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Global virus and disease spread, coronavirus

How China Has Tried To Suppress Coronavirus Science

So far as investigative journalists have been able to determine, the suppression came directly from the top

An investigation by the Associated Press reveals what everyone has suspected since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been keeping a tight rein on the publication or distribution of any scientific research on the virus, often called COVID-19, conducted within the country. AP recently found out just how extensive the muzzling of scientific findings has been. Its report also confirms that the orders came from the top: The AP investigation was based on dozens of interviews with Chinese and foreign scientists and officials, along with public notices, leaked emails, internal data and the documents from China’s cabinet and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It reveals a pattern of government secrecy…

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Convergence Background, Converge Toward Objective

Will Mediocrity Triumph? The Fallacy That Will Not Die

Economist claims: It is a fundamental economic truth that businesses converge to mediocrity. Is he right?

Nearly 100 years ago, a famous economist named Horace Secrist wrote a book with the provocative title, The Triumph of Mediocrity in Business. He had spent ten years collecting and analyzing data on the success of dozens of companies in dozens of industries during the years 1920 to 1930. For each measure of success, he used the 1920 data to divide the companies in each industry into quartiles: the top 25%, second 25%, third 25%, and bottom 25%. He then calculated the average value of the success metric for the 1920 top-quartile companies every year from 1920 to 1930. He did the same for the other three quartiles. In every case, the companies in both the top two quartiles and the bottom two…

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What We Can Do To Prevent More Online Censorship

Encrypted email can be an end-around social media companies' monopoly of free speech

With all the concern about major social media companies deplatforming those they disagree with, there is a concern that these companies’ monopoly on social media will eliminate free speech. New social media platforms such as Gab, Parler and MeWe have popped up to offer freer alternatives. Yet even that is not without peril, as deplatforming can happen lower down the technology stack. Parler was recently kicked off AWS (Amazon Web Services). However, in the midst of all the hubbub we’ve forgotten the original social network: email. Email is still here. The distance between email and modern social media may be smaller than it first appears. Lets make a short list of the perceived differences between social media and email, and…

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Teddy bear and toys in a baby's room

Why Medical Device Companies Use Priorities Created by Toy Makers

The priorities followed by product developers arise from the ontology they use

The priorities of product development teams arise from the ontology, the beliefs about the nature of reality, they follow. One of the greatest values of defining that ontology is to identify blind spots and wrong assumptions. When the source of priorities is clear, improved, more adaptable options become possible. As Clayton Christensen (1952–2020, pictured) has said: To grow profit margins and revenue, he observes, such companies tend to develop products to satisfy the demands of their most sophisticated customers. As successful as this strategy may be, it means that those companies also tend to ignore opportunities to meet the needs of less sophisticated customers — who may eventually form much larger markets. A hierarchy of products starts with the components,…

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Futuristic design of an elevator cabin with mirrors with neon illumination and metal panels. Modern elevator design. Reflection to infinity.

The Infinity Mirror Trap: Part 2: The Thought Determinism Paradox

The infinity mirror experience shows that thought determinism cannot explain all human thoughts

In Part 1 of this series, we saw how the belief that “every human thought is an illusion” proves empty and powerless when trying to account for the infinity mirror experience. Part 2 here puts another view held widely by science-trained people, materialism, to the same mirror test. Materialism is the view that everything we observe results from the interplay of matter and energy. Under materialism, each human’s every thought is produced by electrochemical events in the brain. As Marvin Minsky, an artificial intelligence pioneer, wrote in Society of Mind (1988), “Everything, including that which happens in our brains, depends on these and only on these: A set of fixed, deterministic laws and a purely random set of accidents.” Philosopher…

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Street Signs

Why “Critical Theory” Might Shape Your Life Going Forward

Critical Theory has begun to rule the public square and we need to understand it

2020 was the year that Critical Theory came to dominate culture in America. It ruled academia for a half century but only in the past year has it begun to rule the American public square as well. Perhaps you’re not interested in Critical Theory but Critical Theory is interested in you. It behooves us to understand it better, because it will be a central theme in American culture for the foreseeable future. For readers who are not familiar with it, I provide here a synopsis. There is a connection to Darwinism at the heart of Critical Theory, as we will see. Critical theory is, at its root, cultural Marxism. It emerged from the failure of Leninism to capture the hearts…

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Walking difficulties. Aged bearded man leaning on his walking stick while thinking about his helplessness

Sci-fi Saturday: A Robot Helps an Old Fellow Rediscover Life

The robot is very well done and how he gets a name is charming

The short sci-fi film, “This Time Away” (13:23) is by Magali Barbe Nigel is an elderly man living as a recluse, haunted by his past and memory of the family he once had, until an unexpected visitor arrives and disrupts his lonely routine. No spoiler, the visitor is a robot, abandoned by children in his back yard. The relationships seem a bit unrealistic. Lots of people abandon their elderly relatives, of course. But we are being asked to believe that a robot was the big solution. In this case, it feels like magic. Well, watch it and see what you think. The robot is done really nicely. Worth watching. Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files: Sci-fi Saturday:…

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Mensch und Roboter in der Medizin der Zukunft, Beruf Arzt am Arbeitsplatz

Can Robots That Work With People Ever Be Safe?

