrett Kohl, first appears on an investigation of the drug trade in Afghanistan. He witnesses a massacre of villagers and sees a small boy fleeing the destruction. Although he is in a restricted zone, he simply cannot allow the boy to be killed, so he fires on his pursuers, killing them. This obligates him to connect with a CIA base chief, whose plans have him traveling to the U.S. There, he subsequently winds up tangling with a drug cartel in Texas. Lots of clever plot development, action, and soul. If you like thrillers, don’t miss this one.

Since I think this debut work is well done, I wanted to ask the author a few questions about Down Range. We are grateful for his responses.

32nd Avenue Books: What can you say about the relationship between your background in intelligence and your inspiration for Down Range?

Taylor Moore: My career background had a huge influence on the novel. Obviously, I was very familiar with the military and intelligence world and how it relates to counternarcotics, but much of the inspiration for Down Range came from my experience in the energy sector. Working for an oil and gas exploration company, I came into contact with quite a few interesting people with stories to tell. Some of my sources included individuals who had spent time in federal prison for drug trafficking, which helped me to develop what I think is a fairly unique storyline for the novel. 

32nd Avenue Books :Can you identify other writers who influenced your style?

Taylor Moore: Growing up, I was a big fan of writers like Tom Clancy and Nelson DeMille. I'm also a big fan of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy, which is probably why my style falls somewhere between traditional thriller and modern western writers.

32nd Avenue Books: What do you think Garrett Kohl plans to do next?

Taylor Moore: As far as Garrett Kohl's plans, you'll have to wait and see. I'm in the process of writing book two and big things are happening right now. I can only tell you that it's going to be exciting. Those who like the action, intensity, and intrigue of Down Range won't be disappointed. And for those who like the character-driven part of the story, we'll pick back up where the first book ended.

Steve Brehm                            

32nd Avenue Books, Toys & Gifts

April 7, 2021


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