Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryBusiness and Finance

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Lightning over field

Are Your Electronics Protected Against Sudden Surges?

Electrical engineer Sarah Seguin discusses with Robert J. Marks an under-recognized risk for sensitive electronic devices

In a recent podcast, “Sarah Seguin on EMPs and How to Protect Your Data” (August 5, 2021), Sarah Seguin, talks with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks. Protecting data became a much bigger issue for typical employees during the COVID-19 lockdowns when many were working from home on a computer usually used to surf entertainment vids or shopping sites. Hackers have found the displaced workers a tempting target. In any event, hacks of governments, health care facilities, and big firms are on the increase. Seguin offers some thoughts about a quite different but very relevant data protection issue: Protecting data from degradation from electromagnetic pulses (EMPs): https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-146-Sarah-Seguin.mp3 This portion begins at 02:12 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Read More ›

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Majestic Unicorn posing in an enchanted forest

The Unicorn Might Be Very Profitable — If It Existed

The statistical reality is that most new businesses flop

Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith, well known to many of our readers, have just published an article at MarketWatch, warning against heedless optimism about “unicorn” stocks. As they put it, “The stock market unleashes its ‘animal spirits’ on an animal that doesn’t exist.” They begin by pointing out that most new businesses flop. The president of one venture capital company estimated the chance of success at one in 1,000. An SEC study of 500 randomly selected new issues found that 43% were confirmed bankrupt, 25% were losing money but still afloat, and 12% had disappeared without a trace. Of the remaining 20%, just 12 companies seemed solid successes — a scant 2% of the companies surveyed. Jeffrey Funk and Gary Read More ›

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Concept cryptographic NFT. Blockchain network, cryptographic non-fungible tokens. NFT with a network and a growing schedule, search. New technologies, financial schedule, future concept, banknotes

How Can Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) Be Made To Work Better?

Bernard Fickser offers twelve steps to handling NFTs in a way that dispenses with cryptocurrency-based blockchains and works in ordinary online marketplaces like eBay

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 7, we look at 12 steps to make NFTs economically viable without Ethereum. 7 A Protocol for Handling NFTs on eBay The best way to challenge an existing idea is to replace it with a better one. In this last section, I’m going to lay out a protocol for handling NFTs Read More ›

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NFT Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs are unique assets that cannot be replicated underpinned by blockchain technology

What Makes NFTs Valuable? What Does It Mean To Own One?

In the case of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Ethereum blockchain, actual ownership with legal standing is never in fact transferred for the underlying digital file

Introduction: At Expensivity.com, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 5, we looked at how scarcity, central to the economic value of works of art, can be created in the digital world, where copying is generally quite easy. Now, we look at what makes NFTs valuable and what it means to own them: 6 Value and Ownership of NFTs In this Read More ›

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China from space on realistic model of planet Earth with network. Concept of digital technology, connectivity and travel.

What’s Behind China’s Crackdown on Big Tech?

Both China and the U.S. are treating big tech with a heavy hand, but under different motivations

In a previous article I looked at Chinese regulators’ crackdown on Didi Global, China’s ride-hailing service. Didi is one of several Chinese tech giants that have been tamed in the past nine months. Prior to Didi, Ant Group, Tencent, Meituan, and Pinduoduo were all quelled by regulators. After Didi, regulators targeted Full Truck Alliance and Kanzhun. They recently shut down online for-profit tutoring and have banned mining cryptocurrencies in China.  Thus far, the Chinese government’s actions have resulted in almost $1 trillion net losses for the Chinese tech sector.  The two big questions are, Why now? and, relatedly, Who’s next? SupChina has a well-organized explainer on China’s Big Tech Crackdown here. Another helpful resource is this video from DW, “How China is tightening control of its tech companies”: According to SupChina, China’s Read More ›

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Cold fresh lemonade with slices of ripe lemons.

Insurance Company Gives Sour AI Promises

Data collection and discriminatory algorithms are turning Lemonade sour

An insurance company with the quirky name Lemonade was founded in 2015 and went public in 2020. In addition to raising hundreds of millions of dollars from eager investors, Lemonade quickly attracted more than a million customers with the premise that artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can estimate risks accurately and that buying insurance and filing claims can be fun: Lemonade is built on a digital substrata — we use bots and machine learning to make insurance instant, seamless, and delightful. Adding to the delight are the friendly names of their bots, like AI Maya, AI Jim, and AI Cooper. The company doesn’t explain how its AI works, but there is this head-scratching boast: A typical homeowners policy form has 20-40 Read More ›

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Cryptographic NFT non fungible token marketplace, cryptoart and blockchain logo on the screen of modern mobile phone, black wallet and dollar money on the office table, banner top view photo

In the Digital World, What Does “Scarcity” Mean?

