Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive March 2022

Laptop with cloud computing diagram

Getting Started with Kubernetes: A Cluster Setup Walkthrough

Setting up a Kubernetes cluster in Linode is incredibly simple

This series will give you an overview of Kubernetes, the popular open-source cloud computing platform developed by Google. Kubernetes allows for the development of cloud-based platforms using entirely open specifications, so you are never tied down to a specific vendor. Many cloud vendors, such as AWS, have proprietary ways of developing scalable web applications (such as their Lambda system). The problem is that this ties your application to their system, and, as we have seen with Parler, Amazon gives and Amazon takes away. Therefore, it is wise to not tie your infrastructure too tightly to a single vendor. Kubernetes allows you to build large-scale scalable applications in the cloud in a way that is transferable to a variety of vendors.…

Creative digital city background. Smart city, technology and innovation concept. Double exposure.

PayPal Pioneer: The Ways Big Tech Is Strangling Our Freedoms

The conveniences offered come at a price: We can be much more easily surveilled and controlled. And yes, they ARE doing it

In a continuing discussion with Bari Weiss, Paypal pioneer David Sacks warns hearers: BW: You have been making the case better than anyone else that, despite the fact that we live in a liberal democracy with a Bill of Rights and a Constitution and a First Amendment, whether most Americans are aware of it or not we also are living inside a soft version of a social credit system. So for the people who hear that and think: ‘That’s ridiculous. This isn’t China.’ I want you to make the case. DS: Let’s start by defining what a social credit system is. A social credit system is a system that pretends to give you civil liberties and freedom. It doesn’t overtly…

definition of deepfakes

What Happened When a Deepfake Got Weaponized in the Ukraine War…

“Zelensky surrenders” wasn’t a world class effort so it got found out. But Nixon’s (fictional) eulogy for astronauts won awards…

On March 16, Ukrainians were surprised by a video shared at Facebook and YouTube in which their president Volodymyr Zelensky told them to surrender to the invading Russians: A fake video emerged on Facebook and YouTube in which a strangely motionless version of Zelensky asked Ukrainian troops to lay down their weapons in a voice different from his usual tone. The clip was also posted to Telegram and Russian social network VKontakte, according to the US think tank the Atlantic Council. TV Channel Ukraine 24 said hackers defaced its website with a still from the video and inserted a summary of the fake news into a broadcast’s scrolling chyron. Minutes after the TV station posted about the hack, Zelensky himself…

Web3 - Web3.0 - Semantic Web - New Iteration of the World Wide Web Through Decentralization Based on Blockchains

Could Decentralization Fix Twitter’s Censorship Problems?

Decentralization is not an automatic guarantee of internet freedom, but it may be a good first step

Twitter is considering decentralization according to a recent report from The New York Times. But what does decentralization mean, and how would it impact our experience with social media? Is this a solution to all the problems around censorship standards that Big Tech companies have faced in recent years? According to The New York Times, Twitter is following the early vision of a former employee named Blaine Cook by “funding an independent effort to build a so-called open protocol for social media. It is also weaving cryptocurrency into its app, and opening up to developers who want to build custom features for Twitter.” Kate Conger reports: Some skeptics believe Twitter is jumping on the web3 bandwagon, joining a trendy movement in tech to shift many…

surreal image of a transparent mirror; concept of door to freedom

Invisibility Is No Longer Science Fiction (or Magic). It’s Here.

A new technique, the “invisibility shield,” which offers the user near invisibility, is reaching the marketing stage

Have you ever wanted to be invisible just to get some privacy? Maybe when using a bank machine or sunbathing in the backyard? Experimentation over the last few years has come up with an “invisibility shield” that offers near invisibility without blocking the light. A British startup, Invisibility Shield Co., is raising seed money for a commercial venture that offers to ship the ones already manufactured to backers. A scam? It seems not: It wouldn’t likely shield anyone from the police or bill collectors but if all you want is privacy with sunlight, it’s certainly an option: The science behind the invention isn’t perfect. The shield can’t perfectly replicate the scene behind the subject, but rather recreates it as a…

Empty colored carbonated drink bottles. Plastic waste

Urban Mining: Turning Urban Waste Into Valuable Products

Renowned synthetic chemist Jim Tour shows how we can turn discarded plastics into graphene, a product useful in industry

There’s a gold mine, so to speak, in the garbage but it takes a gifted chemist to develop processes that turn the trash to valuable industrial materials. At COSM 2021, James Tour talked about his team’s work in developing such processes: The Nanotech Revolution: Our Zero-Waste Energy Future (November 11, 2021) Dr. Jim Tour, Professor of Chemistry at Rice University, gives a riveting tour of how waste products can be converted to graphene, an extremely valuable material with a host of useful applications—from medical applications to new strong and lightweight materials to an energy source for zero CO2 emissions. Tour and his team have developed methods for turning carbon waste into graphene, an allotrope of carbon that can be stacked…

Server room or server computers.3d rendering.

