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Monthly Archive July 2020

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China stock market graph ticker

Tech Investment Analysts Strategize How to Deal With China Today

China’s assertions of power in recent years have left many uncertain about the future of business relationships

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Dr. Bob Kelly, Managing Partner of Ignition Partners, focusing on the panel he moderated at COSM 2019,“The Crisis of Big Tech: The US and China.” They explored the technological competition between the U.S. and China and what it means for the future. The panelists were futurist George Gilder, Wendy Liu, China market strategy analyst at multinational investment bank UBS, and Gary Rieschel, a venture capitalist in China and the United States. From the interview: Jay Richards: So what was the core controversy if you had to summarize it neutrally? Bob Kelly: I guess I’d say the core controversy really is what stance do we as Americans, or in the technology arena, take towards China? And there’s Read More ›

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Binary code with China flag, data protection concept

Charges Reveal Extent of China-Sponsored Hacking in the West

Targets have included COVID-19 labs, dissidents, and religious groups
What’s new about the most recent indictment is the acknowledgment that China is working with known cybercriminals. Read More ›
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Business Finance Marketing and Budget Report

What Happened When 1950s China Dreamed of “Total Information”?

When China rejected random sampling in favor of exhaustive enumeration of individuals, masses of “data” flooded in, but what did it mean?

A historian of modern China recounts the outcome of a momentous decision that China’s new Communist rulers made in the 1950s. They decided to abandon conventional methods of gathering statistics that use probability and adopted the method of exhaustive counting of everybody and everything. Why did their dream of total information became a nightmare? Harvard historian Arunabh Ghosh (right), author of Making It Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China (2020), explains that in the 1950s, newly communist China faced a choice about how to survey the population accurately while making “a clean break with the past.” For philosophical reasons, debates about how to gather statistics came to the fore: In a speech in 1951, Li Read More ›

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Smiling multiracial friends talk using sign language

Did We Learn Sign Language Before We Learned to Speak?

The idea that humans first communicated by complicated gestures and only later learned to speak is popular among cognitive scientists. Kensy Cooperrider explains

The origin of language is considered one of the hardest problems in science. Like the origin of consciousness, it attracts a great many theories. Cognitive scientist Kensy Cooperrider is a stout defender of the idea that human language started as sign language—a gestural “protolanguage” —hundreds of thousands of years ago. It’s not a new idea. It goes back to Étienne Bonnot de Condillac’s Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge (1746) and remained popular in the 19th century. In the 20th century, it was championed by University of Colorado anthropologist Gordon Hewes (1917–1997), who introduced the idea of studying ape communications in the early Seventies, to gain more insight. In general, apes communicate more by gesture than by voice. An Read More ›

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Inner Life of Super Human AI

GPT-3 Is “Mindblowing” If You Don’t Question It Too Closely

AI analysts sound unusually cautious in pointing out that it doesn’t live up to a lot of the hype

Last week, Jonathan Bartlett wrote about the somewhat misleading buzz around the new OpenAI third-generation software, GPT-3 (Generative Pretrained Transformer). And now—for a change—much of the industry has begun to seem socially distant, so to speak, from the reckless hype that has accompanied other releases. For example, one article starts off breathlessly: The artificial intelligence tool GPT-3 has been causing a stir online, due to its impressive ability to design websites, prescribe medication, and answer questions… Its predecessor, GPT-2, made headlines for being deemed “too dangerous to release” because of its ability to create text that is seemingly indistinguishable from those written by humans. While GPT-2 had 1.5 billion parameters which could be set, GPT-3 has 175 billion parameters. A Read More ›

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Lady in Glass

Interview With a Woman (or Women) Formerly Called Susan Blackmore

A professor of psychology argues that there is no continuity between our present selves and our past selves

Much of modern philosophy of mind is a compendium of New Age gibberish. An exemplar of this mess is Susan Blackmore, a Visiting Professor (Psychology) at the University of Plymouth. She is an atheist, a “skeptic,” and a prolific author. When she was interviewed in 2016 about her philosophy of mind, remarkably, in addition to the usual atheist denial of immortality of the soul and of free will, she denied personal continuity over time. How does Blackmore account for the doggedly persistent sense we have of personal continuity? “Parallel processing” is her explanation. Blackmore points out that there are many brain pathways that are active simultaneously when we perceive, think, and act. What does that have to do with personal Read More ›

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Twitter handle with care

What’s the Main Thing We Should Learn from the Big Twitter Hack?

Yes, Twitter got control of its platform back but not before its credibility in security matters was significantly weakened

As we reported at the time, on July 15, hackers gained control of a number of Twitter “Blue Checkmark” accounts. Twitter hands out Blue Checkmarks to accounts that exert heavy influence and have verified identities. That status permits many parody accounts to operate without generating confusion over who is really tweeting, the account or the parody. In any case, on Twitter, the Blue Checkmarks have quite a bit of power. They get access to analytics on their posts so they can measure (and manipulate) their engagement with their followers. Many influencers look for “Blue Checkmark” status to see if an account is worth engaging with. Twitter even allows the “Blue Checkmarks” to filter their conversations so as to limit them Read More ›

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Candy stripe flatworm

How Can Life Forms Show Intelligence With No Brain?

