Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive June 2021

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Social media concept.

A Sad Truth: Social Media Rewards Us for Acting Badly

Our negativity sells advertising for them while polarizing society

Here’s the dismal report, from the University of Cambridge, about when we are likely to “share” information: Social media posts about the “political outgroup” — criticizing or mocking those on the opposing side of an ideological divide — receive twice as many shares as posts that champion people or organizations from one’s own political tribe. This is according to a study led by University of Cambridge psychologists, who analyzed over 2.7 million Tweets and Facebook posts published by either US media outlets or Members of Congress from across the political spectrum. Researchers also found that each additional word referencing a rival politician or competing worldview (e.g. ‘Biden’ or ‘Liberal’ if coming from a Republican source) increased the odds of a…

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Books and crumpled paper in the bin. Books that do not read, low-grade literature, copy space

The Tyranny of Big Tech: The Book That Almost Wasn’t

How cancel culture came for a book taking on Big Tech monopolies

On May 4, Regnery Publishing released The Tyranny of Big Tech, a book written by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) uncovering the deceptive and antitrust practices of companies like Facebook and Google, and laying out a policy plan to break up the monopolies and protect the interests of America’s common men and women. The book has done well. In its first week, it became the number one bestseller in three separate categories on Amazon lists, and it made the Publisher’s Weekly list of hardcover nonfiction at No. 6. “Big Tech represents today’s robber barons,” Hawley writes in the first chapter, “who are draining prosperity and power away from the great middle of our society and creating, as they do, a new…

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Vintage tin robot toys

Researchers: Humans “Exploit” Machines Without a Sense of Guilt!

Humans, we are told, are so unethical that we take advantage of "benevolent" self-driving cars

In case no one knew this, humans are cruel, greedy, and deceptive. We even take advantage of self-driving cars. Our crimes are revealed in a recent study that scolds humans as “unwilling to cooperate and compromise with machines. They even exploit them.” When you’ve stopped laughing, you might be interested to learn of some intriguing findings from studies of human behavior around self-driving cars (autonomous vehicles) and Prisoner’s Dilemma games. One team of researchers, in a test involving 9 experiments and 2000 participants, tried to determine whether humans would behave as co-operatively with AI systems as we do with fellow humans: The study which is published in the journal iScience found that, upon first encounter, people have the same level…

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African American woman studing and reading the Bible.

Does Religious Belief Help People Think in a More Complex Way?

One psychologist became interested in the question because many studies have associated religious belief with better health and greater longevity

University of South Florida psychologist Jay L. Michaels, who has a background in experimental social psychology and quantitative psychology, designed a study to test that proposition: In the study, 630 adults from from 48 countries completed a cognitive assessment in which they were asked to pick a phrase that best described a given behavior. They had the choice of picking a high-level description (which focused on why the action was performed) or a low-level description (which focused on mechanistic aspects of the action.) For example, one item asked whether “reading” was better described as “Gaining knowledge” or “Following lines of print.” Eric W. Dolan, “New study links intrinsic religious motivation to higher-level patterns of thought” at PsyPost (May 22, 2021)…

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Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Freebits: An Interesting Argument From the Big Bang for Free Will

There are two types of uncertainty, we learn, only one of which could create free will

Caleb Scharf (pictured), author of The Ascent of Information (2021), offers an excerpt at Nautilus that introduces two new terms, the “dataome” and “freebits.” The dataome is all the ways human beings create information, from cave paintings to cloud servers. He asks, “Was all of this really inevitable? Did we ever have a choice in creating a dataome or doing any of the things we do, and does any self-aware entity in the universe have a choice either?” Relying on theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson’s 2013 essay, “The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine,” he asks us to consider that there are two types of uncertainty, only one of which could create choice. Typical “randomness” actually follows statistical laws, a…

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Coronavirus covid-19. Child praying to God requesting that the coronavirus covid 19 not spread beyond control.

Side effects: COVID Got People Praying Again

Despite the fact that many could not go to houses of worship

McLean Hospital psychologist David H. Rosmarin has the stats: In the early days of the pandemic, economist Jeanet Bentzen of the University of Copenhagen examined Google searches for the word “prayer” in 95 countries. She identified that they hit an all-time global high in March 2020, and increases occurred in lockstep with the number of COVID-19 cases identified in each country. Stateside, according to the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans prayed to end the spread of the novel coronavirus in March 2020, and nearly one quarter reported that their faith increased the following month, despite limited access to houses of worship. David H. Rosmarin, “Psychiatry Needs to Get Right with God” at Scientific American (June 15, 2021) Not…

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Ghost town in fog

Landing Back on Earth as the Sole Inhabitant — Sci-fi Saturday

Unless we count the cat

“Origin” at DUST by David Parrella (Jun 17, 2021), 12:24 min) An astronaut from an interstellar colony returns to Earth to determine why they lost contact. Review: The production values here are good but the plot is quite confusing. The heroic sacrifice never results in information as to the cause of the loss of contact. Trying not to introduce spoilers here but: Any outfit that could found an interstellar colony should be onto glitches like the one on which the story’s crisis turns. Also, as one commenter put it, “too many plotholes.” For example, why does the car even start and where does the gasoline come from? How did the cat survive? If the cat survived, why isn’t everything else…

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Artificial Intelligence. Digital age in the global world of the future. 3D illustration of computer mind in decentralized cyberspace

ET Expert Thinks That ET Is Probably AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Given the immense interstellar distances, not being alive might be the only way ET could get here.

