Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Denyse O'Leary

power-struggles-stockpack-unsplash
Power Struggles

This Isn’t Fake News: Mainstream Media Are Very Out of Touch

Massively so, if recent survey research is any guide. But how did they get SO far out of touch?

From media and culture analyst Joe Concha at The Hill, which reports on the doings of Congress, we learn about a new in-depth survey by the non-politically affiliated Pew Research Center: Per Pew, 65 percent of the nearly 12,000 journalists surveyed say the media do a solid job of “covering the most important stories of the day” and reporting news accurately. But a solid majority of the American public at large has the opposite view, with just 35 percent feeling the same way. That’s a 30-point perception gap. Joe Concha, “The media bubble is real: Study shows massive disconnect between journalists, public” at The Hill (June 22, 2022) Some other contrasts: ● “serving as a watchdog over elected leaders” Journalists:…

working-data-center-full-of-rack-servers-and-supercomputers-modern-telecommunications-artificial-intelligence-supercomputer-technology-concept3d-renderingconceptual-image-stockpack-adobe-stock
Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers, Modern Telecommunications, Artificial Intelligence, Supercomputer Technology Concept.3d rendering,conceptual image.

Engineer: Failing To See His AI Program as a Person Is “Bigotry”

It’s not different, Lemoine implies, from the historical injustice of denying civil rights to human groups

Earlier this month, just in time for the release of Robert J. Marks’s book Non-Computable You, the story broke that, after investigation, Google dismissed a software engineer’s claim that the LaMDA AI chatbot really talked to him. Engineer Blake Lemoine, currently on leave, is now accusing Google of “bigotry” against the program. He has also accused Wired of misrepresenting the story. Wired reported that he had found an attorney for LaMDA but he claims that LaMDA itself asked him to find an attorney. He went on to say, I think every person is entitled to representation. And I’d like to highlight something. The entire argument that goes, “It sounds like a person but it’s not a real person” has been…

female-politician-talking-on-media-press-conference-public-relations-event-stockpack-adobe-stock
Female politician talking on media press conference, public relations, event

Why Science News Sucks — A Response to a Disgusted Physicist

There are reasons why science journalists can't usually be skeptical in the way that other journalists can. Here are some of them

In her usual forthright manner, theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder asks, by blog post and Youtube video, “Why does science news suck so much? It’s hardly an original question but among her suggested answers are some thoughtful reflections, including 9. Don’t forget that science is fallible A lot of media coverage on science policy remembers that science is fallible only when it’s convenient for them. When they’ve proclaimed something as fact that later turns out to be wrong, then they’ll blame science. Because science is fallible. Facemasks? Yeah, well, we lacked the data. Alright. But that’d be more convincing if science news acknowledged that their information might be wrong in the first place. The population bomb? Peak oil? The new ice…

print-is-alive-stockpack-unsplash
Print is Alive

Have Newspapers Simply Lost Touch With the Mainstream Public?

The depressing stats tell a tale that’s a bit more complex: Readers tolerate out-of-touch media less now because they we need them so much less

Earlier this week we looked at the way a flailing newspaper chain decided to cut back on editorial and opinion pages. The decision should not be a surprise in an age when so much opinion is available for free — and by no means is all of it foolish. One familiar response has been to say, well, media are too “liberal” (or “leftist” or “progressive”) for the readers — and that’s why newspaper are losing them. It’s a factor but there is more to the story. First, we are dealing with a fact: Pious disclaimers notwithstanding, as a group, media personnel are generally more likely to support progressive causes than average Americans. A variety of explanations is offered, including this…

newspaper-production-and-printing-process-stockpack-adobe-stock
newspaper production and printing process

Flailing News Chain Gannett Cuts Back on Opinion Pages

Younger readers say they can’t tell the difference between news and opinion

Virginia-based Gannett, the largest newspaper chainin the United States, owns of owns USA Today and also 260 dailies and more than 170 paid weeklies in 46 states. And it is floundering in red ink. According to the Washington Post, “Gannett lost $670 million in 2020, and $135 million last year.” As the losses head for a cumulative billion, it has made a seemingly radical decision: Cut back on opinion pages. Here’s some of the reasoning, according to the Post (which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos): Gannett says its internal research — primarily reader surveys — suggests editorials, guest commentary columns, op-eds and letters to the editor have lost relevance in an age when opinions overflow on social media.…

whistleblower-employee-stockpack-adobe-stock
Whistleblower Employee

Dox Show Disinformation Board Was For Use Against Americans Too

A whistleblower leaked a cache of documents to two U.S. senators who have put them online

