Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive December 2020

Charming young woman undergoing electroencephalography

New Findings Debunk Many Studies Claiming To Read Minds via EEG

The researchers first became suspicious when they could not replicate many findings

We are told by Purdue University researchers that “many eye-popping findings that were based on this dataset and received high-profile recognition are false after all.” In this case, there was a simple error: The Purdue team performed extensive tests over more than one year on the dataset, which looked at the brain activity of individuals taking part in a study where they looked at a series of images. Each individual wore a cap with dozens of electrodes while they viewed the images. The Purdue team’s work is published in IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence. The team received funding from the National Science Foundation. “This measurement technique, known as electroencephalography or EEG, can provide information about brain activity…

SEO symbol  on the keyboard of a latop, 3d rendering,conceptual image. online  google and search concepts.

Why Are 38 American States Suing Google?

Better question: What search engine results do you NEVER see?

The current lawsuit was announced by Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser but 38 states are signatories. The big issue is alleged suppression of competition. First, a bit of background: This is not the first big time lawsuit. That one would be from the U.S. Department of Justice in October: In October, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google, owned by Alphabet, for violating antitrust laws and actively enabling a monopoly in search engines and search advertising. The announcement followed a year’s worth of investigation by prosecutors, who “have spoken with Google’s rivals in technology and media, collecting information and documents that could be used to build a case.” The suit focuses on the tech giant’s illegal actions…

I caught a huge fish

#12! AI Is Going To Solve All Our Problems Soon!

In our countdown for the Top Twelve AI Hypes of 2020

First, before we get started: The AI industry has been making real progress. But with real progress comes real hype. That figures. We spent all year covering the real progress. Now that we are all kicking up our feet, we are going to send up some of the hype. We used to only have 10 top hypes but now we have 12. If progress continues at this pace, we might end up with 59 by 2050… Anyway, our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed fellow computer nerds, members of our Brain Trust, Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway on their picks last Saturday. And here’s #12! The article itself is actually an admission rather than a hype but let’s…

african american citizen voting near stand with vote lettering

What If Voters Could Sue for Lost or Altered Ballots?

Let’s look at the difference between what happens with financial fraud and electoral fraud

Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions in a variety of contexts but, just for now. Let’s look at how Alice might be able to detect financial fraud, courtesy the blog Expensivity. Fraudster Frank can cheat Financial Alice. But how does she know? Bernard Fickser asks us to consider two ways… and to ask, what if it involves stealing her vote? 1.The money just disappeared. In this case there would be no record of any authorization by Alice, or by someone impersonating Alice, or by any bank official that she disbursed the funds. This would represent a cybersecurity failure on the part of the bank, and the…

set of funny colored stickers with different emotions

Study: The Expression of Human Emotions Is Universal

Most representations in visual arts depend on the universality of human emotion

Most of us wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the expression of human emotions is universal. But today there is a study for everything and 16 “universal human emotional expressions” have been identified: Whether at a birthday party in Brazil, a funeral in Kenya or protests in Hong Kong, humans all use variations of the same facial expressions in similar social contexts, such as smiles, frowns, grimaces and scowls, a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows… Researchers at UC Berkeley and Google used machine-learning technology known as a “deep neural network” to analyze facial expressions in some 6 million video clips uploaded to YouTube from people in 144 countries spanning North, Central and South America, Africa, Europe,…

A raven in Dartmoor, UK

So Now Ravens Are As Smart As Chimpanzees…

But wait! Weren’t chimpanzees supposed to be the closest thing to humans?

Researchers tested ravens they had raised themselves (“hand-raised”), starting at four months of age (not far from the egg…) and then at 8, 12, and 16 months of age on a series of cognitive skills, compared to chimpanzees: Comparing the cognitive performance of the ravens with those of 106 chimpanzees and 32 orangutans who completed similar tasks in a previous study, the authors found that with the exception of spatial memory, the cognitive performance of the ravens was very similar to those of orangutans and chimpanzees. Nature Publishing Group , “Cognitive performance of four-months-old ravens may parallel adult apes” at Phys.org Here’s the open-access study. The authors offer an explanation: The findings provide evidence that ravens, similarly to great apes,…

Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

How Do We Know Financial Transactions Are Honest?