Getting Started with Kubernetes: A Brief History of Cloud Hosting

A history lesson for a better understanding of why web infrastructure hosting is the way it is

Oftentimes it is hard to understand why something is the way it is unless you understand its history. To start with, I want to present a quick overview of the history of web infrastructure hosting to give you a better feel for what sorts of problems cloud native development solves. The Old Way Way back in the early days of the Internet, web applications were hosted on specific server machines. That is, when you wanted to host a web application, you had to purchase a physical machine, install Linux or some other operating system on it, and then pay an Internet Service Provider to put your machine on their network. This process was both time-consuming and expensive, often costing hundreds…

scoring basket
scoring during a basketball game - ball in hoop

Luck Matters More Than Skill When You’re at the Top

What? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? No, because… Prof. Gary Smith explains

With basketball fever at a high pitch… when LA Times sportswriter Jim Alexander talked to Pomona College business prof Gary Smith about what it takes to win, he got a different answer than some might have expected. If you are really good, it takes luck to win, Smith explained. What? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? No, because… “You can take the four best golfers in the world – any sport, but let’s do golf because it’s head-to-head,” Smith said in a phone conversation this week. “And they play a round of golf and see who gets the lowest score, and it’s pretty much random. Nobody’s going to win every single time. One guy might win more than 25…

Curious weasel looks out from behind a rock

Dawkins’ Dubious Double Weasel and the Combinatorial Cataclysm

Dawkins has successfully reduced a combinatorial explosion to a manageable problem...or has he?

In Richard Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, he proposed a famous (and infamous) computer program to demonstrate the power of cumulative selection, known as the “Weasel program.” The program demonstrates that by varying a single letter at a time, it is possible to rapidly evolve a coherent English sentence from a string of gibberish. The way the program works is as follows: First, a sequence of characters is randomly assembled by drawing from the 26 English letters and the space. Then, one character is randomly reassigned. The resulting sequence is compared to the phrase from Hamlet, a quote uttered by Polonius: “methinks it is like a weasel.” For every character that matches, a point is scored. If the new sequence…

View of a white marble hindu temple

What Do Hindus Think About the Big Bang? The Cyclic Universe?

Hinduism posits a creator God but assumes the creation of cyclic universes

In last week’s Mind Matters News podcast, “Hinduism and the beginning of the universe,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu in New Zealand. The first podcast looked at what the world’s 1.2 billion Hindus generally think about the mind and the second explored the Hindu view of free will and evil. Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which has featured many guests discussing the spiritual dimension of our lives — for example, philosopher David Bentley Hart and neuroscientist Mark Solms (along with Egnor). https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-179-Arjuna-Gallagher-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow: The Big Bang and cyclical universes Michael Egnor: How do Hindus understand creation? Is the universe eternal? Was it created at a…

Robot arm with a human skull

Lead Us Not Into the Uncanny Valley …

Robert Marks and Gretchen Huizinga discuss whether future developments in artificial intelligence will lead to a better future or a worse one

This is the fourth and final segment of the the recent podcast, “What Does It Mean to Be Human in an Age of Artificial Intelligence?”, featuring Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and veteran podcaster Gretchen Huizinga. In the first segment, they discussed what AI can and can’t do. In the second segment, they discussed “How did all the AI hype get started?” Then, in the third part, the discussion turned to “Straight talk about killer robots/a>” because Dr. Marks is the author of The Case for Killer Robots. And now we come at last to the Uncanny Valley, where too much AI and robotics risks making everything weird. The entire interview was originally published by Christian think tank,…

Humanity Plus theme with abstract network lines and patterns

The Impossibility of Christian Transhumanism

Transhumanists seek the right not only to manipulate their own bodies but also those of their children, including mind clones, monoparent children, or benevolent AI

This article is reprinted with permission from First Things (March 24, 2022) So-called “Christian transhumanism,” or the attempt to blend the transhumanist agenda with the precepts of Christian theology, has been around for some time. But there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the project. The book Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics, published in 2019, claims to offer “first-hand testimony to the value of the transhumanist vision perceived by the religious mind.” The volume includes contributions from a number of Christians. The “Christian Transhumanist Association” (CTA), formed in 2014, is actively dedicated to promoting transhumanism as a means of “participating with God in the redemption, reconciliation, and renewal of the world.” The problem with these efforts is that the transhumanist worldview and…

exoplanet viewed from the rocky surface of its moon, elements of this image furnished by NASA.

So What Alien Tech Should the New Telescopes Be Looking For?

As powerful new telescopes come on line, we will be able to look for chemical signatures of civilization, not just life

Today, powerful telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope search among the now 5000 confirmed exoplanets for biosignatures — chemical compounds like methane and nitrous oxide — that are typically produced by life forms. But what about technosignatures, evidence of an advanced civilization? These might be, for example byproducts of a nuclear fusion (tritium, for example) that is not associated with as nearby supernova. That’s on the agenda for the new telescopes coming down the line as well: In 2021, the National Academies of Sciences released their Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020, called Astro2020. They release one every ten years, and each survey outlines the critical challenges in astrophysics and astronomy for the next decade. Astro2020 contains several…

Science and research of the universe, spiral galaxy and physical formulas, concept of knowledge and education