On Tuesday, Senators Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa) and Senator Josh Hawley (R – Missouri) publicized whistleblower documents that make clear that the Disinformation Governance Board, currently on hold, had much greater ambitions than we have been led to believe. Here are some highlights from the documents publicized June 7, 2022: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explicitly told CNN that the new Governance Board was not intended to spy on U.S.citizens: Mayorkas: Ministry of Truth won’t “monitor American citizens … the board does not have any operational capability. What it’ill do is gather together best practices … & disseminate those best practices to the operators that have been executing & addressing this threat for years” pic.twitter.com/VbHF6Wek2Y — Tom…

world-twitter-connection-on-blackboard-stockpack-adobe-stock
World twitter Connection on Blackboard

Whew! Twitter Now Offers Musk a “Firehose” of Data From Botworld

Looming in the background is Musk’s proposal to make Twitter more of a free speech zone, a prospect that worries many Big Tech power players

That was fast. On Monday billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s lawyers publicized a serious threat to walk away from his bid to buy Twitter if he didn’t start getting hard data on the phantom users (bots). Readers will recall that Twitter told the U.S. government that the bots comprise only 5% of the nearly 397 million active users. But few can literally believe that. Now, Twitter is telling Musk, fine, we’ll tell you what we know. But prepare to be swamped, inundated even, with data. From Ars Technica: “Mr. Musk believes Twitter is transparently refusing to comply with its obligations under the merger agreement, which is causing further suspicion that the company is withholding the requested data due to concern…

twitter-man-business-stockpack-adobe-stock
Twitter, man, business.

Will Musk’s Twitter Bid — Win or Lose — Damage Twitter’s Power?

Stirring the pot, Musk recently slammed current media’s marked disinterest in who teen sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s prominent clients were …

Just in: “Musk threatens to walk away from Twitter deal:” DETROIT (AP) — Elon Musk is threatening to walk away from his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, accusing the company of refusing to give him information about its spam bot and fake accounts. Lawyers for the Tesla and SpaceX CEO made the threat in a letter to Twitter dated Monday, and Twitter disclosed it in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The letter says Musk has repeatedly asked for the information since May 9, about a month after his offer to buy the company, so he could evaluate how many of the company’s 229 million accounts are fake. Tom Krisher and Matt O’Brien , “Musk threatens…

leafcutter-ants-stockpack-adobe-stock
leafcutter ants

The Hive Mind: Leafcutter Ants Behave Like Farmhands But…

But they are actually following a colony algorithm rather than making individual decisions

Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021), tells us that his favorite type of ant (p. 97) is the leafcutter (Attini). Its complex fungus farming provides insight into the “hive mind,” in which a natural version of a computer algorithm enables highly complex decision-making. There are 39 known species of leafcutters in the American tropics, easily recognized as the long trails (up to 30 metres) of ants, all carrying pieces of leaves they have stripped from trees. They bring them into underground nests featuring perhaps a thousand chambers housing millions of ants. There they chew up the leaves and cultivate the fungus that feeds their larvae and themselves (along with plant sap).…

fresh-raw-lobster-stockpack-adobe-stock
Fresh raw lobster

Asked at “The Scientist”: Do Invertebrates Have Feelings?

Just as vertebrates differ greatly in intelligence and sentience, invertebrates may differ greatly too. The seafood industry is taking heed.

People did not ask this question about invertebrates like bees and snails fifty years ago: Decades ago, scientists and lawmakers had all but reached a consensus that invertebrates could not feel pain, let alone other emotions like joy or fear. Recently, however, evidence is mounting that invertebrates are more than just reflexive beings. Experiments in bees, crabs, and octopuses show that some invertebrate animals can learn from painful experiences, have positive and negative emotion-like states, and might even experience a range of other emotions beyond pain and pleasure. But not all scientists agree that invertebrates feel anything analogous to vertebrate—much less human—emotion. Natalie Mesa, “Do Invertebrates Have Emotions?” at The Scientist (May 26, 2022) Assessing the evidence is tricky. In…

ants-building-a-bridge-stockpack-adobe-stock
ants building a bridge

Do Ants Think? Yes, They Do — But They Think Like Computers

Computer programmers have adapted some ant problem-solving methods to software programs (but without the need for complex chemical scents)

