Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Jonathan Bartlett

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Bitcoin and cryptomoney

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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3D render AI artificial intelligence technology CPU central processor unit chipset on the printed circuit board for electronic and technology concept select focus shallow depth of field

How Well Do Researchers Say Chatbots and Other AI Really Perform?

The 400 researchers found that getting moderately high performance requires models with around 100 billion parameters, an exponentially hard problem

A vast team of over 400 researchers recently released a new open-access study on the performance of recent, popular text-based AI architectures such as GPT, the Pathways Language Model, the (recently controversial) LaMBDA architecture, and sparse expert models. The study, titled the “Beyond the Imitation Game,” or BIG, tries to provide a general benchmark for the state of text-based AI, how it compares to humans on the same tasks, and the effect of model size on the ability to perform the task. First, many of the results were interesting though not surprising: ● In all categories, the best humans outdid the best AIs (though that edge was smallest on translation problems from the International Language Olympiad).● Bigger models generally showed…

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African American smiling woman math teacher stands at black board with pointer.

Reviving the Relational View of Mathematics

Unfortunately, some textbooks teach number rules rather than relationships, so students may not know why the rule matters

While helping a friend’s teenage son with math, I was perusing the textbook used. I was dismayed by the presentation of the topic of translating graphs. More than that, I believe the issue reflects some general problems with how mathematics is typically presented to high school students. Specifically, the text addressed how to do graph transformations for exponential functions. That is, if you have a function with the form y = a ⋅ bx (where a and b are constants), how would you create a new equation whose graph was moved up, down, left, or right? The method the book proposed, while technically correct, misses a huge opportunity to help students. The book presents a general form for transforming exponential…

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Handsome bearded African man touches the touchscreen in his new high-tech electric vehicle while while talking by phone and smiling. Self driving vehicle concept

New York Times Documentary Takes on Musk’s “Self-Driving” Claims

In an era where Big Media tend to just play along with Big Tech hype and vaporware, a Season 2 film homes in for a closer look

The New York Times has a new TV show through FX Networks, called The New York Times Presents, a series of standalone documentaries presented by journalists from the paper. Mind Matters News readers will likely take a special interest in the first documentary of Season 2 because it deals with the technology of self-driving cars at Tesla and we have been talking about these issues for years. The film, titled Elon Musk’s Crash Course, follows the development of Tesla Motors and its claims about full self-driving vehicles. On the whole, while the I can commend the documentary as one of the first large-scale media efforts to take the issues with Tesla self-driving cars seriously, overall it emphasizes the wrong issues.…

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Cloud in woman hands on blue sky

Arm in the Cloud?: Lower Cost and Higher Performance

A quick tutorial on why Arm technology has 90% of the cell phone market

Central processing units (CPUs) are usually classified according to their architecture. Historically, desktop computers (especially non-Apple computers) were almost entirely based on Intel’s x86 32-bit architecture, with more recent ones supporting AMD’s 64-bit extensions for more modern computers. The x86 architecture has never ruled because it was a great architecture for the future, but merely because of compatibility — essentially, if you write software to one architecture, it won’t run on another one. The one company that pushed more aggressively for new architectures was Apple, which switched its Macintosh operating system through four major CPU architectures: Motorola 68k, PowerPC, Intel x86, and now Arm. Not only that, their earlier Apple II series ran yet another CPU architecture—the 6502. Because Apple…

New York, USA - 26 April 2021: Kubernetes company logo close-up on website page, Illustrative Editorial.
New York, USA - 26 April 2021: Kubernetes company logo close-up on website page, Illustrative Editorial

How Does A Kubernetes Cluster Work?

A general overview of the Kubernetes environment

Now that you have some concrete experience using Kubernetes, this article will present the basic theory of how a Kubernetes cluster works. We won’t talk about how to accomplish these things in the present article – the goal is to provide you with a broad understanding of the components of Kubernetes. Basic Kubernetes Components Kubernetes comes with a lot of different components, and it is hard to get them all shown on the same diagram. Therefore, I will just give a high-level picture of what a Kubernetes cluster looks like. The image below shows the basic setup, which we will cover in this article. You see here a separation between the internal Kubernetes network and the Internet. Note that this…

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.…

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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…

Students raised up hands green chalk board in classroom

What Do We Want With Mathematics Curriculum?

