Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive August 2021

Lightning over field

Are Your Electronics Protected Against Sudden Surges?

Electrical engineer Sarah Seguin discusses with Robert J. Marks an under-recognized risk for sensitive electronic devices

In a recent podcast, “Sarah Seguin on EMPs and How to Protect Your Data” (August 5, 2021), Sarah Seguin, talks with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks. Protecting data became a much bigger issue for typical employees during the COVID-19 lockdowns when many were working from home on a computer usually used to surf entertainment vids or shopping sites. Hackers have found the displaced workers a tempting target. In any event, hacks of governments, health care facilities, and big firms are on the increase. Seguin offers some thoughts about a quite different but very relevant data protection issue: Protecting data from degradation from electromagnetic pulses (EMPs): https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-146-Sarah-Seguin.mp3 This portion begins at 02:12 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and…


China Brief: Update on COVID-19 Origins

More evidence points to China's attempted suppression of human error as the origin of COVID-19

In January a team from the World Health Organization traveled to Wuhan, Hubei in China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) outbreak. Team lead Dr. Peter Ben Embarek said in the press conference that a lab accident was “extremely unlikely” as the cause of the Covid-19 outbreak. He stuck to the Party line that the virus likely jumped from animals to humans or that it could have been imported from frozen food deliveries. Embarek has since changed his position. In a documentary aired on Danish television on August 12, Embarek said that the pandemic was likely due to a lab accident and he admitted that the team was pressured by Chinese authorities to not mention the lab leak…

For electronic devices, photonic computer

Photonics: Because Light Travels Faster Than Electricity

Fibre optics (light) is used to transmit data via the internet but on the stationary computer, it’s the slower electrons that rule. Some researchers hope to change that

As Ryan Hamerly explains at IEEE Spectrum, optical fibers can carry more than electrical wires. But they face a limitation: But there is a big difference between communicating data and computing with it. And this is where analog optical approaches hit a roadblock. Conventional computers are based on transistors, which are highly nonlinear circuit elements—meaning that their outputs aren’t just proportional to their inputs, at least when used for computing. Nonlinearity is what lets transistors switch on and off, allowing them to be fashioned into logic gates. This switching is easy to accomplish with electronics, for which nonlinearities are a dime a dozen. But photons follow Maxwell’s equations, which are annoyingly linear, meaning that the output of an optical device…

Majestic Unicorn posing in an enchanted forest

The Unicorn Might Be Very Profitable — If It Existed

The statistical reality is that most new businesses flop

Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith, well known to many of our readers, have just published an article at MarketWatch, warning against heedless optimism about “unicorn” stocks. As they put it, “The stock market unleashes its ‘animal spirits’ on an animal that doesn’t exist.” They begin by pointing out that most new businesses flop. The president of one venture capital company estimated the chance of success at one in 1,000. An SEC study of 500 randomly selected new issues found that 43% were confirmed bankrupt, 25% were losing money but still afloat, and 12% had disappeared without a trace. Of the remaining 20%, just 12 companies seemed solid successes — a scant 2% of the companies surveyed. Jeffrey Funk and Gary…

Caregiver supporting sick woman with cancer dying in the hospital

Why Do Some People’s Minds Become Much Clearer Near Death?

Arjuna Das and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor discuss the evidence for terminal lucidity at Theology Unleashed “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.”

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at how the human mind often becomes much more sharp and clear near death. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 26 minute mark to the 1 hour 32 minute mark: Arjuna Das: You’re either doing science or you’re defending your dogma. (01:25:59) Michael Egnor: Exactly. John Searle, a philosopher of mind, who is an atheist and not a dualist has a tremendous distaste for materialism. And he commented one time, ”When…

Concept cryptographic NFT. Blockchain network, cryptographic non-fungible tokens. NFT with a network and a growing schedule, search. New technologies, financial schedule, future concept, banknotes

How Can Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) Be Made To Work Better?

Bernard Fickser offers twelve steps to handling NFTs in a way that dispenses with cryptocurrency-based blockchains and works in ordinary online marketplaces like eBay

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 7, we look at 12 steps to make NFTs economically viable without Ethereum. 7 A Protocol for Handling NFTs on eBay The best way to challenge an existing idea is to replace it with a better one. In this last section, I’m going to lay out a protocol for handling NFTs…

Man reading a book on a background with science formulas

Science’s Limitations According to a Futurist

Danaylov rightly warns against a blind embrace of science

“[S]cience on its own has not and cannot ensure our progress or future survival,” writes Nikola Danaylov. In our last post, we introduced Nikola Danaylov, futurist author and speaker. Danaylov is currently in the middle of an online series about the story of humanity and how science and technology fit into that story in our past, present, and future. Danaylov begins his series with his main thesis: “[O]ur future is indeed determined. But not by some unbreakable and deterministic law of nature. No. Our future is determined by a story that we have created.” In other words, the way we narrate our own lives matters because it determines how we will act in the future. The Power of Story Danaylov spends the…

NFT Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs are unique assets that cannot be replicated underpinned by blockchain technology

What Makes NFTs Valuable? What Does It Mean To Own One?

