Russian x-risks newsletter winter 2019-2020

by avturchin3 min read1st Mar 20204 comments

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As of February, 29, there were no official cases of coronavirus in Russia, except 3 cases from Diamond Princess and 2 older cases from China which recovered. This absence of the new cases seems statistically implausible given around 100 cases in Germany. There were some rumors that some infected people do exist, and some schools are closed and some universities are disinfected. However, there are many people on quarantine or under medical observation, including some people (8 people as of 29 Feb) arrived from Italy and Iran.

The desire of the Russian government to downplay the virus internally is connected with the important voting on the new constitution which will take place April, 22. The goal of the changes is to ensure the stability of the power transit after Putin’s era is over, but nobody actually understands how exactly it will be done. The changes were suggested by Putin at January, 15, and the same day he dismissed the government. This was regarded by analytics as coup de etat started by the president himself in order to change the structure of power. The process is not going as well as was expected by the perpetrators and this means that Russia will have an unstable future. (The alternative to the constitutional change was the “Anschluss” of Belorussia and creation of the “new USSR” which was planned in December, but Belarussian leader Lukashenko did everything to prevent this, despite oil delivery blackmail. If it has happened, a new war in Europe could start. This also explains public attack by Putin on Poland, as only Poland could actively oppose the “Anschluss”, according to prominent analytic Illarionov).

A declared epidemic may prevent people to go to voting stations (but there is also a new option to vote via the internet), which would undermine the legitimacy of the power transfer.

Meanwhile, Putin’s daughter becomes the head of the new AI development center. It is possible that she will be Putin’s successor.

Also, Russia almost has started a war with Turkey, after more than 30 Turkish soldiers were killed by an airstrike on 27 of February. Some claimed that the strike was performed by Russian jets. Eventually, Erdogan downplayed the situation by claiming that this was done by Syrian planes, but the situation is still very dangerous. Russian mercenaries are also fighting Turkish forces in Libya.

There are problems with the prolongation of the last nuclear treaty START.

The winter in Russia was warmest in 140 years – around 7-8 C above the norm in Moscow region, almost without snow. It is mostly explained by very strong Atlantic circulation which brought a lot of warm air. Meanwhile, “Russia announces plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change. Kremlin website recognizes global heating as a problem but lists ‘positive’ economic effects”.

“Informational weapons” were effectively used against Russia. While it is questionable if informational weapons are an existential risk, the size of destruction they create may be comparable with large air raid and may grow in the future as the world becomes more interconnected:

· US signed sanctions against Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream-2 to Europe and killed the project with 40 billion USD of literally sunk cost (the unfinished pipeline is underwater).

· Almost every day unknown people are calling Russian police and claim that bombs are put in schools, kindergartens and airports. A typical Moscow school is evacuated once a week (information from a teacher) and children have to wait outside until police will check. Never they found anything. Evacuations of hospitals resulted in deaths in the past.

· Panic because of coronavirus is damaging economy stronger than deaths. Medical masks are almost sold out in Russia. Oil price is declining.

· There were claims that Russia is melding again in the US presidential campaign and also that it was planting fake news about coronavirus.

Russian GPT-2 is online: https://text.skynet.center/

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4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:43 PM
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Almost every day unknown people are calling Russian police and claim that bombs are put in schools, kindergartens and airports. A typical Moscow school is evacuated once a week (information from a teacher) and children have to wait outside until police will check. Never they found anything.

I was dubious of this at first, since I'd never heard of the phenomenon, but a quick search for "Moscow bomb threat" turned up a huge number of stories going back many months. I updated to become a bit more humble about how well-informed I actually am...

It is just part of life here. Even when I was in the university 20 years ago, there was a student who hated one professor and he mined the whole university every Thursday. They found him eventually. Current mining is either related to war with Ukraine or to money blackmail.

Russian GPT-2 is online: https://text.skynet.center/

Where can people learn more about this project? I'm curious about who developed it (especially given the ominous choice of name).

It is currently renamed as Porfirich which is joke name with some relation to a novel by Dostoyvsy. It was created by just one programmer, Michael Grankin.