Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive February 2021

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wooden toy model sitting on a bench

Sci-Fi Saturday: When Virtual Friends Are a Real Addiction

This animated short begins with the thirtieth birthday party of a rather glum young man

“Best Friend” at DUST by Nicholas Olivieri, Shen Yi, Juliana De Lucca, Varun Nair, David Feliu (Feb 16, 2021, 5:31) “In a near future, a lonely man is addicted to a product called Best Friend which offers him perfect virtual friends.” As is hinted in the title (so this is not a spoiler), we suddenly learn — via an effective plot maneuver — that all of the partying friends are virtual realities. I had already begun to wonder about the animated objects cheering along with the crowd but then maybe in the future our kitchenware will have enthusiasms … But no. It’s all in his head, as long as he keeps replenishing the supply of a chemical cocktail to a…

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Distant planet system in space with exoplanets 3D rendering elements of this image furnished by NASA

We Are Warned: Don’t Try To Colonize Super-Earths

Theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel tells us why he thinks it would end in disaster

According to NASA, super-Earth planets are “a class of planets unlike any in our solar system – are more massive than Earth yet lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus, and can be made of gas, rock or a combination of both. They are between twice the size of Earth and up to 10 times its mass.” Such plants are common in our galaxy and so far we have discovered 1,342 of them. Some are hot enough to vaporize metal; some are dim and frozen. An infographic from NASA of the TOI 270 system provides examples of super-Earths in relation to Earth: From NASA: “This infographic illustrates key features of the TOI 270 system, located about 73 light-years away…

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Glowing yellow implant inside human head. Uses: medical, alien, future tech where monitoring and transmission of  biotelemetry is involved.

Sci-Fi Saturday: Watch What You Wish For. There IS a Tomorrow!

Carl, a lonely guy, is determined to proceed through the warning and try the Luvsik procedure, to make him fall in love at first sight

“Luvsik” at DUST by Norman Bertolino (February 29, 2021,5:00) “A man has a medical procedure done to experience love for the first time.” This short short starts out with a parody promo video for an off-standard medical treatment. It’s just the sort of promo that should — but alas, often doesn’t — send prospective patients fleeing back to their cars, then the freeway. So we know that, if Carl is unfazed, he is pretty serious about finding love. It’s also a clever way of providing the science basis for the story. No spoilers but Carl, the guy who wants the brain implant to cause him to fall in love at first sight, is told that in every case where the…

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girl is flying in her bed

Yes, We Can Communicate With People When They Are Dreaming

At one time, the idea of communicating with people while they were dreaming would have been regarded by most scientists as hokey New Age stuff. But now a research group has done it.

A research group surprised the science world by reporting: “We found that individuals in REM sleep can interact with an experimenter and engage in real-time communication,” said senior author Ken Paller of Northwestern University. “We also showed that dreamers are capable of comprehending questions, engaging in working-memory operations, and producing answers. “Most people might predict that this would not be possible — that people would either wake up when asked a question or fail to answer, and certainly not comprehend a question without misconstruing it.” Cell Press, “Real-time dialogue with a dreaming person is possible” at ScienceDaily (February 18, 2021) The paper is open access. There is no clear science explanation for why we dream. But one restriction on dreams…

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Social scoring and rating symbol abstract 3d illustration

Face recognition: Is the U.S. Copying China’s Surveillance State?

Although facial recognition (and the resulting “social credit score”) prevail in China, the technology is getting pushback in America

In a recent article, I recounted the story of Dana Kurtbek, who has faced harassment from the DHS and the FBI after facial recognition technology and anonymous reports placed her inside the Capitol Building during the riot on January 6th. By her own account, she never came closer than a mile from the Capitol. She expressed concern to Mind Matters News that the continuing harassment may have resulted from neighbors who disagree with her pro-Trump views reporting her to the federal government. Facial recognition technology and neighbors as informants may sound strange to American ears, but in China, both are essential elements of the Chinese Communist Party’s technocratic regime. In 2014, China unveiled a social credit system that Human Rights…

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Cancel Culture Symbol

How an AI Giant Beat Cancel Culture (You Can Too!)

