AI, Gold and Nuclear War

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by Jim Rickards, Daily Reckoning:

So-called artificial intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm. Meanwhile, gold has shot up like a rocket over the past couple of months.

In mid-February, gold was trading at $1,990. Two months later, gold is trading above $2,400 — a $410 gain in just two months.

So here’s a question:

Is there a connection between AI and gold? It seems like an odd question. But as it turns out, the answer is yes. And surprisingly, there has been for decades. It involves the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

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In the early 1980s, the KGB was deeply concerned about the possibility of a nuclear first strike by the United States. At the time, Yuri Andropov was head of the KGB.

Andropov’s fear of a nuclear first strike by the U.S. was based in part on the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan and Reagan’s plan to install Pershing II intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

Those missiles could be armed with nuclear warheads and could strike the Soviet Union within minutes of being launched. This put Soviet nuclear forces on a hair-trigger alert. They adopted a “launch on warning” posture.

This means that as soon as credible evidence of a planned first strike was discovered, the Soviet Union would launch its own first strike to avoid destruction of its forces.

The irony was that the U.S. had no actual plans to launch a first strike, but the Soviet Union didn’t know that. Reagan’s speeches about the “evil empire” did nothing to calm Soviet concerns.

AI and Nuclear Readiness

In response, the Soviets developed a primitive (by today’s standards) AI system called VRYAN. That’s a Russian acronym for: sudden nuclear missile attack.

VRYAN took about 40,000 military, economic and political inputs and computed the relative strength of the Soviet Union compared with the United States expressed as a percentage output. The model used a value of 100% for equivalence of the USSR to the U.S.

The Soviet leadership was comfortable that the U.S. would not launch a nuclear first strike if the USSR could maintain a value of 60%, although they viewed 70% as providing a more comfortable margin.

A VRYAN output of 40% was considered the critical threshold at which the U.S. might feel it could launch a first strike with acceptable risk that the Soviets would not be able to mount a successful second strike.

VRYAN output values were in steady decline in the dangerous period from 1981–1984 (in 1984, the VRYAN output had declined to 45%).

The VRYAN AI system relied on by the KGB and the Soviet Politburo was an important factor in the Soviet decision in 1981 to vastly increase intelligence collections aimed at detecting U.S. preparations for a first strike.

Close Call

This intelligence collection effort was complicated to the point of extreme danger by the fact that the U.S. and NATO were conducting a war game in late 1983, code-named Able Archer 83. This war game was to practice a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union.

It turned out that the U.S. was rehearsing a nuclear first strike at the same exact time that the KGB was looking for evidence of a nuclear first strike. Able Archer 83 provided the KGB with more than enough reason to suspect the U.S. was indeed preparing for a first strike under cover of a war game.

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