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) astronomer Seth Shostak (pictured) confesses that these are exciting times for alien hunters like himself, what with the Pentagon’s anticipated July 25 report on unidentified aerial phenomena. Still, he doesn’t expect any big revelations: “I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that aliens are present in our galaxy. But I don’t believe they’re hanging out in our airspace. Not now, and not in historic times.” On the other hand, he goes on to say, every third star in our galaxy could host an Earth-like planet so the odds are we are not alone. Few life forms on Earth resemble humans, so why should extraterrestrials? But if we are not alone, what would ET be like? A gaseous…

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Total population control concept with CCTV videocam and small figures of people

A One-Girl War With the Total Surveillance State —Sci-fi Saturday

The acting, ambience, and special effects in “Bolero” are top quality

“Boléro” at DUST by Sarah Gross (June 13, 2021, 17:24) In a future where telepaths are used by the government to monitor the public and root out insurgents, Maya, a non-speaking teen, witnesses her father’s brutal and unjust execution. Set on a path of revenge and destruction, Maya joins the Resistance, hellbent on tracking down Reader 8, the telepath responsible for her father’s death. However, when Maya finally locates her target after years of searching, she is confronted with a choice: either capture Reader 8 and deliver essential intelligence to the Resistance or take him out and fulfill her vengeful quest. Review: “Boléro” debuted at IMDB in 2019 and has deservedly won some industry awards. The acting, ambience, and special…

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Flying saucers

The UAPs (UFOs) Are “Not Caused by Any U.S. Advanced Technology”

And that’s all the Pentagon probably really knows

June 25, the U.S. Department of Defense will release a report on UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena), a term now preferred to UFOs (unidentified flying objects). A number of unusual sightings since 2017 prompted Congress to ask for a report. According to space industry reporter Leonard David, the justification is airspace safety and control, not an effort to support or refute claims about alien spacecraft: “The report’s firmest conclusion, it seems, is that the vast majority of UAP happenings and their surprising maneuvers are not caused by any U.S. advanced technology programs.” That might mean, for example, UAP are entirely homegrown products of revolutionary and clandestine technological advances, whether by other countries now challenging American airspace or by the U.S. itself…

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book

Books: The First Step in Fighting Cancel Culture

Malicious envy was always out there but before social media it could rarely assemble so large a mob
Many writers and artists are beginning to speak out and take action, recognizing that sharing the cost of speaking up reduces its burden. Read More ›
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blinded slaves in the water

Books: Cancel Culture As an Invisible Army of Censors

The new censorship is different from traditional “banned” or “challenged” lists because a younger, much more active crowd is behind it

For authors, Cancel Culture, powered by social media, is becoming a serious business. A poorly thought-out tweet from years past — or merely one to which socially powerful people take exception — may destroy a career. The mob has hit genre fiction hard. One author, studying the trend, recounts, Since March, I have been sending discreet messages to authors of young adult fiction. I approached 24 people, in several countries, all writing in English. In total, 15 authors replied, of whom 11 agreed to talk to me, either by email or on the phone. Two subsequently withdrew, in one case following professional advice. Two have received death threats and five would only talk if I concealed their identity. This is…

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Worker sits inside a box outdoors

Amazon’s “Mindful Practice Rooms” Backfire

It turns out the human soul needs far more than a telephone booth with a computer

Amazon posted a video this week featuring a “mindful practice room” – a new company initiative to give employees a mental and emotional break during their work day. The room is just one component of their WorkingWell program, which is intended to ease worker stress by providing them with tools and training for better physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The video did not go over as hoped, however, and Amazon took it down. The Guardian called the rooms “coffin-like booths”, Gizmodo called it “a dystopian solution” to long work hours and harsh conditions, and Twitter users went to town with their own sarcastic tweets and memes. The now-deleted video featured Amazon worker Leila Brown, creator of the “ZenBooth”, which she…

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Archaeological excavation.

