Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryBusiness and Finance

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Arrested man handcuffed hands at the back

How China’s “Hostage Diplomacy” Traps Unsuspecting Visitors

Canada’s “Two Michaels” await their fate in prison in China, hostages to the growing tensions in a high-tech war

Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor (pictured) and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in 2018 on charges of espionage and sharing state secrets, and held in prison since then. Spavor’s trial was on March 19, 2021, in Dandong near China’s border with North Korea. Kovrig’s trial was on March 22 in Beijing. As of this writing, no verdict has been announced. Their trials coincided with the U.S-China Summit in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18 and 19, 2020, which involved a tense back-and-forth between the two countries. Court proceedings were closed-door and Spavor’s and Kovrig’s lawyers were not allowed to be present. That, according to Canada’s deputy chief of mission in China, violates the Canada-China consular agreement. Prime Minister…

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Young Man Identified by Biometric Facial Recognition Scanning Process from His Smartphone. Futuristic Concept: Projector Identifies Individual by Illuminating Face by Dots and Scanning with Laser

The New Retail: Cash or Face Scan? Is This Safe?

Retailers, anxious to speed up checkout lineups tend to brush off privacy and security concerns about payment by face recognition

The new face of retail is yours, according to a latest trend — paying with your face via biometric scanning. Russia’s largest food retailer, X5 Retail Group, in partnership with VISA and Sber (a bank), is introducing payment via facial recognition (face scanning) at the checkout counters of supermarkets and convenience stores. The trial at 52 stores succeeded well enough that the firm hopes to institute “facepay” (?) at 3000 stores. It works, at least technically, because we are more unique than we think: With the huge rise in digital wallets, biometrics – face or hand recognition – has started to become more popular as the safest means of protecting customers from identity fraud. Because nobody can replicate or guess…

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hand of scientist holding flask with lab glassware in chemical laboratory background, science laboratory research and development concept

A Question Every Scientist Dreads: Has Science Passed the Peak?

Gregory Chaitin worries about the growth of bureaucracy in science: You have to learn from your failures. If you don’t fail, it means you’re not innovating enough

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things, including whether the great discoveries in science are behind us — not due to lack of creativity or ability on the part of scientists — but to the growing power of corporate and government bureaucracies to stifle research. But then a question arises: Could science, succumbing to the swamp of bureaucracy, be losing that inventive edge? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 24:56 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: What did an airplane engineers say once in a speech I heard? He said, “In the…

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man hand bulb in nature

Why We Need to Stop Relying On Patents to Measure Innovation

The key to a nation's long-run economic growth is the effect of innovation on productivity, and has little to do with patent activity

Patent databases may be a smoke screen that hides the true issues, problems, and dynamics of innovation behind the illusion that innovation is booming—and that patent activity measures the boom.  We are said to live in a time of remarkable innovation, with the computer/information revolution often compared to the Industrial Revolution in allowing people to produce more while working less. Economists, consultants, and other business gurus are striving mightily to quantify this revolution and to understand its sources and implications. One popular metric is the number of new patents issued each year. For example, the pace of innovation might be gauged by the fact that there were 669,434 US patent applications and 390,499 new patents awarded in 2019, each triple the…

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a man using digital tablet with building hologram and internet media icons. Smart city, 5g, internet and networking technology concept

Nevada Announces New Cities in State To Be Run By Big Tech

The zones promise technological freedom, but what are the dangers to handing so much political power to big corporations?

Nevada is courting technological business by offering them the opportunity to develop cities independent of government regulation. In his State of the State address on January 19th, Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak announced proposed legislation to create “Innovation Zones” in order “to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms.” The long-term vision for these Innovation Zones is a county independent of local government, run solely by a technological corporation for the purpose of pursuing advanced technology without the red tape of bureaucracy. The proposed legislation draft calls “traditional forms of local government” “inadequate” in their ability “to provide the flexibility and resources conducive to making the State a leader in attracting and retaining new forms and types of businesses…”…

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Details of diversity used horse reins

Can Big Tech and Big Social Media Be Reined In?

