Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

## 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…

## AI 2020 Smash hits #5: Deepfakes — What They Can and Can’t Do

Deepfakes? Our minds often actually fill in a lot of our background for us when we are not even aware of it

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway, are 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). Time to celebrate the real achievements! Well, our nerds think that #5 is believable deep fakes in entertainment, for better or worse Here’s a partial transcript. (Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript.) Robert J. Marks: Jon, what are deep fakes and what is Disney doing that’s going to wow us? Jonathan Bartlett: People are worried about the…

## Chinese Entrepreneur Jack Ma Missing After Criticizing The Party

If even Jack Ma can just disappear in China’s high tech world, is anyone safe?

Several media outlets are asking “Where is Jack Ma?” China’s most well-known tech entrepreneur and self-made billionaire has not been seen publicly after a speech he gave at the Bund Summit in Shanghai in October criticizing China’s financial system. CNBC’s David Faber reports that Ma (pictured) is not missing but “laying low” and is purposely remaining less visible after his speech angered the CCP. Radio Free Asia, however, says Ma is definitely under a travel ban and may be “under restrictive measures.” More ominously, Asia Times Financial reports that a CCP mouthpiece has said Jack Ma is now “embracing supervision” at an undisclosed location. So who is Jack Ma? He is the founder of e-commerce company Alibaba Group. The company’s…

## #8 AI 2020 Smash Hit: Big Gains in Practical Self-Driving Cars

The people who have been pursuing Level Five self-driving are nowhere but Level Four is working well

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway, explaining their choices for Top Ten real advances (“Smash Hits”) in AI in 2020. 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). Now it’s time to celebrate the real achievements and our nerds think that #8 is the big advances in practical self-driving cars, that is Level Four cars. The car industry defines five levels of self-driving. Level Five would be Elon Musk’s robotaxis that earn money all on their own while the owners’ sleep (hasn’t happened). Level Four is the practical approach, as Jonathan…

## #9 AI Success: Smarter Cars for Non-Millionaires

If your car is a recent model, an affordable aftermarket kit might transform it into a much smarter car

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway to assess the Top Ten real advances (“Smash Hits”) in AI in 2020. 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). Now it’s time to celebrate the real achievements. Our nerds think that the assisted driving kit from Comma.ai is one of them—an aftermarket kit that can make your car a smarter car. So here’s #9, featuring Eric Holloway who is a (smart) cheapskate: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-116-Jonathan-Bartlett-Eric-Holloway.mp3 Our story begins at 09:19. Here’s a partial transcript. (Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to…

## #4 Elon Musk: This Time Autopilot Is Going To WORK!

Jonathan Bartlett: I have to say, part of me loves Elon Musk and part of me can't stand the guy

Our nerds here at the Walter Bradley Center have been discussing the top twelve AI hypes of the year. Our director Robert J. Marks, Eric Holloway and Jonathan Bartlett talk about overyhyped AI ideas (from a year in which we saw major advances, along with inevitable hypes). From AI Dirty Dozen 2020 Part III, here’s #4: Elon Musk’s fully self-driving software is finally going to work: Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday that the test version of the company’s Autopilot system will be released in “a month or so.” While he didn’t describe its capabilities, Musk said that once it’s out, “you’ll see what it’s like. It’s amazing. It’s clearly going to work.” Chris Woodyard, “Elon Musk says Tesla’s full…

## Why Are 38 American States Suing Google?

Better question: What search engine results do you NEVER see?

The current lawsuit was announced by Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser but 38 states are signatories. The big issue is alleged suppression of competition. First, a bit of background: This is not the first big time lawsuit. That one would be from the U.S. Department of Justice in October: In October, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google, owned by Alphabet, for violating antitrust laws and actively enabling a monopoly in search engines and search advertising. The announcement followed a year’s worth of investigation by prosecutors, who “have spoken with Google’s rivals in technology and media, collecting information and documents that could be used to build a case.” The suit focuses on the tech giant’s illegal actions…

## How Do We Know Financial Transactions Are Honest?

Let’s look at the steps we can take to find out

Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions, for example, as if as if they were running for office. At Expensivity, a blog about that expensive and unpleasant subject, money, Bernard Fickser asks about better ways of preventing financial fraud: We focus on financial Alice (the situation with financial Bob is parallel). Alice wants the record of deposits and disbursements in her ledger to reflect deposits that she has knowingly and willingly received as well as disbursements that she has authorized to go to the intended parties. If this is the case, the record of deposits and disbursements in her ledger as well as the running totals will…