A Twitter mob led by an AI industry bully made a mistake when it came for University of Washington's Pedro Domingos

These days Cancel culture can descend suddenly on anyone who doesn’t think the way a Twitter mob likes about one or another issue. For example: ➤ Celebrity atheist scientist Richard Dawkins was Canceled from speaking at Trinity College in Ireland because he has said critical things about Islam and about some claims of sexual assault. Note: Dawkins says critical things about all religions but Cancel mobs focus narrowly. ➤ The enforcement is irrational. Antiracist author Ibrahim X. Kendi can make negative statements about transgender culture comparatively safely but J. K. Rowlings, in a similar circumstance, became the target of a vicious “deplatform” campaign, against which she ably defended herself. However, people who cannot write like Rowlings have not nearly been…

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Senior Care And Technology

Sophia the Robot Retooled to Help With Senior Care

Hanson Robotics sees a huge opportunity in the COVID lockdowns for a mass robot rollout that substitutes for human companionship

Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics is rolling out Sophia the Robot, to help people cope with loneliness during government-enforced isolation as a response to COVID-19. Brushing aside claims that human contact is preferred, firm’s principals see the lockdowns as creating new opportunities for the robotics industry. Founder and CEO David Hanson says, “Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like. That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated”: Social robotics professor Johan Hoorn, whose research has included work with Sophia, said that although the technology is still in relative infancy, the pandemic could accelerate a relationship between humans and robots. “I can infer the pandemic will actually help us get robots…

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AI(Artificial intelligence) concept.

Exactly What IS Artificial Intelligence Anyway?

How does AI relate to machine learning (ML), neural computing, informatics, and a host of other hot CS buzz words?

Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence, likes to explain AI by saying “AI is anything computers do that is kind of amazing.” (“Human Exceptionalism,” Reasons to Believe, August 8, 2020). Using this definition AI is a general term that includes a collection of computer science technologies. AI is fluid. Dr. Elaine Rich (pictured), noted computer scientist and an author of Artificial Intelligence, offers a more specific definition: “AI is the study of how to make computers do things which, at the moment, people do better.” (Accessed February 17, 2021) Relying on this definition John Hsia observes: “By definition, once a computer can do what people used to do better, it’s no longer…

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Like facebook 3d box with white background. 3d rendering

Who’s Afraid of Facebook? Maybe We Should All Be More Wary

A whistleblower showed that rules are enforced very unevenly. Facebook allows extremist language to flourish in some venues and censors mainstream speech in others

Facebook is, according to Fortune Magazine, the “dominant social media app,” with $84.2 billion in revenue in 2019, especially after acquiring Instagram. So dominant that government hearings into questionable activities offer mere slaps on the wrist. There is a reason for that, as we shall soon see. Facebook is, of course, a censor but at best a clumsy one. It removed a page by international disease experts critical of the COVID lockdowns, as if they were mere health cranks. Recently, Facebook announced that it plans to continue to take down posts whose claims its fact checkers “deem false” (February 8, 2021). To get some sense of what that means, Facebook censored an article at UnHerd that was critical of the…

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The New Caledonian crow bird on the tree. Raven in tropical jungle

We Knew Crows Were Smart But They Turn Out To Be Even Smarter

We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the mysteries of animal intelligence

Recently, some researchers have claimed that crows — already known to be smart — are even conscious: Nieder’s experiment showed that the birds were actively evaluating how to solve a particular problem they were confronted with. In effect, they were thinking it over. This ability to consciously assess a problem is associated with the cerebral cortex in the brains of humans. But birds have no cerebral cortex. Nieder found that in crows, thinking occurs in the pallium—the layers of gray and white matter covering the upper surface of the cerebrum in vertebrates. Other studies support the notion that the bird brain can, in principle, support the development of higher intelligence. This idea had been dismissed in the past due to…