If we are going to dedicate such a large portion of our children's lives to learning mathematics, we had better know why

Modern policy discussions in America almost always leave out the biggest question – why are we doing what we are doing in the first place? Leaving out first principles always leaves people trying to find the most practical way to accomplish nothing in particular. We have become accustomed to not asking questions about first principles because they always sound too doctrinaire, but then we wind up, at best, making the misplaced assumption that everyone is reaching for the same goal, or, far worse, viewing the activities themselves as the goals. One place where this problem repeatedly rears its ugly head is education, and especially mathematics education. Why are we teaching math? What do we want people to get out of…

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Software computer programming code

First Steps to Serverless on AWS: A How-To Guide

A step-by-step tutorial on how to build and deploy a simple serverless web application on AWS

In a previous article, we talked about what serverless applications are and how they work. In this article, we will build and deploy a simple serverless web application on AWS (AWS is the cloud computing platform created by Amazon). For this application, I will assume that you have an AWS account already set up (if not, start here). While AWS has an enormous number of tools available for developers, we will focus on two: Lambda and API Gateway. Lambda is the general serverless function-invocation system on AWS. Essentially, everything that happens in AWS, whether it is a file upload, a video transcoding job, or an HTTP request, can be enabled to trigger a function defined in Lambda for further processing. Lambda functions…

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Serverless Computing: What Is It?

A serverless system makes for a more convenient and efficient experience

A new trend in cloud programming these days is known as “serverless” programming. This term is a bit confusing, because it does not mean that your code isn’t running on a server. What it does mean is that you don’t have to manage the server(s). The Physical Server In the early days of the Internet, nearly all communication was directly between the “client” (the person using a web browser or other application) and the “server” (the physical device you were communicating with). Of course, there is a limit to the number of connections that a single physical machine can process. Early on, several mechanisms were developed that allowed companies to grow their services beyond what a single machine could handle,…

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Big red semi tractor trailer  room for copy

Trudeau’s Truckers Reveal Problems with Banking Infrastructure

And crypto isn't the solution you might think it is

On February 14th, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, invoked the Emergencies Act in order to stop the flow of funding to the truckers who were protesting vaccine mandates in Canada. This order allows and encourages banks to freeze the accounts of anyone suspected of involvement with the protest. The Canadian use of the Emergencies Act in this way has been widely criticized for its draconian and expansive overreach of governmental authority. However, that hasn’t stopped the Canadian government from moving forward with the plan, and they have said that they have already begun freezing accounts. Even before this, though, a Canadian judge had halted access to funds donated to the truckers through the GiveSendGo website. Additionally, GoFundMe, of…

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Gold coins in the form of bitcoin on a bag with dollars

DOJ Arrests Couple for Huge Bitcoin Heist — Who Are They?

Cryptocurrency doesn’t depend only on technology; it depends on trust, and trustworthiness

On the morning of February 8, DOJ announced that they had made an arrest in the $3.6 billion Bitcoin heist from Bitfinex from 2016. They arrested Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife, Heather Morgan. However, little information was conveyed about the pair. Some digging, however, revealed two individuals by those names who worked together in a variety of technology startups, at least one of which is cryptocurrency-based. While we don’t know for certain if these are the same individuals, the profiles are very similar, and other media seem to be reporting that they are the same. The profile here is on the two individuals we were able to identify, and have not confirmed they are identical to the ones in the…

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It’s Time for a Public Conversation About Social Media Companies

A company whose platform is built on the backs of content creators owes some responsibilities to those creators

Amid the ongoing cancel culture that is rampant among social media companies, there is a large undercurrent of people who say things like, “These are private companies, and they can do what they want.” The idea behind this is that social media companies do not owe you their product, and that is not of harm to you, the consumer. Especially since you are not paying for their product, why should they have to listen to you? To see why this thinking is flawed, we need to think back to the history of these platforms and what is needed to make them work. Why is anyone on Facebook or Twitter at all? Because that is where everyone else is. To be…

Cheerful family in a car on a road trip

Driving Technology Needs Public Scrutiny

It is not good enough for safety-related data to be made available to regulators. They must be made available to the public at large