## The Wisdom of Crowds: Are Crowds Really Wiser Than Individuals?

According to the theory, with a large number of guessers, the median number is very likely to be close to the true value

Statistician Sir Francis Galton went to a country fair in 1907 where a prize was to be awarded to the person who made the most accurate guess of the butchered weight of an ox that was on display. Galton collected and analyzed the 787 guesses and, not surprisingly, found that some guesses were far too high and others were much too low. However, the average guess (1,197 pounds) was only 1 pound lower than the actual weight (1,198 pounds). The average was more accurate than the guesses of the vast majority of both the amateurs and the experts. In the 1980s, a finance professor named Jack Treynor (1930–2016) performed a similar, and now legendary, experiment with jelly beans. Professor Treynor…

## What Real Advantage Do Self-Driving Cars Provide?

It’s time for a hard-headed look at the costs and benefits of the pursuit of fully self-driving cars

More and more people are realizing that autonomous (self-driving) vehicles are not a road to automotive prosperity. To recap, Level 5 self-driving is what most people think of when they hear the term “self-driving.” You type in an address and the car takes you where you want to go while you sleep in the back. That car is not going to hit the road anytime soon. Level 4 self-driving is similar but only works within well-defined areas or situations. In practice, Level 4 essentially relies on either intelligent infrastructure or a territory that is so predictable and well-mapped that it obviates the need for intelligent infrastructure. Huge amounts have been invested in self-driving vehicles. The Information estimated that \$16 billion…

## China and Africa: Debt-Trap Diplomacy?

The story of China helping Africa modernize resists simple formulas

Last week, I reported on the accusations of racism on the part of the the Chinese authorities against African residents of the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong province. While Africa and China have enjoyed a seemingly amicable relationship since the 1970s, several African leaders have pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as highlighting unresolved underlying tensions. One of those tensions is several African countries’ debt burden. China’s response to requests for deferral in the midst of a pandemic has strained Sino-African relations. China isn’t the African countries’ only creditor. As of this writing, G20 leaders will be meeting to discuss debt-relief and extending the Debt Suspension Service Initiative (DSSI). The service has deferred debt payments by poor countries due to the…

## While the West Hesitates, China Is Moving to Blockchain

Life After Google by George Gilder, advocating blockchain, became a best seller in China and received a social sciences award

In this week’s podcast, “George Gilder on blockchain and carbon computing,” tech philosopher George Gilder and computer engineer Robert J. Marks, our Walter Bradley Center director, continued their discussion of the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). This time, they focused on the future of blockchain, of quantum computing, and carbon computing.What difference will they make? Quite a lot it seems. Today, we will look at what happens when blockchain goes global. You can download Gilder’s new book, Gaming AI, for free here. The three earlier episodes and transcripts in this series are also linked below. And so now… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-108-George-Gilder.mp3 Gilder and Marks discussed both the huge surge of interest in blockchain in China and the central weakness of Bitcoin, whose…

## WalMart Shelves Its Robot Inventory Clerks

These costly experiences are helping businesses better understand when automation works and when it just doesn’t

The WalMart automation project started in 2017, as part of an effort to compete with Amazon: Walmart, which posted record online sales in its recent quarter, now has more workers walking the aisles to package online orders, extracting new data on inventory problems, people familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report this news. Reuters Staff, “Walmart drops plans to use robots for tracking inventory” at Reuters Here’s some background: Walmart ended the partnership because it found different, sometimes simpler solutions that proved just as useful – something that came to light during the coronavirus pandemic as more shoppers flock to online delivery and pickup, forcing Walmart to have workers physically walk store…

## Daimler, Waymo, and GM Make Big Gains in Level 4 Self-Driving

GM has been given a permit to test five driverless cars on streets in San Francisco later this year

The Society for Automotive Engineering (SAE) has identified five levels of self-driving which describe how much a particular vehicle is able to handle its own driving tasks. Level 1 means that the vehicle handles either the speed or the steering, but not both, and it requires supervision. While ordinary cruise control technically falls into this level, most people associate cruise control with adaptive cruise control, which slows down or speeds up with traffic. A Level 2 car can control the speed and the steering but the driver must still maintain full vigilance. At Level 3, the driver need not maintain total vigilance but must still be able to take control upon request. Level 4 is “full self-driving” but limited to…

## Faster Computers Lead to More Wealth, Right? What Could Go Wrong?

What if fast computers get in the way of carefully considering information before starting trades?