For a digital artwork like Beeple’s Everydays, which sold for over $69 million, a number of methods are used to prevent copying, thus ensuring uniqueness

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 5, we look at how scarcity, central to the economic value of works of art, can be created in the digital world, where copying is generally quite easy: 5 Digital Scarcity When jumping into the world of NFTs, one finds a certain breathless awe in the face of blockchain technology. One Read More ›

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Crypto Art Non-fungible token (NFT). Digital art

4 NFTs: You Bought One. But Do You Really Own It? Could You Ever?

Right now, the non-fungible tokens markets leave a lot to be desired as a business proposition, Bernard Fickser explains why

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 4, he looks at the question of what benefits NFTs, in their current state, really confer on you (or don’t): 4 What Just Happened? The creation and purchase of an NFT as described in the last section raises a lot of interesting — and troubling — questions. It’s easy enough to Read More ›

China stock market exchange / Shanghai stock market analysis forex indicator of changes graph

China’s Crackdown on Big Tech: Didi Global Inc.

In an authoritarian government, data is power

The Chinese Communist Party is on a campaign to reign in the private sector and some analysts say it is just the beginning. According to Wall Street Journal: Investors, analysts and company executives believe the government is just getting started in its push to realign the relationship between private business and the state, with a goal of ensuring companies do more to serve the Communist Party’s economic, social and national-security concerns. Jing Yang, Keith Zhai, and Quentin Webb, “China’s Corporate Crackdown Is Just Getting Started. Signs Point to More Tumult Ahead” at Wall Street Journal. Last November, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reined in Ant Group, Ltd. which was poised to open on the Shanghai and Hong Kong index with Read More ›

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Non-fungible token hologram on virtual digital screen, nft with network circuit and globe. Dark background. Concept of cryptoart and technology

How To Create Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), Simplified

While still deeply skeptical of what ownership of an NFT really means at present, Fickser decided to experiment with creating, buying, and selling NFTs

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 3, Fickser demonstrates the do-it-yourself minting of NFTs. 3 The Do-It-Yourself Minting of NFTs The process of creating NFTs, along with buying and selling them, is simple and straightforward. All that’s required is setting up a crypto wallet that handles Ethereum cryptocurrency (ETH), loading it with some of that currency, visiting Read More ›

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Man at work signing legal contract by using digital signature

Can Digital Signatures Protect NFTs in Digital Marketplaces?

The concept of owning an NFT on a blockchain is specific to the blockchain, with no legal force in society at large

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 2, we look at digital signatures 2 Digital signatures in digital marketplaces Of course, there’s more to the story. As already suggested, when someone buys a non-fungible token, they’re not simply buying a digital file of some collectible that can be readily copied. So what exactly are they buying? To understand Read More ›

abstract circuit networking blockchain concept background

Blockchains Have NFTs Unnecessarily Tied Down

New ideas propose severing the accidental relationship between NFTs and blockchains

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), for those who haven’t been paying attention, are digital collectibles that have been gaining popularity. Essentially, they allow someone to “mark” their “ownership” of a piece of cyberspace.  Since their original inception in 2012, NFTs have invariably been tied to blockchain technology. However, a recent review of the technology by Bernard Fickser has shown that there is nothing inherently tying NFTs to blockchain. In fact, blockchains may be holding NFTs back considerably. (For those needing a refresher, a short guide to how the blockchain works can be found here.) In his article, Fickser notes several interesting discrepancies between NFTs and cryptocurrencies. First of all, there is a lot of technology built into cryptocurrencies to keep them anonymous, while the entire point of Read More ›

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matching keys made of circuits & led lights, encryption & crypto

Cryptography: Are Non-Fungible Tokens a Scam? Or Can They Work?

By Warren Buffett’s logic, if cryptocurrencies are rat poison squared, non-fungible tokens are rat poison to an infinite power. But is that all there is to be said about them?

Introduction: At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser explains that a non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique token in cryptography that represents, say, real estate or art rather than money. Because the tokens have unique identities (non-fungible), they can be bought or sold while reducing the risk of fraud. So how do they work?: The series is called How Non-Fungible Tokens Work: NFTs Explained, Debunked, and Legitimized (July 30, 2021). In Part 1, he looks at the problems with making NFTs work. 1 Non-Fungible Tokens: Rat Poison Raised to an Infinite Power? “Poised to radically reconfigure the crypto-asset market, non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are revolutionizing our conception of money and value, creating not just entirely new markets but even new economies that are Read More ›

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Crowd of people walking street wearing masks

Why did the New York Times Discredit the Lab Leak Theory?

The Times led the way in zealously discrediting the quite reasonable COVID-19 lab leak theory. But what underlay its zeal?