As more and more automation is added to automobiles, the need for public review and scrutiny becomes ever more clear. Unlike other technologies, cars are used on public roads at high velocities, so everyone has an interest in understanding the safety implications of decisions made by car manufacturers. As such, it is important that all safety-related data be made publicly available and subject to public scrutiny. It is not good enough for these things to be made available to regulators. They must be made available to the public at large. To see why, let’s look at the history of Tesla claims about the safety of its Autopilot system. Note that the Autopilot system, despite the confusing name, is not the same thing…

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Robot hand making contact with human hand on dark background 3D rendering

Musk Goes All-In on the Tesla Robot

Musk puts all other projects on hold to pursue the dream of eliminating human labor, despite the reality that humans are irreplaceable

In August, during Tesla’s “AI Day” presentations, Musk unveiled the “Tesla Robot.” Or, in reality, a dancing person in a robot costume, along with some made-up specifications about the robot. Many (including the present writer) found this idea for a product line ludicrous, and a mere headline grab. However, in a recent conference call with investors, Elon Musk has doubled down on the Tesla Robot, now named “Optimus,” as being the foundation for the future of the company. In fact, it looks like Tesla has put all of its other development projects on hold in order to work on the robot. The Cybertruck (announced 2019, originally expected in 2021), Semi-truck (announced in 2017, originally expected in 2020), and Roadster 2.0 (announced in 2017,…

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Portrait of a Beautiful lion, lion in the dark

Will the Real “Predatory Journal” Please Stand Up?

Large publishers serve themselves by painting "predatory journals" with a broad brush

The scientific publishing industry has been on a hunt for what it calls “predatory journals.” They want to make sure that all scientific publications occur in “legitimate” and “reputable” journals. Additionally, they encourage scholars to avoid “predatory” journals which are there merely to enrich themselves by having you pay for access. While I agree with these ideas in principle, I’ve noticed more and more that the way that these principles are applied has been, well, incredibly self-serving for the journals. To begin with, let’s look at a commentary on predatory journals published in 2019 in the journal Nature: Predatory journals are a global threat. They accept articles for publication — along with authors’ fees — without performing promised quality checks for issues such…

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Welcoming the Post-Zoom Era

The Zoom era is quickly coming to an end. How should companies re-adjust?

Prior to the pandemic, few outside of technology jobs even knew what Zoom was. Now, everyone is comfortable with video conferencing. However, while the technology works better than ever, I’m starting to sense that people are done with continual video conferencing.  Many people who use Zoom do so on a compulsory basis. They have jobs that require that they Zoom for meetings or they are in classes that require online attendance. Therefore, it is hard to decipher people’s attitudes towards Zoom in those circumstances. They use it because someone told them they must. However, I regularly teach at a homeschooling co-op class. Homeschoolers, especially in Oklahoma, aren’t compelled to do anything that they don’t feel comfortable with. Don’t want to…

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Programming source code abstract background

NoSQL Databases are the Problem, Not the Solution

NoSQL means that you will be continually rewriting your code

It’s amazing how much we forget about our own history. Many people think that NoSQL databases are the “next big thing” in technology, and that we should write all of our core applications using them. However, NoSQL databases actually predate relational databases, and common relational databases were established to solve the problems that NoSQL brings. What are the advantages of NoSQL databases? There are essentially two — they are fast, fast, fast, and they can scale, scale, scale. This much is true. However, if you aren’t building the next Facebook, you probably don’t need that much speed and scale. The fact is, this much speed and scale comes at a cost, and, even in the 1970s, with the limited computers…

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Businesswoman Signing Cheque

Mental Models for What Government Does With Our Money

Models used by pedantic experts, even if more accurate, confuse instead of clarify the key difference between taxation and government debt

We live by mental models. Although we rarely take the time to think about it, any time we reason about something we are using a mental model. Sometimes those models are close to reality, and sometimes they are not. When you turn your steering wheel, it does in fact turn your tires — but power steering adds quite a bit of assistance. So the mental model is close to correct but not exactly true. Similarly, in chemistry, multiple models of the atom are usually taught. In the widely used Rutherford model (also called the “planetary model”), electrons “orbit” the nucleus at different distances. However, this model was not found to be precisely true. A more precise view of the atom…