In this week’s podcast, tech philosopher George Gilder and computer engineer Robert J. Marks, our Walter Bradley Center director, continued their discussion of the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). This time, they focused on the way AI affects the stock market, for better or worse. You can download Gilder’s new book, Gaming AI, for free here. The first part of the discussion between Gilder and Marks is here. Meanwhile… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-106-George-Gilder.mp3 From the transcript: (Show Notes, Resources, and a link to the complete transcript follow.) Robert J. Marks: I had a friend, Jack Marshall, who was a professor of financial engineering. He was approached all the time by people who said, “I have beat the market by artificial intelligence.” And of…

## It’s Hard To Estimate Highly Improbable Things Like Earthquakes

Some have hoped that AI would provide reliable help with predicting They have been disappointed

Investors often overreact to both good and bad news. When a company’s quarterly earnings turn out to be slightly below forecasts, its stock price might plunge 20 percent or more. Thus, when theoretical models of the stock market models assume that price changes conform to a bell-shaped curve of normal distribution, that assumption is more convenient than credible. Another inconvenient truth is that many investors are prone to chasing trends up or down. After a stock’s price has gone up, they rush to buy, which pushes the price even higher. When these two realities meet head-on, stock returns are sometimes more extremely good or bad than would be true of a normal distribution. On October 19, 1987, the S&P 500…

## Self-Driving Cars: Waymo Beats Tesla By Picking the Right Target

Trying to get the human out of the loop, as Musk proposes, becomes increasingly costly as the complexity increases

Full self-driving has been a contentious topic in the last few years. In 2016, Elon Musk started claiming that his cars had all the hardware needed to do full self-driving, and that the software would be there by 2019. You would be able to summon a car from across the United States and it would drive across the country, recharging as needed, to pick you up, no driver needed. He has specifically indicated that he means Level 5 autonomy, which means that no driver is needed at all. The driver can sleep, watch a movie, or just hang out in the back seat. In fact, in 2016, he indicated that drivers were merely there for regulatory purposes. Musk’s claims about…

## Has COVID-19 Helped or Harmed Crypto and Blockchain?

Cryptocurrencies rebounded after an initial slump earlier this year

The recently aired discussion at COSM about the future of bitcoin and other privately minted cryptocurrencies took place last October, before COVID-19 was much thought of in the Western world. Catching up, the cryptos and blockchain had a rough ride earlier this year but they have stabilized recently. In February, as the pandemic sent markets scurrying, things were looking grim for the cryptos: During the last week, the spread of the coronavirus has been all over the news; the virus, which had remained well-contained in China, spread throughout South Korea, Iran, Italy, and is now reaching its fingers into other parts of Europe. The New York Times reported on Thursday that “the signs were everywhere…that the epidemic shaking much of…

## Are Crypto and Blockchain Key to a Tech Renaissance?

A former director of the US Mint thinks that the market will gravitate toward these solutions

A panel discussion at COSM explored the future of crypto currencies like Bitcoin and blockchain technologies in general. What might they mean for global money, global security, and internet architecture? The panel, moderated by Wired contributing editor Spencer Reiss, comprised futurist George Gilder, Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media, Ed Moy, former Director of the U.S. Mint, and William Dembski, mathematician, entrepreneur, and philosopher: Can Crypto and Blockchain Reverse the Tech Decline (and Enable an Internet Renaissance)? Here are some snatches from the dialogue (aired September 11, 2020): George Gilder (on what’s wrong with the internet): It’s a broken paradigm. How do you tell a broken paradigm? The more money you spend on it, the worse it gets.…

## Russia Aims to Close the Technology Gap With the United States

Independent since 1991, the vast nation offers a government version of Silicon Valley culture

In this week’s podcast, “AI development in Russia, Part 1,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks talks with Samuel Bendett about Russia’s struggles to develop AI for entrepreneurship and free enterprise, rather than military uses. It turns out to be mainly a cultural struggle, as historic institutions must adapt to an environment where market dominance is more important than military dominance. Mr. Bendett, who is fluent in Russian and English, is an advisor to the Russia Studies Program and the Center for Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence of the CNA Adversary Analysis Group. And how is Russia faring? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-103-Samuel-Bendett.mp3 From the transcript: (Show Notes, Resources, and a link to the complete transcript follow.) Robert J. Marks (pictured): What I want…