Let’s look at the steps we can take to find out

Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions, for example, as if as if they were running for office. At Expensivity, a blog about that expensive and unpleasant subject, money, Bernard Fickser asks about better ways of preventing financial fraud: We focus on financial Alice (the situation with financial Bob is parallel). Alice wants the record of deposits and disbursements in her ledger to reflect deposits that she has knowingly and willingly received as well as disbursements that she has authorized to go to the intended parties. If this is the case, the record of deposits and disbursements in her ledger as well as the running totals will…

Mosquito stuck in honey

Hi Tech and China: The Long Game re Spying in the United States

The relationship between California’s Eric Swalwell and Fang Fang could be a thriller. But they say it really happened

An investigative report from news site Axios reveals that Christine Fang (better known as Fang Fang), a fundraiser for Representative Eric Swalwell (D.–California), not only interacted with political elites in California but cultivated relationships with two Midwestern governors. She is also accused of being a spy for China from 2011 to 2015. This story adds to the growing evidence that China is playing the long-game of influencing American politics: Start with promising figures at the bottom, not at the top: The case demonstrates China’s strategy of cultivating relationships that may take years or even decades to bear fruit. The Chinese Communist Party knows that today’s mayors and city council members are tomorrow’s governors and members of Congress.” Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and…

3D rendering of a futuristic robot dog.

Questions Dog the Future of Police Robots

Robots will have all the human judgment flaws but none of the capacity to change

Here’s a snippet from a recent New York Times article on the apparent first use of police robots in the United States in 2016, to kill Micah Xavier Johnson. Johnson had been discharged from the U.S. Army under unclear circumstances and in July of that year he shot five officers dead. Like almost all police robots in use today, the Dallas device was a straightforward remote-control platform. But more sophisticated robots are being developed in labs around the world, and they will use artificial intelligence to do much more. A robot with algorithms for, say, facial recognition, or predicting people’s actions, or deciding on its own to fire “nonlethal” projectiles is a robot that many researchers find problematic. The reason:…

man inside man

But Do “Hidden Webs of Information” Really Solve Life’s Mystery?

Cosmologist Paul Davies won an award last year for an attempt that left “more questions than clean-cut answers (Physics World)

Last year, State University of Arizona’s cosmologist Paul Davies won a Best Book award from Physics World for Demon in the Machine: The book’s subtitle is “How hidden webs of information are solving the mystery of life.” But are they? The book deals with established physics concepts (such as the second law of thermodynamics), but also delves into Davies’ thoughts on topics such as the emergence of human consciousness (while making sure the reader is aware of what is speculation). Readers, though, are likely to be left with more questions than clean-cut answers about the laws of nature. “Just in the last 10 years or so, I suppose, I’ve begun to see a confluence of different subjects. Partly, this is…


How Can Ballots Be Both Secret and Fair?

The secrecy of ballots would not be compromised if voters used some markers of their identity known only to themselves

In these times, that’s an important question. Last time, we asked readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics (used to demonstrate propositions) as if they were running for office. Bernard Fickser continues to think about that question at Expensivity: To the question “How did you vote?” a friend of mine used to quip “By secret ballot.” My friend’s quip underscores the fundamental difference between the financial and the electoral context. Money in a financial ledger always has an explicit provenance. There’s a source for the money and a tracking history of how it ended in, say, the ledger of financial Alice. This is not to say that Alice’s ledger is an open book for everyone…

Chess Pieces on Board for Game and Strategy

The World’s First Quantum Chess Tournament Announces a Winner

Quantum chess allows for superposition, entanglement, and interference

Perimeter Institute’s Aleksander Kubica won: So what’s quantum chess? It’s a complicated version of regular chess that incorporates the quantum concepts of superposition, entanglement, and interference. “It’s like you’re playing in a multiverse but the different boards [in different universes] are connected to each other,” said Caltech physicist Spiros Michalakis during a livestream of the tournament. “It makes 3D chess from Star Trek look silly.” Jennifer Ouellette, “We have a winner in the world’s first quantum chess tournament” at Ars Technica Okay: Superposition: Elementary particles of our universe are not in one single specific place, they are only in a probable one. Entanglement: What happens to one elementary particle affects any other particle entangled with it, no matter how far…

european Union parliament election concept - hand putting ballot in blue election box

How Can We Prevent Financial or Election Fraud?

Both contexts come down to an accounting problem, keeping track of money or votes over time.

Here’s an idea from Expensivity, a blog about money and a lot of other things. Let’s take two people, the famous Alice and Bob, used to demonstrate many propositions in math and science: In an electoral context, we think of Alice and Bob as candidates running against each other for the same office. Alice’s ledger indicates votes that have been added or subtracted over time (with dates and times of the additions and subtractions), as well as her current vote total. Similarly for Bob. The vote total in each ledger starts at zero and can never drop below zero. If only legitimate votes are added to Alice’s ledger, there should be no need for votes ever to be subtracted from…

Bottom view close-up of four white surveillance cameras

How Toxic Bias Infiltrates Computer Code

A look at the dark underbelly of modern algorithms

The newly released documentary Coded Bias from Shalini Kantayya takes the viewer on a tour of the way modern algorithms can undermine justice and society and are actively subverting justice at the present moment. Coded Bias highlights many under-discussed issues regarding data and its usage by governments and corporations. While its prescriptions for government usage of data are well considered, the issue of corporate use of data involves many additional issues that the film skirts entirely. As the film points out, we are presented these algorithms as if they were a form of intelligence. But they are actually just math—and this math can be used to, intentionally or unintentionally, encode biases. In fact, as Bradley Center fellows Robert J. Marks…

White robot woman using digital sphere connection hologram 3D rendering

Robots Really Don’t Explain It All for Us—But They Helpfully Try

And what else can they do? The literature written about their efforts is often a lot of fun!