Robot IQ offers five reasons why not

Cobots are robots designed to be friendly to people. But some doubt that friendship will work: It can be tempting to think of risk as an either/or situation — either your application is safe or it isn’t. In reality, risk is a sliding scale and you can never get rid of all risks completely. You can only know the true risk of a particular task by performing an adequate risk assessment. You need to do this whether the robot is collaborative or not. Truth: cobot safety can be changed to suit task performance The reality is that cobots have always been high-performance robots suitable for a range of industrial applications. Instead of being lesser robots, as some people mistakenly believe,…

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Grownup daughter soothe aged mother holds her hand feeling empathy

Sci-fi Saturday: What If an Old Man Could See His Mother Again?

It is a hard film to watch if you lost a loved one, but worthwhile

A bit sad but worth seeing. (4:01 min from Nick Naum & Csaba Nagy) An old man, with a receding memory, pays to view synthetic recreations of his mother and childhood. I had a hard time watching this film because I would so like to see my parents (who died in their nineties) again, especially when they were young. But I can tell you this: My father once got a call from the country for old men. In case you ever wondered, yes, it’s real. It’s too bad if some people are scamming about it. Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files: Sci Fi Saturday: A fight for the winning ticket In a 2040 superstorm, engulfing the planet,…

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Silhouette of one hand desire to Dove carrying olive leaf branch

Poland’s Free Speech Champion Speaks Out!

Poland has been drafting laws that would hold Big Social Media accountable

A month after Poland announced drafted legislation that would hold social media companies accountable for their censorship activities, the author of the widely discussed law has spoken out on why he felt the need to get the state involved. In an article published to Newsweek on January 21, Sebastian Kaleta (pictured) called on “democratic governments all over the globe” to defend the free speech rights of their citizens against the censorship efforts of social media companies. “Two thousand years ago, the Roman comedian Juvenal asked, ‘Who will watch the watchers?’” Kaleta wrote. “In the case of Big Tech, I believe that the answer lies with the people – not nameless moderators operating with no transparency and no ability for recourse.”…

Thief Stealing Folder From Shelf

The President Pardons the Founder of a Church That Worships AI

On his last day in office, departing President Trump pardoned Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski has an interesting history He transitioned from Silicon Valley wunderkind to inept theologian to convicted felon. Now he is free, due to a pardon given by Donald Trump in Trump’s last day in office. If you are an orthodox materialist, you believe our brains are computers made of meat. Artificial intelligence, brains made out of silicon, will therefore match and eventually exceed human capabilities and become godlike. So it might make sense to form a church that worships this future AI god. That’s what Anthony Levandowski did in 2019. His church was christened Way of the Future. Levandowski reasoned “What is going to be created [by AI] will effectively be a god … if there is something a…

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Chain of amino acid or biomolecules called protein - 3d illustration

#1 Smash Hit in AI 2020: AI Cracks Protein Folding!

The reason it became possible, of course, is many years of human creativity

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with the second instalment of 2020 smash hits in AI—and now, the #1 Smash Hit! Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks talks with Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about AI programs that can beat humans at understanding the complexities of protein folding, the immensely complex ways that proteins in our bodies actually work. Robert J. Marks: AI has cracked a problem that stumped biologists for 50 years. And it’s a huge deal. Jonathan and Eric, elaborate on this a little bit. Jonathan Bartlett: Well, protein…

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Hand painting over the words

Mexican President Wants Free Speech Coalition Re Social Media

“How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” he asked.

In response to the recent banning of former United States President Donald Trump from Facebook and Twitter, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced last week that he is organizing a coalition of global leaders to seek solutions to the power currently wielded by social media giants. “I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” he said on Thursday. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.” According to the Washington Post, one of his proposed solutions is a “state-run social network” that would exist “without censorship” as…

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colorful numbers background

Most Real Numbers Are Not Real, or Not in the Way You Think

Typical real numbers contain an encoding of all of the books in the US Library of Congress

Pick a random real number between zero and one. The number you choose, with probability one, will contain an encoding of all of the books in the US Library of Congress. This sounds absurd, but real numbers require infinite precision and every time you deal with the infinite, things get absurd. Infinities, including the infinite number of digits to express almost every real number, don’t exist. Curiously then, real numbers are not real. How do we choose a random number between zero and one? The easiest way to explain is using binary decimals. The binary number 0.1000… with zeros forever denotes the number ½ or, in base 10 notation, 0.5. The binary decimal 0.01000… with zeros forever is the number…

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Flush royal in poker player hand. Lucky winner.