Seattle, Washington - November 22, 2019: General view of Amazon office building in Seattle, Washington

Little-Known Civil Rights Law Could Bring Big Tech to Its Knees

Many tech giants have considerable assets and many employees in Seattle's jurisdiction

SEATTLE—As state and federal lawmakers consider drafting new legislation to counter big tech censorship of dissenting political voices, few seem to realize that an anti-discrimination law already on the books could spell big trouble for big tech companies that engage in political censorship.  Ironically, the law was enacted by one of the most politically progressive cities in the country: Seattle.  Unlike most political jurisdictions in the United States, Seattle expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of “political ideology.” Seattle defines political ideology expansively as any idea or belief, or coordinated body of ideas or beliefs, relating to the purpose, conduct, organization, function or basis of government and related institutions and activities, whether or not characteristic of any political party or group. This…

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Smart digital city with globalization abstract graphic showing connection network . Concept of future 5G smart wireless digital city and social media networking systems .

Florida Governor, Nation States, Take On Big Tech

Rattled by censorship and deplatforming, many jurisdictions are looking at ways to make Silicon Valley respect citizens’ rights. Florida’s Governor DeSantis may be the most colorful

At a press conference on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered a look at new legislation that forms part of his initiative to reduce the power of Big Social Media to harvest and sell data on users: The act, should it pass muster in the state House and Senate, would force tech platforms to disclose what data they have on Floridians to those users and delete that information if requested. The law would also ask companies not to sell the data and would create legal avenues to sue for noncompliance. Whether one state will be able to regulate such massive companies that operate on a global scale remains to be seen — likely in a court of law. Emily Jacobs,…

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Educational kids math toy wooden board stick game counting set in kids math class kindergarten. Math toy kids concept.

Yes, There Really Is a War on Math in Our Schools

Pundits differ as to the causes but here are some facts parents should know

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently encouraged teachers to register for training that encourages “ethnomathematics,” an education trend that argues, “among other things, that White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on finding the right answer”: “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” the document for the “Equitable Math” toolkit reads. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.” … An associated “Dismantling Racism” workbook, linked within the toolkit, similarly identifies “objectivity” — described as “the belief that there is such a thing as being objective or ‘neutral’” — as a characteristic of White supremacy. Instead…

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Flying cranes

Random Evolution Doesn’t Produce Algorithmic Functions in Animals

A bird does not fly just because it has wings; it needs a “flight” program in its brain. Explanations of the evolution of flight do not account for that.

In a recent article “Evolution and artificial intelligence face the same basic problem,” Eric Holloway addressed the conundrum faced by artificial intelligence theorists: How can “a random process with no insight into the environment… increase information about that environment within evolving DNA sequences and/or artificial intelligence programs. By what mechanism can randomness ‘know’ anything?” Dr. Holloway’s challenge goes to the heart of the problem with the materialist worldview regarding origins, evolution, and ultimately intelligence. Software vs. hardware in your body Imagine you knew absolutely nothing about roller skates. Then you awoke this morning to find your ankles and feet permanently installed into roller skates. Instantly, everything you understood about walking and running is worthless. Getting onto your feet at all…

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All seeing eye

The Illuminati and How Science Now Fuels Anti-Science

Like Frankenstein's monster, technology aided by science has become a monster fueling anti-scientific theories

The advice column in the April 1969 issue of Playboy included the usual questions about broads, beers, and baldness, followed by an unusually long (300-word) letter that began: I recently heard an old man of right-wing views—a friend of my grandparents—assert that the current wave of assassinations in America is the work of a secret society called the Illuminati. He said that the Illuminati have existed throughout history, own the international banking cartels, have all been 32nd-degree Masons and were known to Ian Fleming, who portrayed them as SPECTRE in his James Bond books—for which the Illuminati did away with Mr. Fleming. The letter ended with two questions: Do they really own all the banks and TV stations? And who have they killed lately? Playboy gave…

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Classic club sandwich with ham and bacon on a wooden board. Next cup is a mixture of pickled miniature onions, gherkins, tomatoes. Gray background. Close-up.