A number of strategies to limit their power or make them share the wealth are being evaluated, both among governments and private think tanks

Big Tech’s recent censorship moves have revived the debate about what, exactly, the new social media are? Are they publishers like HarperCollins or carriers like Ma Bell? Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act exempts the Bigs from liability as publishers. But, unlike carriers, they can act against messages in their system that they don’t like. Generally, they benefit from a fuzziness that is not granted to other institutions. It’s probably not accidental that most Big Social Media are domiciled in the United States. Canada, to name just one other country, does not offer Twitter that protection. The scale of the conflict is expected to grow and a number of strategies to limit the Big Social Media’s power or…

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Businessman gives the bitcoin man.selective focus.block chain Technology concept.War of bitcoin,Digital currency.

The Startling Energy Costs of Bitcoin

As Bitcoin gains credibility, power consumption worries grow

Most people are aware of the rising price of Bitcoin. Despite the fact that most people are unaware of how to transact in it, and few merchants take it as a form of currency, Bitcoin is becoming an increasingly popular investment. As interest in Bitcoin grows, a few people are starting to take notice of the startling energy costs associated with Bitcoin transactions. As Mind Matters has been pointing out for years, the energy costs associated with having a “trustless” system such as Bitcoin is immense, with Bitcoin transactions generally costing 400,000 times as much energy as a single transaction on the Visa network. According to the BBC, the Bitcoin network – which, again, very few people are regularly transacting in – now consumes more energy than the…

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denim jean production

In China, Forced Uyghur Labor Produces Many Fashionable Products

Industries such as fashion and solar panels rely heavily on supplies from detention centers and concentration camps in China

China has been called the “world’s factory.” American companies like Apple, may assemble their tech in the U.S., but the parts are made elsewhere, including Xinjiang, China (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region). Industries such as fashion and solar panels also rely heavily on Xinjiang for their supply lines. Reports from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the U.S., as well as testimonials from Uyghurs, show that many such factories in Xinjiang involve the forced labor of Uyghurs in what are called “vocational training schools.” These vocational training schools are more appropriately described as detention centers. In many cases, they are essentially concentration camps. Many Uyghurs are also sent from Xinjiang to other…

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fast food

What If Government Knows You Ate a Big Mac — and Doesn’t Approve?

One spur to the development of cryptocurrencies is a desire for privacy. And a growing number of citizens of societies dominated by Big Tech feel the need for privacy

That title question is not a crazy notion. It’s already happening in mostly cashless China. The Constitution and the law may not be the barrier that many suppose in America if your personal choices make it possible. We need to talk about the unpublicized implications of a cashless society. Bernard Fickser, whose work we profiled yesterday, thinks that surveillance creep is one of the factors driving the growing interest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Yesterday we talked about the increasing popularity of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) — government should just print money to satisfy social demands and then raise taxes to pay for the choices made. A triumph of MMT would intensify the competition between government-issued currencies and cryptocurrencies…

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Concept idea of FED, federal reserve system is the central banking system of the united states of america and change interest rates. Percentage icon and arrow symbol on wooden cube

Central Banks vs. Cryptocurrencies: Why the Growing Tension?

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which is gaining ground, holds that government should just print as much money as it feels it needs and then raise taxes to cover shortfalls

On the way to explaining how a cryptocurrency system might work, financial analyst Bernard Fickser asks readers to think about the crucial difference between money, as held by a private bank — we’ll call it Merchant Navy Bank — and a central bank operated by a government, say the U.S. Federal Reserve System (the Fed). In his short online book, The Creation of Money, Fickser distinguishes between private banks and central government banks. Private banks start with money that already exists. The money that Merchant Navy Bank lends for mortgages, for example, is contributed by depositors who agree to tie up their money for several years in savings certificates. In return, they get a higher than average rate of interest.…

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Reflections of buildings in the window of other buildings on Skyscrapers in Seattle Washington

Parler Drops Federal Suit; Now Suing Amazon in Washington State

Amazon, which was, according to Parler’s suit, about to sign an agreement with rival Twitter when it suddenly cut Parler’s services, may find Washington's state court a tougher sell