AI Smash Hits #2 To Win AI-Run Poker Humans Must Find Blind Spots

Each pro separately played 5,000 hands of poker against five copies of Pluribus and Pluribus won. Now this, in itself, was an astonishing result.

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with the second instalment of 2020 smash hits in AI. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks talks with Eric Holloway about AI programs that can beat humans at poker. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-117-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 Our story begins at 16:36. Here’s a partial transcript. (Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript.) Robert J. Marks: Carnegie Mellon and Facebook AI beats professionals in six player poker. This result astonished me. I have always heard poker players say that poker is not a game of…

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COVID-19 coronavirus in China, renminbi yuan money bill with face mask. COVID global stock market. World economy hit by corona virus outbreak. Financial crisis and coronavirus pandemic concept.

Lawyer Turned Citizen Journalist in China Turns Up Again—in Jail

She has been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a crime in China

Lawyer-turned-citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, went missing on May 15 after documenting on Youtube, Twitter, and WeChat what she saw in Wuhan during the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic. She has now been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Zhang had already been detained for supporting the 2019 Hong Kong protests, which likely played into her harsh sentence. So far, 47 journalists have been jailed for reporting on COVID-19 in China. YouTube and Twitter are inaccessible within China because of the Great Firewall which allows the Communist Party of China (CCP) to control the information that comes into and goes out of the country. Within the Great Firewall journalists must adhere…

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Legal law concept image, scales of justice

Finally, Someone Is Seriously Suing Twitter

Twitter is now being sued in Canada because Canada does not offer the protections accorded to the social medium that it has enjoyed in the United States

Last week, a Canadian judge ruled that the Supreme Court of British Columbia has the right to hear the claims of Canadian billionaire philanthropist Frank Giustra against Twitter about the defamation he says he was subjected to on its platform. Giustra filed a lawsuit against Twitter in April 2019 in the Canadian province of British Columbia, claiming that he was the target of defamatory posts that harmed his reputation and community standing. According to his claim, people began making politically-motivated, false accusations against him via Twitter in 2015, ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The posts allege that Giustra was involved in “Pizzagate,” a conspiracy theory according to which the Democrats were operating a child sex trafficking ring out…

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Legs of disabled person.

#3 AI Smash Hits 2020: AI Can Help Paralyzed People Move Again

The human brain can interface directly with electronics

Our Walter Bradley Center director, Robert J. Marks, is back with the second instalment of the 2020 Smash Hits in AI. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks talks with Eric Holloway about ways AI can help people with disabilities. A major, often unrealized, fact is that the human brain can work directly with electronic devices, provided that they are positioned or implanted so as to interface with neurons. Many possibilities are being explored. And the “exoskeleton” is our #3. Our story begins at 10:12 min: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-117-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 Robert J. Marks: We’re up to number three, where…

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Time concept

Why the Idea That the Human Mind Is an Illusion Doesn’t Work

There is a simple way to test whether our thoughts are all illusions

Sitting in a room with me are some smart people listening to a podcast of neuroscientist Sam Harris. They nod solemnly as Harris tells them that their thoughts are all illusions. No one has free will either, Harris says, both on the podcast and in his 2012 book, Free Will. Sir Francis Crick (1916–2004) said much the same in his 1994 work, The Astonishing Hypothesis. Harris and Crick are science-trained and Crick is a Nobelist. But popular culture influencers think the same way. The widely-read manga graphic novel artist, Masashi Kishimoto, has a character say in his 2009 work, Naruto, Every single one of us goes through life depending on and bound by our individual knowledge and awareness. And we…

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Golden bitcoin coin in fire flame, water splashes and lightning. Bitcoin Gold blockchain hard fork concept. Cryptocurrency symbol in storm illustration with peer to peer network background.

Bitcoin: What’s Good, What’s Bad and What’s the Future?

Bitcoins are currently bouncing in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 each

Bitcoin has been having quite the wild ride over the last several months, and especially the last several weeks. During 2020, the price of a single bitcoin dipped below $5,000, then soared past $20,000 in December. It is currently bouncing in the range of $30,000 to $40,000.So what is the attraction of the digital currency Bitcoin? Why is the value of a bitcoin so high and what are people doing with it? To begin with, keep in mind that a “single bitcoin” is a bit of a misnomer. While a single bitcoin is indeed expensive, coins can be split. The smallest unit in Bitcoin is known as a satoshi, which is 0.00000001 bitcoin. While the quoted price is always given…