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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Denyse O'Leary

Digital Brain

Are We Doomed Unless We Get Ourselves Digitized?

A tech writer suggests humans can escape Earth’s end by digitizing ourselves elsewhere in the galaxy

Today’s apocalyptic vision seems now to have moved on from the arrival of the extraterrestrials to uploading ourselves to a supercomputer. Whether it’s possible is really secondary. The main question is whether it answers a cultural need for a vision that mirrors the inner turmoil of the day.

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Joyful happy boy hugging a robot

Can Robots Be Programmed To Care About Us?

Some researchers think it is only a matter of the right tweaks

The quest is a curious blend of forlorn hope fueled by half-acknowledged hype and resolute denial of the most serious problems. Also by sometimes systematic confusion as to what, precisely, we are talking about.

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Babys playing together.

Are Infants Born Kind? New Research Says Yes

The trouble is, the research is haunted by conflicting definitions of altruism

If human infants show apparent intellectual qualities like compassion earlier than we might have expected but chimpanzees don’t, we must accept that humans are fundamentally different from chimpanzees. Conflicting definitions of altruism cloud the picture.

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Asian Doctor with the stethoscope equipment hand holding the Artificial intelligence of brain technology over Abstract photo blurred of hospital background, AI and physician concept

How AI Can Make Medicine Better—or Not

Experts offer some real-world cautions about powerful new AI tools

Medicine involves many risks, benefits, and tradeoffs. Early diagnosis, for example, can certainly be defended and promoted on a right-to-know basis. But that is not the same thing as saying that it reliably improves outcomes or even enjoyment of life. If a powerful AI method reliably detected the very early onset of Alzheimer, it might ruin a senior's early retirement years without changing the outcome much. Getting the most from AI will include determining the relationship between what it can potentially do and what will provide a medical benefit.

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Is Transhumanism Uncomfortably Tempting?

An ethicist asks us to stop and reflect

Jacob Schatzer identifies three issues in the essay, “The Allure of Transhumanism,” that might prompt some queasy recognitions in all of us, at times.

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Do Bots Spreading False News Really Threaten Democracy?

Researchers found that humans spread more false news than bots

The fact that humans outdo bots in spreading false news creates a huge practical problem for would-be reformers. If they want to rub out false news, banning bots from social media would be less effective than banning people.

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Man caressing a tame black fox

Tame Animals, Not Wild Ones, Are Mysterious

A recent discovery about tame foxes sheds some light but deepens the larger mystery

New research puts us back where we started. The foxes are tame. But why are they tame? Other foxes are decidedly not tame. Why is it so easy to “tame” dogs and cats but not wolves and bobcats? 

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thousands of umbrella in causeway bay hong kong in rainy day on august 18 2019

Can a Totalitarian State Advance AI?

China vs. Hong Kong provides a test case

George Orwell identified two characteristics of a totalitarian state that offer insight into its central intellectual weaknesses.

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China and Australia puzzles from flags, 3D rendering

Weighing the Costs of China’s High-Tech Power

Western nations like New Zealand, Australia, and Canada must weigh Beijing’s demands carefully

Smaller Western countries, dependent on high-tech cooperation and the promise of huge markets in China, have muted their protests over Hong Kong and even accept Chinese government censorship in their own territories. That can put them in conflict with their own stated values.

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Shakespeare's Globe Theatre by the river Thames in Londob, UK

Can AI Prove That Shakespeare Had Ghostwriters?

An author’s unique style is like a fingerprint. AI can fill it in

Turning AI loose on some of these vexing problems should give literary scholars more to write about rather than less. The AI verdict may not always be right but it is bound to be food for thought.

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Coffee shop interior design with white chairs and violet of flower.

Why the Millennial High-Tech Urban Lifestyle May Soon Cost More

In the wake of WeWork’s woes, analysts are questioning the business models we love

The problem is, WeWork is not a technology company. Neither is Airbnb or Uber. They all use software via the internet to leverage surplus physical space, whether the space is in an office building, a private home, or a privately owned car. 

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Beautiful Male Computer Engineer and Scientists Create Neural Network at His Workstation. Office is Full of Displays Showing 3D Representations of Neural Networks.

How Algorithms Can Seem Racist

Machines don’t think. They work with piles of “data” from many sources. What could go wrong? Good thing someone asked…

Some of the recent conflicts around algorithms and ethnicity are flubs that social media entrepreneurs will regret. Others may endanger life.

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old tree roots in a green forest

New Research Suggests That Plants Can “Think”

But what does that mean? Clearly not what some people expect

From time immemorial, we have endowed what we find in nature with our own characteristics. That is called mythology. The people who think that salad is murder or beg plants to forgive their sins are not helping the environment; they are incorporating a mythology into their lives

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Is Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity Now Nearer — or Impossible?

In response to Kurzweil’s talk at the COSM Technology Summit, panelists noted that AI achievements are revolutionary in size but limited by their nature in scope

George Montañez, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College, took issue with Kurzweil’s claim that AlphaGoZero needed no instructions to beat humans at the game of Go: “For a system like this to work, a human must define the incentive structure, also encoding the assumptions.” The sheer power of a computing system does not cause it to do anything at all.

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Gorgeous puppy looking on itself in the mirror

Mirror, Mirror, Am I a Self?

Scientists ponder, how would animals show self-awareness?

One controversy in animal psychology centers on whether or not an animal can recognize itself in a mirror. But a number of scientists are beginning to doubt that the mirror test shows animal self-awareness.

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Ray Kurzweil presenting via teleconference at COSM 2019

Tech pioneer Ray Kurzweil: We Will Merge with Computers by 2045

For computers, “Even the very best human is just another notch to pass,” he told the COSM Technology Summit

Advocates point to the success of Kurzweil’s past predictions as evidence that his Singularity is indeed Near, as his 2005 book predicts or Nearer, as his forthcoming one (June 2020) does. But questions bubbled to the surface.

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Wall Street Journal columnist to Big Tech: You are doomed

Companies like Google and Facebook aren’t monsters, says Andy Kessler, but each nourishes the seeds of its own destruction

Kessler told his audience at the COSM National Technology Summit that Big Tech companies are so vulnerable that, for legal reasons, the United States is the only safe place for their headquarters.

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Have Millennials broken up with America’s car culture?

They are less likely to have licenses; they prefer ride-sharing, says auto data analyst

“People envision a future delivering mobility as a service,” Bryan Mistele of INRIX told the COSM Technology Summit, contrasting the Millennials’ approach with that of earlier generations who tended, at the same age, to see driving as a form of freedom.

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Your smartphone will disappear, says AT&T CTO

New 5G computing will introduce an era of ever smarter wearable devices, according to Andre Fuetsch

Fuetsch asks us to think of 3G (2001) and 4G (2010) internet as the difference between a junior high school rock band and a high school rock band: “The high school band is a lot louder and a lot faster.” And 5G? “It is a 40-piece orchestra. A wide spectrum of abilities but tight structure and control.”

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Chair of Forbes Media Says Money Is About Trust

Experts forecast the future of money in general at COSM

Facebook wants to start minting its own money. Amazon is said to be thinking about it. Bitcoin has many enthusiasts. But what determines the value of money in a digital age?

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