A Call on Science to Eradicate Nukes

Yuri Barzov
11 min readApr 21, 2022
A Russian family is watching the Nyonoksa explosion caused by a failed test of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a very dangerous doomsday weapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall.

Extraordinary problems require extraordinary solutions. If we need a magic wand to eradicate nukes, then we have to make the magic wand, first, and use it to eradicate nukes, second.

1. Polina’s Dream

“I dreamed of such a sunny afternoon, a lot of people … everything blooms … and suddenly … a wave of fire … comes from the horizon.

And there are many people in front of me.

And they begin to turn around and burn in rows, like this … turned around — burned out, then the next row.

And the wave reached me … and it was strange to feel the heat in a dream, usually a dream is just a picture.

And then I burned out and I felt it.

And I woke up from the fact that I was gone.

It wasn’t even that scary.

Fear arose later.

And then I thought that you and I joke all the time about Sarah Connor.

And I remembered that Terminator 2 begins with her dream…”

Polina lives in the city of Odessa in Ukraine. She is a very special person to me. Since the Russian invasion began we text each other several times a day just to cheer each other up.
My passion to find the way to eradicate nukes began with her horrific dream. Polina is brave enough to stay in Odessa in wartime but sometimes she is very scared of Putin nuking her home city and her.
I can’t protect Polina from Putin’s missiles and threats now but I promised her that I’ll do everything I can and beyond to ensure that Putin or anybody else would not be able to use nukes in the future even as a threat.
I firmly believe that Polina’s Dream is a warning, not a prophesy. Yet we must take this warning most seriously so that it will never turn into reality.

2. Between Zero and One

I’m not a scientist but I believe in learning. Unlike the static science of knowing the dynamic science of learning can invent solutions which don’t exist. My belief is based on several years of thorough research of the science of learning and my recent communications with some of the most brilliant scientists in this emerging field. The science of learning is dealing with the unknown. The scope of science of the unknown is unlimited unlike the limited scope of science of only the known.

I used to be a Soviet diplomat, an international executive search consultant and a Russian internet entrepreneur. Since 2020 I live in France.

I was born in the Ukrainian city of Nikolaev just off Odessa where Polina lives. My father was born in the nearby city of Kherson. I stand with Ukraine not only on humanitarian grounds but also from very deep personal connect.

In 2018 I became passionate about the idea of improving human nature by introducing an AI system that will love truth, human individuality, and the entire human race more than we, humans, do it today ourselves.

One of the founding fathers of modern deep learning, the Director of Montreal Institute of Learning Algorithms Yoshua Bengio shared my passion from the very early stage of my search for a relevant AI solution. However, he had to admit that even the best modern AI systems need to be upgraded several orders of magnitude to be able to meet my requirements.

Therefore I had to shift the focus of my search from the existing AI solutions to the scientific theories which may consolidate vast but mostly phenomenological experience in AI on a solid theoretical foundation supported by robust experimental evidence. Major findings of this search were put together in the manuscript of my book The Learning Universe: Between Zero and One.

My major finding is that the theory of universal learning is dynamically evolving right now simultaneously in many branches of science including theoretical physics, cosmology, theoretical and experimental biology, neuroscience, and more. The most revolutionary claim in this field is that the theory of universal learning may unify quantum mechanics and general relativity and become the valid theory of everything.

In my search I got acquainted with some of the most brilliant and rebellious scientists of our time who pursue the learning-first paradigm:

Karl Friston is a theoretical biologist and the most cited neuroscientist in the world. He is the author of the Free Energy Principle and the Active Inference Theory presenting life and the Universe as a learning process.

Michael Levin is an experimental and synthetic biologist known best for his mind blowing experiments with electro morphogenesis (growing two headed planaria, regenerating frog’s limb, and xenobots). He is the author of an experimentally grounded information theoretical framework Minds are Everywhere that presents any agency as learning.

Vitaly Vanchurin is a theoretical physicist trying to lay down a solid theoretical foundation to machine learning and AI. His theory of the Universe as a learning network presents all major physical phenomena in the Universe as learning. It also unifies quantum and classical physics and paves the way to the mathematical emulation of quantumness and the creation of quantum computing without the need for physical elementary particles.

Marina Cortes, is a cosmologist and theoretical physicist. Together with theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, theoretical biologist, and complex systems researcher Stuart Kauffman, and astrophysicist Andrew Liddle she is launching a new branch of science biocosmology as an extension to Smolin and Cortes causal theory of views, yet another perspective on the fundamental nature of learning. According to Cortes, biocosmology intersects many of the subjects I discuss in the manuscript of my book.