In the case of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Ethereum blockchain, actual ownership with legal standing is never in fact transferred for the underlying digital file

Introduction: At Expensivity.com, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 5, we looked at how scarcity, central to the economic value of works of art, can be created in the digital world, where copying is generally quite easy. Now, we look at what makes NFTs valuable and what it means to own them: 6 Value and Ownership of NFTs In this…

China from space on realistic model of planet Earth with network. Concept of digital technology, connectivity and travel.

What’s Behind China’s Crackdown on Big Tech?

Both China and the U.S. are treating big tech with a heavy hand, but under different motivations

In a previous article I looked at Chinese regulators’ crackdown on Didi Global, China’s ride-hailing service. Didi is one of several Chinese tech giants that have been tamed in the past nine months. Prior to Didi, Ant Group, Tencent, Meituan, and Pinduoduo were all quelled by regulators. After Didi, regulators targeted Full Truck Alliance and Kanzhun. They recently shut down online for-profit tutoring and have banned mining cryptocurrencies in China.  Thus far, the Chinese government’s actions have resulted in almost $1 trillion net losses for the Chinese tech sector.  The two big questions are, Why now? and, relatedly, Who’s next? SupChina has a well-organized explainer on China’s Big Tech Crackdown here. Another helpful resource is this video from DW, “How China is tightening control of its tech companies”: According to SupChina, China’s…

Cold fresh lemonade with slices of ripe lemons.

Insurance Company Gives Sour AI Promises

Data collection and discriminatory algorithms are turning Lemonade sour

An insurance company with the quirky name Lemonade was founded in 2015 and went public in 2020. In addition to raising hundreds of millions of dollars from eager investors, Lemonade quickly attracted more than a million customers with the premise that artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can estimate risks accurately and that buying insurance and filing claims can be fun: Lemonade is built on a digital substrata — we use bots and machine learning to make insurance instant, seamless, and delightful. Adding to the delight are the friendly names of their bots, like AI Maya, AI Jim, and AI Cooper. The company doesn’t explain how its AI works, but there is this head-scratching boast: A typical homeowners policy form has 20-40…

Woman pray with bible, Asian woman believe in the prayer to God, Christian student pray for study to pass the exam in the library at the college .Bible and christian study concept

Researchers: Prolonged Meditation Alters the Brain

The changes were detected mainly in the frontal and parietal lobes

Andrew Newberg and colleagues have found that extended periods of prayer and meditationcan change the brain: We studied one such seven-day programme in Pennsylvania based on the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius. Our research on this retreat programme, which is typically conducted in silence and consists of extended periods of prayer and meditation, showed a number of differences in participants’ brains after the retreat compared with before it. For one, our study looked at the effects of the retreat programme on serotonin and dopamine, two critical neurotransmitters involved in many of our emotional and cognitive processes. The results suggested that a person’s brain becomes more sensitised to the effects of serotonin and dopamine, which might help us understand how retreat…

Two Indian tibetan monk lama

Researchers: Buddhist Monks’ Bodies Decay Very Slowly at Death

According to traditional meditation lore, they are in a meditative state (thukdam) until their consciousness is clear; only then does the body begins to decay

We are told that one of the more remarkable effects of a lifetime of meditation can be a comparatively slow decay process for the body. Recent evidence for that emerged in the death of Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Lhundub Sopa, August 28, 2014, at the age of 91. Sopa, who had been tutor to the Dalai Lama in Tibet, moved to Wisconsin in 1967. There he co-founded the Deer Park Buddhist Center and taught South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, becoming a friend of prominent American neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson. According to Daniel Burke, former religion editor for CNN, Davidson recalls the scene as follows: Three days after his heart stopped, Geshe Lhundub Sopa was leaned upright against…

cockroach on bowl
Close up Cockroach on white a bowl

If Roaches Formed a Miniature Civilization… Sci-fi Saturday

The roaches have built a rocket, intending to go to the moon, and their activity wakes up a dormant human

“Rocket Roaches” (2019) at DUST by Mick Mahler (August 13, 2021, 9:44 min) When the diligent cockroaches build a rocket to fly to the moon, they accidentally wake up one of the last humans from his virtual dreams. Review: The roaches, who have an advanced miniature civilization, are, of course, animated. They play their parts alongside the human character (Cedric Sprick) whom they have awakened. He is fascinated by their behavior, which is very like that of humans. Then he looks around at all the living but motionless humans totally absorbed in virtual reality while the cockroaches have built a rocket and are trying to get to the moon. If humans have abandoned the job of being the smartest life…

asteroid earth glare
Asteroid Meteor Rock Flying Toward Planet EarthRealitic Cinematic vision of earth and large meteor Asteroid Comet- Outer space view

Asteroid Bennu’s Chances of Hitting Earth Slightly Increased

New calculations based on data from asteroid probe Osiris Rex refine the data and raise the chances by a slight amount — enough for good science fiction