For Five Days There Was Free Expression in China

Then censors blocked the Clubhouse app

In March 2020, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davidson and former Google engineer Rohan Seth launched their newest app, Clubhouse. The app is an invite-only audio chat app that lets users talk in virtual rooms. These conversations can be one-on-one or they could have an audience of up to 5,000 users (the current room limit in the beta version of the app). The app is only available on the iPhone and, once invited, users must use their actual phone number and Apple ID to join. Each user is only allowed to invite up to five people. The app’s exclusive nature gave it the tantalizing aura of the “next-big-thing” among the tech types. On January 31, Space-X’s Elon Musk made an appearance…

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hedef başarısı ve birlik beraberlik ruhu

Walter Bradley: Finding a Life of Greater Purpose

Bradley has been a pioneer in the development of appropriate technologies for developing regions of the world

In last week’s podcast, “The Life of Walter Bradley With William Dembski (Part I),” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and design theorist William Dembski discuss the biography they have written about a remarkable engineer, Walter Bradley, For a Greater Purpose: The Life and Legacy of Walter Bradley. It also helps explain why we call ourselves the Walter Bradley Center, as we seek to extend Dr. Bradley’s work. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-121-William-Dembski.mp3 A partial transcript follows. This transcript begins at 02:55. Show notes and links follow. Before getting down to the main business, design theorist William Dembski, possibly the best known theorist of design in nature, told Robert Marks that he plans a second edition of his Cambridge University Press book, The…

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Closeup of ill blond senior woman sitting at home and taking oxygen from respirator while nurse with protective mask on sitting next to her and holding her hand during corona virus.

Explosive New Information About New York’s Mass COVID Deaths

In a video conference, perhaps accidentally, a health official blurted out the deadly policy and the reasoning behind it

In November, I wrote about the horrendous consequences of the official directive issued March 25, 2020 by senior New York State officials that required nursing homes to admit residents regardless of their COVID-19 status. In fact, the directive prohibited testing residents prior to admission: No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. [underline in original]. The officials responsible are Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured), Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker, and Deputy Commissioner Sally Dreslin. Despite public outrage and strong media criticism, their order…

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Comb Jellyfish in the dark

Sci-Fi Saturday: We Have Met the Aliens and They Are Comb Jellies

The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined

Or something. Here’s “Seedling” at DUST, an Irish entry by Michael Donnelly V and Stevie Russell (October 22, 2020, 08:14 min) “Amidst a huge storm, a couple experience an encounter with an alien species.” The opening scene, showing a complete failure of technology (electricity, radio, telephone, car) and the resulting emotional collapse of the female lead, is a stark reminder of how dependent we are on technology today. A thousand years ago, no one would have noticed that anything was wrong, apart from a rather violent storm (which some might attribute to witchcraft, others to sin). The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined. It is not remotely what we might have expected (although there are life…

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Ring fire in black

AI profs: Beware “Black Ball” Tech That Could Destroy the Planet

Oxford Future of Humanity researchers contemplate a technology with immense destructive powers that is easy to access and use

Nick Bostrom and Matthew van der Merwe of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute offer a sticky question: What if we invented a “black ball” technology, one that destroyed human civilization? In the wake of Hiroshima, many people predicted that nuclear technologies would destroy the world. Albert Einstein is purported to have said, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” However, say Bostrom and van der Merwe, to make nuclear technology work for you, you need to be a nuclear physicist. One might add that radioactive materials also “send messages.” Figuring out what untrusted actors are doing with nukes did not prove to be…