Death: Child Grave From 80,000 Years Ago Shows Abstract Thinking

The lovingly prepared site on the Kenyan coast held the remains of a 2–3 year-old child

A child’s grave, found recently in Kenya, pushes clear evidence of abstract thinking back to 80,000 years ago, the Middle Stone Age. The child, nicknamed “Mtoto” (child in Swahili) by the archaeologists, was 2½ – 3 years old; whether a boy or a girl is as yet unclear: In a tour de force of discovery, recovery, and analysis, an interdisciplinary research team has uncovered the earliest known human burial in Africa. The grave, found less than 10 miles inland from southeast Kenya’s lush ocean beaches, contained the remains of a two- to three-year-old child buried with extraordinary care by a community of early Homo sapiens some 78,000 years ago. While some human burials in the Middle East and Europe are…

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Stack of papers isolated on white background

A Vulnerable System: Fake Papers and Imaginary Scientists

Publication counts and citation indexes are too noisy and too easily manipulated to be reliable

In the last two posts, we examined how scientific publication has ceased to be a good measure of scientific accomplishment, and how the peer review system is being gamed by unscrupulous publishers and researchers alike. Now, we will continue the discussion on the undermining of scientific publication using two examples: SCIgen and citation counts. SCIgen In 2005 three MIT graduate computer science students created a prank program they called SCIgen for using randomly selected words to generate bogus computer-science papers complete with realistic graphs of random numbers. Their goal was “maximum amusement rather than coherence,” and also to demonstrate that some academic conferences will accept almost anything. They submitted a hoax paper titled, “Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy,”…

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Octopus

Octopuses Get Emotional About Pain, Research Suggests

The smartest of invertebrates, the octopus, once again prompts us to rethink what we believe to be the origin of intelligence

The octopus is becoming a popular creature among neuroscientists. It is a very smart invertebrate with an unusually complex nervous system, organized in a fundamentally different way from that of, for example, mammals. Recently, a researcher has found the first strong evidence that octopuses feel pain, as opposed to merely reacting to it. There are two parts to pain: The natural physical reaction, like a sophisticated alarm system, sets off a chain of involuntary responses. But that chain of responses, by itself, doesn’t prove that any “self” is feeling anything. The alarm system would work just the same in an empty building as in a populated one. The second component can be called “emotional.” The life form experiences the pain…

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Business risk control concept, Businessman protect wooden block fall to planning and strategy in risk to business Alternative and prevent. Investment Insurance Business.

The Push to Break Up Big Tech Monopolies

Facebook is "acting as an arm of the state," says Florida's governor

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox’s Sunday Morning Futures, hosted by Maria Bartiromo, over the weekend. The two discussed Big Tech’s alarming censorship power and Florida’s efforts to combat that power. Recent government emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits suggest that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg coordinated what should and should not be dispersed through social media platforms regarding COVID-19 and its origins. “Do you believe Fauci colluded with Mark Zuckerberg? Does this expose Facebook to legal action?” Bartiromo asked DeSantis. DeSantis answered by calling Facebook “an arm of the state”: Here’s an example of working with Fauci where Facebook, you can argue, is essentially acting as an arm of the state, because they’re…

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Lying businessman holding fingers crossed behind his back

Gaming the System: The Flaws in Peer Review

Peer review is well-intentioned, but flawed in many ways

Last time, we examined how scientific publication has ceased to be a good measure of scientific accomplishment because it has now become a target, following Goodhart’s Law. In today’s post, we will continue that examination by turning to the peer review system, and how that system is being gamed by unscrupulous publishers and researchers alike. In theory, the peer review process is intended to ensure that research papers do not get published unless impartial experts in the field deem them worthy of publication. Peer review is well-intentioned, but flawed in many ways. First, the best researchers are incredibly busy and naturally more inclined to do their own research than to review someone else’s work. Thus, peer review is often cursory or…

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accurate facial recognition software detection technology. blur people with facial scan showing digital personal data and social credit

U.S. Ranked #8 in Countries Using Facial Recognition Technology

7 in 10 governments widely use facial recognition technology

A new report has ranked the United States #8 among 100 countries for widespread use of facial recognition technology (FRT). The report came out of Comparitech last week. A team evaluated the 100 most populated countries to compare their use of FRT. The study analyzed the use of FRT in governments, police departments, airports, schools, banks, workplaces, and on public transportation. The U.S. scored 18 on a scale of 0-40 (0 indicating an invasive use of FRT, and 40 indicating no evidence or an outright ban on the technology), pairing it with Mexico for the eighth ranking in the top 10 list. “There is…growing use of this technology within the US, but buses don’t appear to have FRT installed as…

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Female Artist Works on Abstract Oil Painting, Moving Paint Brush Energetically She Creates Modern Masterpiece. Dark Creative Studio where Large Canvas Stands on Easel Illuminated. Low Angle Close-up

Intelligent Design Is Not What Most People Think It Is

Widespread confusion about Intelligent Design leads us to address the question: What exactly is it?

When I tell people that I do work in Intelligent Design (ID) research, either the person I’m talking to has no idea what Intelligent Design is, or they have quite a faulty idea of what Intelligent Design is. This isn’t their fault — media reports don’t seem to be able to make sense of what we are doing either. Some people have attributed this to malice, and, while I’m sure there’s plenty of that to go around, I think that it is in large part actually the result of Intelligent Design doing something genuinely new, making it difficult for people to shove us into existing boxes. Intelligent Design, at its core, says that agency is a distinct causal category in the world. That…