Recently, Amazon Web Services suddenly cut servers to social media site Parler, leaving it scrambling offline for a month. Parler, now back on line, has been suing Amazon in federal court. However, the social media site has abruptly changed tactics, according to a Hill report. It has dropped the federal suit. It is now suing Amazon in Washington State instead. It’s possible that Parler’s choice of venue in which to sue was motivated by the fact that Amazon is Seattle-based. Seattle passed a law in 1999 against viewpoint discrimination: “Seattle’s sweeping ban on discrimination based on political ideology doesn’t just apply to employment or public accommodations. It also includes a “Fair Contracting Practices Ordinance” banning discrimination in contracting.” (Mind Matters…

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Hand holding smartphone with media icons and symbol

Arizona Fights Back Against Big Tech App Store Monopoly

North Dakota’s anti-monopoly legislation was defeated but Arizona’s passed

Big tech, flexing political muscles, is starting to get pushback at the state level. Political analyst Matt Stoller tells us a tale of two states: A loser and a winner: Two weeks ago, Apple and Google managed to defeat a major bill in North Dakota to force competition in app stores. This week, the Arizona House of Representatives defied the tech giants and passed the very same bill… Matt Stoller, “Apple Threatens North Dakota, Suffers Crushing Loss in Arizona: “A Lot of It is Just Fear”” at Substack Even sovereign states like Australia have felt the heat from pushing back against the likes of Facebook. Facebook blocked access to the Australian government’s Facebook pages during the forest fire season, due…

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Does Amazon’s Near-Monopoly Justify Its Use of Censorship?

Caitlin Basset looks at the little-known Seattle law that might make Amazon’s censorship much more costly

Recently, Caitlin Basset told Stream readers about the Seattle law that could give Amazon — currently big on censorship — pause for thought: Last week Amazon spiked a [2018] book critical of transgender policy. The book — When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement, by Ryan T. Anderson. Amazon removed it without warning or explanation. “I hope you’ve already bought your copy,” Anderson wrote on Twitter, “cause Amazon just removed my book.” Amazon has breached free speech principles before. In the past two years, they banned products, films and ad campaigns for ideas it deems “objectionable.” Caitlin Bassett, “Could an Obscure Seattle Law Be Big Tech’s Undoing?” at Stream (February 28, 2021) Under an apparent new rule, Amazon…

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electric vehicle of the future using smart electric car charging station at home frontal perspective

Apple Is Once Again Eyeing the Smart Car Market

Other firms are jumping in or ramping up and, with the fog from the COVID-19 pandemic clearing, we are looking out at a broader array of new vehicle plans

Early in February, rumor had it that Apple is once again eyeing the smart car market, both electric and self-driving. Improved batteries and new environment regulations might make smart cars a promising new business area. According to USA Today, the “iCar” is certain to be an electric vehicle costing over $40,000. The self-driving part is more of a challenge: But a self-driving car could introduce a “longer timeframe” in part due to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s cautious approach to unveiling new products, Ives said. Automakers and tech companies have yet to solve the thorniest challenges associated with autonomous driving. Nathan Bomey, “Is Apple making an electric, self-driving car? If it does, here are 5 things you could see” at USA…

Computer Hacks of Governments, Hospitals, Firms Increase

Even the ones we depend on are vulnerable. They’re not always anxious to talk about it

It’s not just companies, it’s countries that get hacked these days. Here are some examples from the United States: ➤ The big story was the Solar Winds case last month. One version is that an intern thought that SolarWinds123 was a safe password: At this point though, it’s still uncertain whether the password leak played a role in the SolarWinds hack, CNN noted, which is believed to be the largest foreign intrusion campaign in U.S. history. This month, White House national security adviser Anne Neuberger stated that approximately 100 different companies and nine federal agencies, including the one that oversees the country’s nuclear weapons, had been compromised by foreign hackers. Jody Serrano, “SolarWinds Officials Throw Intern Under the Bus for…

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Bangkok, Thailand 25 AUG 2020. Men hand using digital tablet for search information on Google.  Wireless Smartphone technology with intelligence search engine.