For those who enjoy worry: Due to improved measuring technology, researchers are reporting a slightly increased chance of asteroid Bennu hitting Earth in the by 2300: Specifically, there is one chance in 2700 of Bennu hitting us on September 24, 2182 (0.037%): Along with an asteroid called 1950 DA, Bennu ranks as the most hazardous known asteroid in the Solar System. Its orbital trajectory and period of around 1.2 years means that there are multiple close approaches to Earth in the coming centuries that are near enough for a possible impact. Michelle Starr, “This Giant, Hazardous Asteroid Almost Certainly Won’t Hit Us, Probably, NASA Says” at ScienceAlert (August 12, 2021) Here’s a tour of our possible dreaded visitor courtesy asteroid…

Life and death

Android Asks, Is Immortality Truly a Benefit? — Sci-fi Saturday

He argues that he can never appreciate life if he knows he can never die

“Extent” (2018) at DUST by Paul Michael Draper (August 9, 2021, 12:43 min) Time stands still as two old friends attempt to grapple with a question that defines their very existence. If you could live forever, would you? Review: Edward, the greatest inventor has invented many things, including his friend Alexander. But he comes to think everything is futile because he faces oblivion at death. Meanwhile, android Alexander wants Edward to enable him to “cherish moments” and to be able to long for a “tomorrow that may never come” — which, in the context, means he wants mortality. Alexander reflects, “I think about what my forever may be, It haunts me” and later “Pleasure and pain are no longer relevant…

senior woman is receiving post from an futuristic robotic delivery service

Don’t Plan Your Career Around Driving a Delivery Van

Or doing a variety of tasks where repetitive movement is the key to success, if Boston Dynamics' robotics are anything to go by

Boston Dynamics is a cutting-edge robotics company that’s spent decades behind closed doors making robots that move in ways we’ve only seen in science fiction films. They occasionally release videos on YouTube of their life-like machines spinning, somersaulting or sprinting, which are greeted with fascination and fear. We’ve been trying, without any luck, to get into Boston Dynamics’ workshop for years, and a few weeks ago they finally agreed to let us in. After working out strict COVID protocols, we went to Massachusetts to see how they make robots do the unimaginable. From the outside, Boston Dynamics headquarters looks pretty normal. Inside, however. it’s anything but. If Willy Wonka made robots, his workshop might look something like this. There are…

Close up portrait of nuclear post-apocalypse survivor, living underground mutant or creature, skilled stalker wearing rags and armored full-face gas mask or air breathing apparatus, toned shoot

Merv Is the Last Man in a Ruined World — Sci-fi Saturday

He’s been alone so long that the thought of another human being panics him

“Merv” (2013) by Steven Woller and Matt Inns (August 11, 2021 at DUST, 13:05 min) After the end of the world, Merv’s life in the lonely wastes is comfortably boring until an unexpected signal heralds the coming of a stranger. Review: This New Zealand-based film company provides a haunting evocation of a totally ruined urban landscape — just an enormous pile of rubble peopled by a surviving hermit. When he catches sight of another human, he pelts like mad for his underground den. Then, arming himself, sets out to confront the stranger. Steven Woller, also one of the producers, does a good job as Merv, who has been alone so long that it seems like the only natural state for…

Polar Bear

Polar Bears Use Stones to Kill Walruses

The unexpected bear behavior was dismissed as folklore in the past although there is certainly evidence of other life forms using rocks as tools

At one time, researchers thought it was a myth that polar bears could use stones to kill walruses. Not any more: Walruses, weighing as much as 1,300 kilograms with huge tusks and nearly impenetrable skulls, are almost impossible for a hungry polar bear to kill. But new research suggests that some polar bears have invented a work-around — bashing walruses on the head with a block of stone or ice. For more than 200 years, Inuit in Greenland and the eastern Canadian Arctic have told stories of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) using such tools to aid in killing walruses. Yet explorers, naturalists and writers often dismissed such accounts, relegating them to myth along with tales about shape-shifting bears. Gloria Dickie,…

light at the end of the tunnel

The Brain Does Not Create the Mind; It Constrains It.

Near-death experiences in which people report seeing things that are later verified give some sense of how the mind works in relation to the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way that the split-brain research that followed Roger Sperry’s findings has increased the evidence for the reality of the mind. In this segment, they discuss the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind. That may seem counterintuitive at first but consider the evidence: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 12 minute mark to the 1 hour 25 minute mark: Arjuna Das: So, this relates to how I understand perception in the brain, despite the mind being non-material: “The brain is a reducer of consciousness rather than a…

Cryptographic NFT non fungible token marketplace, cryptoart and blockchain logo on the screen of modern mobile phone, black wallet and dollar money on the office table, banner top view photo

In the Digital World, What Does “Scarcity” Mean?

For a digital artwork like Beeple’s Everydays, which sold for over $69 million, a number of methods are used to prevent copying, thus ensuring uniqueness

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 5, we look at how scarcity, central to the economic value of works of art, can be created in the digital world, where copying is generally quite easy: 5 Digital Scarcity When jumping into the world of NFTs, one finds a certain breathless awe in the face of blockchain technology. One…