A Wall Street Journal piece points to the flatworm as an example

At the Wall Street Journal this weekend, Alison Gopnik a developmental psychologist and author of a number of books on child and infant learning, pointed to the learning skills of life forms without a brain and offers some insights: It might seem obvious that you need a brain to be intelligent, but a new area of research called “basal cognition” explores whether there are kinds of intelligence that don’t require neurons and synapses. Alison Gopnik, “Learning Without a Brain” at Wall Street Journal (July 26, 2020) If we look at the behavior of slime molds and the blob at the Paris Zoo, it’s not at all obvious that a life form needs a brain to be “intelligent.” Not if all Read More ›

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pregnant woman holding her tummy while standing near garden shed

Ethics Prof Slams Claims About Why Pregnant Women “Nest”

Evolutionary psychology is among the “scienciest” of the sciences; implicit belief does not require serious evidence

Evolutionary psychology continues to take a beating, as more people reflect on its central claim: Aspects of our psychology, which we think are the products of reason and emotion applied to personal and historical experience, really stem from the survival and reproduction mechanisms of human and other ancestors of whom we have no historical record. Arianne Shahvisi (above right), senior lecturer in ethics at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, joins philosopher Subrena E. Smith in critiquing of such vast claims. Her focus in a recent article at Psyche is claims about why expectant mothers “nest,” that is, spend a lot of time housecleaning and stocking up. Now, if you are not an evolutionary psychologist, you might hazard a guess that Read More ›

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Black Chimpanzee Mammal Ape

But, in the End, Did the Chimpanzee Really Talk?

A recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine sheds light on the motivations behind the need to see bonobos as something like an oppressed people, rather than apes in need of protection

Recently, Michael Egnor commented on radical primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh’s effort to level the playing field between humans and bonobos by including the latter as authors of a research paper on animal welfare: “Non-human animals don’t have abstract knowledge-making and practices that would allow them to be meaningfully consulted. It is reality, not anthropocentric bias, that has left animals out of this decision-making process.” There is a larger and very interesting story around that paper, recently relayed at Smithsonian Magazine by Lindsay Stern (right), a PhD candidate in comparative literature at Yale and author of a novel, The Study of Animal Languages. Her article tells us a good deal about the motivations of those who, essentially, see bonobos not as apes Read More ›

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Medical technology concept. Electronic medical record.

Top Tech Analyst: Human Biology Is Too Complicated for Humans

He hopes to be able to customize medicine for every person by building a virtual proxy for every person

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Craig Mundie former Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer, who is currently president of of Mundie and Associates, which coaches CEOs on technology strategy and organizational design. The topic was what AI can do for medicine and healthcare. Mundie’s dream is to build an AI that rivals human intellect. While many worry that AI can aid totalitarian rule, he sees himself as more pragmatic; it can, he says, be used for good or ill just like any other technology. He explained to Richards why we need AI to dominate health care: From the interview: Craig Mundie: I think there are a few big trends that are happening. Really big computers that are good at doing artificial Read More ›

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Senior man in a wheelchair using a virtual reality device

VR Pioneer Founded Off-Campus Lab to Work On Practical Uses

RATLab, founded in 2005, gave unlikely students a chance to work on serious virtual reality projects

In a recent podcast, “Rats in the Technology lab” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with the “grandfather of virtual reality” Thomas Furness. Furness shares his tribulations and triumphs with RATLab (Rats in the Technology lab), which is an “incubator” for innovative ideas in technology. All the employees are RATs (Rocking and Thinking). Furness is, of course, King Rat. So how did it get started and what happened then? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-092-Thomas-Furness.mp3 Transcript. Partial transcript: Thomas Furness (right): Well, I was enjoying my activity at the university, certainly a wonderful place to do research. But it is a bureaucracy, and I’ve found that sometimes having worked for the Air Force for the Department of Defense for 23 years, Read More ›

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hand of god

Built to Save Us from Evil AI, OpenAI Now Dupes Us

When combined with several metric tons of data, its new GPT-3 sometimes it looks like it is “thinking.” No, not really

OpenAI started life in 2015 as a non-profit organization whose mission was to safeguard humanity from malevolent artificial intelligence (AI). The founders’ goal was to ensure that when superhuman AI arrived, its inborn purpose was to serve humanity rather than subjugate it. In 2019, OpenAI transitioned to a for-profit company based in San Francisco and secured a one billion dollar investment from Microsoft. Things seem to have moved on from there. There’s a good question whether superhuman AI is even possible, as we have pointed out repeatedly here at Mind Matters News. While some of the AI tasks seem impressive, oftentimes when you look under the hood, what you find is a very expensive party trick or a staged demo. Read More ›

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Flush royal in poker player hand. Lucky winner.