Ashley Rindsberg, author of The Gray Lady Winked (2021), offers an eye-opening look at the close links between the New York Times and Chinese propaganda media. It may have been these relationships that caused the Times to go to considerable trouble to discredit the “lab leak” theory on the origin of COVID-19. It remains a viable theory despite powerful attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to discredit it. (For background, see “Lab leak theory vindicated: What that means for fighting COVID-19.”) Sound like tinfoil to you? Then consider this: In the opening months of the pandemic, the lab leak hypothesis was actively discredited by the media and scientific establishment, with anyone associated with it smeared as “racist”. The question we Read More ›

Panoramic image, Man hand holding piggy bank on wood table. Save money and financial investment

The Word “AI” Has Become a Marketing Ploy

Think twice before investing in a business that uses the word "AI" without further explanation

Justin Wang received a bachelor’s degree from Murdoch University in 2012 with a grade of 83.7% and a master’s degree in Information Technology Management from the University of Sydney in 2016 with a grade of 82.5%. In January 2017, he founded a Singapore-based company with the mysteriously cool name Scry in order to “manage information technology to achieve business goals, as well as – and perhaps more importantly – how it can be wielded to disrupt existing value networks.” What’s behind the mystery and jargon? It turns out that Scry is a “social forecasting platform.” Users join for free and can enter their personal estimates of the probabilities that certain events will happen, with Scry calculating the average probability. For example, one question is, Read More ›

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books  toned with a retro

Why Did the Publishing Industry Go To War Against Books?

Readers need to know how things have changed

For many reasons, traditional publishers are trying to dump controversial books. In this series we will try to unpack some of them. First, let’s look at what happens when otherwise Correct people are not the favorites of the Cancel mob. Bari Weiss, formerly of the New York Times, asks us to look at a science teacher couple at a regional U.S. university: Do you remember the names Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying? I wrote one of my earliest New York Times columns about the bravery they displayed as tenured professors — words that do not typically appear in the same sentence — at Evergreen State College. It was 2017 and the professors, both evolutionary biologists, opposed the school’s “Day of Read More ›

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customer holding credit card near nfc technology on counter

A Look at How New NFC Chips Prevent Counterfeiting

The same technology used in your "tap to pay" credit card is making life for counterfeiters much tougher

In the modern world of mass production, many products get their value from being one-of-a-kind. Special, limited edition shoes sell for unbelievable prices. Custom paintings and limited edition Blu-ray Discs all sell for a premium, precisely because there are so few of them in existence. However, these high-markup items quickly bring counterfeiters. As profit margins increasingly depend on limited editions, the importance of anti-counterfeiting technology becomes more important. In the last few years, NXP released a new chip that makes life much tougher for counterfeiters. NXP’s new NTAG 424 DNA chip provides an easy way for specialty manufacturers to prove the authenticity of products. This chip is made possible by many modern advancements in NFC technology. Let’s dive a little Read More ›

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DNA sequence with colored letters on black background containing mutation

U.S.-Made DNA ID Equipment Is Being Sold to Xinjiang’s Police

Engineering professor Yves Moreau’s research shows that a more serious approach to existing sanctions against such uses is needed

The U.S. leads the world in DNA sequencing technologies. Unfortunately, two U.S. companies’ products are being used in China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region despite the fact that the U. S. has placed sanctions on such uses. The sanctions were put in place because Chinese authorities surveil and detain Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities without legal precedent and engage in acts that are in violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948. The New York Times, for example, obtained ten contracts, along with government procurement documents, showing that Thermo Fisher Scientific’s and Promega’s equipment is being sold to Xinjiang police: The government procurement documents and contracts show that several Chinese companies sold Thermo Fisher equipment worth at least $521,165 to Read More ›

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man hand bitcoin

Using Benford’s Law to Detect Bitcoin Manipulation

Market prices are not invariably equal to intrinsic values

For a while, there was a popular belief among finance professors that the stock market is “efficient” in the sense that stock prices are always correct — the prices that an all-knowing God would set. Thus, investors can buy any stock, even a randomly selected stock, and be confident that they are paying a fair price. This belief was based on seemingly overwhelming evidence that changes in stock prices are difficult to predict. Efficient market enthusiasts argued that if stock prices are always correct, taking into account all currently available information, then any changes in stock prices must be due to new information which, by definition, is impossible to predict. Therefore, the evidence that changes in stock prices are hard to Read More ›

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Reflection of a man looking at a help wanted sign in a business window, economy concept

AI vs. the Pandemic: A Hopeful View of the Future of Work

A look at what was predicted and what really happened

In 2019, philosopher Jay Richards offered some thoughts on whether robots would take all our jobs, as widely predicted. In the meantime, the unforeseeable COVID-19 pandemic idled many more people than robots did or could have. But let’s take a look at how well Richards’ reflections in “Creative Freedom, Not Robots, Is The Future Of Work” have fared. Note: Dr. Richards was speaking at the launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence in Dallas, Texas on August 18. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-142-Jay-Richards.mp3 A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Richards started by pointing out that vast numbers of pundits were committed to the view that AI and robots will take our jobs: Jay Richards: Let me give Read More ›