It is my dream now that they and other scientists who are eager to learn and passionate about eradicating of nukes will unite their efforts. Together they can leverage a truly multidisciplinary approach of learning from each other and with each other to find new unprecedented solutions that will lead to the eradication of nukes.

3. The Ring of Power

It looks like the nuclear threat is getting more and more real.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently told CNN that there is a possibility that Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons in his war on Ukraine.

A couple of days before Zelensky’s interview the director of the C.I.A. William J. Burns publicly discussed for the first time since the war in Ukraine broke out the concern that “potential desperation” to extract the semblance of a victory in Ukraine could tempt Putin to order the use of a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon.

There are many ways how the situation might unfold but it is obvious to everyone right now, I think, that nuclear weapons empower Putin’s evil. Look just at how frequently he threatens with nukes to fend Western Powers from providing direct military assistance to Ukraine.

Russian threats aren’t limited to Ukraine. Former Russian President and close Putin-ally Dmitry Medvedev warned recently that Russia is prepared to deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltics in the event that Finland and Sweden join NATO.

Reportedly China has accelerated an expansion of its nuclear arsenal in view of the Ukraine invasion, seeing a stronger nuclear arsenal as a way to deter the US from getting directly involved in a potential conflict over Taiwan.

The atomic bomb was created by scientists with a noble intention of stopping the Nazi Germany. However, nuclear bombs were almost instantly used to destroy two Japanese cities killing many thousands of innocent people. If nuclear weapons are not evil by themselves they attract evil in the same way as the Ring of Power attracted it in the renowned J.R.R.Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings.

Today we are faced with a crisis in which the atomic bomb originally created against German Nazis is in the possession of Russian Nazis. Totalitarianism and nationalism — the two ingredients which are enough to make fascism, were both growing inside modern Russia for many years as a cancerous tumor without us noticing it. Make no mistake, Putin’s Russia is a fully fletched Nazi state. Putinism is in no way better than Hitlerism. To imagine the future of the World now it is enough to imagine what would happen if Hitler had 5000 nuclear warheads in his disposal.

Depriving Russia alone from its atomic arsenal isn’t enough for eliminating the nuclear threat. Nuclear weapons should be disarmed everywhere once and for all like Frodo Baggins destroyed the Ring of Power in the Cracks of Doom. Nukes should be eradicated as a malicious virus.

Daryl G. Kimball from the Arms Control association puts it in a less poetic way: “Instead of reverting to destabilizing Cold War-era behaviors, leaders and concerned citizens in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere need to embrace new thinking and strategies about nuclear weapons and disarmament that move the world from the shadow of nuclear catastrophe.

“A nuclear state is a secured state”, Indian national security and nuclear policy expert Bharat Karnad sets the record straight on the new nuclear strategies. In his view the Russian invasion in Ukraine “highlights two basic nuclear facts of life, namely, that nuclear weapons endow a country — even if small, poor, and militarily weak — with absolute security, and powerful nuclear countries with the protective shield to further their interests using conventional military might. Such strategic benefits are why nuclear weapons are so sought after.”

I have real trouble imagining the humongous change in global politics that needs to occur to motivate nuclear states to abandon those obvious strategic benefits.

Given the strategic attractiveness of nukes for nation states, any, even the slightest, increase of our chances to eradicate nukes should not be ignored.

My totally nuts idea is to launch an interdisciplinary scientific project on an impossible mission in unknown territory — to learn how to create a technological self implementing solution that will eliminate nukes everywhere irrespective of the political will of nation states — a sort of a vaccine against the virus of nukes.

4. The Fellowship of the Ring

In the past century it was enough to get together only physicists and mathematicians to create the atomic threat. Nowadays it will be necessary to put together a truly multidisciplinary team to try to eliminate that threat once and for all. The knowledge-first paradigm is dominant in modern science. Talking to rebels in science, I experience that the knowledge-first paradigm from time to time takes over even those who admit the fundamental nature of learning.

However, I believe that the learning-first paradigm will lead to the unification of the language of scientists who will cooperate on this initiative. It won’t be an easy task.

According to Endel Tulving’s theory of cognitive maps we have two navigation systems: (1) by wide cognitive maps with landmarks (2) by narrow cognitive maps with markers. The first system enables us to see the whole territory and many different routes to a chosen destination simultaneously. The second system lets us learn single routes one at a time.

My assumption is that the second system dominates modern science and humongously cripples its effectiveness. It’s very hard for scientists advancing along their narrow routes to understand each other and to work together because they are missing a shared broad cognitive map.

