Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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Can a Computer Write Your novel? Well, What Do You Want To Say?

These tools are sure to become a staple in the hot and time-sensitive market for boutique formula fiction

Jennifer Lepp was behind schedule with her latest detective novel, Bring Your Beach Owl (2022), featuring a detective witch in central Florida. Through Kindle Direct, under the pen name of Leanne Leeds, Lepp independently publishes what she calls “potato chip books”, making over US$100k annually. Amazon creates “microclimates” for readers so that genre writers can tailor their work precisely to a market, as she does: “paranormal cozy mystery.” But it’s a business where deadlines matter. Readers have many other choices. As Josh Dzieza tells it at The Verge, Lepp begged developers for a beta test of Sudowrite, aimed at fiction writers. It’s one of the programs created from OpenAI’s language generator GPT-3: Authors paste what they’ve written into a soothing…

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Just As Cryptocurrencies Went Mainstream — a Huge Collapse!

A central weakness is that investors must go through exchanges which have none of the safeguards established for the blockchain itself

The cryptocurrency markets have been in total upheaval for the last several months. The blowup essentially started when the stablecoin UST (provided by Terra) suddenly lost its peg to the US dollar. A stablecoin is supposed to maintain a 1:1 trading match to an underlying currency, so 1 UST is supposed to be worth $1. Most trading in crypto is trades between stablecoins and other coins rather than actual cash transactions using stablecoins. Due to some unforeseen (but not necessarily unforeseeable) issues, UST lost its peg; between May and June its value dropped from $1 to just over two pennies. This near erasure of value affected Terra’s other cryptocurrency, LUNA, which dropped from $80 to effectively zero over the same…

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Social Media Can Literally Kill. It Killed Cheslie Chryst

Chryst’s suicide — and Constant Wu’s thwarted attempt — spotlight the toxic cyberbullying that is intrinsic to Big Tech’s formula for success

[This article is republished with permission from the New York Post (July 23, 2022) where it appeared under the title “Constance Wu’s suicide tweet proves social media can mean life or death.”] “Looking back, it’s surreal that a few DMs convinced me to end my own life, but that’s what happened.”  Last week, actress Constance Wu confessed on Twitter that she had tried to take her own life after she made “careless tweets” about the renewal of her TV show, ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” in May 2019. “So upset right now that I’m literally crying,” she had posted about the show’s renewal, which had forced her to give up another project she was passionate about. As would be expected on a public…

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How China’s Pre-Crime Algorithms Work — and Their Fatal Flaw

The algorithms target, for example, those who complain about or draw attention to social injustices and abuses

In a previous article, we looked at the way George Orwell ’s dystopian 1984 is looking less and less like fiction as the Chinese Communist Party exploits the capabilities of AI and Big Data to surveil its entire population. But beyond surveilling citizens’ movements in real time, the CCP also hopes to predict crimes and protests before they happen. In a follow-up story in the New York Times, Paul Mozur, Muyi Xiao, and John Lui look at how the CCP is also bringing the dystopian world of Philip K. Dick ’s Minority Report (2002) to real life, with one difference: Rather than human “precogs” who can predict the future, the CCP relies on algorithms that can interrogate large swaths of…

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Artificial neural networks can show that the mind isn’t the brain

Because artificial neural networks are a better version of the brain, whatever neural networks cannot do, the brain cannot do.

What is the human mind? AI pioneer Marvin Minsky (1927–2016) said in 1987 that essentially “Minds are what brains do.” That is, the mind is the result of electrical waves cycling through the brain, as neurons spike and synapses transmit signals. But is that true? Can we test this idea? We can indeed, using artificial neural networks. One of the most popular approaches to artificial intelligence is artificial neural networks. These networks, inspired by an early model of how neurons fire (the McCulloch–Pitts model), consist of nodes, where each node is similar to a neuron. A node receives signals and then sends them to its linked nodes based on an activation function. There are, of course, differences between neural networks…

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Exoplanets: As the Data Streams Back… the Picture Comes In

China is now focusing on the search for a planet like Earth, using the Earth 2.0 Telescope (ET). Astronomer Jian Ge believes his team can find 17

In recent exoplanet news: ● China is now focusing on a search for a planet like Earth: Most likely, such a planet does exist, but in the relatively nascent field of exoplanet research, no one has yet been able to find it. That is not for lack of trying. Kepler spent nine years searching over 150,000 stars, and while it detected almost 3,000 new exoplanets, none met the criteria of being Earth-sized in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. Bad luck might have played a role – the new paper’s authors even calculated that statistically, Kepler probably should have found at least one Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone. Andy Tomaswick, “An Ambitious Plan to Find Earth 2.0” at…

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The Only Mad People In Dr. Strange’s Multiverse Are The Writers

We don’t know why Wanda has morphed into a villain or why good and evil have become morally equivalent

On our last delve into the Multiverse of Madness (2022), we followed Dr. Strange to Wanda Maximoff’s house. As the scene opens, it is clear that, controversially, Wanda has faced no repercussions for the events depicted in WandaVision. (2021). Tragically, Wanda has chosen to follow the words of the Dark hold — and those of us who watched WandaVision on Disney Plus will never get to see her struggle. So we don’t understand why she chose to listen to the words of the book. Nothing is accounted for. Wanda is just bad now, and we must accept it. Except — this is and isn’t true at the same time. On the one hand, the writers want us to understand that…

Trust Concept

Claim: If Science Were Properly Presented, Trust Would Grow!