Does AI Really “Get” Poker? Why That Matters.

Science journalist Maria Konnikova, also a professional poker player, explores the human side of poker and efforts to automate it

Maria Konnikova (left), a science journalist who quit a good gig to become a poker player, learned a a good deal about the human side of the game and about AI programmers’ efforts at automating it. Along the way, she won money and wrote a book, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win (June 2020). In an excerpt at Wired, she reflects on the fact that computer pioneer John von Neumann (1903–1957) was a poker player and “Not just a poker player, but someone for whom poker inspired brilliant insights into human decisionmaking, someone who considered it the ultimate game for approximating the strategic challenges of life.” Poker is a game of skill but Read More ›

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Würfel mit Hashtag-Symbol

Multiverse Physicist Max Tegmark Seeks AI That Checks News Bias

Naive people who truthfully claim to be acting only “for good” in trying to address bias in the news via AI are kidding themselves

Max Tegmark (right) is probably better known as a multiverse cosmologist than as an AI specialist. The MIT physics professor told New Scientist in 1998 that “All possible universes exist, even triangular ones.” He also informed Scientific American in 2003 that “Not just a staple of science fiction, other universes are a direct implication of cosmological observations”: Is there a copy of you reading this article? A person who is not you but who lives on a planet called Earth, with misty mountains, fertile fields and sprawling cities, in a solar system with eight other planets? The life of this person has been identical to yours in every respect. But perhaps he or she now decides to put down this Read More ›

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Smart car, Autonomous self-driving concept.

The Political Case Against Self-Driving Cars

An auto mechanic turned philosopher warns against ceding control of one’s destination to others, in the relentless pursuit of safety

Some worry about the role driverless cars might play in the next pandemic lockdown (there will be other pandemics and emergencies). David Lanza offers a thought-provoking scenario for these autonomous/self-driving vehicles: The production of driverless cars remains in its infancy, but if those cars ever become common, the government will have no problem locking us down on the slightest pretext. Driverless cars have no steering wheels and depend upon pre-programmed GPS coordinates to guide them (and us) to our destinations. Aside from entering a destination at the start of a trip, a driver has no way to direct the car. David Lanza, “Driverless Cars Will Make the Next Pandemic Crackdown Complete” at American Thinker The response to the COVID-19 crisis, Read More ›

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Cyborg hand using digital artificial intelligence holographic projection 3D rendering

Are We on the Cusp of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)?

One AI specialist is convinced that money and infrastructure are the only real obstacles

Kathleen Walch, Principal Analyst at Cognilytica, asks “Is AGI really around the corner, or are we chasing an elusive goal that we may never realize?” It was an oddly blunt question from someone in her industry. But then she was right to expect Ben Goertzel (right), CEO & Founder of the SingularityNET Foundation, to reassure her that all is well when she interviewed him at OpenCogCon. Ben Goertzel, a leading expert in the pursuit of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)—computers that can think like humans—thinks that we are now at a “turning point” where AGI will see rapid advances: Over the next few years he believes the balance of activity in the AI research area is about to shift from highly Read More ›

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3D rendering of a futuristic mech soldier with dog.

Do Some Passages in the Book of Revelation Seem to Talk About AI?

Revelation is notoriously obscure but a passage about a future “total control” state gives pause for thought

John Lennox, author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?” with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, he addresses the title question, “Do some passages in the Book of Revelation seem to talk about AI?”: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-091-John-Lennox.mp3 Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources. “Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?” provides an account of the earlier portion of this lively discussion.) Robert J. Marks (right): Last question I want Read More ›

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Artificial robot hand touch human hand

Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?

Oxford mathematician contends that science should increase our respect for what God has created and allowed us to do

John Lennox. author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?”, he discusses with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, the title question: “Can AI replace the need for belief in God?” https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-091-John-Lennox.mp3 Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources) Robert J. Marks (right): Let’s talk about the theological implications of AI. You have a reputation, not only as a mathematician, but a Christian apologist. And I wanted to go into some Read More ›

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Robot with Artificial Intelligence observing human skull in Evolved Cybernetic organism world. 3d rendered image

Could Super Artificial Intelligence Be, in Some Sense, Alive?

An AI theorist makes the case to a technical writer…

Tech writer Ben Dickson poses the question: Should you feel bad about pulling the plug on a robot or switch off an artificial intelligence algorithm? Not for the moment. But how about when our computers become as smart—or smarter—than us? Ben Dickson, “What will happen when we reach the AI singularity?” at TheNextWeb, July 7, 2020 Philosopher Borna Jalšenjak (above right) of the Luxembourg School of Business has been thinking about that. He has a chapter, “The Artificial Intelligence Singularity: What It Is and What It Is Not,” in Guide to Deep Learning Basics: Logical, Historical and Philosophical Perspectives, in which he explores the case for “thinking machines” being alive, even if they are machines. The book as a whole Read More ›