Navigation expert Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021), offers some insights in the book into how ants organize themselves using what amount to algorithms, without any central command: Ants are remarkably consistent in their lifestyle: All of the roughly 11,000 species of ants live in groups, large or small. There are no known solitary ants. Living in groups, they have developed a social lifestyle that includes “agriculture, territorial wars, slavery, division of labor, castes, consensus building, cities, and a symbolic language.” (p. 85) How is this managed by ants with very small brains (200,000 to 250,000 neurons) and very limited individuality? For comparison, among mammals, the agouti has roughly 857 million…

twins-with-new-baby-on-the-way-stockpack-adobe-stock
Twins with New Baby on the Way

What Is the Human Mind Like Before Birth?

Researchers stress that the unborn child’s brain is in a rapid, ongoing, and little understood state of development

Some have addressed the question of the prenatal mind by trying to determine when various parts of the brain develop. The difficulty with that, as neuroscientist Mark Solms and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor have noted, is that it’s not clear that there is a “seat” of consciousness in the brain. If it is a human brain at all, it is developing human consciousness, in the same way that a kitten brain is developing cat consciousness. At any rate, human consciousness is a “Hard Problem with no special location in the brain. Unborn babies, like very young born ones, spend most of their time asleep, as neuroscientist Christof Koch has pointed out: Invasive experiments in rat and lamb pups and observational studies…

dolphin-underwater-on-reef-close-up-look-stockpack-adobe-stock
dolphin underwater on reef close up look

The Remarkable Medicines Wild Animals Find in Nature

The “animals’ pharmacy” mainly aims at treating parasites and wounds using plants and insects

It turns out that many animals know how to alleviate some of their common health problems and we are only beginning to (officially) learn about it. Dolphins, for example: Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins get skin conditions, too, but they come about their medication by queuing up nose-to-tail to rub themselves against corals. In the journal iScience on May 19, researchers show that these corals have medicinal properties, suggesting that the dolphins are using the marine invertebrates to medicate skin conditions. Thirteen years ago, co-lead author Angela Ziltener (@DWAORG), a wildlife biologist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, first observed dolphins rubbing against coral in the Northern Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. She and her team noticed that the dolphins…

multiracial-group-with-black-african-american-caucasian-and-asian-hands-holding-each-other-wrist-in-tolerance-unity-love-and-anti-racism-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock
multiracial group with black african American Caucasian and Asian hands holding each other wrist in tolerance unity love and anti racism concept

Prof: We Shouldn’t Necessarily Value Humans Over Other Animals

New York University environmentalism prof Jeff Sebo argues that humans are not always rational and that some animals display mental qualities so we aren’t exceptional

New York University environmentalism prof Jeff Sebo, co-author of Chimpanzee Rights (2018), sees human exceptionalism (the idea that there is something unique about human beings) as a danger to humans and other life forms. He does not think that we should necessarily prioritize humans over animals: Most humans take this idea of human exceptionalism for granted. And it makes sense that we do, since we benefit from the notion that we matter more than other animals. But this statement is still worth critically assessing. Can we really justify the idea that some lives carry more ethical weight than others in general, and that human lives carry more ethical weight than nonhuman lives in particular? And even if so, does it…

young-woman-sitting-on-the-floor-lights-candles-enjoy-meditation-do-yoga-exercise-at-home-mental-health-self-care-no-stress-healthy-habit-mindfulness-lifestyle-anxiety-relief-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock
Young woman sitting on the floor, lights candles, enjoy meditation, do yoga exercise at home. Mental health, self care, No stress, healthy habit, mindfulness lifestyle, anxiety relief concept

Study: Eight-week Mindfulness Courses Do Not Change the Brain

Earlier studies may have been hampered by a small, self-selected, particularly needy participant base and by the fact that any intervention can succeed at first