When computer whiz Rosalind Picard gave a course at MIT in 1997,“Toward Machines That Can Deny Their Maker,” she included some dialogue from a play she had written. As she tells it, The dialogue was inspired, in part, by the 1921 play of Karel Čapek, entitled “R.U.R.,” which stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots. This play is where the word robot originated, from the Czech “robotit,” which means “to drudge.” In R.U.R., humans have figured out the secret to making robots that are emotional and alive. However, the robots can only live for 20 years. Afterward, they expire (die.) Karel Čapek (pictured) invented the concept and maybe even the word, robots: As Picard tells it, “The robots in this dialogue share…

3D Illustration Emotionen als Freisteller

Can We Teach a Computer to Feel Things? A Dialogue…

Okay, There’s the computer’s side… and then there’s the dog’s side. Listen to both

The dialogue got started because of a gifted computer nerd, Rosalind Picard, also a playwright (pictured), who decided to become an evangelical Christian in midlife (approx 2019). As she tells it, “a flat, black-and-white existence suddenly turned full-color and three-dimensional.” The director of MIT’s Media Lab, she had also written a book in 2000 called Affective Computing which seems to suggest that one could somehow give emotions to machines. I asked Eric Holloway to help me figure that one out: O’Leary: Emotions are based on actual well-being or suffering. How can something that is not alive have actual emotions? Don’t think of people here!; think of dogs. Dogs have emotions. When my computer is giving trouble, I certainly hope it’s…

Sun over green grass field

Walter Bradley: An Engineer Who Has Made a Difference

He has impacted many, many lives, and the world is a much better place because of him

Mind Matters News is sponsored by the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Discovery Institute. A new biography is just out about Distinguished Fellow, Walter Bradley, after whom our center is named. Walter Bradley has been many things: scientist, professor, NASA researcher, proponent of reconciliation of faith and science, and a leader in empowering people in Africa with appropriate technologies. Walter Bradley is not a household name, but in a fairer world he would be. He’s sort of like George Bailey in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life: He has impacted many, many lives, and the world is a much better place because of him. Titled For a Greater Purpose: The Life and Legacy of Walter…

Extraterrestrial aliens spaceship fly above sunset sea

Could Aliens Be Hiding From Us Until We Are Ready?

An Israeli space expert says they are waiting for us to catch up

Okay, it seems kind of crazy but here on sci-fi Saturday, we have spent a lot of time wondering why we don’t see intelligent aliens even though the universe is big enough and fine-tuned for life. But the “We’re not ready” theory at least gives them some credit for having intelligence. Anyway, for what it is worth, one ex-space boffin says, “Trump was on the verge of revealing [aliens existence], but the aliens in the Galactic Federation are saying, ‘Wait, let people calm down first,’” Eshed, who helmed Israel’s space security program from 1981 to 2010, reportedly said. “They don’t want to start mass hysteria. They want to first make us sane and understanding.” Until that day, aliens have secured…

Man looking at business plan at whiteboard

Complexity Is Not Always a Bad Thing

It allows us to have an intellectual life

In a recent podcast, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and engineering prof Robert J. Marks discussed the difference between a bag of jigsaw puzzle pieces and a text message like “The city will get your car towed if you do not move it within the next 8 minutes”: Got your attention? That’s precisely what information does. It gets your attention. But what is information? How did those characters in a text message become important to you? Weren’t they just a string of letters and numbers? What, exactly, changed? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-112-Robert-Marks.mp3 A partial transcript follows. The Show Notes and a full transcript are available below. Robert J. Marks: In terms of meaningful information, I think it’s obvious. Michael, they used to say that it…

Futuristic high speed travel through tube. could illustrate data travel

Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review

A free sort DUST sci-fi film looks at the plight of an astronaut testing the concept

Science fiction can teach us useful science concepts so it is hardly a waste of time. For example, what about “faster than light”? Albert Einstein thought nothing in this universe would travel faster than light (FTL). He might be right or wrong but if we can’t beat the speed of light light, we won’t ever see a lot of possibly interesting things in the universe. It’s just too vast. So science fiction has been trying to beat the speed of light since forever. Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars: My favorite…