Guest host Richard Syrett welcomed biographer Marilyn Barnewall, who detailed how Reagan-era intelligence agent Leo Emil Wanta attempted to cause the financial collapse of the Soviet Union. Wanta, himself, joined the conversation during the latter half of the program to discuss his battles with the US government over the fortune he amassed. Barnewell noted that Wanta's involvement with the intelligence community began when he was in his teenage years and, while working for the John Birch Society, he would surreptitiously deliver the organization's trash to FBI agents interested in tracking their activity. His role in the intelligence community culminated when Ronald Reagan became president and Wanta was enlisted to be a part of a secret task force aimed at disrupting the Soviet economy.
According to Barnewell, the task force determined that, using $150 billion dollars, they could successfully pull off this mission and Wanta was put in charge of the plot. From there, she said, Wanta journeyed to Vienna and created a company which traded various currencies, in exchange for rubles, with allies of the Soviet Union as well as forces within that nation. Barnewell explained that the ruble had become overvalued by the Soviet Union and, thus, people were eager to trade it for a more stable currency. This allowed Wanta to accumulate a vast amount of rubles for a fraction of what the Soviet Union had valued them. In turn, Wanta would sell the rubles, at a profit, to nations that were indebted to the Soviet Union, allowing them to repay their debt at a far cheaper rate, which decimated the Soviet economy.
Ultimately, Barnewell claimed that Wanta's wealth, as a result of his financial machinations, totaled a stunning $27.5 trillion dollars. After paying the United States back its $150 billion that originally funded the enterprise, he retained possession of the massive fortune. Wanta, who joined the conversation in the latter half of the program, contended that his agreement with Reagan, regarding this profit from the enterprise, was that the money should be used to benefit the American people. However, he declared that Congress could not be trusted with the funds and that the Federal Reserve is an illegal enterprise and, thus, had no right to the money. As such, Wanta said that, until assurances can be made that the money will be truly spent on the American people, he will never turn over the funds to the United States government, despite attempts made over the years to coerce him into doing so.
In the first hour, scientist, professor, and entrepreneur Steve Omohundro warned that autonomous robots of the future are likely to behave in anti-social and harmful ways unless they are very carefully designed (related paper). He observed that there are two dueling forces driving the further development of AI technology: business and military interests. To that end, he expressed concern that the competitive nature of this race to develop artificial intelligence will result in technologies being created without considering the potential dangers they could pose to humanity. Since autonomous technology could develop a drive for self-preservation, Omohundro stressed the need to impose human values on AI systems in order to prevent them from harming people as a means of ensuring their own survival.