In recent years, as mindfulness meditation began to catch on, research, including this open-access paper, claimed that eight weeks of mindfulness could change the structure of the brain. The neuroplasticity on which such studies relied is real enough. But a just-released study has found no evidence that eight-week courses like “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” make so radical a difference: In new research, a team from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led by Richard J. Davidson, found no evidence of structural brain changes with short-term mindfulness training. Published May 20 in Science Advances, the team’s study is the largest and most rigorously controlled to date. In two novel trials, over 200 healthy participants with no meditation experience…

social-media-censorship-political-war-between-us-president-banning-social-networks-tiny-person-on-the-laptop-keyboard-looking-at-the-forbidden-sign-on-the-screen-internet-communication-risk-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock
Social media censorship, political war between US president banning social networks. Tiny person on the laptop keyboard looking at the forbidden sign on the screen. Internet communication risk concept

New U.S. Disinformation Board on Hold Amid Flak From Both Sides

Most current controversies are not clear divisions between True and Untrue or Right and Wrong. Government would merely reinforce the Establishment

If you’d blinked, you’d have missed it: The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday paused a new and controversial board’s work on disinformation and accepted the resignation of its leader, capping weeks of concerns about impinging on free speech rights and at times frenzied conspiracy theories about the board itself… The Disinformation Governance Board’s director, Nina Jankowicz, wrote Wednesday that the board’s future was “uncertain,” according to a resignation letter obtained by The Associated Press. Nomaan Merchant and Amanda Seitz, “New ‘disinformation’ board paused amid free speech questions” at Associated Press (May 18, 2022) A recommendation as to whether the Board should continue will be offered, we are told, within 75 days. The Washington Post knows who to blame: “How…

two-cats-hide-under-the-blanket-outside-the-winter-snow-the-concept-of-home-comfort-security-warmth-stockpack-adobe-stock
Two cats hide under the blanket. Outside, the winter snow. The concept of home comfort, security, warmth

Why Cats Can Remember Other Cats’ Names

University of Kyoto scientists found that they can indeed remember, provided they live in the same household

In a study of 48 cats living in private homes and pet cafés, scientists at Kyoto University in Japan determined that they can recognize the names humans give to them if they live in the same household: The scientists showed pet cats living in homes and felines living in “cat cafés” photos of cats they resided with to determine their reactions. The cats were then played an audio recording of their owners, or a researcher, calling out a name — either the name of the familiar cat in the photo or a fake name. Researchers discovered that pet cats spent more time looking at the image when the audio incorrectly identified a familiar cat than when the correct name was…

stopping dominoes blue
Business crisis manager stopping falling dominos from collapsing

Who Opposes Musk’s Proposed Twitter Takeover Deal?

Four groups to watch are Twitter employees, left-wing action coalitions, legacy media, and the European Union

First, the state of play: Elon Musk’s foray into buying Twitter remains on hold amid disputes about how much of Twitter is dominated by bot accounts. Musk believes that 20% of the accounts are spam. Spam bots on Twitter are automated accounts that can take actions like real humans, such as sending out tweets, following other users, as well as liking and retweeting other users’ posts. Such accounts can be programmed to try and drive traffic to a product or service as part of a commercial endeavor or spread content as part of a social or political influence operation. Tom Ozimek, “Musk Says Twitter Deal on Hold Over Spam Bots” at Epoch Times (May 13, 2022) That’s something Musk says…

roboter-auf-tastatur-methapher-fur-chatbot-socialbot-algorithmen-und-kunstliche-intelligenz-stockpack-adobe-stock
Roboter auf Tastatur, Methapher für Chatbot / Socialbot, Algorithmen und künstliche Intelligenz

Musk’s Twitter Deal Is at Risk Amid Fierce Attacks on Him

Tarred as a privileged white South African, Musk moved to Canada at 17 to avoid serving in South Africa’s apartheid army

Traditional media and many tech mavens are elated that Elon Musk’s Twitter deal is now shaky. It’s no secret that they were unhappy with it and with him. The New York Times launched an extraordinary attack on Musk on May 5, tweeting “Elon Musk grew up in elite white communities in South Africa, detached from apartheid’s atrocities and surrounded by anti-Black propaganda. He sees his takeover of Twitter as a free speech win but in his youth did not suffer the effects of misinformation.” In reality, Musk left for Canada at the age of 17, to avoid serving in the South African military, whose principal purpose was to oppress black South Africans. He had Canadian citizenship by way of his…