The ideas examined in these four short essays all assume that scientists are exempt from the bias and self-interest that governs everyone else

Here’s the fourth short essay on an interesting summary at a science news site of a paper that bemoans the decline of trust in science. The summary did a good job — perhaps unintentionally — of typifying in itself the reasons so many people distrust claims made on behalf of science. Earlier, we covered: obliviousness to the damage created by science dogmatism; failing to recognize internal weaknesses; and the fear that the more the public knows, the more problems we will find. The summary concludes with the view that science needs to be presented in the right, targeted learning style: 4. Information is not being presented in the right learning style This problem is the most straightforward of the four…

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Big Social Media Must Appear in A-Gs’ COVID Censorship Lawsuit

Two states’ Attorneys General are suing officeholders and public officials over COVID-19 and have sent subpoenas to Meta, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

Missouri’s and Louisiana’s Attorneys General are suing federal government figures over suppression and censorship of COVID-19 information. Meta (Facebook’s parent company), YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have been issued third party subpoenas (they are ordered to appear in court). The lawsuit begun by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry …requests all communications with Mark Zuckerberg from Jan. 1, 2020, to the present. Also requested were any communications to any social media platform relating to the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a letter published in October 2020. The letter was published in response to COVID-19 policies that recommended “focused protection,” an approach to reaching herd immunity by allowing those at minimal risk of death to live normal lives…

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New OpenAI Art Program Does NOT Claim Copyright for AI

As DALL-E 2, which generates blended images in response to key words, moves into the art world, a key question has just been settled

A case currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals must decide if artificial intelligences should have patent rights on processes they were used to design. Throwing a wrench into the works, OpenAI has announced that artists using its new DALL-E beta software can sell the work: “Starting today, users get full usage rights to commercialize the images they create with DALL·E, including the right to reprint, sell, and merchandise. This includes images they generated during the research preview.” (July 20, 2022) First, here’s what DALL-E can do: Some worry about its impact on jobs in the arts: OpenAI’s press release for DALL-E 2 markets the advanced tech as a “powerful creative tool” that will speed up and inspire the creative…

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Lab-Grown Brains Are Closer Now. Should They Have Rights?

A new neuroscience research area raises as much concern as excitement: growing mini “human brains” in a lab. The excitement is the prospect of better understanding and treatment of dementia, autism, and motor neuron disease (ALS). The concern is that they will become sentient, capable of feeling. Then what? Starting in 2008, researchers learned that they could coax human stem cells to self-organize into “brainlike structures with electrically active neurons.” Although the cell clusters behave, to some extent, like human embryos, they are not human embryos but skin cells from an adult. That limits the ethical conflict in that the research does not depend on the abortion industry. But ethical issues crop up anyway as groups of cells become more…

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Can Tracking Daily Activity Patterns Help Predict Dementia?

It’s hardly a glamorous use for fit bit-type technology. But it could help with critical health and lifestyle decisions

We all make mistakes and our minds wander. With seniors, the question naturally arises, “Am I developing dementia?” If so, identifying and addressing the problem early might stop it or slow it down. Not all dementias are irreversible. For example, some dementias are caused by medication or infection, and thus treatable. Even dementias that are not treatable now might become so later. One Johns Hopkins research team recently reported “significant differences in movement patterns between participants with normal cognition and those with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.” Using activity trackers, the team was following 585 participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), of whom 36 participants had either mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s diagnoses: Adjusting for differences…

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Google’s Most Ambitious Project to Date: Reshaping Your Thinking

Controlling so much communication — and fired up by ideology — it’s in a better position for that than many suppose

In a column yesterday at Spiked, urban studies specialist Joel Kotkin, author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020), provided depressing evidence that the power of Big Tech is beginning to genuinely resemble the power medieval lords had over their serfs. It’s not just an office joke any more. Google, he recounts, was part of an anti-authoritarian high tech culture when it went public in 2004. Its search engine technology, and others, were seen as empowering the little guy. In 2018, for unclear reasons, Google dropped the famous “Don’t be evil” slogan. Since then, in Kotkin’s view, it is “increasingly becoming a force not for good, but for, well, evil.” He musters an impressive…