Unexplained — Maybe Unexplainable — Numbers Control the Universe

For example, brilliant physicist Richard Feynman called 1/137, the fine structure constant, “a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man”

In Carl Sagan’s Contact, the extraterrestrials embedded a message in the irrational number pi (the circumference of a circle divided by its radius). But some other numbers are critical to the structure of our universe too — and why they are critical does not make obvious sense. ➤ Perhaps the most fundamental and mysterious one is the fine structure constant of the universe: A seemingly harmless, random number with no units or dimensions has cropped up in so many places in physics and seems to control one of the most fundamental interactions in the universe. Its name is the fine-structure constant, and it’s a measure of the strength of the interaction between charged particles and the electromagnetic force. The current…

Blaze fire flame background and textured

Firefly Episode 8: The Ship Breaks Down in Space. What Next?

Mal, expecting to suffocate alone on the ship while the other crew members escape, relives the life that brought him there

This episode starts out strong, but gradually breaks down. We open with Mal collapsing onto the metal grating of the ship’s hull. He’s bleeding and the lights are off. We don’t know what happened but we witness a series of flashblacks consisting of three separate timelines: events in the present, how Mal found himself in his current predicament, and the deep past where Mal is first gathering his crew. The episode is essentially an abbreviated version of how the crew got together, sandwiched between a doomsday scenario for Mal. The trouble starts when the crew is celebrating Simon’s birthday. Suddenly, something blows up inside the ship. A couple of hallways are engulfed in flame and Mal and the others just…

crab on beach

Researchers Ask—Serious Question — Do Crabs Have Emotions?

Recent research has created some unexpected ethical problems for the seafood industry

At one time, the question of whether crabs or squid had emotions would seem ridiculous. Dogs and cats have emotions but squid and crabs don’t. Right? But in recent decades, it has become evident that there is no straightforward evolutionary path to “smartness.” What about the ability to experience pain or emotion as a dog or cat would? “A London School of Economics (LSE) report commissioned by the U.K. government found there is strong enough evidence to conclude that decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs are sentient,” says York University Professor and philosopher Kristin Andrews, the York Research Chair in Animal Minds, who is working with the LSE team. Andrews co-wrote an article published today in the journal Science, “The question…

Orchestra rehearsal

Memory Leans More on the Brain’s Electric Field Than on Neurons

MIT researchers compare the electric field to an orchestra conducting the neurons as players

The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT offers an interesting new model of how memories are processed in the brain. Using two macaques playing a game while their brain activities were recorded, the researchers suggest the orchestra as a model. The neurons are the players and the electric field is the conductor: As the brain strives to hold information in mind, such as the list of groceries we need to buy on the way home, a new study suggests that the most consistent and reliable representation of that information is not the electrical activity of the individual neurons involved but an overall electric field they collectively produce. Indeed, whenever neuroscientists have looked at how brains represent information in…

Depth electrode on brain MRI imaging.

Imaging Studies Fail Badly at Linking Brain and Behavior

Aha! news stories about what brain imaging reveals about human behavior are probably based on studies whose findings would not be confirmed by further research.

Brain imaging has shed much light on medical conditions in recent decades. So it was hardly good news for neuroscientist Scott Marek at the University of Washington when the results of a study linking brain function with intelligence in 2000 children produced very counterintuitive results. He and his colleagues had divided the sample into two groups of 1000 and run the same analysis on each — and they did not match. At first, he told Nature, “I stared out of my apartment window in depression, taking in what it meant for the field.” Then the team decided to study the problem on a larger scale, using the three key studies in this type of research, the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development…

Iguana and Blue and Gold Macaw

Are Birds Really Smarter Than Reptiles?

Scientists clash over how to measure animal intelligence: brain volume, brain organization, numbers of neurons…?

It used to be: Dog vs. cat, Who’s smarter? Now it’s Bird vs. reptile: Who’s smarter? Experts on the fascinating world of animal intelligence are locked in a debate over whether number of neurons or brain volume indicates intelligence (cognitive capacity): In previous work, [Pavel] Němec and colleagues showed that birds have high neuronal densities. “They basically compensate, with these densely packed neurons, [for] the fact that they have relatively small brains in absolute terms, but they have just as many neurons as mammals,” he says. But they didn’t know whether that was true of reptiles as well. In the new study, the researchers found that reptiles have very low neuronal densities, with an average neuron number 20 times lower…

Power outage. Electricity missing. Blackout concept.

What Would It Take To Survive an EMP Attack?

Remember, almost all conventional power sources and the entire internet would be knocked out and might take many months to replace

We are increasingly vulnerable to both natural disruptions and military attacks on our power grids. Earlier this month I wrote about electromagnetic pulse impulses (EMPs), which would destroy your electronics, leaving you and your surroundings intact — but without easy means of survival. Force of nature: Sometimes the sun is to blame for knocking out the power supply Natural disruptions can give us some idea what to expect. When lightning destroys a transformer atop a power pole, nearby businesses and residence must get by without power until the transformer is replaced but it usually doesn’t last long. Far more damage can occur in the rare event that the sun erupts with a major coronal mass ejection (CME) of plasma and…