Another AI Ethics Head at Google Gets Fired Over Diversity Issues

The AI ethics team and Google management may have very different ideas about what “ethics” means

On February 19, Google fired Margaret Mitchell, the AI ethics co-lead at Google Brain. Mitchell’s co-leading colleague, Timnit Gebru, had been fired in December, amid controversy. Both women were critical of Google’s diversity hiring record during the two years they worked together. The flashpoint in Mitchell’s case, for which she had been temporarily suspended earlier, hinged on claims of unauthorized use of files: In a statement, a Google spokesperson said Mitchell had shared “confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees” outside the company. After Mitchell’s suspension last month, Google said activity in her account had triggered a security system. A source familiar with Mitchell’s suspension said she had been using a script to search her email for material…

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ethereum Crypto currency was found in the treasure box

Ethereum Is a Better Long Run Bet Than Bitcoin, Researchers Say

Cryptocurrencies in general are starting to be seen as part of a balanced portfolio

In an article featuring recent science research into the cryptocurrency market, Ross Pomeroy offers some researchers’ perspective on why Ethereum tends to be more stable than Bitcoin: Ethereum might be a better long-term investment than Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency Ethereum ranks second to Bitcoin in terms of popularity, yet two studies have shown that tends to be more stable and a better “safe-haven” investment during difficult economic times. As a team of researchers from Singapore wrote in the journal PLoS ONE, “Although both Bitcoin and Ethereum are digital tokens that serve as decentralised currency based on blockchain technology, there are crucial differences between them. While Bitcoin has positioned itself as an alternative monetary system in the financial market, Ethereum has mostly…

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Smart digital city with globalization abstract graphic showing connection network . Concept of future 5G smart wireless digital city and social media networking systems .

Florida Governor, Nation States, Take On Big Tech

Rattled by censorship and deplatforming, many jurisdictions are looking at ways to make Silicon Valley respect citizens’ rights. Florida’s Governor DeSantis may be the most colorful

At a press conference on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered a look at new legislation that forms part of his initiative to reduce the power of Big Social Media to harvest and sell data on users: The act, should it pass muster in the state House and Senate, would force tech platforms to disclose what data they have on Floridians to those users and delete that information if requested. The law would also ask companies not to sell the data and would create legal avenues to sue for noncompliance. Whether one state will be able to regulate such massive companies that operate on a global scale remains to be seen — likely in a court of law. Emily Jacobs,…

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Brain made of oil

Will Ordinary Human Intelligence Become the New “Oil”?

At one time, the tech craze was for outsourcing jobs. Maybe it’s time to look at “insourcing” instead

Outsourcing is the silver bullet of the IT age. Everything can be made more cheaply and more profitably by sourcing the work from places with a lower cost of living. But do those places always have to be overseas? Not necessarily. The perils of overseas outsourcing are well known, ranging from communication through cultural or time zone incompatibilities. What if there were a way to eliminate those incompatibilities while still retaining the benefits of workers who live in an area with a lower cost of living? This is possible through “insourcing.” There are regions of the United States where the cost of living is quite low, allowing companies to have their cake and eat it too. Work can be done…

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Closeup of witcher cauldron with magical mixture for Halloween

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble: Here We Go Again

Trouble brews when inexperienced traders try their hand at the stock market

The extraordinary investor and statesman Bernard Baruch once warned that, When beggars and shoeshine boys, barbers and beauticians can tell you how to get rich, it is time to remind yourself that there is no more dangerous illusion than the belief that one can get something for nothing. Over and over and over again, the unwary fall for money-for-nothing illusions — Dutch tulip bulbs, South Sea stocks, Japanese real estate, dot-com stocks, and bitcoin, not to mention baseball cards, beanie babies, and other so-called collectibles. Now we have a torrent of Reddit chatter inspiring the gullible to gobble up shares of GameStop, AMC, and whatever catches the crowd’s collective attention. Many Reddit-pumped buyers claim that they are part of a noble battle to punish…