Neuroscientists: We hear when we are asleep — but we don’t listen

The new finding may help determine whether an apparently unconscious or demented person can actually understand what is said to him

Earlier this week, we talked about the fact that the human nose is much more sensitive than we sometimes think. Our sense of smell gets ignored in favor of visual, auditory, or symbolic information — but it’s still there. The same goes with our hearing when we are asleep, researchers say: The researchers were surprised to discover that the brain’s response to sound remains powerful during sleep in all parameters but one: the level of alpha-beta waves associated with attention to the auditory input and related expectations. This means that during sleep, the brain analyzes the auditory input but is unable to focus on the sound or identify it, and therefore no conscious awareness ensues. Tel-Aviv University, “During sleep the…

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Should AI Be Granted Patents on the Designs It Helps Develop?

That’s a current argument before the US Court of Appeals

Artificial intelligence (AI) should no more be given a patent on an invention than my word processor should be granted a copyright on the article I’m writing. Yet the US Appeals Court has recently been told: [AI] should be considered the inventor on patent applications covering a beverage container based on fractal geometry and a light beacon that flashes in a new way. Blake Britten, “Artificial intelligence can be a patent ‘inventor,’ U.S. appeals court told” at Reuters (June 6, 2022) Like bulldozers, electricity, and nuclear power, AI is a tool. Make no mistake, AI is a powerful and potentially dangerous tool. But like my word processor. it ultimately does only what it is instructed to do. Here is a…

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Thrones Star Can Speak While Lacking “Quite a Bit” of Brain. How?

Yes, Emilia Clarke is lucky her aneurysms weren’t worse but, given our brains’ complexity, how do our mental abilities survive?

Game of Thrones (2011–2019) star Emilia Clarke, who suffered two aneurysms in her twenties, told BBC News that “‘quite a bit’ of her brain no longer functions” after the extensive bleeding and surgeries: “There’s quite a bit missing, which always makes me laugh,” Clarke said, speaking about her brain. “Strokes, basically, as soon as any part of your brain doesn’t get blood for a second, it’s gone. So, the blood finds a different route to get around, but then whatever bit is missing is therefore gone.” … Clarke said at the time that the surgery left her with “a deep paranoia” over whether it would prevent her from continuing a career as an actor. But she went on to star…

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Researchers: If We Tell Folks More About Science, They Trust Less

Part 3: The researchers argue that doubts about science arise from conflict with beliefs. The many COVID-19 debacles suggest other causes…

We’ve been looking (here and here) at a summary at a science news site of a paper that bemoans the decline of trust in science. The author did a good job and doubtless means well. But the outcome — unintentionally — typifies the reasons so many people distrust claims made on behalf of science. For example, the third factor for distrust that we are asked to consider is that information we learn from science sources can go against our personal beliefs: “Scientific information can be difficult to swallow, and many individuals would sooner reject the evidence than accept information that suggests they might have been wrong,” the team wrote in their paper. “This inclination is wholly understandable, and scientists should…

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How Social Media Are Changing Politics From the Ground Up

Campaigns are much and easier to organize online so lawmakers may be hearing from people they didn’t used to

The internet has been a boon for citizen lobbyists. Everyone from societies for animal protection through environment activists and legal pot activists is offering tips, primers, and courses to those who want to influence government without quitting their day job and moving to the capital. . European law prof Alberto Alemanno spotted the trend and wrote a book about it, Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society (2017): Participation now happens with little cost or effort. And it means that a greater number of citizens – who have traditionally not participated – are becoming more politically active, or at least more open to persuasion by those that are. People have also become politically more promiscuous. Today’s…

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Big Brother Is Watching You (And Trying to Read Your Mind)

Chinese researchers now claim to have developed technology that can read our minds

One of the most popular story lines in the widely acclaimed television show The Good Wife (2009–2016) is when National Security Agency (NSA) techies entertain themselves by eavesdropping on the heroine’s personal life. It clearly resonated with viewers and reinforced the fears of many that the NSA might be listening to their conversations. Indeed, they might be. In 2013 James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, was asked by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden about whether NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper answered, under oath, “No sir, not wittingly.” Clapper had been informed the day before that he would be asked this question and he was offered an opportunity the day…

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Jumping Genes … A New Clue to Octopus Intelligence?

Despite being very different, the human brain and the octopus brain share the same sort of jumping genes

The fact that octopuses are unusually intelligent (like mammals) — even though they are solitary invertebrates — means that they now receive some protection against cruelty. Protection that no one bothers about for, say, clams and oysters. But the science puzzle remains. How did octopuses and some of their close kin among the cephalopods get so smart? Theories about how mammals and birds got to be smart may not work here. A recent paper adds a little more information to the controversy. Studying the common octopus and the California octopus, researchers found that the same “jumping genes” are active in the octopus brain as in the human one — even though the two types of brain are very different. Jumping…