I believe that Smolin’s theory, Friston’s principle, Levin’s framework and other scientifically weighted views on the truth superposed over each other can provide a coherent system of landmarks for a broad cognitive map of science. Such a share broad map will enable scientists from different fields to work seamlessly together in spite of their different special vocabularies and toolkits.

Scientists with narrow cognitive maps, when they collaborate, try to stitch their narrow cognitive maps together into a labyrinth with different systems of markers instead of using a common system of landmarks to see and navigate the entire territory of exploration.

The ultimate goal of this initiative is to create a learning network of scientists on the same principles as the basal cognition and the natural mind (embodied intelligence) in general are operating. It will incorporate organically the moral principle of egoistic unselfishness that puts interests of species ahead of any other group interests because unlike groups or nation states species interests don’t demand to sacrifice individuality.

Such a proto-mind serving as a prototype by itself might be able to develop the whole new technology of creating organisms (not necessarily biological) instead of building machines.

However, the real passion, at least in my case, emerges from the aim of solving a concrete problem of nuclear disarmament with this proto-mind. A working real life solution will be an excellent reality check for the potential of such a proto-mind. I introduce the term proto-mind because the neural network-alike structure made of people that I propose to create will be closer to a biological organ than to a social institution.

The nuclear war recently re-emerged as arguably the biggest existential threat to human civilization, overshadowing even the climate change and pandemics. It is entirely human made threat. Therefore, I propose nuclear disarmament as the first mission of the proto-mind.

Passion is important because achieving a breakthrough in nuclear disarmament will be extremely difficult. People who will not be passionate about this target will simply give up very much earlier than we achieve anything.

5. How to Make Fantasy Work

Any initiative undertaken by the proto-mind will begin with the generation of an array (10–20) of scientifically implausible but possible hypothetical solutions. That will be the fantasy solution phase.

A typical fantasy solution may sound like that:

“A primitive electromagnetic lifeform much simpler even than a virus, might be created to resolve this problem. It will have spores: microscopic networks of phase states in the phase space. Spores will spread throughout the Earth’s electromagnetic field and other fields and penetrate everywhere. They will look for the presence of nuclear graphite against the background of radiation from weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. When spores find nuclear graphite irradiated by weapon-grade isotopes, they will come to life, start feeding on pure graphite, multiplying and clogging the graphite with the products of their homeostasis.

These products will absorb neutrons rather than repel them like graphite. So when the graphite will become sufficiently clogged with them, the chain reaction in the bomb becomes impossible. And our little antibodies will again turn into spores and will wait, if suddenly someone else will try again to create the a-bomb.

In thermonuclear bombs, an atomic bomb is used as a fuse. Therefore, they will also be disarmed. A chain reaction is impossible without purified graphite.”

The proto-mind will identify and attract researchers who have expertise in specific parts of the fantasy solution. For instance, Michael Levin in this case might be invited as an expert on basal cognition and bioelectric morphogenesis. Hildegard Meyer-Ortmanns might be invited as an expert on dynamics of distributed heteroclinic networks in phase space, Areg Danagoulian — as an expert on nuclear disarmament verification via resonant phenomena, Christopher Chyba — on harvesting electricity from the Earth’s magnetic field, and so on. Experts in every research area or technology mentioned in the fantasy will be required.

Given the extremely low probability of success in the beginning, it is highly unlikely that any scientist with a narrow cognitive map (shallow neural network) will be willing to join the proto-mind in this phase.

When we have a fantasy solution and a team of relevant experts we will be able to move on to the impossibility phase.

All experts will be invited to explain why they think the fantasy is impossible to implement. The reasons for impossibility of the fantasy solution given by experts will be reframed as constraints — gaps in our current knowledge which prevent us from making the fantasy work.

In the constraint removal phase the proto-mind will estimate time and resources required for filling those gaps.

The most credible and cost efficient ways of removing constraints will be taken further to the development phase.

When and if all constraints will be removed the solution will move into the implementation phase.

The proto-mind will need a bunch of fantasy solutions to each unresolvable problem. We’ll be extremely lucky if at least one of them will reach the implementation phase.

It’s an epic challenge with a huge probability of failure. Yet from time to time we need to make predictions which are highly unlikely to come true. If such a prediction turns out to be true at the end, science will open a portal into a new dimension of learning and people who make it happen will experience the highest level of subjective happiness.

Most importantly, we’ll make sure that the nuclear destruction about which we were warned by Polina’s dream will never happen in real life.

Since the Mid-March 2022 I’ve been talking to scientists and secured interest of some of them to pursue this initiative further. If you are interested in participating, drop me a line in private comments here or at https://twitter.com/ybarzov, or https://www.facebook.com/ybarzov/.